Regarding Baby Santa Cruz parenting classes, parenting workshops, and early childhood education Thu, 11 May 2017 18:14:36 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Meditation on Motherhood Thu, 27 Apr 2017 08:56:25 +0000


My girl is adopted.  She is my biological niece, and my daughter. We are four and a half years into our relationship together. I  unexpectedly became her mother at the age of forty nine years old, (after twenty five years of being a professional infant toddler caregiver and educator), under the most unusual and trying of circumstances. We have had quite the journey together. Late last year, she was diagnosed as autistic. This is a short meditation on what becoming and being her mother has meant to me, what I have struggled with, and what I am learning from her. I am sharing it with hope that it might speak to and inspire you, no matter what your story or your circumstances.

I am my child’s mother. She chose me. I chose her. I am a good mother to and for my child. I am not a perfect person or a perfect mother, but I am the perfect mother to and for my child. I love my child. More importantly, I am committed to parenting her respectfully. I show up and do my best every day. I try to see her and understand her for who she is, apart from me. I try to honor her and her unique person-hood and journey and to give her what she needs to survive and thrive. I observe and listen to her closely, and let my intuition guide me to meet her true needs in the way that serves her best.

I  remain open. In meeting her needs, I also try to honor myself, to be real and authentic in relationship to her. I recognize that I have needs, limits, and boundaries, and it is OK and important to assert them. I can’t always meet all of her needs or demands in a perfect or total way, as she would wish, and sometimes, she may be upset with me for setting limits, and that is OK. I need only to acknowledge her feelings, and to continue to be open, to listen, to observe.

I continue to seek, to question, to do my best for her and for myself. I won’t quit. I won’t leave. I won’t give up on either of us. I won’t stop loving her, listening to her,  or trying to understand her. I will make mistakes. I will fall. I will fail. I will misunderstand. But I will learn from my mistakes. I will admit them. I will apologize. I will seek, ask for, and accept help for both of us, if need be. I will move on. And so will she.


I choose to believe that my love, my commitment, my trying is enough. Good enough. Enough to make a difference for her and for me. Enough to bond us together. Enough to nurture her and launch her into the world in a happy (enough), healthy (enough) way so that she can survive and thrive. Her journey, her experience of life, of people, will be different than mine, and that, I believe, is a good thing. Although she has experienced much struggle in her short life, I hope that our relationship will be a bedrock for her, even when I am no longer present on this earth. I hope she will learn and feel that although I am not perfect, although I often feel inadequate, broken, lost, and alone, although I often make mistakes, I show up for her. I seek to see her for who she is, to celebrate her unique strengths. I believe in her. I am there as a guide, and on her side, not hovering, but available. I am her greatest advocate and cheerleader. She is my greatest teacher. I aim to make better and different choices for both of us, than were made for me when I was growing up. I strive to understand myself and my past in order not to revisit upon her what was done to me.

Again, I am not perfect. I fall. I fail. I make mistakes. But always, I get up and try again. I lead with love. I lead with a desire to know, understand, and celebrate her for exactly who she is. I lead with an open heart and an open mind. I continue to learn and grow so that she can learn and grow. We are a work in progress, both of us, and our relationship. It is perfect as it is, even when it doesn’t look pretty from the outside, or the sailing isn’t smooth.

I love. I love. I love. I show up. I try. I try. I try. I trust. I let go. She lights the way for both of us. And that is enough. That is all. May she grow up to know this. May she feel it. May it be enough. It is enough. It is all.

On Children
Kahlil Gibran

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
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,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

With love and thanks to the many therapists, teachers, friends, and families, too numerous to mention, who have prepared me, guided me, inspired me, and supported me in this journey, but most especially, to Magda Gerber, and Janet Lansbury.

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Please, Thank You, I’m Sorry…Trusting Children to Develop Social Skills and Manners In Time Sun, 03 Apr 2016 03:44:22 +0000

KidandCat“Can you explain why we don’t need to tell toddlers to say sorry, thank you, please, etc? My child’s caregiver told her she needs to say sorry when she “does something bad”, which in this case was poking the caregiver’s eye. My daughter is 19 months old.

“Say please.” “Say thank you.” “Say you’re sorry.” “Say hello.” “Say goodbye.” We can instruct or insist that our young children parrot our words, but if we want them to develop true kindness, if we want them to develop social graces and true empathy, if we want them to develop the ability to feel and express true gratitude, if we want them to express true sorrow when they have hurt someone (even inadvertently), directly instructing them isn’t the way to go.

