Sakura Bloom Sling Diaries Vol. IV: Listening

Often times in my life I have felt that although someone is listening to me, I am never truly heard. Or maybe it's the other way around - they may be physically hearing me, but not truly listening with their heart.

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Whatever the case may be, I have come to realize that this is what most of us need and desire -  for another human being in this world to really "hear" us. I did a lot of listening growing up. As an only child I was privy to many adult conversations and I listened like my life depended on it. I was fascinated by the way adults interacted with one another, the things they debated and more importantly the tone in which they spoke to each other and the non-verbal communication that was involved in these exchanges. I also bore witness to a lot of conflict and arguments in the process - and even as a child I knew that if these adults would only be quiet for a moment and listen; they would realize their opinions weren't actually that far apart.

 

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Chico I hope you feel listened to - like, really truly heard. Not just humored because I am busy or because you are a kid and I'm an adult. If you feel like I'm not "getting" you, please try not to grow frustrated with me, but tell me - "Mama no, you're not listening," and try again to explain to me what you are saying. The biggest disservice would be to dismiss you. I know what it's like to be dismissed - by adults, by bosses, in relationships...and it makes you feel like you don't matter to the other person.

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 And no one matters more to me than you baby boy.

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I also want you to listen to your heart son. This is the strongest voice inside of you. This voice tells you what you should do when you are scared, indecisive or confused. Unfortunately we tend to let the noise of life and other people's opinions grow louder than our heart's voice. Whenever you feel this way I want you to close your eyes and call that voice to the surface of your mind. The answer you are looking for will be right there - you just have to be patient and call for it to come forward. People call this "your gut." People tend to lose touch with their guts when they become busy, stressed adults. Try to always keep the volume on your guts turned as high as possible - it'll guide you well.

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 Chico you will come across people someday that you listen to and don't like what they say. These people may provoke you and make you angry. I want you to try something for me. Try your best to listen to their perspective as a fellow human being vs the subject they are speaking about. If you focus on their ideas instead of their words this may help you to empathize with them instead of judging or disliking them. Being a good listener means being introspective and thinking about how this person may have come to a place in their lives where they feel this way. It doesn't mean you have to agree or that you should change your opinion - but you will grow as a person if you can come to understand how they became the person they are today.

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When all else fails listen to music. Music has always calmed you and made you happy. The right music at the right time seems to refresh you. You are always calmed by Kurt Vile, Mirah and Elliott Smith. If you need energized then listen to rock and roll. Remember that commercial hip hop makes you incredibly frustrated so don't leave the radio on! Know what music you need at certain times, because if you're anything like me you will come to find that listening to good music can save your life.

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Sweet boy, whatever you feel is okay and I will always be here to listen to you as I do now. I listen to you babble and "tell" me lots of stories already. I can see by your facial expressions and wild hand gestures that your stories are elaborate and full of drama. I promise to remind you to listen to your heart and your gut and help you wade through all the things in between. Just promise me that you will listen with kindness and an open heart as often as you can - not just for the other person but for your humanity as well.

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I love you baby.
Mama

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This post is a part of the Sakura Bloom Sling Diaries Volume IV: Everything Shines. I am wearing Chico in the Essential Silk Baby Sling in Midnight & Sandstone.

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Sakura Bloom Sling Diaries Vol. IV: Education

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Learning.

Playing.

Talking.

Laughing.

Discipline.

Rules.

Games.

Friends.

Bullies.

Trips.

Books.

Music.

Art.

Dance.

School.

Education.

Growing up I moved ten times before I was 14 years old. This means I attended almost ten different schools before I entered high school. I have been a student at private schools, Montessori schools, Catholic schools, Quaker schools, public schools, year-round schools and even home schooled. I am also the daughter of educators. My father taught high school students who were second language learners. My mother was in early childhood education for years and continues to teach elementary school today. My grandfather was a photography professor at the University of Southern California and several other family members have been early childhood educators my entire life as well.

