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Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Training of Pablo

The following photos are of my daughter, Tabs and my Old Boston Bull Dog, Pablo. Tabitha has a special bond with Pablo. She insists she gets to take him with her when she leaves for University (many years from now). I said, of course. 
I've had a difficult puppyhood with Pablo. He has special needs. His breed was cultivated to be fighting dogs. He has the instinct to act aggressively toward any other dog that shows any aggression toward him--he'll fight to the death. After seven solid months of vigilant and exhausting training, Pablo turns one year old. With his age comes wisdom. We've conquered some of our biggest training hurdles. He is extremely bright and learns quickly--this has contributed to the successes I've had in controlling his aggression. That and the Dogstra vibration collar pictured below. It's expensive but it works (in water too if we're in the lake). When Pablo goes into attack mode (towards another dog) I have to remind him to sit or come using the collar. I can now walk Palo and his dog-bro together again. They used to feed off of each other's energy and go ballistic every time we passed another dog. Not anymore, they heel and keep right on walking. If the other dog lunges at them aggressively, Pablo will lunge back but then I make him sit and stay until he is calm and we carry on.
Each day is a new day and I can never let down my vigilance as pack leader. Training a dog is like raising children; one doesn't master the job after a good year of dedicated work. The job is always there with new challenges and some old ones that need constant monitoring. 
Although I agreed to let Pablo leave with Tabs, I am sure he will have become the absolute perfect dog and I won't want to part with him. However,  I'll let him go with my Tabs, because, although she might like Pablo to be a part of her campus life, I'm sure good, old Mom won't be quite as enthusiastically welcomed.
* Have a beautiful September Sunday! I will post this and then wake up my youngest girls to walk down the mountain with me and the boys (our weekly hike down to the lake and back)--the mornings are cool enough now that Fernando (my black pug) can do the hike too, without over heating. My eldest daughter is out of town with a friend (helping at a Party for The Green Party--see you soon Mist!
Update: Just returned from the morning hike down the mountain and I am very sad to say that Pablo was horrible, just horrible *tears of frustration* He was determined to keep lunging at an aggressive Scottish terrier and refused to lie down for me to submit--tried to bite my hands. The training truly isn't over until its over--one no longer has a dog. Wish me luck as I realize our training journey has only just begun...sigh....sigh...weep...weep...

  *If you enjoy my blog, please send a vote my way. Click on the Circle of Mom's button in the top right corner of this page and scroll down to vote for Modernista Mama. You can vote once a day until contest closes.
Thank-you to all those kind souls who have been diligently voting for me! 

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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Awesome Picture Books

 These are two of my very favorite picture books. Say Hello to Zorro by Carter Goodrich and Our Tree Named Steve by Alan Zweibel.

Say Hello To Zorro is an adorable tale of two dogs much like my two dogs. The relationship between the dogs is so realistic--anyone with dogs will enjoy the humour and of course my daughter Pippi (who loves dogs) loves this book too.

Our Tree Named Steve is a touching tale about family and nature. I am not a weepy person. I never have a good boo-hoo. But this little book blew me away. It is light and humorous and then, so unexpectedly, my heart was breaking. I actually had to cry when we finished reading it.

Parents, treat yourself to these two
picture books next bedtime. After reading
countless dreadful stories about your kid's favorite screen heroes, these are a couple of good books that you'll actually enjoy and your kids will too.

*If you enjoy my blog, please send a vote my way. Click on the Circle of Mom's button in the top right corner of this page and scroll down to vote for Modernista Mama. You can vote once a day until contest closes.
Thank-you to all those kind souls who have been diligently voting for me! 

