Why I Want to Start a School

Posted by Patriciaaobrien on Mar 22, 2019 in education, Musings of a Green-Eyed Girl, Parenthood

They say why is more important than how. That it’s important to know. That it will fuel your success. That it is what will keep you going when things are hard. So I will start there. Why do I want to start a school?

For Asher. My son was not thriving in traditional public school. In fact, it was becoming detrimental to him. He was having anxiety, insomnia, headaches, stomachaches. He hated school and felt like he didn’t belong there. He didn’t fit into the system, and the more the system tried to force him into their mold, the more he both felt like a failure and honored his sense that it was the system that was failing and challenged it. His natural tendencies to explore, create, tinker, question, persist, spend time on his interests, play, be physically active, be social, expect mutual respect, take risks, be curious, take responsibility for himself and use common sense were being denied and squelched and punished. This kid would use Alexa to get the answers for his homework because he found it ludicrous to waste his time doing something of which he was capable but had no interest in when he could easily access the information with a number of tools that anyone can use. He saw no point in it. He would rather spend the time learning magic tricks, making slime, sculpting clay, teaching himself new flips or tricks on the trampoline, practicing his ninja moves, playing video games, riding his scooter or bike, curating his collections, watching videos, playing floor hockey with his brother, drawing or learning how to draw new things, cooking, hanging out with friends, building a bridge, designing a miniature house, playing with magnets, doing experiments, taking something apart, using parts to make something new, checking out how lasers work, tending a garden, playing with his pets, making up crazy entertaining stories, playing along the river, swimming, playing games with other kids, building forts….

He is very capable in the world outside school. He is tender and nurturing with younger kids. He can talk intelligently with anyone of any age. He is empathetic and compassionate, charismatic, charming.  He is persistent.  He has a way of going after what he wants and getting it.  He has already run a business in which he made, advertised, and sold a product in our community. When he opened a stand at the local farmer’s market as an outlet for his products, the other vendors treated him with respect, admiration, and encouragement.  He can cook and bake. He can care for pets.  He can also be exasperating!  I love this kid more than anything and he drives me to my wits end at times.  I know he can be frustrating and he has things he needs to learn and ways he needs to grow.  I don’t think he is perfect.  However, all kids are this to varying degrees.  All of us have things to learn and ways to grow.  That’s another reason he needs a school like this.  It will require him to take responsibility for himself.  It will hold him accountable in fair and clear and respectful and real world ways.  When he needs to make different choices he won’t be able to blame it on the system.  He will have to confront himself and have a process for learning and finding different patterns of behavior without being made to feel bad or shameful or attacked.  He will have a path forward.

And for kids like Asher.  He’s not the only kid who so clearly doesn’t fit into the system.  There are kids with anxiety who struggle with being forced to be out of their element constantly.  There are kids who learn differently than schools teach them who feel confused and like they are failures.  There are kids whose talents are never exploited and even discouraged who don’t understand or develop their unique greatness.  There are kids who are shy or quiet and are told they need to be more outspoken or participate more like being quiet is a weakness.  There are natural leaders with great ideas who are told what to do and never asked for their input.  There are kids who are naturally curious, who are bored and find the things they are forced to learn irrelevant.


And for kids unlike Asher who need this school, but for different reasons.  There are kids who seem to do well in the traditional school system.  They like structure.  They want to follow rules and please authority figures and know clearly what to do and how to achieve.  These kids are praised, rewarded, and encouraged in this behavior.  They are held up as the standard of excellence to emulate.  They are promised a bright, successful future.  However, there are at least two reasons why many of these kids would benefit from a school like the one I envision.

First, many kids who find success feel much pressure to continue in this success.  They feel pressure to compete with their successful peers, to not make mistakes or fail at anything, to maintain their successful status and identity, to continually achieve at higher levels, and to follow some artificial path to greatness that often doesn’t lead to happiness and after the years of formal education end is irrelevant.  So much meaningless stress for young people to assume.

Second, this type of educational structure does not translate to real world success.  In fact, it can be quite detrimental.  In order to succeed in a traditional school setting, students must  become adept at blindly following rules, accepting others’ authority to make decisions for them without their input, following a preplanned path, not questioning or thinking critically.  After they have graduated there is no preplanned path set out for them to follow.  They have to decide what they want to do.  They alone are responsible for themselves. They are often out of touch with their true interests because those have not been valued.

