3 Things Every Parent Should Know About the Baby Stage

For 6 years I had a toddler or infant in the house. Now, nearing my 7th year as a parent — with a newly minted 3-year-old, a 5-year-old, and a nearly-7-year-old — I can reflect with greater clarity on that precious, wholly exhausting, messy, beautiful time. In doing so I’ve discovered 3 important things every parent should know about the baby stage.

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1. EVERYTHING IS TEMPORARY. If you haven’t yet learned that every single stage, phase, good time, rough patch, annoying habit, and terrifying challenge is temporary, you’re most certainly new to the parenting game. As soon as you gloat about your child’s brilliance at creating 3-word sentences well ahead of developmental norms, they’re licking the storefront window. As soon as you feel like your child will never poop in the potty, the digestive dilemma is no more. As soon as you wonder when you’ll ever get your body back, your child weans. As soon as you really begin enjoying the morning cuddle routine, it’s over and replaced with another habit. As soon as you begin to think you will never again not be a heap of saggy, leaking, oddly pillow-like human randomly crying into your 3-day-old breastmilk stained pajamas in a mixture of fear, deep sadness, exhaustion, and raging postpartum hormones, you exit the hole. As soon as you think, “Will these needy, week-long days ever end?” They’re over. All of it comes to an end; positive and challenging. And you may loathe reading this if you’re presently in the parenting trenches with no light peeking above your laundry piles of spit-up and diaper-blowout stained onesies, but it’s true: it goes fast — faster than you can ever imagine — these are the good, hard (incredibly hard), long, worthwhile days.

2. IT GETS WORSE BEFORE IT GETS BETTER. Think of most any developmental leap, milestone, or change and you can pretty much guarantee that things took a nose dive before the ride got smoother. Potty-training: a regression is bound to happen before you’re in dry pants territory. Sleeping: you’re going to hit (multiple) regressions and blips before you get some semblance of solid sleep. Walking: they go from speedy independent all-fours (or some variant) mobility to a rickety, slow gait before a sturdy walk is established. The first high fever bug: that thermometer reading has to keep going up and up (along with your blood pressure) until it eventually inches down. And afterwards, all of that stress and worry and strain remains as nothing but a memory. So know that if you’re at a parenting point when you end each day exhausted in all ways, doubting yourself and your abilities, feeling frustrated and stressed beyond what you ever knew possible, and wondering:”Will this ever end?” Know it will. And trust that this is just the precursor to improvement.

3. IT’S SURVIVABLE AND SAVORABLE You will have days when you lower your personal performance bar to such a degree that you refuse to be witnessed by any outsiders… your goal is survival. That’s ok. Those days (or a week) are normal. Nope, you’re not a failure. Nope, you’re not doing anything or everything wrong. Yep, it happens to everyone — EVERYONE — just people don’t admit it. But amidst it all, you can find a way to savor it. Savor your child’s smile in between tantrums or the sweetness of your child’s finally sleeping face or your own strength for being there despite everything going sideways. You may read this in the thick of things and think I’m full of it, but just try it: savor it. I’m not saying relish the crappy moments. No, those can stay sucky. I’m saying ignore the big picture of awful and appreciate the snapshots of good. In those tiny hidden moments you’ll find something to savor. There’s always something, no matter how small. Just look for it. Squint if you need to.

In no time at all you’ll be looking back on where you’ve been and think, “Wow, that was a shitshow, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world!” This is your life, your child’s life; don’t wish it away for what it isn’t. Don’t ignore all the pitfalls and spin it into what it never was. Dig in and appreciate it for what it is.

Survive it. Savor it. One day at a time.

How Veganism Affects My Parenting

I’m a vegan. I’m a mom. Sometimes this can make things challenging.

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I believe in being honest and open with my children. I believe in speaking to them as intelligent fellow-humans who can process properly phrased answers to their questions, even if I find answering those questions uncomfortable. However my veganism can complicate this.

