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My oldest son is finishing up Kindergarten next week. I have been having an internal struggle with this stage of life we are leaving behind. The idea of First Grade seems harder for me to accept than Kindergarten was. There is still something that makes them feel so little while they are in Kindergarten. It is their toe dip into the big world of education. With First Grade looming in the wings, I cannot help but feel that there is one last piece of babyhood I am quickly losing my grip on.

My son will not be having a Kindergarten graduation ceremony. It is just how things worked out at his school this year. I am a little sad about that. I have even toyed with the idea of staging my own at home. (I am only half joking) I am sure I can find a cap and gown on Amazon in a pinch. I am not above doing something silly like that!

Recently, I overheard some people talking about how they find no value in any childhood graduation ceremonies. They even went to far as to say High School graduation is unimportant. I could not disagree with them more. I find value in celebrating these kinds of events. I cherish those moments. I am not a perfect parent and I never pretend to be. We all have our moments. When it comes down to it though, I cherish these important moments of my children’s lives. I go out of my way to create happy moments together.

We try our hardest to use positive reinforcement with our boys. I said we try. Sometimes we succeed and sometimes we end up yelling. Every parent loses their patience once in a while. However, we value the concept and practice of positive reinforcement. This morning we cheered on our toddler who cleaned up a mess he created yesterday. He got high-fives and a ton of praise. Despite the fact that he was being straight up destructive when he threw my container of ear plugs around my bedroom. His face was a big cheesy grin when he heard us praise his clean up job. As a parent, you learn when to let go of the lesson and bring on the encouragement. It can be a balancing act, but you adapt. When you think about it, staging small graduation ceremonies for Preschool, Kindergarten, Middle School, and then the big one in High School, creates the ultimate method of positive reinforcement. You are creating happy and celebratory memories. You are encouraging them to work hard and follow through.

Childhood memories have value later in life. Close your eyes and think back to your happiest childhood memory. Maybe it was a family vacation, maybe a certain holiday, maybe it was a normal day that ended up being so silly and fun, maybe it was a graduation ceremony. The examples are endless. There is even a chance you had a hard time picking just one happy childhood memory. The Wall Street Journal examined the importance of childhood memories. The research determined that when children are able to recall childhood memories, they learn to cope better and have an easier time adjusting later in life. It helps them to develop their own sense of self. This allows them to reflect on their lives and see if they have stayed the same as a person or if they have changed and grown. When they recall happy memories, for example, a large happy life event that involves their family (think Kindergarten graduation ceremony), they learn to value family moments. The reason all of these internal changes occur is because children learn from their recalled memories as they mature.

There is a point in having a graduation ceremony for a child. There is lifelong value in that. Sure, it is not the only way to promote healthy, happy, and positive memories. There are so many opportunities in childhood for happiness. It is one way though. One which should not be scoffed at. How miserable are you as a person to scoff at a happy little afternoon for a child? When we value creating happy moments for our children, we are preparing them for a lifetime of living and learning.

I will do my best to make my son’s last day of Kindergarten memorable, even without a structured graduation ceremony. I always have him hold up signs on his first and last day of school. I started in pre-school. I already have my supplies to make next week’s sign. We will do something fun after I pick him up. He can choose dinner that night. I am not above having a box of goodies for him to open when he walks back through our door a First Grader. I am so proud of him for working so hard this year! Kids work hard in school. Their brains are growing, synapses firing, they create and absorb new knowledge! That is something to celebrate and encourage. What value is there in making a child feel like the work they accomplished is stupid and a waste of time? None, there is none. What will create a better world? Lifting up these tiny humans who will one day be in charge. Lifting them up high and celebrating their lives, happiness, joy, and success will only make our world a better and brighter place.

If I had my way, I would throw my children a graduation every year. I cannot wait to see how they both grow over the next school year, even if a piece of me is sad to watch my babies grow. I cannot wait to be a part of the happy childhood memories that will shape their adult selves.

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My sister-in-law gave me the sign pictured here for my birthday this year. Today, I found myself thinking about the quote, and how much I feel pulled to it today. I may not be able to single-handedly write the world into saving itself, but I will share my stories, and try my hardest to affect change when and where I can.

Yesterday my son was involved in a bomb threat. My six year old son was at his school, ready to participate in his after school club when some maniac called in a bomb threat. Right now, his school educates children pre-k through eighth grade. Someone wanted to harm, scare, evoke terror, and cause chaos for children that young. Let that sink in. The targets of this terror were small children just trying to learn and play.

I walk to pick him up every day. Yesterday, I took my time walking there with my two year old. I was working on teaching him how to stop at every parking garage and intersection. I turned it into a game. We were having fun. Completely unaware what was going on. As we walked down the stairs to the park near the school, I noticed fire trucks and commotion. I truly thought it had something to do with the construction site nearby. We started to walk by it, to get to the school. Two firefighters stopped me and told me I had to go around through the park. As we turned around, I overheard two other adults say the name of my son’s school and that it had been evacuated. This stopped me in my tracks. Things slowed down a little for me. I scooped up my little one and approached a fireman. He did not have a lot of info to give me. I asked him to please ask if there was someone who could come speak with me. I needed to get to my child.

