Category Archives: Thoughtful Thursday

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.

 

SPFgrounding

Thoughtful Thursday: Grounding

My only solution as I see the chaos building in our world is to turn inwards. It’s extremely idealistic and somewhat irresponsible. At this point, I am operating at the level of self-preservation. I have to find and create a false sense of calm because being kind to my children is my ultimate goal. As they hear of all the unrest in the world, my need to be their comfort and their sane guide outweighs my desire to listen to the 24/7 news cycle.  Because quite frankly, it feels like a replay.

We are studying World War I with Puma and Night Owl right now. Just last night, we read about the Armenian Genocide. I don’t remember learning about this when I learned about the World Wars in school. I also don’t think we covered all the colonial connections that brought this war to epic proportions (for the time). The loss of life among the military and the civilians, the complete disregard for people of other ethnicities fighting for a few European powers, the slaughter of the 18-24 year old generation of the time, is mind-boggling.

And yet, another genocide was going to play out again within 30 years.  Registration if you held a certain heritage and/or religious belief. Internment of suspect people groups. Plus more of the above-mentioned atrocities.

Here we are, not even 100 years away from the events of World War II, hearing what I can only imagine to be a similar rhetoric. Aleppo – AGAIN. I keep asking myself, is this really happening? How can we be in that place for a potential repeat? Where is the “storming of the gates” and the insistence that we will not be victims to the whims of politicians AGAIN?

As our children learn of current events, we have a clear metric: how is this similar to what happened in 1914 and 1939? What would be a different way to approach the situation? I also add this question: What’s one small thing we can do in our corner of the world?

We have friends in active duty in the military. We have friends who are Muslims. The fact that our children are aware and cognizant that the world is entering a period of unrest makes me glad to be raising sentient humans, and at the same time sad that they are having to wrestle with these questions and wonder about the safety of our friends. Worry about our own safety as people of Mexican heritage.

I received a great suggestion from a healer: what if we focused on grounding? Being in this place, where we are now, to foster a sense of security. To that end, I have made a more concerted effort to spend time outside with our children. It has meant shifting my focus from GO-GO-GO and being a slave to my daily outline, and instead taking an intentional break during our school day to go play outside.

She also offered the suggestion of creating a family altar. It will allow each of our family members to contribute a meaningful item that represents them or something they value, and serve as a focus point for our togetherness and our blessings. As we continue to grapple with all the change we have faced as a family personally over the last twelve months, it will provide a “constant”, a sense of stability.

It is also a signal of potential: we will create the altar with the intention that things can be added as we explore the world, or removed if they no longer serve us. This is a timely representation of the phase we are in now, downsizing and releasing the physical items that maybe we thought we needed, but in the final evaluation serve us no greater purpose other than to be something to hold on to just because we might need it or we might miss it or whatever else we use to justify things occupying a space.

Those are the two small things that we are doing in our home to create a sense of peace amidst the chaos, the calm in the coming storm. Personally, I have also added meditation and affirmations back into my daily routine. I created my own little altar of sorts on my bathroom counter…not the most sacred of spaces, but it is one that I occupy every day and in that sense, it serves me because I can see it and ground myself as MOTHER every day. Life is good.

If you are feeling this call to create a sense of calm and stability for your family, what are you doing?  I would love to hear your ideas – please leave me a comment below.

P.S. One thing I am not being is complacent.  Please continue to call your local, state and national representatives and make your voice heard. Even if they don’t listen to you or represent you, do not let this be another era where the people are questioned for remaining silent or doing nothing.

Find your Senator: https://www.senate.gov/senators/contact/

Find your Representative: http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/

Find your local government officials: https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials

Read about effective lobbying as a private citizen HERE.

Thoughtful Thursday: Reflections

I have been training to become a Birthing From Within mentor over the last two years. Along with that, I have also learned about Birth Story Listening – sitting with women who need to tell their story and helping them find new meaning to the One Moment they have a question/want more clarity about.

There are a couple of concepts from that learning that have come into play for me over the last two weeks:

Doing the Next Best Thing

Taking One Small Step

 

Doing The Next Best Thing

In birth, we want to plan and prepare and imagine that we can control every little aspect of how our story is going to play out. As a Birthing From Within mentor, one of my intentions for our students is to help our students identify what they control, what they can influence, and what their resources and allies are to help them do the Next Best Thing if and when the sh** hits the fan through their pregnancy and/or birth journey.

That is a concept that stretches out way beyond the birth journey. In life we have the same opportunity and ask the honest question: what is really in my control, what are the things I can influence, and when is it time to realize we have reached the moment of choosing the Next Best Thing?

