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.
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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.

The Art of Living

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Happy New Year! I hope you had a restful holiday season and took some time to yourself. I know how hard that can be, so i don’t take my saying this lightly.

This past weekend, we went through our Gratitude Jar (see here for a reference ). It was just what we needed after a busy week, to sit down together and read summaries of each week of 2016. While there were some lows, we were able to sit and laugh and reflect on the highs more.

I think this gave me some insight to the above quote: “The art of mothering is to teach the art of living to your children.” I saw it recently and it really sat with me. The author of the quote is Elaine Heffner and she writes on Good Enough Mothering.

I know that i am like so many others when i say ‘i had such a hard day’ but when i sit and reflect on it, sure one part was AWFUL (like when my son bit my daughter, when my daughter had a high fever and all our plans had to change, when my son called me a fricken’ stupidhead, you get the picture) but other parts were fantastic. Like when my kids went rock climbing for the first time, or when we had a blast bowling. Each day has some good parts in it. And if it hasn’t yet by 8:00pm, i make a point to do something nice for myself intentionally.

I’m not one to do New Year’s Resolutions as i think it puts a lot of pressure on, but i like the idea to set an intention or to use a Core Word that helps motivate me. This year, i’m going to focus on Breathe – to breath in and out before i respond to my kids’ when they are entering Bananas Zone. And for myself when i start to feel like a chicken with her head cut off.

I think this will help me teach the art of living to my kids – to stop and take a breathe, to notice things around me, to bring joy into the mundane parts of my life. I am working on creating a balance with what i need as a woman, and to be present for my children. It’s my job as a parent to teach this balance to them. I think this is the ‘art’ part of living. Kids can teach us about being mindful too – i love watching my daughter draw forever, and my son is devouring books. I need to remind them that it is important to create this balance so that our needs don’t collide. It’s a good lesson too that our children can teach us the adults about living as well.

Expectations Versus Reality: The Sugar Plum Fairy Didn’t Make the Cut

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The month of December is a whirlwind of busy-ness – holiday parties, things to make, presents to buy, school concerts, and more. It also marks my birthday on top of everything else. This year i thought it would be great to introduce my kids to The Nutcracker ballet.

I was wrong.

Now, to give me some credit, my kids already know the story. We read the book numerous times over the year, and that much more in December. We also have seen the New York City Ballet movie production of it, complete with a young McCauley Caulkin. We have even acted out the play at home, where i got to wear my old ballet shoes and wedding dress. Yes my wedding dress! And we listen to the sweet audio story by Sparkle Stories where the big brother Martin (age 7) gets to go to see the ballet with his mom. As my kids are similar ages to this story, i was sure that they could sit through a dance school’s production of it.

Oh, and i need to mention that my kids also attend dance classes themselves and have been in dance recitals. So, let’s just say i did my research and thought they were ready to share something that i love and was so eager to invite them into.

If i may back up a bit, i also had a birthday party out on the town the night before, which means my kids stayed up late too with their babysitter. My son (i’m sure) did not get enough sleep. So, in his excitement and with lack of proper sleep, he is not the most cooperative of folks. Who is, right?

At intermission i should have taken their behaviour as a clue to leave – they were irritable, loud, whiny and agitated. But i truly just wanted to sit through the second half and bear witness to the lovely Sugar Plum Fairy and company, and to see my kids excitement of it all.

Needless to say, i was that mom who had to shush her kids loudly many times, and to tell them to get their feet off the chair in front of them, and to sit still and be quiet, and to cuddle/hold them down from leaving their seat. It was rough but i also refused to leave.

It was a lovely show and i’m so glad that we chose a small dance school’s production as their initiation to the ballet, and not the professional dance company. I’m also glad we were in the cheap seats surrounded by other young families.

As we walked out of the theatre, my son declared ‘i never want to do THAT again.’ After my heart fell a few inches, i agreed with him that this was a bad day to choose to go. Who knew but hindsight. And then my sweet boy backtracked and said ‘well, let’s not do that after i stay up late and have a bad sleep.’

I couldn’t agree more.