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Monday, September 24, 2012

Pip Dog Rides a Bike

You can put your kid in lessons to teach them how to do just about any sport: skating, skiing, swimming...but biking is different. Biking raises the bar on parenting. Biking is something Mom or Dad has to teach. There are no lessons to drop the kid off at and  pick them up from and then one day, they have miraculously learned how to ride. 
If you live on a flat street with a flat drive and put training wheels on your kid's bike--well, maybe you get off a little easy. But that  has not been my experience. My experience involves driving my kids to a flat area and running behind their bikes, back ache be damned!
I've spent late summer teaching our youngest, Pip to ride a 2 wheeled bicycle. We live on a steep hill, so it isn't as easy as saying, "just go and practice on our drive way." Either her dad or I drive Pip and bike to flat parks to practice.
 I never learned with training wheels--I learned with my dad running behind the bike and letting go once I had balance. This is how I've taught my children. It is hard on the back though... 

Did I mention the wee reward we offered each of our kids once they could balance on their own and ride for 1 minute without falling? We offered them a trip to Seven-Eleven to choose a small slurpee. It worked like a charm. I remember my eldest daughter seemed unmotivated to concentrate and steer independently. I thought she'd never be ready for me to let go of the bike. Then I mentioned the slurpee reward. That was it, she told me to let go immediately and she biked along as straight as an arrow, as though she'd been biking for years! Sometimes a little motivational reward goes a long way...

The Pip Dog has done it! She is able to ride a bike on her own.
The pictures are of Pip Dog practicing on a ball diamond--the very best place to practice: smooth, flat and not as hard to fall on as pavement. 

Pip's soccer coach informed me on Saturday that Pip is no longer to be called Pip, but that she only responds to "Pip Dog" (Pip had told her coach this). Pip Dog it is.
 Go Pip Dog Go!

*If you enjoy my blog, please send a vote my way. Click on the Circle of Mom's button in the top right corner of this page and scroll down to vote for Modernista Mama. Thank-you! You can vote once a day until contest closes.

Ta da!  I did it Mom!

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Sunday, September 23, 2012

Ambrosia of Japanese Anime

 My daughters range in age from teenage, to tween, to first grade. I am never more joyful than when I am with them, just having fun. Sometimes their interest vary, because they are at different stages of childhood. I like to make time for each of my daughters, to hang with them for a little while and experience the things they enjoy. The other night my teenage daughter and I created a themed supper together.
 My daughter Mistaya is obsessed with Japanese pop culture. I've always had an interest in Japanese culture too. With me, my interest in Japanese culture stared at age six when we had a Japanese university exchange student named Misa live with our family. For Mistaya, it started when I first introduced my wee little girls to Hayao Miyazaki. She was still in preschool. I believe the first movie I got for them was Kiki's Delivery Service. It was fitting because later, when her youngest sister (Pippi) was learning to talk, she couldn't pronounce Mistaya and tried to call her Misty but it came out as Kiki. 
Mistaya is now studying Japanese language at school and continues her cultural studies at home through her Manga and Anime collections. I was treated to an evening immersed in Japan with Mist this week. We made homemade sushi, sipped green tea and watched 2 Hell Girl episodes. Hell Girl is really dark--a little dark for me. But our yam rolls were wickedly good. 

*If you enjoy my blog, please send a vote my way. Click on the Circle of Mom's button in the top right corner of this page and scroll down to vote for Modernista Mama. Thank-you! You can vote once a day until contest closes.
Mistaya and our sushi feast
Mistaya and her favorite shushi rolls (yam and avacado).
Our homemade Green Dragon yam rolls.

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Friday, September 21, 2012

A September Sunday

The following photo essay depicts an early morning hike and swim  on Sunday last. I hiked down our mountain, along with two of my favorite gals (and two favorite wee guys),  for a quick dip in Okanagan Lake. The experience was a little bit of everything: sun and moon, light and dark, warm and cold, wet and dry. Thought for sure the hike back up would warm us up--had to do it bare foot to keep my toes from remaining blue and numb. The water was warm enough but without direct sun overhead, one never really dries off or warms up...

