Tag Archives: Attachment parenting

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.

 

SPFAug15

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.  

SPFMay16

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.

 

 

 

 

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.

spankingSept21

Spanking: Not an option

Spanking.

If you told my 25-year-old self that I would be totally opposed to spanking when I became a mother, that Krystyna would have scoffed at you. What could be wrong with it? Kids need discipline from time to time, and spanking definitely yields results. I was spanked, and I turned out ok. Right?!?

Enter the voice of a wise woman I worked with – one sentence started to shift my perspective on the whole spanking thing. I commented on how lovely her children were to be around, and asked about her parenting style. I was shocked to hear that she didn’t spank them; I just assumed all well-behaved children had been paddled into submission. As it turns out, this mama believed in and practiced gentle parenting, even though I didn’t know the term at the time.

Q: “You have never spanked them?”
A: “Never – spanking is a big person hitting a little person – nothing makes sense about that.”

Wait…WHAT did she just say?

The decision not to spank was sealed when I gave birth to Puma. As I held her in my arms that very first hour, I knew that hitting her on purpose, with intention to punish or discipline, was not going to be an option.

And so started the mental shift from considering spanking an acceptable form of discipline, to striving to find as many other natural consequences and gentle parenting techniques as possible.

Here are two of my favorite quotes from L.R. Knost:

LRKnost ChildishLRKnost Meltdown2

Childish behavior is normal…for children. <3 http://t.co/T8goym3P6Z
Posted by L.R.Knost – Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources on Sunday, March 15, 2015

Let’s practice what we preach. <3 http://www.littleheartsbooks.com/
Posted by L.R.Knost – Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources on Thursday, July 17, 2014

5 Gentle Parenting Go-Tos

Parenting with intention is easy when our cups are full and we are rested.  Realistically, how many of those days we *actually* have depends on the season we are in as a family.  Do you need resources to help stay gentle? Here are some websites that have been helpful to me, and other students in our SPB community:

Aha! Parenting
http://www.ahaparenting.com
“Are you looking for that Aha! Moment to transform your child’s behavior, or maybe your own?
Whether you’re wondering how to handle a specific challenge, just figuring out your child-raising approach, or ready to tear your hair out, you’ve come to the right place.
You know what an Aha! Moment is, right?
With our child, it’s that lightning flash of insight, when suddenly we see things from another perspective, and everything has the potential to be different. This website has Aha! moments for parents of every age child, from pregnancy right through the teen years.”

Janet Lansbury
http://www.janetlansbury.com/
“Raising a child is one the most important and challenging jobs we will ever have. It brings a considerable amount of joy. It can also be confusing, discouraging and haphazard. My goal is to provide clarity, inspiration (and maybe a smile or two) by sharing insights I’ve gained through my parenting classes, my experiences as a mother, and studies with my friend and mentor Magda Gerber. This blog is dedicated to her memory.”

L.R. Knost
www.littleheartsbooks.com
“Sharing gentle parenting tips, articles, and research with parents who want to learn how to connect with their little ones instead of just correcting them. Connect to correct—>gentle, effective, empathetic parenting—>happy, confident, well-mannered children—>joyful, peaceful homes filled with love and laughter.”

Nurshable
http://nurshable.com/
“I publish a variety of things here. Letters to my children explaining different parenting choices that I/we make. Information about breastfeeding, attachment parenting babywearing and other topics that fall into the category of “gentle parenting”, and whatever comes to mind.”

Positive Discipline
http://blog.positivediscipline.com/
“Positive Discipline is a program based on the work of Alfred Adler and Rudolf Dreikurs and designed to teach young people to become responsible, respectful and resourceful members of their communities. Based on the best selling Positive Discipline books by Dr. Jane Nelsen, it teaches important social and life skills in a manner that is deeply respectful and encouraging for both children and adults (including parents, teachers, childcare providers, youth workers, and others).”

