So the former science teacher in me has to concede to daughter of a math teacher that is equally alive in me - Life is a Sine Wave NOT an Inclined Plane (Sorry simple machines)
(And, yes this is another spin on the "Life is a Journey Not a Destination" theme. What can I say, at the core of most cliches are undeniable, sparkling truths.)
I've learned this lesson over and over again in my life:
Homesickness - it's not something that you "beat" one time and then you're done with it. It comes and goes in waves.
Children's development - Often kids will try something new or seem to reach a developmental stage only to stop or seemingly "regress". This could be food or a skill or anything really. It could be their moods. It could be their ability to sit through a church service. It all waxes and wanes.
Relationships - Again, I think about my children. Marisol's "adjustment" to being a big sister was not a one-time event. Her relationship with her brother is like all human relationships - it has its ups and downs. As their parent I can do many things to help them understand and weather these different phases of their relationship. And of course we can see similar trends in all of our relationships.
Energy - Our overall energy ebbs and flows. Honestly, after a rip-roaring start to 2013, March was a little bit subdued for me. I had days in which I struggled. I felt very emotional. In the midst of this different energy I did some things that helped a lot though. I connected more with my loved ones. I meditated. I took more time away from the computer. And in the past few days I've felt the energy coming back up. (Hooray for Spring and new beginnings!)
These are just a couple of the examples that jump to my mind. But really we can see this idea in just about everything in our lives. It's about the flow and change and different seasons in life. The only constant thing is change.
And actually a simple Sine Wave doesn't even tell the whole story. Because even a Sine Wave is very predictable and regular. But in actuality life may look more like this:
Sometimes we stay close to our "baseline" so that it almost looks like we are on an even keel. And sometimes we stray from our baseline a LOT (look at those huge waves and crests! My what a large Amplitude you have there, Grandma Sine Wave... oh wait, never mind.)
But what about our baseline? Are we not in control of this at least a little bit? I believe we are. We can raise our energy level (what some call our vibration). This might look something like this:
That's why it's so important to take care of ourselves and notice what helps us feel good in our everyday lives.
But, I also am finding how important it is to not fight things. Someone told me recently that feelings are neither good nor bad - that we should let ourselves feel them so we can process them and release them. This has been a very helpful idea to me recently. What does this have to do with my Sin Wave analogy? Well, I guess it means that I let it happen. That it's ok to have dips and troughs in my emotional landscape. I definitely try to "fight" my feelings sometimes and it just isn't helpful. Partly because I'm trying to beat feeling bad with my mind.
But if I can surrender to the feelings, while continuing to make choices that I *know* from experience are good for me, then I can ride it out. And then my baseline level of feel good can rise back up more easily.
So there you have it. Life is a Sine Wave.
What are things you do when you're feeling low? Have you found things that help you bounce back quicker, or do you just need to let life run its course?
The other night I read an article on Positively Positive, called "5 Rules for Life-Altering Dreaming". The only thing I didn't like about it was the word "rules" (me and rules don't mix so well anymore ;-)
I thought it was actually really relevant to my last post about telling kids you "can't always get what you want". I have lots of thoughts on the word "realistic" too, but that is for another day.
Anyways, the "rules" are actually outlining steps to a really powerful process for clarifying and declaring your dreams. So I did it right away.
The first time I wrote it in my journal this is what I said:
I dream of living in a vibrant, supportive community filled with loving people who share my values. I dream of working together, growing food, raising children, playing together, cooking and eating together, laughing and crying.
As I read through the 5 steps outlined I realized that I was missing a very powerful part of the process. Writing my dream in the present tense. So I rewrote my paragraph to this:
I live in a vibrant, supportive, growing community. We value peace, the earth, and compassion. We work and play together, cook and eat together, laugh and cry together. We grow together.
Whoa. Just reading that makes me feel so good. When I was looking for a picture to add this to I found this one of my kids raking leaves with our best neighborhood friends last fall. It felt like the perfect image to add the words too. Writing my dream in the present tense was so powerful. Remembering that I already DO have many of these things is even better. I am a powerful creator in my own life. I can create the community I crave wherever I am. Yes I dream of even more - more community, more togetherness, more support, but appreciating what I already have while creating "more" feels even better.