Instead, I suggest trusting children and modeling for them the values and attitudes we desire to instill. If young children are treated and talked to with respect, they will, in time, learn to talk to and treat others with kindness and respect, no prompting or reminders needed, and it’s a beautiful thing to witness a young child acting from a genuine and authentic place, as opposed to hearing them issue a half hearted and hasty thank you or I’m sorry that is prompted by an adult.

It can be hard to wait and trust, but make no mistake, your child is watching, listening, and absorbing YOUR words, actions and attitudes.  Janet Lansbury says:

“Trust, whenever and wherever it’s possible, reasonable and age-appropriate, is one of the most profound gifts we can give our children. Through trust we offer children opportunities to fully own their achievements and internalize the validating message: “I did it!” This, as opposed to the far less self-affirming one: “Finally, I did what my parents have been wanting me to do!” Believe me, children know the difference.”

What a child experiences and lives is what a child eventually expresses in their own particular and unique way. How do we model for  children? We can say please and thank you to our child when making requests. We can let them hear us saying a genuine, “I’m sorry,” when we have made a mistake. We can greet friends and loved ones warmly. We can say thank you on our child’s behalf. “Thank you for coming to help celebrate Julie’s birthday and for the beautiful book you brought for her.”

We often receive gifts in the mail from far away friends, and since my child has been a young toddler, I’ve always made it a point to open the boxes with her, and to say, “Our friend Dee sent these gifts for you, because she loves you and thinks of you. We are so lucky to have friends who think of us. I want to write to Dee to say thank you.”

Every child has their own time table.  For a child who is on the autism spectrum and who struggles with feeling comfortable with social interactions asking them to follow social conventions is something that may be beyond their ability, and may cause more harm than it does good. As Raun K. Kaufman explains in his post, Why Forced Social Niceties Lead To Less Social Kids:

“Do you ever make your child on the ‪#‎autism‬ spectrum say “hello,” shake someone’s hand, pose for photos, or obey some similar‪#‎SocialConvention‬?

I completely understand where the desire to do this comes from. And, because of this, I’m also aware that it might be hard to see how counterproductive it can be.

Forcing our kids to obey these social niceties creates the opposite of a social child. Why? Here are three reasons:

1) It breaks trust and connection by forcing the child to do something against his/her will.
2) It creates a control battle, which actually causes our kids to dig in and resist more.
3) It takes the most important area of our kids’ learning and growth (i.e., social interaction) and transforms it into a meaningless task that is completely divorced from real social connection.”

Until my child was about three and a half years old, she never once uttered a please, a thank you, or an I’m sorry, and hellos and goodbyes were pretty hit or miss as well. She’s a gentle, observant child who feels deeply and is quite verbal, but is a little slow to warm in social situations. I trusted that if I was patient and continued to model for her, that one day, she would spontaneously begin to express her feelings in socially acceptable ways, and sure enough, she did. She now routinely greets friends with hugs and blows kisses goodbye, she shows concern and offers comfort when a friend is sad or has been injured, she says please and thank you regularly, and at the park the other day, she spontaneously offered to share her snack with a little girl who was eyeing her kale chips.

It began one day when our cat Pandera was ill, and Carmel, the woman who had fostered her, came to check on her and administer medicine. She also brought a book for R. which she thought R. would enjoy, (since my little one is obsessed with all things cat). R. was quite worried about Pandera, and I told her that Carmel was going to come and check on her while she was at school that day. On the way home from school, R. asked about Pandera, and I told her Carmel had visited, and Pandera seemed to be feeling much better. I also mentioned that Carmel had left a book for R. to read to Pandera.R. was relieved and excited, “I’m so glad Pandera is feeling better, Mama.” Then…. “Mama, I want to write a card to say thank you to Carmel for helping Pandera, and for bringing me a book. Pandera is a special cat, and Carmel is special because she took care of Pandera, AND she brought me a book to read to Pandera. Is that a good idea?” I said that I thought it was a fine idea.


Once we got home, after running to pet Pandera, R. asked me to help her find a card with a picture of a cat on it (“because Carmel likes cats like me”), and then, my child, who has difficulty sitting still for more than two minutes at a time, sat at the kitchen table for half an hour, as she carefully and painstakingly “wrote” and signed a thank you note to Carmel. She then sealed it in an envelope, and insisted on “wrapping” it in a plastic baggie (because it was raining and she didn’t want it to get wet), and she placed it by the door with instructions for me to, “Please don’t forget to give the card to Carmel when she comes tomorrow, because I want her to know how special she is.”

