Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Mom Grinch

The other day I was feeling especially grinchy. Standing in the kitchen unloading the dishwasher for the tenth time that day, it dawned on me Christmas is only for children...and men. A feeling of bitterness, exhaustion and pressure crept over me as I crammed another sippy cup into the cupboard. It's up to me - the mom - to pull off Christmas. And since my kids are 2 and 4 - well it had better be magical. I wasn't exactly feeling magical. You know, the whole family, just yesterday were in the throws of the stomach flu and I'm pretty sure our elf, Sandy, brought it from the north pole and infected us all with his obnoxious Christmas germs.

So here I am mad at Christmas, because I've discovered December is a month of the year where moms need to put it in overdrive. The normal day to day doesn't go away. Now, I've got to decorate, move that elf, shop, bake cookies, design, address and mail Christmas cards, see Santa... I began to feel even more rotten. Then I uttered, "I hate Christmas." I'm not kidding. I feel terrible admitting it. And then made a side note- "not the Jesus being born part- just everything else."

Now you guys, there is a reason I am making this awful confession to all of you holly jolly people. Because literally the very next day something amazing happened to me. (and maybe some other moms are feeling the same way)

I'm scrolling through my phone on my Facebook news feed, feeling terrible again about how much better other moms are at Christmas than me and seem happy about the whole thing, and I come across a post. My friend's husband mentioned to her he always wanted one of those light up ceramic Christmas villages like he had as a kid. So she went to the Goodwill everyday by her work and found all these Christmas houses and surprised him with a complete village.

Well ... I thought, I like Christmas villages. I had one growing up. I also like thrift stores. I can do this. I can take the kids and find a light up Christmas house or two and it will be fun kind of Christmas treasure hunt. I'm officially stealing my friend's doable not pintrest inspired lovely Christmas idea.

The soundtrack to our drive and parking at our local thrift store consisted of jingle bell rock and me explaining over and over how we are on a special Christmas treasure hunt and this hunt does not include toys in anyway. Fully prepped, the kids holding my hands enter and we are ready to find a beautiful discarded Christmas village home or maybe schoolhouse.

I see the box. It's right by the door - but before I can get to it, an elderly lady has it. Now, although I am a grinch, I am not rude or about to grab things from elderly ladies (especially in front of my children). So here I am standing there completely awkward waiting for her to either take it or leave it. And the kids are not gravitating towards everything breakable and not part of the treasure hunt.

Then she turns and asks me, "Do you want this?"
The box contains a ceramic newsstand for a Christmas village and for some reason (maybe the need to speak with another person over the age of 4 that day) I tell her the whole story about my Christmas treasure hunt for a village and how I'd better get some village homes before a newsstand.

Then, after doing a hot lap with my extremely well behaved children who completely understood we are not buying a toy or anything other than a village, and who followed right next to me and did not jump on the bed for sale or grab at a crystal dinner set, we headed for the door completely feeling excellent about the decision to go here.

Then I heard the woman's voice I had been speaking with earlier. "Excuse me?"
I turn and she's holding a pink piece of paper and a pen up. Her hands are shaking slightly as she asks, "Are you serious about wanting a Christmas village?"

"Yes." Thinking she wants to sell me something. Grinch again.

"Well, write down your name and phone number. I have an entire Christmas village at home packed away with no one left to enjoy it and I would love to give it to you."


As I'm writing my name and cell number and thanking her for her generosity, my heart grew three sizes that day.  I explain to my kids in the car what just happened -and they are filled with joy and not concerned at all about the toys we didn't buy.

But, seriously, that moment changed my day. And my Christmas season. Christmas isn't just for children and men. It's for moms too. Christmas is about love and giving. And I needed a real life lesson on that. Because once I got off pinterest and Facebook and stopped stressing over performing the perfect Christmas, I experienced getting a gift from a complete stranger who wanted nothing in return. A real gift.

We ended up picking up the village a few days later and chatting with our new friend. My four year old son and her became fast friends and he invited her to come see our decorations sometime. She invited us to come see her lights.

