How to Beat Boredom: A Guide for New Parents

A few months after graduating from college I began my first “real” job working in a small Montessori school’s Infant/pre-Toddler classroom in the mornings and a 3 year old class in the afternoon.  I had earned a Minor in Early Childhood Education, but that didn’t really cover babies and toddling people, so while I had plenty of experience from babysitting and being an attentive older sibling, I had relatively little true understanding of this age group.  

To be completely honest, they were darling, but I got bored spending my mornings with very new humans.  boredbaby

So as much as the prospect of parenting excited me, I was a bit nervous I would be bored the first year or two.  

Wonderfully, all my worries are being proven pointless!  In graduate school, one of my favorite classes was Human Development.  It gave me a different lens to observe people and culture for the rest of my life.  I look for and admire each tiny or great step of development in my daughter with celebration and awe.  Do adults learn so much still or do we all slow down?

I got to thinking, maybe some new moms or caretakers of babies do get bored.  If that’s you, here are some ideas that keep life full, interesting and engaging with a tiny human every day for this mom, former Montessori teacher and lover of curriculum design (hint: I’m handing you a free month’s curriculum, so feel free to utilize any or all parts you like).

Literature and Music

We’ve been focused on fables, fairy tales and operas.  We read lots of fairy tale stories, a collection of Aesop’s Fables, The Barefoot Book of Stories from the Opera, a graphic novel version of Peter and the Wolf, and A Guinea Pig Oliver Twist. If you are not familiar with the Guinea Pig series, they are pretty fantastic.  They do a nice job retelling classic stories while calling attention to animal rescues as they are illustrated with photographs of real rescued guinea pigs in costume to recreate the stories.  Amazing!  I laugh every time I read this book.  On the days we read operas, we listen to the operas we were reading on Spotify.  The operas were longer than the stories, so we listened throughout the day.  We have listened to David Bowie’s gorgeous rendering of Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf numerous times.  I’ve also gotten on a Mozart tangent, reading about him, listening to stories about him and to more of his operas and other pieces he composed which were not in our book of operas.

peterandthewolfOn top of lots of fun listening and reading, we go for daily walks around the neighborhood, local trails and parks.  On cold or windy days we tend to take shorter strolls, but

getting outside and exercise are good for everyone

(sunshine + fresh air + movement= happier you and happier baby).  

We visited a couple of exhibits at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, introducing planets and prehistoric life as we walked around (baby in a carrier), reading and chatting with our companions du jour (another baby, parent and grandparent).  The babies finally noticed each other, perhaps more than the exhibits.  A couple of times each week we either visit or welcome visits from neighbors, friends and family; the socialization is important for both of us.

Gross Motor Development:

 I often place my daughter on the floor on her back with a small toy in her hand or nearby to encourage interaction.  She rolls on her tummy a lot now, and I give her space and time to play there.  When she lets out a few little fusses, I know she’s feeling done and flip her over.

I want her to work hard and know that she is heard and supported, so she enjoys challenges and wants to return to them.

I’m not sure if my responsiveness had anything to do with her learning to roll to her tummy a little early, but I’ve decided to take this approach after seeing the effectiveness of the pedagogist, Vygotsky’s theory of Zone of Proximal Development or ZPD.  

ZPDWhen she is tired and feels she can no longer hold herself up and doesn’t think (or feel able) to turn over, I am helping or “scaffolding” her learning by showing her she can roll  to her back when she’s tired.

Fine Motor, Attention and Visual Development: 

I give my daughter toys and small instruments to hold, shake and explore (everything goes in her mouth right now).  I play them in front of or above her and watch her eyes track, seeing how far up, down and to the sides she will look and stay focused.  I experiment with speed of movement.  Currently she likes objects to move quite slowly in order to focus on them.  I offer objects both in front of her center or to the side and notice which hand she reaches with or handles them.  At only 4 months, she is already showing right handed dominance.