I highly recommend trying this! It's fun and powerful. And letting others know what your dreams are is an essential step towards actually achieving your dreams. If you don't let people know then not only are you stopping yourself from taking steps towards your dream, but you may also be keeping away people and opportunities that you haven't even imagined yet.
So go big! Declare your dreams. It feels good, I promise.
We're scared of giving kids what they want. We think they need to learn the lesson, "you can't always get what you want." I'm not sure why we think they won't learn this on their own. Kids are smart. In our culture of advertising and stuff on top of stuff on top of more stuff, I'm pretty sure they're very aware that they can't always get what they want. I know my daughter is. She feels it keenly.
And it's not always about money. Sometimes kids want the pink plate. Sometimes they want to be barefoot in the park (and this is probably good for them! Check this out about "grounding" or earthing"). Sometimes they want to wear the same Lightning McQueen shirt for weeks on end. And why would someone have to say no to any of those things? Why are we scared to give our kids what they want?
We fear that if we give them too much or say yes too many times to too many requests, then we're creating... spoiled brats or entitled, self-centered, greedy monsters. But consider this: why would our children not learn about generosity from us giving freely to them? And also, how will you ever know if you don't try?
I'm not talking about giving stuff to kids as rewards or as a way to make up for not being able to spend time with them here. I'm talking about genuinely taking an interest in your child's desires. Maybe it is a new toy - a toy that you feel you don't need in your already toy-ladened house. But maybe your child just needs to hear you say, "wow, that is an awesome toy!" Or maybe they need a plan in place to save up for it. Maybe you can surprise them with it.
Gerry loves to watch You-tube videos on our phones. Some of his favorites are the toy-review videos - especially of cars and trucks. He has seen a LOT of cool toys on those videos. And yes, he says he wants them. (Actually tonight what he said was that he wanted to "borrow it for Christmas" Love that boy!) Do I need to bluntly tell him that he can't have that right now? Nope. I can talk with him about how cool they are and that he wants them and really that's about the extent of it.
Marisol has had an allowance since she was a little over 4 years old. We have had different systems that have changed over time for her saving up for toys, for us paying for part or not, and she loves to add things to our Amazon wish list. Sometimes it's tiring for me. I mean it wears on me always hearing about all the stuff she wants. But you know what? I remember feeling that way - at a much older age too. I told her about how when I was a teen (or pre-teen, not exactly sure how old I was) I felt like there were SOOO many amazing CDs out there that I wanted. I actually felt overwhelmed because there was no way I could ever get them all - and this thought was a little depressing (don't judge, I also thought about world hunger for hours on end while I picked rocks on our family golf course... the mind of a teen is very agile - or perhaps I was already a sperm whale even back then).
When I connect with remembering that feeling, I can empathize with my daughter and move from a place of love. We plan and shop around. She changes her mind 20 times a day about what she wants to get next. She spends her whole week's allowance on the extras on "free" iPhone apps. And you know what, she is learning so much. She already talks about the value of toys and what *she* thinks they should cost. She already shows remarkable generosity at times with her friends - both in lending her things and in buying them gifts. And at Disney World last month we had no issues at all with all of the "stuff" and gift shops - she got one tiny stuffed animal from a game and a T-shirt.
But if she had wanted more that would have been fine too! The point is to accept your kids where they are and in time they will amaze you. Right now, I'm realizing that I want to be more generous with her so she feels that to her core. The allowance has been a wonderful tool that we continue to use - but I also want to surprise here with cool things - just because I love her. So we did this month - with a baby bike seat for her dolls on her bike! How cool is that? I was so excited to get it and give it to her! My question to myself right now is, "how generous can I be?"
You know what I want? I want the world to be a better place for my kids. I want World Peace. I want an amazing community to raise my children in. I want to feel loved and cherished and supported. If someone had spent the better part of my childhood telling me I can't always have what I want, guess what? I might think that I can't have those things, that I'm not worthy of them, and that it's not even worth trying for them because they aren't possible.
No thank you. I want my kids to strive for the things they want and to know that I will support them to the best of my abilities as they do so. And if right now that means helping them get the newest Lightning McQueen toy, his blue cup, the coolest American girl accessory, and time with her best girl friend, well that's fine by me. I know that someday they are going to want even bigger and better things. And I can't wait to see what they are.