My heart swelled. That, my friends, was a three and a half year old child’s genuine, heartfelt, and authentic expression of gratitude to another human being she felt a connection with, and it was so worth waiting for her to come to the point of wanting and being able to express it in her own way.

Trust. Model. Believe in the inherent goodness and intelligence of your child. Please, thank you, hello, goodbye, and I’m sorry will come in it’s own good time.

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Baby Connect- A Useful Tool For Parents Sun, 26 Jul 2015 01:42:12 +0000


My child is three years old now, but has been having some health challenges which make it necessary to carefully track food intake, medication, diaper contents, sleep, mood, and activity, in order to share with health care professionals. Enter Baby Connect.

Rarely (Okay, never!) have I been as excited about an app as I am about this one, which is why I’m sharing. I would have loved to have known about this tool or have had it available to me when I was working as a nanny or an infant/toddler teacher, as I regularly kept written logs of each child’s day and critical information such as diaper changes, amount of milk and food consumed, sleep and wake times, etc., for parents. I often ask parents to keep simple logs for me when I’m doing consults, particularly when their concerns are around sleep. All of these little details of a baby’s day and routine are important in the early years, and give clues about a child’s overall health and growth. Often, it’s not so easy to accurately keep track of these details.

Baby Connect makes it a cinch to keep track of crucial information. I have been using it for about a week now, and I have to tell you, it beats pen and paper hands down. It is an easy to use, comprehensive tool. The app tracks and graphs changes over time, which is also helpful. It can be customized, easily shared with others, and used on multiple devices. It can record feedings, nursing, naps, diapers, milestones, pumping, baby’s mood, temperature, activities, and even gps location. If you have more than one child, or care for more than one child, the app can manage that.  A web interface is also accessible for free, so a childcare provider doesn’t need a smart phone to view and enter information about the child, and I like that I can easily share information with my child’s health care provider via the web interface.

I also appreciate the diary feature, and that I can even take pictures from the app. With one click, I can accurately record the time and most important pieces of information as an event occurs, and then I can go back to record or fill in additional details later, so as not to take time away from being present for my child. Take a look at the video below for a demonstration. Honestly, it’s the best $4.99 I have ever spent. I just wish I had known about it sooner.


Note: The link provided is an Affiliate Link from Amazon, which means if you choose to purchase through this link,  I receive a small percentage of the sale, which helps to me to defray the cost of maintaining this blog.

Entering Into A Conversation With Your Baby Sun, 25 Jan 2015 07:29:42 +0000

“What are some things to say to a baby when he is upset for no clear reason (fresh diaper, fed, not too cold/warm, not tired, etc)? My husband and I have gotten into the habit of saying ‘You’re OK’ to our 3 month old. We say it more as a reassurance that he is indeed safe and secure (which we frequently also say) rather than to negate his feelings. I’m at a loss for other phrases to use but don’t want this one to become any more of a habit, especially for when he is older.”

“I see you as the separate little person that you are. You know and feel things that you want and need to express. You want and need to be heard. You have a lot to say. I see you. I hear you. I’m listening. I want to hear and understand who you are and what you have to say. Tell me. I am here for you.”  This is a conversation and relationship that begins at birth and evolves over time. You convey this message to your young baby through your words, through your touch, through maintaining an attitude of curiosity, openness, and respect.


R and me

“Remember, crying is a baby’s language—it is a way to express pain, anger, and sadness. Acknowledge the emotions your baby is expressing. Let him know he has communicated.

For example, you might say, ‘I see you’re uncomfortable. And hearing you cry really upsets me. I want to find out what you need. Tell me. I will try to understand your cues…’… Then think out loud. ‘Could it be that your diaper is wet? I don’t think you are hungry because you just ate. Maybe I’ve been holding you long enough and maybe you want to be on your back for a while.’ This is the start of lifelong, honest communication.”  Magda Geber

I remember the first time I held my girl as if it was yesterday, even though that was two and a half years ago. She was just a few weeks old. As soon as she was placed in my arms, she began vocalizing. This was something that everyone present would notice and comment on over a period of four months, during the precious one hour visits we were allowed weekly. “As soon as she is in your arms, she starts “talking”.