Having worked in and studied the Reggio approach, I learned about provocations.  I often try this with my daughter by setting out a toy just a few inches away from her as she lies on the ground.  The idea is to ignite interest or spark exploration.  She has worked hard to roll to one side to try to reach and then handle the toy.  I used this approach the first time she picked something off the ground herself.  I had no expectations and watched her emit more effort and determination than I had every seen her put into an act.  It was so exciting!

We also do lots of singing and dancing (I often dance with her attached to me in her carrier), cooking and cleaning.  Just recently, for the first time I held her while brushing our dog’s teeth and she was delighted!  Lots of modeling and more starting to have her with me rather than in the swing or on a blanket as I do tasks in hopes she will learn a bit from observing.  She is getting more interested in seeing how adults do things.  I just watch what she is looking at; I find her fascinating.  She notices more and more all the time, and I think the Lady Bird definition of love speaks worlds: noticing is love.  

I hope you notice and love every moment with whoever is in your life.

 

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This Too Shall Pass

On a recent evening, as I was 4 minutes from finishing a choir rehearsal, I peeked down at my phone and noticed a text had come from my husband: “Please come home soon.  Thank u.”  I knew that meant something was awry with our baby girl.  So I scooped up my belongings and ran out, calling home the moment I left the building.

In a soft, near-whisper, my husband explained that our daughter had wailed at a volume, pitch and length he’d never heard.  Of course, just before I called, she finally fell asleep in his arms.  After a long day of work, he had spent his evening trying to soothe our daughter.  Dinner had been ordered, but when it arrived, he was concerned that if he moved the baby might wake and return to her previous state of distress, so he never answered the door.  I returned to my sweet, exhausted, hungry husband.

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It got me thinking of countless times in life when I felt worn to my wits end when relief finally arrived.  Sometimes I brought on the shift myself, sometimes I had no control over the situation, but the ancient Sufi wisdom seems pertinent in life so often: “this too shall pass away.” 

This weekend the 2nd Women’s March takes place all over the United States and the world.  After countless years of women being treated as second class citizens, a giant wave is rising that has united people to feel empowered to finally bring a new shift.  Voting rights were a start.  Laws about equal employment opportunities brought another new start.  #MeToo and the culture shift coming from it is not just visible, but tangible.  Even those with intellectual disabilities are getting to  tell their stories and finally be heard and believed.  All the world’s ills are not going to be fixed in one big sweep, but on a huge scale, it seems long-held cultural norms are  changing. womens-marcha-2018

With this in mind, I look down at my precious baby every day and feel optimistic about the world she will grow up in.  I remind myself to not worry about a hundred other good things I could, but choose to not do right now.  There have been and in the future will be plenty of opportunities to focus more heavily on my career and have a cleaner house.  The stage to nourish my baby from my own body, snuggle her for hours and cover her in hundreds of kisses is short lived, so I am taking full advantage.

I remind myself the time for countless hugs and kisses is limited, so too is the length of every melt down and other trying stage we encounter.  Each moment passes, the painful and the precious.  So I embrace the joy and take deep breaths with a mind focused on movement when times seem harder than I have the strength to get through.  And life goes on.

What is hard right now?  

How can you create movement through it?

What experiences do you want to truly embrace in your life right now?

thistooshallpass

 

Sharing Stories

Who doesn’t love a good story?  We read, watch, tell, sometimes even write them down.  Our tale-telling spans from the personal experience to the farthest fetched imaginings.  I have yet to find someone who has no interest in stories of any kind.  But for some reason, it was not until recently that I came to appreciate the need we all have to share our stories.  

 

It was a sunny Tuesday morning in late September, I was 41 weeks pregnant and noticed clear liquid dripping from my body….my water had broken.  waterbrokeThere was something else though.  A dark stain let me know that meconium was in my water, a sign that my baby might not be okay.  I texted my husband, who was in a meeting (with his remote job) just downstairs, that I thought my water had broken.  He was ecstatic.  I was in shock.