Gentle parenting is definitely a lifestyle choice – it invites me to be my best self so that I am available to be the parent I want to be for my children. Another great reminder from L.R. Knost:

LRKnost Breathe
Posted by L.R.Knost – Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources on Friday, April 10, 2015

I hope you find the inspiration you need from these wise parents. Choosing to breathe is not necessarily instinctive or easy. It is however, so, so worth it. The parent-child bond is so precious, and they are with us for such a short amount of time in their lifespan. Gentle parenting helps me make the most of that time, and truly treasure our children as the amazing teachers and human beings that they are.

P.S. Huge thanks to our SPB community that inspired this post <3

I’m human, and the struggle is real some days!! HERE is an anecdote about our season of toddler tantrums with Otter – it took a lot of deep breaths to be peaceful those days!!

DiscoveringTruths

Discovering Truths

I found this in my “Drafts” folder from last summer – I wanted to share it with you because it is a peek into the process that led me to decide that I really was not in a season where I want to spend lots of time on the computer.  If things happen organically, that is one thing…however, pursuit of an audience is not my number one priority right now.  I learned that when I went to BWF in Austin (read about that aha moment HERE).

And I can also see that my reality check was way off. The reality is that making my kiddos a priority means that blogging regularly isn’t going to happen. I am enjoying reaching out to you this summer while we are on a hiatus from our homeschool days…after that, we will have to wait and see what happens.

July 25, 2014

It has been five weeks since we have been without our nanny.  Life is MUCH different without her.  I am not only in charge of homechooling and guiding our Sweet Peas – now I have to be a housekeeper, too.  I get to do all the cooking, cleaning, and laundry.  It is not for the weary or faint of heart.

We did really well the first two weeks.  Now, six weeks into it, the house is not as tidy as a like it, the laundry takes a couple of days to go from “dry” to “put away”, and we are eating A LOT of quesadillas and grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch.  Thank goodness for summertime produce – at least the Sweet Peas are eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables with their carbs and cheese.

By virtue of our summer plans, every year the nanny gets a 2-month sabbatical from the wild, wonderful circus that we are.  While it is great for all parties involved, it continues to be my yearly  reality check.  I often tell people how grateful I am for my loving husband who recognizes that in order to homeschool, work on my writing, and support our students from our Bradley classes that I really *cannot* do it all. I love and appreciate him all the more for his hard work that affords us the luxury of a nanny when we are without her.

It also makes me reflect on what I really want for myself and for our family.  Is it really important to be a up on the latest and greatest research, and trying to be a social media maven: building an audience, tweeting and Instagram-ing all day long? Not if it means that Crazy Mama shows up…because I haven’t gotten enough rest…because I am trying to keep up with it all when I should be sleeping.  I can truthfully say that I don’t like her very much, and that is not the person I want around our Sweet Peas.

So far, it has been a good “dress rehearsal” for the upcoming school year.  When our nanny is around, the last three hours of her day with us after we finish “school” is usually “me time”.  It is the time I use to work on writing, post to our blogs, answer emails, make phone calls, meet a friend for lunch…in all likelihood, that is going to be gone next year.

For the first time, I will be “officially” homeschooling all four children this September.  Otter and Charger will be working on the Sonlight PreK Core together; Night Owl and Puma are starting on Sonlight Core C (Intro to World History – II)  together.  My time to homeschool has increased by at least another 2 hours.  So if I want to exercise, homeschool, sleep, breathe and pray….you guessed it – the computer time is going to take a lower priority.  to say nothing of being the supportive spouse I want to be to Coach Bruss.  Yikes.

My foray into the social media world has been wonderful.  I enjoy connecting with other like-minded individuals from all over the world, and learning from them based on what they share about what they know.  I would be sad to give it all up.  I really like to be scheduled, so this summer is a great opportunity to play with that schedule and see just how it’s all going to fit in if I want to have computer time – and I do want to squeeze it in!!

I cannot help but go back to, “But, Peaceful Mama!” At the end of the day, my children will not care if I got to interact with the amazing people I learn from on the internet, or the latest and greatest research that I read and can use to improve our classes.  Especially if Crazy Mama shows up and takes a shift or two.  We all hate it when she shows up – it means that yelling and sad tears became part of our story.