We hit that moment on Christmas Eve.  Here I thought Puma and I had everything handled: we had done the majority of our gift shopping in November, all our DIY gifts were done and delivered, we just had to sit back, relax, enjoy the season, and remember to buy the ham for Christmas dinner.

I bought the ham.  And also forgot to check our pantry to see if we had everything else.  As it turns out, we were out of potatoes, we did not get our CSA bag the week before Christmas because the delivery was cancelled, and our usually endless reserve of butter in the freezer had been depleted. Coming home from the Christmas Eve service at 11:30 pm on 12/24 the full magnitude of this hit me…I needed to go grocery shopping!!

We tried every grocery store in our neighborhood to see if we could sneak in before midnight. Well, those stores had closed early (duh!) in order to allow their employees to spend time with their families – of course the right thing to do and completely inconvenient for me!

I posted a little blurb on social media to see if anyone had an idea of which stores might have limited hours on Christmas day…feeling like a slug because I was going to be the jerk that created a reason for stores to be open on a holiday…and proceeded to call those stores in the morning. No answer. I searched webpage after webpage looking to see if any of them had holiday hours posted. No help.

Here we were with eight people expecting Christmas dinner and nothing to prepare except the ham and the sweet potatoes. I don’t know about your family; mashed sweet potatoes were going to be a hard sell for the Sweet Pea Kids.

So instead of freaking out and crying about what a terrible person I am, and beating myself up for failing to plan appropriately, I took a deep breath and laughed. What a way to finish up this year of huge shift for our family.  The opportunity to explore a new experience.  We took my mom’s suggestion and decided to go out for Chinese food.

It worked out beautifully. We made the reservations when we called to confirm our favorite Chinese restaurant was open (Smart move, BTW. We are not the only people who enjoy Chinese food on Christmas Day. Unlike The Christmas Story, the restaurant was packed and the line was out the door.) We got to enjoy the morning without watching the clock and trying to time all our preparations throughout the day. We had time to enjoy our children’s gifts with them and play throughout the afternoon.  And then, all that was left to do was to get ready, get dressed, and hop in the car to go to dinner.

We did not have to sit around the house and mope around the dinner table as we pondered all the people who were not going to be with us on Christmas Day. The grandparents that we were not going to call. The sweet friend we were not going to visit. The families we know that were going through the day without their beloved mothers/wife.

So we had our Chinese dinner, brought home leftovers that would turn into Monday’s lunch, and then made our fancy dinner the next day, after we went grocery shopping.  It was delicious and a nice treat. Such a nice experience that we may try for a repeat next year.

One Small Step

This is a concept that I use in both our birth classes and the birth story listening work that I do.  The question is, “What’s one small step you could take?”  It refers to the idea that if we sit quietly and reflect, there is probably One Small Step we can take to affect a small change in the direction we want to go next. That small step helps us feel accomplishment because it’s action, as opposed to the continued depression or procrastination because the satisfaction of “doing it all” or “getting it right” is out of reach.

This year of loss has completely altered my perspective and brought into focus what is truly important to me: LIVING. Being in good relationships with people who inspire me to grow and do better daily. Going exploring while we can and enjoying those experiences with our children. Forgetting everything else and just letting it float away without attaching any meaning or giving it any more energy.

I use the One Small Step question to help me evaluate what it is that I really want to do in a day.  It helps me remember that I don’t have to do it all…I just need to take One Small Step. It has freed me in ways I wouldn’t have imagined.

The people and situations that lead to the emotions I don’t like to feel are being cut loose, or at least I am managing those interactions better than I used to because Life Is Literally Too Short. I have learned a huge lesson in letting go of the physical and metaphorical baggage that weighs me down. We have completed two home sales, and I am wanting to downsize again because we don’t need all the things. Really. Don’t. Need. Stuff. The things that bring us joy get to stay. Everything else is on the way to St. Vincent de Paul or into the homes of our students/friends/family who can put the stuff to good use.

So instead of being overwhelmed by the piles of things that I still must go through before we go exploring, I am taking One Small Step every day.  Accepting that I cannot attack the whole pile in one day or one session, and instead I can make an agreement with myself to do one or two boxes/piles a day.

Another Small Step is inviting our children to participate in this mission to minimize and live simply by addressing the messes that accumulate in the shared living areas. Applying the idea that if it doesn’t have a space, and we can’t find a space, then whatever it is needs to find a new home in the garbage, the recycling bin, or the giveaway box.