It felt as if I stood there forever. I am sure less time passed than I think. I did my best to one hand text my husband and mom. He called me to get more details and let me know he was on his way. Another fireman came and spoke with me. I again explained my child had been in that building and I needed to know what was going on and where I could find him. He said they had been talking to the head of the school, and that the kids were sent to two different locations. He would try to see if he could get any information on what kids went where. I stopped him one more time and asked him to tell me what was going on. Why this was all happening. He turned and looked at me, he was silent for a second, then quietly said “There was a bomb threat.” I can tell you, even typing that right now brings a lump to my throat. I know my heart sank. I remember I exhaled a large amount of air as my body sank a little. I rolled my head to one side. That feeling of exasperation. I was still holding my youngest son. I did not ask any more questions at that moment. He probably should not have told me what he did, and in my brain, even in the chaos, I knew that. I think he looked at me and saw a scared mom holding another child, then he did the human thing and told me. He walked off to go investigate further. Then a lieutenant walked up and asked the parents gathered there “who is missing a child?” I raised my hand. There is that lump again. I was missing my child. He then asked each parent who raised a hand how many children they were missing. He rushed off to speak to other officials. When he came back he gave me the best information he could. The children were in two locations, but he had no way of knowing which location each child was sent to. He gave me the two spots. One was across the park, it was the closest and I started there. My son had on a bright orange shirt. It is Spirit Week and it was Athletic Clothing Day. As I began to walk across the park I saw a bright orange spot. I knew it was him! Then I saw his after school club instructor. I did not run or act scared. I continued to calmly walk up to him and said hi with a smile on my face. I was not sure how much information anyone had, especially the kids. I saw some other parents. I shared with them what the fireman had shared with me.

My son had nothing with him, of course. They left everything and just evacuated the building. The school completely evacuated in under three minutes. This was during after school activities, meaning staff and students were all over the place and not in normal situations, they were still able to get every human out incredibly quick. After we stood around for a while and I spoke to some other parents and faculty, I decided we were not going to stand around and wait for an all clear to retrieve his bag. Meanwhile, my husband had immediately jumped in a cab to get to us as fast as he could. As we walked away he arrived. We then ran into two other families we know. We took all the kids for ice cream and really had a nice time. Some calm after the storm.

When I got home and called my mom to update her I started telling her the story and I broke down. The panic had remained at bay, allowing me to function and keep my children safe. As we chatted, it suddenly came to the surface. The tears came flowing and I choked up as I tried to tell her all the details.

After the phone call, I sat down on the couch but I could not stop shaking. We started to talk to our son about what happened, the truth behind the sudden emergency. We did not want him to go to school today and overhear the word bomb, not knowing what he had really been involved with. He explained to us what happened when the alarms went off. How they did not take the elevator, they took the stairs. The stairs they took were “different and we left the building in a secret exit.” He said all the children were screaming, including him, on the way down the stairs. An hour later at the dinner table he brought it up again, telling us how he was feeling. He said he could not stop thinking about it. We answered his questions and reassured him again he was brave and we were so proud that he listened to his teachers. Everyone did an amazing job staying safe. He was safe and the school, police, and fire departments were making sure everything was ok.

I ordered him new shoes recently. The packages arrived yesterday afternoon. As I unpacked the new shoes last night, I paused for a moment. I looked at the shoes and thought about how if this had not been a threat, had it been real, and ended in pure tragedy, that I would have opened those boxes of shoes for a child that I may have lost. We do not always think about those small details in life. A new pair of shoes is just something that is needed or something that is fun. Not every threat ends with an all clear. There are parents who had new things for their child, and that child never came home. It makes me sick. It breaks my heart.

I am so angry today. I am angry that my child and all the other children had to experience this. I am angry that someone caused terror and chaos for families. I am angry that this is the world we live in. I am angry that my panic after getting home was not misplaced, because every day you see headlines about threats being followed through and people losing children and loved ones.

The other side of that anger is pure gratitude. I am thankful that it was a threat and my child got to sleep in his bed last night. I am thankful for the teachers, staff, and administrators who care for our children and do their best to keep them safe. I am thankful to all the firemen I spoke to. I am thankful to the fireman who told me what was really going on. I am thankful to the fireman who took the time to ask how many children each parent was missing. I am thankful to the police department who searched the building, are investigating this, and have been there today to keep an eye on the area. I am thankful to my mom who told me it was one hundred percent ok to breakdown once I got us home safely. I am thankful for the friends we grabbed ice cream with, helping us all return to a bit normalcy so quickly.

I sent him to school today. I even chaperoned a field study. The day progressed as usual. I overheard some children buzzing a bit about what happened yesterday. This did not stop us though. The kids are learning and laughing today. We are not being oppressed by the fear this horrible person tried to create. To say this is not in the back of my mind would be a lie. It is still there. I did overthink while in the shower this morning, wishing I could keep him home. I know that would not help him get over what he went through, it is just my maternal instinct to keep my children as safely close to me as I can. While this story may not save civilization from destroying itself, it is our story. It happened. It happens every day around the world, too often on a much more tragic scale. There is a human side to these events. There are new pairs of shoes waiting to be worn when a child arrives home safely from school.

 

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Last week I was lucky enough to be accepted as a RedTri Spoke Contributor! I am so excited about this opportunity to share my voice in their community.

In Defense of Downsizing takes a look at what happens when you look into your heart and family and make choices based on the answers you find. I explain our journey to living with less space and more time together.

I hope to remain active in this contributor community. I will always share with you whatever work I am fortunate enough to submit and have published.

Do you have any pieces that have been published on different sites, blogs, communities? Share your links below!

I have had anxiety for most of my life. Now that I am in my 30’s and have a full understanding of anxiety, looking back, I can see that I have always had it. It comes and goes. Sometimes it is hibernating and other times it has been awake and in control. In the last few months it has been pretty prevalent. There are a variety of reasons I think it has decided to hang out for a while, which would take a few blog posts to dive into, so we will leave it there. What I want to talk about is the fact that I decided to see a therapist recently. This was a hard decision for me, as I always thought I could manage things myself. I have ways of coping and handling it. Exercise, deep breathing, baths, oils, acupuncture, etc. Those coping mechanisms haven’t been as effective lately. This time around I think I need a little extra help. It is what it is. It was a big step and I wasn’t excited to go, but I went.

