Category Archives: Parenting

TT Dear Dance Mom

Thoughtful Thursday: Dance Drama

As we enter a new season of dance, I feel compelled to write a little something about the drama that plays out after every audition season.  And believe me when I tell you that I have had to bite my tongue and sit on my hands…because I do not want to be one of “those” parents. So this is a reminder for me, and hopefully if even one parent who finds themselves getting wrapped up in their children’s activities can get a little peace of mind, then my intention with this post is fulfilled.

I see this every dance season: (mostly) mothers who are comparing notes as they receive their children’s schedules, complaining to the other mothers, asking their children why someone is in a class and they are not, going to the studio directors and asking after their children and their placement.

Number one: Your children have no idea why other dancers are the classes they are in.  Leave them alone.  Dance at it’s most primal element is an expression of emotion (joy when you are a child)…so let them revel in the joy of dancing.

Number two: When you hound the teachers, you become one of “those” moms. Do you really want to be one of “those” moms?

Number three: This is not about you. If you enrolled your children in dance classes to fulfill one of your childhood ambitions, then you are doing both of you a disservice. Children who feel pressured to do something will probably do one of two things: quit when they are ready to claim a little independence; or if they stay in it to keep you happy they may suffer the ill effects of stress: illness, injury, depression. What is this childhood ambition of yours really worth?

 

Here is the thing: if your child went through an audition process to be placed, their instructor saw them.  They see where they are today, and if you have history with the school, then likely, they have seen them the last 2-3 years.

Leave the schedule be. Even mindful teachers sometimes overlook children through the audition process, and when that happens then they will move your child into the correct placement. That is the key: THEY do it.  “They” as in the teacher, and “they” as in the child. You stay on the “cool parents” list, and your child has the joy of accomplishment as their progress is recognized and they on their own merit, get to move up to the next level.  When the child moves up on their own merit, they are not the kid whose mother got them in the class (people talk…both parents and children).  When a child does the work and gets promoted on their ability, the child knows they earned it themselves. Hence, the opportunity for a huge milestone on their journey to build self-esteem.

This is what it all comes down to in my book: either you trust your child’s instructors, or you don’t.  If you trust them, then deep down you can come to the realization that maybe your expectations for your child do not match their abilities “for now”. If you feel like the teachers are not doing their job or are not judging your child fairly, then by all means find another dance school that is a better fit for your family.

Bear in mind that “for now” doesn’t mean forever, it doesn’t mean for always…just for now.  Even though it digs at me sometimes, I have to go back to my mantra: I would rather see my child in the front line of a lower-level class, instead of pushing them up to the next level where they are relegated to the back line and lower self-esteem because they can’t quite keep up just yet.

I am not suggesting that you do not allow your child to goal-set.  Here is an idea if there is a class in which your child would like to participate, or you want them in.  Instead of appealing to the teacher to admit them, ask the teacher what the child needs to work on to be promoted to that next level. Then, if your child wants to, bring them in to the school a few minutes earlier so that they can work on those skills before classes start. I have seen other families hire some of the senior students help coach…that works, too, as long as it’s a child-led desire to do the extra classes to improve.

We have also seen our children flourish when they perform solos or small group numbers.  It allows them to receive more individualized instruction. In addition, a mindful teacher will choreograph a routine that plays to the child’s strengths while also putting in some sequences that challenge them to grow.

So trust the process, mama and papa. If you want your child to love dancing, then take them to class, feed them well, ensure they get plenty of sleep, keep them in shoes that fit, and enjoy watching them grow in the art of dancing. For grow they will, in their skills and their love for dance.

For tips on finding a good school, click HERE.

P.S. This is the cool part…when you leave your kids and their teachers alone, and you just sit on your hands and close your mouth because you trust the teachers and your trust their process…amazing things can happen.  One wish: your child becomes an amazing artist who is poetry in motion.

We had the honor of watching a very cool and collected Puma win not one, not two, but five national first place awards at the Dance Masters of America National Convention. Two for her solo, two for her duo with Night Owl, and one with her small group. She is a child who was “passed over” year after year as other children around her age were advanced. I trusted the process and stayed the course, trusting that her instructors are amazing, caring and capable people, and that they would move her when she was ready. Our beautiful, self-confident child reaped the rewards of HER hard work and dedication because SHE cared and did if from a self-drive to succeed. So very proud of her. For my part, thankful for the wisdom that comes with maturity. Because God knows that it took a lot for me to be still.

