Month: November 2017

An Open Letter To My Toddler

For those of you who have been around for awhile, you know that I like to go through posts from my old site from time to time and share them here. Although there are certainly parts of the mommy blogging game I don’t miss, I do miss sharing my thoughts about motherhood on a regular basis.
As I was scrolling through my old posts recently, I came across this on and smiled. This is the post that changed the game for me as a mommy blogger and helped me find a modicum of success in that niche.
So much of this post is still true as I watch my 5 year-old attempt to gain control of the household, that I found myself rolling with laughter and knew I had to put it in the spotlight again.
For those of you who are currently in the trenches of toddlerhood, I promise you it does get better…slowly.
So, without further ado, here’s an open letter to my toddler as it first appeared on “Life, Motherhood, and The Pursuit of Happiness” on February 19, 2015.
***

Dear Toddler,

I get it. You’re two, You’ve figured out that you are your own person with the ability to make choices. You know what you like, you know what you don’t like. Namely, you don’t like being told what to do. Frankly, I don’t like that either. I feel your pain.

But, here’s the thing. Mommy is tired. Very, very tired. And to put it bluntly, I’m fairly certain you are to blame for at least a portion of this exhaustion.

I’d like to think that I’m an accommodating mother. I dutifully get up in the wee hours of the morning to bring you a sippy cup full of milk at your first request. I change your pull-up and let you pick out your clothes. I even let you put them on by yourself, as you make it very clear that my help is unwanted. I let you pick out which asinine children’s show you want to watch, even though I’d rather watch “Bar Rescue” or “Hoarders.” I drop what I’m doing to read you books or play with blocks as soon as you ask. I try to ensure that your meals are both nutritious and suited to your discerning palette. I don’t even flinch when you insist on pouring your own bubbles into the bath and use up half a bottle in one sitting.

 

open letter to my toddler, you don't need so many bubbles, too many bubbles, parenting is hard

This would be an acceptable amount of bubbles. Not the bubblicious nightmare you create.

 

At night, I let you choose which one of your 12 toothbrushes you would like to use. I let you pick out your pajamas and then hold back a sigh as you shuck them a few minutes later, as you prefer to sleep in your pull-up. This, too, I understand, as I much prefer to sleep au naturale. Fine by me.

I give you all the cuddles you can handle as we prepare for sleep. We read your favorite books, sing your favorite songs. I answer your thousand silly questions before finally turning out the lights. I endure hours of struggle as you fight sleep with every ounce of energy you can muster.

I do all this without asking for anything in return, because I love you more than life itself.

However, there are some things you could do that would make my life–and by extension yours–a lot easier.

 

open letter to my toddler, funny parenting, kids are a pain

 

1. If you could refrain from running to me with handfuls of poop, that would be amazing. In fact, if you could keep your pull-up on until I have secured a new one and a package of wipes, that would be even better. If you could let me know that you need to poop and allow me to take you to the potty, I would be forever grateful. You see, I’m all about options. Any of these would be preferable to trying to clean fecal matter off of you, the carpets, and anything else you may have seen fit to touch after picking up a handful.

2. I would very much like it if you could remember that food belongs either on your plate or in your mouth. I spend a lot of time preparing your food and, let’s get real here, feeding our family costs money. Money that we don’t have an unlimited supply of. If you don’t like something, leave it on your plate. I will throw it away after we have all filled our tummies. Additionally, there is the matter of clean-up. I know it’s hard for you to imagine, but Mommy doesn’t like touching cold noodles or any other bits of food.

3. Again, this one may shock you, but Mom and Dad have the final say on anything that happens in this house. I know you’re only 2, but you totally understand what phrases like “go get a towel” mean. In fact, I have witnesses who can attest that you’ve followed directions like this in the past. When we ask you to do something DO IT. Likewise, if we tell you not to do something STOP DOING THAT THING. We don’t like to be the bad guys. We don’t like to yell, we don’t like to give time-outs, and we certainly don’t like it when we have to resort to swatting your little bottom. Help us out here.

4. Please keep in mind that hand-holding in public is not an option. You hold hands or you get carried/put in the cart. For the love of all that is holy, stop fighting this.

