Workshops  |  Consults  |  Shop  |  Contact
Openness is our greatest human resource.

Seeds

I had a great time guest blogging on motherhood on the Washington Post/Slate lovechild: The Root. Here are just a few of the many entries from SEEDS. 
 
 
 
 
The Hot Mama: Five Questions for Angelina Jolie

Can we talk about Ms. Angelina Jolie? And no, I don't mean her affinity with Josephine Baker and the rainbow tribe. I have other, less pressing concerns about my favorite public mama, some of which are addressed in this month's Vanity Fair profile and others which, well, are not.

Like: 

1. Angelina is always carrying her kids. But kids are heavy. Mine is only three and a half and even though I'd like to carry him around until he leaves for college, I have to put him down after ten minutes. Angie is definitely much sexier to look at than a stroller, but my god, does she bench 350? Do Pilates three times a day? Is she really Lara Croft disguised as Angelina Jolie? Trainers, baby sling users, rotator cuff specialists, please advise.

2. The woman wears outrageously gorgeous frocks. Does she shop online late at night after the kids are in bed? Does she have a stylist who brings racks of stuff over every week? Does Barney's let her roam the store at night so she can have a fashion moment while Brad and the kids wait on overstuffed leather sofas outside the dressing room? Inquiring fashionista moms want to know.

3. Her kids look happy all the time. My son has a tantrum every now and again, especially if I can't give him my attention, he's tired, hungry, wants to watch to Little Bear, or just woke up feeling funky. I just don't see how Brangie can be out with four kids and not one of them looks like they want to run screaming in the other direction, fall on the floor in a fit, or chuck a bottle into the ocean. I know Brangie's got plenty of money and plenty of help. But even help and money can't keep a kid from being a kid, can it?

4. Angelina wants ten kids. Is this even possible? You've got to be there for bedtime stories, boo-boos, play dates. Parent is another word for cook, cleaner, psychotherapist, guru, milk dispenser, and ten other jobs most moms are too tired to identify. How do you do that for ten little human beings? How do you do it for five? All you moms with more than three kids, tell us how you do it. I REALLY WANT TO KNOW.

5. On this idea of having kids in different countries and being a global family: I don't know about them, but jet-lag is a serious issue for me. My son, fifteen hours in an airplane, plus jet-lag= NIGHTMARE. I gotta give it to Brangie, when Rome finally falls, they will no doubt be in just the right place. But what about the general sense of dislocation resulting from constant movement? I moved around a lot as a child. It had its pluses and minuses. What do you think about raising global nomads?

Obviously this is more about the way we each raise our own kids than it is about Angelina, but it sure is fun to ask you guys the questions that swirl around in my head every time I see her beautiful face on the cover of People magazine.

I'd love to hear what you think about transracial adoption, too, but only if you want to talk about it.

xoxo


 

I'm a Buddhist.

Not just a part-time Buddhist, but a twenty-year Buddhist.

I'm a Buddhist because I grew up amongst Baptists, Jews, and Goddess-worshipers, and none of them spoke the language of my particular heart. I am a Buddhist because my parents, generously, gave me the freedom to find my own spiritual path.

I'm a Buddhist because for many years I was a seeker. And because I was a seeker, for some time, books were my religion, my life.

I read so many books! About the lives of women all over the world. About people fighting for freedom. About people making beauty under unspeakable conditions. I read Franz Fanon, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, T.S. Eliot, Bessie Head, William Faulkner, Ayi Kwei Armah. I read Liberation Theology, French feminist theory...

I read about the artists I loved--Mark Rothko and Roy Decarava, Frida Kahlo and Seydou Keita, who took the photo above.

I read poetry, like June Jordan's The Things I Do In The Dark, and The Captain's Verses by Pablo Neruda, both of which changed my life forever.

And I also read a lot of books about Buddhism. The first was Peace is Every Step, by Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese monk nominated for the Nobel prize by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dozens of others followed, from every Buddhist tradition, but that book was the beginning.

Buddhism's teachings on interdependence, compassion, and the cultivation of happiness rather than regret, were just what a mixed race, multi-everything girl needed to hear to feel whole. Buddhism said the fragmentation I felt was an illusion. My essential nature as a human being had never been broken, never been stained. My thoughts about myself were problematic.

But my thoughts could be changed.

There is more to say about this, but watching "Buddha's Warriors" on CNN last night, I couldn't help but think about CNN's "Black in America." There were no African-Americans in "Buddha's Warriors," and no Buddhists in "Black in America."

And yet there are many who have feet in both worlds, many who feel the idea of "two worlds" is, itself, an illusion.

Many who are free.


My Son the Artist

I have a confession to make.

I've always wanted to be a visual artist. After college, I was accepted into the Whitney Museum's studio program, but had just founded an organization for young women. Instead of following the dream I didn't fully know I had, I followed a way to give other women their dreams. Which ultimately created some problems. Which is why I abandoned ideology and became an artist anyway.

But I still wonder what kind of art I'd be making if I had kept taking photographs of shacks and broken down cars in the South and showing them in small galleries. When I see the work of artists I love like Julie Mehretu, Anna Mendieta, and Iranian-born Shirin Neshat, whose work heads this post, a part of me secretly wishes I had explored the other road. 

But back to motherhood, the overarching theme of this blog.

Lately I've noticed that I comment a lot on the fantabulous creations my son makes with his blocks; the gorgeous sculptures he fashions from an African stool, a pouf from Morocco, an Eames side table. Yesterday he gathered a whole bowl of macadamia nuts and made a mixed-media piece with an old Fisher Price toy reclaimed from the give-away box. 

I couldn't be prouder. I take pictures of his creations. I ask him questions about them--what were you thinking about when you made this? Why did you put this piece over here? And he has answers. Most of them include four or five made-up words and an awful lot of hand gesturing, but still.

While he's talking I think about Basquiat and how his mom took him to museums. And how she couldn't really tell him to create, but she showed him it was possible. He could be a visual artist. He could choose a medium and express himself.

I think about Picasso, too, when my son is talking, because my son is so dramatic. His use of color amazes me. His certainty about where each piece should go reminds me of myself, writing.

So of course I'm convinced he's an artist. And not just any kind of artist, a visual artist! An artist who will take all he knows of this world and create something bold and never before seen. Someone whose work will itself be a revolution.

But then I calm down and remember he's three, and maybe I am doing the living-vicariously-through-my-kid thing just a teeny, tiny bit.

What if Tenzin wants to be a rocket scientist and not an artist? I never want to hear him to say, "Mom was always encouraging me to make organic sculptures out of raw materials. She never suggested I go into math or science, which is what I really wanted."

