Mama’s heart is open and ready to listen!

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I remember back to the beginning of this parenting journey coming across QTIP, which stands for quick taking it personally. This little reminder was used to gently nudge me away from some of the struggles I was having with my children and I have to say it is so important for me to remember these days. As my boys are getting older they are trying out new ideas, new concepts and even new ways of being in the world and since I have the trusted role of mom, I get to be by their side for the good the bad and the ugly. And if I wish to remain a trusted confidant I need to practice QTIP on the regular.

Where I find this particular piece most challenging is when the boys find the courage to point out the moments when I am stepping away from the intention of how I want to parent and falling in to reactions to circumstance. I can easily, when these comments are made, slip into my knee jerk patterned response of defensiveness. However, I have witnessed, more than once, how this reaction lands on my child. The shoulders shrink, the body closes up and I can almost see the wounds of my words on their inside worlds, the trust between us dissolving. Yep, I can apologize but this doesn’t take the words away. It begins to build the bridge back to trust but I really do prefer when I can take that extra second to breath deeply, QTIP and react from a place of unconditional love, to keep our trust and closeness intact.

The reminder for me, again and agin, is the best thing I can do in the moment when I feel that defensive protective self come out is to see the child before me and come toward them with a reaction that is held in love, respect and connection. To take the extra moment to breath in the breath that takes me out of whatever story I am running and puts me into the unconditional love that is my child’s birth right.

Our children are human beings doing the best they can with the resources available to them to get their needs met. I am the safest most trust worthy resource and so I get gifted with the chance to witness all of their unfolding. I am also human and flawed and when my child notices me slipping out of intention and into circumstance the only true reaction is, “thank you of noticing and bringing me back to my right mind.” Because really what my child is saying, in the best way they know how in that moment is, “hey mom I’ve been paying attention all along and I know who you really want to be.” Imagine that for a moment. All these years of paying attention to who my children are, witnessing and showing up for them, has lead them to have the confidence to do the very same for me. This is the foundation for years, beyond childhood of connection, truth, respect and love, oh so much love. And that friends is all this mama could ever dream of. So bring on your observations you beautiful human beings, mama’s heart is open and ready to listen.

Let’s Be Vulnerable Together

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My sister in law has given me some serious gifts over the years. Beginning on Mother’s Day, about eight years ago now, when after a few sort introductions she jumped off the back deck and started playing with my boys. She didn’t know it at that time but the quickest way to my heart is through wanting to know my children.

Then she gave me the gift of committing to love my brother for the rest of her years. My brother has been one of the heroes in my life and I wanted nothing more than for someone to see his giant heart and commit to tending to it.

Then there was 2012 when she birthed her first son and again in June of 2015 when she brought another little dude into our family. Lately, though the gift she has been given me is bigger than I think she knows. She has been handing me the most vulnerable parts of her mothering journey and trusting me to witness her there.

In this world of mommy wars, tiger moms, helicopter parents and whatever trendy terms I have missed listing, mothering takes on this sort of competitive edge. Where one can end up building a wall of “I got this” all around themselves and quietly struggling through the days that challenge our own sense of value in this important role. It can lead to the sort of isolation that make us feel unworthy of the title mom, incapable of doing it well and lost in our heartbreak as our hearts walking on the outside of our bodies take us to places we never even knew we hurt. And I know these places exists because I have been to all of them, more than once.

When my sister in law picks up the phone and calls to talk to me from that place, she creates a space for both of us to be real and raw about the struggles that come alongside the celebrations.  I get to remember back to what it was like to be in the dark places, admit to her that they still show up even 14 years in and together we support each other. With the sorts of reminders that say “You are a good mom because you care enough to notice when things feel a little side ways.” And “it’s okay to have a bad day, in fact it’s probably modeling some stellar coping skills to your children.” But wider and bigger than that we get to witness one another heart to heart in our most vulnerable places and walk away better human beings. The more often we are willing to choose vulnerability over shame, as mothers, the stronger we come out for our children.

So let’s all decide today, just around the corner from Mother’s Day, to stand side by side in all the hard places and the celebratory places and hold each other up instead of tearing each other down. To set the course for more confident, compassionate caring human beings, both in ourselves and our children.

Trust and food choices

My son ate egg whites and raisin bran for breakfast this morning. And it is really tempting for my to use this as an example of how children who are left to make their own food choices end up making “healthy” choices eventually. But the cautionary tale here is that that statement is coming from my diet mind that still wants to label foods good and bad and has nothing to do with my son.

