Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Still Speechless!!

Last Sunday I went with the girls to see my parents (Richard had a well-deserved "day off" role playing with his friends). My parents had invited a little 3-year old girl who spends a lot of time with them so the kids could all play together. At some point during the day I got to witness the following scene:

While the girls were all playing upstairs I was having coffee with my parents downstairs. Suddenly, the 3-year old called for my mother. We went upstairs to check what had happened. Obviously, Lily had gone in one of the rooms, closed the door behind herself and was now playing there. The girl demanded from us to order Lily to open the door. Of course we refused and told the girl to open the door herself; the girl shook her head saying that she couldn't open the door because Lily had told her not to do so. We told her that if she didn't open the door she would just have to play outside (where most of the toys were anyways). There, she just lost it. She was getting angry, yelling, screaming and threatening Lily to open the door; of course, Lily did not. The girl started flailing at the door like a little maniac, continuing screaming and cussing without ever once touching the door handle to simply open the door. I removed Violet from the situation and waited until the girl recaptured composure, which took her quite a while.
To be honest, I have seen my share of tantrums with our girls, but this scene just left me completely speechless! Even not quite 2-year old Violet would have gone and opened the door which had not been locked or barred. Right now I am considering contacting her daycare providers, who have before mentioned to her custodian that her behavior in the group was strange. Obviously she was more often than not simply sitting in her corner staring in front of herself and needs to be almost forced to participate in group activities. Am I exaggerating and is all this still normal behavior for a 3-year old?  
PS: This experience will probably be part of another post in the foreseeable future, but I'm still digesting on this experience and will need some time to put it in perspective. Any comment is highly appreciated!!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Modern Cooking: Individual Salad Bowls

A couple of weeks ago my parents came over for a nice antipasti dinner. Among other things like smoked salmon, roasted peppers, and feta cheese I served up this little side salad, which is quick and easy to prepare and can be really versatile.

The side salad version (basic recipe):

You need per person:
ca. 3-5 lettuce leaves
1 tomato
1/4 cucumber
olive oil, balsamic vinegar, Italian herbs

How to prepare it:
Cover a small bowl with the lettuce leaves. Dice tomato and cucumber very finely and combine. Fill the mix in the lettuce-covered bowl and drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with herbs and serve.

Make it a meal:

Use a larger bowl and double ingredients using enough lettuce to cover the bowl. Cut a grilled chicken breast in thin strips and mix with the cucumber and tomato before filling it in the bowl. Serve with rosemary bread or simple French bread.

Make the meal vegetarian:

Instead of chicken breast dice some feta or goat cheese and mix in with the tomato and cucumber. You can also add chickpeas or thick white beans for extra protein.

Veganize it:

Instead of chicken breast or cheese use smoked tofu. Add chick peas or white beans if desired.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Live What You Preach

I think I can say that my kids have made me a lot more self-aware. I try to speak more clearly, try to be more self-confident about myself, eat healthier, and so on. But how much of the other things we try to our kids, like tolerance, acceptance, and the importance of diversity are we truly living? How far has prejudice and xenophobia penetrated our society and daily life? (Let's just remember the killer spree of a band of neo-nazis here in Germany being labeled the "Doener Murders".; seriously??)
A couple of weeks ago I was watching a documentary on Tolerance Week. It followed a so-called "wolf-girl", whose face and shoulders are covered in hair, in her daily life, showing her struggles to fit in and be accepted by society, her peers, and even her family. At some point Lily reacted much like a 4-year old would: she giggled and said the girl looked funny. Of course I gave her the speech of how people look different and that everyone is beautiful in their own way. But later on it made me think how much of what I had told my little girl I actually live in daily life myself?
Growing up I knew a boy, who, by false treatment in the hospital when he was born, had developed a condition of excessive hair growth on his entire body. To me, he was always just Tobi. When he first started kindergarten he was doing fine and made friends quickly. A few months later, however, that changed. I remember overhearing our moms talk about the names my friend was called in kindergarten due to his looks. Names, that definitely did not spring from the kids' heads but things they must have overheard their parents say. It took years for him to be accepted again as he was during the first few months, since kids easily learn, not only the positive things but also the cruelties.
I will be honest, I definitely catch myself in situation where I wonder: was this just necessary? Would I want my daughters see me doing or saying that? I am human and far, far from perfect, but I try not to be a bigot. I do not want to teach tolerance to my girls without heeding my own teachings. Thus, I am trying every day to become a better person for my children's sake, to make this world a better one, even if it is only by small deeds. I want both of them to be a better person than I am, and maybe even manage to become a better person myself on the way.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Walking The Line

I know it's been a long time since I've written a proper post. As I have already said, it's been a time of soul searching and trying to figure out where I am heading with all this. I had to take a step back to focus more on myself and the family, but I feel that it's time for me to start up again. I have long contemplated about this step but have decided, to start out again, that I would like to share a story with you about a girl, who has always known that she doesn't quite fit in. As long as she can remember, she has felt just a little different from the other kids, misunderstood. From an early age on she was an outsider, fleeing from her life in the world of books. Growing up she always striven to fit in, but never quite managed. She fled into different kinds of spiritualism, but eventually realized that it just was not in her to be a believer. She cut herself with everything that she could lie her hands on to dull the pain inside her with the pain on her outside. She starved herself to try and gain control of herself, her life, and her emotions, but failed. She saw therapist after therapist, who always focused on the issue on hand without looking at the big picture. The years passed and she existed on, went to school, fulfilled her duties, and kept looking for the tiniest bit of forgetting at the wrong places. She graduated and moved to the city to go to college, but nothing changed. She had friends but was still the odd one out. She was sad, she cut and starved herself. She destroyed her body with exercise and alcohol until she finally ended up with a therapist who confronted her with the big picture: Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). She was put on medication to ease her depression and for a while, she kind of felt like normal. She had a relationship, got engaged and was ready to settle down, until everything came crashing down around her. At this point she decided to quit the medications and start to fight. She decided that if she was sad then so be it. She would accept it and live with it. She would accept who she is and not try to fit in any more. She fought against the urges to destroy her body and use her will power that helped her to discipline her body into ruin to become healthy. She wrote down her pain and sadness. She fought to not lose her grip on life. Eventually, one night she met someone on the internet, someone she didn't need to explain herself to, someone who just knew. They met in person, fell madly in love and were married soon afterwards.
I now would like to tell you that the girl and the guy lived happily ever after, but it would have been a lie. Six years and two beautiful children later they are still madly in love, but the struggle isn't over. Even though the girl has experienced happiness beyond her wildest dreams, the black holes of sadness are following her wherever she goes. There are still days and even weeks when she is sucked in and fights through the darkness to regain the light. She has learned to live with it and persevere, even though sometimes when making a cup of tea she feels the urge to pour the hot water over her legs to dull the pain. But for her family she keeps fighting and is the more grateful for the truly happy times.
I am telling you this story to show that BPD is a real danger. Look around and there might be a person battling those demons without you ever knowing, with the smile in their face and the darkness within, walking the line between happiness and despair, between the night of their demons and the light of their love ones; walking the line between life and death.