8 Days, 3 Kids, 1 Me & An Incredible Lesson.

You may have read on my Facebook page that I pulled an 8 day stint with all 3 kids, on my own. It was honestly like a great emotional/spiritual/physical journey by the end of which I felt totally unraveled. The purpose of this post is not to complain about the woes of parenting, or to get pats on the back for undertaking what some people thought was a crazy feat. I’m sharing this experience because it changed me in so many ways, and the conclusion I came to has opened my world to new possibilities of serving.

When my husband asked if I’d be cool with him going to Mexico as part of a work recognition, I didn’t hesitate to say, “Of course.” This is an honour he has been given for several years and every year he turns it down without even asking me. This year, I thought, would be as good as any for him to be away for a week.

I honestly thought it would be a breeze.

I made plans to help my week go smoothly: Only take them to their Saturday, Monday and Thursday activities, have a friend babysit the toddler during the Monday activity so I can take a ‘break’ for an hour, order enough pizza to last two dinners, and have chicken nuggets on another night. Basically, limit activities and increase take-out.

I actually thought this would be a relaxing week. After all, I do 7:00 am – 5:00 pm on my own anyway…what’s another couple hours in the evening until bedtime? Then after they go to bed, I could read books! For like 2 hours! I’d get a lot of reading done.

What I didn’t know was that in the span of those few days there would also be: a clogged toilet that overflowed, a little boy up till midnight with an earache and heartbreak (over his dad’s absence), a trip to the doctor, suuuuper sad kids, a fridge door left open…all night…You know, life stuff. Stuff that happens to everyone, all the time. But stuff I never had to encounter alone.

What I realized was how much I need my partner home in the evenings to help with the post-activity aftermath of tired children, dinner clean-up, laundry, baths and bedtime. We do the whole she-bang together so, though it’s busy, it’s manageable. We divide and conquer. Without him, I felt like I was the one being conquered. And the dishes got left to the next day. Again.

I tried to catch up on housework during the day, specifically during the toddler’s nap, which meant no time left over for my work. Also, the fact that she missed two naps during the week so I could take care of things outside the home meant I had less child-free time to catch up on housework. Or simply to catch a break. I felt like I was in this cycle of can’t-do and never-gonna-get-to.

There was no reading whatsoever. I was dysfunctional by 8:30 pm.

When my dad texted on Tuesday afternoon that he and my stepmom were coming over with some food for that night’s dinner, the kids were so thrilled they were tripping over themselves helping me tidy up. The spontaneous visit was totally welcomed but I feel more comfortable when people can walk through our home without risk of injury due to toys strewn everywhere. It was a good excuse to push through and get ‘er done, and honestly the three of us had a lot of fun doing it. Anticipating a visit, listening to music…even the toddler felt the change in mood and was giggly.

But I caught them – those thoughts that tried to sneak around in my consciousness without me noticing. The ones that said, “You’d fall apart if you ever had to do this gig alone. You wouldn’t be strong enough to do this.”

My dad and stepmom came and we ate, and they left after a couple hours. Then, it was just me plus 3, with baths and bedtime looming ahead.

I won’t even pretend they bathed as much as they normally would have. And neither did I.

I held my breath through the rest of the week and got done what I could. But it was all coming to a head. And this is how I came undone.

Late Saturday morning (Day 8), my older daughter was at a class and the other two were playing together in the living room. I decided to take a couple minutes alone in my studio to just take some deep breaths.

But I wasn’t really alone. I had my thoughts to contend with.

“I yelled at them so much this week.”

“I could never do this alone. I’m not that strong.”

“I am totally failing at motherhood.”

“Why couldn’t I have been cool and collected? It was just a week! People do this every single day!”

“What a whiner. Nadir’s coming back tonight and I’m out all day with a friend tomorrow – how many people can do that easily? Suck it up!”

You get the picture. It was super painful going through that. My friend, Saira, had single-parented her two children from Sunday-Friday for 7 months. I felt terrible that I hadn’t known exactly what she had gone through. I texted her: How did you do it?? I’m totally failing at motherhood. She encouraged me to lean into it, just go through the process. (She is an excellent therapist, by the way!) So much came out of those few minutes, as I lay in child’s pose on my rug.

I went through the shame of complaining about a temporary situation, I felt the burden of my disparaging thoughts and self-judgments of my mothering, I felt frustrated that I had never truly empathized with others who were doing this daily. The emotions happened simultaneously and I was stuck in child’s pose, taking it all.

Once my head got a little quiet, I went back to the living room where the kids were playing and asked my son if he wanted to open his mail. I had picked it up the day before but forgot about it. He had received a newsletter from Canuck Place Children’s Hospice, which he fundraised for earlier this year. I said I’d read it to him.

