School Daze: Out-the-Door Organization

As requested, I am starting a little series about my school year organization and preparation tips. Let me begin with the most exhausting portion of the school day: getting out the door.

Now, let me preface this by clarifying that I am not a professional organizer or even a neat freak. I have three young close-in-age kids and a clutter-prone husband who often works from home. I aim for livable neatness (as in, “heathens live here but someone among us is trying to be neat.”)

Sure, I have donation boxes waiting for months to be offloaded. I have paper piles and a cluttered basement. BUT I know how to organize to get multiple mini-humans (and myself) out the door early every day. So, here are my tips on organizing to get out that door in the AM.

If you’re like us, you exit via your garage door as opposed to your front door. This makes the mudroom the primary portal. Getting everyone in their shoes with their backpacks out one door can seem akin to wrangling cats into a rabbit hole.

We have a primary shoe basket in the kitchen just beyond the mudroom where we keep daily use shoes. I used to keep school shoes in there too, but that lead to “I can’t find my shoes!” And “Why can’t I wear my pool sandals on the pumpkin patch field trip?” drama. So that habit needed adjusting.

Solution: backpack and school shoe central:

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Out-the-door Organization

Using damage-free Command hooks, I hung the kids’ backpacks and shoes (soles out) on the coat closet door. I added a cheap folding step stool to aid my shrimpy first grader in reaching her top-tier items. Then, I adhered her teacher’s reminders just beside the door.

And there we go. No hunting for shoes. No missing backpacks. No school debris strewn across our kitchen.

Easy peasy!

Next up: morning prep.

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Mama Tears, Mama Fears: New School Year, New Chapter

It’s that time of year again. Teachers’ classrooms are freshly invigorated with unfamiliar students and crisp bulletinboard decor. Students sport squeaky new shoes and summer tans. Parents sigh a breath of relief, having survived the final days of summer and seek solace in the reprieve from child-wrangling or piecemeal childcare arrangements of summer. Except for me.

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From pool bag to school shoes

I’m the one feeling like the odd duck; the unicorn parent who is not excited for school to begin. At all. Instead of rejoicing my additional freedom and pumpkin spice everything, I’m mourning the end of my favorite season of long days spent outside in the sunshine, soaking in my kids, the sand, the sea, the memories. I know full well my children were equal parts adorable and asshole, but I don’t care. I’m self-loathing, wishing days of togetherness with my demanding darlings instead of hours of respite.

I’m lamenting the return to school year rush and the rigid routine I feel forced, not innately inclined, to institute. I shudder at the coming winter, as if a character from “Game of Thrones.” looking ahead towards an invasion of the zombie-like icy White Walkers: WINTER IS COMING! 

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School days are here

Mostly, though, I’m crying for a closing chapter I desperately wish to pry open. I shed tears recollecting where we used to be, who my children were (even just at summer’s beginning), how fast it all has progressed. I smile recalling memories of exhaustion and cuteness, milestones and regressions, overcome worries and hard-won lessons. I am warmed by gratitude for having been granted this life experience of motherhood, for being willing and able to accept the ass-kick of corporate lay-offs to shove me from cubicle to stay-at-home mom life. I feel a mixture of unsettling uncertainty and hopeful optimism knowing that we are all progressing — as individuals and as a family — towards our future selves.

I know we were where we needed to be, we are where we’re supposed to be, and we’re going where we’re intended. I’m still scared. Still sad. Still hopeful. Still reflective. Still uncertain.

Just as I am optimistic yet unclear as to who my children will be, what their futures will look like, I am similarly hopefully and anxiously unknowing of my own path ahead. Who will I be when I grow up?

Who do I WANT to be?

A mom. I want to be a mom. “You will always be a mom”, people say. But I fear the unknown. The unfamiliarity of mothering older children, teens, adults. I fear not being needed. Not being wanted. Those days will come, as they should (if I’ve done my job right), for raising independent, resilient children is my goal. But I hope they don’t come too soon.

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With my youngest entering preschool, this is my first time having all of my children in school. Grocery trips alone, a walk through Target or DSW or Homegoods unencumbered by tantrumers or snack requests? A quiet morning spent however I choose, whether on a walk, flowing through yoga, sipping coffee with friends, folding laundry, or sitting on my ass in a quiet house? What an unfamiliar circumstance!