 

My preparation and hopes for a fully natural, peaceful, hypno-waterbirth did NOT come to fruition.  As most women will tell you, labor is no picnic…hahaha….. to say the least.  Due to the signs of fetal distress, I was constantly monitored, induced with medication, and unable to move nearly as freely as I had hoped.  epidural-is-magicalAll that being said, after feeling like a ravenous beast was devouring my internal organs for 9 hours, the midwife checked and found I was only 2-3 centimeters dilated (i.e. this state could have potentially continued for days).   Immediately and shamelessly I requested an epidural and 8 hours later had the most beautiful, peaceful birthing experience I could have imagined.

For a couple of weeks after my daughter’s birth, I felt an overwhelming sense that I needed to share the experience in great detail with people.  It mattered.  Not to everyone I talked with, but it mattered to me and with each telling, I seemed able to process my experience a little more fully and feel more settled and comfortably distant from it.

 

About six weeks after becoming a mother, I finally got to visit a friend who had given birth just a day after I had, and in the same hospital no less!  I had been so eager to hear her birth story, and originally really wanting to share mine as well.  By the time we finally got together, the details of my own experience seemed far less significant.  My friend, however, was still in a place in which she grew lively recalling her own birthing time.  birthing-reality

 

It was in this moment that I fully realized how important it is that we give people the space to share their stories, and truly listen with care and curiosity.  

 

I was reminded of experiences with my beloved Grandma Laurie and “Bumpa”, my step-grandfather.  They were both storytellers: my grandma loved to share family history.  She was an avid genealogist who travelled the world to meet distant relatives she discovered.  I’m talking across oceans to meet 3rd cousins twice removed.  The woman was one of a kind!  Bumpa, on the other hand, shared stories of his dust bowl era upbringing on a farm in Kansas.  Their stories were so different, but the common factor was their love to recount these tales.  

dust-bowl

Whether you are a lover of sci-fi films, news junkie, or any other type of story-telling, I hope the next time you have a story on your mind, you will share it.  And when you sit by a stranger on a bus or come home to your family after an exhausting day, I wonder if you will make space to truly listen to those who are ready to share.

story

We all have a story to tell.

 

Pets’ Prep for Pregnancy

dogsandpregnancyAre you one of those parents-to-be who reads pretty much every article and book you can get your hands on?  I think it’s fair to say I fall into that category…I look at this time as my training: I’m a student of parenting before this baby comes home in my arms.  So needless to say, as a dog owner, I’ve read at least half a dozen articles about helping one’s pet adjust to a new family member.

These articles all make similar suggestions to help ease the transition: set things up so your pet can see the new stuff for the baby, let your pet smell an article of the baby’s clothing before bringing him or her home from the hospital, even pay a little less attention to your animal who may be accustomed to getting lots of your uninterrupted affection.  But some changes have already started taking place in our home that we could not expect, so I thought I’d share a few shifts that have raised our eyebrows in wonder or made us laugh.  Perhaps you can relate.

THE PROTECTOR ROLE HAS SHIFTED

Our dog has always made it clear she is my protector, but a recent change has become apparent in the protective order  in our home.  When thunder or fireworks filled our neighborhood, I used to be the go-to person our pup sought for consolation.  Even during the month of July as the celebrations seemed incessant in our neck of Colorado, she would turn to me first, and if another went off, she may duck into my husband’s chair.  In recent weeks however, I have been generally abandoned in this regard.  The line of safety seems to now be: dog protects me, my husband protects the dog.  With any startling, she runs to the non-pregnant person in our household.  Perhaps she knows I have someone new to protect who is now filling out my mid-section generously.

EATING MEALS TOGETHER

Do you have one of those dogs who devours food the moment you lay it out or the kind who dabbles in it through out the day?  Our canine has taken turns doing both, but a new tradition has recently begun.  By the time she gets up in the morning, breakfast is usually already in her bowl.  Rather than eat though, she rests in the kitchen as I prepare breakfast, watches me sit down at the table, moves to her bowl, looks back up, and only once I start eating, like a polite guest at a dinner party, does she start consuming her meal.  It is not as consistent at dinner, but she still does this often in the evenings as well.  Is she just making sure we both get to eat?