He hopped into my lap and this was the message inside:

The tears started up again and my son looked from me to the letter and back at me, as I continued on in a broken voice, face wet. This time I didn’t feel shame or guilt. I felt compassion and solidarity. We all have our challenges and heartaches, and they don’t need to be the same as the next mom’s, but that can’t stop us from reaching out and helping each other. I have heard this exact sentiment expressed in countless blog posts and social media feeds…but never had I actually felt those words so deeply. I finally understood that we may be mothering different children, we may be living some very different realities, but as mothers we all have our sappy moments and wish-I-could-start-over moments.

While all moms need help, I understand that single moms don’t always have access to it. 

I shared this insight with my friend Jamie this morning and she sent this to me.

Please click on the pic to read the stats of single mothers in Metro Vancouver, how you can help and what your donations give to these women. The best way I know to embrace this truth is to serve. I know exactly what I want for Mother’s Day.

I’m no longer chastising myself for complaining about my temporary situation. I’m super grateful that I was able to progress a little in my solidarity with all moms: single, attached, working, stay-at-home, and mothers of kids with all kinds of needs.

Thank you for reading.

 

 

A Smile On Social Media Doesn’t Tell The Whole Story

Last Tuesday was nuts. I should have rescheduled the kids’ dentist appointments for another day that was less full, but I really thought it could be done. If everyone would go by my watch and my timing, there would be no problem. Unfortunately, I’m finding, the world does not work like that.

The two big kids had simultaneous appointments booked for 3:20 pm so I thought we’d get home by 4, at which time I could give all 3 kids something to eat, get them to change into their swimsuits and pack snacks for after their swim lessons. I would also have enough time to make the taco meat for dinner before 5 pm, when my husband was going to swing by from work to pick up all 3 kids and head to the pool. And then I was going to have 45 GLORIOUS minutes to eat a couple tacos, shower the dinner smell off me, choose something cute to wear, take some time with my makeup and then head out the door to a poetry event at which I was reading. I was giddy all day! I mean, 45 minutes without children just to get myself ready for a night out? Woot!

It didn’t go down like that.

We got to the dentist right at 3:20. My daughter got called in around 3:30. We were 10 minutes delayed…and only one kid was in! This is not a rant about the dentist, by the way. We love our pediatric miracle-worker’s clinic where everyone is so perky and great at what they do! I was just on a schedule. And the schedule was disintegrating before my eyes. So, anyway, my big girl went in while my big boy was fighting back tears because another kid was playing with the video game. This annoyed me because, seriously, there were a gazillion other things to play with. And books to read. Why couldn’t he just pick a book? So, I’m coached him through this, shoving words in his mouth like, “Can I have a turn at the video game?” when finally he got called in. At 3:50.

I immediately started re-calculating how the rest of the afternoon was going to go. But I got distracted by my toddler who was trying to grab this one little thing from the bottom of a bin of 32, 756 other little things. She was reaching and shrieking and looking at me to help. But I had no idea which little thing caught her eye, so I just randomly started digging and holding up one plastic thing after another, to which she shook her head vehemently. Well, this game had to end because I had a couple of questions about each kid to go over with the dentist so I scooped her up and entered the examining area. X-rays, cleaning, fluoride, questions…check! We were ready to go! Oh no, we were not. I needed to pay! Right!

As I punched in my PIN, I heard my girl say to my boy, “You got TWO toys?!” I looked over to where they were standing in front of the machine that spits out more plastic toys they don’t need in exchange for the token they got for being such cooperative children.

“Well, you got candy at school today, remember? It’s FINE.” I snapped while handing back the credit card terminal to the receptionist. Not in the nicest tone, but seriously, I had to nip that argument in the bud right then and there. In hindsight, I see the irony of the whole candy/dentist thing. It’s kind of funny now.

But I was not laughing on the way home, my eyes bugging out at the clock: 4:15! How was I going to DO this? The toddler was now HANGRY because no, I didn’t pack a snack for her. Why would I have? We were supposed to be home 15 minutes before! Instead, we wouldn’t be home till 4:30 and I imagined how the next half an hour would go.

My imagination did not do it justice.

Sitting at the dining table, feeding the toddler veggie rice and wishing to God I had just stuck with the baby-led weaning so she could have fed herself the darn rice, I yelled at my son to put his swimsuit on NOW. Which he did. OVER his pants. And then he proceeded to laugh and dance and throw his stuffies in the air. My oldest daughter was dressing hurriedly and packing the swimming bag with snacks for the both of them. All the while I thought, I wish she didn’t have such an anxious look on her face. I mean, what kind of mother am I to place such stress on her tiny shoulders?

And why won’t this baby stop eating? You want MORE?! It was now just before 5 and there was no text from the hubs that he was on his way. Which meant he was NOT on his way. Which meant there was nobody in this world who wanted to give me 45 minutes children-free to get ready for a night out! Not that I had 45 minutes anymore, because dinner was not made. And it had to be made before I left because the kids and hubs wouldn’t be back from the pool till 7. That was no time to start dinner! Well, that started the tears…big, fat tears that I just couldn’t hold back.