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To say education was a huge part of my life would be an understatement. I’ve always excelled academically. I was at an 8th grade reading level at age 7. I was an honors student in high school and received early acceptance to Loyola Marymount University where I later graduated with a BA in Chicana/o Studies and Studio Arts (photography).. I earned my masters degree from Pacific Oaks College in Marriage & Family Therapy with a specialization in Latina/o Families. I am so proud of these accomplishments. My schooling is a huge part of who I am as a woman of color, a mother and honestly just a human being in this world.

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Is education everything? Of course not. Is it bad? Is it good? Nothing is that black and white unfortunately. But I was given the opportunity to experience formal education and informal education and plan to make that choice for my son until he is old enough to do so.

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My father came to this country from Mexico and was put straight into Catholic school. The nuns were cruel and practiced corporal punishment often - especially when it came to my father and his brother - who broke the rules by speaking Spanish; although it was the only way they knew how to communicate. I can’t help but think that this shaped his choice to get a degree from Cal State Los Angeles during the Chicano Movement of the 1960's and become an ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher. This enabled him to help young people who found themselves in this country not knowing the language just as he hadn't. He may not have been the best father to me, but his students loved him and he was able to show them a kindness and compassion that he wasn’t able to show me at home. There is not much that he and I ever spoke of, but whenever I received a report card with good grades I could see the pride on his face.

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My drive, although partially affected by my need for my father’s approval, was really something that came from within me. I have always had a fire for learning and school is something that kept that fire burning. I always wanted to be the best and school was a place where I could be the best (or one of the best) and thank god for that - because growing up in my home was really fucking hard. School was a place that I looked forward to going to so that I could forget about my life and focus on reading (my first love), music (I was a flutist and total band geek), and later in college other passions like ballet, photography and community organizing.

I was also told that earning a higher education represented my freedom. Freedom from a man or unhappy marriage as shown to me by my mother, who was in school my entire childhood  while simultaneously raising me and working full time. Freedom from a system that isn’t tolerant or accepting of people of color or people outside the norm. I understood my privilege as an American (first generation) and the access to education that I had and what it would mean to turn my back on it.

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And so I went - straight out of high school to go to a private university. Completely oblivious as to what student loans really meant after school was over. Blindly thinking that I would pay these loans off as soon as I graduated and got a job. Two years in I dropped out. The financial burden was too great for me on my own and despite working two jobs and going to school full time - taking the bus all over the greater Los Angeles area to get to said jobs I was done. I was exhausted and felt like despite trying so hard, maybe school was only for the privileged. So I worked. And I was in a string of dysfunctional relationships. And I moved to different cities. And that life was just as exhausting and unfulfilling and I knew I had to go back. And so I went and finished my education with a new flourish and passion of someone who truly appreciated the cost, the commitment and the power of what a higher education could help me attain. I didn’t skip classes (I knew how much each class was costing me - and I believe at that time I figured it was over $100 per hour), I focused, I didn’t fuck around and it felt amazing.

So when I think of my “college experience,” sure it involves dorm life, navigating the world on my own, eating pizza and drinking beer but more so it is my journey of being young and naive, the devastation of thinking I was giving up and then growing up and taking life by the balls and getting my shit together. Did I get a job right after and pay off those loans. No. I am currently drowning in the financial debt of attending two private schools for my higher education. I may go to the grave with that debt.

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Will that stop me from encouraging my son to seek a higher education? Hell no! But I will show him how to do it in a smarter way - either community college for 2 years or a public college for undergraduate at least. Who knows - he maybe he’ll be a brainiac or amazing athlete and get a scholarship. Maybe he’ll be into the arts or music and go that route - point being there is a route for everyone. Every child is different. I don’t know yet what environment my son will thrive in. But once he shows me then I will put him where he will thrive. If he is an artist like his Papa then you better believe we’ll encourage him to attend the LA High School for the Arts (public). If he’s an academic I will find an amazing all-boys private school that focuses on whatever area is his passion. Depending on how much structure he needs that could also be found at a public school. But to say I know today what path I will guide him would be foolish.