This is still true today, although now she has words. She lets me know how she’s feeling and what she’s thinking, in a very clear way, always. We don’t always agree.  I’m not always able to make things better or easier for her. Sometimes, all I can do or say is, “I hear you. This is hard.”  Sometimes, I have misunderstood, and gotten it wrong. But we have always been and  are always) in conversation with each other and my goal has always been (and still is)  to try to listen and understand, and to allow her to feel heard, seen and accepted for exactly who she is. It’s an attitude and a belief as much as anything else. “I am interested in hearing what you have to say and trying to understand who you are and what you need.”

Early on, I said things like this:  “What do you want to tell me?” “Tell me more.”  “You are so upset.”  “I’m listening.” “I’m here.” “You have a lot to tell me.” “You seem uncomfortable.” “I wonder what you’re trying to tell me?”  “It’s OK to cry.” ” I wonder if you would like to go outside for a walk?”” I wonder if you are tired and need to rest?” “Would you like me to sing you a song?” “It’s hard to be a baby sometimes, isn’t it?” “I’m trying to/want to understand what you’re telling me.”

Enter into the conversation with your baby. Let her know that what she has to say is important to you, and that you are trying to understand. Ask her questions and wait for her response. Be with her in her experience as fully as you are able. It’s the beginning of a beautiful relationship, and a lifetime of conversation.

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The Gift in Slowing Down to a Child’s Pace Sat, 24 May 2014 21:35:12 +0000

Tabitha writes, “I wanted to share an experience from my family’s first vacation. I just returned form a two-week stay in Mexico with my husband and 15 month old daughter. The first week was shared with my entire extended family as we celebrated the wedding of my younger sister. I was extremely excited to introduce my daughter to the beach and the swimming pool. I grew up in the water and my daughter loves the bath so I looked forward to her excitement in playing in such vast bodies of water.

We have been taking RIE classes since my little one was 7 months old, but it was as if everything got thrown out the window at the beginning of vacation. After arrival, we immediately went down to the pool to meet my family so everyone could see my daughter’s first pool experience. In my excitement, I did not see that it had become about everyone else’s experience, not my daughter’s. My husband and I got in, but my daughter was hesitant.

I still can’t believe it, but I picked her up and brought her in with me! She started crying and I looked around at my family members (strangers to her at this point) trying to “make” her happy by making crazy faces at her and I was snapped back to reality. What was I doing? We got out, I apologized to her for bringing her in when she was clearly not ready, and we explored the grounds by her lead.

Gracie on the beach, 2002

Later that day, I walked with her down to the beach, just me and my daughter. I explained where we were going but I had no expectations, no agenda. We walked to where the sand meets the water and I sat down and my daughter stood between my legs. Our faces were next to each other as we looked out to the ocean. She stood there for five minutes, mouth half open in awe. Five quiet minutes of awe. She will never see the ocean again for the first time, and I was fully present, and honored to share the moment. It was so beautifully overwhelming, I shed tears.

After five minutes, she pushed off me and walked right into the water! On her terms. It was hard keeping her out of the water for the rest of vacation (even the pool, after allowing her to enter on her terms). Reflecting that night, I realized the pool experience was really all about me, masked as me giving her an experience. I wanted to force a beautiful moment like what happened on the beach, yet, what happened on the beach unfolded organically. I didn’t know we were going to have that moment, I was just present to receive the gift. Funny, cameras documented everything at the pool and we have none of the beach moment yet that five-minute memory is seared into my soul.

I love RIE, love this community, and love the continued inspiration to grow as a mother.

I appreciate Tabitha allowing me to share this beautiful story, which I feels illustrates the profound connection and joy available to both parents and young children when we can slow down just a little to be present with, and allow for what naturally unfolds, leaving our agenda behind, and trusting our children to be active participants in their own experience, recognizing that they have a point of view too.  If you’d like to learn more, the community Tabitha is referring to can be found here, and the basic premises of RIE can be found here.

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No Ifs, Ands, or Buts: Setting Limits With Empathy Sat, 12 Apr 2014 22:57:43 +0000

Calmly setting and holding to necessary limits can be trying for parents, especially in the face of a toddler’s strong feelings of displeasure or upset. One of the most frequent questions I receive from parents is “How do I set or hold  a limit when my child is upset?” For instance, “It’s time to get dressed, and my child is refusing. We have to leave in 15 minutes to get to childcare, so that I can get to work on time. He can’t go to childcare in his diaper, but he won’t cooperate, even though I’ve given him time, and offered him choices of what to wear. I’ve tried distracting him and bribing him, and explaining the reasons he has to get dressed. I don’t want to force him, but I don’t know what to do. It’s almost impossible to dress a screaming, kicking child, and I hate to see him so upset.”