I pity-sobbed my way through feeding the baby, then changing her diaper. I heard the side door open and caught a flash of my husband flying up the stairs to quickly change. It was 5:10. In a whirlwind, he whisked them all out the door then planted a kiss on my cheek and finally took a good look at me. “Are you OK?” he asked, concerned.

“Yes, just go! I have to do so much before I leave!” I shoved him out the door, then closed it. I could see him mouth through the window as he waved, Good luck tonight!

I think I growled back.

Did you know it only takes 15 minutes to brown ground beef, throw in garlic, ground cumin, salt, a pinch of tumeric (yeah, I add that stuff to everything I can), then chop and add green peppers and onion followed by shredded kale? Definitely no time to shower at 5:35. I had to be out the door in 10 minutes. Which meant, I would now be smelling like ground beef, onions, garlic, cumin etc throughout the two-hour event. And I had no time to eat any of it!

15 minutes later (yes, running 5 minutes late – ha!), I took this selfie.

I texted it to my husband – that sweet man who takes all 3 kids swimming every Tuesday so I can normally go to Zumba, that darling who cheers me on in everything I do, that man I growled at after shoving him through the doorway – because I wanted to give him a smile along with my words, “Can’t wait to see you tonight.”

I looked at the picture after I sent it and laughed. Wow, I thought. You’d never guess I was such an emotional mess just minutes before, throwing clothes around in my closet and crying because I had to take a perfume-bath instead of a proper shower.

And then it struck me: this would be the perfect thing to share with you! Just a reminder that a snapshot is exactly that – a glimpse at one second of someone else’s life. In this pic, I must say, I look kind of put together. I’m wearing a scarf around my neck, got some makeup on…even my silver hair is glistening! You can’t smell the garlic and onions in my hair. You can’t see the state of my kitchen. You don’t know how disappointed I was that my afternoon had gone like that.

We all have our chaos, our messy moments. Whether we are parents or not, whether we love our lives or not, there are these moments that take our breath away and there are moments that make us cry big, fat tears. And it’s ok.

So, when you see someone posting about their perfect moment, let them have that moment! Cheer on their job promotion, congratulate their weight loss, pat them on the back for managing to get all 4 children in matching outfits with smiles on their clean faces. We need to let each other have our moments, and appreciate our own.

While I admit, I often wonder why people feel the need to post certain things – and over-sharing is something that concerns me – it saddens me more to know that there are so many people who are harmed psychologically by social media because of this very thing.

Live your life – and live the majority of it offline – and share what you want to share. And keep in mind, that’s what most others are doing too.

Thanks for reading this really long post with a message I hope resonates with you!

What It Means To Be A Thriving Mom

I’ve asked myself versions of this question over the last almost 8 years. Although, at first, my questions focused more on ‘surviving’ rather than ‘thriving’. How do I get through this awful sleep deprivation? When will I be able to do something for myself in the evenings? Will my husband and I ever have moments alone – like, ever?

And then from those thoughts came my plunge into the abyss of ‘Who am I?’ My identity outside of being a mother was slipping from me. At the same time, I felt like I hadn’t taken any confident steps forward as a mom. In fact, it wasn’t until my second child was about a year and a half, that my Self started emerging more and more – and this blog was one of the results of that.

If you ever have moments as a mom when you feel:

  • scattered or disorganized
  • lonely
  • longing for more time to execute your ideas
  • lack of purpose
  • overwhelmed
  • missing the ‘old you’

…you are not alone. In fact, Conscious Divas has put together an event called Thriving Moms in Vancouver on April 1, 2015 from 6:30-9:30 pm that I think you will LOVE. Please keep reading for more details and a chance to win tickets at the end of this post! 

It took a lot of soul-searching through journalling, crying on the kitchen floor, a career change, conversations with my husband, recruiting help from outside the family, and finding community for me to be where I am today. As a mom to 3 kids (ages 7, 5 and 1), I am finally asking myself this question:

What does it mean to me to be a thriving mom?

Actually, during a journalling session last week, I ended up writing down: What exactly do I need to feel like I’ve got my shit together? Which basically qualifies what ‘thriving’ means to me.

It’s more than just getting through the day; it’s enjoying my days in a way that is totally authentic.

It’s taking care of myself physically – and not just grabbing a shower as often as possible, but doing the other little things like my nails. Getting to my workouts. Getting fresh air.

It’s taking care of my home. I’ve discovered that the state of my kitchen and laundry situation really affect my moods. When these things go out of control, I feel paralyzed because I don’t know where to start – so then I let it go another day. And then the next day, I feel worse. When I am on top of it, I feel more calm.

It’s taking the time to do what makes me feel good. Cooking fresh food. Reading. Date nights. Spending time with girlfriends. Being with my family. Hosting our friends and family.