 

SPBFeb23

Wake-Up call – not prepared for dog attack

I am interrupting our fun Kitchen Science series to raise a little awareness.  I was in the horrifying position of witnessing a dog attack yesterday. It made me realize how horribly unprepared I am for that situation if it was one of our dogs or even worse, children, being attacked.

Here are the top three things I learned as I read as many articles as I could digest on the internet:

  1. DO NOT SCREAM. It is absolutely counter-intuitive however, that is the worst thing you can do. It will either agitate the dog and escalate the aggression and/or reward the dog’s predatory instinct that has been activated.
  2. Teach the humans around you to drop into a fetal position and protect their vital organs. HERE are more instructions on that strategy.
  3. If you are able to stop the attack, then get the attacking dog in a “wheelbarrow” position by pulling up on its back legs and keeping its front feet on the ground. This will cause it to become unbalanced and potentially lose focus on their prey. It also keeps you safely away from their mouth. The details of that strategy are outlined HERE.

There were many other things mentioned to stop an attack. They would only work if you were willing to punch the dog in the ears or nose, or if you were prepared with a wagon-full of dog fight deterrents. I will mention them briefly because some of these ideas might work if an attacking dog came onto your property.  These are things you would have handy: a blanket to throw over the dog and the victim, a backpack to try to shove between the attacking dog and the victim, access to a water hose to spray the dog, or if you carry a walking stick or pepper spray or mace.  This is NOT the way we take our walks. And many of the things I read emphasized NOT to put yourself between the attacker and the victim lest you become the next victim.

Here are four articles that outline the above information in more detail.  They all had valuable tips that doesn’t necessarily overlap too much.  Please take a minute to read them so that you have some ideas how to prevent or stop in attack if a dog was being aggressive towards your family or pets.

When Dog’s Attack from Cesar’s Way https://goo.gl/ml6Kir

How To Handle A Dog Attack from WikiHow https://goo.gl/DuUZB

How To Break Up A Dog Fight from Pet Friendly https://goo.gl/1OJpTP

What To Do When Your Dog Is Attacked from Pawsperous Pets https://goo.gl/enQRTi

Image Source:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/31582586@N03/3033203245/

Monday Musings: Weeping

Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/31582586@N03/3033203245/

As inauguration day approaches, my body is betraying the fear I am carrying. I wonder if I am faking it well enough in front of my children.

I watched the full video of the press conference with the President-elect on Wednesday and started weeping. I still cannot believe that this person is going to be our President. If you sympathize with me, you don’t need me to enumerate all the concerns. If you don’t agree with me, probably nothing I write is going to sway you to see things from my perspective, so I’m not going to waste my time trying to convince you that the next four years will be nothing short of interesting.

To add to my agita, I have recently felt a call to speak up for legal abortions. Yes, I believe that abortions kill babies. It makes me so sad to think of all the children that were not born. However, I cannot ever advocate for a reversal of Roe vs. Wade because I truly believe that legal abortions save women’s lives. It is hard for me to speak up about my beliefs because I am a Believer. I imagine that God had plans for those children to live or the pregnancies wouldn’t have happened. I know I am alienating good people who had no cause to dislike me up until know, and that makes me incredibly sad. And, I LOVE BIRTH. How could this topic not be difficult for me?

In short, I am a ball of emotions on an incredibly short fuse.

As I sat trying to process everything roiling around inside me this morning, I started with gratitude.  Thankful that despite the turmoil I have felt inside over the last week, Crazy Mama has stayed on vacation. While admittedly, I got a little louder than I like to be), it wasn’t yelling.  I’m chalking that noise up to ovulation and the fact that I am sad that there are no more babies for our home after seeing tons of babies at our class reunions and holiday party.

The gratitude is this: I am doing this Peaceful Mama thing the way I want to. I am filling up my reserves with affirmations every morning. When I feel myself at a boiling point, I close my eyes. I take my deep breaths. It’s not my absolute best, and still I can be thankful for where I am right now.

I am also inspired to action. What can be done? What is one small thing I can do to effect change?

Number one:
Share THIS document I put together when I had the privilege of hearing Jon Kyl speak several years ago. Daddy Bruss and I sure miss this honorable statesman.  Senator Kyl encouraged us that yes, we can make a difference when we gather up a group of friends and encourage them to light up the phones, emails, and fax machines with messages that state our position clearly and succinctly.

Number two:
Instead of saying that I support legal abortion, take the next step and research ways to decrease the need for abortion. As a dear friend suggested, it probably means providing for more services for women who would be inclined to abort due to lack of support. So on my list of things to do is to get more involved with those organizations and do my part by volunteering. If even one life is saved because a mother feels supported enough to carry her pregnancy to term, then it is one small difference for which I can be thankful.

