Tag Archives: Mothering

Fessin’ Up

I want to take a minute to make something very clear because two people have made comments along the same thread in the same week.

My base belief is that those of us who choose to function in society are doing the best we can with what we have.  I try not to judge myself against others because the other thought I remind myself is that no one is perfect. We are all disorganized somewhere, and some are just better at hiding it than others. 

I am writing today as a reminder: When you look at someone, try not to assume that they have it all together or judge yourself for not doing enough…because unless people “fess up” like I am about to do, then they may look like they are, “doing it all”. In reality they are just getting along as best they can like everyone else.

Comment 1: “You had time to make dinner for all your kids?”
Because mama saw me at the dance studio with our little IKEA bento boxes at the studio, which our kiddos take because we hate buying fast food.

Answer: Our nannies cook. I make sandwiches and cut fruits and vegetables. When the nannies pack the boxes, there are meals in them. When I pack the boxes, there is *cold* nutritious food in them.

Comment 2: “How are you doing? Because you give, give, give and I want to make sure you are taking care of you.”
From a friend of the family we see on a weekly basis and who we interact with professionally in our birth classes. He sees what I do on social media and all the events we host/attend.

Answer: I am doing great. You know why? Because my amazing husband works his a** off for our family, and we make the choices that allow us to afford 2 **amazing** nannies that do all the cooking and the laundry, or at least 95% of it. Which frees up my brain and my time to do everything I love to do, which is give to our family by homeschooling, and to our community by teaching classes and promoting or attending events that support pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, and the family.

AND AND AND all our children are out of diapers AND they are all potty trained. It’s hard to understand just how momentous that is until you see a mom up to her eyeballs in babies and toddlers (that of course she loves very much, just like I loved our children so very much when we were in that stage). “No diapers, no accidents” is such a huge new milestone I am finally embracing; instead of grieving the fact that I will never birth again.

So even though I put on a good front, I have a huge amount of support that makes it all work…pretty well on most days.  If I am tired, I get snappy; if I am sad I cry, just like every other human parent out in the world.  Since we’re doing true confessions here…sometimes it gets worse than that. I had a meltdown in a parking lot last May and I was reminded of my humanity again in February of this year.

Just like many of you, I have days when I am completely overwhelmed, and I have days when I am filled with joy…sometimes in the same day. What is amazing is that as our children grow, they are helping more and that makes it all worth it. They are starting to take ownership for their part in making our family run smoothly, and they are funny and giving and helpful. They are also putting us through growing pains again as we are approaching the teen years. I love it all and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

 There is one more thing I want to add: aside from all the earthly support and help that I have, I have an awesome God.  He lights every step of my journey on a daily basis.  I have lived through dark days when I tried to run away from my faith. Then I was welcomed joyfully back and have walked with the Holy Spirit in my heart every day since then.  I am by no means perfect, however I know that I am loved. That makes it all worthwhile and so very doable.

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.


Monday Musings: Struggles

“Successful mothers are not the ones that have never struggled. They are the ones that never gave up despite the struggles.”
~Sharon Jaynes

This quote takes on a whole new meaning today as I think of all the mothers who will go forward without their sons and daughters after the tragedy in Orlando. There are not enough words to express our deep sorrow.

In today’s image-driven society, it is easy to set ourselves an impossible standard portrayed by filtered pictures that show the best of our moments with our children.

I love this meme that has been making the rounds on social media:



As the popular saying goes, the struggle is real. Some of us struggle with being on time. Others, organization. Some, our temper. Others, mood disorders. Some, with self-esteem. Others, self-acceptance. And the list goes on and on.

The point is, you are not alone. I am not alone. Somewhere, someone is struggling with the same inner demons that you are facing. Take comfort in the fact that even though we don’t all want to admit it, we are all hiding something.

What matters more is how we go above and beyond that to do our best for our children. Are we providing a safe place for them? Are we recognizing their needs? Are we responding to them?

