Archives for December 2010

How to Surrender 2010

I surrender. I give up and give in to the ten tons of laundry that has invaded my home, along with the despicable crumbs of food everywhere and the fact that I haven’t showered in three days. And no, I don’t have two newborns… not even one!

It’s New Years Eve Day and well, that’s just how it is around here. You know what, I think I’ll make it. 2011 will come anyway… no end of the world, despite my clearly having lost my Type A Mom status.

But seriously now, “surrender” was my word for 2010. When it came to me on New Year’s Eve 2009, I didn’t realize the weight of it — it’s significance and what it would require. What?! You mean I actually have to do it? Give up control?! It was only when I actually let go that I realized how tightly I was holding on — and how tired I was from doing it.

Have you ever watched your kids insist on doing something “the hard way?” Just recently, I told my 7yo, “Trust me on this one. It’s better if you…”

Of course, he summarily dismisses my shoe-tying “wisdom” but eventually he does learn from doing it BOTH ways that I actually sometimes know stuff. But he had to get there all on his own.

A highlight from 2010 was when I shared a panel discussion with Kimberly Coleman and she said, “You make plans and God laughs.” I imagine God laughs a lot when She watches me insist on doing things my way too because She’s been saying, “Trust me! It’s easier THIS way.”

I remember Kim fondly when either me or my kids insist on “pushing rope.” I have a much greater compassion quotient for their desire to control their own destiny. And I’m slowly developing some self-compassion for the times I’ve chosen to summarily dismiss Divine Wisdom myself and at least learned, if but the hard way, that there is an easier way.

I’m wrapping up 2010 and putting a bow on it. It doesn’t look pretty right now but it feels really, really good.

What’s YOUR word for 2011?

I got mine in the wee hours of one morning but that’s a subject of an entirely separate post!

Happy New Year, my friend!

How to: Attachment Parenting and Self Love

I consider myself an Attachment Parenting parent but I also believe there is no one right way to parent. In attachment, as in parenting and as in life, there are many ways.

Here’s what I know about attachment: attachment happens differently for each of us. Said another way, there’s no one right way to parent.

As a physical therapist and Infant Massage Instructor, I’ve been talking to parents about all things parenting under the sun for over a decade. And after all this talking, I’ve come to a conclusion: there’s a lot of guilt involved in parenting, and not only because we judge each other, but because we judge ourselves (which I thinks hurts worst of all).

There are just some some tough parenting moments, where self love is not easy:

  • You walk into the next room (for just a minute!) and baby rolls off the bed. Thud!
  • You get caught up, loose track of time and are late for school pick up.
  • The tooth was placed under the pillow with excitement… only for your child to awake and search HIGH and low for what the fairy might have left. Crushed, nothing is found (until miraculously, minutes later… a crisp bill is found somewhere in the sheets.)

We’ve all been there, or at least I have. I’ve experienced every one of the above. Not my finest moments. But in those moments, and even now as I write about them, I get to love the parts of myself that led to them. In each I was [Read more…]

How to Give the Gift of Courage

Courage originally meant, “To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.” ~ Brené Brown

I’ve watched this video at least 15 times. I posted it on Facebook. I shared it on Twitter. I emailed it to my friends and family And I swear, my personal tagline: thinker living by heart — was created at least a week BEFORE listening to Brené Brown.

But don’t you love the magical way that The Universe (and the internet) brings like minds and souls together?

I was inspired, of course, to buy her book, The Gifts of Imperfection and I’m locking myself in “the cave” to devour it. Already, this line on page xi has grabbed me: “It was clear from the data that we cannot give our children what we don’t have.” Sound familiar?

So apparently the personal quest that I’ve been on for these last few years has not been a solo mission. Not only has Brené been on a similar journey but so was everyone who replied to my email with “Thank you. You have no idea how much I needed to see that today.” … or variations of it.

Brene packs in 20:45 min with lots to chew on. I’m certain that each of us got something — exactly what we needed out of it, whether “Connection is why we’re here.” or “You can’t selectively numb.”

For me as a mom, this was yet another reminder of how important it is for us to be courageous. And to be courageous, we have to LOOK INSIDE.

Yes, it’s so much easier to stay on the surface. Certainly, it’s less messy and uncomfortable but the price we pay is steep. We are electing to lop off huge chunks of our hearts in order to keep our hands clean. When we opt out of disappointment and heartache, we also pass on joy and bliss.

You who have, through small miracles lived through both ends of the spectrum, know the real cost.

It’s Christmas is in two days. Can you give the gift of courage to your children?