And finally, for all children.  If you dig into why school is the way it is, you find that it’s not because it is the best way for kids to spend their time and grow into successful  members of society.  It actually has grown out of various groups in power attempting to achieve their own ends.  Currently, there is a lot we know about how kids learn best, develop, and thrive.  And much of it is ignored and not applied in school.  In fact, much of what schools do goes directly against this knowledge.  The things we’ve doubled down on like testing and measuring and evaluating everything and setting standards that every child must meet on an arbritrary timeline, and developing more rigorous curriculum that demands more academic achievement out of younger and younger children,  have no data to back them up, no evidence they are leading to good results.  It is exploiting children, abusing educators, and costing taxpayers a lot of money.  Why are we letting politians and businesspeople make these decisions?  There is a different way.  One that is based on scientific research and educational expertise and real life results.  It respects and frees and empowers teachers and allows them to do what they do best.  It respects and frees and empowers children and allows them to do what they do best.  And it respects and frees and empowers parents and allows them to do what they do best.  Why not give it a try?


Little Boys

Posted by Patriciaaobrien on Jan 27, 2015 in Parenthood

1.  You find Nerf darts in the washing machine, your boot, and the baby’s mouth all in one day.

2.  You put real thought into how you can make green jeans a fashion trend and do a Google search for pants with kevlar reinforced knees.

3.  You hear yourself saying things like, “Stop chasing your brother with a butter knife!” on a normal Tuesday afternoon.

4.  You decide your next house will have a bathroom made entirely of concrete and steel so you can spray it down with a hose.

5.  You have to make a rule about what is appropriate dinner conversation and refer to it frequently so everyone can keep their dinner in their stomachs.

6. How to store and organize all those Legos is one of life’s great questions.

7.  You discover rocks in the washing machine, kitchen counter, couch… on a regular basis.

8.  Cleaning up means storing away weapons (plastic grenades and swords, cap guns, toy bows with arrows, aforementioned Nerf darts and an armory of guns that launch them).

9.  Multiple pieces of furniture have been broken due to jumping, climbing, swinging, throwing, etc.

10.  You find your (usually classy) self making jokes/songs about body parts/functions due to constant exposure to such behavior.


The Art of Blank Space

Posted by Patriciaaobrien on Sep 16, 2013 in Musings of a Green-Eyed Girl, Parenthood

I have been more mindful about the time I spend with my children lately. It has helped to have the structure that back-to-school routines provide, even though I was sad to see the summer slip away. I find I am better able to enjoy and manage the time with my kids when I have some time for myself. All the stars have aligned to make this happen. The dark haired boy is in third grade, the blondie started kindergarten in the afternoons, and this happens to be when the little red haired girl takes her nap.

Most days I get about three hours of time alone. I am an introvert, and to me this is a precious gift.  I can accomplish practical tasks such as laundry, dishes, cleaning and organizing, phone calls, paperwork, planning ahead.  I can indulge in little things like enjoying a leisurely shower, taking a nap (gasp), or reading.  But most importantly I seize the opportunity to:  Think. Breathe. Be.

Knowing that I will have this time when no one is asking questions, needing me, making demands, depending on me is freeing. Having space for me is an enormous, amazing gift. It keeps me grounded and renews me. I am finding it is healing and restorative and necessary for my well-being.

Currently, my man is off being a great white hunter and enjoying some much needed downtime with friends. His travel schedule waxes and wanes, and he has not been on a long trip for a while. So, I am being stretched a bit this week, parenting solo. In the times when I begin to feel the weight of this, I stop and remember how fleeting this all is and how I want to be present and live it, not just try to survive and make it through. So I make a conscious effort to be here now and inhabit the moment and take note of the things that are mine today that I will miss and long for all too soon.

