"All good things are wild and free." --Henry David Thoreau

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Book Review! Fed Up With Frenzy: Slow Parenting in a Fast-Moving World

Fed Up With Frenzy: 
Slow Parenting in a Fast Moving World
by Susan Sachs Lipman

Copyright: 2012
Publisher: Sourcebooks
General Subject Matter: Parenting
Susan’s blog: www.slowfamilyonline.com

One evening during a monthly meeting at my daughter’s nursery school, author and blogger Susan Sachs Lipman visited to talk about “slow parenting.” I had little expectations. I was pregnant and tired, and honestly I just wanted to go home.

As Suz (as she calls herself) talked, her laughter and non-judgmental attitude woke me and piqued my curiosity. She wrote Fed Up With Frenzy: Slow Parenting in a Fast Moving World, the product of a seventeen-year quest for quality time with her daughter. I found myself sitting up, raising my hand, participating in the discussion, and most of all excited for tomorrow when I could spend more time with my three-year-old daughter.

In a few weeks I read Suz’s book, marked pages with stars, underlined sentences, and found myself incredibly inspired. The ideas in the book could be used with kids of all ages, and should be required reading for all caregivers, including parents, babysitters, grandparents, teachers, aunts and uncles.

Topics Covered in Fed up With Frenzy
Suz’s book is organized with an introduction straddling anecdote and research, eleven chapters, and a 15-page resource list. The chapters are the meat and potatoes with a score of ideas in each:
  • Slow Activities (i.e. Show an Outdoors Movie, Make Something That Goes)
  • Slow Games (i.e. Tag games, Icebreaker Games)
  • Slow Crafts (i.e. Classical Scout Craft, Slumber-Party Crafts)
  • Slow Kitchen (i.e. Tea Time, Preserved Food)
  • Slow Garden (i.e. Welcome Wildlife, Dry Flowers and Herbs)
  • Slow Nature (i.e. Cloud Race, Pinecone Folk)
  • Slow Seasons (i.e. Celebrate Spring, Welcome Winter)
  • Slow Celebrations (i.e. Crafts and Rituals for Special Times)
  • Slow Travel (i.e. Travel Games)
  • Everyday Slow (i.e. Mealtime Blessings)
  • Slow Parenting (i.e. Create Joy)

My Favorite Chapters
Being an outdoorsy person, I focused first on reading the chapters about gardening, nature, seasons, and celebrations. Most of what I read was new to me, and that which wasn’t was a reminder of great things to do with my kid.

The “Slow Garden” Chapter
One of the most important lessons in this chapter is that you don’t need much space to have a garden. Suz raised her daughter in an apartment and gardened on a shady balcony, so she did a lot of vertical gardening (i.e. peas). She lists plants well suited for kids (i.e. lamb’s ears with their fuzzy tactility) and ideas that would charm any age child (i.e. growing a sunflower house). Suz’s ideas would be pure magic for a child, especially for a kid living in an apartment with only a pot of dirt to start with.

The “Slow Nature” Chapter
This chapter is the love child of Joseph Cornell’s Sharing Nature with Children, a classic with outdoor games for kids, and Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods, a research-based book about “nature-deficit disorder” in modern kids. Suz’s Girl Scout Leader experience shines through here. One of her clever ideas is “Nature Bracelets” where you turn a piece of masking tape inside-out, fasten it around a child’s wrist, and stick outdoor detritus on it. For older kids, her “Web of Life” activity with a ball of yarn would teach interconnectedness while being fun and fast-moving. A couple other great ideas are making “leaf prints,” or an easy flower press or a loom fashioned out of twigs, or keeping a “Moon Diary,” which struck me as particularly important since I live in the city and am sadly unaware of moon and stars much of the time.

The “Slow Seasons” Chapter
Suz reveres the earth and the passage of time. She is aware of equinoxes and solstices, and encourages the celebration of these occasions. I’m impressed with her historical references and nod to ancestral traditions, even pagan ones (i.e. “Do a Solstice Spiral Dance”).

