5 things being a mom has taught me

Report cards came home a few weeks ago. I always look forward to report card time—seeing how my kids are progressing, where they’re excelling, where they’re struggling and so on. Report cards give me a glimpse into what they’re doing for six hours each day when they’re not with me.

Each marking period as I glance over their grades, I am reminded of just how much boys are learning and growing every day. Their little minds are constantly being infused with new and exciting nuggets of information. And it got me to thinking: What about me? What about my report card? What have I learned and how have I grown? What nuggets of information have I gathered in my own adult-sized noggin?

As I sit here just weeks after my 40th birthday, I find myself in a place of reflection. I’m looking back on my life in attempt to generate my own progress report. And in doing so, it occurred to me that so much of what I’ve learned over the course of my adult life has come in the way of motherhood.

I’m not talking about the overt skills I’ve learned like how to change a diaper, how to nurse a sick kid back to health or how to adjust a palate expander. I’m talking about the intangibles—the more profound lessons that motherhood has to offer.

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Sometimes we break, but we also heal. Last year, my son broke his thumb—in two spots. And oh how upsetting it was. His hand was purple, swollen and throbbing. He had to wear a splint for a month. He had to sit out of gym class, basketball and TaekwonDo for a month. He couldn’t rough house with his brother or jump off his top bunk for a month. He was an unhappy camper… for a month. But of course his body’s natural healing mechanisms kicked into gear and before he knew it, his thumb was good as new. His bone fused and he was back to living his active life once again.

Isn’t that true of our emotions, too? We sometimes break into what feels like irreparable pieces. But our minds, like our bones, have a wondrous capacity to heal. Life ebbs and flows. Sometimes we’re at the top of our game while other times we’re sniffing rock bottom. But the whole of who we are at our core wants to heal. Our healing powers that reside deep within are always working and fighting to keep us going—be it a broken thumb or a broken spirit. Sometimes we break, but we also heal.

Mess is unavoidable. Roll with it. I hate disorder; it stresses me out. But as a parent of two nutty boys, living in chaos is the norm. On any given day, my home looks like a scene from animal house, my car looks like a locker room and my purse looks like a trash compactor.

After years of fighting the uphill battle—working tirelessly to bring order to the overwhelming disorder—I’ve finally resigned myself to the fact that, as a mother, mess simply surrounds me. Rather than working myself to the bone trying to keep everything in line, I’ve learned to let go and just roll it. So the sink is full of dishes. So what? Is it gonna kill me to let those dishes sit while I play with my kids or watch an episode of Modern Family? Will I just crumble and die if I walk past the overflowing hamper of dirty laundry on my way out to lunch with a friend? Na. I’ve come to accept the fact that there will always be some mess somewhere calling out for my attention. But who cares? Why not enjoy life more and clean less?

Flexibility is essential. I’ve always had somewhat of a rigid personality; when things don’t go as planned, I become uneasy. Uncomfortable. Antsy. Flexibility has never been my strong suit. (Just ask my husband.) But life with kids requires flexibility—no ifs, ands or buts about it. Children are such unpredictable little things; they’ll throw a wrench into the best laid plans. Think of that fever that delayed the much anticipated summer vacation or the temper tantrum that cut the shopping trip short. We had to be flexible in those instances—there was simply no other choice.

Motherhood has trained me to take on a more flexible attitude. I have learned to harness the more adaptive side of myself and look at those unexpected situations with a let’s-make-the-most-of-it perspective rather than a why-oh-why-did-it-have-to-go-this-way? perspective. The end result: a happier, less rigid me.

Let go of control. I am a control freak—which is no doubt largely related to my aforementioned flexibility issues. When my kids were first born, I was in my glory; I had complete control over the little buggers. I was in charge of what they ate, what they watched and who they played with. I controlled their bedtimes, their bath times and their outfits. I, and I alone, was the decision maker of everything having to do with them. Sure my husband was right there beside me, but he knew better than to get in my way.

As my kids have grown, I’ve had to give up so much of the control I enjoyed during their early years. At 9 and 11, my boys have learned to think for themselves. Do I love every single friend they have or article of clothing they don? No, but I do respect their choices. Do I worry about them when they’re not in my care? Sure do! But at the end of the day, I have to let go and, to some degree at least, have faith in the decisions they make. This has been a tough lesson to internalize—but it is one that I now challenge myself to apply to all aspects of my life. I can’t control all that surrounds me—or even most of what surrounds me. I can only control my reactions. Being a mom has helped me to accept this fact.