It’s taking my business seriously. Working on my biz is like play for me. It’s creative and exciting – and constantly challenges me to show up authentically. It’s also a growing entity and as such, it deserves the appropriate nurturing tools. Continuing education. Time. Energy. Financial resources.

It’s giving each of my children what they need. Three kids. Different ages. Super different needs. I think the greatest gift I can give them is to know them, love them for who they are, guide them, and then cross my fingers and hope for the best. I remind myself of this Gibran poem almost weekly, and it really helps me to feel less anxious about not being in total control.

[Tweet “Being a #ThrivingMom means receiving the help I am given: from within and from those around me.”]

You didn’t think I could keep it together on my own, did you? Ha! I don’t even want to be that person who tries to tackle that all solo. There is joy and friendship and community in asking for help. My husband and I catch up on each other’s day as we match socks. My writing friends and I exchange tidbits and work leads – and these lead to coffee dates and ‘Hey, how are your kids feeling today?’ A dose of fresh air in the dark, early mornings is easier to swallow with a neighbour whose company I love. My awesome siblings are on rotation for babysitting so my husband and I can eat a hot meal together – outside the home. When I worry about my kids, I turn to the other women in my family: aunts, cousins, and my grandma.

Thriving also means that on the days my shit don’t stay together, I have hope that everything will look different after I throw my hands up in the air, enjoy some belly laughs with my kids and down a good cup of decaf tea.

If you would like to continue this conversation in person – not just with me but with so many other local women – please join me!

You know what you need to thrive. A night like this can make getting there, or being there, just a little more fun!

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I hope to see you there!

A Simple Solution For Keeping The Stuff They Bring Home From School – And Your Sanity!

Is your home currently being invaded by Stuff They Bring Home From School? Same here! Times two! And one day, times three! So, what’s a parent to do with all the art, journals, seasonal cards, math worksheets, coloured maps of Canada, and facts sheets about tigers?

Well, to be honest, the recycling bin gets a fair chunk of the (oh, so many) pieces of stamped paper and the like. But I do want to keep a sampling of the entire year for each child. A few items from the beginning of the year, some from the winter, and then the end of the year, the major art projects and of course, those journals! How cute are those stories in there? I love seeing how the sentences progress in length and number by the end of the year, and don’t get me started on the drawings – adorable! Throw in the year’s report cards, and I think that’s pretty much a wrap!

My oldest is in grade 2 so she has the greatest collection of work. She did two full years at a Montessori preschool and I had kept a lot of it! (Rookie mom.) This was the first of many buttons she sewed onto fabric. I framed it and put it in my studio.

The rest of the stuff was all in these big cloth bags that I was storing in my studio. Then Kindergarten joined the party and by Grade 1, my studio was bursting with Stuff They Bring Home From School. I had to do something because by then my son also had a year of preschool under his belt and currently is bringing home a tonne of stuff from Jr. Kindergarten!

So, I went out to Walmart and found these 32 gallon bins on sale.

I love a chance to use my label maker!
I love a chance to use my label maker!

I loved the bright colours and guessed that this would be the perfect size to house everything from their prenatal ultrasounds to their high school science reports. Speaking of high school…I don’t really have much from own my high school days. Actually, I don’t have anything past Grade 7. I guess I’ll know when I’m there as a parent what could be held on to and what could go. Do you have any experience with this? (Let me know in the comments if I need a bigger bin – haha!) But in all honesty, the things I think my kids would want me hanging on to are the cute stuff from the earlier grades. And by the way, in the end, these bins are going to their respective child! I’m keeping the cards and things they made for me (some of them – like this Mother’s Day gift from my son), but they can have all the rest!

I’ve also kept a few items of clothing per baby that were significant – those can go in too. First locks of hair. Photobooks. Of course, you’ll want to keep this all organized according to whatever system you like to use. I like to use envelopes, duo tangs and paper clips. For example, I have a manila envelope strictly for report cards. And this duo tang paper clipped together holds the majority of what I kept from Grade 1! There are just a few larger art projects that are lying flat in the bin.

I’m also a fan of these folios. This one has journals and stories from Kindergarten.

When the kids hand me the Stuff They Bring Home From School, I pretty much know what’s going to be recycled right away. (How many spelling tests does one need to keep, really?) There’s the stuff I know for sure I want to keep. If I’m torn, I’ll keep it and then make a decision at the end of the year when a whole whack load of Stuff They Bring Home From School enters the home.

This has given me not only physical space (I was able to claim a substantial portion of my studio back!), but also has eased the mental anxiety of seeing so much stuff everywhere.

I still have a ways to go before I de-stuff my home, but I can’t tell you how good it feels to have a system now for the Stuff They Bring Home From School. Because it’s a lot.

I’d love to hear your systems, ideas and even your woes in the comments below!