Recognizing that I can be two mamas and which one shows up is up to me – that is part of the lesson I learned when I did the life coaching with Blue Russ last summer.  I know I feel better about my role as a mother (and myself as a person!) when Crazy Mama who yells and carries on is on vacation, and Peaceful Mama  who operates from a place of trust and respect that honors our children as whole, complete and worthy individuals is the one running the circus.

As I keep going back to my desire to be Peaceful Mama every minute of every waking moment, then I have to start to embrace the idea that I cannot do it all.  I am human.  I have to find joy in what I can do, and keep in mind that I am being who I need to be so that I can mother the way I want to mother – Peacefully.  If I am meant to be the public speaker that I want to be, then I need to keep in mind that the door will open when the time is right.

Until then, I must keep attending to the four people that inspire me to be better and do better every day.  They deserve Peaceful Mama, and have a right to my time and my energy above everything and anything else because we chose to invite them into our lives intentionally, and they are wonderful gifts that are to be enjoyed, as the saying goes, In The Present.

I also want to be the best childbirth educator and mentor that I can be to the students that chose us to walk on the journey of birth with them.  I want the students attending classes as new parents to get a great, fresh class every week.  Most of the focus is to help prepare them for the BIrth-Day.  We know that is just the beginning of the journey! We want to be a place for them to come for help and guidance.  I get the same answer: we cannot do that if I am too tired, or short on time to answer questions or respond to emails.

So I guess I found my truths:
1.) Peaceful Mama + Loving Wife
2.) Best childbirth instructor I can be
3.) Everything else

What are your truths?  How did you discover them?

Post-script 7.19.15:
The one things I can see is that my priorities were right on.  The Sweet Peas and I are so good with Peaceful Mama being in the driver’s seat more than 90% of the time.  And, connections with our students over the last three classes felt to be in a good place, too.  So, writing everything down ended being like a goal-setting. It worked out well this time!!

SPF BLOG Traveling+Going Image

Traveling This Path + Going The Distance

Even though I am going to preface this post with some opening statements, I apologize in advance if it rubs you the wrong way.  This post is written with love in my heart for all the parents that are choosing to stay home with their children, and maybe still miss working sometimes.

Who this IS NOT directed at:
1.) If you are working outside of the home and you are happy with that choice.
2.) If you are working outside of the home and you are not happy with that choice.
3.) If you have to work outside of the home and you want to stay home.
4.) If you do not have to and do not want to work outside of the home, and are perfectly content staying home.

If 1-4 above apply to you, then you are at a different place than I am.  I have actually invited our students who would describe themselves as fitting into one of those categories to share their perspective, and I will be posting their thoughts as I receive them.

If you do fit into categories 1-4…then today’s post was not written with you in mind.  I wrote this to encourage primary caregivers who are home after leaving the workplace.  If this isn’t you, treat this post as the dish on the buffet line that you *do not* want to try, and peacefully move on to other things on the Internet that appeal to you.  Consider that there is no need to leave a flaming comment because I already recognize that I am not speaking to you.  We are on different paths, and I honor your journey, as I hope you will honor mine.

Image source: http://no-shame-in-my-game.tumblr.com/page/2

Image source: http://no-shame-in-my-game.tumblr.com/page/2

This post is written with a heart to encourage those of us who intentionally transitioned from the workplace to be stay-at-home parents.  Although that was our choice and we are usually at peace with it, sometimes we have moments, maybe a whole day (or longer…no judgment!), where we might wish otherwise:

Do you ever have days when you miss your old workplace?  Can you believe that you “gave it all up” to be at home with little people?  Do you, like me, sometimes have twinges of envy when you see friends and classmates receiving accolades and making announcements about how their career is pregressing?

If you have felt any of these things, I want you to know that you are not alone.  Although you made the choice to stay home with your child(ren), know that it doesn’t take away from the person that you are, and the person who was capable, probably even excellent, in the role you were in before you made the decision to stay home.  That person is still alive and well inside you; breathe that in for a moment.