Here are a few of those little things I am trying to fully absorb and enjoy and remember. A blonde headed little boy wearing Batman footie pajamas with a cape. Making up stories about crazy things that could have happened to  lead to the Purell wipes dispenser being completely empty at the Chick-Fil-A playground.  (Which reminds me of the time my preschooler wept as we went through the drive thru, and after establishing the tears were not due to missing out on the playground or not getting a toy, we established that the root of all the emotional upheaval was his desire for a “wipey” from the dispenser by the playground).  The eruption of pure joy on my little boy’s face and the best, infectious giggle as I pushed him “as high as you can” on his glider swing.  And his baby sister swinging beside him in her orange car swing, laughing at him laughing. My older son’s strikingly dark eyes as he declares a staring contest to try to rid me of my hiccups.  I had never heard of this remedy.  How he tells me stories about what happened at school, and talks to me about the little girl he is in love with, and gives me his review of that day’s school lunch.  The ways he tries to be helpful.  How he can’t walk across a room without hurting himself, but carefully he rescues his sister from her crib, carries her downstairs, places her in her high chair, and starts feeding her some yogurt.  The sight of him carrying her, radiating pure love, her clinging to him like a little monkey.  A five year old who delights in gathering wildflowers and making bouquets for his teacher. A sweet baby girl who flits around the room gleefully, takes a break from discovering and playing to give a hug and snuggle with her brothers sprawled on the bean bag, playing video games.  How she cheers and celebrates along with them as they accomplish new things in their games, even though she has no idea what the excitement is about.

It’s interesting how when everything is all crammed together, it looks like chaos.  But, when there’s a little blank space interspersed, the beauty emerges.


On Making the Most of the Moment

Posted by Patriciaaobrien on Aug 13, 2013 in Musings of a Green-Eyed Girl, Parenthood

Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me.  Fool me a thousand times and I’m a parent who thinks this moment, this day, this season, this stage, this age, this child of mine…cradled in my arms, asleep on my shoulder, asking for one more goodnight hug and kiss, wrapped around my legs, shouting for me to watch, singing me a song, picking me flowers, drawing me pictures, writing me notes, dancing gleefully, learning to ride a bike, needing a ride to goalie camp and back every day this week and insisting I stay and watch, demanding I drop everything and push him on his swing, inviting me to play with him, hoping to have a picnic, twirling my hair, wanting only me for comfort, sitting in my lap, snuggled in my bed, eager for me to meet his friends, telling me long stories about his day, sharing her ice cream with me, smiling ear to and reaching out little arms for me when I get her out of bed, making me paintings everyday at preschool, asking for my help on a project, staring at me from the backseat as we drive here and there, demanding and delighting in my attention, sharing our time and space and hearts…..will last forever.

It seems like it will never end sometimes.  When I’m tired or alone or overwhelmed by all this responsibility.  It seems interminable.  Sometimes it seems permanent.  Like we were meant to be together and we will always be as we are now.  And sometimes, as you sort through preschool mementos and attend kindergarten meetings, it seems so fleeting.  It seems so precious.  And you realize the baby you just brought home from the hospital is walking and talking.  The tiny boy who picked out a red tricycle for his second birthday is zooming by on a two wheeler without training wheels.  The bright eyed boy you remember putting on the kindergarten bus is starting third grade.   The summer I anticipated sharing with them with such excitement is over.  And I realize that I have spent many days working, cleaning, cooking, washing, preparing, planning, researching, organizing, and surviving and not so much time playing, watching, listening, holding, cuddling, gazing, singing, reading, and taking it all in.  Caring for young children is a lot of work. It takes a lot of energy, physically, mentally, emotionally.  It is also a joy, a privilege, a gift, a life filled with wonder and amazement and so much love.  And it does not last forever.  So I will embrace it while it’s here.  My life and my heart are full.  It makes me sad to think I take it for granted.  It breaks my heart to imagine it changing.  And yet it does over and over.  And I am surprised over and over.  And I am bewildered over and over.  I love these kids with all my heart, and I will savor who they are and what we share every day.


Getting Stronger: Day 3

Posted by Patriciaaobrien on Jun 9, 2013 in Green-Eyed Machine, Musings of a Green-Eyed Girl, Parenthood

Today was busy.  As soon as I woke up, I was on a tight schedule.

Dark haired boy off to school.

Nurse baby girl, change diaper, get blondie and baby dressed and fed breakfast.

Get myself ready and get out the door.

Pick up 2nd grader from school.

Drive to dr. office for annual check ups.

Back in car to preschool drop off.

Grab lunch for 2nd grader and back to school.

Drive home to change a diaper, nurse baby, play on floor with puzzles and cars and trucks, feed baby lunch, quick clean up, and off to preschool pickup.

Back home, where I finally have a chance to breathe…ahhhh.  So I skipped breakfast and grabbed lunch on the go, but I still tried to make healthy choices.  Yes it was fast food, but it was a grilled chicken flatbread and an iced tea.  Could have been worse.  And, it’s just one day.  It could be easy to derail in the early days of forming a new habit, but I’m making it work.  Sticking with the program!


