Happy Second Birthday, Blog!

Two years I’ve been blogging, now. So much has changed in that time. My life, my children, my eating, my friends, my path. Let’s delve into some of the transition and transformation, shall we?

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When I first started the blog, I had two preschoolers and a baby at home. Now, I have two preschoolers and a first grader. For the first time in seven years I am neither pregnant nor raising a baby!

Two years ago, I was a dairy-allergic omnivore who proudly pumped three times daily in order to donate breastmilk. Now — still dairy allergic — I eat a plant-based, gluten-free diet, and my former true omnivore husband has since become a pescatarian like our daughter. I am no longer pumping or a 24-hour boob buffet, but I am nursing my littlest 2-3 times daily, mainly for comfort in the morning, rest time, and before bed.

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Back when the blog was new, we used to have preschool in the morning, rest time, a playdate, dinner, then bath and bedtime. I had little flexibility to volunteer at my childrens’ school or do more than a brief outing away from my littlest, as I was on 24/7 boob duty. Plus, I was exhausted. The way I knew I’d somehow managed some REM sleep the night before was if I actually managed to properly brew my morning tea. Now, all three kids generally sleep through the night in their own rooms.

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Though our weekday schedule is a bit more chaotic these days, I am freer than I once was. I have taken on and given myself more duties over the past two years. I volunteer at my daughter’s school every-other week or so and plan most of my middle son’s class parties, which is funny because though I am a planner I do not consider myself much of a party planner. I lead one of the two bi-weekly mom meet-ups for my sons’ school, which is a gathering I only developed this year. Though small, it has created a lovely community and outlet for shared knowledge. I often have coffee once a week with a cherished friend, volunteer weekly as an ambassador at a yoga studio, and somehow grocery shop, cook, clean, and meal plan between school drop-offs and pick-ups.

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No longer the baby he was when this blog began, my youngest attends preschool two mornings each week. My middle son goes four mornings, whereas two years ago he only attended two days per week, They both have individual time with my mom on Wednesdays, which is a beautiful thing. Meanwhile, my eldest is in full-day school five days a week as opposed to her old schedule of four mornings at preschool. After we pick up my eldest from school, we make a quick jaunt to the playground and back home for homework time. Next comes dinner and extracurrilculars in some frenzied order.

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Two years ago, my middle son enjoyed gymnastics and swim classes at the community center. Now he is finishing up his current Tae Kwon Do session in favor of his much preferred figure skating lessons. He loves skating, or as he calls it: “dancing on the ice!”

Two years ago my daughter was doing ballet and swim classes at the community center. She now enjoys her Tae Kwon Do classes, with a long-range goal of earning her black belt, and cherishes her weekly yoga classes at a local coffee shop. She wants to take up piano but I have yet to wiggle that into the schedule and budget.

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Back when I started this blog, my life revolved around food: meal planning, grocery shopping, cooking, pumping for donation, breastfeeding, helping others navigate nursing hurdles. I desperately wanted to continue my coursework to become an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC.) I have since realized that the IBCLC goal is a distant if not wishful aspiration. The 1,000 patient hours alone that I would need to complete — in addition to further course requirements — before I even sit for the certification exam are not attainable for me in the foreseeable future, at least not considering my personal family priorities and preferences. Instead, life has shifted me towards yoga.

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Two years ago my exercise mindset was all about shedding weight and gaining muscle. A very: “Push! Push! Push! No pain no gain!” mentality. I was unforgiving of myself and expected nothing but forward momentum. Jillian Michael’s “30-Day Shred” and PiYo were my jam, as I could do them at home during naptimes. Then, I started yoga via Boho Beautiful on YouTube in late 2016. It sparked a change in me that has extended into all parts of my life.

I have moved from doing daily at-home YouTube-lead yoga to doing self-lead in-home daily yoga and in-studio yoga 2-3 times per week. A favorite yoga teacher-turned-friend spurred me to become a yoga ambassador (story here) with the goal of entering yoga teacher training in the fall. I, then, plan to earn my kids yoga instruction certification. I never would’ve suspected this shift two years ago but I look in all directions now and love it wholeheartedly.