And now, every time I come into my family room and see my Christmas village glowing with light I am filled with joy and love. I am thankful I do have a full house to enjoy its glowing lights.
And remember the line from the Grinch, "Maybe Christmas...doesn't come from a store, maybe Christmas perhaps...means a little bit more."

Merry Christmas! xo

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Why I'm not moving to Canada and I hope you don't either

Dear fellow Americans,

Yesterday I woke up singing "sister suffragette" with misty eyes.

 "Cast off the shackles of yesterday
 shoulder to shoulder -
into the fray!"

Not because I love Hillary Clinton. Because of the historical significance that she was even on the ballot. That the idea a woman could run for president won't be a fairy tale to my children. As I sat on the brown corduroy couch in my predictably blue state I watched state after state shock the news as it came up bright red.

Friends, history is alive right now. We are the American people and the generation experiencing this shift in paradigm today. How are we going to respond?

Susan B. Anthony's grave was covered with women's "I voted" stickers yesterday.
 I don't think Susan B. Anthony would leave the country if she was alive today.
Did she leave the country or threaten to when she was arrested for illegal voting?

Did Rosa Parks try to leave the country after she faced Jim Crow day after day?

If Martin Luther King Jr. was alive today I believe he would not name call. He would not threaten to leave our nation. If anything, I believe he would call us to something greater. Something harder. He would call us to march "shoulder to shoulder into the fray".

 Dr. King said, "Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that." 

There is a reason Trump is elected our next president. Instead of running, name calling, and judging voters -- all hateful things -- I will strive to be a light in our nation. I will strive to show love. Because no matter who you voted for, what matters how I treat everyday people and how I choose to act as an everyday person. What matters is how everyday people interact in all of our cities and our towns. There's no "us" and "them". We are all Americans. We are all humans. I am no better than anyone else.

Writer Ann Voskamp dares us to, "live like we are bodies are terminal and our souls are eternal. " I am not going to spend the amount of time I have left on this earth contributing to hate. I will not leave the country many of our fore mothers and fathers have fought so bravely for the next generation. I will demonstrate love in action and continue to do my best to be a person of integrity and a courageous truth teller.

So I ask those of you who feel angry, shocked, and rattled today to please not make empty threats to move out of this country. Please don't post generalizations about Trump supporters. Let's follow the example of the love warriors such as Susan B. Anthony, Dr. Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks and many others who walked the same American streets we do today. Today I choose hope. Today I choose light. Today I choose love.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Diagnosis Disorders and Uniqueness

Last week I found out some really hard news about my daughter.

In my gut, I always knew certain parenting strategies wouldn't work for her like they did for my son. Everyone with more than one kid knows that. But more often than not, there are some pretty challenging as well as amazing quirks my daughter has which makes her incredibly unique.

It seemed pretty clear to me my daughter has a speech delay. Not uncommon. However, the speech therapist also diagnosed her with something called sensory processing disorder.

All of her behaviors I had thought which make her very adventurous, unique, stubborn, strong willed and creative are categorized under this disorder.  Something about the term "disorder" really bothered me which is why it was so hard to hear. Of course no parent wants their child to struggle, but I shirked away from so quickly putting a label on my 2 year old.

The positive side to knowing she possibly has SPD is I already have gained some really positive strategies in parenting her. I guess the point I'm trying to make is I never ever want to change her. I never want to try to squash her determination, unique spirit and energy. However, I do want to understand her and therefore be able to help her rather than throwing my arms up in the air every morning because she refuses to get dressed in anything other than fancy dresses.

Yes I still believe  she is a diva, but now I also know she prefers the feeling of "fancy" material to cotton on her body. So much so that it makes her so uncomfortable she can't stand it.

Once I knew she felt very sensitive to her hair being brushed, we bought special de-tangler, soft hair ties, and a very gentle brush. I need to take extra time with her hair in the morning to be ever so gentle, but it definitely is better than chasing her naked bum around the house pleading to let mommy at least brush her hair.

I usually don't let her paint everyday because I don't want to deal with the mess. (I know horrible, but I bet some of you feel the same way!) But when I learned she paints her face, hands, and arms because it is soothing her and calming her ...I am making it part of our day.