So, I'm trying to chill out. To keep myself from making a catalog of his creations. Writing an essay about them.

But it's hard. They're so inspiring. So original.

They make me want to make a piece of art.



The Milk Bank

Breastfeeding was one of the highlights of my first weeks of motherhood. The decision to stop nursing Tenzin at three months was torturous, but I made it for two reasons. I was back on the road speaking at colleges and taking various meetings out of state (working, in other words) and pumping wasn't feasible. And I was on anti-depressants and decided to limit my son's exposure to the drug.

Intellectually I knew the transition would be difficult, but I was totally unprepared for the emotional blow-back. It was so intense that when I stopped and  began buying huge cans of Enfamil adorned with gold foil announcing its DHA content, I was haunted by an overwhelming sadness.

Sadness because I had more milk than any other mother in the ICU when my son was born, and it seemed like such a waste of my body's desire to provide sustenance. Sadness because even though it was awkward and difficult at times to get my son comfortably "latched on," I felt more connected to him at those moments than I can express in words.

Which is why when I saw the story about the Chinese police officer who nursed nine babies orphaned or otherwise disconnected from their mothers in the earthquake, I cried. The moment was charged because I still feel, looking at my healthy and beautiful son, that I, too, have more milk to give. That I know exactly what the officer meant when she said it felt completely natural to pick those babies up--babies who had no food, no mothers--and feed them.

The level of empathy I felt for the officer, the babies, and the moms dead and alive, made me think about the importance of milk banks, and what an amazing gift the milk of another can be. It also made me reflect on my decision to use formula for Tenzin and not breastmilk from a bank. I remember being disturbed by the idea of another mother nursing my child. It made me think of wet-nurses, "mammys," and indentured servants forced to feed the children of others.

But it also made me anxious about my role as a mother, and the effect another mother's milk might have on my son. I was so insecure about my motherhood, I worried milk from a bank would make him less "mine."

I wish I knew then what I know now--the bond between parent and child transcends time, place, and even breastmilk. It's indestructible.

In other words, while it may be important, the milk isn't the thing.

Love is.

And milk banks rock! 

I know it's still a bit taboo to talk about breastfeeding publicly, but I'd love to hear your experiences. Breastfeeding can be tough, and hearing from other moms goes a long way when you're feeling frustrated. Any moms out there who have donated milk, or made withdrawals?


The Anti-Abortion Mommy: Five Questions for Sarah Palin

Okay, I think we all agree that even though she's probably a very nice human being, the Sarah Palin VP pick is deeply problematic.

From the looks of how she's being positioned in the GOP, she's the foil for a host of horrifying scenarios they've got planned, from the continued erosion of first amendment rights to the exponential growth of the prison-industrial complex.

Anyway.

If I ran into her at a hunting-themed bar at the Anchorage airport, I'd walk right up and ask some questions--because she's so accessible, you know?

1. I really, truly respect your privacy, but I read on the net that your fifth baby may be your daughter's. Even if that is just a vicious lefty-commie smear, your seventeen year-old is really pregnant, right? Listen, I love babies, and I get you're anti-abortion and pro-abstinence, but don't you think you should be pro-birth control, too? And teen moms who aren't your daughter? <o:p></o:p>

2. What on earth does the bear on your office sofa symbolize? Bear market? Bear Stearns? Father Bear, Black Bear, Childbearing, Bearing down? Your victory against environmentalists who want to protect polar bears from extinction? I know I'm not alone when I wonder what you feel when you rest your back against all that dark fur. Dominance, protection, hunger, compassion? It would tell us a lot about who you are and what you would do with the living organism we call earth.

3. Your mother-in-law says you don't bring anything to the table other than your gender and political affiliation. What did you do to her last Thanksgiving? Is she responsible for the Eskimo-Yupiik part of your husband and if so, is she upset he married a woman who wants to drill on native lands? Or is your husband's mom pro-sovereignty, and still coming to terms with the whole Alaskan statehoood thing? 

4. The way you congratulated and undermined Hillary at the same time was clever. That part about 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling, and the American people being ready to break all the way through. But Hillary has faced down some of the most dangerous forces on the planet, and won eighteen million votes, too. What experience do you have surviving physical, psychological, cultural or any other kind of warfare?

What's your position on Darfur? Tibet? North Korea? I think you and Sarkozy might get on, but what about Putin? Are you ready to go over the fine points with Vladimir? Are you up for challenging Hu Jintao on the age of the gymnasts on the Chinese Olympic team, or on the oil pipeline China is running from Somalia?

And finally:

5. Have you sat down and had a long talk with your husband about this whole thing? I'm not saying it's an issue, but we're talking five kids, in Washington, DC. We're talking state dinners, applications to Sidwell Friends, and a landmine of completely uncharted masculinity issues. Can your marriage hold up? Just how secure is your husband?

And maybe more important, would your husband's role in your life encourage you to support a broader Family Leave Act? Like the one in Sweden, where parents are entitled to eighteen months paid Parental Leave?

But seriously. I hope you're making the right choice. Because should you manage to pull off a miracle and end up VP, it's going to get very hot in your kitchen. And if you don't, you're going to have to live knowing your nomination may have unified and cemented the victory of the democratic party in 2008 and beyond.

Either way, I wish you and your family the best. Like it or not, we really are all in this together.

Why I (Still) Like Barack Obama

Hi beautiful people!

I know there's a lot to talk about. The miraculous Michael Phelps, inspiring Lolo Jones, and breathtakingly beautiful Huang Shansan and her fellow trampolinists, to start.

Then there is Georgia and Russia.

And, of course, the economy.

I went to the mall a few days ago to buy a bathing suit for Tenzin. It was so cheap! I looked at the tag. Made in China. Then I went to the farmer's market and bought ten ears of corn. It was so expensive! The farmer said, "Locally grown, costs more."

Today I went to make sure Tenzin was sleeping and not chasing geckos at naptime. 

I opened his door and found a delirious, somersaulting, almost-four-year-old boy hard at work paper-clipping all of my credit, debit, gift, frequent flier, health insurance, and drivers license cards to assorted stuffed animals, blankets, and pieces of furniture.

It was a post-modern installation piece: a room full of debt, a house of cards. He had found my wallet and was tearing a hole in it. It was expressly American, it was my Visa to enlightenment. It was, "Money can't buy you love" and it was "Child paper-clipping your credit cards to rocking horse? Priceless." It was rich. It was tragic.

It was so August 2008. When an ear of corn cost two dollars.