Often, in instances like this, parents are tempted to give in or give up, or they wear themselves out trying to reason with their toddler, and they may become frustrated when they give choice after choice, but their toddler rejects every option. Sometimes, parents resort to yelling or spanking, or sometimes, they end up bringing a diaper clad but otherwise naked toddler to childcare, and asking for help!

The answer to this question is to pause to allow for and acknowledge your toddler’s feelings, and then, to calmly carry on.  But what does this look and sound like in practice?

Parent and teacher, Sarah Morrison, sheds some light based on a realization she had after attending a conference held in Sacramento, in October of last year, where she listened to a keynote speech given by RIE Associate Janet Lansbury.

Sarah writes: “I think I just had an epiphany.  I was just sitting here, meditating on Janet Lansbury’s keynote talk about acknowledging emotions. One thing she said that I’ve really tried to implement is removing “but” from my vocabulary when I acknowledge a child’s feelings. Typically, adults say things  like, “You really want that toy, BUT it is Ryan’s.” “You don’t want to get into the car, BUT we are running late and we need to go right now.”

Somehow, when you include the “but” and everything that follows, it seems to invalidate the preceding part of the statement. As an example, if I was overwhelmed and stressed to the limit with my responsibilities and poured my heart out to my husband and he replied, “You are so, so unhappy right now. You feel like there’s just too much on your plate, BUT you’re the one who is home during the day and these things still need to get done.”, I would NOT feel very understood.

ANYWAY, that’s not what my epiphany was. As I was meditating on Janet’s presentation, I suddenly realized that RIE (Resources For Infant Educarers, the organization and approach founded by Magda Gerber) is not about treating children like mini-adults (a common misinterpretation of Magda Gerber’s philosophy), it’s about treating them with the understanding that they are PEOPLE. A child’s brain does not have the same developed powers of logic and reasoning that a fully formed adult brain has, therefore, it’s unreasonable to present them with our wonderfully reasoned, logical,  and intricate arguments for and against every limit that must be set. It’s not appropriate for us to give toddlers complete autonomy in choices of nutrition, proper clothing, or safety and health issues. It is our responsibility to make these decisions and hold these limits without wavering in the face of their displeasure, but to do it with love and empathy for their feelings.

“You don’t want to eat the broccoli on your plate. You wish I had served more banana muffins instead of broccoli! You are in charge of what you put in your body. If you don’t want to eat it, leave it on your plate.”

This doesn’t change the fact that I’m serving broccoli for dinner and I’ll probably serve it again next week. I’m not going to offer a banana muffin instead, or explain why broccoli is good for my child and why she should eat it. Having broccoli on our plates tonight is just the way the world is. I can acknowledge her feelings, (“You don’t want broccoli, you wish we had something else.”), and remind her of her agency. (“You’re in charge of what you put in your body. You may leave it on your plate.”)

This is pretty much the way I’ve operated since first introducing RIE ideas into my program and family, but I was having trouble explaining to others the nuances of the principles I was trying to work with. I think the distinction between treating a child as an Adult versus as a Person may make it easier to understand.

What I took from Janet’s presentation was that honestly acknowledging and being respectful of a child’s feelings or point of view shouldn’t have any qualifiers. It’s enough (and more respectful) to simply observe, “You really don’t want to get in the car. You want to stay and play.” And then, just be in that moment with them. Adding, “BUT we’re running late and you need to get buckled in right now”, kind of just runs roughshod over what they’re feeling and perhaps invalidates it.

I think this a a perfect time for Magda Gerber’s advice to Slow Down.

“You really don’t want to get in the car. You’re so upset right now.” (Pause to slow my own breathing and get a little “zen”.) “I need to be sure you’re safe. Do you need another moment before I buckle you in? OK.” (Pausing again to keep my own breathing deep and slow, staying as unhurried and relaxed as I can.) “OK, I’m going to buckle you in now.” (Pause to let what I just said register and then gently and firmly talk my child through the process.) “I’m helping you with your right arm. And now your left. Here goes your chest clip. I need your bottom all the way in the seat. Please sit your bottom down all the way. I’m going to help you scoot your bottom back so that I can click your buckle. OK, now I’m making your straps snug. I know that you are still upset. You are crying and you look frustrated. It’s OK for you to be upset. This is a safe place for you and your feelings. I’m going to get in the front seat now but I will be listening to you.”

My general rule of thumb is, the louder and more upset a child is becoming, the softer and more intimate I become. It helps me to remain calm and I think it helps children to feel safer. I don’t need to put on a big parenting show for everyone in the cereal aisle, it’s just me and my kiddo trying to reconnect and that is done by going low and slow.”