Number three:
Take heart and courage from the brave souls in the front lines of social change – the teachers who are shaping the minds of our future for a few hours a day. While they can’t single-handedly undo any messages of hate and otherness that students are hearing at home, they can create a safe space in their classrooms and speak out with words of love instead of the words of division that we keep hearing when we turn on the news and see the state of our nation and the words of the President elect.

Fingers crossed that I will be granted permission to share some images that one of our students is going to be posting in her high school classroom (red tape: the work is a product of a peer group grant). When she shared the images and the statements of acceptance with me this morning, I started weeping again. In gratitude this time, because I know that she is not alone in feeling like this. There are other people who see people who look like me and empathize with the fear I live with daily for our children and myself, and anyone who looks “Mexican” or “Muslim” or “Gay” or “Disabled” or any “Other”. There are a cadre of teachers who GET THIS and will make their classrooms safe havens for all students, not just the ones who fit the prevailing version of “normal”.

We cannot accept the divisiveness that the President-elect campaigned on as our new normal. Today is not just a day off from school or dealing with the inconvenience that the banks are closed. On Martin Luther King Day (heck, really anytime!), I implore you to take a minute to talk to your children about Civil Rights and why we cannot allow history to repeat itself.

Here are three resources to explore:
Scholastic Lesson Plan https://goo.gl/smjYV2
The Leadership Conference https://goo.gl/U5R2Wa
PBS https://goo.gl/1WFdsd

Here’s hoping that this processing will help my stomach settle down so that I can stop running to the bathroom every hour of the day.  I am going to focus on gratitude – we are not alone. We have allies. We can find a way to bear with the next four years.

Photo Credit: Tunc Tezel
https://goo.gl/OIB1Ys

Monday Musings: Living

If you have been following along the blog for a while, you know that 2016 was a huge year of shift for us.  We sold our two homes – both of which we loved – in preparation for a possible move across the country.  We also lost many family and friends as they moved on to the next journey after life.

Just when we thought we were through the woods of all this shift, another beloved mother in our circle passed away suddenly in December. I am still not clear if it was a stroke event or a heart attack – what ever it was, it was enough to invite her to move on – and she did, leaving behind a husband and four children.

I am devastated for her child that is Night Owl’s age – she was the surprise baby after their three older children had basically made them empty-nesters.  And also for her three older children that will now go through all their adult “firsts” without their mother, to say nothing of her husband who is now going to have to find his new normal as well. It is so much to process…and yet I realize that they are not alone and someone, somewhere, is holding vigil tonight for a beloved soul that will pass along before all the goodbye’s have been said.

This woman’s passing hit especially close to home since she was the same age as my beloved husband. I came home from her services and told Daddy Bruss that the first order of business in 2017 is for him to have a complete physical and catch up on any tests that he hasn’t had in a while and/or yet that are suggested for people his age.  I also realized that it’s time for me to admit that I am practically in my mid-40’s  and it’s time for me to take me own advice.

Her passing also made me recommit to my intention to Live Life Today.  There are things that are important and things that really don’t matter.  It has made me really motivated to get rid of the junk and clutter that we accumulate because There Is No Time To Waste on Small Stuff.

My new intention for our homeschool day is to only do “things” until noon, and then have lunch and go out and have experiences with our children.  I don’t know if we are going to finish our curriculum as I had planned before I had these revelations, quite frankly I don’t think I care anymore.  As long as the Sweet Peas do math, read, write, make music and dance every day I think we are going to meet the rest of any requirements on field trips.

I watched THIS TED Talk tonight and it is right on point to where I am in my life. Thankfully my revelations arrived through the course of reflection over all the grief we experienced as a family last year, and not a highly stressful experience like this speaker lived through.

Since deciding that my ultimate goal is being the best parent I am capable of being, I have not felt a huge struggle with the yelling.  I close my eyes, I take deep breaths, I remember Lisa Reinhardt’s voice guiding us “to be” at the pace of melting chocolate, and I count until I can open my eyes and answer calmly.

Quite frankly, if I die tomorrow, I have a very clear picture of what I want my children to remember, and it’s not Crazy Mama.  We all sent her on a long vacation.  I hope that the intention to be Peaceful Mama is strong enough this time to leave her there a good, long time.