WALKING IS GETTING HARDER  

So as third trimester is well upon us, my energy level no longer leaves me enjoying a 2-3 mile walk in the heat of the sunny summer day (big shocker I know).  I try to get in about a mile with my dog, but was feeling guilty, and confessed this to my husband one night.  Seeing my concern, he said: “All you need to do is ask and I’m happy to help with these types of things.”  Sure enough, starting the next morning, he shortened his gym work out by 15 minutes and immediately came home to take our dog out.  I rescued her about 14 months before meeting my husband, so her loyalty has remained pretty clear, but in the past, she jumped at the chance to go for a walk, even with just him.  On this morning, she was not about to leave my side though.  Despite his calls, she stayed on her bed beside me (also still in bed) until she was leashed and harnessed.

The walk lasted about a whopping 5 minutes as she was apparently pulling to come back home the entire way.  So my husband brought her back and tried the next day.  Same thing happened.  By day 3, she ran in his direction when she heard her leash come out, but they only made it to the front of our next-door-neighbor’s house.  That trajectory continued for about another week until another shift came.

For the past couple of days, when my husband grabbed the leash, our dog walked to the edge of our bedroom, peered down the hall at my husband, then leaped up onto our bed and snuggled up beside me.  Her tail was wagging like she was looking forward to going out, but body language clearly indicated, this is who I need to be with right now.  She’s a Shepherd mix, so protective instincts are innate and manifesting in funny new ways.  On days when they did walk- they never made it beyond the house next door.

 

I have read that dogs can smell a difference in pregnant women (changing hormone production) and that clues them in to a change.  Perhaps pets notice that movement changes or they see and wonder about the rapid weight gain.  All the new furniture and items in the house probably clue them in, not to mention mom’s fluctuation of moods and often tears too.  Our pets tend to be very intuitive creatures.  For my fellow expectant parents out there, have you observed any funny changes in your pets’ behavior?  If so, I hope you’ll share, or at least remember to laugh at the funny shifts in life.  Happy day!

Pregnancy’s Butterfly Effect

butterfly_release

“Let everything go.  Allow your worries, your thoughts, your anxieties to float away and for a few moments, just be here in this moment.”  How many times do we hear this yoga jargon in classes, especially the opening and while lying in Savasana?  I remember listening to similar cues in a class about a month ago and thinking, “I have a baby growing inside of me.  I am a mother now and no longer have the luxury of completely releasing because this little person is a part of me and my actions impact another now.

Long ago my mother started to teach me about how my actions had consequences that impacted other people, but growing a human inside and realizing -this body is not just attached on the outside of me with skin around it that attaches us, but truly growing in the center of my being- did my perspective take a huge shift in what parenting will entail.

As I began to think more and more about this idea that what I do can have significant impacts on another is certainly not a new concept, but it just brought up this idea with greater magnitude.

A few examples:

The substances I put in my body (food, drinks, and if I were to choose, other substances…you know, like gum) impacts my energy level, my moods, clarity of thought, lifespan, self-image and even health.  This can impact my productivity, relationships with others, and availability to work or engage.  How often do we think about these things as the fork covered with salad or the wonderful smelling donut is going in?  

colorful-salad

As you get dressed and prepped for your day, how often do you look in the mirror and ask: what do I want my appearance to say about the type of person I am and does this appearance communicate who I really am: be it confident, professional, warm and gentle, a lover of the earth, etc?

Do you set plans or goals for years, months, weeks, or each day that help you spend time being and becoming ever more who you really want to be in the grand scheme: whether this includes the types of relationships you invest in, service, professional, physical or educational pursuits?  Are you living in a way that truly makes you happy?

For this little window of pregnancy, I have the opportunity to be pulled into a vacuum of reminders that if I don’t eat frequently enough (or the right foods), it makes a more significant impact than  I realized – i.e. nausea, waking up in the middle of the night, random impulses to cry, etc.  This is preparation for remembering the importance of regularly feeding the little person who is about to come out and be a very significant part of my world for the rest of my life.