The hardest area for me in that respect is THE MAIL. Ugh. It’s the other never-ending story in my life…aside from the laundry.  That will be my area to address in 2017. I once heard about a person who had a one-touch rule when it came to the mail…I must consider that and see what that means and how it’s possible.  In our house, it shifts from one pile to another and then another.  We have taken one small step in minimizing it by having our children join in and help with the shredding…beyond that we have some work to do.

So there you have it – some reflections and an intention for 2017.  Wishing you all a blessed ending to 2016, and may 2017 be a year for you to grow, explore, and enjoy.

spfvoice

Finding a voice

Like many people, I am stunned that the United States elected an outspoken candidate who disparaged various groups of people who he deemed offensive or fair game for ridicule: Mexicans, Muslims, women in general, women of size specifically, veterans, people of non-typical abilities…the list goes on.

I sat in silence, trying to process.  I asked myself, “What happened?  What did people find attractive about a candidate like this?”  Trying to find the silver lining. Trying to be positive, because we teach our children that whether we agree or disagree with elected officials, we owe them a measure of respect because they are choosing to do a job that we do not want to do.

I watched as passions flared, seeing posts on social media from people who voted Republican, Democrat, or even {gasp!} third party.  So many words, so many emotions, and no solutions aside from commands to get over it or to get ready to put up a fight.

There are still so many things roiling around inside of me.  My shoulders have been in knots since the election results started rolling in on November 8th.  Despite assurances that there was no way the president-elect was going to win, win he did.  We have a new reality to contend with, and I am trying to figure out what it means for our bi-racial, Spanish-speaking family.  Where half of us look Latino and the other half could pass as status-quo white. What to do? What to say?

Then, one of our students was harassed on her way home from the zoo.  One car pulled alongside of them, and the other pulled in front of them and slowed down, two men in each vehicle.  They proceeded to drape out the confederate flag and a tattered Trump-Pence campaign sign from their windows.  Her daughter was in the car with her.  Her toddler child was confused, asking why these men were yelling at her mom and her.

That was the line in the sand.  I found a voice.  Not all of it.  Not even close. Nonetheless, here is a start, in part inspired by wanting to take a stand for this little girl, so that she knows that there are people who see her, and that it is unacceptable that she was frightened by angry men deliberately singling them out because her mother’s car has a Clinton-Kaine bumper sticker.

Here is what I posted on my personal social media page in response to that incident:

One of the comments I saw on social media is that people need to pull themselves up from their bootstraps and just get over the results of the election already. And that the safety pin campaign is pointless, real heroes wear pins from the armed services.

Three thoughts on those particular comments:

ONE ~ People in the armed services are heroes – and so are their families – EVERY DAY. Recognizing other people that are willing to stand up for all of us to have our inalienable rights intact doesn’t diminish their service…to me it means that civilians can be heroes, too.

TWO ~ The sun still rose on Wednesday, Nov 9th, and now one of our contemporaries or one of our daughters has the opportunity to become the first female President – I can deal with that. I don’t know anyone from any side of the issues that didn’t get up the next day and go to work. We pulled up our bootstraps and went to work, albeit some with a little more apprehension than other people.

THREE ~ From the time that we woke up on Wednesday, November 9, 2016, there are some of us in this country who will never truly be “free” again. Unless a person with true personal strength and character who has the power and the law behind them decides to speak up and to call off the bigotry and prejudice that was given voice by Trump’s election, and lead from a place of love and understanding. There is a lot to overcome.

Trump rallied ***some*** (I understand that not **all**) of his supporters with rhetoric that set up the “us” against “them”. He called out Mexicans and Muslims, and he also made disparaging remarks about women, people of size, and people of non-typical mental ability. He chose a running mate that has taken Christian conservative stances on women’s rights and LGBTQ+ rights: essentially, that they have no rights if they choose to live outside of God’s laws.  

As the votes were counted, it became clear that Trump won the electoral college. Those people who voted for him to make “America Great Again” by removing the “them” he campaigned against feel like they have a champion. And some of his supporters are acting on it. Saying “Stop it” one time, looking at the camera – that clearly means nothing other than a wink and a smile to those continuing to try to spark a new reign of terror.

If you can deny the rhetoric or the harassment, then you are as complicit to the hatred that has been unleashed as the people who are carrying out the harassment and painting hateful graffiti in public spaces. If you are willing to excuse it because “I believe in pro-life” or “I believe he can save the economy” or “I want my guns,” or however else you chose to rationalize voting for a person who only cares about himself and his personal power, then I still don’t have kind enough words to write for all the feelings I have swirling around inside me right now.

