Attitude of Gratitude

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I love how some people list their blessings every day in November. I am not that disciplined, but I love that some people are. I like to read about what makes them thankful.

Thanksgiving is great time to be thankful...I mean maybe not if you are Native American. I am just saying it is something we need to be cognizant of when we celebrate this holiday. It isn't all warm and fuzzy. 

But I digress, we are talking about gratitude today.

I do like the idea of reflecting on your blessings at the end of the year. A time to take inventory. I especially like to do this with children before they get a crap ton of stuff for the holidays. I want them to have some perspective.

The other day I definitely told my children how other children in the world (and in our own country...our own state, heck in our own town) live much different, much harder lives. There was even some talk about children in diamond mines. I know, I know... it wasn't my proudest moment. I don't want to shame my children into being grateful.

It is a balance of learning about perspective, privilege, and place. This lessons are best taught with love (not shame or anger). 

And if I am being honest, I don't always feel grateful or thankful. I can get hung up on the things I don't have, the moments in life that aren't great, and the sadness and crappy parts of humanity. That is human nature. 

When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around.
— Willie Nelson
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And let's be real, you can't talk about being grateful without talking Oprah. She DID tell us about writing in a gratitude journal all those years ago. 

I live in the space of thankfulness — and for that, I have been rewarded a million times over. I started out giving thanks for small things, and the more thankful I became, the more my bounty increased. That’s because — for sure — what you focus on expands. When you focus on the goodness in life, you create more of it.
— Oprah Winfrey

I want some of that...I want to focus on the small things, I want to have a space of thankfulness. And I want it for our kids as well. So here are a few things to get us in the practice of being grateful. 

Nurturing an Attitude of Gratitude

Name your blessings.

One thing that we do in our family (some times...not all the time) is that we do "Highs, Lows, and Weirds." You tell the best part of your day, the worst part of your day, and the part that was cuckoo. My sons class does a variation of this called "Cherries and Pits." It is a great way to get some perspective. Sometimes you feel like "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day." However, sometimes it is just how you look at the world.

Read Books

C'mon, isn't that the answer for most things? Reading a book? Reading is a great way to broaden your perspective and to challenge privilege, and to explore place. Books allow you to enter other realities that are not your own. You get to view the world just a little differently. 

Being Thankful is a simple book by Mercer Mayer about being grateful and it is good for younger children. But there are lots of books about gratitude for all ages of children. Go to your local library or bookstore. They are the experts. They are definitely some people to be thankful for. 

Get Crafty

Make a gratitude tree or start a gratitude jar. Both a gratitude tree and a gratitude jars provide ways to develop habits of being both mindful and grateful. And these are tangible physical reminders of what you are thankful for. Plus, the act of making the craft allows the opportunity to make memories about just being together creating. Kids just want to be with you. 

Being Mindful

Spend time with your kids and be mindful of your time with them. My kids straight call me out. "Mom, you are on your phone." "Mom, you just said 'mmm hmmm' so you aren't really listening." Brutal, but good reminders. Let's keep each other accountable. 

This time is fleeting...it doesn't matter if your kids are 2 or 42...this time is going fast and it won't come again. The things that matter are our relationships. Model a grateful heart and spend time with you who you are most grateful for. 

Slow down enjoy your time together, talk, go for a walk, or whatever is "you." Point out the blessings. Hold their hand. Listen to what their are thankful for. 

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For more in depth discussions about gratitude and children check here and here.

And since Advent starts soon (Sunday, December 3, 2017) here is a great resource to continue the attitude of gratitude for the rest of the year ( you don't have to observe Advent to get a lot out of this exercise). It is called the Advent of Gratitude and the concept is this..."Most Advent Calendars present us with a gift each day leading up to Christmas. The purpose of this Advent of Gratitude is to remind us of the gifts we already have, what we often take for granted, what we can and should be grateful for." This calendar lists things to be thankful for and then suggests donating a certain dollar amount to a local charity. The Advent of Gratitude has a community on Facebook if you'd like to learn more. 

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Look for the blessings. Embrace a more grateful heart. And I will see you soon!

 

 

 

Half Mast

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I came to pick up The Boy from school and the flags were at half mast. I just couldn't understand why the flag would be in that position.

Oh, because 26 people are dead from another mass shooting...this one happened in a church. In a place of worship. 

I can't keep up. I am numb to the numbers.

But these are not numbers. These are people. These are men, women, and children. 

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Half of those people who are dead in this latest shooting were children. They were children! Toddlers, preschoolers, school aged kids, teens...they are dead. 