*If you enjoy my blog, please send a vote my way. Click on the Circle of Mom's button in the top right corner of this page and scroll down to vote for Modernista Mama. Thank-you! You can vote once a day until contest closes.
Lake Okanagan  8 a.m.
Frernando waits for Pip to get into her bathing suit.
Tabby Cat (in her new short hair cut)  is the first one in the lake.
Sister love.
Pablo wants out of the water and into the forest.
Fernando, "I'm done. I've had enough lake for the day."--his paws barely damp.
Sisters explore.
Fernando and Pip.
Pablo and Tabby Cat.
Wait for me Tabby!

Pip, testing the water to see if she should change into a Mermaid or not bother.
Mom, come swim with me--let's be mermaids.
Get in here Fernando! Still waiting for the merdog to get his paws wet...
Time to climb back up the mountain for breakfast. Wait for us Tabby Cat and Pablo!

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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

On September Suffering, On Refuge.

Bayou Teche, Louisiana, USA.  July, 2012 by Mix Hart
I chose this photo for this particular post for its serenity: a young blue heron on the bayou, amongst the graceful lotus blossoms--a true place of refuge for the mind.
I had a dream last night that made total sense of feminism and Buddhism. I dreamed that I was me but I was also a matriarchal, nurturing Buddha and on my knee was a happy little boy. The little boy was so happy, fun and adorable; blonde, blue-eyed and freckles on his nose. I told him he looked like a young David Bowie. He jumped from my knee to go and try out playing a drum set. And then I realized that the little boy was me, as a child, in male form.

It all made sense: I am the Buddha, I am also the child looking for refuge in the Buddha. I am both male and female in energy (essence) and so is the Buddha. We are interchangeable, one and the same. We all have the nature of the Buddha and we are all of male and female truth.

September is not an easy month for most Westerners. It is a new school year, fraught with changes. One often feels confused and overwhelmed by the physical and mental demands of the day. We all suffer in ways.

I am not immune to this September Suffering.
I have been practicing mindfulness for some time, practicing meditation and learning Buddhist philosophy for ten years. So, as a Westerner (and our achievement oriented culture), I had ideas of what I should have accomplished, to date, in my mindfulness training.

When September stresses combined with other stress factors began to eat away at my happiness, I was  disappointed in my mind. I believed that it failed me. I was suffering, I was experiencing anxiety, depression and a dose of self loathing. How could this be? I thought (with all my mindfulness knowledge and training) that I would not fall into this type of suffering anymore, that the strength of my mind would not allow it.

And so, when I found myself unhappy and overwhelmed, I became angry with myself: I had failed my self again--I had not mastered mindfulness training. The desire to kick oneself when one is down is strong.
How dare I feel suffering?! I have a good life, I should be stronger than that. But then, after a few nasty kicks at myself, and discussing a little dharma with another, the mindfulness came back.

We all suffer. Strength is not in preventing the suffering but rather what one does with suffering. To feel anger at oneself, or something/someone for the suffering, only prolongs and intensifies the suffering. To have compassion, to accept it is one's nature to suffer, this is what eases the pain. Compassion ends anger and nurtures happiness.

And all those problems I have in trying to achieve the modern life, the ones contributing to the overall September suffering? They are only problems if I believe they need to be solved. If I believe they do not need to be solved, only left on their own to evolve in one way or another, I can focus my attention on the things that bring me joy. When problems no longer need a resolution, but rather, are observed as a work in progress--they are no longer problems.

This is what I love about mindfulness training, even when you think you fail, you actually have the opportunity to turn conceived failures into great lessons and experiential wisdom.

*If you enjoy my blog, please send a vote my way. Click on the Circle of Mom's button in the top right corner of this page and scroll down to vote for Modernista Mama. Thank-you! You can vote once a day until contest closes.