 

open letter to my toddler, funny parenting story, why won't my kid hold my hand

See, this child understands the importance of hand-holding.

5. Again with the rules. If we say no more TV or anything of that sort, please find something else to do without a tantrum. We’ll even help you find another activity. Think back for a minute: has yelling “No!”, hitting, or any other tantrum-like activity ever changed our minds? It’s unlikely to ever work. I believe the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. You don’t want to be crazy now, do you?

6. If you have to stand on a chair, laundry basket, ride on toy, etc to reach something, that’s probably a good indicator that it is something you shouldn’t have. Nine times out of ten, if you put it out of reach it’s because it has the potential to hurt you. Please trust that we are only denying you those shiny scissors because we love you.

7. “I want grandma” never solved anything. Please, stop saying it, as it makes me feel inadequate. It’s not that I don’t get it. I’m 28 years old and even though my grandmother has passed, I still feel like she’s the answer to everything. Grandma’s have a special way of taking care of any problem. They just know things that the rest of us don’t. However, I can tell you from experience that as a child, if you tell your mom “I’ll just ask grandma” and your mother actually has you call your grandma, they will side with your mom. They may do it in a nice way that makes you think that it was your decision to follow the rules, but they will do it nonetheless.

8. I know the phone is fascinating. It allows you to talk to people who aren’t in the same room as you like some kind of magic pocket-box. However, trying to grab it from my hands when I’m on the phone to the gas company or yelling in my ear as I am talking to the doctor is not going to help you figure it out. Nor is it particularly helpful. If you see the phone pressed against my ear, please, find something to do in your room.

 

open letter to my toddler, funny parenting story

See, this magical device? Does it fill you with wonder? Back off. It’s just for Mom.

 

9. Speaking of your room…it’s a disaster. Now, I don’t expect you to clean it up all on your own at this point, but I do expect you to leave your clothes in the drawers unless we are getting dressed and to refrain from pulling your bookshelves down. I’m not sure if we’ve explained this to you thoroughly, but it is entirely possible to take one toy out of the toy box without dumping the entire thing on the floor. Sounds crazy, but it’s true. Try it sometime. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised!

10. Give us more snuggles! I know you’re busy. You’ve got cabinets to empty, make-up to smush into carpets, and crayons to snap in half. You have a good chunk of time blocked off for climbing furniture and jumping on beds. If you don’t run laps through the house while shrieking hysterically for at least a few minutes a day, you may lose your mind. This is totally understandable, we’ve all got important work to do in our day-to-day lives. It would be nice, though, if you could pencil me and daddy in for some hugs and kisses throughout the day. Both of us love you so much that it defies all logic, it would be super-awesome if you could spare some time for us to bask in that love.

If you take the time to consider these proposals, I think you will find them to be extremely fair. Wouldn’t it be nice to enjoy more time together when Mommy isn’t pulling her hair out and acting like an all-around maniac? Can you imagine?

Please, take some time to think this over. As always, I am open to some negotiation. After all, I do want your childhood to be as pleasant as possible. Following these guidelines should help facilitate that.

Love always,

Mom

 

Where Do You Start When You Have Too Many Goals?

If you ask my daughter what she wants to be when she grows up, she invariable answers, “I’m going to be a ninja cop firefighter.”

Sometimes she adds to the core three and it becomes a ninja-cop-firefighter who is doctor, or a teacher, or a mommy.  She’s a girl on a mission to be strong and do good, and I have no doubt that she will. She’s fearless, compassionate, stubborn as hell, and a bit of an adrenaline junkie…perfect qualities for a ninja-cop-firefighter.

Every time I hear her say this, my heart fills with pride. I have succeeded in teaching her the importance of helping others. I’ve created this wonderfully confident little human who wants to take on the world. I’m doing alright! It’s a great feeling, for sure, but that’s not what strikes me the most about her dream and my reaction to it.

What strikes me the most, is that I also find myself full of awe. At 5 years old, nothing seems to be outside the realm of possibility for her. She wants to do a bunch of different things, so she’ll create a position that calls for all of those skills. Why not?