Help My Son Be A SuperHero For @CanuckPlace Children’s Hospice! #FamiliesGiveBack

Upstairs, in bed, in the wee hours of this morning, my son was transformed. Under some sort of cosmic magic, the earth went ’round the sun one more time. And by the same magic, my son turned 5. The day he was born I said to my husband, “I now know why son and sun are homonyms.”

My relationship with my son-shine is rather cosmic, too. I waited and waited for a little seed to plant itself inside me and finally, after I wrote him a letter coaxing him to this world, he came. All through my pregnancy I dreamt of angels bringing him to me, placing him in a crib for me, touching his head. I knew I was being told to appreciate this gift.

I am trying to teach all my children that we are each gifts to this Universe – that no matter what our circumstances, genetic makeup, skills and interests, we are here to be a part of the circle of giving and receiving. We each have needs and we each have things to offer others. I have been saying these words to them for a long time now, but only in recent times have we, as a family, made solid commitments to do our part.

We have turned birthday celebrations into celebrations of others. While honouring ourselves, we are honouring the rest of our community. Each child chooses a charity, and instead of receiving gifts from family and friends, we ask instead that the gifts be extended to that charity. Last year, my son chose the Surrey Food Bank; he collected $200 plus canned donations. We shopped and then dropped off the food and received a tour of the facility at the same time!

This year, we gave our son some options: the SPCA, the food bank again, or Canuck Place Children’s Hospice. He immediately chose Canuck Place – and can I be honest and say, I am sure his little 4 year old mind did it because of the word Canuck! He wouldn’t know that Canuck Place is a pediatric palliative care facility. But when I explained it to him, and what that meant, his eyes grew wide, his face rather solemn. “Canuck Place!!” he yelled, then charged about the room, like a superhero.

His birthday is the perfect time to grant his wish of being a superhero and supporting other children in their medical care. We have appealed to friends and family for help, but I thought I would put it out here as well, in case you are looking for a way to be a part of the circle, or feel like performing a random act of kindness! (Tax receipts are available). Click HERE to see where your money will go.

Here are some facts about Canuck Place (from their fundraising literature):

  • Canuck Place, BC’s recognized pediatric palliative care provider, brings clinical care and hope to children and families on a difficult journey when there is no cure.
  • The focus is to celebrate each moment and build precious memories together, regardless of the child’s situation or the time they have left.  
  • Canuck Place is only reaching 20-25% of the children with life-threatening illnesses who need this specialized care in British Columbia.
  • The unique and talented team of physicians, nurses, recreation and music therapists, counsellors, staff and volunteers provide 24/7 respite and family support, province-wide phone consultation and in-house clinical care, pain and symptom management, grief and loss counseling, including music and play therapy, art, education and recreation therapy, and end-of-life care.  
  • With caring, professional staff and over 325 volunteers, it is a place for children and families to come in their greatest time of need.

We hope to make a trip down to Canuck Place Children’s Hospice over Spring break and, if it works out, receive a tour of the facility.

If you would like to help my son be a superhero on his birthday, feel free to join in the celebration HERE.  Thank you!

What Happened When I Sent Fish Cutlets To School

Last week, my son cried on the way to school because I informed the kids they were getting fish cutlets in their lunch. I was surprised because I had made them the day before and they loved them. But my preschooler was worried about what the kids would say about his stinky meal. My heart was heavy all morning and I felt torn about the situation. I want my kids to feel good about themselves, confident enough to withstand any comments from their peers. I mean, don’t we all want that? And haven’t we been in that boat before, at some point or another?

So many of my readers shared their thoughts with me on this, and especially sent messages of compassion for my kids. Thank you!! You were curious about what happened, so I’m going to tell you!

Me: Soooo…how did lunch go?

Son: Good.

Me: Did anybody say anything?

Son: Nooo…oh…just… (insert boy’s name here). He said, ‘That’s gross!’ *wrinkles nose and smiles a little smile – a smile often associated with his story-telling*

Me: Would you like to take a fish cutlet to school another day?

Son: No. Someone else might say something.

Me: Did you have a good day at school?

Son: Yes, it was so fun! We played….(and carries on a full monologue about the awesomeness of school).

In other words: I really don’t know  what actually happened. Many mixed messages and none of them triggered an alarm on the Mama Intuition Radar.

Then with my 7 year old girl, this happened:

Me: So….how was your lunch?

Daughter: SO YUMMY!

Me: Oh good!! So nobody said anything then?

Daughter: Nope!

Me: Nice!

Daughter: I just kept it in my lunch kit, and covered it with the flap in between bites so no one could see it. *laughs*

OK, so again, not a reliable situation. The other day, though, she came home and said people were asking her weird questions about her wrap. They were questioning her about the actual tortilla. From my daughter’s report, the conversation basically was a repeat of these lines: What is that? Um, a wrap. What is that? Um, a wrap.

