Why Are We Doing This

 Little over a year ago we launched this blog already asking ourselves… Why are we doing this? 

“So, here’s to learning, growing, and living in community with you and with each other as we all strive to create a more Happy Mind and Happy Home.” We three women, mom’s, friends and co-counselors are done just that. We have learned and grown with this community over the past year. We each wanted to share our reflections.

be brave

Lisa:

What a difference a year makes! Now that it has been one year since the birth of this blog, I can truly say I understand the truth of this statement. When we first began this blogging journey we asked ourselves, and each other, what is my intention? Why am I doing this? What for? My resounding answer was: personal growth.

I knew instinctively there was something waiting for me on the other side of opening up, speaking out, and sharing myself on a level I never had before; Not in this way at least. What I found right out of the gate was that my choice to be vulnerable and authentic was met with a heavy slap of fear, insecurity, and shame. It kind of sucked actually… for a little while.

After the waves of self doubt started to settle I began to experience a new sense of freedom; liberation from perfectionism, and a deep sigh of relief that when I was met with the good company of other imperfect woman such as myself. A reunion of self acceptance, support, and understanding. What a beautiful place to be.

My life this past year has been full of change and challenge. The blog gave me an outlet, a place to process, and a place to gain understanding of myself while simultaneously offering the same to others. From here my purpose in blog writing shifted from a place of personal growth to one of offering support, encouragement, and understanding to myself and our readers. This has been my growth.

I have gained new friendships and deeper friendships from finding out that it’s not about getting it right all the time, but about being REAL all the time. I am not sure where the blog will take me this next 365 days, but I do know I intend to continue on the journey of being real and encouraging you to do the same. Thank YOU for being with us. I hope you stay and find a little or a lot of encouragement, laughter, and support along the way.

be brave

Andrea:

As I sit to reflect on this first year of blogging my brain automatically starts making lists, so here are my top 3 things I have learned from blogging thus far.

1. Flexibility is an Art

When we first began this blogging journey we asked ourselves, and each other, what is my intention? Why am I doing this? What for? My resounding answer was: professional growth. My goal was to focus on my training in The Gottman Method. Writing about what makes marriage work and frankly what does not make marriage work. Well, obviously that did not happen. With all the twists of life this blog flexed in to a more personal form of growth and expression. The biggest tragedy of my almost 40 years happened this past year, losing my father. This blog gave me place to process and share through this crisis. As I have often seen through my work on the couch, crisis often is followed by change. I have enjoyed sharing the changes in my home as we have worked on a lot of redo’s and updates in the time since my father passed.

2. Vulnerability sucks

Since my original plan was to stay safe with “professional growth” I was also safe from public displays of emotional vomit. Obviously, the Man upstairs knew I needed to get in the fire more than I have been. Allowing myself the time to sit, feel, think, feel, write, feel, talk, feel, share MY stuff was at times painful, at times freeing while at times scary. BUT, I needed that. I do a lot of vulnerability selling to those on my couch, so it is better if I have a fresh dose of what I am selling. This has made me more real, inside and out.

3. Self care really is the foundation

As we started I worried about adding yet another ‘thing’ to my to-do list. And lets not be fooled, managing a blog requires a lot of time, hence why I am so thankful for Lisa and Angie going on this HMHH journey with me. I have learned that when you add the right things to your to-do list they in some ways themselves ARE self-care. Sure, this blog thing can be a lot of work, but since I was flexible and allowed this to twist into what it has organically become it does not often feel like a task on the to list. It feels more like “ahh, I have time to write tonight” or “I get to share this” and at times has been “I have to get this out of my head.” I honestly, am not sure where my emotional state would be today if I did not have this blog and my tribe by my side.

perfectly imperfect

Angie:

What a difference a year makes!

It is hard to wrap my brain around the fact that it has been 1 year since Lisa, Andrea, and I started Happy Mind Happy Home. As I was reflecting upon Why am I doing this? What for? My resounding answer was: to give a voice to other moms trying to balance being a wife, mother, daughter, and friend, what stood out to me most was the daily challenge to be mindful…..and present: for our families, selves, and friends.

My other goal was to resonant with women out there who say, “You struggle with____?” “Me too!” I have grown to tremendously love and respect Lisa & Andrea both and I can’t imagine having taken this journey with anyone else. Each of us has faced our own unique life changes and challenges. We each have faced those obstacles with a little bit of grace and a whole lot of humor….For trust me, there have been times when, if we didn’t laugh, we would surely cry….and let’s face it…never stop crying.

What strikes me most about my two friends, fellow moms, and bloggers, is the forgiveness & grace they often give me that I do not afford myself. My perfectionist tendencies often get the best of me & overcoming the unrealistic expectations I set for myself is often a daily struggle.