For me, there are times when being “mom” felt so stifling and unfulfilling, especially when I saw/see other people my age doing things I wish I were doing.  Even though I believe in my heart of hearts that parenting intentionally is the greatest work in the world, it doesn’t mean I am happy in this place all the time.  We all have our moments.  I think the key is to ackowledge the feeling, and then rise above it by reminding ourselves why we made this commitment to our children in the first place.  

Parenting intentionally means that we recognize our children as whole human beings, no matter what age and body size they happen to be wearing at the time.  It means that we believe that responding to their needs will encourage their self-worth; by meeting them where they are, we are building a parent-child relationship founded in trust.  Trust that when they have needs, we will answer them.  Trust that we will not abandon them.  Trust that even when they are at a loss, they are still loved and that we will show up for them.  By showing them they are worthy, they learn that they are valuable and lovable. I believe they start to build a self-confidence that will be harder to erode as they get older and exposed to ideas and people outside of the family.

When we parent intentionally and choose to stay at home, that is a huge commitment of our time, what some might consider an intersection with most productive years of our lives.  I can’t tell you how worthy the work you are doing is going to be in the long run.  It is something you will have to trust: Parenting intentionally and staying home with our children is Worthwhile.  It is a Work. It is a long-term investment that will pay dividends years from now.  

Find your places to breathe, know that you are also worthy.  “Fill your cup”, as the saying goes, so that you can be present and loving with your children.  Recognize that parenting intentionally is meaningful work, and just as you took time to recharge after a long day in your old workplace, you still need to do that to be able to keep giving as a parent.  

At the same time, I encourage you to create a reciprocal relationship with your child(ren).  Parenting intentionally does not mean to give selflessly or to become a second-class citizen as you meet the needs of your child(ren).  Model a healthy relationship with your co-parent.  Show your family love in your words and your actions.  It is okay to tell them that you do things because you love them and you treasure them, instead of giving them the impression that you are a slave to their demands.

What about the days when you have reached the end of your patience? Use your words, even if you are telling them you are angry and you need a time out because you love them so much you don’t want to hurt them in your anger.  Convey your words in an Opera Voice, so maybe you will all end up laughing.  Chant “OM” to demonstrate that you are trying to find another breath.  Change your space, go for a walk, play with or in water…model for them all the ways to channel extreme emotion so that they can learn how to express themselves when they are feeling big emotions.

We are in a place where the dividends are starting to show now that they are older. We are beginning to see the results of the time we put into the relationship with them.  We hear it from their babysitters and adult instructors that they truly are exceptional little people who are a delight to be around.

Now that I am experiencing the people they are growing into, I am grateful I opted to stay home with them instead of going back to work or spending more time on (insert technology of choice here). The face time and attention you are giving them now will yield amazing, thoughtful, kind, independent human beings who are the future of the change we want to see in the world.

If you are a working parent and you have read this far down…yes, I know you are capable of raising equally thoughtful, kind, independent human beings…we have taken different paths to the same end.  I honor you for your choices and applaud you for being able to work and parent intentionally with the same fervor I have for the path I am traveling.

I guess what I am trying to say is that you are doing a great job with your kiddos, and try not to feel like you are missing out.  Our time with them is fleeting.  In the grand scheme of things, they will probably live well into their 70s, if not 80s or 90s.  We get about 18 years of that lifespan – make the most of it.  You will not regret it. 

Image source: http://www.susoutter.com/2014/01/what-kids-want-most-part-2.html

Image source: http://www.susoutter.com/2014/01/what-kids-want-most-part-2.html

By the same token, if there is really something in your heart, go for it!  Sometimes we have an all or nothing approach to life.  I have always wanted to get my PhD.  Because I pretty much blew off my first three years of college, I really have to hit the reset button and start over.  If I waited until the Sweet Pea Kids were grown up to do that, I would have another 14 years of pining and letting that desire eat away at me…I don’t need more reasons to envy others.  Instead, I have decided that it is doable and that I am okay with taking it slowly.  If I do one class per semester, then 14 years from now, I can take that “empty nest” time to write my dissertation, instead of starting the whole process from scratch.  

