Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Chemistry of Collecting

Somewhere along the way I read something that lead me to google something that linked me to youtube videos by Bryan Post.  Post* bills himself as one of "America's Foremost Child Behavior Experts."  While I seriously doubt this is the title I would give him, his work seems to focus on attachment and connections rather than on behavior modification, so I started listening to him.  His videos intrigued me because they combine discussions on neurology and attachment - two of my favorite things.

The work horse of his method for being and expert with kids and their behavior is oxytocin, the hormone responsible for bonding sometimes dubbed the "love hormone." Through his videos I learned that the release of oxytocin that creates feelings of warmth and trust is a learned response.  Not an automatic physical reaction, but a learned response. If you really think about this, it is a pretty mind-blowing fact.  In actuality, we aren't born knowing how to love or being pre-programmed to do so.  We have to learn how, from our mommies (or our primary care giver that fills the mothering role).  Wow.

I know Holly van Gulden has illustrated this before in reenacting the interactions between baby and mama, showing how the baby feels and expresses mild stress, mama comes in to provide comfort and baby relaxes into her care.  But somehow I never got that as parents we are building a neurology of love and connection right into our kids' brains. Good thing the brain is plastic and we can form new neurological pathways at any age - I'm sure many of us humans don't get the positively patterned oxytocin response we need in our first 6 months.

My guess is that part of what makes Neufeld's collecting so successful in the moment and in the long term comes from stimulating the oxytocin response.  I've been reading one of Post's sources on the oxytocin response, The Chemistry of Connection by Kuchinskas and the smile and nod of Neufeld's collecting technique come to mind in so many of the oxytocin positive scenarios Kuchinskas sites.

This means, each time I take the needed 3 minutes to get my child's smile and nod, I'm stimulating a dump of warmth, trust, and reward hormones that help my child feel good about themselves and me (oh, and I get a shot of happy hormones, too).  Thus they physically are more inclined to do my bidding, and I'm physically more inclined to be nurturing in supporting them.  At the same time, I'm creating for them a habit of feeling good, happy and cooperative.  The more I do it, the better it gets as the pathways become more refined until the child's oxytocin response becomes automatic, like riding a bike.

Seems like a good idea. Next, I need figure out how to remember in the heat of the moment to aim for those smile and nods and actually figure out how to get them.


* Post has obviously read a lot of books on attachment and child development, think pretty clearly about the subject and have quite a bit of experience in the area, so I found much of his information familiar with some exciting new bits.  I feel compelled to disclose that in doing a google search for him, I found at least one issue that causes me a little concern about his personal integrity or at least  discretion (having to do with challenges to his title of "dr").  It didn't discredit his thinking for me, but if you plan to put much energy into looking at his videos or programs, you might consider looking into this for yourself.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Collecting about Collecting

One of the key concepts from Neufeld's work is the idea of collecting children.  Not as in acquiring a large houseful of them, which I am also enthusiastic about, but gathering their attention and goodwill.

Collecting my children is something I'm confident I don't do often enough or well enough, and I see the negative results of this everyday. I've made it my goal to learn everything I can about collecting over the summer.  Maybe I'll become the world expert on it someday. I'm going to try to gather some of what I know and my thoughts about collecting here on my blog as I go along.

Here is my take on why we collect our children based on the Neufeld material.  I'm pretty sure I'm missing some key components, but here is my initial understanding:

Humans are creatures of attachment, and nobody wants to do anything for someone they're not attached to (sort of a built in safety valve to prevent coercion).  When we are given direction or instruction by someone we don't perceive as connected to us, we're likely to feel manipuated, resist and exhibit what Neufeld calls counterwill - either not doing or even doing the opposite of what is requested.

Secondly, if children aren't focused on us, they aren't focused on us. Especially when children are young and do not have mixed feelings (the brain develops the capacity for mixed feelings somewhere between 5-9 years old), they are unable to focus on more than one thing at time.  From van Gulden, the more important something is the harder it will be for any of us to focus on two things at once - try talking to my husband when he's concentrating on an interesting book. Its not that he's ignoring me but that his brain is so focused on the story coming from his eyes that it isn't relaying the information coming from his ears. And he's in his 40s, so consider the implications of trying to talk to a 10 year old reading an exciting comic book.  All this to say if we haven't collected our children's attention, they aren't focused on us and we'll get no further. Period.