So instead of telling ME to pull myself up by my bootstraps and just get over it already, tell me what you are doing to make sure that you and your neighbors that voted for Trump are going to stand up to the bullies who feel justified harassing people in a parking lot who have Clinton-Kaine stickers on their car. Tell me what you are doing to stand up to the people who are impeding traffic by boxing people in who have Clinton-Kaine stickers on their car. Tell me that you are going to defend my LGBTQ+ friends because they are human and deserve to live without fear, even if you disagree with their choice to live their truth without shame or apology. Tell me that you will stand next to my friends who wear a hijab so that they don’t have to face ugly words alone. Tell me that you would stand by my children and I if someone starts yelling at us to get back to Mexico because they assume that we are here illegally because we happen to speak Spanish in public.

My friends who supported Hillary with bumper stickers shouldn’t have to remove their freedom of speech stickers to avoid harassment. My LGBTQ+ friends shouldn’t have to conform to an accepted hetero- “norm”. My Muslim friends shouldn’t have to choose between personal safety and their interpretation of their religious book. I shouldn’t have to stop speaking Spanish to my children out of fear. Anyone who is ridiculed because they are not the right size, shape, color, or look non-typical. Tell me that person has an ally in you, and that you will call out their bully and walk them to wherever they are going so that they don’t have to be alone if they don’t want to be.

When I see actions from more Trump supporters that show that they are decent humans, then I will start to get over it. When I see that more Trump supporters are joining in the call for reasonable discourse instead of handing over the power to the alt-right and the Christian conservatives, then I will stop worrying every time I see Trump propaganda.

There is no place for “Christians” to tell the government how to do the business of governing.  While there are decent Christians who hold public office, their personal morals can inform their behavior towards their colleagues.  However, their morals have no place dictating public law.   The founding fathers made a very clear delineation between Church and State for a reason.

The Church can dictate morals for the home and what you should do if you are faced with breaking one of the commandments. The State has to ensure the peace and uphold the law, and that does not mean that some people get to tell other people how to love each other and what the acceptable moral code is or isn’t. The way I see it, we all agree to keep the peace, behave with civility and acknowledge that EVERY person that lives within our borders has the right of liberty and happiness. As constituents, we can lobby our representatives to make a clear path to citizenship so that all humans who want the promise of a better life can have it without breaking the law, and also without the fear that they are unwelcome because they are not the right color, orientation, or religion. Being human qualifies us to those inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. End of story.

If you see a person being harassed in public, please be an ally.  Stand next to them, talk to them, let them know you see them, and stay by their side until they are ready to walk off alone.  If you witness or on the receiving end of hate speech or actions, speak up!!  PLEASE report any harassment you receive or you witness to the police. And then fill out the form on this page. United we STAND.

Report any incidents here:
https://www.splcenter.org/reporthate

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.

 

spfsept8

Thoughtful Thursday: Ageing

Wednesday, 6:00 PM

When do we start caring about what others think of us?

I am sitting her watching our youngest dance joyfully in the middle of the coffee shop.  Puma is mortified because Otter is hopping around; doing her best estimation of the steps she has watched her siblings do in class today.

Puma hisses at her to stop.  Otter keeps dancing away without a care in the world.

I love it.  I wonder – will I ever be able to find that exuberant spirit again? And I ask you: Do you remember being little and just doing whatever came to mind and not caring who saw or who commented?

I have dreaded ageing.  I remember doing the competition makeup for some of our older ladies when I was a pro dancer in my 20s and comparing their sagging eyes to my fresh, tight ones.  Now as my eyes look more and more like those I used to despair at having, I have to face the fact that I am closer to being that older woman now.

What have I gained in those years between tight smooth eyes and my puffy aged ones?  What have I learned since my hands were smooth and clear, now that I look at my wrinkled and newly spotted ones?

I won’t lie – I am so tempted to buy into the miracle creams and soothing tonics to tighten my eyes, smooth the wrinkles, and lessen the look of age on my hands.

What stops me?  The refusal to deny all that my body has endured since my 20s when I was the picture of vibrant youth.  I have loved deeply.  I have been heartbroken.  I met the perfect partner for me. I have been pregnant five times and birthed four humans into this world.  I have faced fear and overcome.  I have triumphed.  I have been humbled.  All of it has happened in this skin that houses my soul. A soul that is constantly evolving, learning, and growing.

I know that I could do all those things and still look ageless, and I applaud those women who pull it off whether it’s by genetics or products. A part of me envies you.  When I look at the sum of things, I realize that I don’t want to look ageless. I want to carry my age with grace.  I believe that if I continue to feed my body with good food, then I don’t need chemical peels on a regular basis to allow my beauty to shine (I’ll keep it as my guilty pleasure on vacations! Love my facials!!).  If I continue to exercise moderately, I won’t be a tight, taut figure ever again. However, I can keep my heart fit so it can keep beating and meet future generations of our family.

