My Unpopular Perspective: No Bad Days

“There is no such thing as a ‘bad day.'” This is not a widely held opinion, but it’s mine. As I see it, there are simply days neither wholly good nor wholly bad. Just days filled with moments… some moments are fun, some challenging, some sad, some happy, some purposeful, some tedious, some painful, some luxurious, some stimulating, occasionally some are tragic or traumatic, but most moments within most days are unremarkable.

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When I pick up my daughter from school and ask her about her day, and her response is, “I had a bad day.” I tell her that I’m sorry she had some hard moments but remind her that though parts of her day may have been difficult, her WHOLE day wasn’t bad. Then I ask her about the parts she felt were “bad.” After we have discussed her hurdles, I ask her about the positive parts of her day. Her mood pivots, her perspective changes as her attention shifts to recall the fun and pleasant aspects. She has reframed her day in that moment.

As I’ve explained to my children, simply because a certain fraction of a day’s moments belong within a specific emotional category — often oversimplified into “good” or “bad” — it doesn’t negate the rest of the day’s events. Because I stubbed my toe getting out of bed, poured my tea down the front of my shirt, and backed into a trashcan on my way out of the driveway, does that mean that the uneventful minutes I spent getting ready for the day were “bad”? That the loving moment I received a deep hug and maple syrup kiss from my child was “bad”? That my moments spent engaging in pleasant small talk with strangers or mundanely folding laundry were “bad”? Of course not! Therefore, the whole day wasn’t bad. Even if, say, I unexpectedly tragically lost a loved one later that day or felt burdened by world events that left an ache in my core, the sadness would be painful but it would not negate the plethora of moments before and after the event. It was not a “bad” day.

Often, we give too much power to the negative which, in turn, shifts our perspective. If we tell ourselves that we’re having a bad day, we’ll ensure that’s precisely the case by only seeing the bad. However, if we refuse to categorize the day as a lump sum, then we can appreciate each moment and each experience for what it is.

A yoga instructor recently said to the class I was attending, “This is how it is, now.” Meaning, each moment is different and fleeting. I burnt dinner and everyone is wailing in hunger? “This is how it is, now.” I feel sad over news clips? “This is how it is, now.” My kid tells me that I’m the best mommy ever? “This is how it is, now.” I share belly laughs with a dear friend? “This is how it is, now.”

It’s all temporary. It’s all fluid. Don’t cut yourself, your day, or your life short by categorizing your days in limiting, imprecise terms. Just take your days as they are — a collection of varied moments — and appreciate the experience.

Because, why survive when you can savor?

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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!

 

It’s All Impermanent

So often we get stuck in the minute trials of life that we forget that it’s all fleeting. We get buried in the deliverables and career paths, tantrums and to-do lists, routines and skirmishes, tantrums and developmental timelines, carpool and never-ending laundry that we lose perspective entirely.

Then, a moment strikes us back into reality. We realize the beauty of the moment — this very moment — and the speed with which time is racing. We pause amidst the surrounding churn and process the impermanence of it all.

Everything is temporary. The pain, the joy, the fun, the challenges, the frustrations, the worries, the celebrations, the sleepless stages, the adorable phases. All of it — good and bad, fretful and consoling — is fleeting.

We must remember that as we go about our days, toiling (simply for money or for personal aspiration) and/or raising our humans and growing ourselves. We must remind ourselves that no matter what pain or sadness, worry or frustration, anger or embarrassment we are feeling, it is not forever. It will end. We must too remember that the joyous, beautiful, precious, balanced times are not permanent. They too will end. So we must savor them. We will experience pain and comfort, mourning and elation, and that is natural. It is good. It is all good.

We must simply survive and savor, honoring the balance and minding the impermanence of life.

We Only Get This Summer Once

Yesterday we were at our local summer concert, enjoying music and the evening sun. Then, a familiar sight that makes my heart thump and my smile grow wide: my eldest two children happily running toward me from across the concert lawn. Heavy breaths through broad smiles, arms outstretched to envelop me in their sweaty hugs, their sneakers pounding through the sun-warmed turf. I saw it.

I saw how different my middle son was from last year. The change from 2-year-old to 3-year-old was striking. He’d lengthened, his face was leaner, his body was taller. I looked to my daughter, bounding toward me, her face more beautiful now than cute, just days away from her 5th birthday. I felt the weight of my 1-year-old in the carrier, no longer the newborn peanut he was last summer. How much they’d changed in just a year! My eyes grew misty and my throat caught.