I am in for a whole new chapter. More freedom. More time. More ability to uncover who I want to be as opposed to simply who they need me to be. Am I ready for the answer?

The Gift of Low Expectations: How to Survive Any Errand with Kids

This was me 10 minutes before we headed off to the grocery store. Yep, hiding from my bickering, tantruming, antsy, nap-skipping kids. So, how did I survive a grocery store run with all three mischievous minions in tow? Low expectations.

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Don’t get me wrong I love my kids. I mourned when I thought we couldn’t have our own children. I lament their return to school each fall and celebrate our time together. But some days… woo! Some days I hit a point after 500 snack requests, 20 sibling melees, 3 missing sock expeditions (only to find 1 in the toilet, another on the kitchen table, and 1 forever unfound), and an outing gone awry, that I feel the innate need to hide from my offspring. I’ll quietly slip into a room, close the door, and listen with equally anxious anticipation for the sound of incurred injury or approaching footsteps.

And so, yesterday, after I hid from my children for 5 calming minutes, I made the fateful decision to take my crew to the grocery store.  Because what else did I have to lose?

Had my ever-mothering mind gone berserk? Likely. However, I was armed with something so powerfully self-preserving that no childish onslaughts could undo me: a low bar.

That’s right. I entered the afternoon grocery run fully aware of my fate. I had low expectations, so diminished that simply surviving the errand would stand as a win. This would be a shit show. I owned it.

We shuffled through pre-leaving routine: pottying, pants finding, sock hunting, shoe retrieving, shoe fixing and re-fixing (because despite having only two feet, my 4-year-old can put his shoes on the incorrect feet 6 times in a row), and finally leaving. As I waited for my eldest to get buckled, I texted my dear fellow mom friend and told her of my expectation that my middle son would lose cart privileges before we ever left the produce section. My inkling that my eldest would publicly release a (understandable) fury of frustration upon her irksome younger brothers. My awareness that pushing my toddler in the shopping cart would be akin to maneuvering a rabid kleptomaniacal octopus through narrow aisles of glass jars and delicate produce. This would be a disaster. I knew it. I felt it in my bones. I didn’t dread it. I didn’t fear it. My shame had been whittled down by 6 years of parenthood. I had nothing left to lose but my patience. Her knowing response: “Good luck.”

And so we went. And so the trip descended into chaotic mayhem, with my uncoordinated 6-year-old attempting to simultaneously read a book and walk through the wine section, my 4-year-old hanging in a backbend off of the side of the cart despite my constant reminders that he shouldn’t because his head would get smushed, and my 2-year-old releasing random shrill shrieks just for the hell of it.

At one point, my 6-year-old took to poking plastic bags of bread “because it’s squishy” as my 2-year-old attempted to throw his shoes out of the cart. Then, as I turned to pick up the one jar I needed in the aisle, my 6- and 4-year-olds took off down the pasta aisle in a foot race. Yes, full-on discombobulated running complete with jabbing chicken wing elbows down the grocery aisle of dried noodle and glass-encased marinara. Who does that? Are they new here?

Then, as we reached the furthest back portion of the store: “Need pee-pee! Potty!” Shouts my potty-training 2-year-old. So we haul ass to the front of the store. Every few feet I rerun the kid count: 1-2-3, 1-2… where’s 3? “We’re not buying Fritos. Better catch up or find a new family!” Then we hit a slow moving herd with grandma pushing the shopping cart. They were the hair-ball to the shower drain. As I envisioned a deluge of toddler pee pouring from the shopping cart, I bobbed and weaved pushing my car-shaped cart through the clog, leaving my older two to either follow or flounder: “Better keep up! Your brother has to pee!” I yelled back to them.

We made it. He peed. In the potty. Then there was a meltdown over the hand dryer, but that’s normal. Well, our normal.

Back to the cart we returned. We finished or shopping, skidding into a register lane with the grace of a three-legged water buffalo. There were candy grabs, sibling squabbles, fussing, and “Are we done yet?”s, but we survived. I loaded the minivan and as I shut the trunk door, I felt accomplished. I survived the shit show. I was still smiling. I was certainly laughing. All thanks to my low expectations.

Cocoons for Babies: That’s a Thing?

I’ve recently encountered a trend: cocoons for babies. Who knew? The practice recommends that parents create a quiet, soothing womb-like environment for their newborns in order to offer a smoother adjustment for Baby into the world and provide a safe haven from the daily din.