The person I’ve become and who I am becoming, my winding life path, the people I’ve encountered and welcomed into my life, the relationships that have deepened and those that have passed, my children’s development and growth as unique individuals, my ever-strengthening partnership with my husband… all of it is different. All of it is good.

Considering how much in my life has changed over the last two years, I cannot imagine what I’ll be writing two years from now. Thank you for following me on my journey! Tag along for the ride, surviving and savoring parenthood one day at a time.

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Finding My Path: Learning to Say “YES!”

This year was the lull in my journey. The necessary resting phase before change rattled its way through my life. I knew that. I honored that. As a type-A planner, I had a hard time accepting that. Then I learned to say, “YES!”

As summer turned to fall and we bid the beach farewell, I felt a simultaneous sadness and trepidation. I was sad to see the chapter close; I knew this summer marked the end of not just an annual season but a life season. I felt in my core that I was entering a transition phase. But into what was I transitioning?

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Fall was busy with adjustment to the school year. I eventually settled into the pattern and, once comfortable, that’s when my mind began whirring. “What is my path?” “What should I be doing?” “When will I be able to pursue my lactation consultant goals?” In response, the wiser portion of my mind whispered, “Appreciate the lull.” I knew with absolute certainty that life would unfold in its own time, but — let’s be honest — waiting sucks. Especially when you’re a planner.

So I filled my time. Errands, yoga, volunteering at my kids’ schools, building deeper connections with friends, and eventually forming a bi-weekly mom meet-up group for my sons’ preschool.

A month went by. Sometimes I treasured my freedom. Sometimes I felt guilty… too free. Sometimes I felt I was just drifting. I was constantly eyeing path opportunities wondering, “Is that the one?” Then, one day as I readied my yoga nook for my morning practice, I realized I needed to just ask God/the universe/life to show me my path and to agree to just say, “YES!” So I did.

That day I took a walk alone in my neighborhood. As I strolled, I felt compelled to head down to a little creek. I often avoid going to the creek alone because of anxious “what ifs?” But that day it was as if I was pulled by a string to the bank of the creek. There I stood, watching the frigid water, listening to the soothing trickle.

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The chilly air biting my reddening cheeks, I shifted my gaze up creek. I noted how the water changed as it travelled. It began its journey racing, moving quickly around bends and turns, over sticks and rocks. Then there was a lull. The creek grew wide and the current slowed. Just before the water reached the stepping stones, twigs, leaves, and debris filtered out of the flow and rose to the top, creating obstacles and dams for the water. The filtered water gathered speed past the stepping stones, racing in a straight channel towards a small waterfall of rocks. Again, more debris was pulled from the water. Gradually the current smoothed and the creek was clean, free of the muck the previous lulls and obstacles withdrew. The creek ambled on in twists and turns out of sight.

Seeing this I knew somehow this was representative of my life. A reminder for me to cling to when uncertain. But I wasn’t sure how or really even why.

The next morning I met with my favorite yoga teacher turned friend. She strongly encouraged me to pursue yoga teacher training. “You’re already teaching yoga,” she said of my present lifestyle, “even if you’re not teaching the asanas.” (Asanas are the yoga poses. Yoga is more than just stretching and breathing, but the practice of mindfulness, kindness, nonviolence, giving, letting go, and more.) She told me I should connect with a woman at her yoga studio. I agreed, because why not? I left the chat smiling, feeling honored that a woman I held in such high esteem considered me worthy of walking along her own path.

I awoke the next morning to find I was copied on an email from my teacher-turned-friend to the woman she had mentioned. In the email she asked the woman to make me a yoga ambassador. I. Was. Shocked. My mind started rattling off roadblocks, doubts, and a million reasons why I shouldn’t or couldn’t pursue this. I was in panic mode all due to mom guilt, self-doubt, and fear of failure. Then I took a breath. I remembered my yoga practice. “You asked for your path”, my heart told me. I knew I had to say “YES!” So I did.

