Don’t Put that Bead in Your Nose!

I wanted to share something that happened this week at chez moi. I’m not proud of everything that happened, but the outcome and learning moment make it all worth it for me to be vulnerable with you here.

So, as a preface to this, my youngest had a similar story where she put a (linden) seed up her nose on Labour Day weekend 2 years ago. It ended up at the emergency ward of our local hospital, right before we were to empark on our end-of-summer weekend excursion. Even the doctors there were baffled how to get the seed out of her nose, it was that much of an ordeal. So, you would think we all learned from that experience.

You would think…

So now, picture us this week, at 8:15 on a school morning, frantically running around getting ready for the day – 4 lunches, 4 snacks, 4 bags, morning layers for the cooler weather, slurping up a few sips of almost hot coffee, brushing teeth, getting vitamins, finding keys: You know the drill, mornings are not the friend of parents with wee kids.

My son happily declares he found a bead under the table. Why he was there i can’t tell you. I know it’s not his bead but it’s not common for him to be the finder so i congratulated him on the find, like it was a gold coin or something. I look at it and then promptly continue dashing around finishing my morning routine on speed. I then hear this –

“Uh mom, THE BEAD IS STUCK IN MY NOSE.” Yes, the capitals are there for the frantic sound in his voice.

My partner is in the same room as him but had his back turned as he was washing the dishes. I am down the hall. And i react to his plea. Ready for this: This is the part i am not proud of but i have learned from it, i promise. I say (i mean yell from the other room) –

“Are you kidding me?! Really!? Do you not remember your sister and how we had to take her to emerg! We don’t have time to take you there, we need to get to school and work today! You are the big brother, you should know better!” To be far, i don’t know if i actually said that last line but i said the rest almost verbatim.

I think sweep in and say “i got this” out loud. I know just what to do. My partner and daughter are getting a wee bit excitable too, and now we are all thinking of running to emerg. After i try to get him to blow his nose, unsuccessfully because he HATES blowing it and would rather snort boogers in, i then remember this gem of a video i watched recently. Thank goodness for social media because i voluntarily watched a video of a mom and her sweet baby happily clean her nose like a pro. I dash upstairs for my medicine syringe and neti pot. I dash downstairs and get my son to breathe with me first. He is clearly scared so I tell him it may be uncomfortable but “i’ve got this.” I then walk him through it and after 3 separate squirts of water in one nostril, out pops the bead out of the other side.

Brilliant.

We all hoop and holler and celebrate. I dance for my son and myself – i am not usually the one that is quick on my feet but i felt like Wonder Woman that day. My son comes up to me and says “thanks for helping me with that.” And i look him squarely in the eye and say “i will always be there for you, to help you with anything. And i’m sorry that i was not more supportive right away. I regret my first reaction and i know it wasn’t supportive. I over-reacted and was worried for you. Will you forgive me?” We hugged and he said of course. Later that day, i again apologized for my less-than-supportive initial response. He said “Mom, you already said that.” I just really wanted him to hear that i was sorry – i don’t want him to ever feel like he can’t come to me for stuff. That is not the parent i want to be.

I know it was a mistake, and i partly blame my flight or fight reaction to the crisis. I’m human too, even when i know better. But i’m sharing this with you as it was a great learning moment for me on how to really say sorry, and to show my kids that i have their back. And how to clean out a nose of course.

PS. We got to school on time too.

It Takes a Village

I’ve been thinking a lot about the support we need to be on top of this whole parenting gig. I think we have swung a bit too far away from being there for each other and instead merely being there on the periphery. I think our need to feel independent, successful, competent, and strong baits us away from asking for help, being vulnerable, and reaching out to give support too.

Recently, a friend of mine told me that she had been in my daughter’s class when a fire drill happened. My friend shared with me that she was present and noticed that my daughter was reacting to the shrill sounds. I love that they found each other, and my friend (a seasoned mom of 3 herself, among other amazing skills and accomplishments) was able to provide my wee girl with the reassurance and safety net she needed.

This is the village i speak of: One where my daughter can look to another adult in the room and seek comfort. She knows this woman as a friend of mine, as an ally to her, and as another mom herself. I love that my daughter can go to someone for cuddles when she needs it.