Dimmed lights, calm energy, cozy decor, serenity, hush. A baby cocoon. How precious! How loving! How utterly unattainable for any child but a firstborn in an affluent home.

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Now, I love the concept of preparing a loving, welcoming, unobtrusive environment for the baby-to-be. The neutral decor, the soft fabrics, the gentle atmosphere… how sweet! The planner in me adores the meticulous research and purchasing, arranging and staging that would be entailed. The 6-years ago first-time parent in me sees the beauty and seeming prospect, the adoration- and protection-based desire and demand to create such a space for the anticipated bundle. The mother-of-three in me shudders at the thought of feeling pressured to somehow maintain any sense of zen tranquility in my bustling abode of child chaos. I can only imagine the effort it’d take to silence my entire herd for one morning. It’d be more feasible to ship them off for the baby’s infancy.

Then, I think of myself and my friends with multiple children. Their youngest child — like my own third child — entered into a world of noisy siblings, bright lights, and pinging toys. Yet that youngest child (barring any special needs) is the happiest, most well-adjusted, and adaptable of the bunch!

Babies are precious and beautiful. Babies are noisy and exhausting, messy and stressful, demanding and resilient. As any pediatrician will tell you, babies are tougher than we think. (Have you ever seen an Apgar test conducted or seen a baby birthed vaginally? Then you know they’re sturdy buggers.)

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Do I think putting effort into spinning a warm environment for your cherished offspring is ill-advised? Not entirely. Placing love and excitement, care and appreciation into your baby preparation does nothing but positive things for all involved. If it feels right to you, do it! However, if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the task, don’t do it. Eventually your child will regularly be present in the world and, well, the world is not womb-like.

Do I think everyone has the means to create this soothing space? Even with upcycling hacks and thrift store finds, no. Not everyone has the economic, spatial, environmental, or emotional ability to create a womb-like home. Some can, and that’s wonderful, but it in no way puts those children raised outside of the cocoon at a disadvantage.

Do I think creating a quiet, serene home gives the child a leg up? If anything, I’d argue the opposite. I know far more children raised in noisy, stimulus-filled homes who are happier and better adapted to the outside world than those who easily adjusted from quiet, low-stimulus homes to the chattering world. A cocoon is not the only way to ensure a baby feels loved and secure. And, heck, the womb is not silent. There are plenty of stimuli — from stomach churning and inhalation, mom’s road rage shouting and shower singing, Dad’s yelling at the TV and sibling tantruming. Baby has already heard the outside world before ever entering it. Life is loud, inside and out.

Do I think it’s feasible to maintain such an environment? As a mom of three close-in-age children, my response: hahahahahahahahaha… no. Absolutely not. Not in any way. Nope. It’s a lovely gesture rooted in the best and purest intentions of sheltering one’s cherished child from the overwhelming world. The desire, effort, and act are nothing but sweet and commendable. However, making a womb-like home for your child is not the only way to create a safe space for your little one. Your loving arms and healing kisses, you’ll soon find, will serve as such. You needn’t paint the walls “Morning Mist” and hush everyone in your home to make Baby feel loved. Just love Baby, that’s all.

Do I think feeling compelled to maintain a hushed, serene cocoon is problematic? Somewhat. If the endeavor is to envelope the child in love and comfort, beautiful! However, any parent is soon to discover that babies are not quiet or serene… and neither is the world. Does that mean the child should fall asleep to prerecorded audio of Tokyo Street sounds or NYC at rush hour? No. I simply think the pressure to create unnatural, inorganic sensory white space in a bright and loud world is an unattainable goal for parents — especially first-time parents — who are about to enter the wholly noisy, exhausting, stressful, life-upending, relationship-testing, goal-shifting, painful, emotional, rewarding, confusing, ego-obliterating, priceless gift of parenthood. Yet, if the womb-like space — either in creation or practice — enables the parents to better cope with the monumental shift of parenthood, proves agreeable to the baby, and is easily and stresslessly maintained, by all means do it! Just don’t stress yourself — or those dwelling with you — trying to make your home, your life, your world something that it’s not.

You are your child’s sanctuary. Your arms are her safe place. Your breath and heartbeat are his lullabye. You are all the comfort your child needs.

Love your baby. Forget the rest.