Next year we may not go to see the ballet in person but i’m sure to be more mindful both of their need for sleep as well as my need to have the birthday i’d like. That may mean doing things a bit different as the mom to young kids, and that may mean i get to celebrate my birthday on another day and over the course of a few days. And not all if it with my kids in tow. That’s ok too.

How to Bring Joy

We’re in the midst of the holiday season right now. Our home is decorated, we’ve already watched seasonal movie classics, our holiday records are on the ready, and we have been excited about our Advent Calendar each day. It’s hard to not be excited about the holidays, when you have small children it’s almost a contagious feeling.

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But, there are times when it’s just so.much.work to be happy and on top of things. We did two holiday fairs yesterday alone. We had to see Santa and we had to see the Good Witch too. So that means TWO full fairs that are normally not on the same day, nor should they be.

So, as someone who tries to live with an intentional word for each day, i made a point to bring JOY into my day yesterday. And you know what, it worked! I had a blast – i was in there when it came to strolling in the school halls of standing room only busy-ness. I caught myself smiling while watching my happy kids talk to Santa. And i loved how earnest they were in their wishes this year – my son wants a Star Wars Lego toy more than anything, but when Santa also offered Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak, my son thought it was best to wait for that request until next year. Thank goodness – little does he know i’m making him just a regular Hogwart’s cloak. My daughter – well she asked for a ride on a unicorn as her special gift from the heart. Of course she did.

I know it can be so hard to get into the holiday spirit and this time of year can be especially triggering for some of you. It’s also hard to spend extended time with family, and their unwelcome and unkind comments. While we can’t control other people’s comments, nor can we wave a magic wand a la Harry Potter, i do think it’s a good practice to reclaim the holiday spirit and work at staying positive. I love the workbook Mind Over Mood, and i also love the mindfulness practice of the holidays – the scents, sounds, visuals, tastes, and the cozy textures are a great way to absorb Joy for instance. Even when i can’t escape the hecticness, the work, or the stress, i know i can come home and put my cozy red slippers on and drink a hot cocoa – complete with Elizabeth Mitchell Christmas album.

I guess i’m a kid at heart – it doesn’t have to be hard to be this month!

Dates to Remember

Timing means a lot to me. I know not everything happens for a reason, but i can appreciate when some things happen just when i’m ready to open more. Strange how that happens. I’m also good with remembering dates. I still remember my first boyfriends’ birthdays, you know the boys i dated in high school. And i’m in my 40s now…I also remember other more pressing dates and like to honour special dates throughout the year.

In reflecting back about my own loss, something i have learned about myself and the women i support is that we need to be intentional with how we take care of ourselves on dates that are hard – whether it is an anniversary of a loved one’s death, a larger community loss like December 6/Montreal Massacre, or Remembrance Day. We can feel the date slowly start to creep into our consciousness so it’s helpful to prepare for it mentally.

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Someone recently shared a very powerful and heartfelt article about her miscarriage loss. It came into my feed on social media and i couldn’t believe the timing: just 2 days prior to the anniversary of what would have been my first baby’s expected due date.

So, when i noticed that November 19 was fast approaching, i started to prepare for it and take care of myself. This is not an easy task as a working mom of two energetic kids. And my kids don’t know that they could have had an older sibling, or that 9 years ago i would have had another first child.

I thought i was being more mindful and attuned to my feelings, but life still gets in the way. Friday was a PA day and the weather was glorious outside. Maybe because it was so lovely out, maybe because the kids felt my energy, maybe because i was just too introspective, but wow was it ever hard to be a parent that day. I take that back – it wasn’t hard to BE a parent, but rather have the presence and patience to parent my children when i was not feeling my best.

A good learning moment for sure. Luckily, after a stressful morning, we had a lovely play date (for all of us!) all afternoon at our local favourite park. I also scheduled in a luxurious facial for myself on The Day and told my partner i needed to take some time to myself. This helped – i didn’t want to assume he remembered the date or that he knew what i wanted. Telling him directly is something i’ve learned is the only way for me to get what i want and need.

For me, i have moved on with my life and don’t need a whole day of self-reflection, but i do need some time to honour my miscarriage and to take a moment to slow down and breathe out.

This made my day so much better and helped with my healing.