Her constant jumping, twirling, climbing and thrill seeking are part of this too which I love and also scare me to death about a thousand times a day.

Her high pain tolerance - Like falling down, scraping both knees and getting back up without a tear is part of SPD but in my opinion makes her a total bad ass.

Once she can express all the beauty and chaos clashing around in her mind through her speech I can help her even more. For now, I let her nap in her safe tent of pillows and blankets and don't force her to be in her bed. I let her wear her fancy dresses to run errands in, come home and let her feel the soothing texture of cool paint on her face (sans fancy dress) and am in the process of making her a necklace with an old make up brush on the end.

 I know it has to be called a 'disorder' to get services and to help her deal with the tough parts surrounding it, but I am thankful for an extra sensitive, aware, life seeking and adventurous spirit in my life.  She's teaching me a thing or two in the process.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Shame in Motherhood

I started my role as a mother with very different lenses than I have now. A different perspective I guess you would say. I would say, for me, being a mom transformed forced me to change. I mean really change.

I remember looking at my red faced newborn little boy and being so overwhelmed with love and joy and knowing what our little life would be like. How perfect it would be. What a great mother I would be. I envisioned going to all his little sports games, volunteering in all of his classes, and before that strolling down the sidewalk with a cute stroller, baby, and fashionable diaper bag. Ready to meet my mob of mom friends and their sweet babies. 

As a self proclaimed extroverted perfectionist I felt ready to tackle this new role and life as a stay at home mom like never has been done before! 

But, seriously, there is a major problem with being a perfectionist and a mother at the same time. The two cannot co exist in any healthy sort of way. Or any sort of way that won't send my kids running out the door to the nearest drug dealer friend, lover, friend, or therapist.... And then put that perfectionism with a desperate desire to belong and be part of a community and I needed to seriously do some soul searching. 

I felt like I had the image going. I did all the right things, dressed my baby the right way, and joined different mom groups. I went to the park. I ran with the right stroller. But because I was so busy trying to be perfect to be worthy of others, I felt so lonely. I didn't have any real connection at all. And I felt full of hot shame because I knew it was all fake. I was fake. I had have no idea what I am doing and I felt exhausted from all of the energy it took to make it seem as if I did. There had to be other moms out there who found all this as hard as me. 

Then the day came. I had put my 18 month old son in the nursery while I attended a women's bible study group. The woman came to the door and called my name. She held a single goldenrod sheet of paper in her manicured hand and briskly walked down the breeze way after I stood up to follow her. I waddled along, pregnant with an unplanned baby, (not perfect) and wondered what happened. As I sat on the edge of the planter box in the spring sunshine, I  heard her telling me about an incident report I needed to sign and about how my son bit a little girl. My son bit someone else's child at church. The place where I put the most energy and effort into being perfect.

 My shameful secret was out. My son the biter. The hair puller. We often have to leave playgrounds immediately when a little girl with long ponytails arrives because I can see him already heading in her direction. I have felt awful as the mom of the bully. The big toddler who bites other kids arms (and mine) hard. He leaves marks. He pulls hair. He makes kids cry. And I get super hot, sweaty, full of shame and carry my child back to my car and away from the park. Away from the group of mom friends I had imagined I would chat with while our children played nicely. 

After breaking down crying and apologizing and hormones raging as well as all the exhaustion of trying to be perfect finally giving way; I left the church, son in tow, a blubbering mess and vowing never to show my face there again. 

Because, just like Berne Brown says in her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, "shame is the birthplace of perfectionism..the problem is that we don't claim shame, it claims us. And one of the ways it sneaks into our lives is through perfectionism." She goes on to say how perfectionists are trying to earn approval and acceptance. And as an extrovert and a perfectionist, belonging is what I crave at the core. How could I risk by sharing my true struggles as a mother when what others think of me determines my self worth? 

This needed to change. My son is now four years old and no longer bites or pulls hair (well sometimes his sister's). However, we are nowhere close to perfect. But I discovered when I talk about things I feel ashamed about - like this biting story- the shame goes away. And suddenly other moms say "me too." And that "me too" causes a deep connection. The belonging I was always searching for, but thought my true self unworthy of. The irony is, we belong to each other through the "me toos", through our vulnerability, because of someone's courage to be the first to say "this is hard for me." 