Fast and Easy Vegan Recipe: Beans-and-Greens Rice Bowl

Looking for something plant-based that’s quick, healthy, and easy to make? Hoping to fill your tummy, a lunch box, or your family’s plates? Need a dorm-friendly meal option or a simple dish your tween can heat up solo? Hunting for a 15-minute meal? This packable dish is good warm or cool. Give it a try.

Change out the beans and veggies to switch things up. Maybe black beans with peppers and corn, or cannelini beans with spinach and artichoke. Try switching up brown rice for farro or quinoa. Make this suit you.

BEANS-AND-GREENS RICE BOWL

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BEANS-AND-GREENS RICE BOWL

Ingredients:

2 cans pinto beans

3 cups frozen broccoli florets

2 cups frozen peas

2 bags of frozen microwave-in-pouch brown rice

2 Tbl Soy-free Earth Balance Spread

1 Tbl dried Italian seasoning

2 Tbl garlic powder

* 2 tsp fennel seeds (optional)

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Microwave the rice according to package instructions.

Drain and rinse the beans.

Pour frozen veggies into a big microwaveable bowl and top with Earth Balance before microwaving for 8 minutes, or until warmed through.

Add the rice and beans to the cooked veggies then stir in the seasonings.

Refrigerate for later, portion it out for meal prep, scoop into containers for lunch box filling, or serve immediately.

Enjoy!

 

I Was Doing Yoga All Wrong: 7 Things Daily Yoga Taught Me

As a Type-A mom of three close-in-age kids, I push myself. A lot. With that mindset, I began my yoga journey with limited self-patience, clear goals, and an aspirational Pinterest board full of bendy yoga poses. I gave myself no room for leniency… I had to hit each pose as deeply as possible every time. I had to have a straight-line progression. I had to become pliable like one of the seasoned, limber veteran yogis… but on my own timeline.

I was rigid yet striving for flexibility. I had it all wrong. I’m still learning.

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1) Force vs. Push. “Feel the burn!” “Pain is weakness leaving the body!” You know the pain-centric power mantras.  I brought them with me into my yoga practices, forcing myself on myself. However, I learned quickly that yoga isn’t about forcing, it isn’t a “pain is gain” endeavor. It’s simply about pushing myself purposefully but relenting when the body indicates its limit. (And the body’s limits are not always what I’d like them to be.) I learned that forcing my body could — and did — cause injury which only distances me from my goals. Pushing, though, would get me closer to my goals, albeit at a potentially slower pace than I might like. I had to accept the length of the journey and push, not force, myself along my path.

2) Listen. With a chattering mind and a constantly whirring mental to-do list, as well as three vocal children, life demands I do a lot of listening. But am I always really listening? Yoga is about listening to my body, my thoughts — even when I’m striving for meditative mental silence –, my surroundings. Yoga is about piecing all of the noise together and honoring it all.

3) It’s OK to Fall.  Falling. What an ego bruise, right? It’d be great to hit a perfect tree pose with unending balance every time, just like it’d be wonderful to go a whole day parenting perfectly. That’s not reality. We’re human. We fall, and that’s ok. It’s not a sign of inferiority or failure. It’s simply reality. When we fall we just laugh and get back up. We don’t lament the tumble. We don’t seek to blame others. We don’t quit and curse the practice. We just own it and try again, our self-worth still beautifully in tact.

4) Ability is Fluid. My ability today is not the same as yesterday or tomorrow. I may have bent into a wheel yesterday but I can’t hit anything beyond a bridge pose today. Similarly, perhaps I was a fountain of glowing maternal love yesterday but today I am a grumbling mass of exhaustion. Tomorrow I might be limber and patient yet again… or not. Our bodies, our minds, our lives are constantly changing. Variables shift. We can’t expect to be able to achieve the same accomplishments each day. We can only try our best with the ability we have today.

5) Inspiration not Competition. That mom with the perfect hair or the enviable physique or the tidy home or the well-behaved kids or the ideal seeming life. Instead of looking to her with a lens of competition, look to her as inspiration. The same goes for yoga. In yoga, we don’t look towards one another to judge or compare but for inspiration. Someone hits a pose deeper than you, someone can’t quite bend just as thoroughly as you. So what? Our circumstances, bodies, experiences, and lives are entirely different. We are here to serve as inspiration only.

6) Release and let go. With a mind that can’t hold onto names but has a knack for clinging to guilt, yoga has wonderfully taught me the beauty of letting go. Welcome in the positive and release what no longer serves me. Release… it feels so good. So why is it so hard to do?