He chose egg whites because he has never liked the yolk part. And raisin bran tastes good to him and dad loves it and sometimes loving what your dad loves is a way to find connection. His younger brother will be happy to wake up and discover their are extra yolks for him to add to his egg plate. Because for as long as they have been eating eggs one eats around the yolks and the other the whites. I have tried to get them to share an egg before but they have preferred the whole egg eat around method. Lucky me that now their is not any egg left on the plates to clean up.

By providing a pantry full of a variety of foods throughout their growing up I have created opportunities for the boys to explore plenty of foods. By biting my tongue, most of the time, when they made the choices they did I have created a judgement free zone for them to find those foods that nourish their individual bodies. But greater than that I have facilitated an environment where the boys have been able to listen to and trust their own bodies. I am not living in those bodies. I can not know what does or does not feel good inside of them. This sort of autonomy over their bodies begins with me trusting them, to trust their bodies. I don’t have the ability to truly hear my body most of the time. Witnessing my boys use language that explains how they are feeling inside of their bodies is healing for me and a celebratory for them.

My youngest son has food allergies. I suspected early on what foods were the culprit. I offered my insights. And then I stood back and supported my son as he made food choices. I did not police what he ate. I did not claim to know more than he did about what was going on inside his body. I watched as he discovered on his own. He ate the offending foods and I held his hand while he was uncomfortable. One day, July 21st 2013 to be exact, he made the mind body connection and decided to stop eating all of the offending foods. He has been temped at birthday parties, favorite restaurants and potluck gatherings, every time he has chosen to keep his body feeling good and avoid the offending foods. Because he wants to feel good inside of his body and has discovered through is own trial and error just how to do this.

Supporting our children in exploring all of their food desires while simultaneously untangling our own hang ups around food is a beautiful gift we hand our children. It goes a long way in supporting a trusting, connected relationship while also helping them to discover how to care for their own bodies. Because the truth is one day they are going to be out in the world without me and I want them to know how to have full authority over all the parts of their bodies.

Memory Makers

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When it gets hot we always head for the ocean. My most favorite part of our trips to the beach has got to be how all the ages and stages fall away and my boys simple exist. It’s hard to put the magic into words but it’s like seeing them stripped down of everything but their true essence. It may be that it’s a place where I let down all my defenses as well  and we can just be side by side appreciating what’s in front of us. Whatever the reason, I love it there, at the beach where time simply disappears.

This time it was hot and we had the intention of jumping in the ocean. The thing is with us once our minds are set on getting into the ocean it takes a lot to change directions. We have on more than one occasion driven the forty minutes to the ocean to simply jump in, turn around and drive all the way back into the city. Once we get called out by the ocean we have to go in. Today when we got there and it wasn’t as warm as it had been inland. So we were going to need a little time to warm up.

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Play unfolds naturally outdoors for both of my boys. Whatever is happening in their minds spills out on the objects around them and before I know it I am seeing their inner world spilled out across the sand. This time driftwood has washed ashore the most perfect swords and another beach lover and built that perfect fort.

The other thing about the beach and it’s magic timelessness for us, is the conversations. I was privy to hearing the ins and outs of the game they are both completely loving right now. I wasn’t in the conversation, I was on the sidelines witnessing to brothers in complete connection. They were sharing opinions, debating ideas and designing strategies for future implementation. The outside world falling apart as their minds met and wound around one another. As a mom, this sibling relationship that they have tugged at year after year unfolding with such mutual respect and adoration sends more than one tear down my cheek. Being home together learning side by side for all these years has had it’s challenges for the boys, I also believe whole heartedly it’s been the place where their relationship has strengthened

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We did get warm enough and decide the three of us, to forge out into the frigid ocean water. The waves were calmer at some point and we discussed the best ways to get past the stronger waves. Growing up on the shores of the ocean we have a healthy respect for who has the power when we enter her world. We use the line “never turn your back on the ocean, ” to keep each other safe. Always listening to our own instincts and respecting when someone reaches the place in the water that feels far enough. We got several waves on our boards, each ducked under the waves and decided to head in when a few waves crashed a little harder around us than felt comfortable. Trusting the boys to know their own boundaries when it comes to their own safety is a cornerstone of building this trusting relationship we are building.

Back on share the boys dried off, changed, cause for as long as I can remember these guys don’t love being in anything wet for longer then necessary.  And then they fell onto the towels to share again. Now it was the world of YouTube and the hilarity that it brings into their lives. Side by side on the shore of the ocean laughing over and over again at moments they have both found on line. Giving me the chance to wander the shores with my camera, in hopes of using my own passion to capture a moment or two.