We won’t get it right all the time. We can strive to do better; resolve to show them the best that we have to give more often than not.

I truly believe that if we operate from a place of love, we will make the right decisions for our family. A parent that makes decisions from a place of love for their child will make decisions that are best for their family.

And by the same token, we must also allow ourselves a measure of grace. For we are only human, and it is impossible to be at our best all of the time. Inevitably the pressures of “adulating”, the fatigue of trying to do too much in too few hours, the stress of daily life will sometimes crowd out our best intentions to show up as whole, patient humans raising other humans.

So today I invite you to name one small thing, just one, that you can strive for today. What is one small way that you can do best by your children and your family today? Then go for it! Do it, and go to sleep tonight with the satisfaction that you did one thing right today. Even if it was just keeping everyone alive for the day – it was worth it.

I leave you with these closing thoughts:






Baby Turns One: You Are Now Breastfeeding a Toddler

IMG_5949 By Cassandra Okamoto, Blog Contributor

It does not feel like I have a toddler. While my son is not actually toddling around quite yet, his first birthday has come & gone and left us staring the unchartered waters of toddlerhood in the face. We both don’t quite know what to expect.

We did pass that first birthday mark without a consideration of weaning from the breast though, which I almost always forget is “unconventional”. Like I said, he still very much seems like a baby in many senses and babies want mama’s milk, same as toddlers do to it seems 🙂

Our choice to continue nursing past the one-year mark involves many factors, below are three of the bigger ones:

1) We have not received any vaccines *yet* and I am most comfortable with this path as long as we are still nursing and do so until at least 2 years of age. This is also the recommendation from Dr. Sears if you are choosing not to vaccinate. Source: The Vaccine Book: Making the Right Decision for Your Child, By Dr. Sears

2) Nutritionally there is still a requirement for “milk” until age 2. The majority of children start receiving cow’s milk at one year, the AAP recommends 16 oz of whole milk until the age of 2. Source Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5 (Copyright © 2009 American Academy of Pediatrics) Logically, if my child still requires milk why would I take him off of my milk and switch him to milk from a cow?


3) It isn’t time. Motherhood has taught me WAY too many things to be honest, but the biggest ones are to trust myself, and go with the flow (no pun intended!). I will know when it is time for both of us. It might not happen at the same time, maybe it will, but right now neither of us are there. We both are in fact ready to night wean though, more on this in a little bit.

So we have decided to continue on in our breastfeeding journey, but feeding a little baby at the breast is NOT the same as feeding a toddler at the breast. Personally, it has been a very hard transition for me. Breastfeeding actually did NOT come easy to us after birth, once my son was finally feeding at the breast we dealt with horrific reactions to proteins from many different foods in my milk and crazy elimination diets for me that lasted until he was 4 ½ months old.

Then it was the snacking. My son has always been a “snacker” at the breast and I was filled with constant worry and anxiety that he was not getting enough because he never fed longer than a couple of minutes, if that. Then it was distracted nursing, then it was only nursing at night, then it was the other nipple twiddling that would NOT STOP, and then we went through this period where he would lay calmly and take his time and nursing was oh my gosh BLISSFUL!

It was what everyone had been talking about this whole time and I felt relaxed and full of love, and then, it ended. And we entered into toddler breastfeeding, which although may not be the hardest of them all is definitely very difficult, especially when it seems more of a longer-term reality as opposed to “just a phase” like the other frustrations I mentioned. After a little bit of research, some trial and error, talking with other mamas, and attending a La Leche League meeting I put together some things that I think will make breastfeeding a toddler a little easier.

Boundaries: Discipline has such a negative connotation, especially when gentle parenting is involved. But I have learned that productive, respectful boundaries and discipline are really going to be essential for us. My doula says that “nursing a tiny baby on demand is entirely different than nursing a demanding toddler” and it is something I find myself repeating daily!