The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brené Brown, Ph.D., L.M.S.W.

If you are interested in joining me for an online class focusing on the themes of Brené’s work, find out more about the Winter Session of Dream Lab. Class starts JANUARY 10.

How to Build a Good Relationship with Your Childcare Provider

There was recently an article on My Mommy Manual about finding the right nanny or childcare provider for your child.  While that task is daunting, I believe the task of keeping a good relationship with your childcare provider is essential for many reasons.  As a mom (and also having been a nanny) I can see both sides to this relationship.

Just like every relationship you have in your life, the one with the person who is taking care of your child is a very important one. Do not underestimate this. I don’t mean you should be best friends with them (actually that makes things more challenging), I mean you should have trust and good communication (both ways). I have come up with some ideas to help you along.

Communicate Effectively
As a child care provider, I really appreciate any information about the child’s night or morning when they are dropped off. It helps me to understand the child’s needs and allows me to see the big picture. Let us know if your child had a particularly difficult evening or morning. If something major is going on at home (such as divorce or a death in the family) your child care provider should definitely be informed so that we can help your child if they are acting out or feeling sad. This also opens the door so that they can communicate with you if there are any issues. In general, being approachable is a good thing so that the teacher feels they can talk to you if your child is having any issues.

Show Respect
There are some crappy teachers/nannies out there but there are MANY good ones. Your child is going to have both through the course of his or her life and they will learn lessons from all of them. Even though you may not particularly like your child’s teacher, you need show respectful to him or her.

If there is a major issue with your child while they are under the childcare provider’s care, confronting them is a must. But, be aware of your timing. I know it’s often challenging to find the right time to talk with a teacher since they are often trying to do other things (especially during drop off or pick up times). Respect their time by talking to them at an appropriate time. If you need to chat with them for more than a minute, try sending a note or coming in early when there isn’t a lot going on. If face to face communication is a must, ask them when a good time to chat would be.  Do not speak badly about your child’s teacher in front of your child. This will create a triangle and being direct is a much better way to handle the situation. If you need to vent, talk to your spouse or friend about the situation.  Also, say thank you to your child’s teacher often! Show them you appreciate their hard work and dedication either in person, in a note or by giving them a small handmade gift from your child.

Build trust
Trust is an important part of your relationship with your childcare provider. I know some teacher’s do not like when the parent hangs around while dropping their child off (it can be a disruption if the teacher is in the middle of something). But there’s nothing wrong with you taking your time hanging things up or a quick chat with a teacher (unless you are having difficulties with your child during these times which can be a problem). If your childcare provider allows the chance for you to participate in a party, take them up on it. This is a good opportunity to see their interactions with the children and spend some time in their classroom.  In addition, listen to your child-ask them about their day. Children are pretty good at giving you an idea of what their day was like. Follow your intuition and trust your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right, talk to the teacher or nanny about it.

by Expert Mommy, Toni Langdon

How to Stop Christmas

“Do you know why Santa is always jolly?” my husband said to me last year as we were driving together to purchase our Christmas tree.

“No, why?” I replied on queue like the well-trained straight man of umpteen years of marriage.

“Because he knows where all the bad girls live,” he said. I laughed.

Make the Holidays Memorable, Try an Ice Skating Field Trip!

“Where’s that?” my son piped up from the back seat. He really wanted to know.

The holidays seem to come faster every year. By Halloween, the outdoor plants at Home Depot are all gone and Christmas trees fill every nook and cranny of the store. At some malls, Christmas music even accompanies back-to-school shopping. There is no stopping Christmas. But we can slow it down and cherish every moment. Here are some ideas.

Don’t Dilute the Season

Set your own parameters and jump into the season on your terms. Fend off the push to start early. I like to dive in on Black Friday and get out with the crowds to catch the excitement — and the sales of course. Make the season memorable by planning one small holiday event each weekend, such as getting the tree, catching the lighting ceremony or skating at a rink. Create a visual of the season’s shortness by planning these events on a big calendar everyone can see.

Count it Down

My son can’t seem to memorize his division tables but he can instantly calculate the number of days to Christmas. Use your little Human Holiday Calculator to help build the excitement. Get an advent calendar or add a days-to-Christmas countdown to your fridge.

Celebrate Cyber Monday

Cyber Monday is the virtual Black Friday. In offices all across America, it’s the Monday-after-Thanksgiving phenomenon where people collectively panic about their holiday lists. Suddenly, the fingers start shopping online sites during work time. So, join the crowd and make the most of it. Your boss is doing it too.

