Practicing gratitude

Since the day after Christmas, I’ve been suffering from a nasty case of the post-hoiday blues. Something about another year over, my kids getting older and my impending 40th birthday brought on a fierce tidal wave of emotions that’s left family and friends wondering what to do with me.

Gratitude

I wake up each morning sad, fighting back the urge (usually unsuccessfully) to cry my eyes out. I’ve been telling myself to snap out of it and perk up, but that hasn’t worked. So today I’m trying a new approach. Today, in attempt to bring some perspective to my swirling vortex of negativity, I’m practicing gratitude.

10 things I’m grateful for: 

My children: Nothing in life brings me more joy than being the mother of two amazing boys. Each day I look at them in awe and admiration. They are kind-hearted, funny, creative, unique, and loving—and very protective of their mother. Though I often long for them to be little, I wouldn’t trade who they are today for anything in the world. In this mother’s eyes, they are perfect in every way.

My family: Not the family I created, but rather the family who created me. I have two extremely supportive parents have never, and will never, let me down. And my brother, while we don’t talk often, would be there for me (and has been) in a heartbeat if needed.

My marriage: Though my husband is my polar opposite, we balance each other out—the crazy and all. I am anxious; he is calm. I am a planner; he is a play-it-by-ear dude. I get stuck in the what-ifs of the future; he embraces each moment fully. When either of us veers off course, we lean on each other to get us back on track.

My home: It’s not a big home—not by any stretch. But it is a nice home. Cozy. Warm. Ours.

My dog: To a non-pet owner, this may seem odd, but my dog is part of our family. She is my “daughter” and the only one in my house who actually listens to me.

My friends: I have amazing women in my life. They are smart, beautiful, strong, encouraging, empathetic women who would each drop whatever they’re doing to come to the rescue of a friend, while making her laugh in the process.

The sun. The wind. The rain: Watching nature in all its glory always serves as a reminder to me that I am part of something bigger. The shadows on the green lawn. The branches swaying in the breeze. The smell of flowers in bloom. It’s God at work.

My faith: Without it, I’d be lost. Whenever I feel myself floundering, as I have been recently, I stop and ask God for help. By giving up control to Him, I remind myself that He has a plan for me—a plan that I may not be aware of.

My iPhone: Sounds crazy but without this, too, I’d be lost. I use my iPhone for everything. I have developed a recent obsession with listening to podcasts. Yes, I’m that kind of dork. When I can’t sleep, I pop on a podcast. When i’m doing dishes, I pop on a podcast. When I’m waiting for my kids to get out of Taekwon Do, I pop on a podcast. Yes, I also love my music, but my podcasts keep me entertained when my mind would otherwise be spinning.

My schedule: I am fortunate to have a husband who supports a lifestyle that allows me to stay home with the kids while I focus on nurturing my writing career.

20 ways show your kids you love them (without saying the words)

As a mom, I find that I often beat myself up over something that I’m doing wrong or not doing well enough in the raising of my children. But then I remind myself that I am not today, nor will I ever be, perfect; I am flawed in so many ways I’ve lost count. And that’s okay.

But one thing I know for sure: my boys know, without a doubt, how much I love them. In that simple fact, I am confident.

So today I am sharing with you my advice for how to show your kids you love them (without saying the words):

  1. Ask them about their day, every day.
  2. When they’re telling you something they deem important, give them your undivided attention.
  3. When they’ve done something that makes you proud, tell them.
  4. Make it a point to frequently remind them of all their good qualities.
  5. Take time to engage in one-on-one activities with them.
  6. Tell them how lucky you feel to be their mom.
  7. Laugh with them.
  8. Attend their extra-cariccular actives (sporting events, dance recitals, plays, etc…) as often as you can.
  9. Set boundaries.
  10. Encourage them to try harder while acknowledging what they’ve already accomplished.
  11. When you’re wrong, say I’m sorry.
  12. Respect their feelings.
  13. Be aware of what’s going on with their schoolwork: know when they have projects due or tests coming up; have  a sense for what they’re working on for homework; have a relationship with their teachers.
  14. Don’t talk down to them. They may be little, but they’re still human.
  15. Know who their friends are—and ask about them often.
  16. Let them into your world; open up to them (when appropriate).
  17. Ask for their opinion.
  18. Forgive them for their mistakes. Remind them that you also make mistakes.
  19. Look them in the eyes when you speak to them. (This is not always possible, I know. But do it as often as you can).
  20. Hug them. Kiss them.

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Ages and stages

Ages&Stages

My oldest boy has been in the 5th grade for three months now—and it’s been quite an adjustment.

For me.

Yes, he’s doing great—thriving, in fact: making friends, learning his way around his new school and just generally having a blast. But it’s a confusing time.

For me.

Most of the time, he’s still my little boy: He sleeps with stuffed animals and the blanket grandma made him when he was a baby. He loves a good game of Candy Land. He would always rather sleep with his mama than in his own bed. And yes, still holds my hand and says I love you in public.

But…

He is growing taller (up past my shoulder now). He’s losing some of his innocence and becoming wiser to the ways of the world. He’s starting to care about his appearance and having private conversations with his friends. And I’m still not used to the fact that he now goes to school with kids who look like they could be in college.

Ages&Stages2

It’s a whole new world.

For me.