I also need this support sometimes too. I’ve shared already about the nurturing acts of self-care i so rely on, and the activities that provide me comfort (like going outdoors, music, creative art expressions) but i also just need a break sometime so i can come back refreshed. I realized recently that the village i need is one that provides me with a break when i ask (and also when it’s intuitively offered), acknowledges the hard work it is to raise children, and allows me to be raw – honest, messy, vulnerable, authentic, and imperfect.

So, for me the village is not one that is trying to also parent my children. It is not one that is telling my kids to eat their dinner or to discipline them for me. It is not one where i feel even more judged and ostracized. It is not one where the villagers have such different family values and parenting styles. I would love a break from the anger i am starting to feel rise up, from the frustration of yet another argument. I’d love an offer of taking my kids out to play, or to have someone else take the lead when my energy is tapped out. I need a village with others who share similar values and styles. Or at least have empathy and a loving ear to listen to me complain.

I really appreciate the great groups that have formed that find solace in our struggles, and offer a chance to commiserate as well as empower. I really appreciate when someone can pick up on another person’s struggle and offer a cup of tea, an active ear, a playdate, wine in the front yard. Groups can be on-line, in-person, formal, drop-in, or just merely a chance meeting.

If you don’t yet have a village, start small. A village needs to start somewhere – Be it a deserted island, a party of one for dinner. Find ways to build your village, create a circle of support where you know where to turn to for what support. I love this tool and use it a lot in my work, when i’m learning more about the support someone else has, or doesn’t. Having never lived in a village, i admit i have a warped sense of it. I assume there’s a vulnerability in having your dirty laundry aired out (like when you yell and your neighbours hear, or when you dump your kids’ toys in the trash for all to see). But it is also a way to show solidarity, and to feel united, and to also feel human. It can be a village that you create, grow and nurture rather than one that you are stuck in and cannot leave. You can set the tone and create your own village with a clear intention of what you need.

Do you have a village? Want to join mine? New members are always welcome.

Happy Mother’s Day

As today closes, i wanted to take a moment to honour the day. I know there are some of us that today would have been hard – both for our own relationships with our mothers and also because we are not mothers as we wish we could be.

I work with women who are mothers but don’t have their children in their lives. I support women who are wanting to be mothers but haven’t yet be given this gift, i also am a mother who has experienced miscarriage as so many of us have. There are families who have had to go through IVF and advocate for their right to be parents. And there are more still of us who have lost our own mothers. Today may have been a ‘made up holiday’ as some are quick to mention. But it is a special day nonetheless, where classrooms, storefronts, and TV spots alike all highlighting the fact. It definitely makes it hard for those of us that are triggered by today.

I read about the history and significance of Mother’s Day. Did you know it has some roots in peace and anti-war work? While it has been celebrated for even longer, our more recent version was created by a mom in the late 1880s who was frustrated that she had to mourn the loss of her child. In fact, the first era of Mother’s Days was to acknowledge the loss mothers feel when their children die. It sure has changed since then.

This year, i made a point to request (demand?) what i wanted to do for today. I got to stay in bed and read. I got a delicious homemade brunch in the comfort of my own home, and we got to stroll around a neighbourhood i love. Yes there were sibling squabbles between the kids, yes there was a near-disaster when having dinner out, and yes i had to remind the kids it was my special day. But for all that, i did create that time for me. I am one of the lucky ones. And i got to hear that i was the best mommy from both my kids. My son’s tooth fell out, and i got to carry my 5 year old for a few blocks more than i should have. All in a day’s worth. And very fitting for today.

I bought this shirt recently. It was a gift to myself. I love the way it calls to me – both that it reminds me that i am strong and that being strong to me is a personal thing. I don’t want to be strong like anyone else, or to feel that being strong means to not cry, to be invincible. I also know that mothers can be strong for using an epidural, for not using any meds during birth, for adopting, for nursing for 3 years, for weaning when it was best for us, for yet another month without conceiving, for challenging someone’s oppressive view of who a parent should be. Strong means sometimes asking for help, and it can also mean just letting go of our own expectations and giving in to the tears. Strong mama does not mean being strong like a man. Whatever that means.

I wear this shirt to remind me to be strong when i don’t feel like it. And it remind you too, that we are in this today – we can be ‘strong like a mother’ in any way that works for us. It’s a good mantra. We may need that reminder at times, and that’s okay. Being strong is knowing what we need, and doing what we have to do remain strong. It doesn’t have to mean stubborn, but rather staying true to what’s important to you.

How can you be strong as a mother? I encourage you to find a way that fits for you. Happy Mother’s Day to all of us.