I’d love to hear your questions, comments, and thoughts about setting limits with empathy. For more reading on a gentle, effective approach to discipline with infants and toddlers, I highly recommend  following this link and checking out the many articles Janet Lansbury has written on the topic.

Sarah MorrisonA special thanks to Sarah Morrison, who is an Early Childhood specialist who lives in Northern California. Her passion for providing quality child care for young children led her to study Waldorf Education with Lifeways North America, which is where she was introduced to the inspired writings of Magda Gerber and RIE. Soon after, she completed the RIE Foundations course. Sarah runs a mixed-age nursery school program from her home. Her site is here:
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Is Tummy Time Important For My Baby? (My Final Answer!) Sun, 05 Jan 2014 01:49:58 +0000




“Is Tummy Time important for my baby?”

(Read more here: No Tummy Time Necessary, and here: Tummy Time Baby’s Way.)

The above video is courtesy of Kids In The House, which is a (still) new web site that was launched in April 2013, and is a tremendously valuable FREE resource for parents. The site’s creator, Leana Greene, and her team worked tirelessly for over three years to create over 8,000, 1-minute videos (with transcripts), from just about every expert under the sun, discussing just about every parenting topic you can imagine. 

I was honored to be asked to participate and was interviewed alongside one of my greatest teachers and mentors, (and also one of my favorite people in the world), Janet Lansbury, who is author of the blog, elevating childcare, and a specialist in Magda Gerber’s RIE  parenting philosophy

This site is really a treasure, and I encourage you to check it out and explore all it has to offer.

For those of you who are interested in reading more about some of the other questions I address in the interview, you can find the articles by clicking on the links below.

What to say instead of “NO”!




Why play is so important  for babies


Should I pick up my crying baby? (I’ve written a lot about crying babies….)


 The RIE Approach to toilet training


Best way to respond to temper tantrums

I hope you’ll enjoy!


The Cat in the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party! Wed, 01 Jan 2014 23:30:20 +0000


(With thanks to Janet Lansbury for the title!)

I actually took this picture of R’s play space about three weeks ago, but it seemed appropriate to post here, today. R had been playing, and then went for a nap, and I went to tidy up her play space and happened upon this scene, which just made me break down in laughter. I shared this photo on facebook, and it seemed to bring joy to many, and also resulted in this most amazing conversation/revelation which I also want to share, as a testimony to the power of social media to connect  and strengthen all of us.

In response to this photo, Ody, who lives in New York and is someone I have yet to meet in person, but who is a facebook friend and follower responded:

“I must tell you that my father who doesn’t speak, read or write much English is one of your followers. (I told him about you and how we are implementing a RIE approach at our home.)”

I  replied: “Your comment just made me cry (happy tears). Thank you. That is just so beautiful that your father wants to learn and talk about RIE with you, and I am beyond honored that he’d take the time and effort required to translate my posts. So often, I hear from people that their families don’t understand or are critical. And to think that the Internet has made this all possible. It just blows me away.”

Ody: “He took the liberty of adding you and with the help of a dictionary reads everything and then comes and talks about it with the rest of the family and I! He is a wonderful father and always being very respectful and loving towards us, his kids!

Now I am going to translate! Lol! Menegildo Cruz, Le explique a mi amiga Lisa, que usted ha sido un padre maravilloso, muy respetuoso y que siempre ha estado informado y muy al día con todo los acontecimientos.Lo mucho que me apoya con Lulu y el hecho de esta en FB aún con su poca limitación en el Inglés y tecnología. Lo amo!”

Ody: “Awww, you have no idea how much impact your posts have in our life. We talk about it during dinner time! Is part of my bonding with him. He has always being a man ahead of his time, but most of all a great listener. Always paying attention to what’s important to us.This is a man that used to wake up hours before my mom to make us breakfast, that used to cut newspaper articles and send then to me while I was away in college so when on his phone calls to me on Saturdays we could talk about it. Thank you, for creating this platform and educating us. Besos”

Someone very close to me, who has been a friend, a teacher, and a mentor, and who knew Magda Gerber well, recently expressed her doubts about on-line relationships and learning. She asked me, “Do you really think it’s possible for people to connect in a real way on-line? Do you really think we can share RIE in a way that is authentic, and will help people to understand, learn, and make use of the philosophy without the face to face “in person” connection?”  My answer is yes! This conversation is an example of that for me. It warmed my heart and confirmed for me what is possible when we engage in, and use social media authentically, responsibly and with intention. There are drawbacks  and limitations to be sure, but today, I wanted to share with you a possibility.

