Frustration

We all want to start our day off on a positive note. Our hope each morning is to start fresh and have a good day. I try to get myself into a good head space every morning before the hustle and bustle getting ready for school begins. It helps when you have a few quiet moments just for you. You need to take care of your own soul first before you can be present for others. That is the goal anyway.

Life in a family means you have to deal with the energy of other people. Kids often have trouble nurturing their own souls in the morning and will need you to help them. All it takes is for one person to rock the boat a little too hard. If one person lets their frustration fly it is automatically absorbed by the rest of the family. It is a constant daily battle to get everyone out the door without any chaos taking place.

My daughter couldn’t find her basketball uniform this morning in the midst of a floor full of dirty clothes. She quickly became stressed and frantic as it was already time to leave for school. Her anxious energy oozed into the pores of everyone else in the house. It’s amazing how this energy can linger in the air, even after the frustrated person is out of the house. Sometimes you don’t even realize how much it has affected you, but you know it doesn’t feel good and it wasn’t your energy to begin with.

The best way for me to get rid of too much energy from someone else is to wash it away. I decided to go take a quick shower while my youngest son colored at the kitchen table. Before I even had a chance to get in the shower I came back into the kitchen and noticed a large container of colored pencils dumped all over the table and onto the floor. Sometimes I forget that little ones need to find a way to get rid of their energy too. They often can’t do it alone and my son uses behaviors instead of words to get my attention. Spilled pencils everywhere got my attention.

At this point I am already frustrated from dealing with child one and now moving onto dealing with child 2. I asked him what happened but he felt my tension and told me he didn’t know. I angrily cleaned the pencils up and told him he was no longer allowed to use colored pencils. Ever. I brought him into the bathroom with me so we could both sit and calm down. After we both had a few minutes to sit quietly and take a deep breath he told me that he was frustrated because he started coloring his picture earlier and then he couldn’t find the same colored pencil to make it match.

I know how sensitive he can be and how stress affects kids as much as it affects adults. Understanding where his frustration was coming from, especially since I was feeling the same way allowed me to be compassionate and spend time reconnecting. As we sat and talked he asked me why his sister didn’t ask anyone to help her find her uniform. Surprised that he noticed this very important detail, I told him that was a very good question. I said, “Sometimes we just get so angry and frustrated that we don’t have the words.”

So many things can happen in our day to make us “flip our lids”. It is pretty much a given that it will happen, we just don’t know how or when. When it does happen, our brains go straight to fight, flight, or freeze. First we feel the stress (ours or someone else’s), then we get scared, then the behaviors show themselves. The stress made my daughter yell and not ask for help. The stress made my youngest son dump all the pencils out, also not asking for help. The stress made me want to run away and take a shower, when I new it was not the best time.

There are lots of things we can do to try and fix the situations above, but the reality is that frustration will keep happening on a daily basis, especially in a family. The scenarios will change, but the reactions will often stay the same. We need to be conscious of what is happening and try to stay present so we can work our way through it.

Tomorrow is a new day and once again we will start over. I will do what I need to fill my cup and take care of my soul first so I can be the presence that the rest of my family needs. This does not guarantee perfection, not even close, but after many years of searching for answers, it is the best way I have found to start making progress.

Do Better & Shine

Keep Moving Forward

I was sitting on the floor in my youngest son’s room. Little pieces of mismatched toys were scattered everywhere. Amid the clutter of toys he handed me a rock with three words on it. He asked me what it said and I read the words aloud to him, “Keep Moving Forward.” He then asked in his curious four-year old voice, “What happens if you don’t keep moving forward?” I thought about it for a quick second and said, “You get stuck.”

He proceeded to tell me about a cartoon he had watched where a girl was dribbling a soccer ball the wrong direction. I was intrigued by this example he immediately thought of and told him it sounded like the girl was not moving forward, she was moving backwards. He said, “Yes, she was.” I told him she was moving in the wrong direction and he agreed. I told him you don’t want to move backwards. He said, “No, you don’t.”

