Archive for the ‘Parenting Tips & Tools’ Category

My Tumultuous Teens

Friday, February 18th, 2011

Living with teenagers can be a tricky and trying experience at times. They can be happy and carefree one minute, then, without warning, the storm clouds roll in, and they turn into surly, withdrawn creatures, barely making eye contact and communicating only with grunts and monosyllabic words. Then for no apparent  reason, the universe shifts once again, and they cheerfully ask, ‘What’s for dinner?’ It’s enough to make your head spin. There are moments when I long for what now seem like much simpler times: bubble baths and shampoo mohawks, seemingly endless bedtime stories, sticky fingers and faces, hugs, and little boy voices saying,  ‘I love you, Mommy.’ Now, instead of giggly bubble baths, there are never-ending showers that use up all the hot water. Instead of my putting the boys to sleep with a bedtime story (or two, or three), my boys wake me up late at night  to let me know they made it home safe and sound. The hugs have morphed into a kind of one-shoulder lean with no arms involved, over in an instant no matter how I try to hang on to them.

But of all the changes that have occurred through the years, the one that causes me to wonder what  I could have done differently as a parent is the response I get when I say, ‘I love you.’ Instead of a resounding ‘I love you too, Mommy!’ what I hear is ‘um hmm’ or ‘ok.’ I could let this strike me prostrate with grief, but instead I think back to my own teenage years and my surliness and mood swings with my own parents, and I realize it has nothing to do with me. It is all about my boys and the changes they are going through as they find their own way in the world. High school graduation, college, career choices, social pressures, and the occasional bad hair cut are all reasons to cause uncertainty and aggravation. Throw in some crazy woman clinging to their arms as they try to leave the house, and it’s no wonder all they can do is grunt. So, thank you Mom and Dad for your  patience, guidance, and unfailing love during my tumultuous teens, and for keeping your  snickers to a minimum as I bemoan my own trials as a parent of teenagers. I will continue to call out, ‘I love you, Buddy’ when my sons head out the door, and I’m doing a pretty good job.

Encouraging Your Kids to Live Their Bliss

Thursday, January 20th, 2011

Recently I was on a flight with a self-professed high school ”nerd.” During our 2-hour flight, I told him the good news — that if he’s a nerd now, I can pretty much guarantee one day he’ll be living The Good Life if he can survive the next four years without dropping out — of school or life. School life, I told him, is not kind to nerds, but real life is, as 20-year high school reunions can attest to. The teen years can be such a brutal time in our children’s lives. They don’t have the life experience to know that this conform-to-the-herd-or-be-a-nerd time is so temporary in the grand scheme of things. They don’t yet understand that a whole new world awaits in the not-too-distant future — where the dweeb of the lunchroom can be the CEO of the boardroom and the mousy girl in hand-me-down clothes can win an Oscar one day.

The key is to help our children discover what it is they truly want to do, what makes their heart sing, and let that define them and motivate them rather than their peers’ opinions of their shoes or how they wear their hair. If we parents/mentors don’t create the space for our kids to be real and feel listened to, where else will they find it? If your 16-year-old’s heart’s desire is to draw cartoons, encourage it, celebrate it, allow him to  experience a sense of mastery in it, and explore possible career paths involving art even if your practical side is screaming.

My airplane buddy has a passion for World War II history and would love to work in a museum one day, but his mom is hoping he’ll become an ultrasound tech because they’re really in demand and make good money. If I could have coffee with his mom, I would first applaud her for raising a son who knows his bliss. If she said, ”Well, I don’t see how it’s going to put bread on the table!” I’d agree with her that it might not be easy, but then I hope I’d have enough gumption to tell her I hoped her son would find the courage and the means to live an authentic life. I might even share one of my favorite quotes by Howard Thurman: ”Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” Since it’s highly unlikely I’ll ever meet this boy’s mom, I guess the next best thing is to write this to all the moms (and dads!) out there whose children are entering that stage where true passions and interests often take a backseat to their peers’ opinions, especially if their interests are not ‘cool.’ We can’t control what their peers say, but we can control what we say. The world may need more ultrasound techs, but my hope is that each of us looks for what makes our children come alive in the world and helps to nurture it. Wishing you all a beautiful spring full of hope and new life.

If I Had My Child to Raise Over Again

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

by Diane Loomans

If I had my child to raise all over again,
I’d do less correcting, and more connecting,
I’d take my eyes off my watch, and watch with my eyes.
I would care to know less and know to care more.
I’d take more hikes and fly more kites.
I’d stop playing serious, and seriously play.
I’d run through more fields and gaze at more stars.
I’d do more hugging, and less tugging.
I would be firm less often, and affirm much more,
I’d build self-esteem first, and the house later.
I’d teach less about the love of power and more about the power of love.

The Art of Imperfection

Friday, November 12th, 2010

No matter how hard I try, the perfection I strive for seems to be just out of reach. As soon as the floors are mopped, a little tuft of dog hair inevitably appears in the corner. No matter how many hours of tender care I give my roses, the critters that forage in the yard at night leave nibbled petals and an occasional broken branch for me to find in the morning. Then, there are those personal life ‘experiences’ that burst the perfection bubble. Let me explain.