It was awful. Worse than I could have predicted, if I am being honest. And I wasn’t thrilled to go, so imagine how bad that means. The doctor pulled out her phone at one point and started scrolling through it as I spoke. For an extended period of time. She offered no reason as to why. It wasn’t taking notes, she had paper and a pen for that. At the beginning she asked if I wanted medication. I said I truly would prefer to avoid any medication. I wanted to work through things in a more natural way. At the end of the session she wrote me a prescription and spent 10 minutes talking about her medication plan for me. She told me to take probiotics and not eat sugar. I do both of those. For many YEARS! She told me she couldn’t help me and wrote down some other places and told me to go there. Then check in with her in six weeks. She kept rubbing a strand of hair all over her chin. She charged me $500 and doesn’t take insurance.

Those things were minor compared to the absolute worst part. I was explaining the stressors of motherhood to her. Or at least the stressors I have been dealing with. From Alex’s food allergies to Jackson’s animal allergies and asthma to terrible two’s to whatever else was on my mind at that moment. Motherhood is hard. I am a stay at home mom. I have been doing this for six years. She told me “some people just aren’t cut out for that. Get a sitter 3 times a week for 3 hours at a time and get someone to do your laundry and stuff.” I felt as if I had been slapped in the face. I am not “cut out” to be the very thing I have been pouring every fiber of my being into for the last six years. It was so dismissive and really kind of cruel to say after meeting me once. I felt like total garbage as I left. I felt a million times worse than when I walked in the door, biting my nails and clutching my tea as my anxiety over trying this out punched me in the chest.

Being an anxious person, I have been repeating her comments over and over in my head since leaving that office. She didn’t listen to what I wanted for myself. She told me she couldn’t (or didnt want to?) help me. She was literally on her phone, which you would think that as a professional trying to help someone with anxiety, you wouldn’t do that to a patient. She told me I was not cut out to be a mom. She told me I wasn’t cut out to do the thing I have dedicated my life to. I just cannot believe that seemed like an appropriate thing to say.

As this has flipped and flopped over in my brain, I have used it as a moment of self-reflection. I am not a perfect mom. Not in the least bit. I lose my temper at times. We all do, even if we don’t post about it. I feel bad when I do. I wonder if I am messing them up. I try though. I spend all day with them and doing things for and with them, thinking about them. Last night my oldest woke up with a 105 degree fever. I massaged his legs until he relaxed as he laid next to me in bed. I put a cool rag on his head. I let him physically lay all over me because it made him feel safe. I have changed poop diapers today. I walked to Target with both boys so the oldest, who feels better, could buy Pokemon Cards and then made a video for Youtube opening them. (It’s all the rage) I have broken up fights today. I have asked them to stop slamming the playroom door, and it has fallen on four deaf ears. I have made meals. I have gotten snacks. I have listened and chatted with them. I have taken interest in their interests. I have been in the trenches all day on little sleep. And that is just today!

Walking home with them I came to a realization. I AM cut out for this. I am because I have been doing it for six years nonstop. The longest break I had kid-free was going to D.C. with my mom this January for the Women’s March. I was gone from Thursday-Sunday. That was the most time I have had off from motherhood. I still thought of them. I facetimed them. I searched for little gifts for them. I talked about them. They are always with me. I am cut out for it. I am also perhaps, a little burnt out. Which I don’t think is weakness or sucking at what I do. I think that is human. I think that is motherhood. I think that is parenthood. Anyone in any career can be working at workaholic levels and get burnt out at some point. Does that mean they are not cut out for it? Does that mean they can’t do what they do? No. Maybe they need a break or to take a step back and refresh themselves, sure. Maybe they need a vacation. It doesn’t mean someone should tell them they are not cut out for what they do. It doesn’t mean a mental health professional should articulate that judgement after meeting them one time.

According to the ADAA 40 million adults in the U.S. have anxiety. Women are two times as likely to suffer from it. This is not an uncommon thing. If women are more likely to struggle with anxiety, then that would mean, many mothers also battle this. I am not some unique special case. It doesn’t mean I am not cut out to be a mom. The fact that I was brave enough to know when my own methods of coping were no longer effective means that I want to take care of my family. That was one of the most unfair and hurtful judgements I have ever had thrown at me. It could probably go unsaid, but I will not be seeing her again. Just knowing that I am not the only woman, and mom, facing anxiety is comforting. I share my little story so that other mothers know, you are cut out for motherhood, even if on your worst day ever some batty lady tells you that you’re not.

 

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There are many people who woke up differently last November. Their eyes were opened and they felt shock and outrage that they may not have experienced before. While I rallied against him for the entire campaign, I think that I also felt shocked on a different level. I was distraught that so many people did not see beyond the simply phrased rhetoric and shut their eyes and ears to his ugliness.

I immediately joined the ACLU. As soon as I caught wind of the Women’s March I made reservations so I could attend it in D.C. I searched for groups to attend. The political and social justice fire inside of me was fanned and grew even larger.  I attended the march and it will remain one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.

I also looked to get involved locally and on a grassroots level. I attended a couple meetings where I was living, but then we moved. I wasted no time in searching out new grassroots meetings to get involved with. I have now attended two in the city. Sometimes I have spoken up more and other times I have really intently just listened.

As I quickly walked the cold Chicago streets with my husband on our way home from a People Power gathering last night, I explained to him how I was feeling:

My favorite part of all of these meetings is the chance to listen to so many different perspectives. While, most people are there for similar reasons, it doesn’t mean that every reason is strictly the same. Gaining knowledge by listening to what someone else has gone through or is feeling really is important. I have learned so many personal challenges and hopes just by being in these meetings. I really think and wish this was something we all did. That we took the time to hear what other people have gone through. I think that the country would be in a better place if that happened a little more. 