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These are the days when I step back and truly appreciate the gift that this life has given me, the chance to be home full-time with my children. Their childhoods are already passing at warp speed and will inevitably end before I am ready for them to. So, I count it my greatest blessing that I have as many days as I want to build up their childhood on timeless ocean jumping memories. I truly believe this is what will launch all of us into the world beyond childhood tightly wound in our relationship looking backwards with fondness.

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Friday Round Up

I love finding cool things spread out on the internet to share with the boys and to inspire my own self. Here a few directions the world took us in this week.

There are many messages out there in the world that shame woman and blame woman and I am inspired by people who are putting a whole different message out to their daughters. Even, without daughters of my own, I want the all the females in my life to feel this support. Read here for inspiration.

With the loss of the iconic pop singer Prince this week the boys and I spent some time searching out his songs. Me sharing bits of my own childhood the role his music played. This tribute is breathtaking.

While making my way in the world this week I was invited to consider the topic of boredom. And I really like this piece that talks about what it can really mean when your child says “I’m bored” along with super helpful ways to show up for them.

For those of us on the journey without school here is a fabulous collection of grown homeschoolers sharing a look into their experience.

In the mail this week we received our first installment of the Creation Crate which has minds being pushed and challenged in new directions. And we were breathlessly waiting for today’s arrival of the Loot Crate. What I love most about these subscriptions is that we don’t know what will show up on our doorstep and take us on new adventures we might have otherwise not gone on. I highly recommend both of these.

So there ya have it a few things that sparked some interest throughout the week. I would love to hear what is sparking the hearts of the people you share the world with!

Learning by the seat of my pants

There are days on this journey that have me learning by the seat of my pants. And this was one of those days. My youngest son loves to watch the YouTube channel Feast of Fiction, which I highly recommend for cool ways to bring some of your children’s favorite in game, anime, pop culture recipes to life. He showed me three videos all of which he wanted to make. I keeping with my commitment to Yes energy agreed. Here’s where it all got super interesting, he meant right now!

The other piece of this day that challenged what I know about following a recipe is, that my son is gluten free. So I would need to on the fly watch the video, read the recipe and adjust to make it all gluten free. Everything in me wanted to say, “but I don’t know how to to do this, can we find something easier.” But his heart was set on making Cinnamon Butterscotch Pie from UnderTale, Poro snacks from League of Legends and Rare candy from Pokemon (the links are included in case you are inspired to head off and make these treasures yourself). So I was staring down making a gluten free pie crust because even though in the video they purchase pre-made crusts I have yet to track down a gluten free one that is worth eating, butterscotch pudding for the first time ever and a pizza dough that was gluten free and pliable enough to roll up like a cinnamon bun. Now for those of you that have not worked in the world of GF baking there is not a lot of give or room for error when handling these things. In general I roll out everything onto the surface it will stay for the duration of it’s cooking and then say a little prayer that it will not crumble to tiny bits on route from plate to mouth. Oh and I’ve never made candy before either.

It would have been easy under these circumstances to make my son pick one on these recipes for us to tackle. Or explain to him how recipes are just impossible to make gluten free. But he was keen to learn how to cook new things. He was excited to explore recipes that were actually from some of his favorite games. But most importantly he fully believed all of this was possible. And that is what I call a motivated learner. If you want something to stick in the mind of young person, having them show up self motivated, eager, with confidence and full enthusiasm is that way to do it.

So I rolled up my sleeves and we watched the videos again and talked about what it would take to make some of the things gluten free and then began a whirlwind day of preparing foods and learning on the spot. The beauty of tackling a task together that neither one of us has done before is that we get to learn together. Which is great modeling for the ways in which  I seek out information when I am wanting to learn something new. It’s also a chance for me to get a peek into how my son tackles new information. Back and forth together in the heat of the “oh no grab it before it boils over moments, “ and the “ack we forgot to add the vanilla is it okay to drop in now, “ we saw each other side by side learning through mistakes and finding on the spot solutions.

It is true that when things were looking to wrap up my son ran out of steam. He wanted me to finish up without him. It would have been easy to ruin the whole day, the whole experience by saying something like, “this was your idea you need to stick around and see it through.” Or to myself, give up and walk away with projects unfinished. But he still wanted to eat the tasty treats. He had simply reached the end part of his learning.  It’s true that the brain can only take in and retain so much new input at one time. I remember a university professor giving us all the tip, when we were studying, to take at least a ten to fifteen minute break for each hour of studying we were doing so we could make room for the new information to come in. So, I happily stayed in the kitchen to finish up the projects because truth be told I was completely committed and I wanted to see it all through.