One great idea is to celebrate the summer solstice: “We traditionally mark the longest day, the summer solstice, at a community wide event on the beach. We enjoy a bonfire, nature storytelling and campfire songs, and a ritual walk around the fire, holding stalks of sweet flowers and herbs, and then throwing them into the fire, both to greet the new season and to let go of things that no longer serve us.” I can’t imagine a kid who wouldn’t find that to be a fabulous party, and with its minimal cost and cleanup, what parent wouldn’t be onboard as well?
Credit: 2bp.blogspot.com

The “Slow Celebrations” Chapter
Suz’s “Slow Celebrations” chapter has great ideas for birthdays, baby showers, and rites of passage. She believes in acknowledging the rite of passage into adolescence, which is often forgotten in our society. Some of the ideas that I liked included making a throne for someone, creating a “wishing jar,” making a marbled-paper journal, and creating family trees, particularly for children who are adopted, marking their tree with the names of everyone they love and who loves them back.

Slow parenting is for anyone, and how much you slow down is  up to you. Suz Lipman started with six minutes a day. How you envision slow parenting is up to you, Suz’s message is, and what she does is unfold a universe of ideas and possibilities. Among the dozens, there are bound to be gems that you’ll love. 

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Wild Things and New Babies

Zoe and Calliope Hahn-Taylor
On May 10th of this year, 2013, at 11 and 11:01 AM, I gave birth to identical baby girls, Zoe and Calliope, in a hospital on a hill in San Francisco. They came at 33 weeks gestational age. Calliope was 3 pounds, 8 ounces, and Zoe was 4 pounds, 15 ounces.

(pic credit: rabbitroom.com)
The operating room looked onto a eucalyptus forest swaying in the wind, an image which calmed me before the unanticipated c-section. I think of a Wendell Berry poem called “The Peace of Wild Things.” The poem begins: “When despair for the world grows in me / and I wake in the night at the least sound / in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be... / I go and lie down where the wood drake / rests…” 

The sight of trees swaying in the wind, the hill of Mount Sutro, the blue sky and tendrils of fog, and the absence of buildings in the distance, gave me something to hang hope onto. Everything would be fine--the eternal nature of wildlife assured me.
Sutro Forest (photo credit: sutroforest.com)
Thirty-eight years ago I was born on a renovated World War Two tanker, Olive Oyl,  to hippie parents. My mom smoked Benson and Hedges while my dad popped aspirin and read a midwifery manuals, and here I am. It made for a good story. A lucky and adventurous story, the kind I wished on my own children. 
On the Olive Oyl with my parents
My mom told me after Genevieve was born--and Genevieve's birth plan had gone all awry with an emergency c-section--that "your birth story doesn't matter; what matters is what comes after." 
Touching Calliope for the first time outside the womb. 
Nothing could prepare me for the surrealism of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit: tiny babies laced with wires and tubes lying in plastic “isolettes”. Breathing gear that looked like miniature elephant trunks. Bright orange nasal-gastric feeding tubes. Pads on bare skin. IVs with needles as big as baby veins stuck into delicate hands. Gauze with drops of baby blood. Bleeping monitors measuring heart rate, respiration, and oxygenation.

Marshall holding Zoe for the first time.
“Why are you crying?” the nurse gently asked me after I'd been wheeled into the NICU where my girls lay in separate boxes, but I only looked at her. Wasn’t it obvious? 

I appreciate to the core of my being all the help my daughters received in the hospital, though I wasn’t able to hold them right after they were born. I look at the ludicrous hospital bill—approximately $380,000 per child—and am grateful for insurance, though in order to get that insurance my husband works a job that ultimately dissatisfies him with the long hours, commute, and time spent sitting in front of a computer.

Zoe's first smile.
The best things in life are being around people I love, and being outdoors among trees or meadows, on beaches or mountains, any place far from traffic and sidewalks, cars and stores. In the three weeks the babies were in the NICU, my days and nights melded into one. Though we didn't have walks in the woods, we found moments of family unity.

My firstborn daughter, three and a half year old Genevieve, was understandable upset about the lack of attention in her life while her sisters were in the hospital, but she’d ask me frequently, “Would you draw me a picture of Mommy, Daddy, Genevieve, and the babies?” After a pause, she’d add: “And a pond with a duck in it, and a rainbow.” Her sense of hope and despair was much like mine.
A friend doing reiki on Calliope during phototherapy in the NICU.
Three sisters at home.
Zoe and Calliope came home after three weeks. They regulated their temperature, ate heartily, and pooped without problems. They chittered, grunted, chirped, and whistled. They were like baby goats, or monkeys, or birds. 

