Sunday, April 24, 2011

Cookie Mixtape

Well, with the new trend toward legal marijuana making it easier and easier to get really good weed, I have been discovered, on occasion, to wallow long into the night cherishing a wonderful state of bliss that allows me to dig inside the artistic measure of many musical journeys. After partaking of a certain cookie and descending into the wackness, I heard these songs in this exact order and couldn't believe my ears. It was beautiful. May you enjoy them, as well.

01. The Villagers - Set the Tigers Free
02. Stacey Kent - Les Vacances au Bors
03. Taken By Tress - Wapas Karna
04. Saint Etienne - Like the Swallow
05. Jocelyn Pook - Upon This Rock
06. Bassekou Kouyate - Ngoni Fola
07. Superpitcher - Sad Boys
08. Jesse Sykes - Made of Wood
09. Keren Ann - Le Forme et le Fond
10. Boards of Canada - Hi Scores
11. Tosca - Rosa
12. James Blake - Lindesfarne II
13. Caroline - Lullabye


Saturday, April 23, 2011

78 Months

Lucas is an environmentalist! Our agenda is working! Lucas drew the picture above awhile ago and though it is very simple, we still have it on our fridge because the frown upon the guy's face as he chops down those trees is priceless.

He is really embracing an attitude of care for the environment and it absolutely fills my heart with hope. It's something that he is embracing and becoming passionate about. Earth Day is coming up and one of the assignments in his class was to draw what they love about the planet. Lucas's drawing was all about nature. He spoke about going to the desert and camping and appreciating the natural world all around him. He said that he loves nature.

We are teaching him about what we find important in this life and for Christina and I, the connection that we have with the environment is something that we feel strongly about. One aspect of the Buddhism that we practice focuses on interdependence, the intricate connection that we have our surroundings. The idea is that it is impossible to truly create happiness unless we nurture and take care of the environment around us. If the world is falling apart and calamity upon calamity occurs, then it doesn't take a genius to perceive that the people are going to suffer. If the world is toxic then you are bound to find toxins in your life. If those that surround you are mired in the pit of despair then their actions will bleed over into your life. No wall or fence or gun will make that any less true. The environment simply gives back what we give it and that fundamental truth is what guides our actions when we look out at the world.

Sure, there are times when we don't follow those guidelines to the rule and they may tend to snap back at us every so often but when we educate Lucas and Quinn about the philosophy of human nature, when we attempt to nurture their lives so that one day they may make decisions for themselves that bring them true happiness, then we impart these ideals with strong conviction. I want their lives to be much better than my own and in order for that to happen then it is going to take a big effort on my part to help make that happen. The best part of it all is that when I have dialogue about these concepts, even with my own children, then I'm able to reaffirm and reconnect to the validity and power of these ideals for myself. Then my actions toward creating a better tomorrow begin to come more naturally and I'm able to encourage myself to transform who I am and become that person I greatly wish to be, to become someone that I would admire.

These aren't complicated ideas either and maybe that's why a six-year-old can so easily identify with them. We tend to over analyze everything in our culture so that it becomes less clear after awhile and when we get confused it becomes easier to do nothing, to not take action or hold in those words that might make a difference. I don't want Lucas to be like that. I've spent four decades keeping my mouth shut worrying about avoiding confrontation and I've learned that if I want to respect myself then I can no longer live that way.

I'm going to teach my children these important lessons as long as it's within my power. I showed Lucas a video of an oil pipeline that ruptured in the wilderness in Montana, one of the most beautiful areas of our country. The images were stunning, grand mountain terrains and untouched forests for miles around, and throughout this wonderful landscape oil companies had stripped away the land so that they could profit. The people who lived their had no say in any of the exploration and transportation of this crude product that controls so many aspects of our lives. The government just handed it over to these corporations who will never perceive the beauty all around them as they stick their heads beneath the dirt and lick up the darkness. Yet, what is even worse than all of that is what happens when the pipelines break and the people who live there have to suffer the consequences. It's utterly despicable how these companies continue to show their complete disregard for humanity and the environment all so that they can make an easy dollar.

As we watched I could see and feel the truth of Rachel Carson's horrific description at the beginning of Silent Spring when she writes about a devastated land ravaged by pollution. And Lucas could feel it too.

He asks me, "Why do they do that?"

"Because they are able to make a lot of money doing that."

Then he tells me, "Get the police to stop them."

"Those people own the politicians who gave them the land and the politicians pass laws so that they can get away with it and the police simply uphold the law, so that means the police won't do anything about it."

He pauses and thinks for a long time. "Well, somebody should stop them."