What do I conclude? I will continue to send meals that are good lunch material. I try to feed my children as much homemade food as possible. And some of that will be Indian. But in all honesty, I don’t think this has anything to do with culture. A couple of my readers suggested that the teachers could put on a food-tasting session so that classmates can try foods from each other’s ethnic backgrounds. That is a great idea, and I would hope parents are invited to also taste the cuisines! (wink, wink) But I also think that really – kids are just being kids here. Curious. Blunt. There is an age when they know right from wrong, teasing from questioning, but I don’t think everyone my son’s age is there yet. And my daughter didn’t feel the questioning was malicious – just ‘annoying’, in her words.

But the bottom bottom line is I want my kids to feel good enough about themselves that being different is not a bad thing. I remember navigating that tricky road. I remember being made fun of in elementary school for being caught holding hands with my mom at the grocery store (I was 11. I continued to hold her hand on walks well into my 20’s). I remember being told I ate frog eyes when I brought tapioca pudding for lunch. (Which I continued to do whenever I was lucky enough to have tapioca pudding!) I remember being called ‘ugly’ in grade 8 by a guy I didn’t even know. But I was a little more concerned about poverty than I was about what some random dude said about me. I had peers who I connected with. And I also had my journal in which to spill my feelings and then feel good about being heard by ‘someone’. But it’s not always that simple or easy.

As parents, we need to be aware of what is happening in our kids’ lives especially when it comes to their encounters with their peers. I know I can’t know every single interaction that goes down, but I hope that I can lay the foundation for them to come to me if anything doesn’t feel good to them.

Hoping my kids always want to just be themselves – because they’re super awesome, dude! Peace out!

Pink Shirt Day, at the end of February, exists for a reason. I think we all need to be on board with that; we need to let our kids know that we stand in solidarity for them, but that they have the inner wisdom and strength to stand up for themselves, too.

It’s really tough to hear when someone’s child takes their own life because of the bullying of others, and my heart goes out to parents who have to pick up the pieces after that. Your child’s life mattered and continues to matter as we try to eradicate bullying.

I want to thank you for trekking along on this journey with me. Your comments and suggestions and check-ins are so welcomed and appreciated!

Have a great day and tell me what you had/are having for lunch today!

When Your Kid Doesn’t Want To Be ‘Different’

This morning as I drove the kids to school, I told them that I had packed them each a fish cutlet. (This is basically like a fried potato/fish patty flavoured with tumeric, salt, lemon, cilantro and garam masala). I had made them yesterday for the first time, from my mom’s recipe collection, and the kids quite enjoyed them. So, I was surprised when my son asked, voice quivering, “Why do we have to have that?

In the rearview mirror, I watched his face crumple and my daughter cover her ears, anticipating the familiar howling that normally follows the trembling voice.

“Because you liked them yesterday and we had a couple left. Didn’t you like them?”

“Yeeeeeessssss…” His voice trailed off and his eyes squeezed shut. His mouth was looking like an upside down U. *sniff*

(My daughter rolled her eyes, hands hovering just over her ears. It could go either way from here.)

“So, then why are you upset? I’m just telling you because I put a spoon in your lunch kit, too. If the cutlet is a bit crumbly, you can use your spoon to scoop up the bits.”

“Becaaaaussse…*waaaaahhhh*…it’s so weird! Everyone will make fun of me!”

My heart sank. Partly because I was picturing his entire class of 3-5 year olds, standing around him in a circle, pointing and laughing, and partly because he was in the midst of something that we all get stuck in: Do I be me, or do I be like everyone else?

I tried to reason with him. “Do other people bring things to school that you don’t eat? Like ham sandwiches? Or pepperoni?”

He nodded, two tears making twin paths down to his chin.

“And do you tell them their food is weird?”

“No…but…”

“Ok, so if someone says anything today, just tell them it’s not nice of them to say your food is weird, and that you don’t call their food weird.” (I had no idea if this was good advice. But it didn’t matter because it totally went over his head.)

The thing about kids is they call it like they see it. If something smells or looks funny, they’ll let you know. Sometimes it’s a trait to be admired. Other times, it can really hurt another kid’s feelings. And especially when they are in preschool, I don’t think we can expect them to hide these thoughts too much. Purposely taunting someone is one thing, but saying, “Your lunch smells funny” can simply be stating a fact.

Fish cutlets - who knew they would be such a hot topic?
Fish cutlets – who knew they would be such a hot topic?

As I write this, we are approaching his lunch hour. I really hope it goes well. There is a chance someone may say something to him, or look at him strangely. And as I sit here, I wonder if I did the right thing. Mostly, I think I did. I’m trying to model authenticity and encourage self-acceptance because in the long run, this will hopefully help them be happier adults. But, he is just 5…and a fish cutlet does smell. (Yummy to me, perhaps revolting to a kid who’s never had one).

