I read the “The Four Agreements,” not that long ago and the approval piece in it struck me. It talks about the fact that our quest for approval from others – and training our kids to seek out our own approval – stops us all from listening to our own inner compasses. You know what I’m saying?

It’s like, we grow up and our teachers and parents are saying things like, “oh, that’s bad” or “I like that” – and then we change our behaviors based on their approval or disapproval. What sucks about that is that by doing so, we stop listening to our own hearts. We do things or don’t do things because of external approval, not necessarily because our own inner guidance system is saying to do it or not do it.

Most parents and teachers don’t know any better – it’s how they were raised too. Even if they do know better – as my parents did – it’s a hard, hell of a hard, habit to break. The desire to lay approval or disapproval down is fierce; “that’s good” or “that makes me so happy!” come readily to parental lips. I know they come to mine.

I don’t want that.

I want my kids to learn to listen to their own hearts and feel out their inner navigational system. I want their connection with God – or Source, the Universe (whatever you want to call it) to be so strong that they use that guidance to center and tether themselves. Not me nor my approval, and not anyone else either. I want them to listen to themselves. To really, truly listen to themselves.

While I know this, I struggle with the HOWs. How to do this? How to help them hear their own inner compass? How to guide them without laying on all of my own approval/disapproval? And how on earth to do this while teaching them good manners?!

How do I raise my kids to be free thinking kids, but not feral?

I know my mom and dad struggled with this same question. I know they wanted my brother and I to be free thinkers too.

I understand the things that they tried with us now, all of the exercises and ways of thinking and talking to get us to THINK FOR OURSELVES, I understand all of those repeat-back things they did with me when I was growing up like, “so if I’m hearing you, you would like to – blahblahblah – ?” which would drive me NUTS because it was never a yes/no thing. I had to THINK FOR MYSELF – arrgggghhhhhhhhhhh.

Anyway. I’m there now. Repeating Micah’s questions to get him to THINK FOR HIMSELF and feeling the deja vu and sensing there are better ways of doing this.

The Feral Fall

One thing that I slip into thinking is that if I don’t tell my kids very clearly and plainly what to do all the time, if I let them make their own choices, they will become like wild animals. I think most of us think that. There is this super strong notion that if we gave kids a choice, they’d lean on the side of marshmallows and violence. Or, in a class setting, that it would be all recess and no math.

I tend to agree with that when I’m not thinking. When I am thinking, I know for a fact that it’s not true, because years ago, I put it to the test. I gave my second grade students a choice in what they wanted to do every day, and kept track of their choices. The kids, even at that tender age of 7, had a very clear sense of their academic and physical strengths and weaknesses, and brilliant ideas as to how to address both. It just took a LOT of listening and paying attention to them to flesh it all out.

So, looking at my own kids now, I know that they know what they need and want. I know that they have great internal navigational systems, inner compasses that are tethered to Source (or God, or the Universe, whatever you want to call it). It’s a matter of me helping them to tune into that.

I’m trying to figure out the language pieces. Like, what do I say when Mack’s pulling Moxie’s hair or when she grabs his toy and throws it out of the car window? When Micah gets up and gets water for his siblings at mealtime without being asked, how can I express the awesomeness of his action without it coming back to ME and MY approval (or ME and MY disapproval!)?

I was talking with friends about this, and I was recommended a couple of books, “Mindset” and “Nurture Shock“. I’ve dived into Mindset – so far it’s fantastic. I’m working through the “A-Ha Parenting” website and set to take the “Peaceful Parenting” course (the title makes me cringe, but I’m board after seeing Stefanie use it in action). More to come on this.

That’s where I am.

Trying to find some new ropes to climb to some new heights in this parenting thing.



I wish there was a TV channel dedicated exclusively to Dora the Explorer. Whenever I arrived in a motel, I could just turn this channel on and tether Moxie to it and thus the motel microwave ovens, the fridge, the door, the toilet, the toilet paper, the alarm clocks, MY ESSENTIAL OILS and all items packed would be safe….for the time she was watching, anyway.

I wish motels had shelves that Moxie couldn’t reach.

I wish they laid out more than 2 towels.

I wish motel bathtubs weren’t so irresistible to Mac-Q for pooping in. Especially when bathing with his siblings.