This is something I have been pondering a lot lately. Why do we have this idea that we have to be one thing? From the time we enter high school we are pressured to think about what one thing we want to do, with the expectation that we will then spend four or more years in college studying that thing, and then go on to do it for the rest of our lives. That’s a lot of pressure, and it certainly doesn’t allow for a whole lot of personal growth or development. Instead, it paints you into a corner that becomes increasingly harder to get out of the longer you spend stuck there.

In an effort to make a change, many people find themselves changing careers, sometimes multiple times, as they try to find something that fits. Sometimes this is met with success, sometimes it’s not. Some people just find ways to separate their work selves from their “real” selves and go through the motions each day, accepting that they aren’t going to be fulfilled by their job and filling that space in other ways. A few of them find healthy ways to fill that void, many more do not. What seems to be constant for all of these people is that they all have a pretty strong vision of what their life would look like if circumstances were different. They all know what they would do if they won the lottery. They all dream of where they could be if they’d made different choices.

The problem is, they also have 50 billion reasons why that vision is unattainable.

However, most of those reasons are in no way valid. They are simply a product of thinking that just because you’ve never seen something done, it can never be. They are looking at minor obstacles to overcome as insurmountable challenges. They are also the result of a narrow view of what success in those areas looks like.

We have the capability to create the lives we want. We have the capacity for creative thought and the ability to solve problems in new, innovative ways. And yet, we choose to just follow the beaten path.

 

the power of the mind goals quote

 

This is something I have always found perplexing, even though I have fallen into the same traps. We all know that where there is a will, there’s a way, but somehow we continually undermine our will. We convince ourselves that we’re fine where we are and try to find ways to make ourselves fine if we’re not. We’ll try anything…except going after what we really want.

It’s ridiculous, isn’t it? I mean think about it, every success story begins with somebody dreaming about doing something nobody thought was possible. They know what they want, and they go after it without letting the doubts of others sink in. They find creative solutions to overcome the obstacle thrown at them along the way.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. I have no doubt that my daughter can become a ninja-cop-firefighter that’s sometimes a doctor, so it makes no sense to doubt my own dreams.

Aside from being an awesome mom who grows and preserves her own food and creates an amazing family atmosphere, I want to be a writer and a teacher who spends her free time creating works of art and making music. Put in my daughter’s framework, I want to be a writer-teacher-artist-farmer who’s also a mom.

When I think about it that way, it’s fairly simple. In fact, I’m already doing most of those things. I don’t have a farm yet, and I’m not making a solid living off of my creativity, but those things will come. I’m not a “teacher” by the common definition, but I’m constantly teaching my daughter things and I strive to teach and inspire through my work. I also have plans in place to take that further. I know the life I want to create, and from there I’ve set goals to bring it closer and closer to reality.

 

goals quote create your reality too many goals power of the mind

 

I want you to try something. Grab a sheet of paper and work through the following:

  1. What do you want to be? What is your “ninja-cop-firefighter” line-up? Break it down into the simplest of terms. Can you find a common thread that ties them together?
  2. Does it still seem as intimidating? Are you closer or further away from that reality than you thought?
  3. If something seems impossible, can you find a way to reframe it? For example, I want to make music but I know I’ll never be a rockstar. However, I can still play for fun at home, put a small bar band together, or jam with friends. I can write and record songs just for the fun of it. Is there another way you can be successful with the part of the equation that seems out of reach? Be creative!
  4. What skills, experience, credentials, or materials do you already have that can move you closer to your dream?
  5. What skills, experiences, etc do you need to acquire in order to move closer to your dreams? What steps can you take to get those skills or items?
  6. How are you going to get there? Start with the small steps. Take the answers from number 5 and create a set of goals.  Rank them from easiest to most difficult, Then, take those difficult steps and break them down into smaller tasks. Now, you should have a list of things that you would need to do to achieve our goal in roughly the order they would need to be carried out.
  7. Look over your list and give yourself some realistic deadlines. How long would each step take? Write the amount of time next to each item. Now, imagine you could start tomorrow and take a look at your time line. When would you be finished?  Whatever your answer is, 2 months, 1 year, 5 years, put that time frame into context. Think backwards: what have you done in that time span in the past?
  8. How can you cram these steps into your current life? Maybe you work on these steps during your lunch breaks. Maybe you give up some TV time. If you are determined enough, you’ll find places to make it fit.