I stood thinking about Georgia, the trampolinists, and the sixty-five dollars it was going to take to fill up my gas tank tomorrow. I thought about all the people with no gas tank to fill up. No corn to buy.

I thought about the interview Obama gave upon return from Hawaii.

When asked what to do about all the unspeakable horrors going on in our world, Barack said the most important thing we can do is talk about them, and acknowledge, in a forthright way, they exist. We can't pretend nothing is wrong. We need to be able to look, to allow, to let down our defenses so that we can see. So that we can feel, and move from there.

Which is what I think we all need to do right about now. Not so much that we totally lose it, but just enough so we don't totally lose it.

Things are not okay in the world, and they haven't been for a very, very long time. It's not pretty, but it's the truth. And we can't change what we won't look at, and we won't look at what we think we can't change, which means we have to either look or set our hair on fire.

And if we did that, who would take care of the children? 

Power to the people.

Each and every one of us.

Love,

Rebecca



McCommunism: The Opening Ceremony

Okay, you know I have to talk about the Opening Ceremony.

Not because the humanistic aspirations of the Chinese people aren't real and true and moving.

But because the political aspirations of the Chinese government are more disturbing than the last eight years of US foreign policy.

Here's what Naomi Klein wrote about the Olympics this year:

"These Olympics are the coming out party for a disturbingly efficient way of organizing society, one that China has perfected over the past three decades. It is a potent hybrid of the most powerful political tools of authoritarianism communism -- central planning, merciless repression, constant surveillance -- harnessed to advance the goals of global capitalism. Some call it "authoritarian capitalism," others "market Stalinism," personally I prefer "McCommunism."

If I had been twittering while watching the Opening Ceremony, instead of driving everyone in my house crazy exclaiming over every little thing, this is how my twitter log would read:

That's a lot of technology. That's a lot of money. This ceremony is really long. This is like a super-creative military exhibition. The Americans are really rocking the Ralph Lauren. Cheerleaders in white go-go boots, twenty male athletes to every female athlete? Thank goodness for Patsy Mink and Title IX.

How can every country be represented except Tibet? What about the priceless Buddhist teachings destroyed by Chinese military?The Tibetans watching this and weeping? All the Chinese dissidents being tortured at this moment? What about China's rapidly developing relationship with Africa--taking oil, selling guns?

What's up with George Bush looking at his watch? He probably doesn't have the option of opting out of attendance. Perhaps because the US owes China over 400 billion dollars. Or because our economy is based on cheap Chinese imports. Or because America is 300 million citizens strong to China's 1.3 billion. They can raise an army the size of our entire nation and leave a billion civilians at home.

I'm glad my friend Julia, owner of Little Pim, is sending a Chinese foreign language DVD for Tenzin.

Did they say that little boy went back to save his friends trapped in the earthquake because it was his responsibility? Because he was a hall guard? That little boy is a symbol, not just for China, but for humanity. At every moment, we can choose to do the right thing. That's our only hope. Except that...our only hope was just appropriated by McCommunism.

Am I right?

I know you're busy, but I'd like to read even a few lines of your imaginary (or real) Twitter log. 

Unforgettable Mommy Moment #1

So, I'm not too intense about the whole potty training thing. Family lore places optimum achievement at 18 months, but as that signpost came and went, I saw no point in rushing Tenzin toward toilet accomplishment.

Somewhere around two years old, we took his diaper off around the house and he starting using the potty. It wasn't a big deal. More of a natural transition. He wasn't into being covered in poop. He liked to pee in the big boy toilet.

Of late I've been thinking about how nice another transition would be. A transition from night-night and travel pull-ups to no pull-ups at all. Good for the environment, good for my wallet, good for the sheets I'm tired of washing.

I got him three pairs of Diego underpants.

When I took them out of the wrapper he was instantaneously disinterested in pull-ups. It was magical, like a wand had been waved. Within moments, he was TOTALLY SURE he could get up at night to go. And he knew he could wear his Diegos out to the store and not pee in his car seat because he would absolutely, totally, TELL MOMMY HE HAD TO GO so that she could take him to a bathroom.

I gave him every out, mind you. I told him the pull-ups were always there and if he decided he didn't want to wear the Diegos at night, for instance, he didn't have to.

He was having none of it, and pulled his little potty closer to his bed for nighttime access.  Then he put the underpants on with the picture in the front because he wanted to see Diego and the little decorative icon on the front was nothing compared to the jungle vignette painted on the back.

Then we went out.

Imagine, if you will, mother and son driving down a two lane road to, of all places, K-Mart, where I bought the aforementioned Diego underpants in the first place. Sugar cane fields in various stages of harvest line the road on either side. The sky is blue and I am happy to be out with my boy in the sun after working at my desk for hours, days, weeks. We are listening to the Professor Pocket bilingual CD. He is singing Ai Caramba with the ninos.

Then, suddenly, he says something he's never said. "Mommy I think the pee-pee is coming."

"The pee-pee is coming?"

"Yes, Mommy."

It was clear he had no idea what to do other than tell me this.  And it was even clearer that I had no idea what to do other than think of the quickest way to facilitate him going to the bathroom.

"Okay baby, just hold it, you can do it."

"But Mommy?"

"Yes?"

"I don't want it to come in my Diego underpants."

What could I do? I became a swashbuckling superhero and swerved off the road onto the shoulder so dramatically I should have had theme music. I unbuckled his straps at lightening speed and brought him around to the safe and shielded side of the car.

He went. I was amazed. Relieved. Elated. We had saved the Diego underpants. Tenzin had taken his first step toward public bathrooms.

I lavished praise on him as he climbed back in the car. I hopped back into the driver's seat, and slowly pulled back onto the road.

It was a simple thing, really, and I know I probably will never do it again. But I also know that we had just shared a moment I would never, ever forget.



Can we (not) talk?

My son will not stop talking. It's driving me crazy.

I've checked all the parenting sites to make sure I'm not alone and it's normal for a three and a half year old to talk from the moment he wakes up until the moment he goes to sleep--and it is. He just wants, no needs, to wonder aloud about the birds, to ask me over and over again why I don't want to wear my purple shirt, and to tell me about an interaction he had with a child-starved adult at Costco--fifteen times.

I've decided that the person who came up with "children should be seen and not heard" must have had a three year old.

Today Tenzin wanted to know, in no particular order, what the white things are in oranges, why he can't ride his motorcycle off the deck, if his best friend piggy wants his own house made of Legos, why mommy has to work, whether he should brush his teeth, and how many spoons were on the table.

Could he have more ginger cookies? More string cheese? Did he have to drink the carrot juice? Have I seen the balloon? Did I see the flower outside? Did I see the ant on his flip-flop?