So here I sit…closer to 45 than I ever imagined.  I once thought that I would like to die by the time I was 65 – I never wanted to look old.  Now I realize that if I died in 20 years, I would miss out on the greater portion of our children’s lives…and that I’m not afraid to be old anymore.  I am more afraid that I won’t have the time to do all the things I want to do before my life ends: raise our children, travel as a family, go back to school, study pregnancy and nutrition at a PhD level, and continue to speak on the things I am passionate about: pregnancy, the birth journey, breastfeeding and parenting.

In the interest of transparency, here is my true confession…I don’t like my gray hair.  I will be coloring my hair until it looks ridiculous and the rest of me points to the fact that I should indeed be a gray-haired old lady.

BUT the best part of being that gray-haired old lady that I also learned from our older dance students: they got to have fun again…with no filter. Those older ladies flirted mercilessly, told stories of their youth, danced without censure, and loved being alive.  Many of them enjoyed being able to pass off as a blond!  I don’t know about the flirting…actually I do know…since I am happily married I will refrain from that for now. I will probably try everything else.

I will take the lesson to be carefree from our little love and the little old ladies…today is the day to start dancing again, without a care for who is watching, who is judging, and what they have to say about it. And be in this day, present, and living my life to the fullest measure. I will be enjoying the fact that I was gifted another 24 hours to breathe, live, love, and age another day.

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.

 

SPFNMarch2

I am enough: How the struggle with self-worth affects our children

True confession: I am a Birth Without Fear fangirl!!

I started following the FB page way back in 2010 when it first started as a simple message that birth without fear is possible. Since then, the message has expanded to support and validate all birth journeys, the postpartum period, and the crucial role that fathers/other partners play in the family.

My first experience hearing the founder, January Harshe, was in April of 2013 when she spoke at a MommyCon mini offered in Phoenix, Arizona. It seemed like maybe she was nervous, and then she found her voice and delivered a powerful message about being supported in birth choices. Come to find out later, our group in Phoenix got to see the first BWF presentation ever!! Super-cool.

Later that year, I got to see her again in LA for another MommyCon event, and then in 2014 we traveled to Austin for her second Birth Without Fear conference – it was life-changing for me. 2015 ushered in a year of “Meetups” – one-day events designed to bring the best of Birth Without Fear to more communities. Although we didn’t get to a meet-up last year, Puma and I did get to see January speak at a fabulous Club MomMe event, the Fall Family Fest at the LA Botanical Gardens.

Listening to the amazing @january_harshe from @birthwithoutfear speak @clubmomme #FamilyFest #BestDayEver #birthwithoutfear

A photo posted by Sweet Pea Births (@sweetpeabirths) on

Imagine my delight when I found out that there was going to be a meet-up right here in my backyard in February!! Super-yeah…especially when I found out that the keynote speaker was going to be Jade Beall, the amazing and conversation-shifting photographer from Tucson, Arizona.

Jade did not disappoint.  Her message of body positivity, and the way she wholeheartedly embraced the changes of pregnancy – OMGosh – I hope that there was not one person in the room who left without believing in their deepest cell that their post-pregnancy bodies are inhabited by goddesses of the highest order.  She gushed over the rolls we try to hide, the beautiful stretch marks that shine with the pride of growing life, and showed us the beautiful human body through her lens.

Flashback to my own journey with food and semantics: Since I struggled so much with body image, and I am a huge believer in positive thinking, I knew that the words I used about my body would be very likely to influence my children. I have made a concerted effort to talk about my food choices in relation to the amount of activity I do. I don’t eat less because I am on a diet, I eat less because I am not as active as they are. I make green food choices and smoothies because those foods give me energy, not because I’m on a “diet”. When we talk about their bodies, we use the words like, “muscular” and “strong” and “healthy” when we talk about shapes, sizes, and foods we are buying for them to eat.  Will they add health? Or do we avoid them because they compromise our health?  I try so hard not to make it about weight and body shape/size.

So as far as the food conversation, I hope I am already on the right path with our children.  What Jade gave voice to, and it applies to body image as well as the bigger picture of motherhood, is the idea that if we are tearing ourselves down with our words, imagine what it does to our children (loosely paraphrased):

If mama is talking crap about herself, MY QUEEN, then what am I?

If MY QUEEN is not worthy, what is going on in my world?

To our children, we are the whole world.  We are their mothers – we are beautiful in their eyes simply because they love us!! How amazing that the universe placed this wisdom in my path this week, “You know how when you get to know someone you see their inner beauty and stop noticing how they look on the outside? I wonder if that’s how kids see everyone all the time.”