I cherish the opportunity to hear respectful but sometimes differing dialogue. Last night we were all there for similar reasons, we felt called to action. The ACLU laid out a plan for us to tackle. In the group there were many differing opinions on how to go about that. Back and forth until a plan of sorts was agreed upon. It wasn’t a mean discussion. It wasn’t aggressive or ugly. It was just discourse.

I wrote about how a young Muslim girl I met on my D.C. trip described America as a salad instead of a melting pot. That hasn’t left me. This high school student taught me something. I have carried that thought with me. Hearing other people’s stories and experiences during and since the election has enriched my life. I am a white female. That comes with its privileges and with its struggles. I recognize that and I respect that. No two life experiences are exactly the same. Learning how other humans have lived and what they have dealt with has enriched my corner of the salad we live in. Opening your eyes to the fact that your experience differs from the next person’s experience can only make this world better. I want to think beyond a call for empathy. It is about being a decent human. Understanding the people around you are loved by other people just as you are loved by other people. They matter. You matter. We all matter. To forget that is at our own peril.

Take the time to listen to a stranger, a neighbor, a friend. Your salad will be even more flavorful.

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I have written a few times here about how I feel about the current political climate. I have written about my Women’s March experiences. I wrote about why I marched. On my other social media outlets I have written and posted rather extensively (or annoyingly to some people, sorry definitely not sorry). It is not something I plan to end anytime soon. However, I want to touch on how this is making our children feel. Or rather my six year old in particular.

Let me rewind a bit, to last summer when I was young and naive. When I thought there was literally no way this would be where our country is. Surely, enough people could see and hear what I could see and hear. Well, they did popular vote-wise, but do not get me started about my feelings on that. My then five year old told us at our kitchen table he liked (vomits a little) Donald Trump. We both were very shocked. Neither of us had ever said anything remotely nice about that garbage fire. However, being parents who have an open door policy on discussions here, we asked him why. He said matter of factly, “I think he is funny. He is like a cartoon!” We both let out a sigh of relief, this we could work with. We explained he does look and sound funny, for sure.

Then came the Clinton campaign commercial with women reciting all of the terrible, sexist, disgusting, and misogynistic comments he has said about women. I had him watch it. After, I asked him how he felt about it. I asked him if he thought those were kind things to say about women? I am a woman, his grandmas are women, his aunts are women, his cousins are women, how would he feel if we were the women Trump was speaking of? Would he be ok with mommy being called a fat pig? Making fun of my looks. He said those things were very mean and he would not like that at all. From that moment on his view on the funny sounding orange cartoon character shifted.

Fast forward to this week. During dinner we caught maybe two minutes of a Showtime documentary about the election and Trump’s campaign in particular. During those 1-2 minutes they happened to show the violence that Trump called for at his rallies. He saw protestors. He asked what they were doing. I said they are protesting Trump, like mommy did when I went to D.C. Then he saw one of them get punched in the face by a Trump supporter. Then he saw it again as they slowed it down. He kept asking questions. I frantically urged my husband to turn something else on. This was too much. We didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into. We moved on to something else.

During our bedtime ritual of all reading books together, I could tell something was bugging him. He seemed a little bothered, agitated, just not paying attention to the book. I stopped reading and asked him what was wrong.

“What if Donald Trump does bad things to our country?”

I was a bit startled, as that is not what I assumed was the problem. But I immediately knew, the brief 2 minutes had been burned in his six year old brain. I calmly explained checks and balances to him. That there are other parts of our government around to prevent the president from having all the power. He cannot do whatever he wants. He has other people to answer to.

“Ok. But what if he is sneaky about it?”

I said that is a fair point, but there are a lot of people who do not like him. A lot of people watching him. To make sure that he is not sneaky. Then I said it is nothing he has to worry about. I promise nothing too sneaky will happen. All eyes are on him.

I am sorry that show came on. I really am. I wish I had gotten it turned off a few moments sooner. My husband said to me later “he has to learn about checks and balances.” I let him know I briefly explained that. We also decided we need to be far more careful with our watching of news coverage around him in particular.

Our kids are watching and listening. They always are, we know this. The thing is, we shouldn’t have to feel like our children cannot be privy to what the Commander in Chief is doing. We shouldn’t have to explain to them the leader of our nation won’t be allowed to be too sneaky because we are all watching, but in the back of our minds not even believing that whole heartedly. I was always happy to let them be around when Obama was speaking. I never felt that he was going to make them afraid. My son never felt anxious during story time over something Obama said or did. There are times, during some of the countless mass shootings, that I turned the tv off, sure. That was more to do with the evil going on and not anything to do with how it was being responded to.

I am sad that we have to have these hushed conversations about the current situation. However, I will not stop telling him that I am protesting this. I will let him know that I am being vocal. When he has questions I will answer them and I will reassure him. I will try to shelter him from the worst of it. I will try to make him feel safe. Our children are watching. The next move is ours.

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I have been a mom for just shy of six years now. By just shy, I mean six years ago today I started going into labor. Tomorrow will officially be six years. I have learned, grown, changed, and loved a lot in these last years. These are some of the things six years of motherhood has taught me.

That I want my children to grow up in a world that values love, kindness, equality, social justice, empathy, and generosity. It can feel like an uphill battle some days. When everything around you seems filled with ugliness and hate. That doesn’t mean that I will stop wanting them to live in that kind of world. I will always strive and fight to shape that kind of world for them. I will send them out into the world with those values, hoping they too will be agents of them. 

Perfectionism is a nuisance. You cannot control everything at every moment. Life and children are unpredictable and sometimes you have to let more shit go than you care to. I cleaned up the whole kitchen and living room on Wednesday. Spotless! By that evening they had scattered toys all over the kitchen floor. They are still there. I sighed as I walked by them to start writing this. At some point I will get to it, but I am sure when I turn back around, they will have recreated the same mess. You have to let it go. 