We nailed the pizza dough and as a result found the best way for making gluten free pizza dough after years of trying. The Poro snacks were a HUGE hit. The pie, oh, the pie, it was delicious to three out of four members of the family and terribly disappointing for the one person who was most excited to try it. His little heart crumbled when after three hours of cooking and waiting the pie didn’t taste good to him. It’s devastating when you put in a lot of hard work and end up not happy with the results.

Again, it can be easy at this point in the exhausted day to snap at the person in front of me that is crying and angry after all my efforts. But it has been one of my biggest lessons in this journey to remember that when my child is devastated and upset it’s not about me. It’s not about my hurt feelings, or my fatigue, it’s about showing up for them. It’s hard to find a recipe you really want to try, to put in hours of prepping and waiting only to discover you’re not a fan of a cinnamon butterscotch pie. That’s what’s really true here. He’s not ungrateful for my time and effort. He is simply sad that this pie tastes bad to him. And it doesn’t help that everyone else likes it. It just means he is missing out on having that yummy feeling.

And so there is another day in our lives. Filled with embracing the eager learning, supporting the passion, making big messy mistakes and holding the heartbreak that comes with disappointment. Personally,  I wouldn’t change one of bit of this wild ride of emotions and broken egg shells on the floor because it’s a chance, over and over again, to show up and connect with these precious human beings I am blessed to have as my children.

A Day In the Life

Because we live life a little differently then those around us, I know some folks wonder what we get up to day to day. I also know for people thinking about letting go of a world with school, it’s one of the first pieces of information they are looking for. What does it all look like? 

I wish I could throw down a simple template that would make the transition easier for all the courageous families who make the bold choice to walk away from the school system and hang out at home together. Sadly, that does not exist. What does exist is the promise of moments throughout the day where it feels like everyone is in some state of flow. Even if that is only the 2 minutes before all hell breaks loose, it’s there if we can open our eyes and catch it.

So, what does a day in the life look like for us? I’m hoping to shine some light on that each Monday with a little snapshot. 

Right now, we are a one car family so my days start with driving in rush hour traffic here in the silicon valley to deposit my husband at work, if we want the car. Which is almost everyday right now. It’s worth laughing out loud at that fact that a year ago, when we had two fully functioning cars, there were days on end when nobody would agree to leave the house. Now, folks want the option each and everyday, even if they don’t exercise it. And as you can probably piece together dropping off at work during rush hour has a pick up happening at the end of the day, with more traffic,  right when folks are ready for dinner!

It has been easy for me to get lost in the drama of whoa is me while we navigate this new one car existence. Thankfully,  I don’t like to stay there long. So I’ve taken to looking for the things in this new part of our day that are truly gifts. Number one: I have time alone in the car with my husband every morning to have a conversation, uninterrupted, that will last for at least ten minutes. There were years before now where that seemed like a nearly impossible task.

Number Two: Once he’s been deposited at work, I can listen, for close to 20 uninterrupted minutes, anything of my choosing. I have years worth of podcasts stored up waiting to be listened to.

Number Three: right now this is my saving grace. My children are old enough to be left home alone. When we first moved here six years ago we were also a single car family. For over a year and my boys were only 5 and 7.  I had to pack all three of us up in the car twice a day if we wanted to have the car. I tell you that was the tipping point many a day, on deciding if an activity was worth it. I am grateful I can leave folks happily engaged in whatever is calling at their hearts to head out the door.

The fourth is a not an everyday thing but when it happens it’s the kinda magic I have been putting the time in for all these years. One of the boys answers, “Yes!” to my call for companions to join me in picking up dad. It hasn’t happened yet that is is both of them at the same time. So, I find myself in the car for a little one on one time with one of my most favorite people. Sometimes we get to chat about things that are troubling someone’s mind. Other times we get to car dance all the way to the office. These are the moments I store up in the special heart pocket I am building for the times when life feel less then magical.

This little snapshot is showing  how I am taking what can feel like a tedious, do I really have to job, turning it on it’s head and pulling out the magic moments that are mine for the enjoying. I wonder if there is something in your day to day with your children today that you can turn on it’s head and uncover a bit of  awesome.

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Recipe For A Happy Childhood

Happy Childhood

Ingredients

abundance of love                          sprinkle of magic

on demand cuddles                       hours of play

2 ears for listening                        time, uninterrupted

buckets of patience                     overflowing understanding

Directions

  1. Apply overabundance of love to all children involved.
  2. When, asked and based on skill observation of needs, apply cuddles. The heart to heart, eye to eye ones.
  3. Have two ears ready at all times to listen. This step also requires the closing of the mouth and opening of the heart.
  4. Patience will be what binds the entire recipe together. It will be required at all times especially when it appears to have run out for the person following the recipe. Dig deep there’s always a little left at the bottom of the barrel.
  5. Sprinkle magic regularly, when moods are darkening, with bubbles and dancing.
  6. To succeed you will need to play. A lot. Together. And alone. Just play and play and play. This is essential for success.
  7. Time, you will need uninterrupted time for the smelling of roses and the chasing of tales.
  8. And finally, understanding will overflow throughout the entire recipe in order for happiness to be true. Make sure your understanding is based on the child’s view and not cluttered with the business of adulting.