They also seemed embryonic and fragile. I was sick with fear about losing one or both of them. The lines from the Wendell Berry poem often trickled through my mind as I held a baby and looked outside my window at the view of Bayview Hill. I longed to be among nature with my children. I walked with Genevieve on that hill when she was 13 days old, but I couldn’t go anywhere with Calliope and Zoe because I worried about exposing them--but exposing them to what? The elements? The land? Other people? I thought, "So this is post-partum depression," and I fixated on the images from the NICU and felt lost. 
Bayview Hill, SF (photo credit: foundsf.org)
I’m no good at dates and memory anymore, but one day Marshall and I decided enough was enough—we should go on a walk in nature.

At Candlestick 
Zoe and Calliope’s first stroll was up Quarry Road in Brisbane, a pedestrian-only road where arroyo willows grew in muddy ditches, and bees orbited blooming blackberry bushes. Then we brought the girls to lounge on the grass outside of the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park, with marigolds and begonias at our feet. Another day we wandered around Land’s End where the watery ruins of the Sutro Baths are. We went to Candlestick Point State Recreation Area, to McLaren Park, to the Visitacion Valley Greenway. We moved slowly and gently. It was enough to be outside for even an hour, to just sit somewhere. 

At the Conservatory
Every time we went outside, especially when we carried the babies against our chests, they slept with their faces tilted into the sunshine. They didn’t stop breathing, or burn, or cry. They slept like it was the aboriginal Dreamtime, and sometimes they moved their mouths as if dreaming of nursing. 

I’m no fool about life and death, or risking our lives. Every moment is just what it is. My father died from drowning when I was about a year and a half old, and if that taught me anything, it’s to do what you love, and to try to harm none in the process. To do what makes you happy, whether diving in tropical seas as my father was doing, or hiking on an urban trail with three children, two of them fresh from the hospital. Though taking twins for a stroll meant a complicated exit from the house, the sunshine and fresh air were cathartic, and the movement of my body made me feel stronger. 

At McLaren Park in San Francisco
Once again, Wendell Berry comes to mind. At the end of the poem I referred to earlier, “The Peace of Wild Things,” he writes: “For a time / I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.” And as I walk down some semi-urban trail with two premature babies breathing softly against my chest, I know what he means. 

Monday, July 8, 2013

Summer Spots for Kids: SF Bay Area

The following is a list about indoor, outdoor, trails, and kid-friendly restaurants in the Bay Area. It is not exhaustive, so feel welcome to add comments about places you recommend.  

Written in collaboration with:
Rachel Teichman ~ Tots and Plans & OOGIAH, www.totsandplans.com & www.oogiah.com
Lillian Berman ~ Kid Friendly SF, www.kidfriendlysf.com
Jessica Hahn-Taylor ~ Hill Babies SF, www.hillbabiessf.blogspot.com