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Monday, September 17, 2012

Spider Whisperer

You know fall is right around the corner at my house when Ms. Spider moves in. Every fall we find a few black widow spiders in our home. Mistaya found this lovely girl above our piano yesterday. I believe in karma--If I don't hurt spiders, they won't hurt me. Thus, I have become a black widow whisperer--I relocate black widows from my house, friends homes--call me and I'll get rid of your uninvited spider guest. I reject the dull title of spider-relocater, for the more dangerous sounding: spider-whisperer. Black widows are especially dangerous to children and small pets. Their venom is fifteen times more toxic than that of a rattlesnake. Though, they are reclusive creatures and almost never bite humans unless surprised and frightened.
She was an especially difficult and feisty guest, she was not going without a fight. The black widow kept lowering herself on a string-web, avoiding me and my jar. Black widows are not the best web spinners--they don't like to move vertically--they like staying in one place. She was getting upset with me, her arms flailing. However, I am happy to report I relocated her to the forest and I did not get bitten. The pictures were difficult to take as she was so close to the ceiling that my camera wouldn't fit with the flash up. Enjoy viewing our lovely house guest (who now enjoys a life in the forest) :

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Saturday, September 15, 2012

Dear Starbucks, Please Don't Make My Kid Fat.

Dear Starbucks,

I count on you several days a week, for as a rest stop. A small haven in a busy world. I stop in to have an ice cold drink on hot days and a hot drink on cold winter's days. Often, I have one of my darling children with me, sometimes all three.

My children always feel "hungry" when we stop at Starbucks. What is their favorite snack? The giant cookie, of course. Those things are big enough to feed 4 kids. When I only have one child with me, I end up buying the huge cookie and feeling horribly guilty--I'm going to make my kid fat by stopping for my little personal relax time. 

The cookie is WAY too big for a kid, for anyone for that matter. 
I ask that Starbucks please consider serving child sized cookies 1/3 to 1/4  of the size of their current cookies--just for us parents who still want to stop in on Starbucks regularly with our kids but don't want the horrible guilt from feeding them over-sized sweets.

Sure, I could give up stopping at Starbucks with my kids. And yes, ultimately it is up to me to say no to my children. But all I am asking for is a little support.  Help me keep them healthy children--able to indulge in an appropriate sized treat when they're out and about with Mom or Dad.

Yours Appreciatively,

Modernista Mama (Gold Card Member)

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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Riding on Sunbeams

Riding on Sunbeams
Photographs and text by Mix Hart
On Top of a Mountain
Riding Sunbeams with a Friend
Her Soul Finds Summer
A Spectacle of Eternal Moments
Where Heaven and Earth Collide
 Splendor in unabashed  Grandeur
Dancing to the Beat of Rapture
She Breathes in Beautiful 

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Sunday, September 9, 2012

Bare Foot Buddhism

My morning  footprints on the Northwest Coast, Oregon, USA
My feet. Monkey toes.
Another's footprints on the beach that morning.
A teeny crab Anemone found in the Salmon River--that's her little thumb.
Northwest Pacific coastal shore Plant
Northwest Pacific Coastal plant on the rocky shore. Such a beautiful plant with it's colours and shapes.
A still life I created with objects I'd just found in low tide. The rock made me think of my darling little girl at home. I thought Pippi's little fingers would fit perfectly in the rock. Whenever I am separated from my girls, it is often small things in nature that remind me of my darlings--knowing we would cherish the beauty together.
Another fascinating shore plant with interesting green berries at Westwind, Oregon.

