Archive for March 2011

Pretty

cover1.jpg

I’m excited to report that the galleys of Pretty have arrived. I’m really proud of this book and I’m looking forward to the release on August 30.

What do you think of the cover?

Book Giveaway, Mate!

australia.jpg

The mass market paperback of Some Girls was just released in Australia. The Aussies have been giving me much love and I thought I’d do a giveaway to celebrate. Leave a comment here with your favorite Aussie expression (or fun fact or animal or whatever) and I’ll pick two names. One of you will get the Australian trade paperback original and one will get the mass market edition. You’ll be the only one on your block to have one.

Beyond Consequences

pimg.jpg

Last weekend Scott and I attended the Beyond Consequences seminar, with Heather Forbes. Before we went, we bought her book, Beyond Consequences, Logic and Control: A Love Based Approach to Helping Children with Severe Behaviors. The book and the seminar undoubtedly contain the most impactful information I’ve yet encountered about parenting children who have suffered trauma.

I’ve shared some about what we’ve ben going through with T, but honestly I haven’t even scratched the surface. Believe me when I tell you that Scott and I have never in our lives despaired quite like this. Parenting trauma is confusing and isolating and sometimes all the amazing blogs in the world aren’t enough to make me feel validated. In this respect, the seminar was incredibly helpful.

I’d like to share probably the most illuminating shift in perspective that the seminar offered. I keep coming back to it.

The basic idea is to change the question from:

How do I get my child to change his behavior?

to

1. What is driving my child’s behavior

and

2. What can I do at this moment to improve my relationship with my child?

If you are parenting a child with severe behaviors, particularly one who has experienced some kind of trauma, I urge you to check out Heather Forbes.

Fish Snax

k_.jpg

I want to share with you some of the hilarious spirit of my friend Jennifer. This was a page from her journal that was framed on the wall at her memorial, detailing her ideas for knuckle tattoos. Hard to pick a favorite, but I’m partial to FISH SNAX and THIS THAT.

Date Night

tshow.jpg

show.jpg

We had a fantastic date night on Saturday, when we attended Austin Young’s YOUR FACE HERE unveiled at PoptArt gallery. Guess who had his ridiculously adorable little portrait up there on the wall with Perez Hilton, Karen Black and Elvira (among others). He was so cute at the photo shoot that I was ready to change his nickname from T-Bone to Hambone.

show2.jpg

scott-n-deer.jpg

It was the best party we’ve been to in a long time. Great music, amazing art, positive vibe all around. Austin’s photos are so arresting because he genuinely sees everyone through a wildly beautiful lens.

Here’s a pic of Austin and me. I wish that in my worst moments I could see myself through his eyes.

menaustin.jpg

Oh wait, I can. He actually took my new author photo (coming soon to a book cover near you). How lucky am I? Here it is…

pho.jpg

Cheese Pie!

spinach1.jpg

I want to share one of my favorite recipes right now. This was taught to me in my kitchen by my friend Jules Blaine Davis, of Renaissance Mamas.

I make this quiche at least once a week. T loves it. He calls it cheese pie. And because I work in the mornings, it makes me feel good that there’s something vaguely healthy (or at least vegetable-y) in the fridge that his Auntie Jo can just throw on a plate for him.

I think the secret to kids loving this quiche is that the whole thing goes in the food processor, so there’s very little texture to it. The measurements are kind of imprecise, but it doesn’t matter. Play around with it. You can substitute any vegetable for the spinach and mushrooms. You can throw in some goat cheese. It’s such a versatile recipe. I made it with roasted butternut squash this week.

2 whole wheat pie shells
1 medium onion
1 giant bunch of spinach
1 bag of mushrooms
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
16 oz mixture of shredded mozzarella and parmesan
1 cup half and half
optional thyme or chives

Pre-heat the oven to 375. Sautee one medium onion until translucent and then add the mushrooms. For the last few minutes, add the spinach and cook until bright green. Drain the mixture in a colander (very important). In a big mixing bowl combine the eggs, cheese and cream, leaving a little parmesan on the side. Throw the spinach mix in with the eggs, stir it up and then put the whole thing in the food processor. Pour half the mixture into each pie shell and top with the parmesan. Cook for 40-50 minutes, until the top is golden.

It isn’t the fanciest, fluffiest, French-est quiche you’ll ever eat, but it’s yummy and easy and it’s a lifesaver around here. Check out Jules’ website for other similar recipes. She’s such an inspiration.

Getting All Legit with my Mom Blogging

t-and-mom.jpg

I have my first post up now at Today Moms. It’s about celebrity adoptions and my insatiable desire for tabloids and mani-pedis. Leave comments if you feel inspired!

Also- I think that I’m going to start a new trend mixing engineer caps and huge vintage sunglasses.

Birthday Crazy

t-train.jpg

Tariku turned 3 on Sunday and I admit it- I went birthday crazy. We threw an absolute rager at his fave spot: Travel Town in Griffith Park. Travel Town is a train museum that T visits at least twice a week. It was an ideal place for his party because there’s tons of outdoor space, so T could go off and chill when he got overwhelmed.

t-and-presley.jpg

I honestly had no idea how it was going to go over. I hoped that he would have a blast but I had accepted the possibility that he might get overstimulated and want to get the heck out of there. Still, I wanted to give it a try. I’m happy to report that it went over beautifully. He loved it. He’s still talking about it.

trains2.jpg

We had the Let’s Be Frank organic hot dog cart and crafts and choo choos and a chocolate cake decorated with an airbrushed rendering of his new blue guitar. We even had Brobie from Yo Gabba Gabba.

us-n-brobie-best.jpg

cake.jpg

cake-joy.jpg

T’s over-the-top baby bash had a precedent. While I was swept up in the frenzy of the party planning, I recalled the extravagant theme parties my own mother used to throw for me as a kid. One could look at this as a legacy of bourgeois suburban madness, but I remember the parties very fondly. She wasn’t generally a showy or competitive kind of mom and I believe our birthday parties were a real creative outlet for her, as well as a chance to just joyfully indulge for a day. I took the torch and ran with it and I’m glad I did. It was a special day. I don’t think I’ll do it every year, but this is the first birthday that T was really aware of and it was fun to deliver it in style.

singing.jpg

And seriously, how great is Scott? For a million things, but particularly for agreeing to get completely dorky and wear matching engineer outfits.