Humility. You are not above wiping a poop covered butt (and even back, cause that shit, haha, can and does get everywhere) You will find yourself in the middle of situations you never thought you would be in. Being urinated on. Catching vomit in your hands. Getting poop under your fingernail. Changing a diaper in the trunk of your SUV in the parking lot of a pumpkin farm. Wiping up a half spilled grande pike roast from the floor of Whole Foods that your two year old knocked over when he moved your cart as you were trying to pick up the box of his minecraft figurines he dropped everywhere. So now you have minecraft toys, a box, and a giant puddle of steaming hot coffee all over the grocery store floor. These things happen on the regular. Stay humble folks, there is no prize for being prideful. You will be wiping up floor coffee in public. Or your own version of that scenario. 

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Generosity. Be as generous as you humanly can. With your love and praise for your tiny humans. With your family. With your neighbors. With complete strangers. I have seen it pay off in these last 6 years. My almost 6 year old has started random acts of kindness. He has asked me why I buy coffee for the car behind me. Why I roll down my window and hand cash to the homeless man with the sign on the street. I explain why in detail. This week at school he brought his Pokecards. Some friends didn’t have any and wanted them. He was planning on trading with another kid. He did. Then he gave out cards to his friends that did not have any. Just because he wanted to, because they wanted some cards too. He received nothing in return. Save for my adoration and praise when he told me the story.

Selflessness. You have to give so much of yourself when you are a parent. At least you are supposed to. We all do things differently. I give a lot. It can be exhausting, but then I think about how if I did things differently. If I wasn’t around to give them 200% of myself and then another piece just to be nice. I would not feel right. I want to be around and be the face in their memories when they look back at their childhood. When it all clicks about the magical times, the birthdays, the random normal days, the dinners, the laundry, the hugs, the books, the kisses, the songs, the errands, the treats, the love. You learn to put other people ahead of yourself. Which can be a hard thing to learn to do.

On that note, you also need to take care of yourself. Self-care is crucial. A trip to D.C. to march for yourself and fellow humans. A epsom salt bath. And yes, lock the damn bathroom door. Pilates in the morning. Putting them to bed a half hour early because they are bat-shit crazy that night. Ordering dinner, even though you have things to cook, they wore you out and you just don’t feel like cooking that night. Order that pizza, and bask in the glory of little to no cleanup. Self-care can be huge things, like 4 day trips, or they can be tiny little minutes throughout the day, locking yourself in the bathroom for 5 minutes. It comes in all shapes and sizes.

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Love. True unconditional heart growing mind blowing all consuming love. It is a love like I have never experienced. Sometimes I watch their faces and I literally feel like my heart might explode with joy. Sometimes I still look at them and think “they are mine! How is that possible? How did I create these two super cool humans?” It still takes my breath away, that I get to have these two dudes in my life. I am not sure I will ever quite get over that. It is amazing.

The value of words. We talk through things a lot here. Taking time to use your words to explain things to your children will really strengthen their understanding of life. Even if you don’t feel it is sinking in in the moment. They absorb these life lessons and they take them out into the world. I tell my boys “everyone is different.” When they have questions about why someone does something differently than we do. I always explain it as best as I can, then sum it up with “that is ok because everyone is different.” When the oldest was four, some kids at school hassled him because he doesn’t like ketchup and wouldn’t eat it. He got frustrated and finally told me that he said “I don’t like it and that is ok, because everyone is different.” Words matter. Words sink in. Talking through things sinks in. They are very intelligent.

To say sorry. I am a firm believer in apologizing to them. Sometimes moms lose their shit. We do. If you say you don’t, you’re lying, sorry. It comes in different forms for each person, but we all get pushed too far sometimes. If I feel guilty that I snapped on them or was short, or yelled over something totally stupid, I will go and talk to them and say I am sorry. This is not every time they get in trouble. Sometimes they do naughty things and they have to be reprimanded. But I can feel it in my heart when I know it was more me than them. Then I do go say sorry. The oldest and I can have real conversations about human emotions at this point, and we do. We talk through it. The little one, a hug with kisses and saying “mommy loves you I am sorry” will suffice at this point.

It is ok to talk to children as if they are humans with thought processes and feelings. I try not to baby things down for them too much. I explain things to them. I am not a huge baby talk person. I have always interacted with them as the red blooded people they are. I think this has shaped them for the better. I can see it in the oldest. He has a grasp on reality. The things he can discuss blow me away sometimes. I encourage him to think through his thought process. I can explain something and then ask him what he thinks/feels/wants from that situation. I have explained to him what is happening if I think he feels anxious. I explained homelessness to him. We have had conversations about dissent. We talk about body autonomy and consent. They know the actual names of genitals. My motto is if I keep that conversation going and trust them with actual knowledge that it will pay off down the road as life gets messier.

Sometimes we cannot do it all. We just can’t. It’s a fact. We want to. We feel we need to. This leads to being burnt out. I know, I have been there. Sometimes you have to take a step back and delete some shit from your life and schedule. Sometimes you have to say no we are not going to do that. Today we are going to be lazy and relax and enjoy one another. There is nothing wrong with taking some time to just be. As a family. I am still working on this. I am not great at taking things off of my plate. It is a work in progress.

Children love their mother so much. Sometimes I can feel their love radiating off of their little bodies. It can be overwhelming. Sometimes moms just need no one to touch them for, maybe, 2 minutes. That would be nice. Then you hear their little tiny human voices saying “mommy” and they just want to nuzzle in and you realize how very loved you actually are.