Do you struggle with getting your kids "stuff"? Is it difficult to find a comfortable place between needs and wants, generosity and practicality? What would if feel like to encourage your kid to go after things they want?
Those three little words (well four if you count the contraction!) have been ringing in my mind for quite some time now - well over a year, if not a few years. (I even thought that they made a nice book title, but then later decided it was too negative.) These words were always a little bit snarky and self-righteous, like duh, come on people get over yourself! But now that they are finally begging to be let loose, they don't even feel that way anymore. They feel heart-felt and a little bit bruised, like a truth that got a little banged up on its way to the world.
Of course, intellectually we know that kids are a lot of work. I remember worrying before Marisol was born if I'd really be able to take care of a baby. And if people knew what raising children truly entails, many more people would choose not to have children. I think many people (like me) just instinctually *want* children and don't give it much more thought. They trust that they will know what to do at the right time. Then of course there are many people that don't really *plan* to have kids, but, well - here they are! Actually, probably people that actively choose NOT to have kids have given the most thought to their decision. And I'm sure this factors into their thought process; they know that kids AREN'T convenient.
But our culture tries to make them convenient. We try to train them to sleep (or not sleep!) when we want them to. We believe that punishments and rewards will mold their behavior into what we want it to be. We fear if we don't control them (what they eat, who they hang out with, what TV they watch, what games they play and on and on) that they will "turn out" the wrong way. We try to put them into neat little boxes so that our lives can mostly carry on in the way we had imagined for ourselves before we had kids.
But kids are not here for us. They are not here for us to re-live or un-live our own childhoods. They are not blank slates for us to write stories on. They are not here to fill our needs and they are not lumps of earth-clay for us to mold.
Here's what we didn't realize:
Kids are real, whole people. They come wired with their own unique personalities. They all have their own opinions (some stronger than others) from the moment they are born (maybe even before! Marisol gave me a strong kick in the ribs once when I bent over on her while pregnant! I should have known then what I was getting into.)
They sleep when they are ready and tired - often not when we expect or want them to. They are ultimately the ones in control of what they eat and when, even if we may try to be for a while. Sometimes you will make breakfast only to have eggs returned to you because you absentmindedly cracked pepper into them, (what can you say, you were in the flow!) and your daughter wants, "no pepper!" So you will sigh inwardly and make more eggs - because you know that *is* how she likes them, and you were the one who screwed up. (This may or may not have happened here this morning.)
Kids will sometimes be nervous or scared of things you don't think they should be. You may spend a LOT of money to take them to the world's most amazing amusement park only to have them nap in the stroller or ride the merry-go-round multiple times (the very same one they could have ridden for a couple of bucks at your local park or mall).
They will need you when you feel like you have nothing left to give. They will express big emotions at inconvenient times (in front of others, right as you are ready to head out the door for an appointment, while you are trying to cook dinner).
No, kids AREN'T convenient. But they *are* a lot of other really, REALLY wonderful things.
Yes, they are hungry. They are hungry ALL. THE. TIME. And this can get tiring. But our attention, love, and nurturing pays off - for us and for them.
Because the good news is that kids more than make up for anything we might have once considered an inconvenience. If we can shift our mindset we will see that we never really wanted or needed "convenient". If we open our eyes, our ears, and our hearts, we will begin to learn more from them than we could ever possibly "teach" them. We may even learn that we want things we never dreamed of wanting!
And this shift in perception is what is really key. How you perceive your children will affect them (and you, and your relationship) - right now and for the rest of their lives. Because you can pick almost any word up there and put a negative spin on it - if you choose to. Creative? Well, yes creative can be messy. Energetic can be hyper or out of control. Imaginative could be unfocused. Curious can be downright annoying. But is that what you really think of your child? And is that how you want them to think of themselves? Would you rather that they KNOW how they want their eggs, or would it be better if they were like the woman in the movie Runaway Bride, who didn't even know how she liked her eggs because she was always such a people(man)-pleaser that she said, "ok" to whatever was given to her?
Bottom line: kids are life changing no matter what. They should be! And change is rarely "convenient". Change can also be uncomfortable, but with a little mind-bending it's as likely to be invigorating and life affirming! It's how we deal with the change that makes all the difference. And if you let your kids, they will guide you on your biggest, best life adventure yet.