Wrap it Up Early

Shopping is not recreation. Recreation is recreation. Make lists and get it done to have more time for fun. Draw names with extended family. Really. They want this too.

Wrap it Literally

My friend Teresa decided not to wrap gifts one year because of how fast they were unwrapped on Christmas morning. She experimented with simply leaving piles of gifts for each child under the tree.

It was a fiasco. Her daughter felt slighted by Santa and asked if Santa was too busy for her this year. Teresa never left a gift unwrapped again.

Create a Slow Tradition

Making crafts can certainly slow down time. Even baking cookies can take up a whole afternoon. Get online for ideas, get the stuff, make a mess and create a tradition.

Make it Special

For my daughter, my husband has this show-her-the-finer-side-of-life theory of gift giving. He wants to head off any possibility that she will marry a folk singer. This is a palpable fear of his as she really likes the music. So he buys her nice things that a folk singer could not get her. For the longest time, she was the only five-year-old on the planet with pearls and she does cherish them. But the smart thing about getting one very special gift is that you’ve got an anchor. You don’t have to worry about adding too many other gifts, leaving more time for holiday enjoyment.

Be Thoughtful

People mention things they want all year long. You only have to listen. Besides the pearls example above, gifts don’t really have to cost a lot. For my dad, I’m scanning up old photos for a slide show. For my husband, I’m going to get his favorite book D-Day signed by the author. The time spent creating thoughtful gifts adds to the Christmas spirit.

Remember the Reason

The first year we moved here, I asked my children if they wanted to be angels and shepherds in the holiday procession at church. My son instantly was 100% sure he wanted to be a shepherd and said so. My daughter said, “I want to be a ballerina.”

I explained that 2000 years ago there were angels, shepherds, wise men, animals and Inn Keepers. There were no ballerinas.

“I want to be a ballerina,” she said again. I put my smart-mom noggin in gear.

“You mean a ballerina that wears a white dress and a tinsel halo?” I asked. She was two at the time and much easier to trick.

“Yes!” she replied. Problem solved.

We went to Holiday Mass with our Shepherd and Angel/Ballerina to say our thanks and remember the tiny baby who started it all. Christmas stood still for an entire hour.

Margee Moore is an advertising copywriter, mother of two and author of the iPhone book app Sleeping With the Laundry. Makes a great t0-me-from-me-love-me gift!

How to Celebrate the Holidays Without the Stress

I’m talking about celebrating over the holidays MINUS the stress and remembering the reason for the season this week on a St. Louis morning show and this is my first (and favorite) tip:

Get together as a family and talk about the many reasons for the season. I asked my 7 year old daughter and she said, “The birth of Jesus.” Presents and dinner at Grandma’s house came in a close second though mind you.

Now that you have your reason or reasons for thee season, write them and hang them in your home for all to see.

Here is a sweet little download I created with art from smilebox.com that you can copy/print/cut-out/fill-out and POST.

PRINT AND REMEMBER YOUR REASONS FOR THE SEASON

Post a gentle reminder for yourself and your family as you move into the busy-ness of the season and you’ll be sure to focus on the things that matter this holiday season. And when you do that, stress just naturally takes a back seat to the more important things in life. Like rolling in the snow, singing, laughing, sipping cocoa…

In this video, learn how to save time, save money and stay connected to your center… even (especially) over the holidays.

How do you keep from getting stressed out during the holidays? What is the reason for the season in your home? [Read more…]

How to Listen to a Birth Story

Women have been talking about their births for thousands of years. And yet somehow, as the tide of childbirth has shifted dramatically in the past 70 years, we’ve forgotten the importance of being on the listening end of a birth story.  The next time you hear a mother start to discuss the details of her birth, consider taking these recommendations to heart:

Take Responsibility For Your OWN Emotions! I cannot stress enough how important this is. Women should be free to share their birth stories without fear of “offending” another mom. For example, if a woman is sharing how she labored without any pain medication, please do not jump to the conclusion that she’s calling you a wimp for choosing an epidural! Whatever your birth experiences were, they are yours and yours alone. Maybe you’re still carrying disappointment or sadness about your births, for any number of reasons, and those emotions often resurface when hearing another woman’s story. But instead of projecting your emotions onto another mother (which we sometimes unknowingly do), own whatever emotions you’re experiencing and resolve to set aside time to work through those feelings. By doing so, you will be better able to objectively love and support other mothers.