Therefore, it was more than ironic that near the 1 year blog anniversary, I stumbled upon this message in a devotional that was given to me by a during a particularly dark chapter in my life. It ccertainly resonated with me, and I hope it does with you too:

Here’s to everyone out there just trying to survive their journey. Have faith and know that you are fearfully and beautifully made. God is with you & so are we, as you become everything God intended you to be.

Blessings & Love…From my Nest to Yours!

In The Face of Tragedy, It Helps to Be Grateful.

 
Less than two weeks ago we experienced another school shooting. In the aftermath of yet another senseless tragedy I found myself feeling what probably most of you feel – scared. More than scared, damn near terrified. No doubt I am not alone in experiencing the tightening anxiety in my chest as I drop my child off at school, holding my breath until I pick him up at which point I can breathe a sigh of relief only until the next day of school rises with the sun.

We can’t escape the dangers of what society has become. We just can’t. Unless you’re willing to become chained to your own home, you will have to embark back into the world and face the risk of god knows what.  This can be scary, if you allow it to be. I know I can’t or won’t allow myself to avoid all potential threats in the pursuit of perceived safety. And I don’t want to walk around life with anxiety gripping me by the neck. I can’t prevent these disasters fully so I decided I need to approach my mindset in another way – with Gratitude.

I find it quite unfortunate that it takes incidents like this to awaken ourselves to the gifts we have been granted in our daily lives. The most basic gift of all – life. I know I am fully guilty of overlooking and dismissing the fact that merely being alive is something to be grateful for every day. As we have been shown all to often in our current culture, life can been taken away when you least expect it.

I wanted to do a little experiment with myself in light of this need to become aware and grateful by practicing mindful gratitude every day for one week. It was my intention to journal this experience each day but life got in the way and the journal did not make. I did however practice this grateful awareness enough to realize how much I struggle with it and how easily I fall back into patterns of grumbling.

On day one I did notice a rise in my mood as I approached the day thanking the universe for my children, their health, and their safety. This heightened attitude carried with me throughout most of the morning, but somewhere around naptime my gratitude seemed to wane as the bedtime protests commenced. I was able to borrow my own mommy advice and “turn my attitude around” by recognizing that though I am not always thrilled by the events of the day I am most certainly grateful that I have these little people in my life to drive me crazy.

Towards the end of the week my gratitude agenda became more and more distant as I got caught back up in the busyness and business of the day, I found myself easily forgetting (again) the fragility of life and focusing instead on the list of lack I so quickly compile. What this showed me is that it takes reminders, daily reminders to myself to not take any single day for granted. More importantly even, not to take anyone for granted. 

Perspective is important. It shouldn’t take tragedy to open our eyes to the gifts given by being alive. Not to say that there aren’t hard days, trying days, challenging days, but as I’ve heard it said before – there is no such thing as a bad day. Each day alive is a day to be grateful for. So, let’s all be grateful. Maybe if there were more of this attitude of gratitude amongst us all, we could turn this world around. We can certainly try.

Work Life Balance: Is There Really Such a Thing?

Work Life Balance. Is there really such a thing as this? Balance, by definition, means “an even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright or steady”. Upright or steady. Hmmm. I suppose I am upright, I mean I’m not literally falling down. But, steady? Yeah, not so much. My life these days feels more like a balancing act. A juggling act. A mere attempt at keeping all the balls in the air and moving continually to keep them from crashing to the floor. Hardly balance.

I would more accurately describe my life as Work Life conflict. No matter where I am or what I’m doing I feel like I should be somewhere else doing something more. If I’m at work I certainly feel like I should be home with my kids. Helping my 5 year old with reading, playing with my 3 year old, soothing my fussy 6 month old, taking the load of all of this off my husband. I certainly believe in equal partnership between my husband and I, and I am grateful he is such an awesome dad to our kids, but for whatever reason it is so hard for me to shake the idea that I should be there, too. Inevitably when there is a 6:00 pm exhaustion meltdown I think to myself, maybe if I was there to help manage the chaos the night would have gone more smoothly. Except really I know these things happen whether I am there or not. But the mom guilt finds a way… it always finds a way.

And then there’s work. I love my job. Like really love it. Listening, helping, being with other people and their emotions – gives me all the feels. I think I’m doing pretty well most days with keeping my focus on work when I’m at work, but ask me for anything extra and you’ll probably get a big fat nothing. Not because I don’t want to, but because I just don’t have the extra to give. And this is what I’m struggling with right now. My life is filled to the brim, pressing at the seams, and barely contained by the lid holding it all in. In my mind I can easily imagine myself getting to the meeting on time or fitting in an extra call from home. But, think again. At least I’m having to try and do that – Think. Again.