I wish I thought to check how the beds were made so that I wouldn’t wake up in the middle of the night, freezing, wondering where the covers were, only to discover that the blanket was tucked WAY DOWN THERE

I wish I was better at pulling up the blanket without waking up the kids sprawled around me.

I wish when a motel has a neon sign outside boasting the presence of a jacuzzi or a pool… they mean it.

You know those flimsy plastic cups motels leave by the sink, all wrapped in plastic? I hope they aren’t toxic.

And those dime-a-dozen bars of soap? What are they made out of?

I wish there was a way to enter a motel wifi code automatically, so I didn’t have to type in a 10 digit string of nonsense into each device, only to have the device have trouble connecting with it, and try re-entering the dang string and there is NO DORA on the TV which means that Moxie is pulling down every.single.thing her adorable little fingers can reach – it’s like a race to get the code in and get the device online so that DORA will be present and Moxie tethered so I can get things organized, before Moxie’s precious digits destroy everything.

There should be a video game on that: get the code in before your kid destroys the motel room!

I wish motels had dedicated parking spaces outside of the room door, so I wouldn’t need to park half a hotel away. In the rain. With the kids. And the luggage. And the food.

meriah nichols_

I wish I thought to disconnect the motel phone as soon as we came into the room.

meriah nichols_-2 meriah nichols_-3

Definitely something else to add to the video game: how fast can the parent locate and disable all power sources that may potentially cost said parent LOTS OF MONEY?!

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Confession: sometimes playing with my kids is about as much fun as pulling a tooth out, sans laughing gas.

The crying! The wailing! The knashing of teeth over this or that thing to play with! I get so sick and tired of saying or signing “share”, talking about ‘sharing is caring’ or ‘sharing is the WAY to PLAY!’ that I just want to throw my own body down in the sand in one big tantrum, SCREW SHARING!!! Whoever said sharing is so great DIDN’T HAVE KIDS!

 Sharing is sooooooooo over-rated.

Oh, I suppose it teaches them something, but frankly, I don’t care after I’ve been playing on the beach with them for half an hour. I just want them all to have their own damn sand-toys, and sharing can take a hike where the sun don’t shine.

Towards that end, when we went to Soriana, the big box Mexican store that sells everything from cilantro to enormous flat screen tv’s, I headed straight to the kids section, searching for beach toys. I wanted 3 buckets, 3 shovels and 3 of anything else that was being sold for a good price that would bring joy to 3 pissy cherubs.

 I found nothing.

I turned around and asked Mikey how to say “sand toys” in Spanish, he told me, then I ran off to find a person who worked there before I forgot how to say it. I found her, asked her and she went off on a rapid stream with a ‘it must suck to be you’ look on her face that told me all I needed to know. Mikey translated the rest when he caught up with me.

 It’s winter here.

Oh sure, it’s 85 degrees on the beach, full sun every day, but see, that’s a MEXICAN WINTER. When Mexicans come to the beach we are at, they are wearing their woolens and fur boots. I kid you not. We are bordering abusive-parent status with locals, having our kids frolic in this, this… 85 degree sunshine. No Mexican in her right mind, apparently, would let her kids play in this hypothermia-inducing condition, so no sand toys are being sold now.


The lady at Soriana said to wait for Spring, that’s when people start warming up.

So, we’re stuck. I’m just glad Mikey and I drink so much instant coffee. We’ll have 3 coffee bottles for the kids to play with pretty soon. Then we can be over and done with the “sharing” already.

sharing is overrated



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I was driving the other day and a guy (illegally) cut me off on the freeway on ramp. I yelled at him. He cussed me out and flipped me off. I did the same, and yelled more. And cussed more.

Then I remembered this video that I had seen on Dave Hingsburger’s facebook wall and was instantly ashamed because the kids were in the van.

So I got off the freeway, pulled over, stopped the engine. I turned around to the kids and said, “I’m sorry, I was wrong. Mommy should not have yelled and cussed that guy out, even if he made Mommy angry, even if what HE did was really wrong, Mommy shouldn’t have done it. Mommy is still learning how to let it slide, how to keep COOL when her blood is BOILING!”