Good gracious.

Three months ago I thought this was charming. "How wonderful, I thought to myself, my son can talk and look at his extraordinary vocabulary!" I praised him voluminously until I read this article about the perils of praise. Then I blamed myself for talking too much to him as a baby because I can talk a lot and because I may have taken the idea that talking a lot to your baby is good for their developing intellect a little too much to heart.

So I did what all bohemian-bourgeois parents do in this situation. I tried the alternative school approach. You know, "let's talk with our inside voice," "let's whisper together," and, my favorite, "look how quiet everyone else is, don't you want to be quiet, too?"

Tenzin's response:

"No, Mommy, I don't."

Then I thought I'd talk to him like a grown-up. You know, "Tenzin, please be quiet honey, Mommy is trying to have not just one, but several coherent thoughts." Then, when this turned out to be as successful as asking a gecko not to shed its tail, my expectation escalated to, "Tenzin, please be quiet!"

And then, "Tenzin YOU HAVE GOT TO BE QUIET." And then, "Tenzin if you're not quiet you will have to go play alone in your room with the door closed."

Today I decided to experiment with the "I'm simply not going to get bent out of shape by this incessant chatter" approach. I nonchalantly nodded and smiled as I handed him food and snacks and said yes to playing outside.

That worked for about fifteen minutes.

I now understand why some parents put their kids in front of the TV for hours.

I was just about to throw in the towel (whatever that would mean in this situation) when I had the genius idea to GIVE TENZIN A CLOCK! I told him that for every minute he could stay quiet, he could have a gluten-free ginger cookie. It worked! He became enthralled with the clock, fascinated with the numbers, the second hand, the whole idea of staring it down and waiting for the big hand to jump to the next line.

I had a few minutes of quiet--during which I sorted laundry, loaded the dishwasher, finished the great American novel, and cooked a five course meal.

Right.

I put some brown rice in the microwave.

Yesterday I read on a blog that we spend the first sixteen months of our kids' lives teaching them to talk and the next eighteen years telling them to be quiet.

It goes without saying that I love my son beyond what seems humanly possible, but there's got to be a better way or we'd all be nuts.

Right?

I'd love to hear your strategies. 




The Political Mama: Five Questions for HRC

Can we talk about HRC? She's a strong public mama who has taken a lot of heat and for better or worse, is still standing. Whatever the issues, you've got to give it to her: The woman has stamina. 

And because she put health care on the national agenda, is stumping for Obama, and I loved all your responses to the Brangie post, I thought I'd make the Five Questions For a Public Mama a regular spot.

This week, I've got questions for the woman who inspired many, and alienated quite a few.

1. The deal. Can someone please tell me what on earth went on at the secret meeting between HRC and Obama? Bill and Hillary have 100 million dollars--I highly doubt they need help retiring their campaign debt. She's turning over 18 million voters in exchange for...Veep, Secretary of State? Attorney General? The good of America?
 
2. The pantsuit. I'm a fashionista who thinks power and glamor can --and probably should-- go hand in hand, and I'm fascinated by how women project power through clothing. Did HRC make the right choice to go with the pantsuit? Or should Donna Brazile have brokered a meeting with the inimitable fashion icons Kimora Lee and Andre Leon Talley on HRC's behalf? 

3. Chelsea. This didn't appear to be a problem for HRC, but is there a Clinton house rule that political offspring vote bloodline over party line? Talk about pressure.  What if Chelsea had told her mom that she really, um, liked Obama? As a political daughter and now mother, I want to know-- is it possible to you let your kids see things differently...and still win? 

4. The power couple. Call me a die-hard memoirist,but I want to read an intimate, one hundred-pagereflection on the strategy behind shifting the spotlight from Bill to Hillary. Was this a thirty year plan? Can you plan back to back Presidencies like some couples plan takingturns getting graduate degrees? You first, honey. And when you're done, it's my turn?

5. And one final question I'd ask Hillary over a soy decaf mocha latte: Did you ever want more kids, and on the day you lost the nomination, did you regret not having them? Obviously, children don't necessarily make life complete, and for a lot of people one is enough, but I wonder how, in the tough times, it all balances out. Non, je ne regrette rien?

What do you think? This inquiring mama wants to know.



Childhood Found

One thing: watch what you wish for. Last week I was a Luddite, dreaming about growing my own food and turning off my cable. This week I'm in a tiny village in the south of France with no Internet or phone-- my nerves worked to a frazzle as I drive from village to village with my laptop literally on my lap--hoping to catch an open wi-fi signal.

Then there's the heart attack I almost had when I paid $150 for ONE TANK OF GAS, and $15 for two cans of soda and a bottle of water. So much for getting away from it all.

But I will say for the French that their children are frightfully well-behaved. So much so that I wonder what goes on inside these big stone walls. Besides stuffing them with milk, bread, fruit and cheese, I think it has to do with children having their own place, and parental expectation they stay in it.

At the pharmacist in town today, I noticed a lone but beautiful toy placed without fanfare on a stool for a little one to pick-up as mum or dad has the chemist run a diagnosis. On the airplane out comes the porta-napper and mum and dad toss the baby in, lovingly of course, and get on with playing cards. In the house where I am teaching, the children's quarters are fully downstairs--in the basement--and my sense is the separation doesn't cause as much anxiety as I know it would in my home.

It is not that children are not as loved; they simply do not spill all over everything. They are not allowed to dominate family life, but instead are expected to integrate themselves into it with respect and decorum.

Observing this made me think of some of the children I grew to love in East Africa. They played in the small streets and courtyards in groups--usually multi-age, with the oldest leading and caring for the young. Once they were four and five they were expected to play all day with these friends, to learn the village or town, to taste freedom and childhood delights. As they got older, they were sent to fetch water, firewood, relatives, sugar and butter from the store.

I remember thinking they had real childhoods, these children who mostly approached me with laughing eyes. They had freedom to roam while still being firmly tethered to the hearth. It is a cliche, but they were looked after by others in the village, who knew them by name and were almost always related in one way or another. Neighbors with whom there were disagreements were  avoided. Games were created on the spot. Toys assembled from bits found along the way. Running in the rain was encouraged. 

Of course it also makes me think of how we Americans cultivate our own children. There are the computer games and fear of kidnapping or worse keeping them indoors, the struggles born of working parents without means for name-brand child care and early education (in France this is sponsored by the state and closely monitored for quality). There is the obsession with technology. Can interactive computer games make our kids better, more competitive? Will it rewire their very brains to give them an edge?