I am (veeerrrrry) slooowwwly learning how to say no to things that I may actually want to do. I know how to say no to something I don’t want to do, but this saying no despite my desire to do it, that’s new. I’ve thought before, if something is important to you then you’ll find a way. Well now while this may be true, you have to consider the cost of doing it. Will getting to the meeting on time mean less sleep than the no sleep I’m already getting, yelling at my kids in the morning because I’m a ball of stress, still showing up late despite my efforts and making people wait? Is that the outcome I was looking for? No. Not at all.

I am having to evaluate and reevaluate my priorities. In truth, just because I want to do it doesn’t mean I can do it WELL. Not at this current point in time. And I do want to do well. In work, in home, in life. So for me – during this season of my life – I am looking to find balance by being more of who I want to be, which seems to mean doing a little less extra. This may be unnerving at times, but if it saves my sanity and gives my family and my work a more focused, calm, and happy me then, and only then, will I call that balance.

			

Personal Reflections from 2017: Twelve Months and 12 Lessons Learned.


 This week has marked the beginning of a new year. 2018 is upon us and 2017 has forever left us. Sort of. It’s not like any year is completely done and over. We take with us all the happenings, good or bad, into the current new year.

There’s always so much talk about how we want to make the incoming year better, brighter, bolder, bigger; How we want to make it our best year ever! That’s some serious pressure right there. All while poor 2017 gets the shrug and middle finger as we walk hurriedly away. But you know, every year is wrought with both good and bad, highs and lows – it’s all in our perspective on what we choose to take from it.

As I started to reflect back on my 2017 I felt a well of emotion come up. I realized I’m actually sad to see it go. Not that anything is really different from yesterday to today, but the ending of it, just like the beginning of this new year, felt like that – an ending. I decided that before I get caught up in planning all my goals, hopes, and plans for the new year I ought to pay homage to what this past year brought me through some reflection and gratitude.  As I started recounting the months I became more and more in awe of how much change, growth, and wonder has been packed into these past twelve. In fact each month seemed to carry with it something significant and worth exploring. So here goes…

January: Accepting Mommy Imperfection (the beginning)

This first month of the year started out with the bang of announcing my pregnancy with baby #3. As I shared this exciting news I more silently was experiencing the fear and panic of “how the hell am I going to do this?” Searching for and finding support from fellow moms in the “large family” clan gave me solace in knowing I was not alone in feeling crazy, scared, and insane most days. I realized if I was going to do this with any real enjoyment I was going to have to be real in accepting that it wasn’t going to be perfect or even appear that way. Life was about to get messy(er).

February: Forgiveness

Month number two carried with it the sadness of my grandfather dying. I didn’t know him well, which was the saddest part of all. The light cast through this gave me the awareness that it was time to reconnect with my own father. Time to forgive and time to forge a new connection beginning with forgiveness that was hard fought for nearly 10 years. I’m grateful for the ability to do this and for the growth in this relationship that took place over the next 10 months forward.

March: Starting Again

Following a reconnection with my dad via phone in February, March was highlighted by his first visit back. I decided to approach this new beginning with openness, limited expectation, and honesty. These are areas I have to continually hold myself to as I can easily fall back into the pit of hiding, disappointment, and bitterness. The change from a parent/child  to adult/adult relationship is an awkward one at best. I’m working on it.

April: Happy Mind Happy Home is Born

There is so much to be said for this month and what this blog has done for me. To put it succinctly, I never anticipated how much vulnerability, fear, relief, acceptance, and pride I’d gain from publicly exploring my daily struggles. I have found a sense of peace and acceptance with who I am through this honesty which at the start seemed so terrifying. I am beyond grateful for this unexpected journey and what it has brought me in such a short amount of time.

May: Divorce and Dating

I forgot to mention that my mom and my step dad of 20 years divorced in January. Yes, that also happened. And here into April my mom began dating… this was weird. And hard. And messy. I had never experienced my mom dating. I had no idea who this new man, whomever he came to be, was supposed to be to me? Was he going to be like a new step dad? That didn’t seem right. I’m an adult no longer in need of this, so that didn’t fit. And what about the family I had known for most of my life? This ending was hard to process. Comprehending the way forward was very very strange. From this I learned, whether an adult or a child, divorce sucks. But, life does go on.

June: Trust and Marriage

From what I recall June was a pretty quiet month. Not such a bad thing. What I can say for June is gratitude for my husband. It is the month for husbands that are fathers, after all.  I have mad appreciation for my husband and his commitment to growth for himself, our marriage, and our children. He never misses an opportunity to challenge me, which admittedly might piss me off in the moment, but somehow allows me to trust him even more. I would say this very notion – trust – has grown for me this past year. I don’t think I even realized I wasn’t trusting him fully – something I imagine he brought to my attention as well – but as I opened up more and stepped forward into this trust, I can say our relationship has deepened, arguments have lessened, and my love for him has certainly grown. I’ll take that.