7) Thank yourself. We thank friends, colleagues, waitstaff, family, troops, deities even, but so rarely ourselves. But we should thank ourselves. If we do something good for ourselves, we should thank ourselves. We deserve the same kindness we extend to others. We’re worth it.

Snapshots of SAHM Life

Being a stay-at-home mom is draining and priceless, stressful and fun-filled, chaotic and routine. It’s overwhelming and unglamorous, messy and lonely, but it’s all I ever wanted… to spend my days raising my children and experiencing their days, their fleeting childhoods. To be there.

Still, days as a stay-at-home mom often involve lots of this.

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Caffeination on the go

A bit of this.

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Multi-tasking (with now-cold caffeine)

Too much of this.

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Toy mayhem

And always this.

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The insurmountable and ever-present, Mt. Laundry

Your days may also involve this.

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Grocery shopping and babywearing

Some of this.

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Nursing

And a bit of this.

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Playdate fun

Then, of course, there’s this.

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Mid-errand tantrums

This.

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Bizarre mishaps

A lot of this.

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In-cart public meltdown and sibling brawl

And, what day would be complete without a touch of this?

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Self-dressing drama

After all of that, you get this.

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Quirky cuddles

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Family time

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Simple fun times

Because you’re there for it all, you also get to witness this.

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Proud parenting moments

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Proof of your hard work shining through

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Love between your children

And this.

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Hard-won skills blossoming

And it’s all worth it. All of it.

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Scars of Victory

Scars. Everyone has them. Whether from tragedy, clumsiness, or medical procedure, we all have some line, dent, or mark that tells part of our story. Still, people lament the marks, cover them, tattoo over them, regard them as embarassing imperfections. They wish them away and fret their revelation. But scars are not just pieces of our anatomy, dog-earred notations of our life chapters, and signs of our struggles. They are proof of our victories.

I have numerous scars. Some from good times and others from bad times, some tie to strong recollections and others mental blurs. However, one of my most obvious scars has been with me since almost the beginning.

You see this scar here? Some might hide it. I own it. Sure, I’ll never have a “perfect stomach.” Instead, I’ll have MY stomach. I still rock a two-piece swimsuit when I feel so inclined. I’m not hiding it.

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That scar came from a life-saving surgery I endured as an infant. I survived corrective surgery for plyoric stenosis (a genetic malformation of part of the digestive tract that causes all food to be forcefully regurgitated instead of digested.) That scar is proof that I am a survivor. It is just as much a part of me as my nose and my laugh.

I don’t hide it. I don’t lament it. It is simply a part of me. It may not be pretty, but not everything in life is.

What I hope for you is acceptance of your scars. You needn’t “rock” your scars, if that’s not within your comfort zone, but I hope you at least won’t be embarrassed by them. I hope you own them. I hope you realize you are braver, stronger, wiser, and emotionally richer because of them. They are signs that you have survived, grown, overcome, lived.

Instead of framing hard-won or regrettable scars as reminders of challenging times, regard them as badges of badassery. Trophies of success, determination, fortitude. They’re nature’s tattoos, showing the world — and you — that you are more than just a delicate flower. You are force, a beautifully unique collection of experiences and growth. Whatever lead to that scar shaped you. Love yourself. Love your scars.

Scars are not blemishes. They’re proof of victory.

You won.

Beach Yoga Life Lessons: Inspiration and Surrender

I recently attended a free beach yoga class. Beautiful, right? Yes. Who knew I’d walk away with poignant life lessons?

8:00 in the morning on a glorious day, a herd of men, women, and a few pubescents gathered for a free beach yoga class. We were an eclectic group of soccer moms, military servicemen, corporate cubicle-dwellers, retirees, yoga enthusiasts, significant others dragged unwillingly to participate, and school age girls joining Mom for a morning stretch. Our skill levels clearly varied.

As we settled onto our mats, the instructor said, “Do not compare yourself to your neighbor. You may look to one another for inspiration, but never judge yourself or each other. Your bodies, experiences, and circumstances are completely different. Look to others for inspiration only.” Can I get an AMEN? If only that could be written on every school entryway, every social media login screen, every magazine cover!