A Day to Recognize

Today marks World Maternal Mental Health Day. It’s part of Mental Health Week that is honoured here in Canada. I wanted to take a moment to honour and play tribute to the many women and parents who have experienced any form of hardship, pain and suffering in their identity as a parent. It can be ugly, isolating, and scary at times for sure.

Our society definitely still paints an unjust and judgmental lens on mental health issues in general. This makes it so hard for new parents to reach out for support. New mothers are told that they should be in love with their newborn at first site, that the pain is worth it, that they will get sleep when their kids are teens, and that we are to suck it up.

That is so far from the truth and the opposite of supportive. As a mother myself, i definitely had to learn as i went when my children were newborns. I feel like i was a lucky one when it came to my postpartum life, even with a somewhat traumatic birth of my first. That said, there are still things that i felt too scared to voice and ask for support with. Like i was supposed to love being alone with my baby all day long. Each and every day. Like we were supposed to nap all the time, and i never felt (internal or external) pressure to have it all and do it all.

I’m not sure if it’s because i am immersed in supporting new parents now, or if it’s really the case, but i appreciate seeing all the blog writers, the celebrities, the ads and documentaries on this topic that is do dear to me. Maybe it was there 8 years ago when i was pregnant with my first. But maybe not and we are doing better now.

In my work, one thing that i really love is helping the women i support to build a wellness toolkit for themselves. I know one of the hardest things is to feel like we have or deserve time for ourselves. But we do – we can’t give from an empty cup (oh how i love that quote!). So, my gift to you today, on World Maternal Mental Health Day is this tool: Building Your Wellness Toolkit. Feel free to download and print it. It’s a worksheet that helps you look at ways you can provide yourself with some good self-care. When you need it. When you deserve it. Each and every day. Fill your cup.

The Resilient Butterfly

“Perhaps the butterfly is proof that you can go through a great deal of darkness and still become something beautiful”

I’m not sure who the source to that quote is but i love it. And, i love butterflies. Not just because part of my name stems from the word butterfly, nor because they are pretty and whimsical – though both are true. But, rather, they are a perfect symbol of resiliency, vulnerability and exquisite risk.

I recently updated my logo to connect to this path that women take when finding themselves, re-finding themselves, and taking time to take care of themselves. The butterfly is you, and it’s perched on my name, as i feel like i am here to hold space for you while you are on this journey to heal. I act as a tool to help ground you, but really believe that you are doing the work yourself to heal, connect, move forward, and take risks. I am so honoured to be a part of this journey with you.

I like that the butterfly is perched and yet still in flight. Like she is ready to take off when needed, and to hold the power of her own safety and path. Very symbolic as it connects to our journeys in healing and being in therapy. It’s not by chance that i landed on this butterfly image. I had lovely and long chats with my pal who is a creative designer to get to this place that feels like it speaks to the work i do.

A few years ago, i attended a training on post-traumatic growth and resiliency. The presenter is a social worker from the States who shared more about the steps we take in order to heal and hopefully reach resiliency. She spoke of the butterfly’s journey from caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly. To think of how such a fragile and yet strong creature can show such strength and resiliency!

Recently, Tara Brach posted a great podcast where she spoke about the exquisite risk people take when actively engaging in their vulnerability. I loved how she too connected the narrative of a butterfly and the path they take. She goes further to say it’s actually arrested development when we don’t take these risks in being vulnerable. Take a listen when you have a moment.

I’m starting to see the Spring moths and butterflies dance by me as i’m outdoors. I love to take a pause in what i’m doing to say hello and thank them for their trust in the world. I know that may sound cheesy, but their greeting is also a chance for me to slow down, take stock in my day, and to honour my own journey too.

Next time you see a butterfly, say hello!

(image above by From a drawing by W. I. Beecroft: THE SILVER-SPOTTED SKIPPER)

Spring is in the Air – Baby Blessings

I walked by 2 robins this morning on my way to work. And it seems like it was overnight that crocuses (is that the plural form?) started to sprout out of the Earth. It gave me pause to notice that Spring is here, even if in baby steps.

Speaking of baby steps, i shared a vulnerable post for my last blog entry and am so moved by all the wonderful feedback and support i received. My daughter has since turned 5. We tell her birth story each year on her birthday, and this year it seemed to mean more to her. Things are starting to take shape in her memories and the women who have been my village have now also become hers.