July: Growing Older

My birthday month! I turned 35 this year. I’ve heard it said that as you approach 40 you begin to worry less about what others think of you. Well, whether I recall this saying correctly or not, I can say I’m finding it true for me. I am sure it is a mixture of many things that took place this year, but all things combined I do feel more comfortable in my own skin than I can recall feeling since the age of approximately 8 years old. I am less preoccupied with what other people think of me, which honestly was a strange feeling until I got used to it. Feeling this confidence felt foreign. I had to intentionally stay with this feeling instead of reverting back to the familiar. This is still a new thing for me, a growing thing. Writing truths like this certainly help, I must say. I don’t know if I would be feeling this newness without choosing to show myself to the outside world. It has been and continues to be a risk well worth taking.

August: Babies, Kindergarten, and More

August, oh August. What’s not to be said for August. Had baby #3, celebrated my oldest child’s 5th birthday, sent oldest child to kindergarten, and found out my sister was pregnant with her first baby. A lot packed into a few short weeks. This month started the tailspin that would become my life for the remainder of this year (and into the present new year). Life has been forever changed by increasing our household number to 5, learning how to be a parent of en elementary age student, and all while not letting my middle child fall through the cracks. Who are we kidding, she’d never allow that to happen. To say it’s been busy is an understatement and I’m still learning how to catch up.

September: School Days

September was marked by the ill fated awareness that elementary school is about a lot more than lunch boxes, backpacks, recess, and early dismal on random Fridays. It is about my kid growing up and facing the harsh reality of peer influence and peer rejection. Figuring out how to not freak out has been a test in itself. What I’ve learned is that just because I’m concerned doesn’t mean there’s something to be concerned about. Me being worried doesn’t imply something is wrong. Mostly I’ve learned that I need to monitor my own fears and trust that my children are not as fragile as I may think they are. Keeping my own anxiety in check in not a situation fully resolved, let’s be honest, but at least I’ve got some awareness. I’m sure this topic will need further exploring…

October: Busy Gets Busier

October marked the month of returning to work following baby #3. My busy life just turned it up a notch, or three. I’d say I’m still not used to the new normal of rushing from place to place but I have found that the more I attempt to resist it, the more tension I experience: from myself and everyone else. I have learned from this new busy that I need to make time when there is no time. I do not work well under constant go, go, go. Maybe for a few days or a week I can go with it, but soon after I crash hard. I don’t have the time to crash anymore so I figured I needed to try something else. I’ve had to cut out somethings, enjoyable things sometimes, just so I can have the energy and focus to keep going. Saying no to things I want to do has been tough, but I have found solace in something a friend of mine said, “This is just a season.” This season, for me,  means being busy doing a lot of mom things. I feel comforted knowing there will be other seasons to come and hopefully they’ll include more sleep!

November: A Thanksgiving to Remember

With November comes Thanksgiving and our party of 5 successfully traveling 4 hours by car to visit family. What I learned from this is I can manage this clan of mine under tight quarters and in confined spaces. It was an adventure for sure having all of us in one hotel room. Especially when my oldest had a coughing fit that turned into a mini panic attack at 2:00 in the morning. Good thing we’re well versed in sleepless nights. What I take from this episode is that I am capable of getting us from point A to point B in one piece. Some days.

December: I’ll Bring the Chips.

Now this brings me to December. Another busy month, as it is for most, taught me that in this current “season” of my life I can handle very little extra without the threat of a meltdown hanging over me. I realized that the many things I want to do may not be things I can do (gracefully at least). I realized it is better to simplify and enjoy my life than it is to reach beyond my limits in effort to impress. From this I realized no one really cares if you bring the store bought hummus or the homemade. All they really care about is that you showed up. And if they do care, well, who gives a shit. Remember, this whole year has been about being real and accepting imperfection. If we’re being real, it’s all pretty messy even on the good days. You just have to roll with it.

So there’s my year in a nutshell. If you made it this far into the post, congratulations! It was a long one. I’m excited to see what lessons 2018 bring but I’m still enjoying and processing all these from 2017. Let us not always be in a hurry to rush too far forward.

I wish you all the best in this new year. My hope is you reflect back on the year last and feel gratitude for the challenges as well as the pleasures. It is all good.

How to Protect Your Kids (when you’re not there to protect them)

I have this ache, a pit in my stomach, a tightening in my throat as if I’m going to throw up or have to swallow hard to hold back…. Something like that. It’s a pain, a fear for my children, of my children feeling pain – their own pain. My pain. I wish I could protect them from it all but, I know I can’t and I hate this.