And Micah, well, you know Micah. He said, “Mommy, here’s what you do. Sing this song when you get mad. It goes like this:

When you get so mad, you want to ROAR, just take a deep breath and count to FOUR!

ONE…. TWo….. THreeee…. four (- his voice got softer with the numbers)

***total heartpang***


Here is the video.


About Micah’s song – I figured out it’s from Daniel Tiger – check it out here – episode 104 (available on Neflix insta-view)



A note from Stella & Dot:

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Child Safety:

I’d like to be able to just let my kids roam freely. But my daughter Moxie figured out a way to escape recently. She took her brother’s stool, put it under the door, unlocked the slide lock turned the handle, walked down the flight of stairs and slipped under the gate to go and wander the street.

After that I heart attack, I wrote this post, you all came through and gave me a ton of helpful links and suggestions. I coupled those up with the few things I have found to be successful in keeping my children safer.

Bolting or running away is evidently very common with kids with Down syndrome. This list is probably handy even if your kid doesn’t have Down syndrome or a disability; many of these I’ll be using (or have used) with my typically-developing sons (aged 5 years and 6 months).

Here are the tips:

1. GPS tracking device.

I really like this option, personally. There are a lot of variations on the same theme – attach something to your child and an alarm will blare when they have gone beyond a set distance from you.

a. The Guardian Angel for 4 Kid’s Tracker Child Children Locator Alarm Family Protection Security Babysitter has these little ladybug things that you can attach on each child – great for families like us that have more than one child and get out/travel  a lot.

(they also seem to come with just one ladybug, for families with a singleton)


b. The Amber Alert GPS Child Locator Tracking Device looks like it’s excellent.It’s fully tricked out:

  • SOS Button: Be notified immediately if your child needs help. If your child is in a dangerous or threatening situation, or has a medical emergency, he/she can press the SOS button. The device will then send an “SOS” email and/or text with your child’s location to you and those trusted individuals you designate to receive SOS Alerts.
  • 2 Way Voice: Speak directly to your child anytime – or have them call you. Simply call the device to listen in to the surroundings of your child and be assured that they are okay. By pressing the voice button, your child can call you so that you can listen in.
  • Customized Zones: Want to know when your child arrives or leaves school, home or soccer practice? With the Amber Alert GPS device, you define a virtual boundary or zone around anywhere you choose. You then receive an alert, via email and/or text, when your child enters or exits a zone.
  • Predator Alerts: Amber Alert GPS is synced with the National Sex Offender Registry and updated every 24 hours. With the Amber Alert GPS device, you are notified when your child or teen gets within 500 feet of a registered sex offenders residence.
  • Additional Features include: Locate Via Computer & App, Breadcrumbing, Speed Alert, and Low Battery Alert.

 NOTE: there is some kind of promotion going on now with Amber Alert – free device with signing up for 3 year contract ($14.99/month)

AmberAlert seems like a pricey but good way to go – they ranked #3 for Best GPS Tracker (here’s the review).

ADDITIONAL NOTE: check in with your local Sheriff’s Office and/or County Office: word is that some offices have Amber Alert/GPS device programs for kids. I’m currently in the process of checking with mine, so I don’t have any advice yet for local friends.

c. The PGD PG66-G Real-time Silicone Gel GPS Tracking Watch Quad-band Watch 1.3″ TFT Touch Screen 1.3MPx Camera Security with SOS Function for Eldder/Kids/Criminal/Pet (Black) seems like a good deal for boys – I think it looks huge and would fall off of dainty little Moxie’s wrist. But it looks perfect for Micah. It’s $100 and it doesn’t seem to need a subscription service.

I’m still looking for something like this that is a better fit for Moxie.

2. ID Bracelets:

According to the Police, only phone numbers, not names should be listed. This makes sense, but it does put families like us at a quandry. I suppose since we will have different phone numbers at each country along the PanAm, we will just need to make a new ID bracelet for Moxie (and it won’t hurt to make one for the boys too) at each country.

a. The Ankle ID: I liked this one a lot . It’s great because it goes on the ankle and looks like it will pack a lot of information on that little plate.

b. Jewelry-type ID Bracelets: personally, these seem like a way to go with someone like Moxie. She likes that kind of thing and as long as it fits and the metal doesn’t make her skin react, it seems like a great long-term option.