Accept disappointment as a part of life.  Last week, my son found out he didn’t make the “A” travel baseball team for Spring. It was a massive disappointment, given all the time and effort he’d put into his training. He had been feeling pretty confident he’d make the team and was devastated when he learned he did not. But once the knee-jerk reaction of disappointment subsided, I reminded my son (and myself, for that matter) that disappointment is an inescapable aspect of life. Nobody likes it, but everybody experiences it. I urged him to use this disappointment to push him harder towards his ultimate goal: playing competitive baseball.

I have this conversation with my kids often, as there’s always something that pops up in their lives that lets the wind out of their sails—be it a team they didn’t make, a grade they weren’t expecting to get or a birthday party they thought they’d be invited to. And each time I do, the conversation serves as a reminder to myself as well. I have been passed over many times for a myriad of different opportunities. But now, rather than hiding my head in shame, I remember that we are all human; we all feel deflated at times. With each disappointment, I remind my kids and myself that there is a reason for it. The disappointments of life are mere stepping stones on our journey to that something greater. This is true for each and every one of us.

Life is one big classroom. I will continue to keep my eyes open to the lessons this life of mine has to teach me.

More like this:
Ages & stages: the pain and beauty of watching my boys grow
How to stop worrying and start living
5 ways we should be emulating our kids

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10 ways to start your day off on the right foot

It’s easy to get stuck in a rut of everyday life. The monotony of the daily routine is enough to turn even the most upbeat person into a zombie. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We each have within us the power to pump ourselves up and get the day started right.

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  1. Before you get out of bed in the morning, think of three things you’re grateful for.
  2. Open the curtains and let the sunlight in.
  3. Tell your kids, spouse, pet or whoever shares your home you love them.
  4. Shake it till you make it! Thrown on your favorite tunes and dance while you’re showering, getting dressed or making breakfast in the morning.
  5. Get dressed in clothes that make you feel good about yourself. Even if you have nowhere to go, dress like you do.
  6. Eat a healthy breakfast that includes protein, healthy fats and fruit or veggies.
  7. Down a glass of water. Hydrate your system.
  8. Think of three things you’d like to accomplish that day and write them down.
  9. Take five minutes to tidy up before you leave the house.
  10. Smile.

Finding happiness

All anybody wants in life is to be happy, right? But what is happiness? And how do we achieve it?

Does it come in the way of a big house? Nice clothes? The perfect job? The love of another?

As I move through life in pursuit of emotional calm, it’s a question I ask myself all the time.

So what’s the answer? If you asked the 20 year old me, I’d have said, “all of the above.” But that was a different me—a younger, more naive me who looked solely to external influences as sources of happiness. As a result, I found myself miserable much of the time. I didn’t realize it then, but now looking back I see it clear as day; I was not happy with myself, and any real happiness I experienced was superficial—and not sustainable.

Now ask the older and much wiser me and I will answer with a resounding, “none of the above.”  Sure those things help, but they do not pave the path to a fulfilling life; they are merely sources of fuel along the way. Today, at the ripe old (young) age of 40, I view life through a much different lens—a lens of self awareness and appreciation.

All to often, we look to other people to validate our own worth, and we look to material things to bring us immediate satisfaction. The younger me certainly did, and frankly I think most of us have probably done so at one point or another. But the person I am today—the more evolved me—makes it a priority to look inward to find that place of happiness and peace.

Most of the time, I can do this with ease. But there are times when I falter—especially as of late.

I was talking to a friend recently who is going through some difficulty at home, and she said something that stuck with me. She was talking about finding a sense of peace and happiness in the face of all that was going on around her. She explained what works for her is to envision a little blueish/whitish light deep within—a light that’s always lit; it cannot be put out by others. This is her light of inner peace and contentment.

In a place of confusion and anxiety at the time of our discussion, I found her words extremely helpful—and profound. It just made perfect sense to me.

So I immediately put her suggestion into practice, and it’s worked like a charm. Now, when I feel myself getting rattled by something around me—something outside of my control—I stop and envision that little light. I breathe deeply and reminded myself that I, and I alone, have control over how I respond to every experience—good or bad.

As I muddle through life facing challenges of my own, I choose happiness. When I feel I’m about to crumble, or even when I do crumble, I challenge myself to see the light in life—and in me.