My favorite most calming thing in the world is when either boy hugs me and snuggles in to the right side of my neck. I call that “the good stuff” and love when they hug me tight, their little cheek against my neck. That is my calm. That is my heart. That is my motherhood.

I am not a perfect mom. I feel like I am failing a lot. I am hard on myself. I always think I can do better (I should reread that perfectionism paragraph, huh?) I am just being honest here. I do know that I have grown so much since having children. I have become a better person and woman because of them. They have shown me where my heart actually resides. They have made me cry. They have made me laugh. They have made me angry. They have made me insanely happy. They have made me stronger. I am thankful for these last six years. I feel lucky that I get to take this journey with them. Even as I shouted to my husband last night “You are getting a vasectomy!!! I do NOT want a third baby, they are crazy right now!” Yes, they were being insane. Fighting over Mario toys, tears and yelling, all as I was trying to make their dinner plates. No one could eat until the fight was resolved. It was ridiculous. It was so loud. It was frustrating. It was all mine. My crazy, loving, obnoxious, kind, silly, frustrating, kind, hilarious, adoring, and imperfectly perfect family.

I am looking forward to where the next six years of this journey takes me. Thank you boys. Thank you Jackson for making me a mommy. Happy start of labor day my sweet boy.

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It has been six days since my boots marched on D.C. streets. I feel like it was just yesterday. This week went by quickly as I was getting back into the routine around here, planning a move, cuddling with a toddler who seems to be needing to make up for lost time, and every other normal task I tackle daily. Realizing that it has been almost a week and the dust is settling felt a bit surreal this morning.

I wrote about my experience during the entire trip. I want to touch on why I marched. Why I will continue to march. I touched base on this via my instagram a month ago. I then tagged it properly and much to my utter astonishment, the Women’s March shared the post! I shared it knowing they asked for our reasons. I shared it not ever thinking it would be shared by them. Ultimately, I shared it because I am involved and want to stay vocal and active.

Why did I march? I will start with my opening point on the post. I march because I am a mom of two boys. Two little boys who will leave my home one day knowing that women are strong, equal, intelligent, capable, and worthy of respect. I refuse to put two more men into the world who treat women and other humans poorly. I will fight tooth and nail to help them be open hearted, tolerant, kind, respectful, and open-minded men.

I encourage them to dress and play with whatever they want. They love Shopkins and Minecraft. You can walk through my home and hear me saying “There is no such thing as boy toys and girl toys, there are just toys.” I let them grab items from the girls clothing department if they see a shirt or something they like. They will check out every aisle in the toy section, there is no invisible border for them between the clearly divided sections.

I repeatedly explain that “everyone is different.” My oldest has carried that with him into the world. As they grown they begin to encounter people who are not raised as they have been. Kids have given him a hard time that sometimes his water bottles do not have boy things on them. He replies “there are no girl or boy things. Everyone is different.” I asked him many times if it is bothersome to him when comments are made, and he always says no. I reassure him to be himself and I use blue water bottles, I use pink water bottles. Who cares what the bottle looks like, we just want the water! One time kids were harassing him to try ketchup, which he hates, and finally he told them (at the age of 4) “I don’t like it and that is ok because everyone is different!”

I marched because I have a responsibility to help shape the next generation of men. I only have two of them to guide and love, but two people can make a difference. Two boys can go out there and be helpers not harmers. I will end rape culture within my home. Boys will not be boys. Boys will be kind humans and do good works. I will do my best for them to see a strong woman with a loud and active voice. I will do my best for them to know that women can do anything they want, that men aren’t inherently better at certain things than women. I marched so that when they look at me and ask “Mommy what did you do to stop Trump? What did YOU do during this period in our history?” I can look them in the eye and say, “I fought with all my heart. I marched. I tried to be a voice that championed love, equality, kindness, respect, openness, and strength.”

I marched a woman who has experienced sexual assault. I marched because there is a man in the White House who openly admitted to grabbing women by the pussy, and yet a sickening number of white women still voted for him. Maybe they have never had their pussies violated. I don’t know their story. Everyone is different. But my story? That includes a sexual assault that left me blacked out before waking up in a hospital scared, alone, and not knowing where I was. When you talk about trigger warnings, he is one giant trigger warning for people who have been violated sexually. The most respected office in the country is filled by a man that flippantly discusses sexual assault and then is not in the least bit remorseful. In fact, he just attacks any of the women who then came forward to talk about their experience with his tiny grabby hands. I marched for myself, for the other women who have told me their rape stories, for women who may not have told me their stories, for women who haven’t been assault and for their right to not have someone violate them, and for women who unfortunately may be assaulted in the future. I marched for all of us in an attempt to change the narrative about rape. To shift the focus on the attacker and not the victim. It took me 13 years to come forward and open up entirely about this. Women shouldn’t be afraid. We shouldn’t have to walk to our car with keys in our hands. We shouldn’t be thinking “dont’ get raped.” The world should be shouting “Don’t fucking rape people! (or grab them by the pussy)” I marched because that is just one instance of sexual violation in my 31 years on this planet. There are many other smaller stories I have gone though. I am not alone in that. That is why I marched.

I marched because I am aware as a white woman with a comfortable income, that my experience may be uniquely different than my other sisters out there. That intersectional feminism is the only way we will move forward together. I recognize the privilege I have based on my skin color, sexual orientation, economic status, and life experience. I respect the fact that not every woman experiences sexism and injustice in the same way. There are layers to each person’s life experience and things are not so clear cut. I marched because I want to listen, learn, support, and engage in meaningful educational moments from women that are different from me.