I just feel that I had to get the message across that being different is not a bad thing. Whether it’s what we eat, the activities we enjoy, the ideas we have. But even at 36, this trips me up from time to time, too. It just shows up in different forms.

Anyway, I’ll keep you posted. Have you encountered this before with your kids? Either with food or something else? How did you handle it?

I Wish I Could Write A Post, But I Can’t

As much as I would love to sit here and write something fabulous – something totally inspiring or fun or thoughtful – I just can’t.

Because this needs to be put away:

And then this needs to be folded:

So does this:

And then these need to go in the dryer, so that later I can fold them and put them away.

I understand that these are blessings. I know how lucky I am that I can neglect the laundry for a few days and my family still has enough in their drawers/closets with which to dress themselves. I would, however, consider myself a tiny bit luckier if these blessings came with their own fairies that did the washing, drying, folding and especially the putting away.

Cheers to a weekend of birthday parties, shopping, a speaking engagement, experimenting in the kitchen, groceries and, of course, football!

Happy Monday! (If you don’t hear from me by Thursday, send for help!)

My Three Musical Aspirations #3ThingsThursday

Though I have a hard time calling myself a musician, because I don’t regularly play or perform, my musical history includes the piano, saxophone, and vocal jazz. My brother and I used to play ‘Band’ when he was still in diapers and we put on concerts for anybody – and nobody. In high school, my friends and I would gather around a piano and sing, or play duets. The pleasure I got from performing in our school band concerts was incomparable. And when high school was said and done, I took flute lessons. I also bought a guitar and a beginner’s book – but when I couldn’t move past, “Oh, Susanna!” I sold the guitar. Eventually, the piano followed suit, the flute I rented was returned and my saxophone was packed away.

Life took off at full speed and, 5 years after my last musical episode, I found myself married with a career, a baby, a home…and a nagging feeling. Something was missing. Working through my rut, I discovered there were actually three things missing that had once filled up large chunks of me: literature, service to others and music.

Of those three things, music has been the last to jump on board to a level with which I am satisfied. I do own a piano now, my saxophone has been unearthed and I have been known to belt out a tune in the shower. But for today’s 3 Things Thursday edition, I’d like to be specific about what I hope to achieve, musically, in my lifetime.

3 Things Thursday is hosted by Pink Chai Living, The Write Balance and Love Laugh Mirch. Go visit their sites, and if you’re a blogger who wants to link up, look for the linky on their posts!

Here are my 3 musical aspirations:

1. To start composing my own songs on the piano. (This goal also includes brushing up on/relearning technique that no longer comes easily). I have had moments in the last couple years where I have sat down, fiddled around with chords, picked at melodies, smooshed them together and then forgotten the result when I have tried to replicate it. Being a songwriter has been one of those whimsical fantasies for me; I imagine being completely lost in thought and notes, papers spread out over the top of my piano, pencil in my teeth as my fingers find their way over the keys, then scratching notes onto staff lines…the whole process enthralls me. To be able to share myself musically with the world is a big dream I’m dusting off.

I love this quote by Tori Amos: “I don’t own a computer. I have a nine-foot piano in my home to compose my messages. Why would I want a one-foot computer to do the same thing?”

Grabbing moments while I could, as a new mom.
Grabbing moments while I could, as a new mom.

2. To play the saxophone in a group or public capacity. I’m no Kenny G. But I love the feel of this gorgeous instrument in my hands, the warm, buttery tone that flows through it and the emotion that it evokes, in myself and the listeners. I played it the other day in the basement for my older daughter, and my son came charging down the stairs. “What is that?” he asked. “Listen,” I said as I brought the mouthpiece to my lips. After the first note, he covered his ears. “It’s so loud!”

So maybe I need a different audience at some point. I’ve always toyed with the idea of being part of a community concert band. I’ve also daydreamed about being part of a small group that plays nightly gigs. Somehow, I think the former idea is better suited to this stage in my life. I can’t imagine playing till 2 am and then being Mom and a coherent writer during the day!

3. To pass down the music to my kids. Music is a part of our lives on a daily basis, but I see that my kids have their unique relationships with it. My older daughter is lyrical; she loves to write poems and sing songs, and she wants to accompany me on the piano with her guitar and voice. My son is rhythmic. He hears music and his head starts bopping, his shoulders…they do this jiggly thing…and we always have to remind him that the dinner table is not a drum set. For baby girl, we have Skye Dyer‘s cd in the car because she will calm right down with it. This isn’t as necessary now as when she was a younger infant, but now it’s become our family cd and reminds us of our road trips last summer. (If you’re unfamiliar with Skye’s work – her music has inspirational messages of love: for the self, the Divine and for others. And yes, she’s Wayne Dyer’s daughter!)

I feel like now is a good time to start bringing some formal lessons/guidance/support to my children for whatever they need to develop this relationship.