Nappie Newby

Posted by Patriciaaobrien on Apr 22, 2013 in Being Green, Parenthood

Day One of cloth diapering.  I have mixed feelings.  I was surprised when the supplies arrived at my front door, as I was expecting the first delivery in two days.  I had been anticipating this with just a little uncertainty, but mostly excitement.   I was getting ready to take the kids out for lunch, so I decided to wait until we returned to give it a try.  It was kind of a bright spot to my day.  Something to look forward to.

I reviewed the written instructions (with illustrations of a teddy bear) , decided to watch a video demonstration (on a teddy bear again, which my 4 year old found amusing), then viewed one with an actual human baby (we’ll deal with the whole teddy bear vs. real baby later).  Then I tried it.  It was late afternoon when I attempted the first cloth diapering, so I only got to try it out three times today.  However, I did experience both wet and poopy diapers.

Putting a cloth diaper on is a lot more time consuming than I expected.   Let’s talk about that teddy bear now.  I was a little unsure of being able to configure, fold, and fasten the diaper even after the teddy bear demonstration.  But substituting my baby for an inanimate object added another level of complexity to this whole situation.  My baby was a little tired and not really in the mood for a diaper change.  My baby was wiggly and squirmy and impatient and very open about her disapproval of this whole ordeal by the time her little bottom was swaddled in cloth and covered in a waterproof wrap.  I’m not very spatially adept, and although folding and applying a diaper is pretty straightforward, learning how to do it for the first time on my own was a little tricky.  Let alone, getting a baby to remain still and be patient as I stumble my way through it.  As soon as the diaper was on and she was in my arms, she was okay.  I changed the diaper two hours later.  It was wet, the cover was dry.

Round two was even more eventful.  There was poop.  The bad news is I had not gotten the diaper snug around the leg, and it leaked on the inside of the cover.  The good news is the cover contained it!   I set the cover aside to deal with later.  Little Miss Wiggle Pants was again not interested in being changed, which is not unusual lately.  I had planned on trying to remove and dispose of all the contents from the diaper.  I get a discount for doing so and it just seems like something that should be done.  However, doing so wasn’t as simple as I had expected, and after the drama of baby cleanup, I accepted my partial success with the diaper cleanup and tossed it in the pail.

That was just the diaper removal.  I decided to give the baby some time to calm down and wash my hands before  attempting another diaper application.  I also used the floor instead of the changing table so I wouldn’t have to worry about her trying to roll off.  This diapering session was an all out wrestling match.  She kept turning over on her tummy, twisting around to look at  and grab for things, and trying to get away.  I would get a good fold going on, get a snug fit and start to fasten it.  She would wiggle/roll/squirm and all was lost.  This is going to require more patience than I had envisioned.

So first impressions.  This is more time consuming than I imagined.  Just the actual putting on of the diaper.  But I’m wondering if I will get past the learning curve and it will be as routine as using disposables.    I am worried about how it will go overnight.  Will she feel wet and uncomfortable.  Will being wet for so long damage her skin.  Will it leak?  Will she wake because she needs changed?  Maybe we should use disposables at night.  Is that okay?  I mean it’s still better than using them all the time.  What about doublers or liners?  Ugh.  I didn’t expect to have to think so much about this.

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Metaphorically Speaking

Posted by Patriciaaobrien on Feb 4, 2013 in Inner Workings, Musings of a Green-Eyed Girl, Parenthood

There is a scene in the Disney animated movie, Monsters, Inc., in which the lizard-like  villain monster Randall attacks the furry, lovable hero monster Sully.  Randall is strangling  Sully.  Sully is struggling and helpless and running out of time.  Sully’s best friend Mike, a goofy little round monster with one large eye, is standing right there with Sully.  But Mike doesn’t know what’s going on because Randall can blend into his surroundings like a chameleon, rendering himself  invisible.  So all Mike sees is Sully dancing around like a crazy person, shrieking and making strange faces.  Mike keeps talking, trying to have a serious conversation.  Sully is in trouble.  He is trying to fight, but he is losing.  He attempts to get Mike’s attention.  He calls for help.  But, Mike is focused on what he’s trying to say, and he  still can’t see what’s happening.  Mike starts getting frustrated with Sully, because he is trying to reach out and he’s in the middle of something important and Sully isn’t cooperating or paying attention or trying to do his part.  Sully is acting very strangely, but Mike just doesn’t get what’s going on.  Then finally Randall’s skin changes patterns and becomes visible and everyone grasps the reality of the situation.  And Mike comes to his aid.  And they  fight off the monster together.