The pictures were taken by our friend Leon Mostovoy (have him shoot your party or portrait: leonmostovoy@yahoo.com) and by our own stalwart Auntie Jo (who just got on my case for never giving her credit when I post her videos).

Thai Edition of Some Girls

thai.jpg

A Thai reader just sent me this picture. It’s the Thai translation of Some Girls. How cool is that?

The Boy with the Blue Guitar

blue-guitar.jpg

Tariku turned three yesterday. He’s been asking for a blue electric guitar for months, so that’s exactly what he got. The only one we could find was a little big for him. Does anyone have a suggestion for a real electric guitar that would fit a three year old?

The scene made me think of this, from “The Man with the Blue Guitar” by Wallace Stevens:

The man bent over his guitar,
A shearsman of sorts. The day was green.

They said, “You have a blue guitar,
You do not play things as they are.”

The man replied, “Things as they are
Are changed upon the blue guitar.”

And they said to him, “But play, you must,
A tune beyond us, yet ourselves,

A tune upon the blue guitar,
Of things exactly as they are.”

It was a magical day. Party pictures to come…

You can see him play it here.

Grief and Empathy and Snow Balls

snow.jpg

I’m not sure I experience grief in the traditional Kubler-Ross five stages. Rather, I think my grief has five food groups. I’m the kind of gal who uses anything I can get my hands on to stuff my feelings into oblivion. For the past week I’ve been in the fourth food group of grief: Chocolate. The fifth is probably Weight Watchers.

Since Jennifer died, I’ve been having a hard time clearing the fog from my eyes long enough to even answer my emails much less to be creative or to be a present parent. I’m going to tell you what I prayed for at the bedside of my friend, who had just overdosed herself into a coma. I prayed that I be shown a way to give my son the tools he’ll need in life to never wind up in a bed like that.

I’ve been worried lately that I’m failing at that very task. Both Scott and I have been spending too many nights with our heads in our hands- unsure how things got out of our control, unclear about how to make it better.

I was well aware of the challenges involved with adopting a child who wasn’t a newborn, particularly one who had spent a significant portion of his young life in an orphanage. Theoretically, I was prepared for the behaviors connected to early childhood trauma. But, as any parent knows, theoretical parenting is about as good as theoretical dancing. You ain’t gonna learn to do a pirouette by reading about it.

Even before we were parents, Scott and I were immediately attracted to Non-Violent Parenting, which is based on empathy and nurturing rather than judgement and control. We knew a lot of people who had gone through the parenting classes at The Echo Center and were inspired by the respectful way they interacted with their children.

We’ve been trying to practice non-violent communication with T, except we keep screwing up. For instance, I’ve been unable to keep myself from screaming at him. And then I absolutely hate myself for it. But honestly, he’s infuriating. He’s beyond infuriating. Nearly every interaction with T is a battle. It always takes us an hour to get out of the house. Scott and I get bit and spit at and hit in the face many, many times a day. An hour ago he pulled a hunk of hair out of my head and then got grossed out and asked for my help getting it out of his mouth.

And most of the people I know have been saying- why the heck don’t you discipline him? Why don’t you give him a time out?

Well, it’s complicated. We don’t punish him because instead we’re trying to empathize with the needs behind his behaviors and to help him start to identify his feelings. But the problem is that I haven’t been all that successful in figuring out his needs. I thought it would be a lot more obvious. Maybe the difficulty arises from the fact that I’ve always been someone who stuffs my feeling rather than addressing them.

So Scott and I went in last week for a private counseling session with Ruth Beaglehole, the woman behind the Echo Center and the Nonviolent Parenting movement. It was amazing. We both walked out with a big shift in our perspective. We learned that, like parenting and dancing, empathy isn’t a theoretical exercise. I intellectually understood that I was meant to be empathetic with my child. I read about trauma for a year before we adopted him; I went to Africa and saw it with my own eyes. And yet, in the moment I simply wanted him to stop acting like such a freaked-out, aggressive wierdo and just fucking sing along with the rest of the well-behaved kids at Music Together.

Ruth helped us to acknowledge the fact that his behavior is fear-based and grounded in the assumption that the world is a frightening place in which everyone he loves will abandon him. Every time we let him push us over the edge we’re confirming that assumption and re-enforcing the trauma.

I have a picture of T when he first arrived at the orphanage and I can barely look at it, it makes me so sad. He looks absolutely terrified. It’s hard for me to remember that my hilarious, charming, fierce little man is somewhere in him still that scared baby. So now every time I’m confronted with his maddening behavior, I try to access the same empathy I feel when I look at the picture. It’s hard. It’s painful. And it makes me realize how little empathy I was feeling before.

We’ve recommitted to non-violent strategies and we’ve been doing better. On Sunday we took T up to Mt. Baldy to have his first glimpse of snow. And because it was a new experience, he was anxious and controlling and combative all morning. But we were somehow able to breathe and move through it and arrive at the magical moment of him saying, “SNOW!” We even got it on film. Here it is.