Peaceful Mama has huge hopes and dreams. I want them to remember a mother who showed up for them.  I want them to remember that my deepest desire is for them is to find their passion in life and pursue it.  I want them to remember that my love for them was deeper than the oceans and I hope they will use it to soar higher than the stars, because I believe in their greatness and ability to do anything with their talents that they set their mind to achieving.  I want them to remember that I am one of their biggest fans and that they are very, very loved.

I want them to know that their father and I conceived them in love, brought them into the world in love, and that they are loved in such a way that nothing can separate them from us.  We will always strive do whatever is in our power to help them learn, grow, explore and invite them to take risks so that they can learn who they are meant to be and what their God-given gift is to use for the benefit of others.  I want them to remember that we made choices in our personal life to facilitate the pursuit of our dreams, and that creativity and helping others is an honorable pursuit.

If the way I live my life in whatever time I have left conveys this to them, then my work on this earth is complete. It’s so easy to take time for granted and put things off because There Are Things To Do.  The bottom line is that there will always be Things To Do.  The time to be in relationship is limited.

I don’t know how much time I have left, so I am doing a lot more snuggling and saying more I love you’s than I used to.  I continue to remind myself of their love languages so that they receive the love in actions as well as in words.  Much of my desire to speak more and do more as it relates to my passion for birth and breastfeeding and the childbearing year has taken a back seat to my desire to be someone they remember fondly and with love.

So now I am signing off to have a late night snuggle with none other than Night Owl.  Good night.  Wishing you all a day full of love <3

spfsept15

Thoughtful Thursday: Who is your clan?

As our family continues to move through this season of flux, something occurred to me…if we move across the country, I am losing my clan.  My call text-at-the-spur-of-the-moment crew.  My people who I can reach out to with no notice, and they show up for me.  As I would show up for them.

I have two aunts who live on our end of the metro area who are pretty reliable if they are in town.  I have a whole crew of dance moms at the dance studio who help keep an eye on the kids if we have errands to run instead of sitting at the studio to wait for our kiddos. There are a few former birth students we are privileged to call friends.  I haven’t had to call on them yet; I imagine if we did, they would help us out.

Then there are my birth people. These incredible (mostly) women who I can call or text when I have questions about anything. Whether it’s an answer I need for class or a situation I’m seeing at a birth, they are there and they answer back almost immediately.  A lot of the time it’s a crazy-time of day text to clarify a finer point of breastfeeding or hospital care to make sure that my words are informative without crossing the line of giving advice that I am not licensed to give.

Connections of family, common geography, or common interest that we take for granted…it literally just hit me that we would have to start all over in a new city if we move. We do not have the amount of family there that we do here, they are not close to where we would live, we would literally be strangers to everyone.

I had to go back and think about how we built our clan of support here in this area.  Family is built in – which is such a lovely way to live – hurrah for family.

As for the rest, the dance studio moms we have known for upwards of eight years since our Puma started dancing, and slowly as the other get involved and we figure out which families are sticking around, we get to know them as well.  Thanks to social media and texting, we are in touch with those that we can trade “let me know if my child needs anything” help with when we need to run an errand.

Aside from the community we have formed through teaching, the library was another place we found families that would go on to become friends.  I guess we’ll be going to the library a lot if we move.

As I put my thinking cap on to think of other ways to build a new clan if we move: I will have to seek out the local La Leche League meeting, see if there are any doula groups that meet-up on a regular basis, and see if anyone is hosting birth circles or birth story sharing groups.

The thought of starting over as a childbirth educator is a little daunting.  We know several midwives in the area now, and we have a good working relationship with a couple obstetric practices, and we know lots of good providers for all the things that are not in our scope as childbirth educators.

And now for true confession time:
As nervous as it made me, I loved performing on stage.  I could put on make up, put on my costume, and assume a persona. I knew no one else out there knew my routine and that they would admire me as a performer.  Once the music started, I knew my routine and I just went out there and enjoyed the moment.

Meeting new people in a new group does not involve music. It does not involve stage makeup or costumes or performing. It requires me to take a risk and put my true self out in front of others – and we all just want to be loved. It makes me vulnerable in a way that brings out my inner eight-year-old: “what if they don’t like me?”

So today’s realization is that I need to start getting used to the idea of meeting new people and starting over just in case we are really moving across the country. I think that the purpose of finding our new clan will be a good motivation to do some mindful meditation and build up my self-esteem: I am loved, I am lovable, and I radiate love.  Maybe a little crazy.