Education means a lot of things but mostly it means school and formally being taught mixed with life in general. My job as a mom is to deal with the life part and to find a school I trust to do the formal teaching. I do not want to be both things for my son. He needs to learn from other people that aren’t his mother and father. We will be busy teaching him EVERYTHING else: Social skills like how to treat people and be a good person, helping him to form his view of the world.  Political, social and gender issues - in general how to be a worldly young man who is informed and who has an opinion on these things. We will explore, travel and have fun - because this is also how you learn and what makes up the character of a person.

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Traditional education is full of rules, tests, expectations, standards and discipline. But guess what? So is life. If I want my son to succeed in the world he needs to feel pressure and know the goodness that comes from it. I refuse to have him live his life in a bubble where he never knows stress. Stress shouldn’t be seen as negative or hurtful (more on that here from the amazing Kelly McGonigal - watch it - it could literally change your life- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RcGyVTAoXEU).

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If I sound like a bit of a tiger mom maybe I am, but in reality I’m more like if a hippy, commune-living dad and a tiger mom had a baby. I was raised by hippies who were babywearers & homebirthers when that stuff was still taboo. My mom made my baby food and used cloth diapers just because she's a bad ass, thus her "badassery" rubbed off on me. My mom did the most amazing activities with me - art projects, baking, learning to sew, gardening, playing Swan Lake and Kraftwork records so I could dance to different types of music. These are the awesome things I was taught at home. And then come Monday my mom sent me to school to allow others to teach me English, music, math and science. Just as I was sent to a ballet company 3x a week to learn how to dance.

It may sound like I’m being facetious but I’m not - I say this only to illiterate my point that you cannot be everyone to your child. It’s not all or nothing. As a parent there are teachable moments in everything you say and do with your babies. Even when your child has a teacher you don’t agree with or another child who is teasing yours - THIS is a teachable moment. How will you prepare your son or daughter to deal with and move through such issues if you don’t allow them to experience them?

With all the schools, teachers and children I experienced in my life I had great experiences and terrible ones. My parents taught me how to deal with children who teased me and called me a “wetback” when I came home in first grade asking what that meant. They also showed me how adults handle things like this by going to the school and talking to administrators. Will my heart break if my son ever comes home and asks me a question like this? Of course - and I hope I never have to deal with something like this, but the reality is that if its not that then someone will tease him because of the way his father and I look, or because of the clothes he wears or the shoes he likes or the way he’s chosen to comb his hair that day. Trust me - it will be something.

But with our support my son’s going to be okay. Actually not just okay, he’s going to be great. Because the person he will become is so much more than what school he goes to - who he is - his spirit and heart will be one formed by the education he receives from me, his father, extended family, his Godparents, friends and the teachers we trust to teach him from 8-3 pm every day.

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This post is a part of the Sakura Bloom Sling Diaries Volume IV: Everything Shines. I am wearing Chico in the Essential Silk Baby Sling in Midnight & Sandstone.

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Saturday Afternoon Adventures

20130818-002159.jpgSaturdays are Adam's Fridays, so when he gets home on Saturday afternoons we usually try to do something fun and get out of the house. I thought today might be a wash because Chico has been suffering from a case of serious teething that has been going on for over a month now. He was crying all day and it seemed like I couldn't do anything to make him feel better. Luckily Adam suggested we go somewhere to distract Chico and it ended up being a really good idea. 20130818-003729.jpgFirst we hit up Cielito Lindo for some taquitos at Olvera Street. It's our favorite spot to eat there - hits the spot sometimes like nothing else will.

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20130818-003741.jpgPoor Chico. You can tell he doesn't feel great, but this was a vast improvement from how he was at home all day. He loves being outside and has always been a "people watcher," since infancy.