About a month before she came Earth-side, i had wanted to have a blessingway for myself. I know it’s not usually the pregnant lady who hosts her own shower, but i didn’t want a traditional baby shower this time around. I had already had one with my first child and really treasured it. But as i didn’t need more stuff, i wanted to be able to honour the pregnancy, labour and birth in a more spiritual and holistic way.

So, after during some research (like reading this helpful book), i asked a lovely friend and community organizer to help me. She offered her home as host. With a circle of about 10 women we danced, we ate, we chatted, and they made this beautiful Blessing Necklace for me. I wore it during the final days of my pregnancy, and i had it close by during the labour and birth. It still holds space for me by my desk. The necklace is made of special beads that each friend brought – buttons from their own grandma, crystals that bear meaning, and beads that bring joy.

I’m sharing this part of my own birth story as a way to remind us that we have a choice in how we honour our birth stories, right from when we become pregnant to after we bring our baby Earth-side. If you don’t want to do a baby shower, don’t; if you don’t want to cover your belly in a belly cast, don’t. But if you want to dance and have a foot bath in rose petals – the world is your oyster. Having choice in your story allows you to feel more present in the birth and postpartum.

I am NOT Your Servant

bunniesI’m going to share something with you that feels a bit vulnerable. As a therapist and someone who helps others keep their shit together, I want to be authentic that I also make mistakes. And that self-care is something that is right up there in importance to me, but I too need to work on creating a better balance.

My youngest is about to turn 5 in a mere few days’ time. She is my sidekick mini-me. But she is also the one that can push my buttons like no other. I relish the idea of her being fierce (my eldest child’s favourite word to describe something powerful), and I also feel so torn that she is displaying her fierceness at me.

I love the new saying “…nevertheless she persisted “not only for the feminist in me, but also because it describes the relationship I have with my fierce and strong-willed little girl. I can’t wait for her to release this power on others as she grows up, but until then, her dad and I are getting the brunt of it.

This weekend was a busy one for our wee family – I think we had a record 3 birthday parties to take the kids to. I know it was also a special New Moon this weekend, with an eclipse that was told to pull our energy and resources. So…I know all this in theory.

But, come 4:00 on Sunday, my energy was tapped. And my sweet girl’s body was feeling the tug and pull of sugar highs and lows. As a parent, I like to think I have a good insight to why my kids act they way they do. As a therapist, I like to think I know how to take care of my own personal needs too.

As a human, I did not listen to either of these wise hats but rather reacted with pure raw emotion. My daughter’s incessant need for me to get her bag, feed her, make her something, fix something, carry her finally released my own fierceness. Not in a way I wanted but in the way that can come out at times.

So, in my anger I yelled at her “I need a break! I am not your mommy for the rest of the day.’ Knowing right away how awful that sounded, I promptly took that back and yelled instead ‘I’m not your servant for the rest of the day. I will make dinner and eat it with you but that’s it.’ Gotta draw the line somewhere right?

Well, we were both shocked. But she heard me somehow. Somehow she realized I needed some time to myself. So, while I baked cupcakes to feel better, my daughter kept herself busy for over an hour by making herself some new stuffies. She found the paper, staple, stuffing, and made 3 adorable little bunnies all by herself. For an hour I had the time I needed to work on decompressing.

I’m not going to bore you with the details of the other argument I had with my kids later that night, that ended up with no one eating the cupcakes I made. It was ugly but I can look back and see that I needed to let this out – to take care of myself and to show myself and my sweet kids that I too have a limit and my window of tolerance was too small.

I share this to show that no one is perfect, and to also highlight why self-care for us as parents is so important. I love the analogy of the oxygen mask on airplanes – we are indeed supposed to put the mask on us first so that we can better care for others. I share this with you to show just why we need to.

I blame the New Moon Eclipse in Pisces.

Live What You Love

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While at my local dollar store to get goodies for the kids’ Valentine’s Day crafts,i walked by this lovely painting. It really spoke to me. On this day of love, it’s a good reminder to ‘live what you love.’ What it looks like for me may differ what it means to you. But, it is a great reminder to hold onto what we love. When we are losing ourselves to our children. When we are repeating the daily grind over and over (and over) again. When we have changed yet another poopy diaper.

At the end of each day, take a moment to think about something you did that you love. It might be a new thing that you enjoy to do or eat. In order to move past the Groundhog Day of daily life with children, it is a great activity to add in the mix something for us.