Image source: http://lifehacker.com/never-give-up-on-a-dream-just-because-of-the-time-it-1495765921

Image source: http://lifehacker.com/never-give-up-on-a-dream-just-because-of-the-time-it-1495765921

That happens to be my dream.  Do you have one?  If you know it, what small step can you do in the next day-week-month to start moving in that direection?

If you do not know what is going to feed your soul after your children claim their amazing lives thanks to the confidence and independence you have instilled in them, take some time to reflect on what that is so you can start making plans now.  You will need something to fulfill you; and one could make the argument that making them the whole center of your life is not necessarily healthy now, or in the long run, for either of you (musings about that HERE).

When we follow our dreams, we also have the opportunity to teach our children the beauty of discovering their gifts, and using them to fulfill themselves and help others.  Circling back to where we started, having our own treasure, our own burning desire, will make it easier to get through those days when we wonder what we were thinking as we look at the small tornado that is our home life that day.  

So own it.  Be the stay-at-home parent you want to be, live here and now with your child(ren).  Find what feeds your soul so that you can show up as a whole person for your family.  Enjoy your Sweet Peas, drink them in, encapsulate all these little moments.  Some day we will have all the time we thought we wanted, and our homes will be quiet, and we may miss all the chaos.  I believe we will reap a second harvest when our children fill it again with the love and laughter of the next generation being raised in love.

 

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Update + Reflections on Attachment Parenting

UPDATE:
So it’s been a while for me. **Huge** thank you to Cassandra for keeping this little blog alive while I was homeschooling this year!!

I also want to extend my gratitude to all of you have remained loyal readers – we appreciate you.  It is good to know that there are others like us in the world, and that we are not alone on this journey.

Now that we are (almost) on summer break, I have plans. I will be sharing some of the things that we have been doing since the last time I posted in (gasp!) February.  My favorite project from our 2014-2015 school year has been planning our Preschool Playdates.  For the first time in a long time, I got to use my creativity instead of following a course outline from a homeschool curriculum publisher.  If you follow us on Instagram (@sweetpeafamilies), you will have seen the pictures.  As I have more time, I will be posting the pictures here, along with more details and links to the printables that I used.

Here are some random thoughts I want to share with you:

1. It has become painfully clear to me that I am not going to be a super-blogger anytime soon.  I had the opportunity to attend the Birth Without Fear conference in Austin (October 2014) – A.Ma.Zing.  Besides all the incredible information that I received that weekend, I also realized something else: super-bloggers bleed on their pages.  As a person today, I am too private to reveal that much of myself on the internet. I also have serious concerns about what my children and their friends will read about as it relates to our family, so you will continue to see helpful, informative posts that (hopefully) encourage and inspire you as you grow your family.

2.  I have accepted that I have a full-time job: homeschooling our four children.  It was so much less stressful on us this year when I wasn’t concerned about getting posts up two times a week, and then watching the ticker to see who was seeing what…besides the fact that I do not have the time or the interest to keep up with the paperwork that accompanies blogging for income.  For now, I will keep on having blog-envy when I see blogs with slick pages, lots of sponsors and popularity buttons, all while maintaining my sanity for the benefit of our whole family!

3. There are a lot of posts half-written in my mind: mothering, self-acceptance, and toddler tantrums are my top three.  I am looking forward to sharing them with you as our school year winds down and I can use some of that open time to type them in their completed form here.

REFLECTIONS ON ATTACHMENT PARENTING:
For today, I want to encourage you once again in attachment parenting.  We had the pleasure of attending a program at the library with The Singing Cowboy yesterday.  One of his messages to the children was to be kind to their animals, specifically to horses.  The audience was captivated by his horse, who performed amazing “tricks” to the delight of the children.  Some kiddos kept asking, “How do you train him?! How does he do that?”

His answer was that the horse was his friend.  He does not abuse him, hit him, or incite fear or pain – his philosophy is to just have fun with him.  Although it takes longer to train this way, he uses kindness and encouragement instead of pain and consequences.