The woman contacted me asking to talk with me to go over yoga ambassador details. I agreed. We clicked immediately. She told me I could not have received a better referral than the one I had from my teacher-turned-friend. I felt deeply honored.

“I’ll need you to come in for three hours once a week,” she explained. “There’s no contract, but I’ll ask you to commit for three months.” I looked at the calendar and realized that three months from my starting date would have my shift agreement end the last week of my sons’ preschool school year. Perfect!

I spoke with my daughter and husband about possible shift times. I didn’t want to inconvenience or slight anyone. I wanted to be able to do pick-ups and drop-offs, volunteer, keep up with friends, do errands, take the kids on playdates, spend time with my husband. EVERYTHING. Like every mom, I wanted to do, be, have, and give it all.

“How about Thursday mornings?” The Hubs suggested. That was my only option for a shift that wouldn’t interfere with others. I realized I’d need to ask my husband to do preschool drop-off and a fellow preschool mom to cover the Thursday meet-up. I had to trust it would work if it was intended. I emailed the woman my one and only shift option and sighed, knowing if this didn’t work it wasn’t meant to be.

Hours later, the woman called me thanking me for choosing that shift. She had been stressing because no one had that timeslot available. My jaw dropped. Question answered: THIS was meant to be.

My husband willingly took on Thursday drop-off duty and, when I asked a fellow preschool mom to cover the Thursday morning meet-up, she happily obliged. It all went smoothly. Because it was meant to be.

From that point on, I surrendered. Everything came happily, easily, beautifully, organically. I had learned to not stand in my own way.

I learned to say, “YES!”

 

 

Mama Nook: A Space for Me

Man cave, nursery, playroom, home gym, craft space, reading nook, media room, mudroom… there’s a spot in homes for just about anything. But what about a place for me?

As Mom — the driver of carpool, the wiper of noses (and butts), the planner and purchaser and cooker of meals, the calendar wrangler, the referee, the boo-boo kisser, the nightmare banisher — do I not deserve a place for myself? I share my bed, my bathroom (and Lord knows the kids’ bath toys take up more realestate in the “master” bathroom than any pampering products), and every surface with everyone. It’d be nice to have a little cranny that was just mine.

This past August, as I lamented the nearing return of school days and extracurriculars, trading the beach cooler for backpacks and sand for pavement, I knew I had to do something. I had to find a way to bring the sea home with me. But how?

Easy: daily yoga! Each beach morning I sandied my yoga mat and did seaside asanas and meditation. But at home, my yoga endeavors took place in my husband’s home office in the family room. I had already learned that seagulls are better suited to being a yoga audience than a toiling spouse. So, how to resolve this?

Move The Hubs! I talked with my less-than-enthusiastic partner about relocating his home office from the darkest end of the family room to the window-side, well-separated alcove in our oversized bedroom. He could be an entire floor away from kid chaos and natural light would do wonders for workday malaise, I mused. Ever-supportive, he agreed.

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I rearranged the family room, removed all of the clutter, and, in the sliver of space between the sofa back and the large window, I laid a yoga mat. With that swath of purple foam, I had staked my claim.

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First, just family photos and a tall houseplant populated the deep windowsill. Next, a salt lamp then a bundle of sage joined the display. Soon, I replaced old room decor that had long ago lost its luster with photos and art that spoke to my personal aspirations and our family life.

The Hubs made me a small shell-strewn tabletop waterfall to provide the water element I so missed from my beach yoga practice. I added a few more plants and a couple more tchotchkes that spoke to me, framed the heart-shaped dried leaf my middle son had proudly given me, and my space felt more complete.

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It’s my sanctuary. My sacred space. My (mostly) quiet spot. My yoga nook.

I found a place for me. Where can you make your own Mama Nook?

Where can you carve out a space — no matter how little — that is just for you? You deserve a room, a closet, corner, or even just a shelf where you can retreat in order to center yourself, fuel yourself, feel peace, be inspired, remind yourself that you matter too. Because, mama, we may make miracles happen every day, but we cannot pour from an empty cup.

Is there space for you in your life? In your home? Sure there is! Go find it. Claim it. Make it yours.

You deserve it.

 

 

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.