We live in a country where we kill our children. It is horrible to say, but it is true.

Sandy Hook was 5 years ago this next month.

And don't get me started about how we fail our most vulnerable, our children, when we don't provide them healthcare. 

There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.
— Nelson Mandela

Look, I don't want to write about this stuff. I am planning parties right now and I want to focus on fun stuff like parties, but it doesn't seem right to pretend this isn't happening, because it is and it is horrific. 

This was a white man who had domestic violence issues.

And yes, there was a non-white man who drove a car into people in New York last week...and that is horrible and messed up. But if you look at our mass death numbers...it is overwhelmingly white men with guess what...domestic violence issues. 

I love white guys...I am married to one...I am raising one.

But how can I make sure the one I am raising doesn't loose his marbles one day, buy an AR-15, and take other people down with him? Seriously. Why do we have AR-15's. And how do I raise him to honor and respect his life and other people's lives? 

And how do we, as a society, help people feel like there are other options. This recent killer hurt his last wife and seriously harmed her baby. How do we help people like that? I do not know.

My initial response is to go away. I want to retreat. I want to hide with my kids and never go anywhere. I know this isn't rational or feasible. 

Since we had another mass shooting a month ago. I had some suggestions on what we can do next. Today I feel less motivated. I feel numb and anxious. I won't stay in this space, because this space is not where we make changes.

I don't know how to stop people killing other people, I don't know how to stop people hating other people, and I don't really know how to protect all of our babies. 

I do know that I love the United States. I do. I don't love where we are right this second. But I hope we can make some changes. 

In times like these I like to think about this prayer. 

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Amen.
— Peace Prayer of Saint Francis

I want to be an instrument of peace. I want to spread love. And I want to find the joy. I want to pray for a better for tomorrow. 

But as we know, we are past just thoughts and prayers.

We need action. 

 

 

#MeToo

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Me too.

On social media, women (and men) who have been sexually harassed or assaulted as asked to write "Me too" or #metoo as a status so we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem. Almost everyone I know posted it...including myself, 

It isn’t something that I talk about. There has been multiple incidents of harassment and there has been worse. At the time I tried to do all the things I was "supposed" to do…I told people, I tried to report it...I did the right thing. It was a different time. It was easier not to fight it, to sweep it under the rug, and to move on.

Then the Stanford rape happened and brought up all sorts of feelings. The biggest feels was from Joe Biden. 

When Joe Biden wrote these words I wept. I thought that our culture had changed. 

An Open Letter to a Courageous Young Woman-
I do not know your name-but your words are forever seared on my soul. Words that should be required reading for men and women of all ages. Words that I wish with all of my heart you never had to write.

I am in awe of your courage for speaking out-for so clearly naming the wrongs that were done to you and so passionately asserting your equal claim to human dignity.

And I am filled with furious anger-both that this happened to you and that our culture is still so broken that you were ever put in the position of defending your own worth.

It must have been wrenching-to relive what he did to you all over again. But you did it anyway, in the hope that your strength might prevent this crime from happening to someone else. Your bravery is breathtaking.

You are a warrior-with a solid steel spine.
I do not know your name-but I know that a lot of people failed you that terrible January night and in the months that followed.

Anyone at that party who saw that you were incapacitated yet looked the other way and did not offer assistance. Anyone who dismissed what happened to you as “just another crazy night.” Anyone who asked “what did you expect would happen when you drank that much?” or thought you must have brought it on yourself.

You were failed by a culture on our college campuses where one in five women is sexually assaulted-year after year after year. A culture that promotes passivity. That encourages young men and women on campuses to simply turn a blind eye.
The statistics on college sexual assault haven’t gone down in the past two decades. It’s obscene, and it’s a failure that lies at all our feet.

And you were failed by anyone who dared to question this one clear and simple truth: Sex without consent is rape. Period. It is a crime.
I do not know your name-but thanks to you, I know that heroes ride bicycles.

Those two men who saw what was happening to you-who took it upon themselves to step in-they did what they instinctually knew to be right.

They did not say “It’s none of my business.”
They did not worry about the social or safety implications of intervening, or about what their peers might think.

Those two men epitomize what it means to be a responsible bystander.

To do otherwise-to see an assault about to take place and do nothing to intervene-makes you part of the problem.

Like I tell college students all over this country-it’s on us. All of us.

We all have a responsibility to stop the scourge of violence against women once and for all.
I do not know your name-but I see your unconquerable spirit.

I see the limitless potential of an incredibly talented young woman-full of possibility. I see the shoulders on which our dreams for the future rest.

I see you.