Collecting a la Neufeld includes, at its core, the idea of warmth.  I can get my children's attention by coming into the room like thunder and demanding their attention, but I'm not likely to garner any goodwill (or cooperation) in the process.  When I come in and gather their attention in a friendly way, I increase our connection, demonstrate caring and increase the likelihood of cooperation.

How to collect-
(Neufeld actually does a lovely version of this on some of the videos which is the best way to get a sense of it, but here it is from my notes.)
- Get into their face in a friendly way, try to get their eyes (but don't ask or tell them to look at you). With older kids we need to intercept their attention by sharing in what they are attending to.
- Get a smile - say something pleasant or funny.  If no smile, then no connection, yet.
- Get a nod, agreement to something you say.
Don't proceed further until you have both the smile and the nod.

Neufeld's advice is to always collect before we direct - have our children's attention and hearts before we ask them to do something for us.  The times I do remember to get friendly with kids, find the smiles and the nods, things go much more smoothly.  Yes, it takes longer on the front end but I'm sure at the end of the day it is a big time and goodwill saver.

Interestingly, it isn't just children we collect - we all collect people every day.  In speaking more generally, Neufeld calls it the human courting instinct.  I've also seen it referred to as the dance of attachment several places. I notice people do this all the time at the bank, the grocery store, the quick hellos on the phone before a logistical conversation. Sometimes I think of it as social flirting, not really sexual or just heterosexually aimed, but a way to endear ourselves to the people we need before we make our requests of them.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

May Paleo Update

Remember how I declared May Paleo month?

Half way through June, we're kind of there. I'm 98% off grains and sugar. I'm great for getting my proteins in.  I've started using coconut milk to substituted for lots of dairy, but I couldn't quite bring myself to let go of dairy.  I'm still occasionally using potatoes as an emergency alternative when faced with a restaurant full of grains, but at home I've substituted in parsnips, turnips, sweet potatoes.

Veggie consumption increased significantly for most of us (certain 10 year old boys are the exception but I expected that).  Everyone has been trying new foods and Theo in particular is really opening to the idea of trying new things, being actually willing to consider let his taste buds decide about a food.

Results so far? My inflammation is way down, hay fever is totally manageable though not completely gone (thank the dairy, I figure) .  I feel less bloated after I eat, my hungry shaking and mood swings are gone. I've lost 12 pounds.

The kids aren't quite as clean - in order to keep the alarm and resistance down, I've not forbidden anything. So no grains or sugar at home, but when we're out they do eat some.  The trick then is to be prepared such that we don't need to eat out.  That has gone better some weeks than others.

Potatoes and dairy still have to go.  I plan to wait until after our trip to family camp at the end of July to remove them as I'm guessing there will be at least a few cafeteria meals where they will be my only options. At some point late in the summer, I am going to put the nix on grains and sugar for the kids.

All in all, I declare Paleo Month a success in the first step towards returning to our healthy lifestyle.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Summer Mystery Revealed

The other day I posted a picture of our improved garage to see if you clever people could guess what my plans were for our summer.

The kids (and I) will spend time most days creeping and crawling, like puppies or alligators.  We do this in the name of neurological growth.  Rosie's really needing help with her neurological development to support her vision, hearing, emotional development and movement coordination.  Theo, as any of us, can always use a little brush up on his organization.

Years ago this was how we spent our days, working with Theo to resolve some rather large neurological issues.  Working shortly with the Institutes for the Advancement of Human Potential (yes, how posy is the name, but really pretty true to their mission) and then with the delightful team at the Family Hope Center, my goal was to set Theo up to thrive in his life rather than just teach him to cope with the challenges he might face.  Every 6-9 months we flew to Philadelphia, had Theo re-evaluated and came home to execute our newly tweaked programs.

By the time Theo was 7, I felt really good about where he was at.  With a huge sense of relief and freedom, we stopped doing programs and moved into really focusing on homeschooling and connecting with our new homeschool community.

Rosie trailed along with all we had done over the years. She spent her first week visiting FHC at 9 months and at 18 months announced in the bathrooms there, "No more diaper, Mommy, no more diaper" that marked the decisive moment of her potty training. Over the years, she tottled around the offices getting out toys and chatting up people as if she owned the place.  Starting from the first moments we held her, Bill and I sincerely and carefully applied all we had learned at IAHP's Better Baby classes to help create an environment of optimum neurological growth for her.  She spent time on the floor with Theo and I each day as we ticked off miles of creeping and crawling.  So I have always assumed she'd be neurologically clean.  But she is her own person with her own needs and challenges. While I did have Rosie evaluated when she was 4 by my friend Donna Bateman (now Parents With Purpose), who trained with FHC, I only put a half hearted effort into working on the few niggly things that showed up on the evaluation.