Are you fired up yet?

If so, get after it! Work towards those goals!

If not, go back and reframe those goals. Break them down further or find new ways of coming at them until you hit on something that lights a fire.

Nothing is out of our reach unless we consciously put it there. Pull those dreams off the shelf and allow yourself to go after them. After all, we only have one life, and it’s much too short to spend being miserable.

 

 

 

The Importance Of Practicing Gratitude Year-Round

Every November my Facebook feed fills up with posts from people who are logging things they are grateful for. For 30 days, I am bombarded with posts that say things like, “Day 5: I’m grateful to have so many wonderful friends!” and while it seems like a wonderful exercise on the surface, I can’t help but feel that a lot of  these posts are forced and empty. Many of these posts seem like they were put out only to please others and follow the trend, rather than from a place of pure gratitude…especially when they stand in stark contrast to the things those same people usually post.

This isn’t to say that this is a bad exercise or that everyone is lying. Far from it. Spending 30 days practicing gratitude is a great way to start a healthier mental regimen. Read that again: it’s a great way to start. The trouble is, as soon as November ends, most of these people will stop the daily practice of finding the blessings in their lives. After all, it’s a lot easier to stick to a habit when you feel like you have an audience to hold you accountable. The thing is, feeling gratitude is a deeply personal thing, and one that should be experienced 365 days a year.

That sounds like a tall order, I know.  But it is totally doable, and it’s effects on your life are profound.

 

zig ziglar gratitude quote

 

Before I dive into all that, allow me to share a little bit about my experience with this practice.

Long before I decided to pursue Psychology as my major in college, I had a habit of reading any self-help book I could get my hands on. Both my mother and my grandmother had stacks of them, and regularly offered nuggets of wisdom they had gleaned from within their pages. When I’d find myself struggling, I’d be reminded of certain mental and spiritual tools and I’d promptly put them to use…for a while. Then I’d go back to my daily life.

By the time I hit college, I had repeated this cycle countless times. For the next four years, I continued reading up on self-improvement and “pop” psychology during my downtime. I remember being routinely amazed at how often the things talked about in class mirrored the things I had already been studying. I would be excited whenever I’d see hard research and theories that backed up the things I had known all along. This was almost too easy! By the time I graduated I would be the best therapist ever. I would help so many people!

And yet, I still found myself struggling in my personal life. I had all this knowledge and all these tools, and still had all the same doubts and fears. I still battled depression and anxiety. I still wasn’t cured.

Eventually, I decided to seek help. For years, I’d find myself in and out of therapy, doubling down on the self-help reading, and seeking advice from all over the internet. I’d make lists of techniques and create my own system to finally break free.

I’d then fail to put them into practice.

I didn’t always fail to start. Maybe I’d work at it for a few days, or a few weeks, and then, life would happen. Still, with each round I’d find myself a little better off than I had been. It became easier to pull out those tools when needed.

Although the line-up has shifted with each new self-care regimen, one practice has been a part of every list: Gratitude.

When we are grateful for what we have, we focus less on what we don’t have. When we focus less on what we don’t have, we feel less stressed. We feel happier. When we practice gratitude, we begin to approach life from an abundance mindset, which in turn sets us up for receiving more blessings. How is this possible? It’s simple: we tend to get what we’re looking for. If we’re looking for opportunities, we’ll find them simply because our mind opens up to possibilities we would have been blind to before.

 

ralph marston gratitude quote

 

So how, exactly, do we practice gratitude on grander scale?

I recommend getting yourself a notebook and jotting down three things you are grateful for each day. Or, if you are already in the habit of  keeping a journal, leave space to list these things every day. You can do this in the morning, which I find to be a great way to start the day, or you can write them down at night as you reflect on your day. If you chose to do this at night, I recommend reading over your list each morning as well to start your day off on the right foot.

Sounds simple right? Perhaps to simple.

The key here is to not just write these things out mindlessly. It’s to train your brain to notice all the wonderful things you already have in your life. It doesn’t matter if it’s something as silly as a song on the radio or a pair of jeans that makes your butt look amazing, if it brings a smile to your face, even for a moment, it’s worth noticing and appreciating.