You will never be defined by what the defendant’s father callously termed “20 minutes of action.”
His son will be.

I join your global chorus of supporters, because we can never say enough to survivors: I believe you. It is not your fault.

What you endured is never, never, never, NEVER a woman’s fault.

And while the justice system has spoken in your particular case, the nation is not satisfied.
And that is why we will continue to speak out.

We will speak to change the culture on our college campuses-a culture that continues to ask the wrong questions:
What were you wearing?
Why were you there?
What did you say?
How much did you drink?

Instead of asking: Why did he think he had license to rape?

We will speak out against those who seek to engage in plausible deniability. Those who know that this is happening, but don’t want to get involved. Who believe that this ugly crime is “complicated.”

We will speak of you-you who remain anonymous not only to protect your identity, but because you so eloquently represent “every woman.”

We will make lighthouses of ourselves, as you did-and shine.

Your story has already changed lives.
You have helped change the culture.
You have shaken untold thousands out of the torpor and indifference towards sexual violence that allows this problem to continue.

Your words will help people you have never met and never will.

You have given them the strength they need to fight.

And so, I believe, you will save lives.

I do not know your name-but I will never forget you.
The millions who have been touched by your story will never forget you.

And if everyone who shared your letter on social media, or who had a private conversation in their own homes with their daughters and sons, draws upon the passion, the outrage, and the commitment they feel right now the next time there is a choice between intervening and walking away-then I believe you will have helped to change the world for the better.
— Joe Biden June 2016

Now over a year later and I feel like we have slid back decades…not just about sexual assault or harassment, but about race, gay rights, class, etc.

Every day we are hearing more and more about famous sexual predators…even the ones that hold elected political office. It is just the tip of the iceberg. 

I am at a loss. 

This quote is also floating around and it speaks to how sexual assault is put on women and not on men. 

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The onus needs to be on the one doing the raping…not the victim. Our language needs to change. 

It isn’t about teaching our daughters how to avoid being raped…it is about teaching our boys not to rape.

My husband is a good man. He has always taught our children gentle lessens…you stop whatever you are doing when people tell you stop. Tickling or shooting Nerf or whatever it is…it is fun as long as everyone is having fun. My husband is always teaching the children about consent in a way that is age appropriate. He doesn’t use those words, but he is engraining that lesson over and over and over again in various ways. And when it counts, I hope our children make the right choices.

And I pray all the time that no one violates our girl or our boy. It is horrible to think of but I do...I pray that they are watched over and are safe and we set up systems to help keep them safe...in the world...online...every where. 

I hope that this current culture changes.  

What I can change is the words I use. I can surround myself with people who do not perpetuate rape culture. I can vote for politicians who stand up for women.  

I am a mama. I can raise kind children. The most important thing I feel I can personally do is to raise children who are good people...raise children who will be caring adults. I can work for a better tomorrow. 

In the future I hope my children never can answer "me too."

 

Wild Child

We have two amazing, hilarious, creative children. They are both unique individuals. They are in fact polar opposites...from the way they look to the way that they act.

Our boy has dark eyes and dark hair and our daughter has blonde hair and blue eyes. Our boy is dependable, emotional, and a rule follower. Our daughter is spontainous, driven, and makes her own rules. I think it is safe to say that one of our children is what you call a wild child, a spirited child, strong willed, headstrong, etc. No matter what you call it... you know it when you see it or in our case when you meet her. 

Coachella has nothing on this wild child.

Coachella has nothing on this wild child.

Don't get me wrong. I love this crazy lady. She is honestly the kindest kid I know...she is sweet, polite, funny, intuitive, and caring. And oh boy, is she happy...just beaming sunshine. But she does exactly as she pleases and while she doesn't do things to make others bonkers...it does happen. She just goes to the beat of her own very loud drum...I mean, she actually may have her own marching band. 

The many faces of this child, she changes clothes no less than three times a day...EVERY day of her life. And as the neighbors can attest, sometimes/a lot of times she is just naked. As you can see in the above pictures that she also cut her own hair about a year ago. It grew back, but that was a hard one for this mom. Little Miss is ALWAYS doing something or getting into something. 

When she was younger we had to call Poison Control all the time...like double digit numbers. One time I was on the phone with poison control and she started eating hand sanitizer...something I had called about on a previous phone call to Poison Control. 

Sometimes she is a hard one for me. I find myself yelling or screaming, really, at her. I didn't do that with my son. He is wacky in his own way, but he doesn't want to disappoint us, he doesn't want to get it trouble. Our girl doesn't care about that as much. That isn't totally fair, she loves us and she wants to do the things we tell her, but she cares more about doing what she wants to do and that makes me freaking bananas. 