It’s like that.  Depression and anxiety are like that.  I fight an invisible enemy.  So you think I’m fine.  You don’t see the monster threatening to squeeze the life out of me.  You miss the panic that is just underneath the surface.  The emptiness that fills me up.  You don’t know that when I drop my sweet boy off in your classroom I hug him tighter  because the thoughts I’m having of harming myself make me wonder if this is the last time I will see him.   That my heart is breaking because I can’t bear that thought, but I don’t know what to do with this desperation I feel.  That getting him to school late again, without the book he was supposed to return four days ago, wearing a sweatshirt and two jackets we found in the car because we left his coat at home, with signs of  lunch still on his handsome face,  and a backpack empty of the change of clothes it should be carrying, took every bit of the planning, timing, and energy resources I have and is a monumental accomplishment for me.

Or you wonder why I’m acting so strangely.  Why I’m so forgetful.  Why I can’t complete a simple task like making dinner.  Why I am impatient or irritable.  Why I always want to sleep.  Why I can’t keep my kids under control.  Why I don’t return your calls.  Why I can’t get off the couch.  Why I call my husband at work, wondering when he will be home.  Why I miss appointments.  Why I’m not making conversation.  Why I am gaining weight.  Why my appearance is disheveled.  Why I’m angry.  Why I am so needy.  Why I’m no fun.

Or you think because you don’t see it, it’s not there.  It’s in my head.  It’s an excuse.  Everyone has bad days.  Life is hard.  Stop whining and feeling sorry for yourself, buck up, pull yourself up by your bootstraps and deal with it.  Be grateful for what you have.  Count your blessings.  Think positively.  Be more optimistic.  Change your attitude.  Get up and do something.  If you don’t like your life, change it.  Happiness is a choice.   Put your head down and move forward.  Nobody’s perfect.  Don’t dwell on the negative.

If I were physically ill, in a way that is visible and understood, you might offer to take over child care for the day.  You would not question my need to stay in bed to get the rest I need.  Perhaps you would make meals for my family. You would urge me to see a doctor, take medication, go to the hospital if necessary, undergo therapy.  You would offer words of encouragement and hope.  You would help me complete tasks too great for me.  You would provide companionship and support.

But although my agony is palpable and very real to me, it is not visible or widely understood.  It is undetected, questioned, stigmatized, ignored, misunderstood, dismissed as a personal deficiency.  And so I push on in silence.  I fight my battle singlehandedly.  I daydream of having some obvious illness or injury so that someone might notice and take care of me. That the camouflage that hides this villain beating the life out of me might fail for just  a moment and  someone might come to my aid and we could fight off this monster together.



My Knuffle Bunny and Me

Posted by Patriciaaobrien on Sep 27, 2011 in Musings of a Green-Eyed Girl, Parenthood

I get the dark haired boy on the bus.  Then it’s time to go get my blondie off to preschool.  I find him still in bed looking incredibly like the baby that he is no more.  I inhale his smell, the sweet scent of his skin and hair, of him.  I snuggle into his warmth and softness despite the fact that I know we should be getting ready to go.  How many more moments will I have like this one?  Where his cheeks are so squishy underneath my kiss?   Where he twirls my hair around his little fingers and puts his little boy arm around me?  These are the slippery moments that I must inhabit fully, even as they fall through my fingers.

I fear he will be hard to get going since last night’s sleep was restless and too short.  But as I move to get his clothes, his little voice says, “Get me.”  We go upstairs, me and my knuffle bunny, to pick out his outfit.  I reach for a t-shirt from the drawer, but he wants to check out the closet for “shirts with buttons”.

As he struggles to push and pull those tiny little buttons into tiny little holes with tiny little fingers, I remind myself to be patient and let him find his way.  I’ve been reading a parenting book that tells me I need to encourage autonomy and not step in to solve all his problems for him.   I give him some advice (which is allowed).  He works and persists until he has gotten that button into it’s hole.  Then we discover it was the wrong hole.  I wait for the frustration, but instead he gives me a big toothy grin and says, “Now what do we do?”  This surprises me and makes me smile.