This school year has been an awakening in many ways. My son entering kindergarten has been more than an entry into tardy bells,  PTA meetings, last minute projects, car pool lines, and site words; it has been an introduction to the possibility of my kid being hurt, feeling hurt and me not being there to protect him. This, for me, is tough.


My kid and I are both used to spending a lot of time together. Up until the end of August 2017 he stayed home with me all but 3 days a week, and when he wasn’t with me he was at an innocent preschool with other innocent preschool kids. No one was mean there. Not that I knew of anyway. And even if there were mean kids, my kid was too young to notice. He was happy and free.

But it seems that something changes once those elementary doors open: more time away, more independence, more maturity (I use this word loosely), less protection, more exposure, more possibility of hurt to incur off my watch. I think the thing that irks me the most is that I don’t know what’s happening. I can’t even guarantee that my kid will tell me if something hurtful does occur. What if he forgets to tell me or doesn’t want to tell me? What if he decides to deal with it on his own?. .  This phrase sounds like curse words to me. I fear for my 5 year old to handle hurt feelings “on his own”. No, I want him to run home and tell me every detail of what happened at recess that day. What made him happy. What made him sad. What made him mad. What made him excited. What made him afraid. I want to hear it all. But, like most other parents I don’t hear much, and that scares me.

I can ask the right questions. I can try. I can be present at pickup and notice when he seems a little “off”. I can be curious and create opportunities for him to share about his day, every day. But, I can’t protect him from experiencing pain, hurt, ridicule, and heartache. Sucks but it’s true. So, I have to focus on the things I can do that will help him develop resilience, confidence, and strength when the inevitable occurs. In this situation where I find myself feeling somewhat helpless and terrified, I have a good cry then I pull up my mom panties and focus on what I can do:

1) Engage, engage, engage.

It would be so much easier if we knew everything that went on while we were away. Better still, if our kids told us themselves. But, this is not always the case. So asking questions that inspire a thoughtful response is key. Think open ended questions such as, “Who did you play with today?” Instead of “Did you play at recess today?” Or “Who was nice today?” versus “Was everyone nice today?” Even if your kid doesn’t have a specific response to these questions it opens the door to get a conversation going instead of being shut down by a one word answer.


2) “What do you think about that?”

This is my favorite. We as adults tend to think we know what’s best, and sometimes we do, but ultimately we want our kids to have the ability to trust themselves to make good choices and problem solve when faced with challenges. When we ask our kids what they think we show them that we not only value what they think but that we trust them to know and decide for themselves. I want my children to have a belief in themselves that they inherently know what is right, even when someone else is telling them it’s wrong. What I want my kid to hear in his own head when faced with this is, “Well I like who I am, so even if you don’t like me, I like me.” Yes! That is the ultimate win right there.

3) Believe in the power of resilience.

This one is hard for me, I have to admit. My fear wants me to believe that one painful moment could lead to a lifetime of suffering. I have to remind myself that there is no life that isn’t touched by some amount of pain, hurt, or sadness. My child will be no different. I cannot predict the future or try to prevent it. I can only do the thing I know to do which is to love my kid by being present; encouraging him; acknowledging his struggle and his accomplishment; listening to him; and reminding him that he has a whole family that’s got his back, so he knows that no matter what he’s faced with, he’s not alone.
 
This parenting thing is hard. Just when I think I’ve got a leg up, I trip and fall over something I didn’t see there before. It’s new road, new terrain. We are not in this alone. Just as we want our kids to know this, we need to know this. Expecting to do it all right and get it all right the first time is an impossible standard to meet. My hope is that by showing my kids that I struggle they will know that I’m here to support them, accept them, and walk with them through their own struggle. Knowing they are not alone is more powerful than any hurtful words said on the playground, that i can know for sure.

			

The Crazy Busy Life: How to slow down when you can’t slow it down.

Ylkphotography
 Life is truly going by in a hurry lately. I started back to work last week, which of course was bitter sweet, but surprisingly much more sweet than bitter. I’m beyond grateful to be able to stay home most days with my sweet baby #3 and still squeeze in the luxury of human interaction a few work days a week. Not a bad deal. But, none the less adding work into the mix has made my busy life busier.

I’m not one to like being busy. I’d much prefer a lot of boredom than action. Busy tends to equal stress in my experience. But, the thing is I don’t have much choice anymore. Taking care of 5 people, myself included, means there’s a lot going on most of the time. Sitting down is a vacation I embark on at 9:00 at night, 30 minutes before bed. All the rest is just a lot of “doing”.