I am not proud of how I parent her at times. I subscribe to positive parenting and still I find myself screaming at a little child. These are the times I am clearly not using my best strategies. My daughter is relentless and since we are together 24/7 there are times I am not my best self. It is a difficult balance trying to parent this amazing, vibrant, curious child and not squashing her spirit as we try to make sure she is a functioning member of society. 

Her teachers tell me she listens to them. The preschool administrator assures me that she does what she is told. She did say that our Little Miss is 500% personality. And she is. I mean in so many ways she is my hero. 

Our daughter rarely walks anywhere, she literally skips through life. She is always hopping and jumping and dancing. Our girl is strong, and determined, and relentless, and so freaking clever. She has zero inhibitions. She is funny. She is a performer. She is just so much and she gobbles up life. She is all the things I want her to be as an adult woman, but raising a child who is so strong and obstinate is a challenge. I think she is especially challenging because her brother is so very different and parenting him takes a different skill set. Man, God is super funny.

Family Love.

Family Love.

So here are some parenting tips that I need to remind myself of and maybe they are relevant for you as well. These are tips that work with both of my children, but that I may use a tad more for the Wild Child.

Parenting Tips...

Think about how you talk to your kids. Sometimes my kids are really jerks and then I hear myself talk to them and I would NEVER talk to another person the way I talk to them. Turns out I am the jerk in that scenario. I wouldn't yell at an adult or another person's child, I wouldn't scold them or shame them, and even if it isn't intentional it is just sloppy parenting. Yes, they are going to break rules or not listen and they need you to parent. But they don't need you to be an a-hole. And when you are...apologize when necessary. 

Respond with positive redirection. If I come at my daughter with anger and negativity she is going to take it to the next level...and quickly. She doesn't react well with that. If I talk with her calmly and offer up some different solutions to whatever the problem may be, she reacts better to those options. But that is more work for the parent for sure. 

You may be thinking, "we are raising kids to prepare them for the real world and that is not how the world works." Well, kind of, as an adult I am more likely to have people start a conversation or offer some positive alternatives to a problem...not yell at me or get angry with me. 

Get down on their level and have them look you in the eye. You can't have a conversation with someone if you are looking up (or looking down) at them. You need to look in each other's eyes. Show your child that you’re listening to them. When you participate in active listening it sends the message that what your child is thinking and saying is important to you. Which I hope what they are saying is important. 

Be clear and consistent. Kids have been on this planet for a minute. They aren't supposed to be perfect. We have to give them guidelines and it works best when we are clear and consistent about our expectations. This is true in all relationships. If people don't know what it is you want from them how can they do what you want. So state what is expected and do what you say. Also, for us, when we aren't consistent about our schedules, diet, and sleep then we are all whack jobs. 

Give your kids time to move their bodies. Life improves when we move our bodies. It's true, it's science. Get outside and let the kids run around. And if you can't get outside, still get moving.  We live in the Pacific Northwest and according to the National Weather Service we have had 145 days of rain since October 1, 2016. So we have to get creative on getting the kids enough exercise...go to community centers, take classes, go to indoor parks, get into sports, whatever you can do to move! And when it is nice outside think of all the fun things you can do as a family...parks, the beach, cycling, hiking, skating, going for walks, etc. 

Know your kiddos limitations. As a parent you are uniquely qualified for something that no one else is...and that is to intimately know your own child. You know your children's expressions, their moods, and their limitations.

I can look at my boy and can tell what mood he is in and pretty much predict what he needs. My daughter is a little less predictable, but I can tell when she is about to crash/go bonkers.

Sometimes it is hard to set limits around your child...not just because you have to be the heavy, but also because you often are setting up restrictions for yourself, which can be a bummer. If we have to get the kids to sleep early so they can be their best selves then that means we are on lockdown too.

Oh well, we are in this together so watching their limitations can hopefully help me watch my own limitations...I have a bunch of them!

Enjoy the ride! Parenting is not for the weak. We go from just regular people to parents. We learn things about ourselves that we had zero ideas about. And we create these astonishing beings who turn into people. 

Our heart grows a million and our patience stretches soooooo thin. They aren't mini versions of ourselves, they are their own individuals. We can help guide them, but also there is so much that you can learn from them.

My oldest teaches me ways to think differently. And my wild child shows me how to live differently. They both crack me up, show me such incredible love, and remind me how freaking lucky I am each day...even the hard days. I am going to try to enjoy the ride either way, because this part goes fast!