Happy New Year, everyone!

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On Our Way, With a Little Help From Our Friends (A Christmas Miracle) Sun, 22 Dec 2013 01:04:47 +0000


As many of you know, I am in the (very long, painfully slow) process of adopting  my niece R from the foster care system, and to that end, I  have been required to remain in the state of Florida (where she was born) throughout this past year. On December tenth, R and I received a ruling from the court that I consider to be nothing short of a Christmas miracle. The judge approved my request to return home to Santa Cruz, California, with R, in February of 2014.

One year ago, R was just shy of five months old, and we had been together for just three weeks:

Tomorrow, she will be 17 months old, and we will have been together for a little over a year. She is a RIE baby through and through, and has developed all of her gross motor milestones naturally.

I was in the kitchen preparing dinner last week, while she contentedly played in her play area. I turned around to see her sitting at the top of the small, wooden climbing structure that had been sitting in her play space since she was about 6 months old. She had never paid any attention to it before. I grabbed the phone camera, and for the next half hour, I watched and recorded in silent awe, as she proceeded to navigate the climber on her terms:

Those of you who have been following us on our journey through this past year know that it’s been quite a ride. They say it takes a village to raise a child, and for us, that phrase holds special meaning. Through it all, despite being quite isolated and alone here in Florida, I have been privileged to have the support of the most incredible, generous group of friends back home in California, as well as an amazing on-line community of parents and educators, who are also endeavoring to raise their babies with Magda Gerber’s principles of respect.

It has been an honor to be able to contribute to the RIE/Mindful Parenting Group on facebook, and it is not an exaggeration to say that the  relationships I have formed, and the support I have received in return for my participation, have made it possible for me to survive this past year with all of its many emotional and financial challenges.

We still have some hurdles to face and overcome before the adoption is final, and I will remain under state supervision in California (meaning, having to clear another background check, submitting to another home study, monthly visits from a social worker, and endless piles of paperwork and red tape), but returning home also means that we will have nearby friends and community surrounding us, and I will be able to return to work and teaching parenting classes, as I will have access to childcare that I trust. At this time, I am relying on friends back in Santa Cruz to help with home hunting, and I am busy trying to navigate the logistics of a move across country with an active toddler in tow! (All housing leads appreciated!)



Whatever happens, R and I will be together, and that, my friends, fills my heart with joy. I want to take this opportunity to thank all of you, from the bottom of my heart, for your caring, your sharing, your generosity, and your ongoing emotional and practical support. Thank you for helping me to bring R home. We couldn’t have made it this far without you. Sending much love and many warm wishes for the happiest of holidays to you and yours, Lisa


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Toddler Testing: Problem or Opportunity? Wed, 09 Oct 2013 04:17:44 +0000

“Go slowly and with great patience.” Magda Gerber

Emma writes: “I really struggle with a particular issue at meal times with my 11 month old son. He is awesome with washing hands, but pulls away, pulls at the cloth, and tries with all his might to throw it on the floor when I wipe his face. I’ve tried slowing down. I always tell him what I am going to do before I do it, and I have tried offering the cloth to him. (He throws it as far away as possible, every time.) How do you do it???”

Communication, conversation, turn taking, cooperation, independence, and self mastery all develop through the everyday care routines (feeding, nose wiping, diaper changing, bathing, etc. ) we engage in with our infants and toddlers.

Emma, I think you just have to keep trying, remain calm and consistent, and trust that one day your son is going to understand and choose to participate and cooperate more.  If you go very slowly, stay calm, and keep talking him through the process while asking and waiting for his participation and cooperation, it will get easier one day.

Maybe it will help you to know that not everything always goes so smoothly around here. For instance, when R was about 11 months old, she decided that she absolutely did not want anything at all to do with diaper changing. She would crawl over to her diaper changing area when I noted it was time for a change, but it was all downhill from there. Once she got to the changing pad, she would not stay still. She would not stay on her back for even the two minutes it took me to fasten her diaper. She spent every diaper change trying to escape, grabbing at the wipes and the diaper, trying to kick me, bucking her body, and yelling at me in protest.

For my part, I started to dread diaper changes. I did them as infrequently as possible. I found myself asking, then  pleading for, and finally demanding cooperation. (Demanding didn’t work so well.)  I tried everything I knew how to do. Slowing down. Talking with her. Asking for her permission and participation. Letting her roll and play. I tried to do as much of the diaper change as I could while she was on her tummy. I tried singing silly songs.