My son pulls down my shirt whenever/wherever, throws himself backwards or kicks when he wants milk NOW, will point and cry whenever I am changing clothes, throws huge fits because he wants to go back and forth nursing off of each breast (I still don’t know why this is?) and all of these things have put a huge strain on our nursing relationship. It makes me resentful, frustrated, consider weaning completely, and overall just feel very out of control. After I recognized it was time for us to set boundaries I turned again to Dr. Sears and ordered The Discipline Book: How to Have a Better-Behaved Child From Birth to Age Ten. I have not started reading it yet and am not sure exactly how I am going to go about setting boundaries as it relates to nursing but I know for us there will be no more “self serving”, or hitting and kicking mama for milk, nursing during meal times while simultaneously wanting to eat solid food, and no more pacifying at the breast throughout the entire night. I mentioned it earlier, and it is my next main point…

Night Weaning: I am not suggesting that as soon as your baby turns one he/she needs to be night weaned, not at all. Here are some other reasons why a mom might wean: mom is pregnant, Mom wants to increase fertility & become pregnant, Mom goes back to work outside the home and needs more sleep, etc.

In addition to the strains on our nursing relationship I mentioned above, my son wakes every 45 to 60 minutes throughout the entire night to nurse. He spends a lot of his time “sleeping” while still sucking at the breast and no matter how deep of a sleep I think he may be in, protests whenever I try to unlatch him. Teething has made this even worse and because he is half (or more) asleep while using his breast pacifier his latch becomes shallow and he bites with his top teeth so the nipple won’t sneak out, I am often half sleeping too and it will often go on for hours. This has caused a huge injury to my left nipple that is taking weeks to heal and is making all feedings very painful! Recently I have gone through long periods where I “hate” nursing and when I stop to really think about it and consider what not nursing my son at all anymore looks like I realize it isn’t nursing that I dislike, it is nursing all throughout the night.

I have considered night weaning in the past because of just plain sleep deprivation but it never felt right, after a year I had a complete shift in my heart. I just felt it was time. My son needs his own space, he has made that very clear to me and he also needs more sleep. Nursing throughout the night is just as distracting to him as it is comforting.  More and more, he is waking up cranky in the mornings. It took me awhile to come to peace with this transition, but a nursing relationship is just that – a relationship involving two parties, both of which need to be happy in order for the relationship to continue harmoniously. Not only will night weaning hopefully afford me more sleep and subsequently more energy and patience but it will bring more peace into our nursing relationship that will allow it to continue much longer.

Nursing Space: Having a single dedicated place to nurse is not that practical with an active toddler that is probably breastfeeding at home, in the car, in public, in bed, etc. but I have found for us that going into a more quiet, dimly lit room with less distractions does help. I plan on creating a little “nursing corner” in my son’s room, where we sit down, get comfortable, relax and always nurse in while at home.  When we are out and about if it is possible I will go into another less crowded or empty room, if that isn’t an option I like snuggling into the back seat of the car before we arrive or before we leave. My hope is that having to stop whatever activity my son is currently engaged with and leave it behind to go nurse will possibly change to having more nursing “sessions” than drive-by-just-a-couple-sips between ball throwing and block building.

 Babywear: My Ergobaby has been my single most used piece of “baby” equipment and I still use it at least once every day. I can unbuckle the back, loosen one shoulder strap and nurse my son comfortably, discreetly, hands free and ultra conveniently.  He nurses his longest stretches while being worn, and being outside and often walking allows for enough simulation that he relaxes in his pack and takes his time feeding. I see our baby wearing/breastfeeding time continuing well into the second year.

I will continue to share about our breastfeeding journey through year two as I put more of these into practice in our daily lives and look forward to hearing about how your breastfeeding relationships change and evolve over time too.

What all have you experienced with an older nursling? Do you have any other tips to continue the breastfeeding relationship successfully into the second year and beyond?


Monday Musing: Mother’s Day

“There’s no way to be a perfect mother and a million ways to be a good one.”