Stand Up for Kids – Can you help?

I talk a lot about showing up for the kids in our lives. It’s the most important thing I think we all can do. And it’s easy for me to stand up for the my kids cause I have a  whole lot of privilege going of me. But there are other kids out there who need us to show up for them as well.

About a year ago I learned about an organization in my area, that shows up for homeless youth. These folks are providing services for CHILDREN who do NOT have a home. Each one of them comes through the doors with their own story held close to their chest while they dip their toes in to see if we can be trusted. Thank goodness this is the sort of organization that does not receive any sort of funding that would force them to report these children to anyone. They just open the doors and their hearts to let in those who the rest of the world has tossed aside and says “you are worth of showing up for. ”

Their mission to end Youth Homelessness is one I think the whole world should get behind. It’s easy to look at a child on the street and come up with all sort of reasons why we think they are there. To make up the sorts of stories that make it okay to keep on walking by without stopping to notice. Many of these kids are there, on the street, because of the sorts of things we are each striving to protect our children from. Let’s stop today and take notice of that child and say I see you.

A space has been created, that at this time is open three days a week, it’s called the Village, which is so fitting, cause it certainly does take a Village to raise up a child. Especially, one who’s adults weren’t able to protect, raise and provide for them. And these folks need funds, to keep the doors open so the kids don’t once again loose what they have come to feel is a sense of home. A place for internet access, a shower, a meal, a change of clothes, a smile and willing and ready mentors. Just basic needs that in my humble opinion I think should be the birth right of every single child that comes into this world. So I am asking, if you feel moved, to head over to their donation site and if you have something extra to give, hit the donation button. For all of you who donate over 20 dollars I will personally send you a custom gratitude poem written just for you, or for a loved one. Yep just donate $20 dollars or more, send a note to shannon@breakingdaylight.org and I will get you your poem.

Here’s the FB page where you can see some up to date information and right up at the top there is a donate button.

https://www.facebook.com/StandUp4KidsSiliconValley/?fref=ts

Or you can head straight to the donation page that is found here.

https://donatenow.networkforgood.org/SUFKSiliconValley?code=SUFKSV

Find out more about the organization and the kids they help by visiting their website here.

http://www.standupforkids.org/siliconvalley/

Thanks for reading my heart spilled out today.

Walking side by side

Lately we have been doing a lot of walking. It was my idea to try and calm the stress I feel around driving and parking in this overpopulated place I live to just walk to the grocery store instead. Cause there are three of them in my neighborhood with the farthest one being only 1.5 km away. So I buy smaller amounts of food and go the store more often. And when I arrive by foot I am in much better mood.

Serendipitously, my teenaged son has a new zest for being out in the world. So the majority of the time he asks “can I come with you?” My answer is always YES! There were times in our journey together that taking my children to the grocery store was the last thing in the world I wanted to do. Mostly because they didn’t want to be there, it wasn’t fun for any of us. But now is different, now we get to talk about what we want to eat for dinner and how to make it. My son is checking out the price of things and noticing the cost of eating. Which is certainly not something that I had any idea about at his age. And is another reason I am a huge supporter of living in the world with our children so they can notice these sorts of things. It feels like an important piece in preparing them for living in the world without me.

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Mostly though, we have these moments while we are walking side by side enjoying each others company that are priceless. Sometimes we talk about the sorts of things that have been building up and are easier to share about where there is an abundance of fresh air and natural energy. Other times I have my phone turned up with music pouring out and we literally dance in the streets, like we are the only two people in the world. And then there are the times that we just walk side by side in silence. Sharing the comfort that comes from knowing the space between you well enough that it doesn’t need to be filled up with anything.

I can see the end of this, our time living together full time in the same house. Or more clearly, I can see the ending of him needing me by his side full time. So I take all of this and I breath it into the very fiber of my experience. Because tomorrow he could wake up and decide once again that the grocery store isn’t a fun place to be. Or that doing something with a friend is much more rewarding then walking to the store with me. So I drink in every drop of it for the moments to savor  when the nest is empty and I can walk as long and as far as I want on my own.

What might you take an extra moment today to notice? What moments can you slow down to in this busy world of ours? I’d love to hear about it.