How? Animal welfare and food-related questions happen. Heck, in our minivan ALL kinds of questions happen! And I answer those questions but I must try to do so in a truthful, informative way that doesn’t force my vegan views on my children but allows them to make their own informed decisions for themselves. Because the best I can do as a parent is provide my children with unconditional love, honest answers, digestible information, unwavering support, solid structure, clear moral guidance, and an accepting environment that fosters their ability to be autonomous individuals.

You see, I view my veganism to be my personal choice for myself. And just as I do not believe I have the right to alter my children’s bodies because it is not my body therefore not my choice, I feel I cannot in full moral and ethical standing force them to follow my personal lifestyle path (ex: diet, religion, hobbies, sexual orientation, political beliefs, etc.) What is right for me is not right for all, even if I’d love to think it was.

When my daughter initially began asking where certain foods came from she felt conflicted between enjoying meat and feeling sad for the animals. That was a struggle I, myself, had faced for decades. So, I offered her a solution. I told her that if she felt eating meat was the right choice for her, she could eat the meat but say a prayer to the animal saying that she was sorry that it suffered and died but thanking it for filling her belly. Then she’d have to eat her entire animal-based serving so as not to have had the animal die unnecessarily. This worked for her quite well for a while.

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Now, my house is a dietary smorgasbord. My husband is a lacto-pescatarian, my daughter is a dairy-allergic pescatarian, my middle son is a peanut- and dairy-allergic omnivore, and my youngest is technically an omnivore but is naturally more of a lacto-vegetarian as he dislikes the texture of any meat beyond hot dogs and chicken nuggets (and let’s be honest, nothing in nature is the texture of a hot dog or chicken nugget.) Then there’s dairy-allergic, gluten-intolerant vegan me. We’re all doing what’s right for us as individuals.

Some vegans may have a problem with my parenting style. They may claim I am not a vegan because I am not forcing my children and husband to eat a vegan diet all of the time. That judgment is inconsequential to me. Their problem with my parenting is just that: their problem, and not my own.

Veganism is right for me, but it’s not right for everyone (even if I wish it was.) My kids have the right to choose as much as I did. Meanwhile, they’ll learn the deliciousness that veganism can offer through our meals at home.

 

5 Misconceptions about Vegans

The word “vegan” can trigger eyerolls and disgusted huffs from grandmas and death metal rockers, alike. There’s quite a stigma attached to the label. Are all of the assumptions wrong? Nope. There are assholes in any group. But there are some generalizations that are just all wrong.

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I was once a serious omnivore who loved to try new food. Goat, sashimi, lamb, raw shellfish, octopus, ostrich, alligator… I ate with adventure. Then came my dairy allergy. Next, an inability to properly digest most meat after my gallbladder removal, followed by an ethical awakening. Then a gluten intolerance. Now — a dairy-allergic, gluten-free vegan — I eat with conscience and consciousness.

MYTH 1: VEGANS EAT SALAD. Vegans eat all kinds of fare — from veggie-based casseroles to soups, stews, curries, and loads of veganized comfort food, pasta to nachos, ice cream to pie, tofu or chickpea scrambles to veggie burgers and mock-meat indulgences — vegan food is delicious and varied. Anyone who thinks vegans just eat salad has never met a vegan. If anything vegans consider what omnivores accept as vegetable dishes sad. Produce can taste and be and do so much more than just sit huddled in a steamed-and-salted pile on the side of a plate.

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MYTH 2: VEGANS ARE MILITANT. Are there some vegans who are out to forcibly shame and shock everyone into joining their ranks? Yes. But the same can be said for various sects of society. Portions of groups as wide-ranging as La Leche League to Evangelical Christians have members who are abrasive and vocal in their beliefs, but that doesn’t mean all are so brutish. Many vegans are just living and eating in a way that suits them. They won’t try to convert you and they don’t judge you. Heck, many ate and lived just like you for decades before something in their life — whether it be an awakening of the conscience, a medical condition, an aversion, an environmental awareness, or something else entirely — took hold and shifted their lives. Sure, they would love if you chose to join their herbivore ranks, but they honor that that’s something for you to choose (or not.)