~Jill Churchill

Celebrating the day with our four children yesterday was amazing.  We are so blessed to have them in our lives.  I often marvel that I was chosen to be their mother – they are each of them teaching me lessons that I need to learn.  I thank God that he trusted me to grow them and nurture their souls, and pray that I don’t break them as I learn the lessons He sent with them!

I am also painfully aware that Mother’s Day might be hell on earth for other women: the women who have angels waiting in heaven from miscarriage, stillbirth or child loss, to those who’s hearts are heavy as they struggle with infertility, or because they never conceived and their childbearing days are over.  Maybe this is the first year without their own mother who has been called on to the next journey, or it is one of the successive years after the loss of their own mother that still carries a dull ache. 

For at least a month leading up to the event and for the whole second Sunday of May, every retailer, card company and television commercial is grinding salt into their wound.  I propose that it is up to us to mother these women – we can be the ones to love them, cherish them, listen to them, cry with them – just be with them without offering platitudes and trite words.   Make an effort and plan time with them – be available if they want to talk or share memories. Here are some places I go for word reminders when I am going to be “holding space” with them:

So how does the quote above tie-in? I am reminded once again that I have an incredible gift: four healthy, vibrant children that are very much alive.  I owe it to them to learn what makes them “tick”.  I owe it to them to put away my screens and literally face-time with them beyond doing our school-work together.  Hug them every day.  Look them in the eye every day.  Tell them they are loved, cherished and show them that they are respected every day.  Ask them what they want to do this week and make sure that the reasonable requests get planned and get done. The unreasonable requests present opportunities for creative play – something we can definitely do more. Since I am so list-driven, I lose sight of creative play – time to bring it back!

I will never be perfect – I can however, do my very best to be good to them and do good for them all throughout their day.

Thoughtful Thursday: Mothering Through Growing Pains

Our Sweet Peas are definitely going through growing pains right now.  I know I am running short since I am dealing with my own emotional growth, and I am not doing all the things that keep me in Peaceful Mama mode.

I ran across the above picture today as I was looking for a #tbt to post on our Instagram account.  My goal for the rest of the week and into the next few weeks as I adjust to my new normal is to cherish our Sweet Peas and speak gently to them as I did in their newborn phase.

It is so easy to be kind, loving and peaceful with a newborn.  We marvel at their sweetness, their littleness, their divine squishiness.  That heavenly brand-new baby scent is unforgettable.  Those moments when we stay awake watching them sleep and breathe when we should be catching up on our sleep.  There is definitely a magic about newborns.

Our infants grow…and start talking…still cute!  Then, the challenging starts.  Looking for the boundaries.  Testing the waters.  The defiance.  The stubbornness.   The outbursts and the accompanying reactions that make us want to swallow our words and wish there was  “re-do” button in life.

RIght now we have Puma (9) entering her “tween” years…she wants to be an independent big girl, and yet she still wants to be snuggled and coddled on occasion.  Night Owl (6) is pushing to find boundaries again.  Charger (4) is struggling with the concept of being a big boy and still wanting to nurse.  We have set his next birthday as an end time and I think it is freaking him out.  Otter (2)…she just wants to do EVERYTHING that everyone else is doing – sometimes trying to compete with three siblings at the same time and she is exhausted as much as she is triumphant that she can do so many new things.

Chaos Central!!  Or it could be worse if I wasn’t willing to stop and reflect.  Just writing that last paragraph clarified that today, more than any day, I really need to stop, breathe, pray, and turn inward so that I can be all that I need to be.  I want to be able to meet my children where they are, with the same joy and excitement that I had when they were infants.  To be able to offer love this way – isn’t that worth breathing and praying for instead of checking off my to-do list?

So while we are all in state of flux, I think a great intention for the day is to smile before I speak, breathe before I answer, and remember their littleness in the face of their bigness.

Peace out, mamas – wishing you all a joyful day.