As you dig into this practice, you will find yourself noticing more and more things to be grateful for every day. At first, you’ll probably file it away to add to your list later, but I want you to go a bit further than that. When you notice something wonderful unfolding in your life, no matter how small, slow down. Fully experience the moment. Mentally assert that you are grateful for this small miracle and hold on to it for later.

For example, maybe your spouse falls asleep on the couch with your child. They look so cute cuddled up together that you can’t help but smile and feel lucky to have such a beautiful family. Go ahead and stare at them with adoration for a while, burn that image into your brain, sit with those warm fuzzy feelings for as long as you need to. Say to yourself, “I am grateful for this moment and for my beautiful family.”  Then carry on.

The bonus here is that the more you create these memories and associations, the more material you have at your disposal when you need to cheer yourself up.

Inevitably, you’re going to have a bad day. Maybe it’s a series of minor irritations, maybe it’s a larger crisis, but it will happen. You’ll find yourself feeling bad about your life and focusing on what is going wrong, what you’re lacking. It is in these moments that you can take a deep breath, take out your list or reach into your memories, and remember what you have to be grateful for. You can show yourself that this rough spot is just an anomaly in an otherwise great life and that without it, you would have nothing to contrast the positives with.

The power of our minds is an incredible thing, if you can harness it. And a daily attitude of gratitude is one tool that can help you do just that…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Painting My Way To Confidence

If you’ve been following this blog for any amount of time, you probably already know that I’ve frequently struggled with self-confidence. It’s something most of us deal with from time to time. In fact, it seems to crop up again the minute you think you’ve got it licked.

I like to think of the journey to self-confidence as a mountain you must climb over the course of a lifetime. Sometimes we make great progress in a short amount of time, then we must stop to rest. Sometimes the going is more slow. Sometimes we slide back and have to conquer the same stretch of terrain a second, third, or fourth time. It can be exhausting, but the closer you get to the top, the better you feel. The trick is, not to give up.

This, of course, is easier said than done. When you’re face to face with a mountain of challenges, it’s easy to avoid taking even the tiniest of steps. This is especially true if you fall into the habit of letting the voice of fear overtake the other voices in your head. Fear will assault you with a litany of what-ifs and potential disasters. It will discourage you from taking the next step. It will convince you that it’s better to head down to the base of the mountain and set up a nice, safe camp. After all, you’re not strong enough to tackle this climb. Maybe you can try again in the future, when you’re stronger. When you’re smarter. When you’re better.

 

fear quote, embrace your song, be you, small step towards happiness, playing in front of others, guitar

 

In the last few months, I’ve listened to that voice more often than I should. I settled into unhealthy routines. I put my books and my blog on the backburner. I let the housework pile up. In short, I let fear push me into a place where my anxiety and depression were in control.

Now, in my defense, pregnancy does some strange things to your brain. Not only do you have a barrage of pesky hormones throwing everything off, but you have a million and one practical concerns. You find yourself worrying about all the things you need to do before the baby comes. You worry about all the inevitable changes that will come with the addition of a new family member. You worry about your health and the health of the baby. There’s truly no limit to the things you worry about.

In the midst of all this, your body is going through crazy changes. Cue more worry. Does my partner still find me attractive? I don’t find me attractive. Am I going to be able to get my body back to “normal”? Not exactly the kind of thoughts that are conducive to feeling self-confident.

After a few weeks of dealing with this funk, I decided I needed to find a way out of it. I started a new self-care routine (that I will share in another post), I engaged in an open dialogue with my husband about the struggles I was facing, and I began looking into various exercises to overcome these obstacles.

A few pieces of advice that popped up again and again were:

  • Focus on what makes you awesome.
  • Do something out of the ordinary.
  • Celebrate your successes.
  • Stay focused on your goals.
  • Acknowledge your progress.
  • Learn to learn from your mistakes.
  • Cultivate mindfulness/remain wholly present.
  • Take a risk.
  • Engage in positive self-talk.
  • Don’t compare yourself to others.

Pretty good advice, right?