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MYTH 3: VEGANS ARE DIRTY HIPPIES. Now, I generally prefer a good love-and-peace hippie over a hyper-competitive elitist corporate type, but that’s personal preference. Either way, vegans come from all walks of life. From Ellen DeGeneres to UFC champion, Mac Danzing; from singer and songwriter, Bryan Adams to housewives (like me); from author, philosopher, and neuroscientist, Sam Harris to college students and teens. Raising children not just vegetarian but vegan is becoming increasingly common, so if vegans are becoming increasingly common now (having doubled their numbers in the US since 1994),  they’ll be everywhere in a solid decade.

MYTH 4: VEGANS ARE SICKLY. It’s true that most vegans could benefit from a b12 and possibly an iron supplement, but omnivores are notoriously malnourished and would be advised to take nutritional supplements as well. Despite omnivores being able to eat everything served to them, they rarely consume all of the right nutrients in the right balance in order to live a supplement-free life. However, unlike an omnivorous diet, vegan eating can offer such benefits as reduced arthritis pain, lowered risk of certain cancers, lessened risk of heart disease and high blood pressure. So, all of that said, vegan diets don’t necessitate poor health, just as omnivore diets don’t guarantee good health.

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MYTH 5: EATING VEGAN IS EXPENSIVE. A bag of dried beans will be cheaper than store-bought meat any day. Sure, some vegans can have a pricier grocery bill than others if they rely on mock-meats, dairy substitutes, convenience food, and out-of-season produce. However, I have yet to experience an equivalent monthly grocery bill as a vegan to what we had as a 5-person family of omnivores. We slashed $50-$100 off of our weekly grocery bill (despite our third child eating more solid food than before) as soon as we ditched meat. And the more whole, in-season foods we buy, the deeper the discount. Now, I am aware that veganism isn’t accessible for everyone as vegan options can be hard to find in food deserts, but for those who live with reasonable grocery options, going meat-free is a money saver.

What other myths have you encountered about vegans?

Taking the Aversion Out of Bottle-Aversion: Step-by-Step Bottle (Re)Introduction

A return to work, a medical procedure, visits at Grandma’s, date nights, a shred of autonomy… there are countless reasons why a breastfeeding parent would need to introduce (or re-introduce) Baby to bottle. The problem: bottle-aversion is not uncommon and, man, it’s a pain!

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Two of my three children were bottle-averse. Like any sleep-deprived, anxious mom, there were times I worried and wondered if they’d ever accept a bottle. But, in time, they did accept the bottle. All it took was a step-by-step process of introduction. This same method has worked like a charm for friends, fellow pumping moms, and milk recipients with whom I’ve shared this.

If you have tried (re)introducing the bottle to your baby but it’s just not working, take a few steps back, regroup, talk yourself off of the anxiety ledge, then see if this process works for your bottle-averse babe. It’s worth a shot!

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STEP 1: CALL IN BACK-UP.

What you’ll need:

– A caregiver who is not the breastfeeder

What you’ll do:

Ideally the non-nursing parent or another caregiver would be the one to introduce Baby to bottle. Mom and her much-preferred breast buffet should not even be in the home during the introduction. Mom can go for a mini-stroll, nap in the car, sit on the front stoop… just not immediately available. Babies are smarter than we give them credit for. Heck, if someone handed you a plate of reheated leftovers while holding a tray of freshly made food, which would you pick?

Take the fresh meal out of the equation and make the leftovers (aka: pumped breastmilk) the only option. Of course if another caregiver is not available, the following steps can absolutely be employed by the breastfeeding parent; it just might require a bit more stamina.

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STEP 2: PUMP IT. WARM IT. DIP IT.