It was exactly the message I needed to hear yesterday.  If a human being can take this much care with an animal, can we take as much care or more with our children? Aren’t they worthy of our very best efforts every time we interact with them?

The concept of attachment parenting where we honor our children as whole, completely functioning human beings really does take more time. I cannot see a way around that because it is intentional and purposeful; by definition it takes longer.  In some cases, it requires us to exercise self-control instead of instant behavior modication.  I propose that it is worthy and important because we are not training animals – we are raising up human beings, the future of our society.

I have been a little louder than I like to be these days – Peaceful Mama is struggling hard against turning into Crazy Mama.  The summer months are my nanny-free months, so I am not only wrapping up our school year, I am also the full-time cook, laundress and daily housekeeper (Thank goodness we have someone come once a week to help with the cleaning!!).  This year I have the additional task of preparing our beloved summer home for sale, plus the stress of packing or parting with everything we have accumlated here over the last seven years.

Yesterday was the poke at the heart that I needed.  My children are not my friends…they are more than that.  They are the big souls in little bodies that have been entrusted to ME. What an honor to love, nurture and cherish these amazing human beings. In spite of the added stress I am feeling, my Sweet Peas are still children: they have no idea about the stresses I carry or why I carry them.  And I don’t want to them to carry them with me – their lives will get complicated soon enough.

I also need to acknowledge that all the acting out I am seeing these days is a reflection of their own stress about selling our summer home. Three of them have known this place from the dawn of their memory.  I was pregnant with them here, so they have experienced these sounds since before they were born.  They learned to crawl on these floors.  All four of them have shared childhood adventures within these walls.  I am not alone in my anxiety about selling our haven of rest and relaxation.

What I realized yesterday is that we can all have more fun if I can slow down a minute to think about the big picture.  If I can have them help me, I don’t have to bear my burdens alone.  However, it’s not just about getting the chores done – it’s also about teaching them and treasuring our time as a family.

I had already started the week by creating “clean teams” – the two younger children help me with breakfast clean up, the two older children help me with lunch clean up, and then they take turns as “boy team” and “girl team” helping their father with the dinner dishes.  Now I want to add more fun – upbeat music as we clean up, maybe let them come up with team chants that we can use for encouragement and team-building.  I know there are also some laundry games we can play, and the older two can learn to use the clothes washer if I relax about controlling every aspect of doing the laundry.

Next on my list is finding a way to make the packing and parting meaningful to them.  If you have any ideas, please share them in the comment section.

We have the opportunity to create the lives we want for our families.  Let’s make the most of those every day.  While taking the time to add joy to mundane tasks may mean it takes longer, I am going to take it if it means more smiles for everyone involved.

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A Tale of Potty Training

A Tale of Potty Training in which Otter validates my belief in attachment parenting

Through this journey of mothering, my philosophy has become, “drop the book, read the child”.  I do not discount the books out of hand – many of them have sage advice and are written by experienced professionals and parents.  I offer our students the La Leche League approach: treat the information that is offered as a buffet; take what is appealing and leave the rest.  My mantra has become, “Honor The Child”.

A wise aunt of mine once told me that our children are gifted to us to be our teachers.   I have tried to embrace that concept whole-heartedly.  Yet every once in a while, they remind me again of their role in my life.  Oh, that Otter.  She continues to teach me about mothering although I am already ten years into this adventure.

Her latest lesson to me arrived via potty training: it’s the promise of that glorious day when you don’t have to change another diaper…especially those of the “stinky, poop-y, how-does-all-this-fit-into-your-tiny-body diapers that have you running to the toilet as you gag to empty them” variety.

There are SO MANY books on potty training on the market – a quick search on-line yields several titles that promise an easy passage to the promised land.  There are videos you can buy, books written for children to ease the transition, and if you are a family with a fluid bottom line, you can hire a potty coach for $925/day! (Read about that trend HERE.)

She did not want to know what we knew; she did not care that we had already potty trained three children.  She was on her own path.