Um…YES…until, as someone wisely pointed out, they are taught to judge.  Unless we tell them we are unworthy, they do not see us as unworthy. Until we give them the words that exclude everyone except the photoshop images in glossy magazines – they do not know their mothers are anything but the most beautiful mother in the world.

Here are more gems from Jade’s presentation:

  • The story of growing a human and pushing it out/birthing is not restricted to one body type.
  • Who likes lies? Truthfulness is so empowering. What is so wrong with cellulite? What’s wrong with being human?
  • Today this is me. It is enough.
  • All of us together in our skin are beautiful in our diversity.
  • Love yourself – love yourself – love yourself. It is the key to awesomeness and to being able to live the life you want to live.
  • Self-love is a complete practice.

And my favorite: “As soon as we are free from the shame, our epicness can happen.  Epicness enters your body, and amazing things start to happen.”

After Jade concluded her presentation, January shared her keys to embracing body love: start replacing the negatives with the positives.  Instead of waking up and naming all the things we don’t like about ourselves, find some things you already love about yourself. Then, start the day with those affirmations of what you love about yourself. Little by little you will find that your conversation about who you are starts to shift.

She made the great observation that body-love and self-acceptance has a bigger effect beyond ourselves and our families…it’s about people.  Everyone is struggling & judging in one way or another.  Skinny, fat, pink, purple, there is no magic formula to being happy – everyone has a story they are telling themselves that colors their perspective.

Here are the gems I wrote down from January’s follow-up to Jade’s presentation:

  • What am I worried about?
  • I’m the only one in this body. I’m the only one on this journey.
  • The kinder you are to yourself, the kinder you can be to others.
  • When you use your voice, you give other women the power to use theirs.

What both of these ladies touched on matters in such a deep, profound way to mothering. Can we love ourselves enough to teach our children the gift of self-love? We have heard this, read this, seen this over and over: Actions speak louder than words.

If we tell our children to be confident and that we love them just as they are, will they believe us if our actions towards ourselves completely contradict our words? When we have a double-standard, one for them and one for us, how will they know which one is right?  If the current state of our collective self-esteem is any indication, self-loathing wins that battle every time.

I left the event on Saturday with a renewed commitment to be body positive and to live in self-love every day.  I am actually excited to release this body shame and allow my own EPICness to take a firm hold.  It’s been rooting around in there, trying to get a good hold since hearing Jennifer McClellan of Plus Size Birth in Austin…now it’s time to really plant it in the tilled soil and start to thrive.  I am the Queen of my queendom…in all the world, only one.

 

How about you? How can you embrace your EPICness today? What is one small step you can take towards self-acceptance?

I invite you to be curious – say one thing you love about yourself and hold it inside you today.  The QUEEN of the tribe can be as radiant on the inside as she is on the outside.  The little people who love you already see you as a shining star – own it – breathe it – live it.  See what happens – what kind of epic will you unleash today?

Get to your own Birth Without Fear Meetup this year!! Find the full schedule HERE.

SPFJan10

Mama Cloth and More

Here is some food for thought for those of you with biologically female children: feminine hygiene products. Do you know what you are going to do about them when it’s time for your daughter to start her monthly cycle?

Being that we offer childbirth classes that appeal to people striving to live a natural, green lifestyle, I tend to hear about all the latest in green living trends from my colleagues. About four years ago, one of my colleagues asked me if I have ever heard of menstrual cups, and since I hadn’t she proceeded to tell me all about them.

My first thought was, “GROSS!” Why on earth would I want to deal with that when there was the convenience of hygiene products available at the pharmacy?

Some of the reasons she gave me were that tampons were not made with organic cotton, so there was the possibility of exposing the body to chemical pesticides, the cotton was bleached during the production process (more chemicals), and then she mentioned reducing the amount of waste in landfills.

My mind was more open to the idea, however, I wasn’t convinced that I should make the switch and deal with more of a bloody mess every month. Then…little by little, I learned some more and started to re-think my stance.

The next time I learned more about alternatives to feminine hygiene products was when I participated in an event with my friend Shannon Gusé. She was a selling her “mama cloth”, another alternative to conventional products. Her reusable pads are made with love from soft flannel and PUL (super absorbent and leak proof). Here is an excerpt from her blog on Shannon’s Cloth & More:

“My own journey began several years ago when I was looking for a solution to painful, heavy menstruation, and I discovered the idea of cloth menstrual pads.  My research led me to discover that disposable products often times have chemicals in them that alter the body’s chemistry, leading to heavier flow and longer duration – necessitating the purchase of more products, much to the manufacturer’s delight.”