So we went to Disney World the last week in February. To see our Disney adventures in pictures head over to my other blog, Everyday Adventures.
Before we went I considered asking friends for any advice on "doing Disney". I have several friends on Facebook in particular who I know have been multiple times, so they really know the "ins and outs" of the parks. But my procrastination paid off this time and I never got around to it.
Instead we just did our normal thing. Show up. Follow the fun. Stop when we got tired. Our version of "Go with the Flow".
Here are the major things that helped us stay in our flow while visiting the most magical and possibly stressful places on earth:
1) The first major decision you have to make regarding Disney is what time to get up the first day (and every other day). Do you want to get up at the break of dawn so you can be at the gates when they open?
Nope, not us. We opted to wake up naturally whenever that may be (we were still at my parents' place the first day, and had an hour+ drive to get to our hotel too). We actually were in the car by around 9 am which for us is VERY early - that alone shows you how excited our kids were. But we had to go to the Animal Kingdom Lodge where we were sleeping for two nights to check in and get our passes first. So we did that, found our room (which the kids loved!) and then eventually made our way to the park (it took some convincing to get our kids out of the hotel! They thought it was cool enough to stay and explore for a while!)
Our first day also happened to be rainy, so I'm EXTRA glad that we didn't try to "maximize" our time in the park because it wouldn't have been worth it. As it was, there was one big downpour while we were there and then it cleared up. We had a very low stress, fun afternoon. And the park closed after the 5 pm Nemo show so we headed back to our hotel where we were able to enjoy the outdoor movie showing by the pool (Brave was on that night, one of our favorites!), Marisol swam and went in the kid-friendly hot-tub, and Gerry played on the playground. Perfect first day, even with rain.
I would so much rather be rested than miserable trying to get my "money's worth". One woman told us there horror story of getting up at 4 am to fly to Orlando then taking the screaming kids to the park. She was still reliving that first day at the end of their trip. Our earliest day at the parks was the second day at the Magic Kingdom, but we still took our time. The last day we didn't get to Hollywood Studios until almost noon because we had to check out of our room first.
2) Know when to push it and when to back off. Gerry was tired and overwhelmed a lot. I brought our ergo carrier and was able to carry him and have him nap on me every afternoon. But until he napped he was pretty much not his usual happy self (aka: a mess!) The first ride I took him on at the Magic Kingdom was "It's a Small World". We went on with my mom - he was NOT happy about it as we got in line. But I put him in the carrier and nursed him while we waited, and when our turn came he happily got on the boat and LOVED it. Later, he didn't want to go on the Peter Pan ride and we didn't push it because it was obvious it wasn't the time (plus we only had 3 fast passes, so Marisol, Mike, and Grandma went.)
Towards dinner time on our second day the kids were tired and Mike was ready to head back to the hotel. I could tell my mom was a little bummed we didn't get a few more things in. But I agreed to heading back and calling it a day. On our walk we came across the Swiss Family Robinson Tree House and both kids wanted to climb it - I think Gerry was just waking up too, and running up and down the stairs and jumping was the perfect activity to revive him!
After that we ended up doing a couple more rides and having dinner! In fact we outlasted my mom and stayed for the fireworks! It was the perfect example of going with the flow - there were no arguments or hurt feelings, we just did what felt right and actually ended up staying a lot longer!
3) Listen to your kids. On day 3 we went to Hollywood studios. Marisol REALLY wanted to do the "Tower of Terror" ride. I thought the kids would enjoy going to a cafe for lunch with characters. We stopped by the cafe first to find out how we could get in. We could have gone in with only a short wait - about 15 minutes - right then. If we waited we were going to run into the lunch rush and they weren't taking any more reservations. Because we knew that Marisol had her heart set on the ride we opted to do the ride first, even though it didn't make as much sense to my adult minds. The good news was they only had to wait 20 minutes for the ride. After, both kids happily waited 45 minutes for a seat at the cafe and LOVED seeing the characters. (And who knows, if we had done the opposite order the ride line might have been a lot longer - and we might have all been grumpy!)