It was a picture perfect (nature can be perfect!), sunny afternoon, and my husband, our two sons, and I were at a high school graduation party for one of the nicest kids you could ever hope to meet. He and his beautiful mom (also one of the nicest people you could ever hope to meet) live in a gorgeous home on a hill with an absolutely stunning view. I felt pretty confident that I looked nearly perfect: my hair was up, my dress was cute, and everything about my outfit said ‘this woman has got it together.’ Little groups of people were scattered about, chatting and munching on the yummy food, enjoying the whole setting. As I was chatting and munching, a soft breeze came up and blew a couple of pieces of lettuce off of my plate. Being the conscientious guest that I am, I stepped back so that I could pick up the lettuce. Did I mention we were outside? So, I stepped back — and directly into the Jacuzzi. Way in, to the middle, completely submerged. When the need to breathe overpowered my feelings of utter humiliation, I surfaced and slowly opened my eyes to see a row of surprised faces and my oldest son sitting on the steps and holding his head in his hands in total mortification. As I retrieved the piece of pizza bobbing on the churning surface of the water, all I could do was laugh. My stunned husband helped me out of the water, the really nice kid brought me a big towel, and his even nicer mom asked what, if anything, she could do for me.

Well, there wasn’t anything she could do; it was up to me to own the moment. So, I wrapped the towel around my dripping dress, apologized to my embarrassed 18-year-old son, removed the clip from my hair and fluffed it a little so it could dry, accepted the new plate of food my darling husband brought me, and enjoyed the rest of the party. Did I still look nearly perfect? Not a chance. My hair was frizzy, my dress was a little wrinkled, although it was completely dry by the time we left, and my mascara had settled into dark smudges beneath my eyes.

So, as you are frantically cleaning, decorating, baking, and wrapping this holiday season, remember that the little mishaps in life make it interesting. Your friends and family are not coming to your home to check whether your cloth napkins are expertly pressed, or whether or not all the candles in the centerpiece are perfectly straight. They are coming to see you, to share your warmth and laughter, because they love you and want to be with you just as you want to share yourself with them. Relax and own the moment, imperfections and all. Who knows, you may just end up with a great story to share.

In the Blink of an Eye

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

It happens to the best of us. While we’re busy living, life just about passes us by. Never is this more apparent than with our children. We have our babies, and then in that veritable blink of an eye, they’re crawling, walking, and talking. Our little ones amaze us with each new milestone that seemed impossible just a month ago. Before we know it, they’re in kindergarten, with circle time, ABCs, and even reading. Another blink of an eye, and they’ve finished elementary school and are well into middle school, learning more facts, making new friends, playing sports, having fun. In short, living their lives.

I bring this up because the latest hurdle we’re facing is high school. My voice still quavers a bit when I tell people my oldest son is now in high school. Gone are the days when I could sit in the back of the classroom and help staple some construction paper together, read with a group of kids, or help others with their multiplication tables, while keeping half an eye on my son. Sure, if there’s a clean-up day or a call for some kind of assistance at the high school, I help when I can. But those days of hanging out in the classroom are gone.

While a part of me grieves this loss, another part is starting to accept the inevitable change. Not too long ago, I was reminded of our true role as parents by some gentle neighbors whose kids are now adults. John said it so eloquently and it rings true for me during these days that seem to be just flying by: Our job is to set our kids free, like a mother bird nudges her young from the nest, ready to fly. Whether we are ready for it or not, they are ready.

So these days, when I’m thinking about which college might be the best fit rather than which art project students could make for a teacher present, I remember these wise words. Hugging my now-towering sons and saying ‘I love you’ more often also seems to help me appreciate the time we have. Like it or not, they will be on their way sooner than I may want, but for now I will try to savor each day we have together. As summer unfolds, I hope you enjoy some special times with your children, knowing that soon enough they will be on their way.

One-Day Tuesday Featured Item

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

Save 80% on our Babysitter Memo Tile

Was $29.95, Today (07/27/10) just $5.97! Price goes back up tomorrow (07/28/10). Shop Now!

No more leaving your babysitter with a hastily scrawled piece of paper with your contact info on it. Fill in this elegant ceramic tile with all the information your sitter needs. To change it, just erase and fill in again with the dry erase pen attached to the back of the tile.

With all the worries that run through our parenting brains — ”Did I tell the sitter about Kaelee’s lactose intolerance?” ”What if the dog eats the paper with the doctor’s phone number?” — it’s nice that a mere tile can clear up some of them. It stands on its own so you can place it wherever you want — on a mantle, table, shelf, counter, etc. Its soft yellow hue fits with any décor, too. A perfect gift for all parents.