The problem is, reading advice is easy. Putting it into practice takes work.

So, what does painting have to do with all of this?

Awhile back, I had ordered a pack of seven canvases and a pack of vinyl sticker paper for my Silhouette (which is kind of like a Cricut). I had planned on using these items to create some wall-art to sell for some extra Christmas money, along with a few other crafts. However, once they arrived they sat on my desk for ages. I’d started second guessing the whole scheme. I had little to no painting experience, why did I think I could start now? Even if they turned out great, who would want to buy them? I should just stick to what I know and finish the next book…once my confidence returned, of course.

A few days after I’d made up my mind to push through my depression and related self-confidence issues, I found myself staring at the stack of art supplies on my cluttered desk. I remembered some of the advice I’d been reading. Painting a few pictures would certainly be something out of the ordinary for me, and it would be the first step towards the goal of selling some motivational artwork, which was also a risk. Taking it a step further, I would focus on nothing else during my painting time and work on mindfulness.

With a smile, I grabbed a canvas and brought out my paints. I decided that the first few were just practice. There was no reason to overly critique my work or compare it to others. Of course I wasn’t going to paint like them, I was going to paint like me and my unique vision is part of what makes me awesome. Not only that, but it was just a learning exercise. I could try out different techniques and practice learning from my mistakes.

That’s a lot of advice-taking crammed into one act!

Armed with this healing mindset, I got to work on my first piece. I fully immersed myself in the project, keeping in mind that it was just for me. Every step of the project was a new technique for me, and although parts of it were frustrating, I enjoyed the learning process. Plus, it kept my mind off all those doubts and worries that had been plaguing me. It quieted the voice of fear.

When I finally stepped back and took a look at the finished product, I was astounded.

 

painting, art therapy, self-confidence, confidence, heart painting, DIY wall art

Can’t go wrong with a Beatles quote!

 

For someone with very little painting experience, it turned out fantastic!

I took some time to engage in positive self-talk as I continued looking over my masterpiece. Whenever I found my thoughts slipping towards looking for imperfections, I shut it down and refocused my attention. I had seen this project through. I loved the color palette. I adored the quote and the word placement. I tried something new and it was fun! I was going to learn even more and be a great painter one day!

With this one act, I took another step up the mountain of self-confidence.

The next day, I painted the background for another picture. Then I did two more. And then another. Freeing myself from expectations, I then formulated ideas of what could go on top of them and wrote them down.

 

art therapy, abstract backgrounds, acrylic on canvas, DIY wall art, confidence, painting

 

I decided to tackle the red canvas next.

At first, I was scared that I’d ruin it. The idea I had was too ambitious for a beginner. Maybe I should just set it aside until I learned more. I could buy some new canvas and do some tutorials first.

I stared at it for awhile and reminded myself that this was just more practice. I could roll with the mistakes. I could do this. I might even surprise myself. All I needed to do was have fun and do my best.

With this one, I ran into more problems than I had anticipated, but I didn’t allow myself to give up. When I made a mistake, I found creative ways to cover it up and create it into a better picture. When the words wouldn’t come off the transfer paper, I enlisted my husband for help and support and together we solved the issue. In the end, I had something I was proud of.

 

art therapy, confidence, diy painting, lady with wine glass, lady back dress painting

I wish the photos did this one justice!

 

That pride led to more opportunities for positive self talk. I loved the way her hair came out. I loved the colors. I loved that I stuck it out and finished it even when it got tough. I loved that I found creative ways to fix errors. These skills would all transfer into other areas of life. I had added another way to have fun to my life. I had another thing on my list of qualities I admire in myself.

And with that, I moved a little further up the mountain.

Of course, as powerful as this experience has been, it works best in conjunction with other exercises. However, reflecting on the success of this practice when things get tough has thus far been effective in enabling me to carry out these other tasks. The road to self-confidence is long and arduous, and I’ve still got a long way to go, but today I celebrate how far I’ve come.

I look forward to sharing more of this journey with you, as well as the tips and tricks I find along the way. After all, we are all in this together.

Now, I want to hear from you. What are some tricks you have found to help build your self-confidence? Tell us all about it in the comments below!

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