I marched with my mom. I marched with her because I have seen a fire lit in her during this election. It has given me a push forward on my strong opinions. I marched with her because she has always told me I can do whatever I want to do. I marched with her because she is responsible for the eventual family motto I coined “everyone is different.” She instilled that in me growing up. I marched with her because marching with your mom is so incredibly empowering. I was not aware of how empowering that would feel. To stand arm in arm with the woman who birthed you. I was in the position of the child asking my mom “What did you do to resist this?” Her answer will always be, “I marched. I resisted. I refused to go away quietly.”

I marched for myself, my nieces, my sisters in law, my aunts, my cousins, my friends, the strangers I met along the way, and yes, even the women who are against this movement. I marched for you just in case you ever need a hand to lift you up. I hope not. I hope you can live your life without feeling marginalized, but if something changes, here is my hand, to hold and march with yours. I marched for all people who are aghast at the fact that this is where we are as a nation right now. I marched for our future.

Where do we go from here? There are many ways to stay active. There are more marches coming up. Personally, I will be attending volunteer expo event at the end of February. I have some ideas of where I would like to put my time, but I think the expo will open my eyes to even more choices. Then, I pick a place and I get involved. If you are in Illinois, this is a grass roots organization, Action for a Better Tomorrow . It started out of Pantsuit Nation and grew into its own movement. There are local chapters. I started to get involved in the local one in the ‘burbs where I am now, but we are moving, so I will have to shift focus once we are settled in.

The march is not where it ended. It was the beginning. Keep speaking out, writing, volunteering, calling your representatives, reading and researching, sharing  things on your social media. Do not become complacent now that our boots are back in the closets or shoe racks. Keep those boots dirty. Nasty, if you will.

 

Wrapping up my journey to D.C. with my mom for the Women’s March on Washington is not an easy feat. I am still decompressing and trying to wrap my head around every experience. I will do my best in bringing these experiences to written word.

We arrived late Thursday morning. Which gave us plenty of time to squeeze in some kind of adventure. We decided to head from our hotel in Virginia to D.C. We were able to see D.C. as a ghost town in some regards. Pennsylvania Ave was already blocked off. People could waltz down the street as they pleased, taking in the overwhelming atmosphere. The soon to be half filled bleachers were already set up. Not looking too different than the photos from the parade.

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The chilling feeling when reading this was incredible. I will hold this close to my heart over the next 4 years. 

We walked to the Capitol Building where there were sound checks occurring. I would say there were a mix of people there for two very different reasons. While we may have elicited stares, as our missing attire of support stood out amongst red hats and t-shirts, things were peaceful. I experienced one of the most thrilling and invigorating moments of my life. Climbing atop a railing in front of the Capitol Building, laying down, and flexing myself into a backbend. My mom took one of my now favorite photos. I felt so energized just doing that. One more place around the world where I have done a backbend.

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Seeing how the country sets up for the peaceful transition of power is something everyone should experience. As much as I loathe the current political situation, it is rather encouraging to see democracy in action. Be that, the peaceful transition of power, or women (and men) taking to the streets to exercise their 1st Amendment rights in a peaceful, productive, and supportive manner, it is wonderful to know at its heart, America stands for those tenets.

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Sad faces on Obama’s last night in the White House. We already miss you!

We had dinner in town and when we walked out we found ourselves literally in the middle of another protest. The energy was a bit anxious and agitated. The vibe wasn’t my kind of thing. We accepted some swag from them, but ultimately we moved on. Eventually we made our way back to our hotel. Later we realized that group participated in destructive protest Thursday and Friday. It is important to open your mind to the vibe of situations. Sometimes your intuition will tell you more than your eyes can discern in the moment. This was no different. We did not come to D.C. to destroy or harm. I strongly feel being vigilant yet peaceful is the journey I want to take.

Friday we stayed away from D.C. proper entirely. We made our way to Alexandria. Where George Washington’s very feet walked the ground my feet walked. If you don’t know me well or personally, I have a degree in History and my favorite president is Washington. The town is beautiful. It was lovely to see the Potomac. We encountered one of the most inspirational people I have ever had the privilege of having a random conversation with. A teenage girl who is Muslim. She was there with her school for the inauguration. We chatted for a long while. She explained her experience in America. She was very detailed and open with us. She plans to go into journalism and politics. I will never forget what she articulated to us. You know the old adage that America is a “melting pot”? She has a better description. She described us as a salad. We compliment one another when we are all in that bowl together. Together we are better. Yet we remain our individual selves. My mom and I continued that conversation over dinner that night. I brought up the fact that if you are a piece of spinach and the tomato next to you is moldy, rotten, and bad, that reflects on you. No one wants to eat a moldy tomato salad, even if the spinach is perfect and crisp. We all need to be good and work together for the salad to be delicious.

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Alexandria adventure

I am not sure how often we have vacations that help shape us into a better more enlightened person, but I have experienced such a trip this time around. My eyes are even wider now having listened to so many human’s stories. Humans I would never have encountered otherwise. I feel honored to have been given the opportunity to engage them. 

This brings me to the big event. Saturday. The Women’s March on Washington. I have to quote Hamilton at this point, “This is not a moment it’s the movement.” This was not one moment in time, but rather the beginning of an incredible movement. The proof that something was awakened on November 8th is hard to deny.

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Our journey back to D.C. began with a new friend that went on the shuttle to the metro with us. She was making her way down there alone to meet up with a friend and asked to tag along with us so we could help her navigate the metro. Absolutely! At this point we were pros as we used it to go everywhere. From there we met a mother, her son, and his husband. Nate put on thigh high red stiletto boots to march. He said that if we can walk around in heels all of the time, he can for the march. His mother radiated warmth, love, and adoration for her son. His husband had a pair of chucks shoved in his coat pockets just in case Nate changed his mind on his footwear. Unique and open people I would not have crossed paths with otherwise. 