Photo Credit: Conservatory of Flowers
San Francisco Indoors
Aquarium of the BayKids can see underwater & visit the new otter exhibit.
Conservatory of Flowers, GGP: Wonderful permanent & temporary themed flower displays.
Contemporary Jewish MuseumChildren’s author exhibits and crafts projects some days.
The Creativity MuseumTechnical arts experiences from music to animation. Carousel too.
ExploratoriumA hands-on way to learn about all things science in a great new location.
House of AirKids can jump and bounce indoors!
The Randall Museum: Animals to see and a little treehouse structure to climb. Classes too.
Recess Urban RecreationLots of space for free play, & classes including art & languages.
Japan Center: It’s great to visit to Japantown in any weather, but on foggy and rainy days, a visit to Japan Center is a splendid cultural experience!
San Francisco Outdoors
Botanical Garden at Strybing Arboretum, GGP. Discover your & your child’s inner botanist.
Crissy FieldConverted from military use to a waterfront park with a marsh, meadow & promenade. Kids can run & fly kites on the beach. Crissy Field Center has programs for kids.
Japanese Tea Garden, GGP: Authentic Japanese garden with bridges to climb and tea to try.
Park Chalet, GGP: This eatery & brewery has an outdoor space for their food and/or your own. Outdoor music & events. Make sure to visit the Queen Wilhelmina Tulip Garden too.
China BeachThis private feeling beach, tucked away in the Sea Cliff neighborhood is perfect for kids. Pack lightly though, you’ll need to walk down a long staircase.
San Francisco Trails
Bayview Hill360-degree views; rare native plants; historic WPA staircases; stroller friendly
Fort FunstonSunset Trail (0.75 mile; stroller friendly) & Low Tide Loop Trail ( 2+ mile, beach access). A favorite of dog owners. 200 foot high sandy bluffs, view hang-gliders.
Lands EndImpressive views of the Bay and shipwrecks, cypress trees & wildflowers.
McLaren Park: 2nd largest park in SF; dog friendly; 2.7 mile Philosopher’s Way; Louis Sutter Playground and duck pond; stone spiral at the summit of a hill; rope swing
Mt. Davidson: A short hike to the top of this mountain will give you an impressive view of the whole city. Highest point in SF.
Corona Heights: Hike up this mini mountain near Randall Museum & see a panoramic view of the city.
San Francisco Kid Friendly Restaurants:
Shulzies Bread Pudding in Hayes Valley: http://www.schulziesbreadpudding.com/
Delancey’s on the Embarcadero near South Beach
Noodle places in Japantown and Japan Center: Some favorites are SuzuMifune, and Benihana
Park Chalet at Ocean Beach & GGP
Boogaloo’s in the Mission
Emmy’s Spaghetti Shack in the Mission/Bernal
Pacific Catch in Inner Sunset, Marina and Marin
Dragon Well in the Marina
Super Duper in the Castro, Marina, Downtown, Mill Valley
El Toreador in West Portal

Photo credit: Children's Fairyland
East Bay Indoors
Bay Area Children’s Theatre, Fairyland and Freight & Salvage, BerkeleyChildren’s theatre based on favorite books. The Cat in the Hat will be playing live at Fairyland this summer.
The Bladium, AlamedaSoccer, baseball and basketball classes, camps & nights out.
Chabot Space & Science Center, OaklandReal rockets ships and educational playroom, along with a planetarium/movie theatre.
Habitot, Berkeley: Kids can take part in all kinds of make believe, educational play and art.
Junior Center of Art & Science, OaklandExhibits and events teach about science, art & history.
Lindsay Wildlife Museum, Walnut CreekKids can see animals & learn about rehabilitation.
MoCHA, OaklandThemed art projects for kids to try out and get creative and messy.
Oakland LibrariesSummer evening events with performances & projects.
OMCA, OaklandExhibits, family Friday nights out & Gallery of California Natural Sciences.
Play Cafe, OaklandBall pit, dress-up, kitchen & baby play areas. Lots of food & seating.
Sticky Art Lab, BerkeleyWall full of discarded household items waiting to be transformed.
Studio Grow, Berkeley & Danville: Crafting, playing, climbing, story, song & parachute time.

East Bay Outdoors
Adventure Playground, Berkeley: Kids can explore and build with discarded building supplies.
Alameda BeachesAlameda feels like a vacation spot with its beaches & shops.
Children’s Fairyland, Oakland: Charming pre-Disneyland theme park with rides, holiday events, the longest running puppet show in the U.S. & summer overnights.
Cull Canyon, Castro Valley: Clean man-made swimming hole with lifeguards & picnic area.
The Oakland ZooPerfect zoo for young kids. A variety of animal exhibits and carnival rides.
Pixieland Amusement Park, Concord: Vintage style amusement park with lots of rides.
Roberts Regional Recreation Area, Oakland: Redwoods, all-access play area, grass & pool.

East Bay Trails
Berkeley MarinaPaved path for biking, running and walking.
Joaquin Miller Park, Oakland: Lots of trails, along with a playground and amphitheatre.
Lafayette ReservoirFishing, boating, biking, skating and walking. Check daily schedule.
Lake Merritt, Oakland: Great paved path for biking, running and walking. Waterbirds.
Lake Temescal Recreation Area, Oakland: Lake, picnic areas & playgrounds.
Tilden Park, Berkeley: 2,079 acre park, 39 miles of trails, merry-go-round, Lake Anza, train ride & feeding farm animals.