He doesn’t want to wear undies.  But, when I offer him a blue pair, he decides to wear them because that’s his best friend’s favorite color.  Oh, the simplicity.  He doesn’t want to go to school.  He doesn’t like his teachers.  Then he remembers that his lost slug might be at school.  Suddenly his face brightens.  He loses the wilted flower look, sits upright and bounces up and down at this thought.  Now he is a man on a mission.

We grab an apple on the way out the door.  They are doing some projects and he needs to one today.  He picks the green one and tells me it’s cause it’s little and he likes little ones.  He says he’s going to eat it.  I grab the big red one, just in case.  As we get in the car he asks me, “Where will you be when I’m at school?  Where will you be when you leave?”  His question catches me off guard.  It hasn’t occurred to me that he might think about this.  I give him my answer and he is satisfied.  I ask him why he wants to know.  He tells me he just wondered where I would go.  Then he moves on.  No fuss.  No big deal.  But I am fascinated by this question and the thought behind it.  I am fascinated by this little boy.

When we arrive at school, he shows me the hole in the little green apple where he has dug his fingernail into the skin.  So I reach for the big, red, just-in-case apple.  But he says he wants to eat it.  We take both apples and he does indeed take a few bites out of the red one.  We end up leaving the green one.  Life is not perfect.  And I’m okay with that.

He is clingy.  He comes back for more hugs and kisses. Then he remembers his slug.  I tell him to go ask his teacher if she found it.  Off he goes.  Off I go.  Off time goes.  But this morning will remain in my memory.

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Bunny Love

Posted by Patriciaaobrien on Sep 15, 2011 in Musings of a Green-Eyed Girl, Parenthood

I’m not sure exactly how it began.  It may have been the rabbit family that hung a home-sweet-home sign in our neighborhood.  Daily sightings of a mama bunny and her baby, munching and hopping through our backyard.  An even smaller baby bunny that we nearly shocked out of his fur .  He shot out of the bushes and ran frantically in circles as we turned on our table saw to finish up the swingset we were building.  When he finally found an escape from the garden wall, he hunkered down in the tall grass and did not twitch even a baby bunny whisker for hours.  We feared his heart had stopped.  But the bunny statue was not there the next morning, so he must have recovered.

Then our neighbor discovered a nest of impossibly tiny baby bunnies in her front yard.  Their were treks to see the baby bunnies.  There was much instruction on not touching the baby bunnies.  There was a fiasco the day the growing baby bunnies left the nest and hopped in all directions as neighborhood kids scrambled to herd them back home.  And a couple of boys who could not keep their hands off those baby bunnies took the opportunity amidst all the chaos to grab one up and hug them tight.

Or it may have been my visit to the potential preschool.  Gracie The Bunny, as she is affectionately known in my house, is the resident pet.  My bunny crazy boy finally got to meet her over the summer.  We got to hear a lot about her.  Now twice a week, when I pick him up, we make the trip downstairs to the room where Gracie lives.  We watch and wait as Gracie lies in her cage or hops about the room.  When she decides to come see us, we reach our hands over the fence and pet her furry head.  We reluctantly peel ourselves away and wave goodbye when Gracie hops back into her cage.

Or maybe it was when Grandma made a treasure trove of felted animals for Easter and bestowed some bright yellow chicks and brown and white bunnies upon us.  These bunnies became our companions at home and out and about.  So well loved they became various pieces of bunny anatomy.  An ear, a nose, a cotton tail;  unrecognizable to the unfamiliar eye.  On a recent trip to Grandma’s house, my boy came home with a great big orange bunny.  His name is FoFo.  The boy doesn’t like it if you don’t remember the bunny’s name, and he takes the bunny everywhere.

While out shopping this week, he spotted a soft bunny with pure white fur.  It was part of a gift pack for a baby girl.  It was sitting in a stroller in front of a display of baby items.  It caught his eye immediately.  Of course he begged me to buy it.  In the end he admired it, took it for a spin in the stroller, and responded to my insistence that we not buy it today, with, “But, it’s beautiful, Mommy.”  It is beautiful.

Today was my boy’s first day to be the snack buddy.  Choosing a snack for all your preschool friends is both a privilege and a great responsibility.  The fall chill in the air today called for some apples with caramel dip.  But, the piece de resistance,   cheddar bunny crackers.  The boy celebrates his new preschool pet and does not let his friends down at snack time with his boisterous, beautiful love for bunnies.