We don’t always have such blunt reminders in front of us that say: “Your actions directly and indirectly impact others!” But they do.  The words we speak and how we express them can be a pivot point in another’s day- and how many others can a grumpy or very cheerful person impact: from how they drive, to glances, to words they share with the people around them? dadreadtochild

Do you sit down to watch a tv show (that will inevitably suck you into at least 2 more) after work tonight or walk your dog who is already harassing you to get outside?  Do you tell your kids to go play so you can catch up on emails after dinner or spend a few minutes reading and maybe singing with them before the bedtime routine begins?  Do you check another gossip column online or call an old friend who has been on your mind lately?

We have so many choices every day and while we can’t see most of the consequences, we can remind ourselves that each choice makes a difference.  So even if your most recent decision wasn’t one of your best, you always have the next one to make more of the impact you want to share with the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Types of Friends Do You Value?

When you look around your circle of friends, are they truly the type of people you want surrounding you?  Do they help you be ever-more the person you want to be?  Do they engage with the world in meaningful ways that you respect and admire?  Then as you look around, turn your glance inward: are you the kind of friend to yourself and others that you desire?

I’ve been thinking a lot about friendship for several months now.  Initially a couple of finger-pointing-300x185interactions with people led me to think about who my true friends are and what I really value in them.  These experiences lit up a hyper-awareness and time of reflection as I’ve engaged with friends since then and tried to remember the image of a finger pointing out mean three are pointing back at me.  So it seems reasonable that any standard held for others must be one I uphold for myself.  Here is a chance to consider some of the traits you may seek in friends…

 

A Genuine Listener

listen dogTo be honest, this was the first trait that struck me as vital to being a true friend in my book.  Someone who listens without an agenda to teach me something or prove a point.  A listener who is open enough to consider where I’m coming from out of genuine care.  Thank you Kritika for showing me this.

 

Humor

Not everyone is blessed with the gift of being funny, and some may struggle to even mildly learn the skill.  I know I’ve always wanted to be funny, but let’s face it, we can’t all be great comedians.  At our wedding, my vows brought mostly a few sentimental tears while my husband had our guests rolling with laughter.  I get to appreciate that he brings something to the table with far greater potency than his counterpart.  

Another consideration is that some of us live more serious existences than others.  Do you tend to prefer conversations with complete sobriety, a sprinkling, splash or ongoing waves of humor?  Do you have friends who bring what you’re looking for?  And even if you aren’t that funny, do you show your appreciation of those who are?

 

Motivator or Empathizer

I have found that there tend to be very different types of listeners.  Commiserators and motivators at times are found in the same person, but more I often I think they are separate individuals.  Do you know who to call when you just want someone to hear you and say: “Wow, sorry, that sounds rough!” and someone else when you know you could use a little: “Dust yourself off and I’ll help you back up on the saddle.”?  

 

Honesty, Tact, and… What You Think Someone Wants to Hear

avocado-fat-jokeDo you prefer the friend who tells you there is something in your teeth at a dinner party or the comrade who tells you look exquisite no matter what?  In the honest framework, there is also tactful and then there is knit-picky or unable to let things go.  Some of us are gifted with more gentle ways of giving feedback than others.  Like humor, this can be a skill to learn, while for others it may come more naturally.

 

Acceptance

Do you know anyone who absolutely loves you -just the way you are?  Isn’t this why we love having dogs for pets? A dog will faithfully comfort, accompany and adore you no matter how your hair looks, what right or wrong thing you say, and will endlessly forgive you for showing up later than you planned.  While I’m all for healthy personal boundaries, there are people who for one reason or another put you on edge and then there are those who put you at ease because it feels like they truly accept you as the person you are.

Kindness

Is it just me, or is this the factor we (at least under stress) tend to struggle with the most around those for whom we have the deepest regard and the closest relationships- including ourselves?  When I started at one of my previous jobs, I walked into my office the first day to find a pearl of wisdom left on the whiteboard: 

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The Dalai Lama’s simple, poignant statement remained as a wonderful reminder all three years I taught at that school.

There are countless other points you can consider, from respect, to shared interests, to people you like learning with and from.  The bottom line: friendship is a choice.  You get to decide with whom you associate in your free time (even on social media), how you treat others and how you treat yourself.  So I hope you invest your precious time with the kinds of people you truly value and who value you.