We have only one summer each year with our children, the next they will be older, bigger, more independent, less mommy-centric. Interests will be different, maturity and skills will have advanced, they’ll push further from us and deeper into the outside world.

As exhausting and tumultuous as the days can be, as wearing and patience-testing as this young stage is, it only happens once. We only get THIS summer once.

Soak it in. Commit it to memory. Smile. Laugh. Enjoy it. Next summer will be entirely different.

Appreciating the Scars

Our kitchen table is worn. It’s weathered. It’s scratched and marked and mottled with imperfections. It’s not artfully or intentionally aged. There’s no shabby-chic crackle finish or sandpapered paint. It’s simply ragged in the way well-worn items are.

At first, when we inherited the large, solid wood table as recent newlyweds we were pleased. We figured it would suit our needs, at least temporarily, until we eventually refinished it or upgraded.

Occasionally, we’d flip through catalogs and dreamily contemplate which new table to purchase. The flashy trendy set ot perhaps the simpler, classic arrangement? Then, we’d see the prices and close the catalog, turning our minds to what new finish or paint could make our table look presentable. We didn’t have the time to devote to such a task, so we abandoned the flirtation. Glancing down at our patchy table in scorn, its flaws were amplified against the shine of the new.

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Then, came the children. Each child adding paint flecks, scratches, and scuffs to the already unevenly worn finish. As I looked at the bald spots and etching, rough edges and glitter embedded in deep scratches, I became embarrassed. I wanted to hide and cover the marred table. To disguise the wear and tear of its service.

Then, one day, while cleaning the crumbs from the tabletop, I looked up and saw my children’s chairs. I traced my finger along the pink paint left behind from the baby shower for my first child. I felt the fork scratches in front of my middle son’s seat. I saw the grooves left behind by my daughter’s overzealous hand as she’d begun to learn to write her name. Then, I saw the worn patch, the permanently blond spot on the edge of the table where Nonna, my grandmother-in-law, had sat. Her seat at the table was still clearly marked so many years after her death. That’s when I realized: these aren’t imperfections, they’re memories!

Each scar tells a story. Each fleck signals nostalgia. Each worn patch stands as a place marker, mapping the seats of dearest loves.

This table wasn’t flawed. It wasn’t broken. It was beautiful in an organic, simple way. It was strong.

Every day the table served us, absorbing our abuse and displaying our lives in a tapestry of wooden memoriam. It’s not perfect.  It’s loved. It’s ours.

A Carseat Wish

Some days you buckle and tighten the carseat straps in seconds as your child contentedly smiles up at you. Other days the straps and buckles are more like a Rubik’s Cube than restraining devices, twisting and misaligning with each effort. Certain days your child  contorts and flails making carseat buckling an olympic contact sport; facepainting a hyperactive octopus would be easier. Then there are the days you get stuck trying to get out of your own carseat.

#2 stuck exiting his carseat

#2 stuck exiting his carseat

May your carseat straps stay untwisted, your toddlers amenable to buckling, and your carseat exits unimpeded today, my friends!

 

Scared of Being a Boy Mom

When I found out #2 was a boy I was simultaneously terrified and sad. I wasn’t ungrateful for my child. I was mourning a life vision and fearing a new life long challenge. But people don’t admit these things, so I tried to hide my inner turmoil.

I had always understood girls, I had already birthed and begun parenting one daughter, I came from a predominantly female and matriarchal extended family… boys were unfamiliar territory. I had always envisioned having daughters. I hadn’t really considered having a son. Of course I knew it could happen, I just hadn’t banked on it. My life expectation had shifted, I was sad at my dismantled vision and felt wholly unprepared for my impending undertaking.

I knew my fear and mourning were natural, but I felt immense guilt for experiencing the emotions. I wanted to hide my feelings to protect my son from assumed and projected eventual hurt. I would never want my child to feel lesser, unloved, or unwanted; each of my children is a precious and unique gift. However, my gratitude didn’t dismiss my worry of being unfit or my mourning of a broken dream.