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The No-Plastic Easter Basket

Posted by Patriciaaobrien on Apr 28, 2011 in Being Green, Parenthood

So I have been turning green over the last couple years, and in ways I’m pretty proud of my accomplishments.  I greened our laundry detergent, dish soap, household cleaners, and toiletries; tried my hand at growing a garden, started recycling, purchased a quarter of a locally, naturally raised cow; started visiting farmer’s markets, of course I bought the reusable shopping bags (even though I can never seem to remember to actually take them to the store even when I  keep them in my car), and tried making substitutions for plastic.  Not bad for a new greenie.

But, in ways I feel like being green is an impossible aspiration in this toxic, disposable, plastic world we live in.  For every good choice I make, there are like a million more bad-for-the-environment-and-everything-in-it kinds of things going on to counteract it.  It’s like in the world of going green, for every action there is a way-more-evil and opposite reaction.  And how demoralizing is it when something you thought was a good choice, ends up secretly being bad.  Like those reusable shopping bags we have been hauling our food in that turn out to be made of harmful substances.( Maybe I’m not such a bad person for always forgetting those bags.)

When I get so overwhelmed,  I decide  to focus on what is in my control and keep taking one step at a time.  This Easter, I thought a nice goal for myself would be to try to assemble baskets for my kids without any plastic materials.  Well, it turned out to be a daunting task to not include any plastic packaging.  So I decided to try to cut down on plastic packaging and exclude plastic items.

I anticipated it would be a challenge, but there were some things I didn’t expect.  One that it would be so frustrating walking into a regular store and trying to fulfill this goal.  It is amazing the lack of alternatives.  I found it would have been much easier had I purchased a little further in advance so I could take advantage of websites.  I found a number of fine choices online.

I didn’t expect it to be fraught with moral dilemmas.  I had had my eye on a giant, colorful, working, and of course plastic, dump truck for my 3 year old since they had stocked the outdoor toy aisle back in snowy January.  I knew he would fall in love with this thing.  It was big enough to haul him around.  He had taken it for a test drive, pushing it down the aisles as we perused the toy section one afternoon.  It would double as his Easter basket this year, offering ample storage for his other treats.  When I made the no-plastic goal, this truck was in the back of my mind.  I had decided to buy the big, plastic wheelbarrow next to it for his older brother’s basket.  It wasn’t as painful to part with.  I was pretty sure my 6 year old would enjoy pushing it around the yard, hauling various loads, but it didn’t hold the same fascination for him as that giant dump truck did for my toddler.  I considered abandoning the whole darn no-plastic rule just for this dump truck.  I thought about making an exception.  No plastic, except the dump truck.  That was still an accomplishment, right?  The problem is it seemed to defeat the whole purpose of my quest.  I was doing this not only to save the earth from one more piece of plastic to add to the infinite piles in the landfills or increase resource consumption by recycling it, I was also trying  to expose my kids to fewer potentially harmful substances.  I was also trying to meet the challenge of NO plastic, NONE.

I didn’t expect that it would be controversial.  Okay, I guess I should have seen this one coming, but I think I was so excited about the prospect of accomplishing this beneficial goal, that I just didn’t think about it.  I posted on twitter and facebook about my project.  I got positive responses, but then there was my mom.  I had to assure and reassure her that this was a purely personal objective and that I hadn’t set a standard for others who were interested in giving my children Easter baskets, plastic egg hunts, and any other assorted treats.  Of course, I would like to be influential in educating and inspiring others to go green and would like to be a better gatekeeper for my children’s exposure to harmful substances, but that had not been my intent in sharing.  I didn’t want others to think I was judging them or would be ungrateful for gifts they had to offer my family.  Wow, this is getting complicated!

What I learned from this little exercise is that my kids can be very happy without plastic, but we are bombarded by it.  So we constantly have to make choices about what is more important.  Is it too much to ask to give up some things we enjoyed as kids and that are simple pleasures in life, to make a safer, healthier, greener world for our kids?  It seems obvious and clear cut when you think about it that way.  But what do you say to your 6 year old lego maniac when he wants to buy another set?  What if (gasp!) you find yourself going through a drive-thru;  what is a kids meal without the (almost always plastic) toy?  I think I have opened a can of worms.  At least they aren’t plastic.

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