I thought to myself that is exactly what happens. You are feeling good and really focusing on doing your best. Then for some reason you become overwhelmed, and you don’t know which way to go or what to do next. It’s easy to get stuck in this place for a while until you can notice what is happening. If you are not careful and don’t notice your patterns, it is likely that you will continue to move backwards.

Amazing how my son just happened to pull that one little rock off his messy floor today at just the right time and ask me about it. A perfect little reminder for everyone to keep moving forward. Don’t get stuck. Try not to go backwards into old habits. This is a challenge and I know it is bound to happen. When it does, observe your patterns and get yourself back in the game. Don’t be the one dribbling the wrong direction, but if it happens it’s not the end of the world, all you have to do is turn yourself around and KEEP MOVING FORWARD.

~Do Better & Shine

Practice Stillness

It’s what everyone is looking for, yet sometimes it’s hard to slow down and find it. I am talking about complete stillness with nothing else going on in the background. When is the last time you were completely still? No music, no phone, no Youtube, just YOU!

If we want to practice stillness, one of our best teachers is our pets. I have a dog that can do this for hours a day. Can you imagine how relaxing that would be? She just finds a cozy spot, usually right in my bed, maybe even on my pillow and curls up. I don’t think she has any other thoughts rushing through her mind, she is just enjoying the quiet, warmth, and stillness. She is so good at taking deep breaths. Your dog can teach you how to do this too. All you have to do is be still and listen.

If you want to practice, wait until your dog is in a quiet restful state and go snuggle up and get close. Put your ear to your dog’s heart and listen. You will hear long, deep, slow breaths. Try to follow along. Be still, close your eyes and just breathe. Stay in this place for one minute, or as long as you like. Ahhh.

I know your days are busy, but whenever you have a moment, remember this feeling of being still and try to come back to it. Visualize yourself cozied up with your warm pup, remember the sound of your pups deep breaths and pretend you are back in this warm, soft place. As you imagine this picture in your mind take a long deep breath in and let that same long breath out.

This is such an amazing, full sensory experience that your mind should be able to recreate it in any moment . When life is feeling crazy and your body is craving some peace, no matter where you are, take your mind back to this experience and just breathe and be still. Ahhh.

Do Better & Shine

Martin Luther King Day Poem

I tried to teach my four-year old who Martin Luther King was today. I pulled up a video of King’s “I Have A Dream” speech. My son watched intently for a short while, not really understanding what it was about, but at the same time now having a picture in his head of this important person. He was obviously paying attention because when his Grandpa called a few minutes later he asked him, “Do you know Martin Luther King?”

I told my son we were going to write a poem together. He was up for the challenge, as he is quite the little thinker and likes to talk and come up with ideas. First, I asked him to think about the kids in his class at school and tell me how some kids might be different from him. His first response was, “Some people are small and some people are big.” I was surprised, at how quickly he understood what I was looking for.

Next, I asked him to tell me how all the kids are alike. He said, “We all need food.” We continued back and forth like this until we came up with a sweet little poem. I encourage you to try this and see what deep thinkers your kids can be. You could do it as a whole group or it could be something kids work on individually, depending on their age. When I asked my son if anyone has skin that is different than his, he said, “Some people have freckles.” When I asked him what color Martin Luther King’s skin was he said, “Grey.” He was correct. The video I showed him was in black and white. Even though my son still has a lot to learn about King and the importance of this National Holiday, it never hurts to start young. My son is aware of some differences in people, but I love how he really sees how we are all alike or equal. Here is his sweet poem…

Martin Luther King Day Poem

Some people are small and some are big.

We all need food.

Some people wear different outfits.

We all need clothing.

Some people are mean and some people are nice.

We all need love.

Some people celebrate different holidays.

We all need family.

Some people get hurt.

We all need to be taken care of.

Some people have freckles.

We all are beautiful.

~Do Better & Shine

You Are Worthy

Every child deserves someone to fight for them. Every child deserves someone to be their voice when they are not allowed or asked to use their own. Every child deserves their behavior and needs to be truly understood in order to help them grow and learn.