So often I find myself pointlessly comparing myself to others. I know it’s an inaccurate comparison. I realize it’s fruitless if not self-defeating. It still happens. I see that fit mom confidently strutting her toned physique, that former schoolmate who always has it together and is forever strikingly beautiful, that mom who does it all with boundless patience, the friend with an immaculate home, the neighbor with a pristine yard, the waitress with an impeccable gift for remembering names and faces, the woman with the seemingly ideal work-life balance, the outwardly perfect family … I see all of them — and so many more — and instead of mentally praising their gifts I feel a twinge of envy. “How does she do it?” I wonder. “What am I doing wrong?” Nothing. The answer is nothing.

They are gifted and beautiful with strengths and flaws like everyone. Like me! I know just part of their story. We are on different journeys with different circumstances and experiences. Our lives cannot be compared for competition, just glanced upon for inspiration.

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The instructor lead us through yogic breathing as we laid on our mats. Walking amongst our deep-breathing bodies, she asked if any of us had watched the recent rocket launch, then laughed when she realized she had been the only one willing to awake at 4AM to do so.

“The launch was inspirational for me,” she said. “11 separate times they had attempted to launch this rocket but each time there was something that stood in the way. Still, the team persisted. They knew when to hold back, when the environment and circumstances were not appropriate for a successful launch. They knew when to surrender.” She paused before continuing, “It is much like in yoga, that knowledge of surrender. We need to be in tune with our bodies. We learn just how hard to push and when to relent. It is not a ‘white flag’ surrender, but more of an acceptance that ‘today is not the day.’ Surrender for now. It is not defeat. It’s simply for another day.” That note struck me.

My littlest had just celebrated his second birthday. As he blew out his candles, my life’s babyhood chapter extinguished. Internally, I rejoiced at all I’d accomplished and survived, how I’d changed and grown in the last nearly-6 years. I lamented the end of a beautiful chapter filled with countless treasured memories. I looked forward to all we could do now that our herd was growing older; the trips and experiences we could share with our maturing children. But I couldn’t help but feel lost… uncertain. Wondering what my next chapter would hold.

While pregnant with my littlest, I was laid off from my corporate job. I took that opportunity to complete the initial coursework to become an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. However, the remaining courses were time-sensitive (they expired after a few years, so I would have to pay to retake them if I couldn’t fulfill all of my certification requirements in a timely manner) and the credits would ideally be completed while conducting significant in-hospital patient hours. With a newborn, 2-year-old, and 4-year-old, I was not at a point in my life at which I could undertake such responsibilities. Even though I knew my choice was right, I felt defeated. Embarrassed.

Still, two years later, I am not at the appropriate life stage to fulfill my goal. Like the rocket launch team, I am aware of my environment and circumstances, and know I must delay to achieve success. I must surrender to the elements. Whether I like it or not. Today is not the day. My goal is for another day. My surrender is not defeat.

And so I walked away from the beach yoga class a bit calmer, a bit more limber, and a bit wiser. Secure in myself and my present surrender. What a gift!

 

Strong Is Beautiful

I grew up in a matriarchal extended family with a thick military heritage. As the able-bodied eldest sibling of a brother with involved special needs, I had a somewhat unique upbringing. There were rules and consequences, expectations and protocol, duties and obligations. Inner and physical strength were prized. Beauty and emotional expression were afterthoughts. To be strong, to be able to withstand and persevere, to be resilient and sturdy was paramount. To shoulder any burden and smile beneath the weight was ideal.

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I recently told my 5-year-old daughter that being a female member of the family means she is strong; stronger than many. I told her that feigning frailty or valuing femininity over strength is not ideal. “Sometimes you’ll need help. Sometimes you’ll cry. That’s ok. You can like feeling pretty. You can have your feelings. That doesn’t mean you should intentionally act or choose to be weak. You can do more than you think. You can handle more than you realize. You’re strong. Remember that. Being strong IS beautiful.”

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Today on the beach my nearly-30lb toddler nursed himself into a nap. So, I stood rocking his sleeping body for 30 minutes. His limbs limp and heavy, the ocean hush lulling him further into slumber, my back supporting him, my arms cradling him, my heart was full. My muscles strong.

I breathed in his sand-dusted hair, listened to his gentle snore, and felt his comforted weight. I was grateful. Grateful for this moment. Grateful for my upbringing. Grateful for my strength. Without it I would not have this effortless, loving moment. Without it I would lament physical strain instead of savoring the experience.

Because of my strength, I could soak in this memory. Because of my strength, I brimmed with love. Because of my strength I could be the mother I dreamed to be.