The funny thing is that I’m actually enjoying  this crazy new lifestyle… For the most part anyway. To be honest I’m surprised by how much I like it. Knowing myself as the introvert that I am, in regular need of quiet down time, I’m perplexed as to why I haven’t imploded with anxiety yet…. what exactly is keeping me sane in the midst of this insane life of taking care of 3 kids, 1 husband, 1 job, 1 self, family, and friendships? That’s the question of the night…

To be honest – I don’t really know. But if I had to take a guess it would be this –

1) Stay in the moment.

It is so incredibly easy to get caught up in what’s NEXT. The next thing on the list, the next task to be done, the next place to go, the next thing to do, the next, the next, the next. There is always something next. When I’m focused on what’s coming next, I find myself uber stressed, irritable, frustrated, angry even. It’s like I’m resentful of everything going on because I just can’t get to a quiet calm place. The “next” is getting in the way of that. Or! If I can be present to the “busy” as it’s happening I find that I do enjoy it more, even when it’s hectic, loud, and hurried.

2) Embrace the interruption.

My day, and night (hello, I have a newborn), is one big interruption. I can’t have even one thought without someone, say a 5 or 3 year old, butting in with a question that could most reasonably be answered by anyone else but, of course mama mama mama is the name of the hour. Every hour. If I get annoyed by this, and believe me I often do, then I’d be setting myself up for a lifetime of frustration. The interruption and disruption isn’t going to stop any time soon, so I may as well accept it. Embrace it. It won’t last forever. The kids will grow and when they do I will definitely miss it.
 
I’ve been surprised that with each addition of a child into our home I’ve found myself chilling out a little more. I still freak out, like a lot, in a different way. I just can’t take myself too seriously. I’m a mess most days. I make bad mom choices, I forget things constantly, and I’m late to pretty much everything. If you knew me before kids, you’d know this would have sent me straight to anxiety hell. But now I’ll just text you a warning ahead of time – I’ll be there but, most likely I won’t be on time. Deal with it.

The lesson that I’m learning is that peace and calm aren’t found by doing less, they’re found by paying attention more to what is happening right here, right now. It all goes by so fast; I know I don’t want to miss it.


Photo credit belongs to YLK Photography

Mothering a Newborn: Tips for the Criminally Exhausted Mommy

5 weeks. 5 weeks of being an official mother of 3. 1 newborn, 1 preschooler, and 1 kindergartener. How do I feel? Probably the most common question I am asked, right before “Are you getting any sleep?” Both of these questions can and should be answered the same: It changes every day.

Today I am tired. Tired from several sleepless nights due to a recent discovery that my newborn is lactose intolerant, which apparently equals to painful feedings, screaming, crying, and incessant toots – those being painful, too. Poor baby. And yes, poor mommy.

Then the morning comes, always too quickly, and my older two children need to be fed, dressed, and out the door before the tardy bell rings. The tardy bell – that’s a whole other story… who knew kindergarten teachers could be so scary! To me, not to my kid. He loves school. I’ve already managed to get in trouble for messing up the car pool line, forgetting my car pool sign, being too early to school, too late, buying the wrong color binder… geez! Get it together, mom! I should have done a little more research on mom expectations before the first day. But, oh well. We will survive. And, we’ll all be okay.
These first weeks of mayhem are reminding me of 1 very important lesson I’ve several times learned and frequently forgotten…

Let go of at least one thing that doesn’t have to be done today.

I find I often want to do a lot of things and accomplish a lot of tasks. Clean the house, fold the laundry, put away the laundry, go to Target (because that’s what all home bound moms live to do) cook dinner, eat dinner, bathe myself, bathe my kids, sit down, sing nighttime songs, read bedtime stories, spend time with my husband, wash my face, brush my teeth, go to sleep, get some sleep! Before waking up and doing it all again.

Seems doable, right? On a “normal” day, sure. But, with a newborn? Not so much. Doing any one of these things can feel like an accomplishment when you’re bartering with a tiny human for food, sleep, and comfort.
 
When I’m approaching that danger zone of “If one more person asks for me for one more thing, I’m going to freak out!” I must ask myself, which of these “must-do’s” can I erase off my list? Better yet, maybe best to just trash the list all together. I’d rather have a little extra calm while wearing a spit up stained t-shirt, feeding my kids pb&j for the 5th day in row (trust me, they love it!) than be frantically squirming back and forth between laundry piles, burnt food on the stove, and kids crying because “mommy keeps yelling at me”.

I mean is that what I want my life to look like?

I think not.

 So, I ask myself, what can go un-done today? What can I let go of? What can I put off until tomorrow. What can I ask for help with? Epiphany! You can ask for help!