He thinks long and hard again. "Somebody should blow up their buildings."

Great, now I've created a radical eco-terrorist! "But if you do that then you are definitely breaking the law, even if you truly believe that your actions are correct and you go through all of the trouble to make sure no one gets hurt, even if what you did wasn't even close to the destruction and damage that they did, even then, they would put you in prison. They would happily put you in prison and that is not something that I would wish for anybody."

Especially my son.

So we have to fight with our words, our voices, make them heard. I'm glad Lucas is passionate about the environment, that he loves nature and wants to protect it. When I think of all the occupations I wish for him to achieve in life, environmentalist is one that would make me very proud. So I'm going to encourage him to follow his heart, the impulses within that guide him toward creating value instead of destroying things. If I can put my energy into parenting him with that in mind then I'll feel a lot better about the world of tomorrow.

p.s. I have a feeling that Lucas may identify with this movie more than I might be comfortable with...but we'll probably take him to see it anyway.

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Sunday, April 10, 2011

38 Months (the second)

(Don't know what this picture has to do with the post below but I just love it! Nanna, Quinn, Lucas & Nonno)

Quinn is doing her business on the potty! So excited by this wonderful development. I was telling a friend of ours the song we sing to Quinn every time she drops one in her pants, let's just say that the title to the song is "Quinnita Poopy Pants", and I felt embarrassed by two things - first the fact that I'm singing such a demeaning song to my three-year-old just so she'll feel ashamed and go in the potty doesn't help me feel better about myself, and 2nd that she's still fighting the inevitable tide of time and the reality that, yes goddamnit, she is capable of controlling herself.

Well, she has made the leap and you never found two happier parents than those who are living at CasaWex. The greatest part about it is that Quinn was the one who decided. We encouraged her as much as possible, hinting and asking again and again if she might just be ready for that important next step, but she never would take the bait. She was always very confident enough with herself to simple reject any advancement that we made on the subject. One thing Quinn has going for her is that when she puts her mind to it, that subject is closed. She won't budge an inch once that stubborn aspect of her nature kicks in. So Christina and I were extremely relieved when she became open to the sitting on that toilet.

It all started in San Francisco...hey isn't that where Lucas was potty-trained? I'm just going to put out this little tip for all of the parents out there in the world. We had absolutely no clue how to potty train either one of our children, and you would think that we might of learned something after the first child, but they were completely different people and so our experience with Lucas didn't translate toward Quinn. BUT! and a very big but it is right here, the one common ingredient we had with both of them is a relative that they both looked up to and respected who caused the shame of dirty diapers to finally register within their little minds. As a parent, it is very important to find these influential people that will affect your children in profoundly positive ways. These mentors in life are vital for a child's growth and finding the right person for the right situation is a very delicate matter for a parent to ponder. When it came to the toilet, both Quinn and Lucas needed their Uncle Rick.

Like I said earlier, it's truly strange the things we parents do in order to shame our children. Our behavior can be pretty childish at times and these kids are way smarter than we give them credit. My poopy-pants song had absolutely no effect whatsoever but I stuck to my guns and went right on singing because I felt that I knew what was right in this situation. But, of course, I was the one who didn't have a clue and even though I managed to get a reaction at times (yeah, it upset her now and then), ultimately she totally ignored me. Yet, all it took was having her Uncle's keen eye pointed in her direction and Quinn was convinced that the potty was her new best friend.

We parents can be so convinced that the life-lessons we constantly impart upon our children are the greatest gifts we can give, better than any toy or movie or adventure that their heart desires. That may be true to an extent because a lot of the crap they want doesn't really provide much value but that doesn't mean that our arrogant perspective always provides the wonder that we imagine, as well. The most important thing we can remember is the motivation behind our actions. Isn't that the same type of advice we're always trying to impart on them? I suppose that there are times when we need to stop giving advice and start listening to it instead.

There is a time to be strict and there is a time when you have to listen to your heart. We need to see these children as unique and beautiful and intelligent creatures. When our hearts are open to their amazing potential then we have the ability to understand how we can guide them toward that picturesque tomorrow we all have in our minds. But that wonderful place we've come to imagine for them isn't for us. We aren't the ones who are going to live there. So that means that we have to get over ourselves and truly find a selfless place inside. This second potty training experience has reminded me that my ego really isn't that important, especially when it comes to interacting with a three-year-old. Another life-lesson, after all.

Through it all I am extremely (hands waving in the air) happy about Quinn's step toward liberating herself from diapers. As my good friend Mark once told me, "Changing diapers is one aspect of parenthood that you don't miss once it's gone."

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