What you’ll need:

– 1oz freshly expressed breast milk

– 1 baby bottle with nipple

– 1 mug of warm (not hot) water

– Patience

What you’ll do:

When introducing the bottle to Baby, start with just 1oz of freshly pumped breast milk (we’re talking milk that is still at body temperature.) Limiting the introductory amount to 1oz lessens possible waste, because any pumping mom knows crying over spilled breast milk is totally acceptable. While pumping, submerge the bottle nipple in a mug of warm (not hot) water. This will help make the bottle nipple more like the warm, supple human nipple as opposed to a cool, rubbery manmade nipple. Just before feeding Baby the 1oz, remove the bottle nipple from the warming mug and dip the warmed nipple tip into the expressed breast milk. The fresh milk on the warm bottle nipple acts as a “MILK IN HERE!!” flashing arrow sign for Baby. Then try calmly feeding Baby the bottle. If it doesn’t work, relax. Redirect Baby’s attention briefly and give it another attempt or two, but never make the process stressful or unpleasant for Baby. We want this to be a comfortable, cozy, enticing experience.

Once your baby has grown to accept the freshly expressed milk in a bottle, move to step 3.

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STEP 3: CHILL IT. WARM IT. DIP IT.

What you’ll need:

– 1oz refrigerated breast milk (no more than a day old)

– 1 baby bottle with nipple

– 1 mug of warm (not hot) water

– Patience

What you’ll do:

Repeat the same process of warming and dipping the bottle nipple as noted above, but this time add 1oz of warmed, previously refrigerated expressed breast milk (aim for no more than a day old so that milk is still somewhat fresh.)

This transition may take a bit of patience, but keep at it. Be sure to maintain the goal of a positive, peaceful introduction though.

Once Baby accepts previously refrigerated breast milk in a bottle, move to step 4

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STEP 4: FREEZE IT. THAW IT. WARM IT. DIP IT.

What you’ll need:

– 1oz frozen breast milk

– 1 baby bottle with nipple

– 1 mug of warm (not hot) water

– Patience

What you’ll do:

Now that Baby has begun tolerating previously refrigerated milk, it’s time to try previously frozen milk. Pour 1oz of thawed, warmed, previously frozen breast milk into a bottle. Repeat the same bottle nipple warming and dipping from steps 2 and 3. Then, just as before, introduce the bottle to Baby in a comfortable, calm, peaceful manner.

This may take a few attempts. That’s ok. Be patient.

Once previously frozen milk is a go, move on to step 5.

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STEP 5: FREEZE IT. THAW IT. WARM IT. DON’T DIP IT.

What you’ll need:

– 1oz frozen breast milk

– 1 baby bottle with nipple

– 1 mug of warm (not hot) water

What you’ll do:

Since Baby now accepts frozen bottled breast milk, let’s take things up a notch. Let’s ditch the nipple dipping and see if Baby still goes for the milk.

Just as in step 4, you will thaw, warm, and bottle 1oz of previously frozen breast milk. WARM the bottle nipple in the mug of warm water but do not dip the nipple tip in the milk before serving Baby.

In all likelihood, this should be an easy test by comparison since, by now, Baby is aware that bottle nipples like lactating nipples are milk portals.

Once this step is successfully accomplished, move to step 6.

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STEP 6: FREEZE IT. THAW IT. SERVE IT.

What you’ll need:

– 1oz frozen breast milk

– 1 baby bottle with nipple

What you’ll do:

So by now Baby will take any kind of breast milk provided: straight from the tap, fresh and bottled, previously frozen and bottled. Now let’s see if we can ditch the nipple warming.

Thaw, warm, and bottle 1oz of previously frozen breast milk as you have in prior steps. Now, without any bottle nipple prep, see if Baby accepts the bottle. This should be a low-key endeavor, especially if dropping the nipple dipping was an easy undertaking.

Once this has been accomplished, move to step 7.

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STEP 7: TAKE A BOW!

Seriously. You did it!! Go you! Your baby is now able to gain sustenance from human and faux nipples. Congrats!

A Family First

This year is the first year we could all go sledding. All five of us. What a feat!