Just because you have a hard time sitting still, focusing in class, or keeping your hands to yourself, you are still worthy. Just because you struggle with reading, writing, speaking, or doing a math problem, you are still worthy. Just because you are easily frustrated, inflexible, or have trouble following a direction, you are still worthy. Just because you have a hard time being in your body, don’t like how your brain works, or feel sad about your behavior when your emotions take over, you are still worthy.

I see you. I understand you. I understand the real you underneath it all. Don’t let anyone make you feel less than. You have your own superpowers that are no more or no less that anyone else. Focus on those and you will begin to feel your strength.

We are all on this earth for a purpose. Behind all the hard is something very special. Behind all the hard is someone uniquely you. Know that you have a gift to share with the world. Keep moving forward. I will stand up for you when you can’t stand up for yourself. I will understand you even when you don’t understand yourself. I will hold the hope for your future self, even if you can’t picture it right now. Just keep moving forward and know that you are getting stronger everyday.

~ DO BETTER & Shine

Lizard Brain

I am thrilled that my youngest son has a teacher that specifically teaches classes in mindfulness. It is probably not practiced enough, but I am happy to know that it does exist. I wish I had more knowledge of exactly what is being taught, but for now I am going by what my four-year old tells me.

He has shown me different breaths he has learned to calm his body. His favorite is called the “Volcano Breath”. When I was doing Yoga at home the other day he heard the instructor say, “Lion’s Breath” and he told me he learned that breath in school. He said I was doing it wrong and showed me how to do it correctly, letting out a big lion roar. I was also surprised when he told me he had a “Lizard Brain”. He could not put into words what it meant, but when I told him how his “lizard brain” keeps him safe, he understood. He also told me his teacher had a lizard puppet.

So last night after two very long weeks of winter break, lots of traveling, and probably not enough sleep, I decided my youngest should take a bath before bed to be ready for school the next day. He was already being pretty bossy, so I should have known this might not go well. When it came time to wash hair he insisted on doing it himself. When he didn’t get his hair quite wet enough, I took it upon myself to pour a cup of water over his head when he wasn’t expecting it.

His “lizard brain” went into full effect! His first response is to fight! So he takes his hands and give me three big splashes, soaking my clothes. I was not happy, but I also did not react. I could feel myself going into “lizard brain” mode too, but after years of practice, I am finally able to recognize it and move on. His next response is to tell me he doesn’t love me. He knows exactly what to say to stab my heart and get revenge. At this point the option of washing his hair was over unless I was going to go into full on battle with him. He was mad. I was very frustrated. We both needed to calm down. I helped him out of the tub, but I was in no mood to help him with anything else.

He went downstairs and sat in his rocking chair wrapped up in blankets. I sat on my bed and took some deep breaths. Once I regained some composure and compassion, yet still damp from being splashed, I went into the fridge and brought him a slice of cake for a bedtime snack. He ate half the cake, too tired to be completely happy about it. I helped him get his pajamas on, he brushed his teeth and hopped straight into bed. I asked if I could snuggle with him and he said, “No, I hate you.” I said, “Maybe tomorrow.” I told him, just like I told my older kids when they were little, “I love you always and forever and no matter what.” He closed his eyes and went to sleep.

When I came into the kitchen this morning he was eating his cereal. I asked if I could sit down beside him. After thinking about it for a moment he said, “Yes.” I asked him if he still loved me today and he said, “Yes, I do.” We talked about what happened last night. I know he felt bad for splashing me and I told him that it wasn’t really him that splashed me, it was his “lizard brain.” Sometimes our emotions completely take over and our lizard gets out of his cage. Even though it is not a life or death situation, sometimes our brain does not take that into consideration and just goes right to fight or flight. Some kids are super sensitive and go here more easily than others.

Everyone has a “lizard brain”, we just need to learn to recognize it. I told my son we need to try to keep our lizard in its cage when we don’t really need it. A little water over our head is not the same as having to survive if we are drowning. If it comes out of the cage by mistake, we can practice our volcano breaths or our lion breaths to put it back where it belongs. We can snuggle up in our blanket and rock. We can get a good night’s sleep, or do whatever else helps calm our brain and body.