Maybe for today it means I let the dust collect a little more. (I reeeaaaallllyyy hate dust, but it will not kill me to see it for one more day). Maybe it means ordering takeout or eating soup for dinner. Maybe it means not making it to the gym, which is a luxury these days anyway. Maybe it means greasy hair (for me and my kids) or maybe it means getting to school after the tardy bell rings. Shocker! Life will go on. And by the way, no kid was ever sent to therapy because his mom got him to school late one day (or a few). It will be okay.

You’ve got to make sure you are okay. Cancel plans. Stay in bed. Forget the dishes. And the laundry. There will be another day, if we are so lucky, to do it all again.

NEW SCHOOL YEAR AHEAD! Preparing Your Child for Change: BEING POSITIVE

Last week I sent my daughter off to a new preschool. All anxiety, trepidation, and fear (on my part) was laid to rest as she went bounding into the room with a smile on her face, ready to take on the new adventure. In that moment I became very aware of two possibilities: either I am a very overactive nervous mommy OR I did a sufficient job preparing her for the change. Maybe both.

In my previous post we talked about preparing your child for the new school year through proactive prepping. Today we will focus on being positive in the face of change and all things new.

Now you might be thinking that in order to be a positive thinking parent you must be a positive thinking person. I am here to tell you, this is not true. You may, however, find that through some practice you will become a more positive person, and who doesn’t want that? I, by nature, am a skeptic. I’ve trained my brain to believe if I consider all the things that could go wrong I will then be able to prepare myself to handle it more successfully. Faulty logic, here. What actually ends up happening is I turn myself into a worrying, stressed, and irritable mess who’s actually less capable of handling the circumstances gracefully. Maybe a little positive, hopeful thinking is a worthwhile alternative to consider… I decided to give it a try.

Being positive doesn’t mean you ignore the negative. It means you include both potential pitfalls and potential successes by addressing them with a solution focused mindset.

Since we are talking about beginning a new school year, let’s take my son for example. He’s turning 5 next week and will be entering elementary school 4 days later. He’ll also be partaking in welcoming a new sibling within this exact time frame. 3 big milestones here!

My son happens to be a bit of a skeptic himself, thinking of what could go wrong before what could go right. Preparing him effectively takes a lot of positivity while still paying careful attention to his concerns. Again, we are not seeking to discount the supposed negatives here. How do I go about this delecate task? Let’s take a look…

How to be a Positive Parent when Facing Change


1). Listen Fully


As I reminded my son this morning that we were going to his kindergarten school to talk with the teacher, I could see the nerves creep up on him. “But why, mommy? I don’t want to. I don’t want you to leave me there. I will be scared.”

First, I needed to remind him what was actually going to take place. “I am not going to leave. I will be there the whole time while you talk to the teacher. We will be there for a little while then we’ll come back home.” (Proactive Prepping in action). “Oh, okay.”, he stated as his nerves soothed a bit.

It is crucial to listen to what your child is telling you, verbally and non verbally, so you can effectively respond. Being positive does not mean discounting the concern through statements such as, “It’s fine. There’s nothing to be afraid of. Don’t worry. Etc.” This causes your child to shut their fears inside where they remain unaddressed. Encourage them to let it out.

2). Validate their feelings.


“Honey, I know going new places and meeting new people can seem scary. It’s all so new! Let’s think of what you might do when you we get there. (More proactive preparing here).

3). Consider the Positives


Help your child consider the good things while validating the supposed ‘not so good ‘. “I bet the teacher will be so nice. And the classrooms – ooh man, I bet there are so many cool toys and crafts in there. You will have so many fun choices! What do you think it will be like?” “I think there will be computers?! And games?! Lots of things to color with?!” “Oh yeah! I bet you’re right! I can’t wait for us to go and check it out together!” This convo sounds like it’s taking a positive turn.

4). Let go….


There comes a time where you may need to release the grip and let your child see for himself that it really is “okay”. If you have a particularly anxious child, seeing is believing. After all your preparations and positivity they may still feel nervous, and that is okay. Having your positive belief that it really is okay will allow them to step forward in trust. There may be tears and little fists gripping your shirt that you have to pry loose with the jaws of life, but they can, and most likely will see for themself that it is okay. Better than okay even.

Monitoring your own anxiety is critical. If you’re child senses that you’re afraid, they will feel afraid. Remind yourself and your child that THIS IS A GOOD THING! You wouldn’t be doing this, on purpose, if it wasn’t.

Change can be daunting, or scary, but there sure are a lot of exciting things to be experienced on the other side. Have fun!

			

New School Year Ahead! Preparing Your Child for Change: Being Proactive

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“I want to go to my new school!”, squeals my (almost) 3 year old. In a few short days she’ll be transitioning to a new daycare . My husband and I have been prepping her for this change for a couple months… and prepping ourselves as well. Due to multiple changes occurring within this month ahead (hello baby number 3, kindergarten here we come) we figured why not just throw in one more thing. Changes all around! No man left behind! Let’s go all in!