Each time, it would go like this: She’d roll onto her tummy and try to escape. I’d wait a minute, and try to involve her in the task at hand. I would hand her the diaper to hold, and she’d drop it on the floor and laugh. I’d hand her the box of wipes, wait for her to pull one out, and ask her to hand it to me, and she’d drop it on the floor and laugh. I’d ask her to turn on her back after letting her roll around for 3 minutes, and I knew she understood, because she’d get very still, then turn on her back, give a grin, and flip right back onto her tummy again. I’d try, in vain, to encourage her to help me dress her, by asking her to push her limbs through the holes of her clothing, and she’d squirm away and flail. I could feel myself growing impatient and my blood pressure rising.

One day, when poop was flying everywhere, my patience was short, and asking her to stay still wasn’t working, I insisted she had to stay still, and I “helped” her by placing one arm across her body so she couldn’t roll.  This didn’t feel good to me, and for her part, she let me know how she felt about being restrained by literally growling at me!

It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t fun for me, but as much as she complained and protested during the diaper change, she’d go back to happily playing and babbling once it was all over, while I was left feeling frustrated, cleaning up poop from every surface, wondering what I was doing wrong, and thinking, “There’s got to be an easier way.” I  found myself looking on-line at those diaper changing devices that “gently restrain” babies, and promise easy, mess free diaper changing. (Yes, I did!!!) I had to laugh at myself, because after all, here I was, supposedly one of the diaper changing queens of the baby world!

What happened? Our diaper changing times used to be such wonderful times of connection and closeness, and now, almost every time, it was miserable for both of us. What happened was that my girl was maturing into a young toddler. She was mobile and also asserting her will and personality. She was asking me to engage with her on her terms, as much as I was asking her to engage on mine. This (as I’d counseled many a parent in the past) was a good and positive sign of the trust she had developed in me to listen to her, and to do things with her, instead of for her or to her. As much as it was my job to gently bring her back to the task at hand, it was also my job to follow her lead a bit, and find a way to make room for, and enjoy her emerging playfulness and need to be in constant motion.

I re-read Janet Lansbury’s post,, Dealing With Diaper Changing Disasters, and Mamas In The Making post, Catch Me If You Can.

Finally, it dawned on me that maybe my attitude and approach needed to change if it was going to get any better. I had begun to look at diaper changing  time as a “problem” to be solved instead of an opportunity to build communication, cooperation, and connection. I just wanted to get the chore done. I anticipated that it was going to be a disaster, and more often than not it was. I also realized that I wanted R to listen to me, and participate, but on my terms and timeline. I forgot that what she was doing was crucial, and an important part of her learning process.

How often had I counseled other parents to try to relax, step back a little, and re-frame the issue (whatever it was)? It was time to take my own advice. I needed to adjust my attitude and expectations. “This isn’t a problem. It is an opportunity. This is just what’s happening right now. It’s part of the process of growth and learning. We’ve got to find a way to do it together.”

Amazingly enough, as soon as I stopped approaching the diaper changing time as a dreaded task to be gotten through, and tried to see it as a time to build connection, cooperation and communication, it got better and easier. R was suddenly more willing and able to cooperate. And then tonight, there was this, during another caregiving time:

I was wiping R’s face with a washcloth after dinner. She was grabbing at the cloth, and pushing my hand away. I said, “Would you like to hold the cloth and try by yourself?” while holding the cloth out to her with an open palm. She took the cloth and swiped at her face, then she reached out and handed the cloth back to me. I said, “Thank you!” She laughed, and reached for the cloth again, so I handed it back to her. We then spent the next ten minutes handing the cloth back and forth to each other. Each time she handed me the cloth, I said, “Thank you!” and she gave a delighted grin and belly laugh before reaching out to ask for the cloth again. This was one of the best conversations I’ve ever had, bar none.

Emma, I know that it’s not always easy, but try to trust that together with your son you will get to where you want to be (eventually). Try to look at the struggles as opportunities instead of problems. Remember that this is all a part of the process, and the building of a relationship and conversation that will last a lifetime. It takes time. Try to remember to slow down, and don’t forget to laugh when you can. Because the alternative is frustration for both of you, and who needs that? I promise you, if you stick with it,  there will come a day (and soon), when you will experience the joy of a reciprocal conversation with your boy, much like the one I had with R the other night, and I’d love to hear about it when it happens!

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