Photo credit: Marin County Parks
North Bay Indoors
Bay Area Discovery Museum, Sausalito: Hands-on art, science & environmental education museum. Classes, events, outdoor play spaces & performances.
The Marine Mammal Center, Sausalito: Visit the center that rescues and humanely treats ill, injured, or orphaned marine mammals, and returns healthy ones to the wild. Free admission.
Playland SausalitoJumpy houses, indoor play area for ages 6 & under.
Play-Well Marin Activity Center, San Anselmo: Engineering & physics education through building with LEGO blocks.

North Bay Outdoors
Blackie’s Pasture, Tiburon: Sports fields, walking & biking path. Picnic areas & playground.
Brentwood Fruit PickingA variety of farms to pick and buy fruit from seasonally.
McNears Beach, San Rafael: Fishing, swimming pool, picnic area & snack bar.
Old Downtown Windsor: Kid friendly, charming old-style downtown in the wine country. Home of the World Famous Sonoma County Hot Air Balloon Classic that takes place one weekend each June. A must see at least once in your life!
Terra Linda Pool, San RafaelPool day getaway. Playground & shallow kiddie pool.
Train Town, Sonoma: Quarter scale railroad on four mile track, miniature town & petting zoo.
Safari West, Santa Rosa: Take a ride through animals living in the wild, and even camp out too. Book reservations online for visits or lodging.
Schoolhouse Canyon Park-Camping at Russian River, Guerneville: Perfect car camping under redwoods, across the street from the Russian River.

North Bay Trails
Angel IslandIsland mountain in the bay, historic Immigration Station and Nike missile site; 5 mile perimeter trail; switchback trail to top of Mount Livermore
Bolinas Beach Loop: 1-mile loop through quaint downtown to beach and back; accessible during low tide
Muir WoodsRedwood forest (some trees over 600 years old); Redwood Creek watershed; 6 miles of trails, some stroller friendly
Mt. Tamalpais2,571’ peak, great views, 50 miles of trails, Bootjack Picnic Area, East Peak Visitor Center, Mountain Theater

Photo Credit: San Mateo County Parks
South Bay Indoors
C is for Craft, Palo Alto: Drop-in time and classes for old fashioned crafting & LEGO playing.
CuriOdyssey Museum, San Mateo: Experimental wildlife center for children & families at Coyote Point.
Didalidoo, San Bruno: Indoor playspace for ages 0-4. Lots of space to climb, roll & slide.
Palo Alto Junior Museum & ZooHands-on science exhibits & outdoor zoo with tortoises, raccoons & bobcats. A climbing area too.
Children’s Discovery Museum of San JoseKids will learn about jobs, cultures and books while pretending.
U-MeOpen play areas for climbing, and classes all day including story time, dance and art.

South Bay Outdoors
Coyote Point Park, San MateoPicnics, playgrounds, bay swimming, CuriOdyssey Museum, windsurfing and boating.
Burgess Pool, Menlo Park: Sunny swimming, playground, grassy areas.
Gamble Garden, Palo Alto: Community horticulture foundation. Free entry to gardens.
Parkside Aquatic Park, San Mateo: Bay beach, boating, playground, picnic tables.
City of PacificaBeaches, surfing, parks, Coastside Farmer’s Market, play at Frontierland Park and other playgrounds, bowling at Sea Bowl & horseback riding at Sun Valley Equestrian.
Costanoa, Pescadero: Picnicking, spa, lodge, camping, cabins & restaurant.
Gilroy GardensHorticulture based, beautiful family theme park, great for young children.

South Bay Trails
Crystal Springs Regional Trail, San Mateo: 15 miles of trails, Sawyer Trail is flat and paved, reservoir views, sunny, 600 yr. old Jepson Laurel tree, Pulgas Water Temple
Mori Point, Pacifica: 32-acre wetland and coastal scrub, ocean views, beach, marsh with red-legged frogs
Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve, off Hwy 35: 3,000+ acres, 10.4 miles trails, excellent wildflowers, ridge location, oak trees, rolling hills, long views, headwaters for two creeks
San Bruno Mountain, Daly City: 2,378 acre park, 360-degree views, bogs, ravines, long views, unique fauna

Kid Friendly South Bay Restaurants:
Buck’s in Woodside
Fish Market, San Mateo
Benihana’s Burlingame