BUT worth it – because if we move, our children are going to be in the same boat. I need to be able to be a good example for them so that they can go out there with confidence…as they say, I need to” fake it until you make it” so that I set a good example. I will have to be honest and tell them that I am nervous…I don’t want to be fake to the point of creating an expectation that our children find unrealistic.

So here I go, boldly forward with a new focus for meditation. Whether we move or not, bathing my mind with loving intentions will ultimately benefit the four little people I love the most. And that is always worth it.

 

SPFSept1

Thoughtful Thursday: Sorting Through

As we continue to unpack, I dread the fact that we still have LOTS of boxes in our garage. On top of all those boxes, we have LOTS MORE boxes in storage.

It’s stuff.  Literally just stuff. Holiday decorations. Cherished baby items and favorite outfits from when our sweet peas were little.  Toys.  And papers. And old artwork. All of it reminding me that we have too much, I keep too much. I have so much to release.  Especially: books!!!

As I was moving things around today to clear some space in the garage, I found a laundry basket full of books…and I have to face the fact that there is literally no more shelf space for them.  (I cannot buy another bookcase!! Where would I put it?!?!)

We are bursting at the seams in our home – I don’t want to bring anything else inside.  Right now, everything has a spot. Nothing is piled up or so full that I can’t easily put it away in the right place…but there are still boxes.

So now I have to decide: am I going to let things go? Or am I going to insist on holding on?

It almost feels like a metaphor for our children. As we are in the midst of the 64-day span in which we celebrate the birthdays of our 3 younger sweet peas, I am struck by the fact that they are *really* all growing up.  Our “baby” is turning five this year…she is in kindergarten!!  We are only six years away from our oldest going off to college…and she is making noises about wanting to try out for a performing arts school next year.  I hear a rustle in our little nest…

They are all stretching their wings and getting ready to fly.  It makes me take inventory of what we are teaching them…will they be equipped? Will they have the confidence to spread their wings? Will they know how to do critical thinking?  Will they have the courage to do what is right instead of doing that which is most convenient or gratifying?  Sometimes those things intersect; and when they don’t, will they be able to live with their choices?

So here I sit…wondering.  Wondering what will become of the pile of boxes.  Wondering how our sweet peas will grow.  I hope and pray that they will grow and mature in their faith and self-esteem, knowing that they are loved.

Letting go…holding on…the art of living a meaningful life. The inspiration continues to choose and lead with love. My filter is the question, “Am I living love right now?” If I am, we go onwards. If I am not, it’s time to adjust an attitude, a voice, a tone…and live with love, nurture with love, grow with love; trusting that the end result is going to be greater than I can imagine.

 

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Monday Musings: On extended breastfeeding

Recently I was asked, “What would you have said if someone had told you  that you would be nursing well beyond the first birthday when you had started your breastfeeding journey?”

My answer:
I would have told them they were on the crazy train…that I was never going to nurse beyond the first birthday. My plan was to meet the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation of exclusively breastfeeding for six months, and then breastfeed our child until their first birthday.  It was going to be one and done in all senses of the phrase: one child for one year, and then I was going to be going back into my career and dancing.

God had other plans for me…he must have laughed as he was growing me.

As it turns out, as Puma was approaching her first birthday, I told Daddy Bruss that I didn’t think we were close to being done with breastfeeding.  She still felt so small, and nursing a soon-to-be toddler wasn’t weird, as I had imagined it might be.

She went on to nurse for 22 months all together. There was a time when I got pregnant  when she was 18 months old.  At that point she started to decline breastfeeding. When I miscarried, she was back to the breast as she had been before the pregnancy.

She weaned herself at 22 months…about two weeks after she weaned, she asked to nurse again.  We tried, but it seemed the milk was all gone.

We went on get pregnant again (how could I say no to my amazing husband who has provided me my dream life?!!), and we welcomed Night Owl to the family.  He got to nurse for about 18 months.  When I got pregnant with Charger sooner than we had planned on being pregnant again, I started having contractions when I was nursing. Out of fear of miscarrying again, we made the choice to do an “emergency wean” and over the course of a week that breastfeeding journey came to an end.

Charger had different plans when I got pregnant with Otter, as we expected, around the time he was 18 months old.  I tried to wean him, because I was having contractions again every time I nursed.  He flat out refused.  I sought help from our IBCLC, Debbie Gillespie, and my La Leche leaders…they had lots of suggestions, none of which worked for us.  I decided to go with prayer and lots of self-talk.  For whatever reason, he was not ready to stop breastfeeding, I knew of other moms who had breastfed through pregnancy so I knew it was possible. I told my body every time I nursed that the oxytocin that was being created was just for milk and not for labor.