This time in a tiny village has given me a lot to think about. I think I'd rather hold my son close for another year rather than send him off to preschool, as hard as it is to juggle work and parenting. Offer a few well selected dvds and lots more uninterrupted outdoor play. More wooden toys, but less stuff overall.

I vow to stop checking on-line for the meaning of every developmental tick. To worry less about whether his creative expression will be hampered if he isn't allowed to talk and sing loudly at every social gathering. I will continue to point out the stars, the moon, the leaves, the flowers. I will keep kissing him on his cheeks whenever he will allow it, but his room will be his sanctuary, not the whole house.

I will continue to look beyond our cultural norms and integrate the choices I find in other lands. And finally, I will manage to do all of this without a stable wi-fi connection--and on a tight budget.

Are there child raising tips from other cultures, or even our own, you've integrated or want to? What kind of childhood are you giving your children? What kind do you dream of giving them?



Us: Unplugged

The day Obama won the nomination, our cable-internet-phone service was down. In addition to having to do interviews with Scottish press from a field behind my house to get cell reception, I couldn't watch CNN during the final hours of the primaries. I couldn't sit waiting for the votes to come in and the super delegate count to inch forward. I couldn't watch Obama's historic speech.

After months of buzzing and clicking and talking back to the television and writing a blog post or op-ed in the middle of Anderson 360, there was an eerie stillness at our house. We knew something out there was happening, and we were connected to it, but it was also a strange relief to be free of it, as if our intravenous Kool-Aid cords had been pulled out, and we were back on reverse-osmosis water.

The trees were blowing and the sun was shining, and I remembered suddenly that there is a world outside of politics. There is a whole universe in which election fixation is the name of a disease called "believing the political process is The Thing." The only thing. The main thing. The saving thing. The best thing. The change that's going to radically revolutionize the world and save the species.

And...it might be. And...it also might not.

Don't get me wrong. I'm hugely for Obama and I believe that we can turn this country around, but whilst unplugged, I had a moment of sobriety. Huh, I thought to myself. If there were no calvary coming, no person planning to take their place on the world stage and attempt to right the wrongs of hundreds, heck, thousands of years, what would I do to take responsibility for the health and welfare of my family?

It was a deep moment. So I made a list of the first ten things I would do if no one was coming for me; for us. Here's the list that came to mind, in no particular order:

1. Learn to grow my own food. Like, in a hurry. Study up on chicken coops. Figure out how to incubate eggs. Brush up on my composting skills.

2. Introduce myself to my neighbors. If gas goes to ten dollars a gallon and the entire economic infrastructure (built, of course, on the assumption of an endless supply of cheap gas) falls apart, we're going to need to be on good terms.

3. Get a bike. Figure out who in my neighborhood provides which services--medical, plumbing, solar panels and so on. Start with short rides and increase my stamina in preparation for longer ones.

4. Figure out how to make contaminated water potable. Figure out how to store it in glass bottles that don't leach toxins.

5. Commit even more to homeschooling. And home training. Meditate on what will be important for my son to know in a future very different from our world.

6. Assess what I can barter: Will teach writing for babysitting hours. Will teach Spanish and Swahili for water. Will offer cultural commentary for rich, loamy dirt for my tomato plants.

7. Throw/give away/trade most of my stuff--too much energy to care for. Have to take it from place to place, wash it, fix it, and otherwise be concerned with it. Too much trouble. Too much expensive fuel.

8. Figure out a personal defense plan that includes peacemaking, diplomacy and some other options, too. Implement it.

9. Get even more in touch with humility, spiritual grace, and adaptability. My hunch is that egoism, materialism, and rigidity will not be workable modalities in a world necessarily based on cooperation.

10. Make whatever living space I inhabit as beautiful as possible, because come hell or high water, beauty feeds the soul. I know I can't live without art.

Today the cable went out again and I missed Hillary's speech, but was able to watch clips on-line a few hours after the fact. I'm glad the machine is still out there, churning and I am thrilled she did such a great job. But I'm also glad I was partially off the grid for a few hours. I learned a lot about myself.

I know I can survive. Thrive even. I also know which things I've got down, and which I need to work on. Because Barack Obama cannot do it alone. When he is President of the United States of America, we're each still going to have to do things differently if we want to turn this ship around.

This is a moment to celebrate with abandon. 

It's also a moment to contemplate the future.

What are we prepared to change in our house that's as monumental as the change we want to create in the White House?

What's on your list?






Many Who Are Free

I'm a Buddhist.

Not just a part-time Buddhist, but a twenty-year Buddhist.

I'm a Buddhist because I grew up amongst Baptists, Jews, and Goddess-worshipers, and none of them spoke the language of my particular heart. I am a Buddhist because my parents, generously, gave me the freedom to find my own spiritual path.

I'm a Buddhist because for many years I was a seeker. And because I was a seeker, for some time, books were my religion, my life.

I read so many books! About the lives of women all over the world. About people fighting for freedom. About people making beauty under unspeakable conditions. I read Franz Fanon, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, T.S. Eliot, Bessie Head, William Faulkner, Ayi Kwei Armah. I read Liberation Theology, French feminist theory...

I read about the artists I loved--Mark Rothko and Roy Decarava, Frida Kahlo and Seydou Keita, who took the photo above.

I read poetry, like June Jordan's The Things I Do In The Dark, and The Captain's Verses by Pablo Neruda, both of which changed my life forever.

And I also read a lot of books about Buddhism. The first was Peace is Every Step, by Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese monk nominated for the Nobel prize by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dozens of others followed, from every Buddhist tradition, but that book was the beginning.

Buddhism's teachings on interdependence, compassion, and the cultivation of happiness rather than regret, were just what a mixed race, multi-everything girl needed to hear to feel whole. Buddhism said the fragmentation I felt was an illusion. My essential nature as a human being had never been broken, never been stained. My thoughts about myself were problematic.

But my thoughts could be changed.

There is more to say about this, but watching "Buddha's Warriors" on CNN last night, I couldn't help but think about CNN's "Black in America." There were no African-Americans in "Buddha's Warriors," and no Buddhists in "Black in America."

And yet there are many who have feet in both worlds, many who feel the idea of "two worlds" is, itself, an illusion.

Many who are free.


My Son the Artist

I have a confession to make.

I've always wanted to be a visual artist. After college, I was accepted into the Whitney Museum's studio program, but had just founded an organization for young women. Instead of following the dream I didn't fully know I had, I followed a way to give other women their dreams. Which ultimately created some problems. Which is why I abandoned ideology and became an artist anyway.

But I still wonder what kind of art I'd be making if I had kept taking photographs of shacks and broken down cars in the South and showing them in small galleries. When I see the work of artists I love like Julie Mehretu, Anna Mendieta, and Iranian-born Shirin Neshat, whose work heads this post, a part of me secretly wishes I had explored the other road. 