NOTE: Maybe I’m totally off here but those velcro bracelet options just seem dumb. Kids will open those suckers up in two seconds.

3. Sound Alerts:

a. Door Alarms: A lot of people seem to use these. It’s simple: the alarm goes off when the door is opened. You can program them and get them to stop/go. They are inexpensive and seem to be easy to install. For other deaf folk, I’m pretty sure there is a flashing lights version – check with your local Deaf resource center (Bay Area folk, that’s DCARA)

shoes b. Squeaker shoes: This is something really simple, but if you can hear the high pitch from the squeak and if your child is wearing these, you’ll be able to have an idea of where your child is. We bought Moxie’s squeaker boots from zulily.com – zulily has great quality shoes (featured nearly daily) for around $20 that have removable squeakers.

c. Jingly jewelry: I personally like this option for my child as – like the squeaker shoes – it meshes easily with what she likes and finds attractive, and with my hearing aids on, I can hear them. They are like cute cowbells, I guess. But whatever. It works. I know where she is and that’s what counts.

4. Barriers

For the truly savvy kid (read: YOUR KID), gates aren’t likely to be anything more than a hurdle. It’s going to slow them down but not stop them. Still, when you are dealing with kids as fast as ours, a hurdle is still a desirable thing, right? There are a ton of gates out there, here are 3 types that caught my eye as they seem travel-ready or come highly recommended:

a. Extra Tall Gates: My friend sent me this link to some gates that she said were great with her child. They look super.

b. Tension Mounted Anywhere Gates: These are what I went for as I need to have something that we can bring with us. I need portable, something that doesn’t need to be installed with a screwdriver.

c. Driveway Safety Net: This is great because while they will NOT stop our kids from going, they serve as a bright visual reminder of how far to go. Easy to install, portable. These are definitely going with us on the Pan Am.


Deadbolts: This seemed really extreme to me until Moxie, my just-turned 3 year old daughter, figured out how work the slide lock on the back door – yeah, the one she had to drag a stool to and still reach up to finagle.

If you have a child with a propensity to escape, GET ONE NOW.

There are hundreds out there to choose from; this is just one that came recommended by a friend.


5. While Out: Simple Solutions

a. Monkey on Their Backs: Harnesses: I know, I know. Putting putting what is in essence a leash on your kid isn’t attractive and makes you feel like the crunchy Berkeley parents are going to spit on you and call CPS. But what’s better – that or calling the Police yourself because your kid ran too fast through legs in a crowd and you lost her?

 NOTE: I only got Moxie to wear this after a lot of effort. Wearing it around the house, having her big brother (and superstar) wearing it to help out (= make it desirable).

b. High-Visibility Clothes. Like a neon-pink vest or neon-green shirts. If you have more than one child, getting them to wear the same colour would be a good idea – then you just have to keep your eye on the kids in green or pink or yellow or whatever.

– Did I miss anything? Please tell me in the comments what works for you that I left out here – thanks!



I'm fascinated by those "happy studies" and "happy posts", like the one that aired recently on HuffPost, '10 Things Happy People Do Differently."

Of course part of it stems from the fact that I wade through my own depressive slogs from time to time, but fundamentally I think I love this stuff because it's always mystified me as to how many people in a country with so much (- like the US) have more unhappy people than I ever did see in countries with way less (- most of the world).

And then you have to wonder: 'more' of what and 'less' of what?

We keep on equating 'more' with stuff – with money and things and not in terms of 'friends, people, giving, faith'. Other countries may easily have 'less' of the stuff but more of the non-tangibles, the 'friends, people, giving, faith' – so even if they are living in tin shacks without running water, they might be off the charts in terms of having 'more'.

In the article above, Paula Davis says the 10 Things Happy People Do Differently are:

  1. They build a strong social fabric
  2. They engage in activities that fit their strengths, values and lifestyle
  3. They practice gratitude
  4. They have an optimistic thinking style
  5. They know it's good to do good
  6. They know that material wealth is only a very small part of the equation
  7. They develop healthy coping strategies
  8. They focus on health
  9. They cultivate spiritual emotions
  10. They have direction

I can buy that. That list makes sense. Doesn't it?

And speaking of happy, here's a sunflower. Now, that's a happy flower if ever I saw one!