Now, at 7, I'm seeing that her neurologial organization is holding her back.  I had Donna look at her again in February, and it was clear to both of us that Rosie needed extra help. Honestly, though, I've been super reluctant.  Working with Theo was 5 years of serious focus, maybe harder than anything else I've ever done.  I want to have washed my hands of that phase of our lives.  But, my girl needs me and what I know and can do for her. A few weeks ago I finally faced the truth that full-on programs is what she needs, and it is time to get serious.

And you know it is serious when we clear out the garage and lay down the mats.

There is a silver lining in the clouds of miles of floor time (besides a healthy, thriving child as if that's not enough). Working with Theo over the years developed a deep bond of commitment, caring, fun and companionship that will forever inform who he is, how he is the world and who we are to each other.  I look forward to sharing that with them both, especially getting to put that level of focus on Rosie over the next few years.

The mats are down.  Feel free to come join us for some creeping and crawling, we'll be there.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Current Mega Millions Jackpot

$76 million.  That's a lot quarters.

The crazy thing is, someone will win it.  Or more next week if there isn't a matching number this week. I just love that we live in a world with such wild possibility!

I even bought a ticket on the way home tonight.  Crazy!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Restarting CrossFit

The healthiest I've ever been - in the best shape, had the most energy, felt the most strong and positive about my body, had zero hay fever, zero menstrual cramps, zero headaches or jaw aches - came after I'd started doing CrossFit workouts.

The crazy hormones stopped all intense workouts immediately.  It has been 3 years since I felt really good in my body.

Today, the kids and I started working with a trainer at CrossFit 206 who is certified in adult CrossFit training and CrossFit Kids.  I almost fell out of my chair with excitement when I discovered her. Having the 3 of us playing workout together covers all sorts of bases: I get my workout, the kids get some serious PE, Theo is working towards his goal of improved soccer skills, there is no need for childcare and we get to have a great time together.

We did bear crawls, hopping, duck walks, push ups, squats, rolls, and other fun and intense things.  It is the first time I've sweated from using my body in 3 years, and I didn't have to go straight home to a puking migraine.

Exciting stuff. I'm thrilled to see what sort of results we've gotten at the end of the summer.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Comments Not Working?

I've gotten several emails from y'all saying the comments aren't working on my blog.  Blogger says it is a known issues and they're "working on it."

I wonder what that means.  Hopefully comments will be back up soon.  In the meantime, I love your emails.  Keep sending them.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Summer Mystery

Here's the foundation for our summer plans.

Bet you can't guess what I have planned.....

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

One Small Step

After writing yesterday about how nothing seemed to be working in our homeschooling and writing out everything that was not working, I did manage to make one small step forward.

Something I remembered doing during the late great homeschool phase that kept the kids moving along at their work and ease them past the resistance of whatever scary story they had about the task before them, something really simple.  So I put it into action with Theo, moments after pushing the "publish" button on my post.  I sat next to him and his 50 words of copy work, put my arm around his shoulder and said, "I know this seems hard.  I know you don't want to do it.  And I know you can do it, I trust in you." 10 minutes later it was done.

Not 10 minutes of me nagging and bitching and lecturing, but 10 minutes of sitting with my arm around his shoulder, drinking my tea and breathing deeply. At least the first 7 minutes were me faking that I was full of loving, supportive thoughts and was just so glad to be there with and for him.  Honestly, it would have been much easier for me, in the grumpy, piss-y, victim-y place where I was living in my mind, to piss and moan and blame him for everything. Amazingly I remembered to put on my big girl panties and be the Big Mama.  The last 3 minutes were pretty nice for me.

A few repeats of the warm, supportive connection and lo and behold, he had all his work done by noon. I celebrated by logging him onto his favorite computer game and going to take a nap.

Note to self (for the millionth time in the past 10 years of parenting): when things aren't working with my children we don't have a behavior problem, we have a relationship problem (thanks to Neufeld for the summarization of the situation).  The more I lean into the connection and get closer to my kids, the better any situation will go.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Off the Wagon

Homeschool these past few weeks sucks.