For me, i made a point to get myself flowers i love. I am sitting here in my cozy dining room, and while writing this post, i am peeking at my new bundle of ranunculus flowers. No matter what happens today, i know i gave myself a dose of self-love. That will give me a little boost in my step. What can you do today to give you some self-love?

Happy Day of Love.

Acts of Self-Love

It’s February already. The month of L O V E. I like to call it the month of self-love, so I appreciate the movement that is going around to acknowledge this. Here in Canada, February is a cold and dreary month. As today is February 2 (aka Groundhog Day, Candlemas, Imbolc), I like to set the intention to do some gentle and relaxing things for myself this month. It’s a good month to experiment with things that give you love and also times of rest and comfort.

I recently discovered a great site, and the writer has put together a pledge to do daily acts of self-love and blissful activities. Since that is in tune with my own intention, I’m following her plan. Here is a link to it so you can read more.
flowers at work
For instance, yesterday we were to find something beautiful and keep it within eyesight or our reach. That way, we can see and notice it more readily. For me, I was wearing my new favourite pink top and fun necklace. I was constantly looking down at this pop of fun colour, and it was such a nice treat for me. Like secret pick-me-ups. The photo above is a capture of the plant i have at my office. I just noticed today it has sweet pink buds forming. Of course, i moved the plant over to my desk to keep it closeby.

Today, she encouraged us to think of a teany tiny habit that makes me feel happier. For me, it’s making my bed. I love being able to dress and walk around my room with my bed all made up and inviting. It takes no time and I look forward to being enveloped by it later tonight. I can picture my bed throughout the day, and can’t wait to be there.

I don’t force my kids to make their beds, but they see my ritual in doing so each day. And so, when my son makes his own bed without prompting, my heart is full and I’m overjoyed that he made the step to do that for himself.

We are also doing this lovely activity as a family. Each night (or close enough to this, who am i kidding), I’m asking my family to share 1 thing they love about each of us. We had a fun time doing it last night. My daughter wanted a heart for herself – as she reminded us that it is important to love ourselves too. I couldn’t have said it better. I am keeping them answers on a sheet of paper and we have it on the ready, to read anytime.

What are some things you can do as acts of self-love? Simple, gentle, inexpensive prompts that remind you that are loved and important: you deserve moments of bliss and beauty. In this ugly time in our world, it’s a quiet act of rebellion to be a self-love warrior.

We Marched

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This Saturday, we joined the masses in the Women’s March. I definitely didn’t want to miss it and my daughter was happy to attend as she has learned already (at 4) that ‘Trump doesn’t like girls, and we’re girls mama!’ She made a sign, i knit pussyhats, and packed snacks.

More importantly, we had a good conversation with her and her older brother about what it means to be a feminist, an ally, what privilege means, and how to make our voice heard. My son joined us for the march too, as we have been talking about how language is powerful and about consent. As a white woman, who is currently able-bodied and partnered with a man, i know i have a lot of privilege. I work on being an ally and to unlearn the mis-truths i’ve been taught. I know it’s also my place to teach this to my children. We don’t know yet who they will love, but we do know that they need to learn more about being an ally and about consent.

Both my children know about consent and the correct words for their bodies. My daughter in fact used her knowledge of consent recently when she wanted to cut her long hair into a bob. I was suggesting just a trim, but she wanted more – ‘my body my choice mama’ is what i got. Of course i couldn’t challenge that. My daughter is also a hugger and a really good one at that. We are working on reminding her too about needing consent from others. It’s a continuous conversation surely.
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My daughter decided against carrying a poster so she wore our Vagina Activist pin proudly. We have discussions about gender fluidity often. Miss M has a good understanding of this, so she wore the pin in reference to her own vagina and her rights. I appreciate that. We’ve been talking a lot about gender and labels, and my son is quick to remind us that he has pushed boundaries with his clothes in the past. In the context of my work, my kids know too that not all women are mothers, and not all parents who birth babies or chestfeed are mothers. This will be an on-going conversation too as they get older and unpack things more.

It was a peaceful march, a walk really. My son called it a ‘standstill’ at one point for all the standing we did too. They learned some powerful songs and chants, and read some great posters. My daughter took notice of all the other Pussyhats that looked like ours. For these reasons, i believe whole-heartedly that there is a place for children at marches. It teaches this new generation that change is possible, and that we can be at the centre of making change.

The people united will never be defeated.