Later, Gerry and I waited at least least a half an hour to see Lightning McQueen and Mater from "Cars". I was so excited for him - and of course I wanted a picture of him with his favorites! When we got up there he did NOT want a picture though. And I didn't push it - he got what he wanted, to touch Lightning. And I got some pictures without him. (Plus I *did* get a couple pictures of him with some other favorites earlier - Handy Manny AND Jake the Pirate!)
Of course we had our "moments". The morning we went to the Magic Kingdom was probably the most stressful, with longer lines, more people and a mix-up at a fast pass station. But overall I was really happy with our time at Disney and impressed with how well we stayed in our flow.
I just love Disney shows! They are always so good and their messages so wonderful - even (especially??) for adults. This clip is from the Nemo show at the Animal Kingdom. You have to watch this turtle sing about going with the flow - it's so beautiful. And he gives some great parenting advice too ;-)
Here are the words from the song transcribed by moi:
Dude, you have traveled far..
You must be swimming under a lucky star!
You're exactly where you're meant to be...
So grab some shell and surf the EAC with me!
Go with the Flow!
Go with the Flow!
Go with the Flow!
Don't be a high-strung fellow,
Kick back and keep it mellow,
oh, oh oh, Go with the Flow!
Kill the motor dude,
Why don't you take it slow?
Let us see how quirt does flying solo.
Squirt: Dad, did you see what I did??
"You so totally rocked it Squirt! You're such an amazing kid!"
It's awesome, they're eggs on a beach,
then coo-coo ka choo - they find their own way back to the Big ol' Blude
Marlin: All by themselves? But what if they're not ready? I mean - How do you know??
Well you never really know...
But if they're ever gunna grow
Then you gotta let 'em go, ya know!
Just go with the flow...
Last March I tried out a "schedule" for writing my posts - Mondays were for "Awakenings" and Fridays for "Confessions". The idea behind the confessions was to "keep things real" so I didn't get too "Pollyanna" or sunshine, rainbows, and unicorns here. I quickly ditched the "confessions" idea though with one Final "Ultimate Confession" that I saved as one of the tabs on the top of my webpage. It is kind of like a second "Disclaimer" and it's purpose was to let readers know, "Hello, I'm a real person! Imperfect just like every other human being". Sometimes the images projected out through cyber space lead to distorted images and perceptions in the minds that they land in. (I'm ending this paragraph now, but just wanted to point out that I may have set a record for combined "quotations" and links to my own blog in shortest span ever. So there.)
Anyways, the schedule did "work" (lets keep this "quotation trend" up! Adding a "parentheses trend" too. If you can read this post and it makes sense to you, you are really on top of things.) It "worked" in that I posted regularly and frequently. But I didn't love the whole idea of "confessions" because I felt like I was trying (subconsciously perhaps) to "create" material for those posts. And who wants to start behaving badly just to have something to write about!
Today I *am* going to keep it real. It's not a confession though, because nothing I'm going to write or post pictures of is something I (or anyone) should be ashamed of. (speaking of shame, you must check out Brene Brown's work - brilliant!)
We had friends over on Monday and I wrote the following on my FB Together Walking page:
Inspiration tip: Need some motivation to do some of the mundane things? (You know, like get dressed and pick up around the house) Invite some friends over to your house! You'll be amazed how much you get done in a short time AND you get the added benefit of seeing people you love!
It's true - normally when we have a planned play-date I get SUPER motivated the morning of the play-date, sometimes for a couple of hours, and I'm like a whirling dervish of appendages, brooms, and vacuum extensions. My kids generally keep themselves entertained with computer games or shows and don't complain too much when I'm on such a cleaning binge. (Partly because they are excited to have friends over and maybe they are also confused about what I'm doing.)
But although I love that aspect of inviting people over to my house (or planning parties, having out of town guests, or teaching on the weekends) I also truly believe that it would be healthier for everyone if people were generally more comfortable and honest about the everyday state of their homes. (I joke with my students that I leave a certain amount of mess for them to see so they can see what it's like to have kids. I don't want to set them up for an unrealistic standard after-all! hmm now I'm thinking I should leave things even messier - not in my teaching space, just on the main level where they walk through ;-)
But seriously, many homes where small people live just aren't that neat. Kids don't see the benefit of picking up messes, and actually messes don't look the same to them. (I really want to insert a cartoon I saw on Facebook here - the first frame is black and white and shows a huge MESS in their room, the second frame is in color and the kid is gesturing and clearly explaining to the adult what is *really* going on in the room... it's awesome! If any of y'all know what I'm talking about it and can locate it for me, please leave me a link!)