Winter 2012: Otter showed early signs of being ready to use the potty.  The winter after her first birthday, she sat down and used the potty chair – she was probably 15 months old.  Then she did it again.  When she wasn’t around the potty, she told us that she had gone potty and that we needed to change her. And she couldn’t stand to be in a poopy diaper – I was thrilled!! Were we really going to be free of diapers so soon?!?

Alas, it was not to be.  After a promising week, she started screaming when we brought her near the potty.  She much preferred to do her business in her diaper and then have someone change her *immediately*.  As an attachment parent, I went with the flow, so to speak.  I did not want to push her into something that she was not ready for and forced her into tears.

Spring 2013: The pressure starts to build.  A few mamas of Sweet Peas born from our Fall 2011 and Winter2011-12 classes are announcing that their little ones are sitting on the potty.  They are using it.  A few are actually potty trained!!  What?!?  These children are younger than Otter and they are out of diapers already?

Summer 2013: So I bring out the potty again.  I figure different space, different place; maybe we’ll have a different result.  Still the same reaction – tears and screaming.  I put it back up with the resolution to just let Otter be Otter.  I *know* that it is developmentally impossible for her to be in diapers forever.  Breathe. Mantra. Repeat.

Fall 2013:  More Sweet Pea babies younger than Otter are potty trained.  Breathe. Mantra. Repeat.

WInter 2013: Otter wants to be in the Christmas show with her siblings.  We remind her that she is not in dance classes yet and she cannot dance on stage with them.  However…light bulb moment…we point out that all of the children dancing are out of diapers.  Especially the ones in her favorite number, Santa Baby, a daddy-daughter dance performed by the youngest students in the school.

New strategy!! Instead of offering the training potty, every once in a while, we will drop the line, “It’s okay to keep using diapers.  You’ll have to be out of them if you want to dance in Santa Baby – no diapers on stage!”

Spring 2014: We go to birthday parties for Otter’s contemporaries from our Bradley Classes.  They are out of diapers.  We are still lugging our diaper bag around, albeit a very adorable tokidoki bag.  The SPB alumni mamas tell me what they are doing to facilitate potty training.  A mama from our Fall 2012 class is actively training her one-year-old.  I begin to question if I am crazy to just leave Otter alone and leave her in diapers until she is ready.

YES to leaving her alone, jury is out as to whether I am crazy.  Honor the child. Breathe. Mantra. Repeat.

May 2014:  The diaper service we use announces it’s going out of business. We warn her that her diaper days are numbered.  Diaper service ends and she is distraught to be in training pants, even the adorable ones in patterns she is familiar with since they look like her diaper wraps.  After two days of an unhappy Otter, we decide to buy organic disposable diapers by the sleeve because we Honor The Child.  She is waking up dry, even with night nursing.  I offer the potty in the morning as an alternative to wetting the diaper and an immediate change.  She declines.  For weeks.

Sunday, June 22, 2014: Otter sits on the training potty that we have left, lonely in the bathroom, for months.  She pees.  She stands up and announces, “I am ready to do Santa Baby.”  She was “potty trained” at two years and eight months – done with never another day in diapers.  Or thirty-two months old if you prefer that method of accounting.

No joke.  Since that day six weeks ago she has had exactly two accidents.  One the next day when she was playing with a friend and was too distracted to really go potty and she let the rest go when she came back to play.  And one a week later, strangely enough, overnight when she wet the bed after waking up dry for weeks.

It has been a great validation to Honor The Child.  Once I stopped offering the option to use the training potty, neither of us shed a tear in this non-process.  She is done, without the  mess of soiled clothing, misses on the floor, and a training potty to empty over and over again.  I do not miss the piles of laundry covered in human waste!! That was awesome.

Now, we do keep the training potty available – she doesn’t always want to use the “big potty”.  I figure that is a fair trade.

Breathe.  Honor The Child. Repeat.

Do you have an AP “Aha” moment to share?