This takes years of practice. Many adults still don’t even recognize their lizard brain and why their lizard charged out of its cage in a particular moment. You are way ahead of the game learning this at age four. We will keep practicing. The more we practice the more we understand our emotions and are able to have a little more control over them. You did all the right things to get yourself back on track. Sometimes we just need to sleep on it too. Everything looks better in the morning!

~DO BETTER & Shine

What Is Not Serving You?

I am at our family cabin for a long weekend. The third day of 2020. When I opened my mom’s refrigerator yesterday I noticed the expiration date on every condiment I looked at was expired. I was disgusted every time I looked at this old stuff, but instead of throwing it away I put it back. When I got up this morning the same thing happened. I was wasting so much time having to check expiration dates all over again. This was not serving me, even though the stuff was not mine.

I decided that I needed to make a change. It’s not a fun job to look at old, expired stuff, but you need to get rid of what is no longer serving you and those around you. I started throwing away every condiment that expired before 2020. Some went as far back as 2011. Sometimes it’s just hard to let go.

It was quite gross. I had to open things that were moldy, chunky and smelly. Some things I couldn’t even identify or tell what purpose they originally served. Some things were hard to get rid of because they were so thick and crusty I needed to scrape them out of the jar. They had just been taking up space for far too long.

This is a perfect example of what I call holding on to old stuff that no longer serves. If you hold on to all your old stuff, how in the world are you going to make room for the new good stuff?

It’s time to start fresh! Please get rid of what is no longer serving you or those around you. I know it takes work, but it will save you lots of time and energy in the long run. After you do “the work” you will feel so much lighter, so much more free.

Now my mom’s refrigerator has a completely empty condiment shelf. No more wasted time and energy. No more negativity. Now there is only a clean fresh space for what is to come.

I look forward to seeing what new items will be placed on these shelves in the spring. It’s scary to start new, but it’s even scarier to see what happens when you don’t. I know whatever is added to the shelves it will be 100% better than what was there before.

What are you going to let go of this year? What is not serving you? What is not serving those around you? What do you want to make space for? What do you want the universe to bring you?

I promise that if you let go of what no longer serves you, only good will come. Please give it a try and see what happens. There’s no better time than the present to start.

~Do Better & Shine

Just Start

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” -Mark Twain

Why is it always so hard to just start doing something new? We can be so excited to start something new and then our fear takes over. Fear of what others might think of our crazy ideas, fear of failure, fear of not being good enough. You are not alone. Everyone has these thoughts.

We overthink, we procrastinate, we think of all the reasons it won’t work. Sometimes it’s good to be cautious, but the more you think about doing something different the more your brain tries to keep you safe by talking you out of it. Starting something new can be difficult. It sometimes means taking the road less traveled.

It takes work to learn new things. This is called growth and even if you fail, you will be a better person for it. You will learn from your mistakes. You will dust yourself off and try again. No matter how many times it takes, never give up on yourself. You have something special to share with this world. I can’t wait to see what you start in 2020!

~Do Better & Shine

Blog Intro

When I first decided to start this blog, it came out of the idea of developing curriculum for teachers. As I thought about what kind of curriculum sparked something inside of me, I decided that I wanted to create curriculum that allowed ALL students to feel successful. As a former special education teacher and a mom of three very different children- all with their own unique gifts and challenges, I wanted to create something that allowed all students to SHINE.

After lots of scribbling in notebooks and jotting down tidbits of thoughts here and there, I decided to start blogging publicly so someday my kids can gain some insight from my writing in a more organized fashion that might actually make some sense. Even though I try to teach them everyday, I know their brains will only take what they need today and learn the rest over time. My hope is that they will read this someday, be inspired by their own gifts and gain more insight into themselves and the world around them.

My soul was telling me to start. Just start even though I don’t know where this path will lead. I love to learn and I plan to share inspiration and ideas I discover on a daily basis, usually just within the chaos and challenges of family life. Writing helps me better understand and process my own world. I hope reading this helps you process yours a bit too. I’m sure this blog will evolve as I continue to learn and grow, but I’m excited to see where it takes me. Thanks for coming along for the ride!

~Do Better & Shine