For the first time in nearly eight years, I finally wasn’t pregnant or nursing a newborn. No one was too little to enjoy careening down a snow-covered incline. We could all do it together. This was new territory.

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All three kids — 2.5, nearly-5, and 6.5 years old — successfully bundled and buttoned in layers to ward against the March snow. The Hubs and I suited up — ready to herd — and off we all went. Trekking through winter’s last hoorah on our way to the neighborhood sledding spot.

Two sleds, three kids, a few tantrums, and a good 20 minutes later, we made it. Up and down, giggles and snowballs. It was a time you store away with easy accessibility in your mind. The kind of recollection you revisit like an old slideshow, smiling at the mental memory reel. A treasure.

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This excursion was the doorway into our new chapter. One of slightly more freedom. More opportunity for new experiences and adventure. More cohesiveness as opposed to divide-and-conquer.

This year we break away from 10 years of trying to conceive, pregnancy, and babies. No more naps or diaper bag, onesies or highchair, bibs or booties. The baby gates are still in use, but the Pack-and-Play is long stowed away. We are in a different place this year.

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And I’m not as sad as I thought I’d be. I feel ready. Open. Welcoming to the new life season unfolding before us.

It will be a good one. I know it.

The Other Side of Shyness: How I Stopped Being Shy

As far back as I can remember I was shy. I was scared to speak with strangers, even for something as trivial as ordering food at a restaurant. My heart would race, my throat would clench, my mind would spin on how I’d be perceived… how I’d be judged. Now, I don’t care.

I remember one afternoon circa 1993, when my mom stopped the hunter green minivan with the faux-wood paneling, handed me money, and told me to run into the convenience store to get milk. I curled into myself and shook my head. I was NOT going. Give me a tetanus shot, make me do dishes, heck have me scoop dog poo… anything but have to talk to the cashier. No. Way. My sister — two years my junior with not one ounce of social anxiety and lax impulse restraint — leapt from her seat reaching for the $5 bill. “I’ll do it! I’ll do it!” She clamored. “No,” my mom said, yanking the money away from my sister’s reach, “your sister needs the practice.” My sister balked. I crumbled. I survived the 2-minute errand, but it was far from a cure. Bless my mother

Decades went by and I was still shy. Cashiers and waitstaff no longer made me shrivel, but I would never dream of entering an unfamiliar room and striking up a conversation. Making friends was hard. Really hard.

More often than I’d like to admit, there were incidents in my early life when a close friend sought to expand the social circle, not wanting to end our friendship, but simply wanting to add to the group. Anxiety and ego inevitably overwhelmed me, and I would foolishly take the request as a traitorous dagger (which it was not — at all — but just try telling me that back then!) Because I couldn’t fathom reaching out to gather more friendships, I was jealous of others’ ability to do so. I felt vulnerable and defensive. Lesser. So I would get angry and end the friendship. Stupid, right? Yep.

Come young adulthood, the first years of corporate life were challenging. Most of my coworkers were at least a decade my senior and in different life stages than recent-college-grad me. I made myself even more guarded with a “work” me and a “home” me, hoping to off-set my obvious youth with professionalism. Needless to say, that level of detachment paired with shyness was not conducive to numerous work friendships.

Then I got engaged. People I barely knew would approach me with wedding-related questions throughout a workday. My shyness was waning with the increased socializing. One wedding and a few years later, I was pregnant. My world changed.

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Being pregnant granted me access to a secret club that was constantly seeking members: parents! That baby belly was like a beacon to any parent — young, old, first-time, or seasoned — and even grandparents to immediately strike up conversation. And once I was really showing, the world had a talking point in full view. As long as I kept a sense of humor and viewed awkward questions and others’ verbal diarrhea as fodder for my mental “shit people say” list, it was all good.

Then, I had my first child. I was set on giving her a variety of experiences, getting her socialized, getting her out. I took her to mom meet-ups and baby-and-me tumbling classes, story times and swim classes. We did something every day.