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The train quickly filled up, the energy was palpable. The vibes were happy, empowered, excited, warm, and read to march. Striking up conversations with a person two inches from your face felt as natural as asking your significant other how their day was. Walking off of the train and up to the street came with this pulse of kinetic rays bursting on the scene. Women everywhere. A sea of pink hats. We arrived early in the morning and already we were everywhere. There was no hate. There was no anger. No one was rude. We were all in this bubble of kindness, acceptance, and general patience for one another. We were all there for the same purpose after all. We were there to celebrate and support one another.

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As the rally began you could hear how far the crowds stretched without actually being able to visualize them. You would hear this distant roar that sounded as if it pulsated slowly through the buildings and streets. Then you would hear the crowd around you cheer and clap and shout along. Deafening and empowering simultaneously.

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I feel honored to have been in the presence of such empowering humans. I saw and heard them speak. I was near the stage of the rally. I was moved to tears many times. I was proud to cast my vote for my Senator Tammy Duckworth during the election. My elation at hearing her speak and motivate us at the rally is beyond my descriptive capabilities. I remember shouting to my mom “That’s my girl!!!” Maxine Waters is also an amazing and inspiring woman. Just earlier in the week I had been watching videos and news coverage of her discussing all of this. Then there she was, before my very eyes, speaking to me with her powerful voice. There were so many speakers that moved me in so many different ways. I was brought to near sobbing tears by The Mothers of the Movement. Losing their babies. I was there missing my two sweet boys and they were just a plane ride or FaceTime away. My heart collapsed for what they have gone through. The variety of emotions that flowed through my body is wide. Empathy, empowerment, inspiration, joy, sorrow, anger, fierceness, elation, feeling awake, strength, and on and on.

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The march itself did not begin at the predetermined time. The rally went on and on. And then we finally marched. “Tell me what democracy looks like?” “THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE!” I truly, with all of my heart, believe in that. Democracy looks like exercising your cherished 1st Amendment right. If that means, writing this blog or literally putting my boots on the ground and yelling until my voice cracks, I will not let anything stop me from enlisting that right.

I have been so stressed since the election. I think so many of us have felt that way. I have shed tears many times. More than just on November 8-9th. I have felt despair and utter disbelief that this is what we are stuck with. I get nauseated when I am reminded of the popular vote totals. I cannot wrap my head around that. I am not sure I ever will. I will say, this march was so refreshing. I felt this release inside of my chest. I was able to take a detoxing deep breath for the first time since November 8th. I slept easily last night. I was ready for bed by 8:30pm. I feel good. I think a lot of us needed this.

I also know it is important to not let this be the end. This was not the stopping point. This was not just one giant therapy session. This needs to be the start of the battle. We need to continue to fight in any capacity we are capable of. This may develop differently for each human on this side of history. That is fine. Maybe you talk to a stranger. Maybe you spread kindness. Maybe you write your congress person. Maybe you call them. Maybe you volunteer. Maybe you run for office. Maybe you find an organization that means something to you and you get involved. This morning I felt that I know the path I want to head down. I know the organization I want to get involved with. We are moving in February, and once we are settled in, I will get the ball rolling.

For me and my experience, this was not about destruction. This was about building up our nation through solidarity with one another. This was about cherishing equality for all persons. This was about lifting your neighbor up when they need a hand. This was about celebrating the uniqueness that lives inside each of us. My mom pointed out that it was really neat how all of the pink hats looked alike yet they were all a little different. Being who I am I said “Like vaginas!’” My mom laughed and said “yeah or like, people.”

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And that is the take away. We are all the same in some regard, yet we are all unique in our own right. Our choices, experiences, relationships, visions, and desires are unique. That is what makes this whole world so wonderful. We should embrace that, celebrate that, and respect that. There would be a lot less hatred in the world if we were less afraid of differences and more open to cherishing the opportunity to bump into one another, for a lifetime, a moment, or a movement.

Today is Wednesday. If you follow me on Instagram you will know that I love to participate in Wundachair Wednesday. Who doesn’t absolutely adore ample alliteration? See what I did there?

Today’s video comes to you from my wonderful wundachair. The twist. It is an essential part of my Pilates practice. It just feels so lovely on the whole body. Twisting is especially good for your internal parts. Imagine wringing out your organs, that is what a good twist can help you do. Twisting brings an energy to your workout and follows you throughout your entire day.

My set up is one black spring on the 3rd claw. You can alter your resistance based on your strength and needs. I find this to be the sweet spot of spring loads.

I aimed to keep my hips as level and square as possible for this video. I really focused on twisting from the torso and not from the lower half. Keep the ribs closed and the core engaged. Inhale on the way down and exhale to lift. I think of lifting from my chest. Long beautiful lines. I think imagery is important for this move (as it is for many) You need to keep that mind-body connection. The toes are reaching away and the legs are trying to stay as still as possible (this is a challenge without a teacher holding your feet) Engage the low belly and the obliques.

This is going to work the obliques, very deeply. The shoulders, arms, pecs a bit, lower belly, and even the glutes a bit if they are active while keeping the legs still. The major focus here, though, is the obliques.

Move within your safe range of motion. This is a move where you can over-do it, without even realizing it is about to happen. I would urge you to move with purpose and caution if you have never done this before. Meaning, the twist does not have to be very dramatic the first time and you do not have to go all the way to the floor as you lower the pedal. You must make sure you can get back up! It is awesome to get that pedal all the way down, but now you’re there and cannot get it back to the start, AH what happens then? A fancy ninja backwards roll over/flip into a roll up? Because I cannot pull that off, if you can, please share a video! The focus then should be the movement and strength building. Building blocks to get the pedal as far down as you can press it with a strong and aligned lift back up.

One little note, make sure you are not right next to a wall so when you turn in the opposite direction you don’t have to move your arm in a weird way. My mistake! Ha!