I'm sure the majority of the time they're like, "why pick up? We're just going to play more tomorrow!" And honestly I think they're onto something. Why do I get my house so clean just to have kids over to trash it?!?
In actuality my comfort level for chaos keeps expanding as my kids push the boundary farther and farther out. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy neat, tidy, dust-free spaces too - I just don't let messes get to me as much anymore.
But even though I'm handling the normal mess of everyday life better, I'm still not handling other people seeing it very well. I still feel the need to apologize or make comments like, "Well, we've really managed to trash the house this week!" It's like I have to say something (to my best friends even) to acknowledge - hey, I *know* it's messy, but really *I'm* not. It's so silly. The state of my house says nothing about me, how capable I am, if I'm a good mother or wife, or whether we are happy. Yet, I know I cannot be the only one who struggles with this. So I've been pushing my comfort zone even more and not worrying (well trying not to anyways) about neighborhood friends dropping in and seeing our crumby rugs, and toy-strewn floors. It's even harder to bite my tongue hard enough not so say anything about it, but I'm getting better at that too.
So today we had friends over and since I was still feeling a bit under the weather, Tasmanian-Devil-Cleaning-Mama didn't make her appearance. The pictures I'm putting up on this post were taken right after our friends left. Most of the mess was there before they arrived and we added to the chaos with hours of fun playing together. I commented to my friend that we should put pictures up of our houses like this and she agreed.
So here they are - what our home looks like more often than not.
My other "keepin' it real" statement for this week is that I'm just not feeling so upbeat the past couple of days. No amount of "affirmations" is doing it for me. And although I posted this on Monday (after our first playdate of the week):
Today may have been the best "first day back to 'normal'" that I've ever had aft e r vacation/time with family. Filled with peace, cooking, connection, nourishing and nourishment, listening, play, time outdoors, creating, connecting, friends... I am so grateful for it all! What a difference knowing what I want to do and how I want to feel makes. ♥
yesterday I was sick and spent the afternoon on the couch. And I longed for support - a tribe, a community, people to play with my kids and keep them happy and fed while I rested. And I wonder if I'm setting myself up to be unhappy by thinking about this all the time. Or is this how we make change, by first envisioning it?
But I *do* know that things always turn around. I will get back to my flow, it just takes time after awesome, sunshine filled vacations! And Spring, warm weather, and long afternoons playing outside are just around the corner here.
*And* I have something new coming up as a "writer" (make that WRITER - no quotation marks for that one!) that is really exciting (how's that for a teaser!) So things will change again and I will come back up to my baseline level of Happy. (Watch this movie/documentary called Happy - so good!)
The ultimate irony is of course that what I am longing for is connection and community. But I sometimes am not comfortable letting it into my life because my house is messy. Wow - seems even sillier when I see it written in black and white like that. Well, at least I'm working on it! And Saturday I start teaching a new Hypnobabies class - so guess who'll be making an appearance this weekend? Yep. Whirling-Dervish-Tasmanian-Devil-Cleaning-Lady. (And you know what? None of these things take that long to pick up - it's more the combined chaos or the Gross House Mess(GHM) that is overwhelming.)
I wrote this at night and just before going to sleep and thought that one of my friend's recent status updates was the perfect way to close this post (Thanks Kelly! Check out her Facebook page for Hypnobabies and doula services here)
Goodnight dishwasher with your clean dishes. Goodnight dishes in the sink. Goodnight laundry pile and Goodnight toys on the floor. Goodnight half-made lunches and Goodnight wet snowpants. Goodnight scribbles and Goodnight markers. Goodnight bills and Goodnight Quickbooks. Goodnight stars Goodnight air. Goodnight noises everywhere.
And this morning I am refreshed and feeling more like myself again. It's amazing how powerful a good night's sleep is!
What do you struggle with more? The mess or letting people see it? Or are you just so Zen that you let it all go?
ps please share if you wish there was less pressure to have a perfect house and more support and community in its place!
Wife, mom, information and peace seeker.