Here’s the thing: I am at a place in my life where I know who I am. I know I’m a whole person, regardless of who is or isn’t’ in my life. Regardless of money or material possessions. Regardless of failures of the past. Regardless of the disappointments life throws my way. I like who I am, I accept my flaws and I have faith in myself. I know how to be happy in my own skin. Having confidence in those core truths infuses me with sense of peace and a foundation of happiness that guides me through life. With a focus on that inner light that shines from a place of self reliance, I keep myself steady, calm and content.

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You swore you’d never do THAT…

Before your kids were born, you had an idea in your head of what kind of parent you’d be — you know, cool, hip, all-knowing, etc… You’d look at other parents in judgement as they did things you swore you’d never do.

Then you became a parent and all your preconceived notions went out the window.

1. Back then… you’d become irritated every time your friends called you up just so you could hear their baby coo. Now here you are… so awestruck by your baby’s ability to gurgle on queue that you feel the need to share it with everybody you know, including your single, childless friends.

2.  Back then… you believed that anyone who’d allow their 1-year old to suck on a pacifier should be reported to the American Academy of Dentistry. Now here you are… watching your 2-year old soothe himself to sleep by the gentle sucking motion of his favorite binky.

3. Back then… you thought a minivan was the most uncool vehicle on the planet. Now here you are… luxuriating in your 8-person kid mobile, enjoying the automatic sliding doors, the wide screen DVD player and all the awesome storage compartments.

4. Back then… you’d become violently ill at the sight and sound of Barney and his freakishly creepy friends. Now here you are… praising his name as you hastily turn to PBS, while your kids scream and cry only to be consoled by the annoying purple dinosaur.

5. Back then… you’d look on in complete annoyance as parents let their kids thrown earsplitting tantrums right in the middle of the grocery store. Now here you are… ignoring your inconsolably upset child (and those around you) in an effort to teach him that screaming bloody murder won’t win him that candy bar.

Having kids turns even the coolest of people into versions of themselves they never knew was in them. It’s an inevitable fact of parenthood.

How about you? What did you swear you’d never do?

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Some of my early readers may recognize this post from a while back. I have been so busy lately, I haven’t had time to write anything new. So today, you get recycled material. 

For times of challenge…

Life can’t always be good. Let’s face it, sometimes it just downright sucks. But pain and suffering are part of everyone’s journey; nobody gets to take the detour.

When I find myself in a place of challenge and difficulty, I try open myself up to hear the messages life has to offer—which often comes by way of inspiring quotes that make their way onto my path. These wise words pick me up when I’m down; they add perspective when I’ve got none; they guide me when I feel myself beginning to stray.


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“All great changes are preceded by chaos.” – Deepka Chopra

“Worrying does not take away tomorrow’s troubles. It takes away today’s peace.” – Randy Armstrong

“The first to apologize is the bravest. The first to forgive is the strongest. The first to forget is the happiest.” – Unknown

“Feelings are just visitors. Let them come and go.” Mooji

“Pain doesn’t just show up in our lives for no reason. It’s a sign that something in our lives needs to be changed.” – Unknown

“Fear is the cheapest room in the house. I’d like to see you in better living conditions.” - Hafiz

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” - Maya Angelou

“Part of art of quieting ourselves is to honor the tears that we carry.” – Jack Kornfield

“Sadness is but a wall between two gardens.” - Khalil Gibran

“Worrying is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do but gets you nowhere.” – Glenn Turner

“May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be.” – Teresa of Ávila

“A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.” – English Proverb

10 things I will never stop doing for my kids

The other day, a friend’s little 6 year old daughter asked me, “Do you still call your boys your babies?” It seems her mom still does that to her and she was beginning to wonder why.

“Of course!” I responded. ”They’ll always be my babies!”

She gave me an adorable little chuckle, then looked at her mom as if so say, “Okay mom, I guess you can keep calling me your baby.”

As moms, do we ever stop thinking of our children as our babies? No we don’t rock them to sleep or sing them lullabies (unless they’re really sick, of course—then all bets are off), but they are still our babies, right?

Though my role as mom will evolve as my boys age, there are some things I will never stop doing for them—whether they’re 9, 29 or 59:

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    1. Saying “I’m proud of you.”
    2. Encouraging them to be their own person.
    3. Picking them up when they fall.
    4. Accepting them for who they are—flaws and all. 
    5. Hugging and kissing them. (Try to stop me.)
    6. Being open, honest and respectful towards them. Treating them as equals.
    7. Laughing with them. Laughing at them. Letting them laugh at me.
    8. Talking to them. Listening to them. Asking how they’re doing.
    9. Forgiving them.
    10. Saying, “I love you.”

My boys are now, and forever will be, my babies.