When she mentioned that it might be possible for my cycle to be less painful and shorter, I was finally ready to at least try something different. I approached it as I do with many other things: I might as well try it – the worse that could happen is that I would get a no, and at least in the process, I would learn something.

So I bought a few mama cloth pads, and sprung for a menstrual cup. Much to my delight, my monthly cycles were shorter within a couple of months. Unfortunately, I was having “user” challenges with the menstrual cup, so I settled into a routine of using mama cloth at home and tampons if I was leaving the house.

My big “a-ha!” moment was last summer when we were traveling. I decided to forgo the reusable products for convenience sake, and even forgot to bring the tampons I still used when we left home. I ended up buying a different brand and figured it should be fine.

By day two of using those tampons, I had a horrible headache that would not go away and I was having terrible cramping. I couldn’t figure out why I was so sick…until I realized that the difference was probably the product. I went back to simple sanitary pads for rest of the cycle, and not surprisingly, the headache went away and the cramping subsided after I stopped using the tampons.

After that experience, I was more committed to figuring out how to use the menstrual cup and definitely making more use of the mama cloth. Last week, THIS article and linked video started making the rounds on social media.  It’s nice to see that this kind of information may be starting to reach people beyond those that like to do things the “natural” way simply for the sake of being green and natural.

We are now in a time when fertility issues are experienced by more and more women, and I have to wonder, how much of it is related to the fact that we are putting chemicals next to our reproductive system since puberty, for going on three generations?

And not only are the chemicals next to our reproductive system, but they are sitting on some of the most absorbent membranes in the body. Really – they are…

If you have read down to this part of the post, you may be shaking your head in disbelief like I did the first time I heard all of this information. However, good on you for reading anyway, so I am going to leave you with this excerpt from an article by the National Institutes of Health:

The Vaginal Route of Exposure

“Female sex organs evolved to be self-cleaning.6 The vaginal canal is richly endowed with blood vessels and produces mucus that protects against and washes away harmful microorganisms.7 As a mucous membrane, the vagina is capable of secreting and absorbing fluids at a higher rate than skin, as are some of the external portions of the vulva, including the clitoris, clitoral hood, labia minora, and urethra.7,8,9

“Most of the vagina is covered with multiple layers of dead and dying cells that do a lot to protect it against infection, but [this] is nowhere near the thick leathery surface of our skin,” says Cone. “The vaginal epithelium … is highly water permeable in a way our skin is not.”

Because mucous membranes in the vagina and vulva rapidly absorb chemicals without metabolizing them, researchers have even explored the possibility of delivering drugs vaginally.10 One study found that vaginal application of estradiol, a synthetic estrogen, resulted in blood serum levels 10 times higher than those following oral dosing.11 But while rapid absorption works well when a patient needs a drug delivered rapidly, it may also expose women to higher levels of chemicals from feminine hygiene products than manufacturers intend.”

Read the complete article HERE 

I hope this has opened your heart and your mind to the possibility that maybe your family can start exploring alternatives to conventional feminine hygiene products. Even if you don’t make the switch yet, I encourage you to start reading more and seeking more information.

What do you think?
Let me know your thoughts about all this in the comments – thanks!

SPFOct26

Caring and Not Caring

I have been taking our children to some kind of class or activity for eight years now. I am a competitive person, so it takes *a lot* of restraint and intentional letting-go for me to accept that our children may not be the best in that setting.

I had to realize, accept and internalize early on in this journey called “parenting” that how well our children did or did not do/perform in their current activity (or compared to their peers) was not a reflection on me or my parenting. It was a reflection of who and where they are *right now*, and my role as their North Star is to simply guide them.

I learned to ask questions like, “What did you learn? What did you enjoy? What was hard? What do you think about that?” I had to learn these questions because my natural inclination is to want to correct, teach, and ensure that they would do better next time.

I had to learn to shut off that inclination and realize that is the way I am, not the way our children are. They are sponges – experiencing, learning, and growing. I realized over time that it was slightly ridiculous and unrealistic to expect a child with little to no training to easily succeed at the activity. If they wanted to improve, then we would be available to help. If they are just in it for the fun and they are having fun…encourage them anyway.

There are things that have been hard along the way. As a former dancer who worked hard to improve, and who loved the technicalities as well as the expression of the art form, it has been hard not to be too hard on our children, all of whom are dancing.

I expect pointed toes, sharp spotting, expression from the top of the head through the finger tips and (pointed) toes, and joy!! I had to learn to calm down: I was projecting my grown up abilities and expectations on CHILDREN!!! Hello, lightbulb moment!