I’m struggling with how I feel about it all: I want him to stay tiny and adorable, yet I’m having a blast watching him sprout. I long to keep him in a place of blind innocence, yet I enjoy the newfound substance of our conversations. I miss being able to hold him on my hip, yet there is nothing in the world that compares to his giant bear hugs.

What can I do? How can I deal with the continuous cycle of change that goes along with growing children? I’ve already discovered that I am powerless to turn back the hands of time (not for lack of trying, I might add).

That leaves me with only one choice: Sit back and enjoy the ride as I watch my children grow.

Each passing year brings with it a new stage in their lives—and mine. Am I ready for it? Probably not. But this is parenthood—at its best.

This Christmas season, I will not…

As the title of my blog clearly states, I’m still learning. Each Christmas, I do things that I later regret. But not this year. No, this year I will think before I act. This year, I will be smart. This year, I will not make the same mistakes as in years past.

This Christmas season, I will not: 

Hand make any gifts. Just because they’re made with love doesn’t mean they should be given to loved ones (unless those loved ones are on the naughty list).

Drop the F-bomb in front of my kids while stringing up the lights. No matter how much I loathe taking part in the battle of tree vs. lights, it doesn’t give me the right to let my inner crazy shine in the presence of young children.

Leave my Christmas spending spreadsheet up on the computer screen for my husband to see. Enjoyable as it may seem, being lectured on the dangers of excessive Christmastime spending is quite a miserable experience.

Buy my mother-in-law a “Sights of NJ” calendar with hopes that she’ll love the state I’ve whisked her son away to. It seems the Rhode Islander in her will never see NJ as anything but the smokestacks on the Jersey Turnpike.

Attempt a gingerbread house with my children. Icing as glue? How does that even make sense?

GinberbreadHouse

Waste my money on educational toys. I only have so much storage for unopened science kits and math games.

Count on my husband to water the tree. He can’t even remember to feed the dog—a living, breathing, in-your-face animal. How could I possibly expect him to give a second thought to a giant plant?

Make sugar-free sugar cookies and hand them out as gifts. It turns out, this is a good way to lose friends.

Drop gentle hints to my husband about what I’d like for Christmas. To say that subtlety is lost on him would be an understatement.

Wear a wool turtle neck sweater to Christmas Eve Mass. If you’re wondering how to make an already uncomfortably long service even longer, this is it.

Wait until 10:00 pm on Christmas Eve to scour my junk drawer for batteries. A highly anticipated remote control helicopter that won’t fly on Christmas morning makes for some extremely disappointed kids.

Leave my dog unattended in the same room as Santa’s full plate of cookies. Enough said.

Allow my husband to turn off  “24 hours of A Christmas Story” at any point on Christmas Day. Christmas just isn’t Christmas without the continuous rants of the perils of the red ryder bb gun humming in the background.

christmasStory_ralphie02_800x600_121920080205

Note: some of you may recognize this post from last year. That’s because my insanely busy schedule has kept me from attending to my blog. So rather than staying silent, I thought I’d bring back and oldie but a goodie. 

Consequences for poor decisions and the choices aligned with them will make sense and feel relevant and meaningful to students who are ready to process this information, responding from their frontal lobes in a calm hit brain state

In the here and now with my boys

Last night, my husband had to unexpectedly go out of town. Though I don’t necessarily enjoy when he travels, I do find that it gives me more of an opportunity to bond with my kids—particularly when he’s gone over the weekend. When my husband is away, I make more of a deliberate effort (for whatever reason) to find activities to fill my time alone with the boys.

As soon as he left, I turned to the kiddos and said, “So, what should we do tonight?” I don’t know what it’s like in your house, but in mine, looms are all the rage. Yes, even my boys—3rd and 5th graders—are banging out those vibrant little bracelets like crazy. So I was not surprised to hear that they wanted to spend the night looming. But first, we’d need to go out and buy a few more packs of bands; their supply was running low.

Looms

Normally when my kids ask me if we can go out and buy something superfluous, I say no. But because I love the fact that they are currently more into working with their hands and their creative little brains than in mind-numbing video games, I was more than willing. We drove into town, grabbed six more bags of loom bands then headed across the street for a nice dinner. When we came home, we built a fire and got to work—all three of us. My 9yo, who is already counting down the days till Santa, put on some Christmas tunes to set the mood.

No TV. No video games. No arguing. (Okay, there was some arguing, but not as much as usual.)

It was a perfect night.

Yet, my mind was jumping all over the place. Rather than giving 100% to what I was doing with the boys, I found myself thinking about all the things that needed to get done:

I should really throw in a load of laundry.

The boys need to get in the shower soon.

Look at this mess!

I need to go food shopping tomorrow.

What am I making for Thanksgiving? 

After a while, I became aware of what I was doing. So I stopped. I reminded myself that moments like these—unplanned moments when everything just sort of comes together perfectly—are rare. With that thought, I was able to rein myself back in so that I could be fully present in the moment. I decided that I didn’t care about the mess or the laundry or the showers. I put my thoughts of food shopping and Thanksgiving dinner aside—and I brought myself back to my children.

Dman

It’s so easy to get caught up in to-do lists and the schedules of tomorrow and the mess around us. But when we do that, we miss out on the simple pleasures in life. Happiness comes from the nows of life, not the should-bes and could-bes and will-bes of life. This is a lesson that I have to continue to teach myself—and last night was yet another reminder of the simple joy that is living in the moment. And I learned how to make a zig-zag loom to boot!

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