Do Not “One-Up” Her Story With Yours! Do we really think it’s helpful  to say, “Oh 20 hours of labor, that’s nothing!! Listen to my whopper-of-a-birth-story…” Certainly it is in our nature as mothers to talk about our births.  Even elderly women will gladly share all the details of their births when asked. We want our stories to be heard and they should be heard! But choose with caution the opportunities to share your story. Instead, if you’re listening to another woman’s story, listen intently and remind yourself that this is her time.

Respond with Empathy. Many women are burdened with painful emotions they are carrying from their birth experiences. Often we feel uncomfortable when a person is sharing about their grief or sadness. In our discomfort, we end up saying things such as, “Well at least your baby is healthy” or “the best thing is just to move on.” But to a hurting woman, these well-intended words are like pouring salt into her wounds.  Instead, validate her emotions. Phrases like, “That must’ve been so scary for you” or “it’s understandable why you are disappointed” are reassuring and can aid in her healing. And if you really do not know what to say, you can always respond with, “I’m so sorry you experienced this.” Remember: you might be the very first person to respond to her pain with empathy and kindness.

“Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. When we really listen to people there is an alternating current, and this recharges us so that we never get tired of each other. We are constantly being re-created.”

~Brenda Ueland

by Expert Mommy, Sarah Baker

How To Have More In-Law Holiday Jolly

Ok look, I’m having trepidation about spending Christmas with my husband’s parents.  Overall, they are good people – they are nice, like to play games and don’t have a problem talking.  Hell, we’ve been married nine years, you’d think that I’d be used to hanging out with his family by now.  However, I always get a bit unsettled because I feel so ancillary to our family gatherings.   I’m never quite so sure if it’s an east coast-west coast thing or if it’s just the BIG love of my husband and the boys that leaves me out in the cold.

To add to it, Husband and I have been on rocky territory lately and I’m feeling even a bit more unsettled than usual.  We’re regularly going to counseling and it’s absolutely been making a difference for the two of us, but I’m concerned about this trip and that the general stress of the holidays is going to throw us into the deep end again.  I think I freaked out on him for buying a kid gift that I thought was crossed off the list.  However, he keeps insisting this it’s worth the cost, we’ll make space for it and the boys will love it. (I keep saying to myself, “Jen, let it go. Let it go.”)

And one more thing… [Read more…]

How to Let Go: The Back Story

Is this a “How to Let Go” or a “How to Move On”? Or maybe it’s a “How to Be Successful”. Because, essentially, it is really a little of each and I was quite torn on which title would best suite this post. But for all intents and purposes, when listed in the preceding order these how-to’s are placed exactly in the order by which you would get yourself from the first point to the last point. So, maybe this should be a mini-series? I might just let you all decide.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned it somewhere before, I’m not one to let go. To me, letting go has always meant giving up. Except, maybe it’s really not.

I’ve always had a penchant for sticking things out. You know that one song with the lyrics that go, “hold on loosely, but don’t let go”? Try “hold on tightly and don’t let go.” That second one is me. Don’t get me wrong, perseverance is a mighty good thing but only to a point.

When I was in high school and I had to move to a different town I was determined to remain faithful to my boyfriend- even though my dad didn’t want me to have anything to do with him. No telephone contact. Not even letters. Only, the letters rule was a surprise. I found out when I accidentally stumbled on a few and a picture the boyfriend had sent me that didn’t make it to the trash can. I found a way to make contact. I didn’t date anyone else. I didn’t even go out because I didn’t want other guys to get the wrong idea. For  TWO YEARS!!!

Do you know how long that is in high school time? It’s kinda like dog years. In the end, there was an end. I met someone else and he wasn’t right for me either, but by that time I was much more willing to move on.

Flash forward a few years to my marriage. Crumbling after only TWO years. Hold on tightly, I thought. Don’t let go. But the tight holding only made things worse. It made the fighting worse. It made me miserable. I lost 20 pounds in just a few weeks time. And then I did it. I told my husband, “If you need to go, that’s okay. But I love you.” I left him alone. I let him think. I let myself think. Was this even what I wanted? [Read more…]

How to Cut Out Holiday Stress

I can’t tell you how many friends I’ve talked to lately that have been bracing themselves for the holiday season. I know, there are a million extra things on your to-do list but… nothing good can come from holding yourself so tightly like that! I’m a one trick pony on advice here… BREATHE!

But Lee Woodruff is the author of Perfectly Imperfect: A Life in Progress. She has some tips for us on beating the stress for the holidays… not just for Thanksgiving, but for all those typically stressful times!

1. Get organized.

2. Ask for help.

3. Reward yourself.