Friday, September 2, 2016

Maybe being completely mental is a good thing

Ok you guys. I went to Disneyland with my kids (2 and 4) BY MYSELF. Yes I am completely insane. But to my shock it has been done -successfully.

On the morning of August 30th I awoke realizing we had nothing on the calendar. Of course I had loads to do but there was nothing official we had to go to. I realized today is the last day of summer where we could just lounge around the house all day in our pjs or.... go to Disneyland!

We are fortunate enough to live in southern California so we can just hop up the freeway and go to Disneyland no big deal.. right? Now I know many of you carefully plan your trips to Disney from what to pack, when the kids will nap, what attractions and rides you will go on etc. And I realize this has much to do with my personality being  crazy spontaneous. However I decided (at the last minute nature lent itself well to this) to be a Disney minimalist.

So here's how I did Disney with two kids under 5 without losing my mind, without another adult, and actually had fun !!

1. What did you pack? 

Like I said, I wanted to be a Disney minimalist. For some reason beyond my comprehension anytime I go places with my kids I am somehow loaded down like a Sherpa climbing Everest with so much useless stuff. I pictured myself weighed down by a large stroller, bags cutting my shoulders and hands from all the junk stuffed inside sweating and panicking as both my kids ran in opposite directions across a crowded Disney main street while marching band appeared out of no where blocking my path.

So to AVOID that situation I allowed myself a backpack and a small umbrella stroller which could be easily abandoned in stroller parking until I needed to restrain said 2 year old. The backpack consisted of lunch (saved 60$), snacks, water bottles, and a couple of changes of clothes. Besides my wallet etc. It worked. And I even found that backpack heavy, but alas, at least we were at "Sherpa lite" mode.

2. Did you plan a time for your kids to nap in the stroller? 

Do you know my children? No. The nap would be skipped. They aren't the type to even remotely nap when something as exciting as Disneyland is going on. The napper survived and the ice cream helped.

3. How did you go on rides? 

Ok. The best thing I ever learned about 4 year olds (especially boys I think...) is if you prepare them for something they do okay. Once he knew ahead of time we couldn't go on rides that were too fast/scary/big for his baby sister he didn't worry about it. We lucked out there was hardly anyone there and had a blast on rides they both loved.

4. Have extremely low expectations

This is a common point of view for me so it was easy to do. We had no plans. We didn't do "Disney" like I remember doing it, racing from ride to ride and loving the roller coasters getting every fast pass we could get our hands on. This was Disneyland mini style. We just took our time and I got to look at everything from their perspective. And let me tell you - it was so fun! I rarely just relax and have fun with my kids. I made a point to say yes as much as I could. Yes we can go on that ride three times in a row. (HOWEVER I did have to say no at every single gift shop we passed and their are ALOT)

I was so into saying yes, that at the end of the night when we did get a little toy I let my four year old get a toy sword.... um yeah.

5.  Get ready for some seriously cute and memorable moments 

For example. When we saw Anna and Elsa from Frozen, my kids were completely and utterly starstruck. Like they just stared and stared and couldn't speak. Then in true Christmas Story  fashion, as we were leaving my four year old yells, "Anna! I love you. My name is Bobby."

Or when we went to Radiator Springs and my four year old thought we were actually in the movie Cars and couldn't believe it. He asked if we could spend the night at the Cozy Cone Motel and we pretty much spent the rest of the day there. Because we didn't have a plan.

My absolute favorite part of the day was watching a parade go by and as characters from well known pixar movies went by, I saw pure joy and excitement on my son's face as he leaned so far into the parade to who was coming and would yell "MOMMY! LOOK! It's Lightening McQueen!"

So in conclusion, let me just say my kids learned that I am kind of a good time. We had fun together. We were there for eight hours and we did it. And it was completely insane. So go do it. Worst case everyone has a melt down and you lose your mind, but hey we've all already been there done that so what's there to lose?

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Stronger does not mean more Perfect

You know how there are those days where there seems to be a theme persisting? Like there's something that I keep getting banged on the head that I need to pay attention to for some particular reason.