But back to motherhood, the overarching theme of this blog.

Lately I've noticed that I comment a lot on the fantabulous creations my son makes with his blocks; the gorgeous sculptures he fashions from an African stool, a pouf from Morocco, an Eames side table. Yesterday he gathered a whole bowl of macadamia nuts and made a mixed-media piece with an old Fisher Price toy reclaimed from the give-away box. 

I couldn't be prouder. I take pictures of his creations. I ask him questions about them--what were you thinking about when you made this? Why did you put this piece over here? And he has answers. Most of them include four or five made-up words and an awful lot of hand gesturing, but still.

While he's talking I think about Basquiat and how his mom took him to museums. And how she couldn't really tell him to create, but she showed him it was possible. He could be a visual artist. He could choose a medium and express himself.

I think about Picasso, too, when my son is talking, because my son is so dramatic. His use of color amazes me. His certainty about where each piece should go reminds me of myself, writing.

So of course I'm convinced he's an artist. And not just any kind of artist, a visual artist! An artist who will take all he knows of this world and create something bold and never before seen. Someone whose work will itself be a revolution.

But then I calm down and remember he's three, and maybe I am doing the living-vicariously-through-my-kid thing just a teeny, tiny bit.

What if Tenzin wants to be a rocket scientist and not an artist? I never want to hear him to say, "Mom was always encouraging me to make organic sculptures out of raw materials. She never suggested I go into math or science, which is what I really wanted."

So, I'm trying to chill out. To keep myself from making a catalog of his creations. Writing an essay about them.

But it's hard. They're so inspiring. So original.

They make me want to make a piece of art.




Black in America: Ain't I Woman?

It's not pretty, but I'm going to tell you what I think.

A lot of black women are pissed about the first segment of CNN's Black in America.

Not able get a man? Unprotected sex? 40 minutes to get a tomato?

Get real.

I respect Soledad O'brien and enjoyed the interview we did for my first book on being biracial. I think she's wonderfully talented and I'm glad she's on the air.

But is almost impossible for Soledad to do a real piece on black women in America if it is safer, professionally, for her to exclude women who have a critique of corporate media. Or women who might bring up the issue of light-skin privilege. Or women who view economic disparities between black men and women as something more than a reason black women should consider marrying white men.

I think Soledad should have used her own story to show a facet of black women in America. She could have talked about all of these issues--how she was treated growing up, the challenges she faces in her career and home life vis a vis race, what her relationship is within the largely white corporate media world.

If she had told that story, it probably would have resonated with at least a few of the black women I know-- women who run national museums, are foreign policy advisors, astronauts, tenured professors, Pulitzer Prize winners, screenwriters, studio heads, and VPs of major financial institutions.

Who are doctors and lawyers, nurses and counselors, comedians and correctional officers, legal secretaries and visual artists, teachers and construction workers.

Who are so far up into the digerati I can only contact them through one of fifteen social networking platforms. Who live in Dakar, Belize, San Miguel de Allende. Who read Vogue and wear Manolos, Dries van Noten, and Prada. Who work for the CIA.

Ain't they black women?   

Instead of a woman who can get a gun easier than a vegetable, what about the black women who use vegetables as guns in their commitment to change the way people of color eat? What about the black mothers who bring ideas about natural foods, homeopathy, and spiritual balance to their families and communities.

The black women who design innovative strategies for addressing mental illness, encourage healthy same-sex eroticism and partnership, and emphasize the need to define ourselves as global citizens. What about the ones fighting environmental racism?

What about the black women who have such a deep concern about the fallacy of racial constructs, they don't even identify as black.

Perhaps the state of black women's lives could have been looked at through the lens of racism, classism, and heterosexism within the Second Wave feminist community, and seen in terms of who, statistically, has benefited from the women's movement and who has not.

Honestly, I think CNN should just get a do-over. Maybe black women could get a whole show this time. What do you think? CNN should call me and I can call my friends, and they can call their friends, and they could call their friends, and we could make some real, ground-breaking, transformative popular culture.

Because we have more than enough to fill two hours.


 The Mama of Style and Substance: Five Questions for Michelle O...

Press bias? Maybe, but I love Michelle Obama. And I couldn't be happier she's started blogging.

The choice reflects both her big heart and the Obama campaign's razor sharp savvy.

As some Hillary supporters threaten to vote McCain even though his right hand guy was responsible for the deregulation of the oil and mortgage industries AND called all of us out here struggling to eat real food and pay for real gas "whiners," Michelle's choice to blog on Blogher is a smart point of entry.

If anyone wants to start an official fan club, call me. In the meantime, as promised, here are a few questions I hope to ask her one day, maybe at the DNC if I can get my hands on some credentials.

As always, the questions are not just for Michelle. They are questions a lot of us ask ourselves, and I'd like to know how you'd answer them, too.

1. We all have detractors, but when you allow yourself to be the most powerful self you can be, the number increases exponentially. How do you manage what some call the "haters"? The ones ideologically opposed to you and everything you stand for? Do you breathe, hit the treadmill, ground yourself in your love for your family? Do you see even your worst enemies as possible friends?

2. I appreciated your response to Soledad O'Brien when she asked if you resented leaving your job to join the campaign. You mentioned that your identity is not based in your job or career. Do you think some women (and men) define themselves by their careers, to the detriment of other aspects of their lives?

3. It's a tough question, but again, your candor about Barack's safety has been deeply affecting. You spoke about Barack being in danger just going to the gas station, as a black man in America. If Barack Obama is President of the United States do you think black men will be safer overall, and will the rate of their incarceration decrease?

4. I travel a lot, and sometimes feel guilt when I have to leave my son for days in order to work. How do you deal with the demands on your time? Does devoting so much of your energy to a larger cause give you more time with your daughters because you aren't working every day in in "the office," but less quality time overall? How do you think this decision will affect them in the long run? 

5. And finally, as Vogue's Andre Leon Talley noted, your style is definitely working, and us hardcore fashionistas are loving it! How has your aesthetic evolved over the last decade? What considerations come to mind as you evaluate a possible suit/dress/trench? Do you think about the need to balance beauty and power, style and substance?

All best from one of your many fans, 

Rebecca

Baby Crazy

Let's talk about the woman who cut another woman's stomach open to steal her baby. 

The way CNN's presenting it, you would think the woman was what we colloquially, laughingly call "baby crazy." She wanted a baby so badly she'd do anything. But clearly there is a lot more going on. Like mental illness, right? Because no one in their right mind wants a baby so much they would cut one out of another woman's stomach.