Eventually the contractions subsided.  I watched Charger’s bowel movements turn back to baby poops as my colostrum came in the last month of Otter’s pregnancy. He even told me the milk tasted saltier than usual. But he was not ready to stop nursing.  By the end of the pregnancy I could only nurse him for a few minutes at a time, once in the morning, once in the evening, and it always had to be in side-lying position.

We welcomed Otter to the family when Charger was two years and two months old.  He was thrilled to have creamy milk again – he LOVED it. It totally helped to have a nursling with a good appetite and more stomach capacity to ease engorgement. We set some guidelines down – Otter first, him second. We started offering other alternatives to comforting instead of going back to nursing now that he was enjoying milk again.

His third birthday came and went…still nursing.  When Otter went on an 11-day nursing strike around her first birthday (he was 3.5 then), I was so grateful to have a nursling to keep my body informed that I still needed milk.  As the two nurslings got older, they had fun with nursing.  Every once in a while they would nurse together.  They definitely had ideas about which “side” was theirs and got upset if the other would start nursing on their side first. Mostly, they enjoyed the camaraderie of having something in common, and would call out to each other when it was the other’s turn with mommy.

Charger went on to nurse through his fifth birthday.  Around that time, we did wean him. I really felt that at five years old, he could give it up.

To this day, he still tells me at least three times a week that he wishes he was still nursing.  When I ask him why, he says because the milk was warm.

Otter is turning five years old in October. I don’t know what we are going to do when we hit her fifth birthday. Since weaning Charger, I have learned that mammals nurse their young until they lose their milk teeth.  In the case of humans, that is the loss of what we call “baby teeth”.  Which does mean that all our children weaned too soon – and that we do as a country. None of our children had lost a tooth before they weaned. I really don’t know of anyone except our first Bradley Method teacher who was nursing a seven-year-old when we met her.

For anyone who is reading about extended breastfeeding for the first time, let me assure you that it is not the same as nursing a newborn, or even a toddler.  She only nurses in the morning or in the evening.  Sometimes once a day, sometimes twice a day, sometimes not at all.  Nursing is still her safe place, our place of connection.  Every once in a while, when she is inconsolably upset, she will ask to nurse and we will connect during the course of the day.  I can’t express milk anymore, but I see it and hear it as she nurses.

I can only go back to what I know. Breastfeeding is a dance between the mother and the nursling.  The lead and the follow changes, and as long as both partners are willing, the dance can continue.  Charger definitely has memory about breastfeeding, so I know Otter will, too.  I want those memories to be peaceful for her, not ones of regret. So we will continue, dancing as long as it works for both of us.  I try to treasure each nursing session, never knowing which is going to be our last.

That day is coming, and my season as a breastfeeding mother will come to an end.  I hold on to the promise that a new season awaits, one in which my accumulated knowledge will still be able to serve and encourage other breastfeeding families although I am not an active participant any more.

 

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Monday Musings: Wouldn’t have you any other way

I have struggled a bit this summer as a “single mom”. No cause for alarm, I am not really a single mom – I couldn’t hack it.  I have so much respect for single parents who truly Do It All.  For us, it’s just the circumstances we are in this season as Daddy Bruss is starting to travel more with the work he is doing.

I am trying to have a conversation every morning with our kiddos.  It goes like this:  I share what is on my list of things to do, I tell them how I expect the day is going to go. Then I ask them: what is it that you wanted to do today…and can we please be nice to each other and keep Crazy Mommy in her box???

So many deep breaths…it helps so much to be mindful.  Saying out loud, “I am taking deep breaths because I do not want to yell.” Peaceful Mama does manage to stick around most days. And if Crazy Mama does come out to play yell, I promptly apologize and we start over.

Somehow, I have turned into the person they ignore.  Daddy Bruss noticed it – I am not quite sure what to do about that piece yet.  One thing I am going to start doing is a morning mindfulness practice, inspired by THIS news story.  One thing to love about this internet age…so many awesome meditations are available for free on the web.

Something that stopped me in my tracks recently is that the lyrics to a Mindy Gledhill song, called Anchor, *really* resonate with Otter. She has only heard the song a handful of times, and she can already sing the words along with the music. This particular stanza stopped my heart…

“There are those who think that I’m strange
They would box me up, and tell me to change
But you hold me close and softly say
That you wouldn’t have me any other way”

Read more: Mindy Gledhill – Anchor Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Seriously…when a four-year old can sing this…oh my heart.  I am totally committed to being that Peaceful Mama. I want to be that person that they know is holding them just the way they are…not asking them to change anything for me…just meeting them where they are and loving them unconditionally.  It is also my reminder that all my children need me to snuggle them in and tell them that they are treasured.