Meme JOY Gosman

Tuesday Tips: Change Your State

The “I hate parenting” and “parenting stinks” attitudes don’t fit me – I cannot imagine the day that they will.   Exploring links and other bloggers, I ran across another personality that tells people that you are not going to have great days – maybe just a few good moments here and there.  It has bothered me all weekend.

In the interest of full disclosure, I admit that it might be easier for me to be a parenting Pollyanna than others.  I only have to be a full-time mother, cook, chauffeur and chore-doer about two months out of the year.  The rest of the time, I have help from our nanny and a housekeeper.  They allow me to focus on homeschooling our children, keep up with our students, and do some writing instead of doing chores and KP 3 times a day. Make no mistake – I feel pressure and I have stress – I take on too much because I know I have help.  So no, I may not have mountains of laundry and piles of dishes that drag me down 365 days a year…I do have 30 hours of activities packed into 24 hour days, which is a different challenge and still requires me to breathe deeply and focus on the children as gifts and not distractions.  So that being said…

You know what? I call Scrooge.  I am the first to admit it is hard.  I will also be the first to say change your state – it’s a matter of perspective.  I know that there are mountains of work – learn how to whistle and teach your children how to whistle or hum along with you.  There are tons of lemons – add sugar, and invite your children to use their spoons as you use yours.

Attitude is everything when it comes to life – my mission is to teach my children to love it, and it starts with me and my example. If I run around complaining, what will it teach them? To complain? It’s no big surprise that those children are then called whiny whiners by the same parents that can’t stand being parents.

Those of us blessed enough to have families are the envy and the thorn in the side to those folks in the world who struggle with infertility.  I cringe every time a blogger takes to the blogosphere to say parenting is a drain, a chore, or anything else they want to call it.  Those people who could never have children would give up body parts to have a child to call their own.

Are you going to have bad days? Of course there will be days that you want to start over.  Guess what? DO IT! Start over! Gather your children, face your family, tell them you are sorry that they day has been bumpy, and that you are hitting the restart button.  Everybody gets to say a happy thought, then tuck everybody back in for a few minutes of reflection, and then when everybody gets out of bed again – choose to have a great day!

If you have time, you can also use water as a tool to change everyone’s state.  Water is so good at diffusing tension.  Get in the bath tub, get in your pool, get a play pool for $5 over the summer months that you can store and pull out to use as needed throughout the year.  You can play fun music, blow bubbles, play mermaids and pirates – just do something that gets everyone out of their funk.

You have things to do? Places to go? People to see? Time is a construct.  Our children are vivid, real, living, breathing.  I am okay being late or skipping an event if it just causes more stress than joy.

There are days that we all have a doctor’s appointment that cannot be rescheduled, or a school to arrive at on time.  In those instances, take the re-set idea and make it fit into your day.  Play music and have a mini-dance party before you walk out the door.  Play with bubbles.  Go draw with chalk on the sidewalk. Have everyone pick their favorite book and have a reading party.  Serve breakfast/lunch/snack/dinner picnic style…do something that breaks out of your regular mold and makes your children sit up and notice that you see them and you care about creating moments of joy in their lives.

Is deciding to change your state not enough for you? Maybe you are a single parent, or like a single parent because your partner is not involved with the children due to time or circumstance.  I will share something I learned from our students – build a tribe.  Find other people who get you – and yes, it means you will have to be vulnerable and show them your scars so that they can show you theirs.  These mama-tribes are unbelievable – they have helped each other through challenges, and they will continue to face challenges as their children grow, and they will do it *together*.  A good place to start is a meet-up group with children born in a certain month/year, library storytimes, parenting groups, or putting a feeler out on social media to organize playdates – you have to start somewhere.  Little by little you will build a tribe that becomes a family built by love and shared experience.  You do not have to be alone on this journey.

We are the tapes that will play in their heads when they grow up.  We are one of the voices that they will hear when they have to face the hard moments as adults.  Instead of leaving them with a tape that they have to erase and try to forget, give them a tape that encourages them and builds them up every time.

Parenting is an awesome gig – learn it, love it, own it.  Show up BIG, because parenting matters.