Have a great weekend and see you on Monday!

 

 


 

 

You Be You

As you know, because I have talked about it ad nauseum, that we had a big party this past weekend. There were lots of jokes about us being brave/ridiculous. There were comments about the party, the house, the Nerf war, but the one that stuck out the most is one mom said "wow, you are a really great mom." And it was so kind, but it made me feel bad. I joked that she wouldn't think I was so great if she heard me yelling at my 4 year old...which I do. I haven't been able to shake the feeling I had after speaking with this woman. 

I am not a good mom for throwing parties. By the way, that is something I love to do...it is just a bonus that I have kids that let me do it. And the opposite is true, someone isn't a bad mom (or dad) because they don't do parties (or whatever it is that you may be talking about in your own life). Those sort of things don't determine our value as parents or as people. We are always looking to others to determine if something is good or bad and if we are measuring up. 

In grad school I feel like I really liked to explore the idea of Social Comparison Theory. (Truthfully, I think I liked it so much because it was one theory I truly understood and I could remember.) According to Psychology Today...

Social comparison theory states that we determine our own social and personal worth based on how we stack up against others. As a result, we are constantly making self and other evaluations across a variety of domains (for example, attractiveness, wealth, intelligence, and success). Most of us have the social skills and impulse control to keep our envy and social comparisons quiet but our true feelings may come out in subtle ways.
I wanna be like you. 

I wanna be like you. 

We compare ourselves to others all the time. It is human nature, but where we go wrong is when we base our worth on those comparisons. I have never felt that more than in Junior High/High School and now as a parent. 

Being a parent can be brutal. I remember when I first would go to pick up my son from school and I felt anxious standing around with these other parents waiting for our kids. I am a total introvert in new situations so small talk doesn't come easy for me. People would be chatting and they would know where to stand and what to do. I always felt like I was missing the page in the manual that everyone seemed to innately understand. In fact, I was sure I didn't even have the manual. There were people I would judge and make assumptions about..."they aren't watching their younger children the way they should," "oh, that woman thinks she's all that," etc. etc. I, for reals, made up stories about who they were and what they thought of me...I know, I seriously might be crazy. 

Then I started getting to know these people and liked them. Well, I liked like 98% of them. We are all in the same boat, we are all trying to figure it out as we go along...parenting and just humaning (that may not be a real word, but I am going to go with it). 

So I am not a good mom because I like to throw a party or two and I am not a bad mom because I lose my cool fighting with my 4 year old. I am just a mom and I am trying the best I can not to screw up my kids. And I am striving to be a good person and I am going to fail and also it isn't so black and white...good or bad. 

So here is our challenge...we are going to try to not compare ourselves to anyone but ourselves and we are going to reach out to others to help build understanding and maybe even expand our circles. 

An original.

An original.

You Be You-You have to be yourself. You can't worry about other people, just let your freak flag fly, because guess what? We are all weirdos. You are beautiful and amazing just the way you are. You can't go through life trying to please others or trying to be anything but who you are. 

You can do it!

You can do it!

Stick to Positive Self Talk-You need to think about how YOU talk to yourself. Are you hard on yourself? Do you make up stories about the world around you without any real information to substantiate your stories? Talk to yourself nicely.

Al Franken used to play this character on Saturday Night Live called Stuart Smalley who was a self help host. He would say things like, "I'm Good Enough, I'm Smart Enough, and Doggone It, People Like Me." You need to Stuart Smalley yourself. You need to remember that we all have feelings of insecurity from time to time or instances where we compare ourselves to others in unflattering ways.

Their own beat.

Their own beat.

Step Outside Your Comfort Zone-It is so easy to do the same ol' thing...that feels good when something is comfortable, but it helps us grow if we do things that are sometimes hard. You have to push yourself to change. And why do that? Well, we don't change to please others or to be like others. We change because it is good for us to keep evolving.

Holding On.

Holding On.

Make a Friend-Things are easier when you are in it with someone else. Seriously some of my best friends are people I didn't like at first. They were people I judged or compared myself to...and then something happened and instead of being frenemies we got to know each other. The journey is so much better when you have someone to share it with so get to know someone new. They could be your new BFF or at least another person in your world. 

Same but different.

Same but different.

Model Both Independence and Interdependence-Show your children how to be your own person. But also show them that it is good to make relationships, form communities, to be accountable to one another, and to rely on one another. It can be both. You can be independent and be who you want to be and do what you want to, but you can also have people that you can lean on at times and lift up at other times.

The duality of life is a trip. This not so great/but also awesome mom will see you on Friday!