On a related note, I have always loved the line in the Olivia book, by Ian Falconer, where the mother says to Olivia, “You know, you really wear me out. But I love you anyway.” See a version of the book HERE

That is me right now in this season. I am worn out.  Yet I know that I am doing the best job in the world, nurturing and loving and growing the next generation.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I am so grateful for my village of amazing mamas and grandmas that inspire me and give me the courage to do my best every single day. Without them, I would be sinking through this season.  Thanks to them, I know I can do this.

I am also thankful for the Living God that we serve. I know that with His help, I do have the peace that surpasses all understanding right here, to be accessed as soon as I can be still. It is an awesome peace that reassures me that I really am not alone and that I am striving for a higher purpose.

I can do this.

P.S. Even though I am more worn out than ususal this season, Life Must Go On!! HERE is the time management tool I use to determine what I really need to do every day…I still want to keep up with our blogs, the kiddos have places to go, we have a new birthing class starting at the end of the month, and I have a couple of projects in the work…all are worthy and I want to be present for my children and the commitments I have made.  

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Gratitude through this Season of Change

I first started sharing about this interesting season of change back in May.  I have a feeling that someday, we will look back on this year as a milestone marker.

We will say things like:

“Remember when we sold the Chandler house in two weeks?”

“Remember when Puma went to Europe with Grandma, Grandpa, and Tia Gloria?”

“Remember when we spent the whole day on Father’s Day moving the big stuff from the Dobson house?”

“Remember that day (week, actually) that Tia Gloria and Tia Carmen came over and motivated us to get packing?”

“Remember the day we hosted the going away party even though we still had a pile of boxes in the garage?”

“Remember the time when we got up at 5:00 am to go play in the park?”

“Remember my first breakfast out on the balcony?”

“Remember the fun party lights we put up under the tiny patio?”

“Remember when Puma got her back handspring? (and maybe even her back tuck!)”

“Remember when Night Owl got his aerial?”

“Remember when Charger got his back handspring?”

“Remember when Otter needed band-aids almost every day?”

There are other things that have made this a milestone year…events that were much harder to grasp and accept for all of us at different levels.

Five funerals from April – June this year. Selling what we thought was our forever home. Moving into a smaller home in a different neighborhood. A job change for my husband. Spending the month of July away from Daddy Bruss, it’s been just the Sweet Pea Kids and I for most of the month.

We downsized 1500 square feet…that is the size of a whole house for some people…two whole houses in other parts of the world…that alone makes me grateful.  We could do it…and we did.

My mantra, the filter I worked with that motivated me: Do I want to pay to move “this” across the country?…Because, if we find that our family doesn’t like having Daddy Bruss commute, then we will probably be moving to the East Coast next year.

It made me get rid of all the clutter – literal junk – that I was hanging onto…for whatever reason…old catalogs, old letters and cards, old notebooks full of notes I haven’t looked at in years, TONS of shredding that just needed to be done, broken things that I was going to fix “some day”.

Then we had a day when we had friends come over and go through all the baby and toddler things and haul away what they wanted…because I can’t keep everything that makes me think of them as babies anymore.

Everything that was left was given to St. Vincent de Paul.  It had to go. Because I had to come to terms with the fact that it is not worth the expense of moving memories.

It really was freeing to be rid of all the dead weight that we had around the house because we used to have space for it.  We are having our own experiment in “tiny house” living, even though it’s really a joke. Our version of “tiny house” is just smaller than what we are used to…it’s still a good size in the real world.

It is a relief, and I am happy that we are in a place where my husband is free to pursue any opportunity that comes his way, because he can now without the heavy burden of keeping up a larger home and all the expense that comes with it.

It has also made me so grateful for all the physical aspects of a home that I took for granted, and even though I have said in the past that I am not interested in building a home from the ground up, I do have a better idea of what we will want from the next home we own.

And lastly, it has really brought into focus what is truly important in life – and it really is not things, even though “things” show up on my gratitude list because I had forgotten that I needed to appreciate them.

My gratitude list:

Our good health

Our happy family

Our tribe of family and friends that lift us up and remind us of the important things in life – health and happiness <3

Clarity of what is truly important in my life

Co-parenting – I have never respected single parents more than I do now…and then add on the layer of full-time, working outside of the home, and taking care of the home…I have no idea how single parents stay sane. I feel like I’m hanging on by a thread some days!!