One day, as I entered a mom meet-up, I felt the anxiety and internal concerns over others’ perceptions bubble up within me. Then, I looked down at my chubtastic baby and thought: “but I have a built-in buddy!” And I was at ease. Being alone in a busy room without someone to talk to wasn’t so scary anymore because I had my daughter beside me. I was OK.

Not too long after, I had my middle son. I was so busy nursing my newborn while chasing my toddler, I didn’t have the time to worry what others thought. Instead, I sought out friends who resonated with me, who shared perspectives and viewpoints with me, who could relate to my present life stage. I still hesitated before reaching out, but I was getting better.

Two years later, I had my third child and by then I was comfortable with myself. I was so focused on my own standard daily chaos that I could hardly care less if you gave me the side-eye for having a tantruming toddler (that says more about you than me, afterall) or balked at my snot-smeared yoga pants and breastmilk-spotted nursing cami. I had way too much stuff to wrangle to worry about that. Even more, I realized most other people were like me and had too much going on in their own heads and lives to give me much thought! So why assume they’re judging me harshly when I may not even be on their radar or, if I am, maybe it’s positively so. If they are actually being mentally critical of me, why should I care anyway?

Less shy, I began conversing freely with fellow moms at playgrounds, classes, story times, and in the grocery store. After two incidents when I let my fear stand in the way of asking, “Want to do a playdate sometime?” (The mom version of “Wanna grab a drink?”) and subsequently suffered missed-friendship regret, I decided to do better.

I began listening to my gut, honoring my intuition. If I was drawn to connect, smile at, or chat up someone — even if I didn’t immediately understand why — I did it. And that is how I began making some of my dearest, strongest friendships: listening to my inner self, not my fears.

I was now on the other side of shyness. I could easily enter a room with confidence, seek out a person with whom I could relate, and start a conversation. I became the human shepherd, constantly aware of those on the periphery, gauging shyness verses disinterest. If I sensed shyness, I tried to bring them into the fold. If I felt a group with whom I was talking appeared unwelcoming or closed-off to others, I changed my positioning and body language to open the circle. I never wanted to make others feel the way I had so long felt: judged, alone.

I had not realized how far I’d come until recently at the playground. A mom I’d only met last year was floored to hear I was ever shy. I was floored she was floored! Little did she know, I spent more of my existence shy than not. I surely have changed. And for that I am grateful.

The world is a brighter, friendlier place when you’re on the other side of shyness. I like it here.

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.

Small Victories: Sometimes We’re All Stupid

Sometimes we’re stupid. Sometimes we’re brilliant. Sometimes this is a victory in and of itself.

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You see this cup of coffee? It was hard won. After a week of shoddy sleep — thanks to a wakeful, nursing toddler — and a morning of wack-a-mole style kid meltdowns, I was running of fumes by noon. Mama. Needed. Coffee.

I put my toddler down for a nap while my older two played on the deck. Then, I began to ready the coffee maker. My sleep-deprived mind filled with all of the glorious possibilities ahead of me — the boundless energy and amplified patience, the miraculously well-behaved brood and angelic giggles — that this cup of coffee would provide.

First, I poured the grounds into the water tank. Damn! Next, while cleaning the machine, I turned the entire device upside down over the sink just to have all of the unsecured parts fall directly onto my bare feet. Ouch! Then, machine cleansed and grounds ready to be properly inserted, I fumbled the cup of coffee grounds and poured the entire mound of caffeination granules all over the kitchen counter. GAH! After extracting coffee grounds from underneath every counter-dwelling appliance, I carefully — carefully — prepared my cup of coffee. Taking excess caution not to mangle my own efforts this time.

I did it! I was not stupid.  (This time.)

I loaded the dishwasher, listening to the coffee drip into my mug, feeling quite accomplished in my remedial coffee brewing success. I collected my mug of sweet liquid energy and grinned. I sat down on the sofa to take a much-needed break, stretching my stumpy legs and bare feet out onto the cushions, and sinking back into the pillows. Then: “WAH!!!!”