Music for My Heart

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Music is definitely a support to me. From my teen years, to low times in university, and now as a mom to young kids, music gets me through the witching hour and times when i just need to scream.

This summer, at our annual trip to Hillside Music Festival on Guelph Lake, i discovered Old Man Luedecke. Particularly this song: The Early Days. It’s a perfect anthem to my life right now. Yesterday, after the kids tore away from the breakfast table and we yet again had to remind ourselves that they are grateful to us, this song came on our Spotify mix. Perfect timing – because it wasn’t deliberate it really made me stop and listen and be mindful how i was feeling. I love that my kids have an appreciation of music too, and can really hear the words and recognize the melody. Dance hour is a special and purposeful time for us at our home – it gets the sillys out and also helps us re-focus our energy into a more positive direction.

Here are the lyrics – it really speaks to me and i suspect it will for you as well.

The Early DaysOld Man Luedecke

I was standin’ out at Stanfield, had to go away
Saw a brand new baby and the mother’s face
I knew that it was over, all those early days
Our babies are not babies, we’ll never be the same

Shopping cart full of toddlers at the Superstore
They were eatin’ Goldfish, askin’ for more
An old man lined up behind us, and he shook his head
The kids were strangely quiet
I heard him when he said

You’ve got to hold on, it goes so fast (Chorus)
These early days, well, they don’t last
Got to enjoy them, they go so fast
The baby days, well, they don’t last

Look forward to the evenin’ when the monkeys go to bed
Then we talk all night about ’em, we feel half dead
We used to be too tired to eat in but it’s a total crap shoot to eat out

(Chorus)

Oh you’re gettin’ rid of diapers that you washed every night
And we’re saving up for date night so we can have our fight
If its quiet for a moment, oh you better run upstairs!
‘Cause the toothpaste in the bathroom is redefining everywhere

(Chorus)

Oh, I like the way you talk now, you talk like me
All the funny things you’re saying, you’re real good company
Oh, the odds are strong and crazy, and our love profound
you make our messy house feel like holy ground

Pretty awesome right? It puts things in perspective when my 4 year old is being especially challenging. What are some songs you gravitate to? Does music carry the same tune for you heart?

Who Do You Want to be When You Grow Up?

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Yesterday was a favourite day at our house. We celebrate All Hallow’s Eve (aka Halloween). Not because of the candy (but that is a lovely bonus), but rather because we love the sense of community that it honours. We live on a small street, a bit away from the hustle and bustle of our popular neighbourhood. So while we fill our bags, it’s not due to all the houses we see – it’s because of the connection we’ve built with our neighbours.

My kids went to a handful of houses and each person knew them, either by name or recognition. Most of our neighbours gave the kids small packages of candy and toys. With their name on it and everything. That meant a lot to all of us. With our bags full in just a block, we went home happy and excited.

Another reason to love All Hallows Eve is the dressing up. Of course. We all dress up in our home and make the costumes over the course of small snippets of time. We have some House Rules about costumes – can’t all be store bought, no weapons, and the final decision has to be fully chosen with 2 weeks to spare before October 31. That’s the hard part i think! So we all help make the costumes and get into the spirit.

My kids dress up on a regular basis, and love to role play. What i love is the opportunity to see the world through their eyes and some things they would like to be – whether when they grow up or in another version of their life. I also like to choose characters that i admire and would love to be in another reality.

When the night of collecting goodies was done, we got into the nitty gritty of our other tradition – looking over all the candy goodies. We have a tradition of having the Good Witch come to our place. She gets to receive the leftover candy so that she can help make Fairy Dust for the year. She thanks our kids with a present the next morning. This year, the decisions of what candy to keep were painstakingly hard. I had to hold back a few times to not prompt my kids to PICK MORE CHOCOLATE. They are into lollipops and fruit candies but i think they have no idea that they missed the abundance of wee chocolate bars that were sitting right there.

It’s a good lesson for all of us – my kids got to pick things they were excited about, do some math to count how much they get to keep, and i got to learn to breathe in breathe out. We want to give them some choice and also learn to make some critical decision-making choices, even if that means more chocolate to give away to the Good Witch (ahem, me and their dad).

I guess that’s a win-win in the end, anyway right?