Double-paned windows – who knew they kept out so much heat?!? I had an inkling…now I know they are an amazing luxury that I will never take for granted again!!

Well-insulated walls – I can literally feel the heat coming through the walls in the rental house :/ so much for the A/C bill I thought we were going to save on!!

24/7 internet access – since we still own our summer home, we escaped the heat for the month of July…but no internet here!! I have spent the month going here and there trying to time it just right so the Sweet Pea Kids can tolerate or sleep through my wi-fi time.  And I work madly to get as many emails answered and blog posts loaded as I can in an hour!!

Cupboards that don’t quit – now we are happy renters of storage space for all our seasonal items

High ceilings that provide space for lots of shelving – catch 22 there…some of the things I stored way up high when we moved into the Dobson house 8 years ago were still in the same place as we were moving out…you can imagine where those things went during the purge phase…

Electricity – I can’t imagine life without it.

Along with all this change, I have a renewed commitment to be Peaceful Mama.  This season has been hard for me, and I am an adult. I am in a place where I understand that lives end, and that people move, and that jobs change.

My people, the four pieces of my heart that walk around outside of my body…they are still little. Even though they are capable of speech, they are not always capable of articulating all the emotions that are swirling through their bodies as they adjust to the huge shifts that have been happening to us and to our friends that have lost loved ones. They can’t figure out why they feel “off”, they just know that they are, and express it in ways that make me want to tear my hair out.  Which is the worst example ever!!! My inner 4-year old acting out is not going to do them any good right now, that is for sure!

I have found myself taking four deep breaths before I speak. I literally cover my mouth before I speak. I am forcing myself to use Spanish even more of the time, especially now that their Dad isn’t around and I don’t need to translate for him to keep up with what I am saying.  Speaking in another language makes me slow down, and I don’t know a lot of angry Spanish words…so my words are kinder than if I revert back to English.

I have to remember that I am their North Star. I have to be the best me, I want them to feel safe when they are with me, and now that I am pretty much it for the parent, it is such a clear, clear mirror…they do what they see…am I providing them the best example I possibly can??

I hope so. I am trying…and I am doing ok most of the day.

Moving forward, I want to shine brightly for all of us to navigate through these choppy waters that are our reality right now. I have absolute faith that all these lessons are going to serve us and bless us in the future. I trust that there is another season of smooth sailing ahead of us. Whenever that day comes, however long it will last, I know it’s ahead. That is making me steady on so that I show up as Peaceful Mama now, and our children see her whether the water is choppy or calm: we can all count on Peaceful Mama to be a haven of rest.

All I can say these days, “May God’s will be done.” I have faith, and many prayers of gratitude every single day.

 

 

 

 

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Monday Musings: What is a good mom?

“Remember that being a good mom is ultimately about the relationship you develop with your children and the important life skills, not about how your life looks on the outside to others.”

From the book Motherhood Realized ~ powerofmoms.com/motherhood-realized

Many of us find the age of the internet a blessing and a curse.  Never has been so much information been readily available and accessible. What we do with all that information depends on our personality: do we obsess over it, comparing notes, trying to get it right; or do we let it go in and out without attaching significance to it; or maybe something in between….and maybe it all depends on the day and the topic.  Regardless, there is a lot for parents to read and consider as they grow their families.

Today’s quote really resonates with me for a couple of reasons.  First, I love the idea of working backwards in our relationship…what kind of relationship do we want with our children when they are adults?  And which life skills do we want them to have? When they leave the house, as they build healthy relationships…what does that picture look like?

Once we have an idea of the end-game, it helps to make the daily minutiae more meaningful. Maybe it helps us stick to our plan to have them help even though it takes longer to get things done (anyone else with me on that one??) It certainly helps me guard my tongue – we know that words can never be taken back. Bearing in mind the adult relationship I want with my children helps me (most days!) to speak gently.

The other reason this resonates with me is because it is reflexive.  It’s easy to compare ourselves to others…what are they doing? Is it right – wrong – hippy hoodoo – who cares?  Remembering that I am only building a relationship with my children and that there is no one else to impress keeps me from playing the “better than” game.

I have to be the best mom for my children…not the best mom in the world. Just mine call me mother, and keeping that at the forefront releases me to love and accept other mothers where they are, rather than comparing them and asking if they are a better or worse mom than I am.

What do you think – what does this quote inspire in you?