Yesterday was one of those days.

It started with an ambitious early morning jog with the two year old in the single stroller which is always a treat compared to the 100+ lb load of both kids in the ball and chain  double stroller. I love to think on my runs and writing and running go hand and hand for me. I felt like I was in a slump and had no other material to say about life, but then suddenly this phrase popped into my mind

Stronger does not mean more perfect.

Strong does not equal perfect.

I am getting stronger - but I am not getting more perfect. In fact, last night's dishes are still in the sink. The kitchen and my house are far from perfect. But I am getting stronger. I am out running and breathing the fresh morning air.

This realization kept bugging me throughout the day as I did things that filled me up instead of things that made me strive for perfection.

Then as if I had been preparing for this moment all day it happened. Here's the scene:

I'm sitting at the kitchen table with my four year old son and he desperately wants to write a note to his daddy. He just started making lines which resemble letters and decided he wanted to write a card. His focus and determination- which I have known his whole life- began to shine through in a way which I recognized all too well. He had just started writing letters not a week ago - yet his brow furrowed and his pencil scribbled angry lines when his "v" in love was not exactly like the example I drew.

He wrote the note. I felt so much pride. Then he wanted to write more and the words and letters were not how he wanted and his anger built. I then realized with all the utmost importance - how can I teach him to love himself and not strive for perfection when he watches me daily striving for perfection and getting angry when life isn't up to my unrealistic expectations?

I need to stop striving for that perfect standard RIGHT NOW. Because if I don't I will only feed his tendency toward perfection and he will struggle. He will feel like he needs to prove himself to be loved.

I hug and kiss him and praise him over and over for his hard work, determination and how caring his heart is that he wanted to write a note saying how much he loved his daddy. Then we decided we had practiced enough and it was time to play.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

The Mommy Guide to Surviving a 4 year old

The cool thing about little kids is that each milestone, each new year they are doing something so new and so different! Things change so much and so fast. And with each blessed birthday comes new happy things - like writing letters and new challenges .... challenges which are of a whole new arena.

So in one week (to the day) experience of mothering a 4 year old I made some observations for surviving and even having successfully happy (mostly) days with my new teenager- I mean preschooler.

1. It is really a super big deal little sister got to pick her toothbrush color first out of the toothbrush two pack

Ok - I've always known choices are a big deal, especially related to siblings and especially related to who goes first etc. etc. But the level of emotional catharsis at age 4 is thus far unsurpassed. I never knew how offensive having to have the green toothbrush really is and how it can cause a 30 minute delay to a fun outing.....

2. Suddenly I live with a super sleuth

It's like that part of his brain where he can be sneaky just clicked. Except he's super obvious about it. Lord knows what it will be like when he's a teen and can actually sneak around and have a chance (maybe) to go undetected.  Never before have I seen a little boy so excited to go into quiet time that he slams his door with anticipation to look quietly at books and perhaps rest on his bed... No odds are he took that off limits Amazon package from the front door step into his room; rock in his hand and plans to secretly discover the contents.

Refer to #1 for reaction to package being taken away and plans foiled.

3. Gift shops/Stores/Toys

Obsessive about getting "a little toy" for his sister, or me, or his daddy, all for him to play with us with. So cute.

4. Can go from heart breaker to making me a total puddle of mush

This all happened in the same day no joke.

"I'm done with you mommy. I'm finding a new mommy who is gooder than you."

I want to note it took all my self control and empathy to not correct his grammar in this comment.

"I won't forget you mommy like Dory forgot her parents. I will always remember you because I love you more than anything."

5. At the end of the day...

These emotional roller coasters, extreme anger/sadness, actually have been made better by just hugging and kissing him rather than disciplining him for his behavior. He kind of reminds me of myself when I was pregnant.

And I may or may not have gone through and entire pint of Ben and Jerry's and a pint of Gelato in the past week.But when you're pushing two kids in a single BOB with a flat tire after spending the day at the museums it doesn't matter because us moms figure it out - anything from getting two worn out kids to the car by ourselves to how to parent with each new step in child development. It's what we do.