Learning and Growing Every Day

As a ballroom dance instructor, I invited my students to step out of their comfort zone every day.  As a parent, I watch our children learn and grow on a regular basis, and do my part to facilitate their growth as much as I can.  As a childbirth educator, we teach people who are interested in natural childbirth to become informed consumers and take responsibilty, among other things.  And yet, I forgot all about applying all these lessons to myself.

Backstory:  Being a homeschooling mom of four, three of who are involved in outside activities four days a week, plus our own classes on the fifth day of the week – we are always on the go, go, go!  Weekends are busy with social engagements and church.  As a partner, I seek to support my husband in his work and make sure I am telling him how much I love and appreciate him on a regular basis.  I try to remember to breathe and apply the relaxation practice we learned when we were students of The Bradley Method® when I am feeling frazzled (it happens!).  I try to read about birth and breastfeeding at every opportunity, and one of my guiding principles is to learn something new every day.

I am, for the most part, a believer.  I am a Believer and have faith in God.  I believe in the power of positive thinking tempered with a healthy pinch of realism.  I believe we are called to love, and I try to Live Love.  I want to inspire others, especially our children, to find their gifts and pursue them so they can live a life full of joy and with no regrets.

In all the busy-ness, I left out one piece.  What am I doing to grow as an individual?  What am I doing that makes me uncomfortable?  I have set some goals – what have I done to get them done instead of letting simply sit on the paper I wrote them on?

As life would have it, I have been crossing paths with Blue Russ for over a year now.  We met on Facebook since we run in the concurrent circles of homebirth and green living.  We finally got to meet in person through an event hosted by Moxie Midwifery last fall.  Blue was kind enough to be our monthly family-friendly featured business in our June newsletter.  After getting to know her better (read her complete interview HERE), I decided to take the plunge and sign up for a complimentary personal health strategy session.

There were/are a lot of reasons not to do it.  I knew I was going to be uncomfortable.  To talk about my health means talking about all the things I am doing wrong in my life.  It means taking responsibility for the extra weight I am carrying around that is not healthy.  It means actually having to do something about it instead of just hating the person that I see in the mirror.  What really convinced me to talk with Blue is her statement that, “No counting calories or grams of nutrients. No judgment. No food is off limits. No deprivation.”  

DSC_7250©2012 BCFlix Photography:  I dislike the way I look so much, that I cropped myself out of this picture when I printed it for our family album.  What kind of message does that send our children?  Whether or not I lose the weight, I want to be “okay” with myself again.

The fact that she assured me that she was not going to make me feel guilty, and offer a safe space, convinced me to take the next step and get uncomfortable.  It’s time to have a positive self-image.  I owe it to our daughters to walk my talk – beauty *is* more than skin deep.  When they tell me I am pretty as all daughters do, I want to believe it, whether or not I get to my target weight.  I owe it to my sons, so that they can meet partners of substance.  I owe it to my husband – I want to feel and be attractive in all aspects of our relationship.  Most importantly, I owe it to myself.  I am tired of the self-loathing and the guilt of feeling like I am not good enough simply because I don’t like the shape I see in the mirror.

The  session with Blue was all that I thought it would be and more.  We started with a breathing exercise to clear my mind and dedicate the next hour to just being present.  I got to leave my list outside the door! (How did she know?)

Next, Blue guided me through some questions to help me find clarity about what my health goal really is, and to help me develop some strategies to reach that goal.  We did that by centering, identifying priorities, and then identifying possible obstacles to that goal.

Finally, we ended with an action plan.  She guided me through devising what the next steps are in reaching my health goal.  How am I going to get there?  How is Blue going to guide me to the next level?

To say today was transformational is an understatement.  In her gentle, wise way, Blue led me through a series of questions that finally uncovered some of my fears about losing weight.  It was such a gift to take some time to focus inward and to think.  I feel like for the first time in nine years, I can actually do something about losing the extra fluffiness that built up over nine years of being pregnant five times.  Now that I know what has been holding me back, I can work on letting go of my fears.  I can focus on getting to a weight that is safe for my heart, and that will allow me to meet at least two more generations of our growing family.