The apples don't fall far from the tree! Note the jar of coins, collected for charity from passersby!
The apples don’t fall far from the tree! Note the jar of coins, collected for charity from passersby!

There you have it! Tell me about the music inside you. I’d love to hear in the comments if you play an instrument, or always wanted to learn one. Which one?

A New Program To Help You Enjoy Your Baby

If you haven’t gone through the passage of becoming a new parent, you may be wondering why there’s a need for a program like Enjoy Your Baby – a new pilot program put on by the Canadian Mental Health Association to support the mental well-being of new mothers. It’s a valid question. Before my first was born, I had visions of happy babies cooing and playing contentedly while I went about keeping the house clean and preparing healthy meals. I knew babies cried, but I didn’t know for how long, and I certainly wasn’t expecting to lose that much sleep.

Many things fall by the wayside, especially in those first few months. And more important than the dust bunnies that collect in the corners of your home, or the stove top that contains remnants of the spaghetti sauce you made four nights ago, is the self-care negligence that accompanies this phase.

Being on round 3 myself with the ‘new baby’ thing, I know that some things get easier and some things are just as difficult to ‘pencil in.’ Like child-free breaks. I have often joked with my close girlfriends that scheduling in a haircut for myself requires consulting 5 other people’s schedules (including the hairdresser’s!) and sometimes it’s easier to sweep my hair back in a ponytail!

Don't be fooled! I'm tiny and I'm cute...but I can be one tough chick!
Don’t be fooled! I’m tiny and I’m cute…but I can be one tough chick!

Though I joke about this bumpy road, I know what I went through with my first baby was more than a laughing matter. And I know that there are so many women who are going through the same thing, right at this moment.

So, when I heard about Enjoy Your Baby from one of the Community Outreach and Education Team Leaders, I jumped on the opportunity to share it with you.

The following is a press release directly from the Canadian Mental Health Association. Please read it, and share it. And if you, or someone you know needs it, please pursue this opportunity.

Canadian Mental Health Association Develops Mental Well-Being Course for New Mothers

Enjoy Your Baby January pilot courses in Vancouver and Langley open for registration

British Columbia—Taking care of a baby is hard. Staying mentally healthy doing it can be even harder.

That’s why the Canadian Mental Health Association’s BC Division (CMHA BC) has developed a new course called Enjoy Your Baby. The course is for any new mother facing stress, low mood or anxiety who could use effective strategies to make positive changes in her life and really enjoy parenthood.

The 5-session, skills-based course has started its pilot sessions last fall and will continue into the new year at locations in Vancouver and Langley. Each course will be co-facilitated by a trained CMHA staff and a health professional with experience in maternal/child health. The course will be free of charge during the pilot, including free child care.

“We’re thrilled to announce Enjoy Your Baby,” says Bev Gutray, CEO of CMHA BC. “We want to help prevent postpartum depression and boost well-being for women and their families. The potential reach of this course is huge. Because bringing baby home can bring so many challenges, really any new mother will benefit from the skills, humour and social connections in this course.”

The course was co-developed by Dr. Chris Williams, UK psychiatrist and international expert in cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), and Dr. Michelle Haring, a BC psychologist and expert in CBT and reproductive mental health. It builds on the principles in Dr. Williams’ popular Enjoy Your Baby booklet.

“I initially was overwhelmed as a new mother and I was also trying to do too much,” says Alyssa, a new mother from North Vancouver. “The Enjoy Your Baby booklet, which the new course is based on, gave me examples of activities that I could actually do as a new mother. These activities did make me feel better and as I tried them I started noticing I could make positive changes to my daily life. The suggestions in the booklet gave me permission to care for myself and I learned a ton about myself in the process!”

“Mental health self-care is tricky for new mothers—but so vital,” says Dr. Haring. “We know that traditional CBT works to help people manage stress, low mood and anxiety. But when you are caring for a new baby, finding the time and energy to learn and apply these skills can be difficult. What we’ve tried to do is apply CBT principles to the real lives of new moms and their families. We help new moms to make small positive changes to thoughts, behaviours and relationships. And all of this is done in a fun and engaging way with support from other moms who are going through the same challenges.”

If results from the pilot courses are encouraging, CMHA will seek funding to roll the course out nation-wide in both official languages. Enjoy Your Baby is part of the suite of successful CBT skills-based mental health promotion services offered by CMHA including the Living Life to the Full (group course for adults or youth) and Bounce Back (telephone coaching for adults).

If you are a new mother who could benefit from the Enjoy Your Baby course, please email courses.vb@cmha.bc.ca or visit www.vb.cmha.bc.ca to register. To order the booklet on its own, visit www.livinglifetothefull.ca.

Registration Information
Langley Public Health Unit
20389 Fraser Highway (Langley)
Thursdays, January 22nd, 29th, February 5th, 12th, 19th, 2015
10:00am-11:30am