Customer Review:


By Stefani
I have one of these and think it is GREAT. It also makes for a great gift for anyone that is pregnant and having a baby shower.
Submitted on: Oct 14, 2009

It’s Her Story

Thursday, July 1st, 2010

Recently a friend was telling me about some “interesting” choices her grown daughter had made. Instead of a “WHAT was she thinking???!” judgment fest, our conversation took a 360-degree turn when this grace and wisdom came from my friend’s lips: “Oh, well; it’s her story!”

As a seasoned parent, this concept was not new to me, yet I felt a renewed sense of clarity when my friend worded it this way. I first experienced this revelation 18 years ago when my daughter Kathryn was born with profound disabilities. I wondered if I would ever get over the grief, but Kathryn’s father pointed out that I was not disabled. Without underestimating the role of parenthood, he reminded me that I still had my own life — separate from our daughter’s.

When our babies depend upon us for their very survival, the thought of them as separate entities is so difficult to grasp. We may even have visions of them growing up to be little extensions of ourselves. And who hasn’t at one time or another felt that ego-driven delight when our child appears to be a “chip off the old block”? The truth remains, however, that each child comes into the world the author of his or her own story, separate from us.

When my older daughter, Ann, who is now a mother herself, recently told me about one of her “interesting” choices, prefacing her announcement with, “Mom, tomorrow I’m doing something you’re not going to be happy with,” do you think I thought, “Oh well; it’s her story”? Ha! Within seconds, I was spewing out the “Mark my words, Ann . . .” spiel. Sigh.

I flash back to when I was a young mom, and we’d spend summer vacations with the girls’ great grandmother. This woman was a pediatric nurse in the 1920s, so you can imagine some of our conversations: “You’re going to SPOIL her if you’re always holding her!” “You’re only feeding her breast milk? Rice cereal is what she needs!”

Maybe George Orwell was right when he said, “Each generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it.” But how does this benefit us really? As mothers, must we continue to pass on this torch of “My way or the highway”? Is being “right” worth the toll it takes on our relationships?

This summer, whether you’re a mother or a daughter, a father or a son (or combination thereof!), let’s not be so quick to point fingers of judgment at each other. The next time we feel ourselves bristling with those “How could she?!” feelings, let’s replace them with the realization that “It’s her story” as we do our best to live our own with grace, wisdom, and gratitude for family.

On Children
by Kahil Gibran

“They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls.”

One-Day Tuesday Special Savings!

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

Save 80% on Stoo Hample’s Book of Bad Manners, today’s “One-Day Tuesday” special discounted item.

Was $15.99, Today (06/22/10) Just $2.97!

Price goes back up tomorrow (06/23/10). Shop Now!

It’s a boy! And a girl!

Friday, June 18th, 2010

After nine long months of dreaming, planning, building, and decorating, we’re finally ready to announce our big news: Chinaberry had twins!

Meet Jake & Ella, the newest addition to the Chinaberry family. Created by the original Chinaberry kids, Elizabeth and Evan (some of you may remember them from our earlier catalogs way back when), Jake & Ella brings our mission of raising children with love, honesty, and joy to a new generation of discerning parents.

When Chinaberry launched its first catalog almost (gasp!) 30 years ago, our message and values attracted a community of people who were decidedly noncomformist. From vegans to homeschoolers, homesteaders to tree-huggers, our customers back then didn’t exactly swim with the mainstream. But over the years, as “Chinaberry babies” started having babies of their own, we have happily witnessed a slow but meaningful culture shift among parents. “Tree-hugger” is a badge to be worn proudly, and urban-dwellers are planting their own backyard organic farms. “Unschool” play groups are popping up across the country, and everyone seems to be talking about making healthier, more conscious food and lifestyle choices. It would seem, Chinaberry parents, that we’ve all done something right after all.

Now, catering specifically to those with babies and toddlers in their lives, Jake & Ella offers distinctive, sustainable toys, wellness products, and resources for nurturing creative, compassionate children. With a focus on environmental and social responsibility, Jake & Ella draws on three decades of Chinaberry’s experience to help the new generation of parents make natural, conscientious choices for their littlest ones.

Beyond its online boutique, Jake & Ella’s blog and social networks are building a community of unconventional and thoughtful parents, ones who wish to give their children the knowledge and inspiration to make the world a healthier, more wholesome place for all of us. From the latest news in environmental health to alternative thinking on child development, Jake & Ella’s online communities cover topics often ignored by the mainstream but essential in navigating the increasingly complicated business of raising a healthy family today.

Celebrate with us! Stop by our store, peruse our blog, connect with us on Facebook for interesting news bites, special offers, enticing contests, and banter with like-minded people. And if you like what you find, please let your friends know! Now through July 31, 2010, we’re offering a special deal for our Chinaberry family: Spend $50 or more at Jake & Ella and get $10 off your order. Just enter the code CBFAMILY during checkout to receive your discount!

We know you’ll be as smitten with our exciting new bundle of joy as we are…

Words of Wisdom From Patricia Clifford

Friday, May 28th, 2010

“The work will wait while you show the child a rainbow, but the rainbow won’t wait while you do the work.” - Patricia Clifford