One of the great gifts I received from the Buddhist Mindfulness retreat at Westwind, Oregon, was the freedom to walk barefoot for the entire stay: through sandy shores, pine needle paths, rocky paths and wooden floors. The natural beauty of the coast is surreal in its spectacularness and I was blessed to explore this region barefoot--connecting completely with the land and sea. Walking barefoot is the best thing for the brain and mind. All the nerves in the foot are stimulated by the changing surfaces, and temperatures, this stimulates the brain. It forces one to be present in the moment--aware of each and every step one takes, connecting fully with one's movement through space. The retreat was perfection for one's health: barefoot, healthy fresh foods, raw natural setting, many other humans to activate the social areas of our brains and meditation.
I've always been one to forgo the shoes whenever I can. As a child I'd slip off my shoes to run barefoot home from friends' houses, feeling I was so much faster barefoot. I've never liked slippers either, preferring my bare feet on floors. Perhaps this is why, to this day, my toes are very flexible--my sister used to call me monkey toes as a child because I can move my toes in many directions. It's an easy gift we can all give ourselves: walk barefoot to stimulate your brain and body--it feels great. My eldest daughter appears to have flat feet--the flattest I have seen. But a recent trip to a specialist pointed out the true nature of those long, thin, elegant feet of hers: they are super flexible. Her feet are not actually flat at all. In the air, while stepping, she has a lovely arch, on contact with the ground, her over-flexible foot completely compresses--flattens out. The specialist advised no treatment other than continuing to strengthen them with barefoot walking and ballet (she is taking point this year). With those super-rubbery feet of hers I am sure she'll be the first on point! So, my darling daughter and I often walk the rocky mountain trails near our home together-barefoot. The rocks are big and sharp. The hike is the ultimate foot strengthening test. Ideally though, we need to live on a long stretch of sandy beach (like the wonderful Westwind) so we can walk and run with the tide each morning.

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Friday, September 7, 2012

Just Add Dharma

The following photographs depict an afternoon at Westwind, Oregon. We had a small amount of free time from our Buddhist retreat schedule so we spent it exploring caves and interesting tide pools along the shore.
 I will let my readers enjoy the bliss and ease of the life in the photos below.

*A little passage about a present personal struggle can be found after the photo series for any curious readers.

Tabitha--having spotted a hole in the rocks leading to secret tide pools.
Mistaya and friend.
Tabitha on her way to explore a magical path to the sea.
Miranda, Tabitha and Anemone explore tide pools.
Brilliantly coloured sea anemone.
Tabitha making her way through the cave to the ocean's edge where Miranda and Nem explore tide pools.

Me--the ocean is so cold at this particular spot on the Northwest Pacific Coast--just stepping in the water up to my knees for a minute caused excruciating pain. It's a very windy place on the coast and the current is from deep in the ocean. Thus, the water is much colder than that off the BC coast.
Nem, braving the water!
Nem and Miranda--hurrying to find their way back to the beach--we're late for the next retreat activity!
These photos depict a lifestyle much needed right now in my life. The first week back to school/lessons for my daughters is always exhausting. In the old days, parents didn't fret about providing each and every child with unlimited mental, spiritual and physical stimulus. Most of their kids were lost in the shuffle: clothed, fed, loved and at times ignored--families were big, life was hard.
Today we believe each and every child must have a parent's full attention to their every need. It's a balancing act. I am barely keeping on the beam with three children--I could not parent the way I do with even one more. I want no one to be left out in the shuffle of modern life. 

And then there is the constant struggle to get one of my children to eat a healthy diet. She is gluten intolerant, very thin and often gets sick. Her picky eating is a constant source of stress for me. 

Dare I cry the word HELP? I cry it, but in the end it involves me helping myself: trying, reworking, meditating, trying, reworking, meditating, never giving up trying to walk that balance beam.

My children's extra curricular week looks like this (and I know we don't do as much as many families!):
Mist: piano, 2 dance, school band.
Tabs: choir, soccer, piano and school band.
Pip:guitar, soccer and skating.
*As well, I plan to take them down hill skiing each Saturday when the season starts. 
**not to mention fitting in my own work/ exercise/ extra curricular schedule, and working around Peter's too.

And I like to have a family supper each night--this year we'll eat at about 7:30 to ensure we can all make it to the table. But since I am driving all over the city to lessons, I'll have to prepare our meal at about 2:30 each afternoon and put it in a slow cooker for the evening. 

This life style would work if I employed a cook/nanny/housekeeper. But I do not have one of those much needed persons. 
Modern Life? What's it good for? More Dharma please!

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