20130818-002250.jpgNext we went to Little Tokyo to walk around and shop. I forgot it was Nisei Week so it was really crowded with interesting characters, vendors and music. Several different people stopped us to ask about our Sakura Bloom sling and to tell us how happy Chico looked in it. We always get a lot of attention wherever we go with Chico in his sling.

20130818-002237.jpgChecking out the paper lanterns hanging up in the marketplace. Chico is fascinated by balloons and I think he thought he'd discovered a new breed of balloons made out of paper!

20130818-002302.jpgYummy coffee was had at Cafe Dulce. They sell Stumptown Coffee there so we bought a bag. Can't wait to have some in the morning! It was a fun afternoon. I love my little family. We always have the best time enjoying the little things in life.

Summer of the Mama!

IMG_7006 Summers aren't my thing. 1/3 or more of my childhood was spent living in the desert and perhaps that has to do with my aversion to all things "hot." I yearn for Fall, Chilly Autumn Days and even Winter...like real Winter. I love bundling up, layering, hats and scarves - you name it. I was so happy when I found out I was pregnant and would only be early 2nd trimester pregnant during last summer. Los Angeles summers aren't just too hot but also sticky and humid.

And for a girl who already runs hot it's just not fun to walk around sphitzing all day! I was concerned about how the Summer would be with the baby. As much as I love the closeness of nursing I worried if we would just be two big sticky balls of heat stuck together from June-September (because let's face it, September can sometimes be hotter then August!). I am happy to report this Summer hasn't been nearly as bad as last year, but I just thought I'd mention a few fashion tips that have really worked for me this Summer now that I'm a Mama.

IMG_7007My new favorite top to wear during the Summer are big T-shirts with the arms cut out. Nothing ground breaking, but here's why I've found them to be my Summer staple.

1) They are like huge air vents and I'm totally catching the breeze! Tight tee and tanks are NOT where it's at when it's hot.

2) Breastfeeding is a breeze! Pull that shit to the side and BAM! Boobs out and ready to go. No need to worry about exposing your belly to the world when you pull your shirt up and it's super discrete!

I cut a few tee shirts I already had - a Minor Threat tee and a 2Pac tee, but you could always get some cheap plain men's shirts from Target and do the same thing. Make sure you cut lower then just the armholes or all you will have is a muscle tee. We are going for more of a 80's glam/punk kind of thing.

Might I also suggest you wear sassy nursing bra's for a nice kick of color or pattern. Wearing a plain flesh color or white nursing bra wouldn't really give you the look we're going for here - which is "Yes, I know, my bra and sides are exposed," not, "Oh crap this shirt is too big and I have a frumpy nursing bra on."

Target is fabulous for stylie nursing bras - here a two of my favorites by Gilligan & O'Malley!

dot stripeIMG_7013"Here's looking at you Mama!"

The second item is the hair turban. I have jokingly dubbed this - the Summer of the Turban and here's why...

As a new Mama I'm lucky to find time to wash and brush my hair. It's sad but true. How sick am I of ponytails or buns using my handy dandy Spin Pins?! Urgh.

Then the turban walked into my life and I heard angels singing.

Okay not really, but it's a great way to spruce up a pony tail or bun as well as a fab way to hide dirty hair. I have purchased a few different turbans from Etsy but you can also make them yourself without even needing a sewing machine! Google it. You'll be glad you did!

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Slingin' at the Zoo

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We are now annual passholders at the LA Zoo! We went on a whim and had a great time. My new Sakura Bloom silk sling arrived right when we were headed out the door and I was so excited - it's even more beautiful in person then it was on the website (color is Twillight).

I'm happy Adam is getting more comfortable with using the ring sling instead of the Ergo only because Chico now prefers the ring sling in a big way. He likes that he is looking forward with you as opposed to the Ergo where he is forced to look behind. We aren't gonna toss the Ergo yet though - because soon he can do a back carry and I think both he and Adam will like that a lot.

Happy Babywearing! xx