The kids whine and fuss and cry and refuse to do their work.  When I finally get them pointed in the right direction they stall or get so completely distracted they don't even remember their own names.


Two months ago, everything flowed easily.  They both got all their work down quickly and easily everyday.  We laughed and hugged and enjoyed easy afternoons together.

I know this is normal, the ups and downs of most everyone's homeschool experiences, but it still drives me crazy.  In the moments things are working, I think I should write this down and share what I think is making things groove so well.  Then I convince myself I would sound like a pompous braggart, so I don't. I hate those blog where homeschoolers present a family experience that works for everyone all the time mostly because I think they are hiding the whole truth. And I know how many struggling homeschool mamas take them as evidence that they suck at this, not that homeschooling with its highs of   connection, amazing education, freedom and necessary social coaching also suffers related lows.

Maybe I'll start with a post about what isn't working, and then someday when things are working again (deep breath), I'll allow myself to post about what helps our homeschool day go smoothly.

Here's what isn't working:
- everyone is perpetually hungry
- everyone claims to be perpetually tired
- I'm trying to alternate working with both kids in very close proximity and neither of them is listening to me
- the dog had oral surgery last week and Rosie has been pretty darn freaky since then
- Theo has decided he's just rather stall on doing his work until Sunday when we only require morning routine and one chore before he can play on the computer and read comic books
- the days of nice weather lure us outside and then the return to inside work is super painful
- I'm enticed by a million other things I'd like be doing and feel super resentful that my kids are drawing 2.5 hours worth of work into a full 8 hour ordeal
- I keep pointing out that my kids wouldn't be acting so poorly if they were at school right now
- Internally, I'm wondering if we won't really be better off if they WERE in school right now, even though I know to my toes that this isn't true for either of them
- I've been clearing out all our baby stuff I saved for the theoretical additional children we've decided not to adopt, and I've been pretty sad
- Rosie is what I would call super emergent right now - she is full of ideas and doesn't want to do anything anyone else tells her to do (read she screams at the hint of any assigned work, sigh)
- Theo resents doing all his work when Rosie isn't doing anything

Summer will be upon us soon - we just have this week's school work to finish and they I will more us to our short schedule (morning routine, chores, clean up, guitar, Theo does writing and Rosie does reading).  That all takes about an hour a day, so hopefully we'll get a break from all this frustration before  I try to figure out how I want to make our fall work.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Finding Time

I'm suffering serious spring fever today.  Kids' classes are wrapping up, the weather is SUPER nice for  June in Seattle, I have little veggie sprouts growing in actual planter beds and the kids have been hunting bugs like there is no tomorrow.

As a homeschool family, we accomplished bunches this year.  Kids learned, I learned and we mostly had fun doing it. And.  I find I'm wanting more room for me.

Everyday I think about all the things I'd like to post on this blog - I love to write, I get so much out of needing to clarify my thoughts on a given subject and I so much enjoy sharing what I'm learning with others.

Deeper explorations into Neufeld material are calling me, and I'd like the time to study it more next year without having to sneak in 30 minutes here and there.

My life brims over with lovely people with whom I long to have long talks over several cups of tea. Plus, every afternoon presents a new opportunity to take a nap. I hate to miss out on a good nap.

All this to say I'm playing with the idea of doing homeschool very differently next year - not unschooling, that's too far outside my comfort zone and desires for our kids.  But something that creates more flow, that allows/requires the kids and I to sit next to each other and do our own "work" whatever that is.

Just an experiment - maybe from September to December - just to see what unfolds.  Serious mixed feelings means I'm super excited about the idea and completely terrified at the same time.  Part of my concerns stem from never having seen "this" done before (not really quite knowing what "this" is makes it all more worrisome) - I know what total unschooling looks like, I know what very structured lesson time looks like.  It's the in between that escapes me.

I can imagine in a few years this could work easily.  When Rosie is reading easily and is fired up about all those workbooks she's always fingering, also sporting a little more prefrontal cortex. Already, Theo already can probably pull off working fairly independently next to me most days.  Somehow managing and supporting the two of them, and standing between the bickering, seems to take up most of my time. I know they will mature with time and at some point my fantasy day will be probably be an easy reality. The problem is that I don't want to wait a couple of years - I want it now.

Let me know if you have any bright ideas. In the meantime, I'll be noodling over various ideas as I fuss over the new cucumber starts outside.