Moving on, I think about my goals for this year, the short list of which is:

photoWhoah, some big stuff there, huh! Nothing like 'get rid of most everything and hightail it outta Dodge', eh?

I suppose these goals kind of sort of touch on a lot of the "happy" points. Health is there. Direction is too. Activity engagement and optimism!

Optimism is there in spades. Or is that 'hope'?

Anyway, Here's another  sunflower

photo 1Or rather, row of 'em! Gosh, they are bright living things, aren't they?

Speaking of bright living things…

Here's a picture of my kids because my kids make me happy

IMG_7793They are always making me happy.

Even when they are not, they are, they really are.


Let's get our Happy on, 2013



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There have been some big changes in our little house.

Big, brought on by little.

It’s so funny to me how a creature so small can so profoundly affect the lives of others. I mean, isn’t it?! Funny, that is?

It’s like that African proverb, If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping in a closed room with a mosquito.

Our Precious Little Mosquito

My One True Darling and I can’t stop pinching ourselves: THREE KIDS?! We actually have THREE KIDS?!

The Third

It’s kind of unbelievable.

Remember, Mikey is the guy that told me flat out on one of our early dates that he didn’t want ANY. And while I always wanted kids, I never thought I’d be lucky enough to have THREE; especially since I started at the ripe old age of 34.

Our three kids. And my swollen, “Borne Childe” feet

It just goes to show: never assume anything because your brightest wish could very well become true.


People have asked how Moxie is dealing with MacQuinn. Well. Let’s just say she hasn’t taken to him like Micah, aka, “Little Daddy”

Micah, “Little Daddy”

Who is just about GIVE ME THE BABY!

Moxie seemed to regard Mac as an intriguing new pillow-thing: with some curiousity, but not a lot, more of an intent to make herself comfortable on it (yeah, we can’t leave him on the sofa or the Moses Basket on the sofa either…).

Here are some photos of Mikey trying to introduce MacQuinn to her, with a resulting first “real” kiss:

“Moxie, this is your little brother, baby Mac!”

“See? He’s looking at you! He’s saying, “hi Moxie!”

“You want to say hi to him too? Give him a kiss?”

– leans in for a kiss –

We figure it’s going to take some time. And that’s okay; we have that.


Guess what this is?

Yes! It’s the suckers from a breast pump!

We are off to a pretty good milkful beginning, Mac and I – better at any rate, than I started with Micah or Moxie. Still, we have our issues in the learning-to-latch and in weight gain. I’m freaking out over his skinny legs and I’m trying to have him firmly on a plumper track.

I’m doing the round-the-clock nursing and pumping regime, we feed him some formula too. I want this baby to be okay with bottle-feeding so I will likely continue pumping for a long time; (for traveling purposes) I also want him to be okay with occasional formula.

I think it’s going all right. We’re hiccuping our way through it, day by day, but it seems to be going well.


THREE KIDS = never a dull moment

The jump between 1 to 2 kids almost blew our minds off of our bodies. It was so freakin’ huge; I don’t think the jump from 2 to 3 is as drastic but it’s still a leap and we’re not quite sure where we’ve landed yet.

We are INCREDIBLY busy and we are also INCREDIBLY happy. Mikey started work again, part-time, from last week, and it’s still so much fun to have extra time with all of us together, even though he’s gone 4 hours a day – we still have 4 hours more together than we usually do.

I’m not really looking forward to his going back full-time, but hey. It could be worse. He’s got basically The Best Job Ever for a bicycle mechanic, complete with The Best Boss Ever. It could be much, much worse – which kind of levels it out to being pretty good, right?

“Right”, says the Best Daddy Ever

“Right”, says sleepy me, “mmm’kay going back to sleep now”


I know this is by and for parents of kids with special needs…but somehow when I watched it, I also heard the echoes of the voices of my friends with typically-developing kids. Everyone goes through that period – the one where you are like, WHAT IN THE HELL DID I JUST SIGN UP FOR?!


That period where you can't sleep, can't figure out your baby, can't quite wrap your mind around these huge changes in your world.


It takes a while.For everyone, it takes a while.


And so I think this video is for everyone, really.


Share it – let's help this project spread – it could and can really help someone who needs it.



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