This is a mental health story, and should be covered as such. I want to hear that the woman was not only apprehended, but given a thorough psychiatric work-up. I'd like a discussion of possible psychiatric conditions that might lead to this kind of behavior.

I'd like a list of warning signs the rest of us can look for to help us identify a person with the condition. I'd like to know about successful treatments. How to find mental health practitioners when resources are scarce.

What I don't want is another mentally ill person criminalized and exploited by the media.  

Over fifty million people in our country are mentally ill. And yet many, especially African-Americans, have a hard time acknowledging mental illness as a treatable disease. We're more likely to think we should be able to handle our burdens by ourselves, and that psychiatry is being used as a weapon of social control. 

And then there's the issue of God.

It seems some are more comfortable seeing mental illness as a demonic aberration rather than a disease, and won't get or help others to get help.

Which sounds closer to Scientology than any spiritual tradition I'm familiar with.

And which is also like blaming God for sickle cell anemia, and refusing to go to the doctor.

But what about the children?

Make an appointment to see a psychiatrist. Support someone who is struggling to hold it together.

No, I'm serious. Do it right now.

And when you see someone doing something crazy, consider they may be mentally ill.

And even though it's still a bit taboo to talk about, consider that any comments you make to this post might help someone else--a lot.



The Mama of Reinvention: Five Questions for Madonna

Can we talk about Madonna?

Even though I, along with her brother Christopher, have some issues with the icon, I admire her body of work. 

Madonna's been an inspired artist, consummate CEO, and global pop icon for over twenty years. She went out with Jean-Michel Basquiat, made Christ black in her Like a Prayer Video, had a baby with her very sweet Cuban trainer Carlos Leon,and went from Catholicism to Kabbalah in one lifetime. And have you seen her live?

I know I may get flak for this from some of you, but in my book, even though she's the queen of reinvention/appropriation, she's a major public Mama, and here are my questions for her/you.

1.What on earth is going on with Guy? Many of us were happy Madonna found both a spiritual and an actual home. But if a profound spiritual practice, a billion dollars, a gratifying career, and three beautiful children can't make a marriage work, what can? Can't anyone have it all?

2. How is it possible to be the queen of pop culture and disallow pop culture from your house? I get the allure of no televisions in the house, but what about the kids--I know they speak ten languages and ride horses and study dance with world renowned choreographers, but don't they ever want to kick back and watch Princess Mononoke?

3. Madonna may be able to save Malawi from poverty and AIDS and I'm happy she's doing more than the rest of us, but the real question is can she save Britney Spears from herself and her family? And is doing a video with Brit naked and bound for the Sticky and Sweet Tour really the best way to go about it?

4. What's up with A-Rod meeting with Kabbalah leaders (and Will and Jada and Scientology)?I'm all for people having their own spiritual beliefs, but religious organizations wooing artists in a calculated attempt to lure converts to amass power is nothing new. That's why the Pope had Michaelangelo.

5. But what I really, really want to know, and what I'd ask Madonna over a cold (glass) bottle of Evian on a balcony of one of the old gorgeous hotels in Montreux, Switzerland overlooking Lake Geneva, is whether it's possible to protect children from their parent's stardom. Does she worry her children's aspirations will be stymied by her fame? What's her long-term parenting plan for the beautiful Lourdes, Rocco and David--and is it working? Because while fame, wealth, and whiteness can make some things a whole lot easier, they will never make motherhood a piece of cake.

And of course I'd like to know what you guys think of her adoption of David, from Malawi. She seems to have gotten a largely negative reaction to her transracial adoption while Brangelina did not. Your theories?

And what about Christopher?



There is a lot to talk about, like:

What a great job Obama is doing (and how saddened I am by how many are so critical so soon), the auto company bailout and why it's not "cost effective" for the big 3 to go green, the staggering number of people losing jobs, and the theme I've hit several times since the Olympics: China's devastating invasion of parts of Africa. 

But right now I want to have a moment about ADHD, Ritalin, and prevailing attitudes about mental health.

Today at the health food store I overheard a conversation between a Dad, the person ringing up his groceries, and a woman on line.

The Dad said his daughter was diagnosed with ADHD, and Ritalin was working well. He said she's been experiencing a lot of success in school and at home and "her turn-around" was "like a miracle." The checker gave an enthusiastic high-five. "Hey man, that's so great."

Then the woman chimed in with anecdotal information about an Omega 3 supplement that "helped the son of a friend." She tried to remember the name of the supplement, and while reaching for the name, suggested Dad try it. 

Dad suddenly looked ashamed and embarrassed. He said he had "read some studies" about the supplement and was hoping to "get some soon." He really wanted to get his daughter off the Ritalin, he said. Because although she was doing better, he "hated being duped by the drug companies," who probably "invented ADHD in the first place."

The woman nodded, and agreed. "It's worth a shot," she said, offering no further information about her clinical credentials or the supplement she suggested Dad try on the daughter who responded to Ritalin as if it were "a miracle." "The overmedication of children in this country is a crime," she said. "Have you tried taking her off wheat and sugar?"

At which point I had to tune out or risk an intervention.

Listen, I agree big pharma is problematic. I agree all kinds of illnesses are "created" by drug marketers, a lot of kids are over medicated, and the whole world should be focused on preventive care, and living holistically in organic environments.

But sometimes illness actually responds to Western medicine, and when it does, I for one am happy to have access to it, not just for bone marrow transplants and the shrinking of brain tumors, but for schizophrenia and bi-polar disease, clinical depression and Tourette's.

I left the store wondering when we as a culture will decide once and for all that mental wellness, like any other kind of health, is worthy of pharmaceutical support. When mental illness, like cancer or lupus or HIV, will finally be deemed legitimate enough to warrant medication.

Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of. Like any other disease, it's something to treat. Whether it's with herbs, meds, beets, or yoga doesn't matter. What matters is that people--regardless of ideology, religion or cultural taboos--get better, feel happier, and are more able to make healthy decisions for themselves and the people they love.

Right?

I'd like to hear your thoughts.



 I've always loved languages.

I learned Spanish in high school by translating passages from One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. My mother bought a house in Mexico around the same time, and between my high school teacher and Miguel Partida, the man who managed the house and with whom I spent many hours discussing roofing tile and hot water heaters, I became fluent. I talked my way out of a Spanish prison with my Spanish (don't ask), and expressed my admiration to former President Vicente Fox and his wife Marta when unexpectedly seated next to them at an event.