If you’ve read any of my most recent posts you understated that for me, change usually brings anxiety. But, we are not here to talk about anxiety today. I’m taking a break from anxiety for a while. Instead, I’m focusing on being proactive, positive, and peaceful. I’m keeping in mind that I can only control so much. The rest I must leave up to faith, hope, and trust. I have come to realize I really do know very very little about predicting the future. Psychic readings are not my calling. <huff>

Let’s take some time, shall we, to focus on these 3 “P” words: Proactive, Positive, and Peaceful. Given that there is much to be said on each one of these “P” words I am going to break it down to 3 separate posts over the next 3 weeks, which will be just in time for most of you as you get ready to send your kiddo off to a new school year. We’re going to start with the first, and most important, in my opinion –

Being Proactive:

Though I cannot know for certain how my children will adjust to their new schools, new friends, new teachers, new sibling, and all other things new, I can, however, prepare them for what to expect  (as best as I am able).

Let’s take my daughter for example. She has gone to the same daycare her whole life. This makes it difficult for my husband and I to move her somewhere new where she doesn’t know anyone. Somewhere new where we don’t know anyone. ** Now these two sentences here are important. Important because as parents we may have the tendency to project our feelings (anxiety or otherwise) onto our children. I may be feeling anxious, my husband may be feeling anxious, but my daughter, well that’s a maybe. All I know right now is she feels excited about going somewhere new. She likes new. She is an adventurous soul in this way. Me – not so much. All the more reason not to assume that I know how she’ll feel. I can know, with a little therapist background in my pocket, that preparing kids for changes is crucial no matter how fluidly they adapt to changes or not. We all like to know what’s ahead.

Proactive Prepping

So what is the best way to proactively prep your child for change? The number 1 rule I share with the parents I work work is:

Paint a Mental Picture for Your Child.
 

Not an actual picture, a mental picture. Children function through images. They develop understanding through seeing and doing as opposed to hearing. Learning through hearing is an acquired skill that develops more through development and growth. When children are young, they need to see and do in order to fully grasp ahold of a concept. This helps them feel empowered and in control.


With my daughter we’ve been driving by the school regularly, we made a visit to the school so she could see the classrooms, see the actual space she’ll be going to each day to play. This will help her feel a little safer when we return on her actual 1st day. Now, lucky for me I have the opportunity to bring her there for a trial morning in which she’ll get to return home with me after a couple hours versus a full day. To be honest, I’m not sure if this is more for my peace of mind or hers. Like I said, this is a change for everyone. I don’t know these people either!! I digress…. back to being proactive. If you don’t have the opportunity to physically see a change before it takes place, you can still very well assist your child in creating their mental picture. Most important is you want to speak your child’s language – play. Remember, they learn through seeing and doing.

Here are 3 simple ideas for how to do this:

  1. Draw a picture together
  2. Enact a scene using dolls and other toys.
  3. Dress up and act out a scene together of the first day.

How to get started:

  • Start out by reminding your child about the upcoming change.
  • Tell her that today you’re going to draw a picture/play a game together about the first day of school.
  • Allow her to select the materials to get started.
  • Ask questions along the way to help shape her mental picture, such as what will it look like, what colors will the room be, what will her teacher be like, what will she play with, what will she eat, etc. There are no limits really to how imaginative you can become. *It is important, though, that this picture be one grounded in reality. You want her mental picture to closely reflect what will actually happen.
  • Also helpful to include here is a play by play. “Mommy will bring you to school and walk you to your room where we’ll meet your new teacher. I’ll get you settled in your room then mommy will leave for work. After work I will come back to pick you up. I’ll be so excited to see and hear what you do on your first day!” Always great to end with something you can both look forward to.

All of these help shape your child’s understating of what will take place when this change occurs, aiding her in feeling masterful over what’s the come as opposed to feeling at the whim of the changing tides ahead.

Helping our children feel in control in a healthy way is the best way of preventing them to look for control in unhealthy ways. These little people deserve this help from us. And hey, you will likely find that it’s quite helpful for you as well!

I look forward to hearing how proactive prepping helps you and your child grow through change together. Please share. And come back next week for tips on a being a positive parent through change.

			

Going With The Flow: Accepting Change & Finding Peace

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My mind feels quieter lately, less disturbed, and much more calm these past couple of weeks. I have gone through a lot of ups and downs this pregnancy and I feel that I’m finally coming to a place of peace, which is somewhat ironic given that soon I won’t be pregnant at all, but instead will have the change of my new baby to grapple with. At which time I’m sure I’ll have a lot of newness to contend with, but for now, I feel calm, quiet, serene even as I enjoy these last few weeks of holding my baby inside.

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