 

Breaking  Cycles

man-walking-circlesby-HikingArtist

Do you ever feel like you are walking in circles: coming back to the same scenarios, same challenges, over and over again?  I spent so many years really struggling with this.  I found myself frequently wondering why I continued to battle with self-acceptance, my weight, binge eating, and not pursuing much of what I really wanted to do with my life.

Is there something you want to change in your life and it feels like time?

I cycled for years, wondering what lessons were to be gained and why I couldn’t figure out what seemed to have such a simple solution.  Slowly, I began to build new pathways, take little steps to gradually change -one thing at a time.  I stopped losing my temper on people and started breathing slowly and holding my tongue, allowing my thoughts of frustration to come out from time to time in more tactful and calm/productive ways.  After being called out about how defensive I am (that was a painful, and important pill to swallow from one boss), I started to reflect in the moments when I wanted to jump up defensively, and began to notice how and when my ego threatened to prevent a learning opportunity.  I started to prepare healthy and small snacks when I knew I was coming up on a stressful season in which I knew I was prone to binge on unhealthy foods.  And when the moments arose that I felt the anxiety bringing on urges to return to old habits I wanted to break, I literally just sat for a minute or a few, took slow, deep breaths, at times closed my eyes, and refused to let myself run away- I told myself: “You can do this, keep going.”  

running away is in your head

What makes you want to run away?

I took more and smaller steps to accomplish daunting tasks.  I focused on congratulating myself A LOT for working through those hard moments.  I still do at times.  I found new rewards to feed my brain, my soul, and I focused on the joy of learning a new coping mechanism, becoming ever more of the person I wanted to be.  My focus shifted more from the momentary cravings to who and what I want to be is.

What is the life you WANT to live?  How does it look, feel, handle real challenges?

I recently spent time with a friend going through a hard time.  We talked about how we handle pain, family cycles or patterns and her worry about the long term effects of turning to what I would describe as escapism.  Today I was reminded of our conversation as I listened to Rachel Brathen, a.k.a. Yoga Girl’s latest podcast The Guilt of a New Mom  in which she opened up about a struggle and experiences of turning to escapism (food, shopping, alcohol, even yoga) in moments of extreme stress.  What made the podcast so valuable to me was her follow up realization that only when we allow ourselves to actually experience rather than run from our pain can we heal (it’s a beautiful confession and lesson I recommend listening to if you are a parent or have a tendency toward escapism).  

break the cycle

What can your cycles teach you?

As one who tends to embrace each moment, I often feel like life is so wonderful.  At moments of intense challenge, it can seem almost overwhelming and unending- no matter the length or brevity.    I don’t know that I will ever fully understand all the pain anyone suffers, but I feel the healing and comfort we gain through sharing what we survive, overcome, and our lessons along the way.  So I just want to add my voice to that of Rachel Brathen’s: when you are hurting, especially when you are really hurting, I hope you will allow the moment to pass without running from it.  You don’t need to push it aside or take it on with an agenda.  The pain may or may not ever fully go away, but those seemingly overwhelming moments shorten and their frequency decreases as you stop running and instead listen to the lessons in them.  You begin to free yourself from cycles of pain trying to teach you the same lesson over again.  

How can you  respond to discomfort a little differently today?

 

 

Why I Want to Be a Mother

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Did you grow up wanting to be a mother?  I used to think that deep down, every woman felt most fulfilled through motherhood, but I now realize it is some people’s callings and many of us do not feel that way.  I respect every woman who is honest with herself, and even more so, those who find joy in the journey, whether it is what you hoped for or not.

I grew up in a home with a mother who started very young- only 20 years old when she welcomed me into the world.  She was married and had a husband who tried to be supportive, but it was a constant struggle.  They did the best they could, raised our family with lots of love, laughter and tears, and yet for some reason I wanted to grow up and follow in my mother’s footsteps.