20-weeks pregnant with #2, my anatomy scan neared. My mind circled on the baby being a girl. As if sheer thought could solidify my intention. I knew in my heart that the baby inside was a boy, but I was so fearful of my perceived incompetence as a “boy mom” that I willed and wished otherwise. I would repeat the girl name we’d chosen over and over in my head. I wore pink to the anatomy scan. I said a quick prayer in the waiting room. Though I felt — I knew — this baby was a boy.

Just minutes in, there it was on the screen: #2’s manhood in full spread-eagle glory. There was no doubt, #2 was a boy. My heart raced. I choked up. Not in regret, but in fear.

I seriously doubted my ability to parent a boy, to connect with a boy. I adored the pink and the ruffles, the outfits and the sass of girls. I loved the wide open field of options to girls: be a tomboy, be a girlie-girl, be a science enthusiast, or a theater buff… society allowed for it all. Boys, though, their socially accepted fields of interest were narrowed and dangerous prejudice provided steep fences between sanctioned and unapproved interests. That scared me.

And so, I grew rounder and #2 grew larger. 17.5 weeks later, he made his debut. He looked exactly like my husband: nearly black hair, almond shaped eyes, and pointed features. He was precious. He was calm. He was perfect. He was healthy. I could not possibly love him more.

Days turned into months and #2 grew. He lengthened and pudged, transforming into a fair-skinned, round-featured infant with thick black eyelashes and big, crystal blue eyes. He was cuddly and playful, easy-going and a great sleeper. He was the opposite of my needy, assertive, headstrong, sleep-challenged daughter.

#2 turned 2… the tantrums ensued. They never reached the 30-minute screaming fests #1 waged. He didn’t have the stamina, the focus, the stubbornness. He was open to relenting. He also caused a whole new type of mischievous mayhem than #1 had ever attempted. Gates were obstacle courses, air vents were portals of mystery, toilet paper rolls were activity centers, mud puddles were for sitting, and his genitalia was his own personal fascinating, ever-present amusement. The world was to be deconstructed to be understood, limits were to be repeatedly tested to be accepted.

Months turned into years and #2 became a preschooler. Unlike my fashionista daughter, he didn’t care what clothes he wore; mostly he just preferred to go pantless. Best friends with his big sister, enthralled by princesses and mermaids, fascinated by airplanes and helicopters, #2 didn’t fit a standard mold. I learned each day from him. He saw the world differently from me. He opened my eyes. He made me laugh every single day.

Now, I look at my silly, sweet, professional-little-brother son and think how perfectly it all worked out. I am so glad someone much smarter than me is running the show. I am happily a boy mom, though I still have much to learn.

 

Beach Trips Then and Now

“This will be your last relaxing vacation for at least a decade. Enjoy sitting now!” A mom wrangling three young children on the beach once told me as I sunned my 34-weeks round self on a pre-first-baby vacation. I smiled, thinking that Hubs and I were excited for just that eventuality.

As young beach-going adults, Hubs and I would wake up late, go out to a lazy breakfast, get dressed for the beach, walk to the seaside with a towel over our shoulder and drink in our hand, and find our sandy spot as young families made their naptime exodus.

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Hubs would get restless after a while, but witnessing the antics of children on the beach was enough entertainment to satisfy us both. We loved watching their wobbly trudges through soggy sand, reveled in their youthful fascination with the surf, and speculated about how we’d address hypothetical tantrums. “Beach trips will be so much fun when we have kids,” we’d say imagining sand-dusted baby rolls and seaside castle-building.

After a few hours on the beach, we’d head back to the house, shower, nap, get an afternoon coffee, relax, wander through town, and go out for the evening. Now, a decade and three kids later, our beach trips are much different.

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#3 wakes at 6:15, I lumber downstairs with him to pump while trying not to wake the entire house with his pack-and-play protests, #1 awakes around 7:30am and eats her breakfast while watching a show on the Kindle, #3 plays in the tub while I get ready for the day, then #2 awakes by 8:00am to eat. By 9:15am our cooler is packed and we’re lotioning up for the beach.

Seaside, we unload ourselves from the minivan. With #3 strapped to my chest, #1 and #2 hold my hands as I walk ahead of Hubs who pushes the fully loaded beach cart stacked with beach chairs, a foldable tent, beach toys, the cooler, the diaper bag, and towels. Our herd sets up camp near the ocean and there our morning of wrangling and digging, refereeing and shell-hunting, laughing and eating begins. Sitting happens in 2-3 minute increments. Lounging is a distant memory. Boredom is a forgotten sentiment.