My 4-year-old tried to close the deck door behind himself while holding the interior door handle. Yes, he closed the door on his own hand. Like mother like son.

Maybe tomorrow we’ll be smarter. But for now, I’ll take my luke-warm coffee as my participation award.

When Mommy is caffeinated, everyone wins. Small victories.

Spring Break Snippets

This Spring Break we made a trip to a local beach. I grew up vacationing there, so sharing the experience with my children is priceless. Seeing my kids frolic in the same waves, scamper on the same sand, and skip through the same little town I once did is heartwarming. Hearing them say they have the same warm adoration for that little oasis that I do makes my heart swell.

However, any parent who has traveled with children knows that a vacation is not a “vacation” anymore once there are small children involved. Fun? Memorable? Filled with laughter? Yes! Relaxing? Leisurely? Calm? Hahahaha… no.

That is why grabbing hold of blessed bits of beauty and rare fleeting moments of silence amidst the relocated (and at times amplified) chaos is a practice in gratitude and sanity. Here were some of my precious excerpts.

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Breastfeeding my toddler seaside. A rare sweet nursing moment amidst the gymnurstics stage.

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Two whole minutes of blissful silence. Thanks to two kids on Kindles and one kid taking a brief nap. It was short but delightful.

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The excitement upon cresting the dune onto the beach and seeing a gorgeous day ahead.

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We reconnected with beach friends we’d made years ago. Seeing the kids fall right back into their playful rhythm as we chatted happily was heartwarming. I adored my childhood beach friends. Now my children are beginning to experience that loveliness.

Lessons of My Tantruming Toddlers

So this was my Target run this morning with my cute little, potbellied, snot-nosed companion.

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#3 Tantrums amidst candy and beer

Gold-star parenting, taking a photo of my raging 1.5-year-old, right? Pffft… the photo was worth it.

I remember back when my first child (now a sparkle-loving, highly articulate, graceful-as-an-elephant kindergartener) would throw public tantrums. Oh how I would shrivel! My face grew red, I could feel real and perceived eyes on me. I gave SO many shits about what others thought. Granted, when my bull-headed mini-me would rage she would do so for at least 30 minutes. No amount of distraction or redirection, ignoring or punishing would calm the storm. She just needed to let loose until the tides turned. And so she did. And so I learned.

Along came my second child. My daughter, but 20-months old at the time of his birth, was still in the infancy of her tantrum season. We’d walk the aisles of a grocery store and she’d wail. We’d shop Target and she’d walk behind me losing her ever-loving mind. Her infant brother, tucked neatly into his stroller, had been prepared for these animal noises in-utero, so he was utterly unaffected by her demonic yowl-and-flail maneuvers. I’d remain outwardly calm, inwardly reminding myself to stay steady, willing myself to pale the increasing blush in my cheeks. I’d nod at the reassuring smiles from on-lookers, I’d respond to kind words with a silently mouthed “thank you.” I’d ignore unsolicited advice to “teach her a lesson” or “get out the belt.” I kept on with my errand. I preserved.

My second child came of age and would tantrum in public. He’d sit down in the middle of a busy aisle or attempt to run across the street and I’d scoop him up into the crook of my elbow so that his belly rested on my hip, his squat legs kicking the air behind me. We’d go about our errand or family walk as he flailed in my arm, securely positioned in the “carry of shame.” Often both he and his sister would simultaneously unleash their inner demons. Onlookers would reassuringly smile and I’d smile back. Passersby would offer kind words and I’d respond in jest. After a few minutes, he’d relent, his sister would eventually follow suit. He knew his sister had calloused me; he could not win.

Then my third child arrived, 2.5 years after my second. He tantrums and I giggle. He hops with anger in a store aisle and I stop to take a picture. Do onlookers sneer or even notice? I haven’t the faintest. Do people seem unsettled by the fussing of a toddler in a public space? I neither know nor care. I’m just living the fleeting humorous moment, because this too shall pass.