My twenties came and went with a 7+ year marriage I thought meant parenthood was joyfully imminent.  Instead it was painfully placed at bay, but looking back, I could not be more grateful.  I matured, studied child development and parenting for over a decade and had countless opportunities to help parents and children form happier, communicative, calmer homes.

As the next decade of life rolled in, I made a huge shift- let go of the marriage that wasn’t serving either of us, moved across country, switched jobs, made new friends, reconnected with family and passed up the Ph.D. path to find something equally fulfilling and hopefully less stressful.  I met my wonderful husband, we went through a lot together in only 2 years, but what gave me peace was seeing that every transition and rough patch, and we’ve been through some doozies, didn’t ruffle our feathers much.  We laugh things off, take naps when we need them, give each other space to develop uniquely, and love and make lots of time to be together.  I found and invest each day in the relationship I always dreamed of, so naturally, my long-held dream of parenting rekindled.

It seems this earth sign (Taurus) gal just needed a solid foundation for all the ducks to line up in a row.  In early December I finished yoga training, then 2 weeks later my husband and I bought a house.  Quicker than ever before, I nested into the new haven to welcome guests, host holiday parties, and bring light and love into a space one friend said felt like “a big, warm hug.”

Well, the holiday treats came- and stayed in superfluous left-overs until I had to throw out some of the pie I kept eating for breakfast and thought was making me feel less than great.  But feeling “off” continued and was accompanied by waking regularly in the middle of the night-not regular for me, emotional waves of feeling weepy for no reason, and just overall lethargy.  My husband didn’t notice the time for my period came and went, without coming.  After the roller coaster of last year, I was far from eager to take a pregnancy test.  I waited until 40 days without flowing to take it. Lo and behold-it was positive.  I had debated for weeks: do I tell my husband if it comes out positive?  When?  How?  With all the cool finesse of Anne Hathaway’s gawky Princess Diaries character, I just left the test on the bathroom sink, knowing it could be 8 hours before my hubby saw it.

30 minutes later he happened to roam in that direction. I just kept folding laundry, nervous, with no idea what he’d say.  “So this is a thing?” came wafting from the loo.  “I guess so” awkwardly replied.  We slowly, cautiously talked, celebrated, and have enjoyed the ever-changing adventure of baby-growing unfold over the past mont and a half.

After telling one of my brothers “the news”, he and I met at a local diner to catch up.  It was a heartwarming and dynamic conversation, as I always find our interactions to be, but particularly interesting on this occasion as we discussed parenting.  About a year and a half ago, he and his partner became parents- as I see it, very nobly, through first fostering, then eventually adopting a child.

Amid our many conversations topics, he asked me about a desire I’ve always to which he could not relate:

“Why do you want to have a baby?”  

I was a little surprised- having considered, but never been asked before.  My initial thought was, I just always have.  It could be engendered through strong cultural messages I’ve received since birth, or perhaps it is part of my dharma, but motherhood, including growing, birthing and raising children has always been something I’ve desired, with the support of a loving partner- found!    

I find it absolutely amazing that my body has the potential to grow another human- if you want a wonderful comedic break to get a mini lecture on the miracle of birthing, check out Jim Gaffigan’s stand up sketch on 4 kids.   As I’ve studied over the years about the significance diet, emotions, thoughts, and activity level of a mother can have in the first few months of a yet-to-be-born child’s life, I find it the ultimate, beautiful opportunity to give a human the best possible start to life.  Then raising a child- the ultimate social experiment- in challenge, learning about love and selfless giving.  I spent 15 years refining my diet, lifestyle, and even relationships to create the best possible incubator for a little one.  I’m far from perfect and my activity level since pregnancy commenced has significantly declined (I don’t have the energy, let alone feel well enough to do 10-15 hours of yoga and jog/walk 6-10 miles a week right now).  I do the best I can, even when that is just drinking water, eating crackers, and walking my dog halfway down the block daily.  I think every parent does the best they can.  So today I honor parents, mothers, and every woman – for doing your best, owning who you are, and hopefully finding the love for yourself you absolutely deserve.

And if you, like me, have a little “Snowflake” on the way, I wish you peace, comfort, and joy in the journey as well!