I had to learn to laugh when one of our kiddos went off-stage the wrong way 5 out of 6 performances. I didn’t yell at him, because it wasn’t a big deal. If the dance director didn’t say anything, why should I? As long as he is projecting joy on stage, he is doing his job as a performer.

I had to learn to shut off my critic when our oldest delved into the world of solo competition last year. She has teachers who she respects that are willing to guide and coach her. My role as her mother is to love her, support her by driving her to extra practices, and encourage her to listen to her teachers. My biggest job: to teach her to enjoy the journey. At the end of the day, the journey is about much more than winning or losing. What does she want to improve? What did she learn? What did she enjoy? What was the highlight of the event? What does she want to remember forever and tell her own children about?

It has been hard to watch Puma get passed over for several years. I kept hearing one of her teachers tell me that she was always tired and lethargic in class.  Shame on me for not connecting the dots. It was no surprise that once the ulcerative colitis was under control, she started eating more, and hence having the energy to not just keep up, but start to excel in her classes.

I can’t say for sure that is the reason why she started to get noticed. I do know for sure that she is starting to care about what her dancing looks like.  Whatever it is, she is putting more effort into dancing.

So all those years of marking time, and driving her to dance class, and tuition at the dance studio is starting to show. She is little by little moving up.  Little by little she is being selected for performance numbers. I have to try not to get to excited, because that’s counterproductive to my efforts to not get invested for my own edification. If she has any talent, that is God’s gift to her. If she is succeeding, that is a direct result of her own hard work and effort in her classes. It is not about me.

I wish there were words to comfort the parents who are watching their own children get passed over. It stinks – I know first hand how it feels. It’s hard not to be a little irritated with the teachers who aren’t seeing the potential in a child, especially when several of their classmates are chosen, and you know darn well they share similar skill levels.

As former professionals in our chosen fields (Me: dance, Bruss: baseball), our philosophy is that being passed over is an invitation to work harder.  So if a parent wants to “do something” about it, now it’s time to do some fact-finding…

I am going to suggest something similar to what I tell our childbirth students: choose a “provider” that you trust. In this case, a team, teacher, or organization that you know to be trustworthy, reliable, and that above all, keeps the child’s best interest in mind. If you believe that you are in the best place for your child to learn and grow, then ask to have a conversation with the coach/teacher.

When you go talk to the coach/teacher, try to leave your feelings at the door. Focus on the facts and try to keep the emotion out of it by asking questions like: How is my child doing on a scale of 1-10? How did you give them that rating? What are you looking for when you select “teams” or “groups”? What skills is my child accomplishing? What areas do they need to work on in order to have a better chance at being selected next time?

It also means checking in with the child: what do they think? Does it matter to them to be selected? If it does, share what you learned from your fact-finding conversation with the coach/teacher. If it doesn’t matter to them, then ask them what they enjoy about what they are doing, and what makes them happy about it.

Then, support them! If they want to work harder, help them carve out practice time and/or tutoring in the skills they want to acquire. Point out progress so that even if they don’t get picked again, they can still be proud of the growth they achieved.

If recognition in an activity isn’t a priority for them, ensure that it stays fun for them, because joy is such a crucial part of good health. Doing something they love keeps the stress levels low and the child happy. At the end of the day, is there anything more important than capturing joy in childhood?

Thankfully in Puma’s situation, I didn’t have to have these conversations with the teachers at the dance school because I do trust that the teachers are objective and fair. When Puma made comments about wanting to be included in the performance groups, I asked her what she wanted to do about it.  And then I watched her put her actions behind her words.

I think the best thing we did for Puma as she starting competing last year was giving her the option for an out.  One of our family mottos is, “Be safe! Have fun!” Both Bruss and I told her repeatedly that if at any point, practicing and/or competing stopped being safe or fun, she could stop and that was okay with us.

As it turns out, she has a little competitive streak herself, and she cared.  We figured out extra rehearsals that worked in our schedule, she reminded me in plenty of time to take her, and every once in a while she asked for help from her old dancer mom.

Before every event, I asked her what she had learned going into the event, what had improved since she started, and what she wanted to enjoy at the event. I tried so hard to stress that it wasn’t about winning – it was about the journey and the growth.

As our boys play soccer for a second season this fall, we are trying to do the same thing. Night Owl is extremely competitive and takes it very hard when his team loses. We are helping him channel all that extra energy into sportsmanship after a game, and improvement during practice times. Charger is a “go with the flow” kind of guy: he just loves running, kicking, and playing on a team: the score doesn’t matter to him.

And so it goes…more surrender to the process, their personality, and the journey. So much like birth, in so many ways.