Around midday, #2 and #3 begin to melt. It’s naptime and time to head back. We fold, stack, and pack our beach plot into the cart. We trudge to the minivan, the beach clinging to our sweaty, SPF’ed skin. “Get in you car seats. I’ll check your buckling.” I call to #1 and #2 as they scramble into the van while Hubs loads the trunk and I harness #3 into his car seat.

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As we pull out of our parking space, our former selves walk past us, towel over their shoulder and drink in their hand. By the time they hit the sand, we are home. Exactly where we always wanted to be.

Is Having Three Kids That Hard?

“How is it having three kids?” It’s a question people usually ask as they attempt to camouflage their shock (and occasional muted horror) upon learning I have three kids under 5. Honestly, it has its moments — many of them… daily — but it truly is not as anxious and stressful a time as the life-bending, mind-spinning, beautiful upheaval of having your first child. It’s also not as ego-shredding as the inevitable chaos and calamity of shifting to having two children.

With your third child, very little is new. Diaper rash: been there. Growth spurts and potty-training: lived it. Weird, fun, and loathsome phases: check! It’s all familiar. You know all of the run-of-the-mill childhood viruses — Roseola, Coxsackie, Fifth’s Disease — and can generally tell the difference between allergies, teething, and a cold. Though, by your third child, noses are like butts: you wipe others’ more frequently than your own on a daily basis.

By the time you have the third kid, it takes a lot to rile you. Baby licks a trashcan: immune system boost! Baby refuses baby food: temporary cost savings… you know he won’t go to college exclusively breast/formula fed. Baby gnaws on the toy that the kid with the nasal deluge just licked: ehh, you’ve got a Nose FrIda and saline spray. Baby is slow to walk: score… a temporary reprieve from the eventual mayhem. Baby pops a dried leaf in his mouth: ruffage! 

With the third child you’ve learned that child development and parenting books are generalizations, not Bibles or fodder for competition. You’ve perfected your response to unsavory unsolicited parenting commentaries. You’ve realized babies are heartier than you’d suspect. You’ve mastered the death glare and become immune to the public tantrum. Essentially, your give-a-shit has been lowered mightily to a nice, comfy level.

You’re calmer and more knowledgeable, harried and constantly covered in someone else’s bodily functions, but you’re cool with it. Chaos is your comfort zone.

You know that everything — every phase, stage, achievement, and struggle — is temporary. You learn to savor the good and trust that the bad will be but a memory in due time.

Having three kids is challenging but it has its perks. I wouldn’t trade it for the world (or a solid night of uninterrupted sleep.)

 

 

 

In a World of Killer Vegetables

In a world in which even frozen vegetables could kill us, I say choose your battles and keep it moving. We’re guaranteed to seem reckless, overprotective, uneducated, paranoid, lazy, over-achieving, or misguided to someone no matter what we do. There will be studies and articles and blogs and soothsayers that will oppose our every step. So, go with your gut and do your best.

Wearing sunscreen can be lethal, but not wearing sunscreen is also deadly. You should get daily doses of vitamin-D through unprotected time in the sun, but the sun is a cancer-causing fireball of death.

Mosquitoes are hazardous, yet bugspray is poisonous. And don’t even consider pesticides… SAVE THE BEES! Weed-killers are for Earth-haters but the “wild meadow” look has yet to be sanctioned by the HOA. Plastic is toxic but glass is toddler-unfriendly (and dowright hazardous to us accident-prone folks.) Tampons can kill you, yet pads are anything but “green” and menstrual cups are downright unsanitary. Whatever you do, though, don’t you dare go free-bleeding! “Breast is best” or is “formula fairest”? No matter what, hide your nipples and cover that cleavage because boobs are for porn and Victoria’s Secret ads only.

Screw it!

I’ll just be over here in a deadly sun spot wearing my Earth-hating disposable nursing pads and coating myself in the last of my poisonous spray-on sunscreen (because it was on clearance, dammit!), as I maniacally eat my lysteria-soaked frozen vegetables out of a reusable cancer-causing plastic container while swatting at murderous mosquitoes and dodging allergenic endangered bees in my weed-adorned yard. Thanks!