 

Simple Ways to Spread Love -S.O. not required

This time of year has always been special to me- whether I was a twitter-pated teen, a lonely “Single-Awareness-Day” celebrator, or deeply in love, Valentine’s Day has always called to me.  In the years of early adulthood, it finally occurred to me that it need not be a time to mourn the freedom of being single or be a day of pressure for men.  I realized, that like childhood when I spent hours creating the most beautiful box and valentines to take to school, it can be a celebration of creativity and sharing kind feelings for anyone in your life (self-included).  So whether you are 15 or 55, single or partnered, here are some ideas to get your creativity going to enjoy a day of love.

 

Bake and Share Cookies      cookies

Have you been meaning to meet your neighbors and haven’t found the right ice-breaker?  Or maybe you have a couple of kids you know would love to be reminded how sweet they are.  Give a plate of treats to someone and just let them know you are thinking of them or want to be their friend.

 

Write a Note of Appreciation

When was the last time you emailed your sister just to tell how awesome she is?  Have you recently told your dad how you appreciate something special he did with you growing up?  Take 5 minutes to send a card, email, or even hand-written letter to someone who has touched your life.

dogwalkingWalk Your Dog

This may sound like an odd one.  However, speaking from experience, for those of us pooch-loving pet owners who sometimes get so busy that by mid-week that we short-change our furry friends with extra short outdoor visits, especially in the middle of winter, this can be great.  Give your pet an extra-long walk to show him or her some love, while gifting yourself with some exercise, fresh air, and if you get out while the sun is still up, a healthy dose of immune-boosting Vitamin D.  

Take Someone a Meal or a Cup of Tea

Do you know anyone who is sick, has a new baby, or is going through a really stressful time at work?  Make an extra portion, grab an extra coffee when you order one, or hand the homeless person on the corner a $5 gift card to a nearby cafe.  

Heart Attack Someone (the paper kind)

paper_heart_attackI remember going out with friends on a few occasions to cut out paper hearts, then tape them all over someone’s door with little notes of how the person was appreciated and loved. Years later, while leaving for work one day, I saw a beautiful display of hearts attached to skewers that sprawled the lawn of my apartment complex.  I was shocked and touched when I curiously went to see who they were for and found my name written on one of the hearts.  Trust me, this one is both fun to create and touching to receive.

There are so many ways to experience and express love.  It may, but doesn’t necessarily need to be romantic.  Just showing love for humanity can be simple AND make someone’s day.  So go ahead and fill someone’s heart with joy -you may notice that a certain “someone” will end up including you!

 

Surrender Into the Flow

Recently, I sat down with a friend and her new baby to catch up.  She’s in the midst of asking some of the big career questions like: “Do I want to go back to my job?”  “Is it time to pursue the career I dream of?”  and “Do I want to stay home with my new baby?

As I sat with this thoughtful woman, wondering aloud what to do and how it will all work out, I could feel her anxiety building until she said, “And I realize I just need to surrender.”  It felt as though we both took this huge breath and exhaled out all her stress.  She wasn’t saying she would relinquish her efforts, but relax into trusting she will find the niche where her energy can propel her forward instead of fretting.

Lao Tzu calls this being ‘in the flow’ in the Tao te Ching.  You can think of it like the way a screw works.  When it is placed in a hole that is too small or comes at the wrong angle, you can push and turn for a long time without getting anywhere- which is not helpful.  On the other hand, if you place that same screw in a hole that is too big, it slides right in, but offers no real support.  When a screw catches the threads just right though, all your efforts move it forward into place.  With moderate effort, maximum progress and solid support are produced.  

screw-in-a-screw

Surrender- not giving up, is being present in the here and now.  Recognize the opportunities and options right in front of you.  Acknowledge when you feel you are “in the flow” and move with the current.  

I think life is rarely easy.  However, when we stop pushing painfully hard against our natural path and allow our process to unfold, it is in that unfolding we experience the sweet surrender to being in the flow.  Like swimming with the current, we can go so much farther than attempting to compete with the riptide.  So be present, take a breath, and work with the flow of your life’s current.