Years later as an undergrad at Yale, I studied Swahili because I had traveled to East Africa and fallen in love with someone who spoke Swahili, but also because I was studying post-colonialism and underdevelopment, and thought I might later work in that part of the world. From my knowledge of Swahili, I was able to pick up a tiny bit of Arabic, and now, following my love of language, I can say "hello" and "how are you" and "your child is beautiful" and "thank you" in about a dozen languages, including Thai.

All this to say, we've been talking about languages for Tenzin. I met Nathalie Jorge of Professor Pocket at a speech a few years ago. She gave me her Spanish for kids CD, and it has since become Tenzin's favorite. He loves to sing about "los animales on la granja" and how there are no "dinosaurios" on the farm. I'm looking forward to bringing him with me to teach a writing workshop in Barcelona this summer for full immersion.

But we're thinking about languages for the future.

I asked a friend from college, Julie Pimsleur, whose grandfather founded the Pimsleur technique, which language, if any, did she think would serve him best? She confirmed what we've been thinking: Chinese. She sent me a Mandarin for preschoolers DVD from her line for kids, Little Pim. I put it on a few days ago, just to see. Wow. It's one thing to learn a Romance language--the letters are the same, and you can sound things out, but Chinese, um, not so much. Tenzin gamely played along, but lost interest fast.

I'm not giving up, but I am considering other options. I've been teaching myself French on the amazing mangolanguages.com, and Tenzin mimics me as I do my repetitions. His favorite, "J'suis content" (I'm happy), is in heavy rotation at the moment. 

So I'm thinking about learning Chinese, Arabic, or Hindi myself. So I can talk to him. So he will learn another language from me. So we'll have another language to keep us together. Another way of expressing the world we share. And being able to move through bigger and bigger realms. To be, in yet another way, free.

I will keep you posted on my progress, but in the meantime, I'm interested: 

What languages are you teaching your children and why? How are you teaching them?  How is it going?



So of course I love this shirt, and contemplated buying it for Tenzin during the campaign.

But I didn't.

Because I don't want to politicize Tenzin's body any more than it is already. Because he didn't choose Obama himself. Because he is not a walking billboard for my beliefs.

Because it just didn't feel right.

Because politics is a divisive, winner takes all paradigm. Because while I engage and vote, I try not to view the world in terms of sides or camps, and would like to allow my son the same for as long as possible.

Because even though I believe in Obama, I am not certain that inculcating my son into the spectacle, the theater, of politics is actually in his best interest.

What do you think?



I'm a little late to this conversation, but I feel compelled to weigh in on the question of whether the Obama children should go to public or private school. I truly, deeply, completely understand why some feel sending Malia and Sasha to a private school will indicate an "abandonment" of the public school system, but still and all I think this is an inappropriate, bordering on reckless, discussion.

First of all--the question reminds me of Obama's behind the scenes remark in Newsweek:

"So when Brian Williams is asking me about what's a personal thing that you've done [that's green], and I say, you know, 'Well, I planted a bunch of trees.' And he says, 'I'm talking about personal.' What I'm thinking in my head is, 'Well, the truth is, Brian, we can't solve global warming because I f–––ing changed light bulbs in my house. It's because of something collective'."

I don't think sending the girls to public school is going to solve the unbelievable decline of our schools. And I seriously doubt he will be less motivated to improve the public school system de facto because he and Michelle send their girls to a private school.

Then there is the quality of the DC public school system. They are working on it, and I have tremendous respect for the teachers and many excellent public schools, especially the charter schools, in DC, but the history is fraught with issues. I went to one of the best public schools on Capitol Hill when my father worked for the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare under Jimmy Carter, and let's just say it could have been better.

Which brings us to the question of giving your kids "less" on principle. It reminds me of parents who believe you shouldn't leave money to your children because they won't work hard or appreciate the benefits of self-reliance, which is fine. But what if that somehow compromises the stability of your children or grandchildren?

Aren't principles, if they undermine long-term viability and health, dysfunctional?

But what really troubles me about these conversations is the assumption Malia and Sasha are just like everyone else. They may be in some ways, but they are not in one very big way: they are the children of the President of the United States. There are massive security issues to be managed. Those kids need to be in the most controlled environment possible. That means contained campuses, administrative familiarity with similar situations, and all manner of other considerations.

Safety first. Principles second. Or, what about safety being the overriding principle? 

What do you think?



I don't know about you, but I woke up the night after the election with the keen and pressing realization that I have neglected my child for the last nine months. That's right, neglected. I've been telling him to get out of the way of the television, be quiet while I read Politico and RealClearPolitics and do "self-play" as I write a few grafs on the Obama-McCain situation. He's taken to solo bathtime singing, "Barack Obama, Barack Obama, Barack Obama" for company as I tap away furiously in the other room.

Needless to say, the poor child lit up like a light bulb when I turned my attention back to him a few days ago. 

Then one of my fab friends on Facebook posted this Cookie piece about Jada Pinkett-Smith and her parenting plan, and it got me thinking about my own plan for getting myself back on track with the babe. 

1. I am going to do something about how hard it is for me to PLAY. I mean, I'm just terrible at it. I'm the parent who wants to read. To do puzzles. To clean the house. To admire the buildings, but not get down and make them. Yesterday when I took Tenzin to the pool, I wanted to work on blowing bubbles underwater. Pathetic. So I'm on the hunt for fun things that don't wear me out. I'd love suggestions; this article was helpful but I'd like to hear from you parents. Does anyone else have this issue?

2. I'm going to cook more. I've been working the microwave these last months, and when I made ginger asparagus with ghee and honey over rice, the look on Tenzin's face was sheer joy. Today I made some chicken soup. I bought some beets. I've got the rice cooker back on counter duty. The blender too. Tenzin and I love to make smoothies. We're going to make one in a few minutes--with chocolate protein powder and organic chocolate chips. Yum.

3. Devising a plan that includes me saying "because I said so, that's why" fifty per cent less. There's got to be a better way to respond to the hundreds of questions that stream through the stratosphere over here. Ditto: "Stop climbing on mommy!" I think the better response to the biggest three year old in the world pulling on my arms and legs constantly, is "Time to go outside--there's that nice tree you can climb," or "Let's go to the playground."

And finally, as a mom who is always cleaning and encouraging Tenzin to do the same, I may lay off just a teeny tiny bit. Jada's idea that the kids should be able to do whatever they want in their own rooms rattled my cage a bit. I'd go insane if Tenzin had no organizing principles other than flinging dirty Diego underpants in corners and leaving dozens of blocks all over the floor for me to trip on (and clean up). 

But I'm intrigued. Do you think asking your kids to clean their room sends a message it's not their house, and they're just living in yours?