The great news about working with Blue is that you do not have to be in the Phoenix area for her to work with you as a health coach.  She makes great use of technology and you can connect with her via Skype, Facebook and Twitter.  Read more about her in our Inside Look: Blue Russ feature on Sweet Pea Births, and visit her website www.blueruss.com for more information about the services and classes that she offers in-person and online.

coaching session

I am scared and hopeful at the same time.  I feel like I can really do this, for the first time in long time.  I also have peace of mind that even if I don’t get to my target weight, working with Blue is going to yield a heart-healthier and image-healthier lifestyle.  It was great to stretch out of my comfort zone, and “sharpen the saw” as the old saying goes.  Whether you engage with a personal health coach, or some other kind of way to get uncomfortable and grow, go for it!  You can only get better and better.

Mother’s Day 2013

Happy Mother’s Day!!  This is a wonderful day for most mothers in the United States.  We are showered with love, congratulatory greetings, phone calls, texts, emails, gifts…all in honor of the fact that we are mothers.

I love being a mother, and I love that there is one day when our families take the time to recognize that ours is a 24/7 commitment.  On the other hand, the older I get, the more aware I am that this holiday can be the holiday from H.E.double-hockey-sticks for other people.

People who recently lost a loved mother, grandmother, or other female relative who was like a mother.  People who lost a kindred spirit who was like a mother to them.  Women who just lost their life partner, the ones with whom they shared the journey of parenthood.  Parents and children who are estranged from each other, no matter whose “fault” it is.  Women who tried desperately to conceive and whose time never came.  Women who recently suffered a miscarriage.  Women who have suffered the loss of a child, at whatever age in their lives.  How do they ever answer the question, “How many children do you have?”  Transgender people who are born with the desire to bear children and without the anatomical equipment to be gestational parents.  All of them are suffering in silence most days.  Today is especially difficult for all these people who are watching and expected to participate in the “greeting card” version of a holiday on steroids.

So in the midst of all the joy, congratulations and celebration of the work of our wombs, I also want to send special love to the people who fall outside of “the circle” today.  I wish I could give you a hug in person and support you the way you need to be supported.  I feel you and wish you love.

Our family suffered the loss of a beloved mother and grandmother figure this March.  The realization I came to after her passing has been incredibly freeing and empowering.  I am no longer trying to compete with past constructs of motherhood in my life.  I am simply looking forward and looking for my children to guide me.

These are the introspections I make that are guiding my mother-journey today:

    • What is my mothering philosophy?  
    • Am I following my philosophy and leading our children, or am I simply reacting?
    • Can I use humor to diffuse the situation?
    • How do I want our children to remember me?
    • As individuals, what kind of mother does that child need me to be?  (i.e., which Love Language do they speak?)
    • How can I best help them grow into their full potential?
    • How can I help them discover their gifts so that they can enjoy them for their lifetime?

Taking the pressure off of having to “be better than”, and looking at the future helps me to deal with the little daily frustrations.  On a daily basis we deal with bickering amongst the siblings, the endless duties around the home, the kitchen that always needs cleaning, the laundry that doesn’t quit, a schoolroom that needs to be straightened – again.  I look at my motherhood as a path, a journey I am on with our children.  I can take on today – it is only a day in what I wish and pray will be our long journey together.

At the end of the day, I want us all to be happy, whole, fulfilled individuals who love each other because we value one another for who we are.  I don’t ever want them to make a choice because they want to please me – I want them to make a choice because they know it is the right one for them.

We are still walking that path together.  I look forward to another 365 days of meandering along that path joyfully with our family.  Please take a minute today to celebrate the mothers in your life.  Take it a step further and hug someone who is suffering in silence today.  Let them know that while you can’t take away their pain, you care and you love them.