When Life Gives You Contrast, LISTEN!

I started quarantine so strong, but this past week I have been slowly dying. If I look closely at my behavior patterns though, I’ve been struggling far more than a week. On week one I pumped myself up for survival. I planned to go for walks twice a day, do my yoga, take my vitamins, and go to bed early. Somewhere within these past six weeks of quarantine now, my good survival habits have slowly started to die. When good habits start to die, your body will slowly follow suit.

I went from eating mostly healthy before quarantine to eating way too many frozen meals of fish sticks and french fries. I went from exercising two to three times per day to zero. I started making excuses that it is too cold outside or that I just don’t have enough time. I stopped organizing my vitamins for the week in my plastic pill container, so I just didn’t take them at all. I went from going to bed at 10 pm to going to bed after midnight every night just to get in a few blissful hours of peace and quiet.

Yesterday my body completely shut down on me. I woke up feeling dizzy, then nauseous with a bad stomach. My first thought was the virus, so I googled my symptoms. “Is dizziness a sign of Covid-19?” It didn’t come up as one of the symptoms. I felt instant relief and knew since I have barely been out of the house it was not likely. I also knew I had not been taking good care of myself and had a feeling my body was trying to get my attention. It worked.

If you’ve ever had vertigo, that’s what it felt like. I stayed in bed the entire day, too weak to move. I think it was just pure exhaustion from doing this mom gig 24/7, without even leaving the house some days for a walk. Throw in some big behaviors from my children and my husband leaving town for five days, it’s enough for anyone’s body to go into shut down. I prayed that with me in bed all day, the rest of my family could survive the day in one piece. As far as I know they did, besides maybe a little too much Tom and Jerry time for my youngest.

By dinner time I rolled out of bed and had a piece of toast. It was a beautiful sixty-five degree day outside, one of the nicest days of spring so far, and I missed it. I made some tea and went outside after dinner to get some fresh air. I vowed to myself to make some big changes. I felt horrible all day and was no good to anyone. I decided moving forward I will do everything I can to never feel that miserable again. I know I brought it on myself and I would have to make it go away by myself too.

Last night I was still really tired, even after sleeping all day. I went to bed at 10 pm instead of midnight. I have only eaten clean foods today. I took my vitamins this morning and went for a walk. I am feeling so much better and thankful it didn’t last more than 24 hours.

Thank you contrast for showing up. I needed you to wake me up and get me back on track. Contrast is never pleasant, but that’s why it works so well. I never want to go back to that feeling and I promise to listen to my body. It’s not the first time contrast has shown up in my life, it shows up often, but not always to such an extreme.

The goal is to listen right away. I let weeks go by, even though I could feel myself becoming more and more exhausted by the day. Contrast was telling me to stop drinking so much coffee and go to bed earlier, but do you think I listened? NO. Then contrast had to get nasty until it got my full attention.

I want to save the rest of you from any pain in your life. If you hear contrast gently tapping at your door, please open the door and hear what it has to say. If contrast keeps knocking and you keep ignoring it, watch out, because sooner or later it will blow your house down!

Stay healthy and take care of you!

Do Better & Shine

4 Ways To Calm A Baby Dragon

Our morning started out a little rough today. My youngest came into my room this morning before I was even out of bed and asked for a hard boiled egg. I told him they were all gone. He said, “I already took one.” I said, “You didn’t try to crack it open did you?” He said, “Yes. It’s all over the table and chair.” So before I even had my morning coffee, I had to wipe up a slimy egg mess. I didn’t react,I just wiped it up. He had even tried to wipe it himself with a towel, which I sort of appreciated, but it really wasn’t helpful.

We put that mess behind us and somehow became distracted looking at toy dragons on Amazon together and lost track of time. He was becoming over hungry and overstimulated from looking at my computer screen and I could tell it was going to be a downhill slide. When he starts to unravel he becomes like a fierce, fire-breathing baby dragon. I put some food in front of him to hopefully stop his emotional spiral.

He ate breakfast and then came into my bedroom very upset and dysregulated. He needed to calm his little body. For some reason I decided to sit in a meditation pose and quieted my own body first. He was still angry and started crawling under my bed. I started tapping and he yelled, “Stop moving!” I went back to my still meditation pose. I took a deep breath, and in my mind I said, “Breathe in love”. As I exhaled a deep breath out, I said to myself, “Breathe out stress.” After a few minutes I started to do some yoga poses and then ended in a child’s pose. I was feeling calm and relaxed, even with a baby dragon under my bed.

Photo by Jaymantri on Pexels.com

After just a few minutes my baby dragon slowly came out from under the bed. I stayed in my child’s pose as he grabbed pillows from my bed and laid them on top of me. After he piled 6 pillows on and around my body he climbed on top of me too. I now understand how pressure and weight can be calming, not to mention the darkness from being buried under the pillows. I could feel his small, warm hand touch mine. I grabbed it and held on.

His anger had completely disappeared in a matter of minutes. He wasn’t a baby dragon anymore. He was a happy little boy again. He asked, “Want to play?” I said, ” Sure.” So I had him lay down and put the pillows on top of him with some added pressure from my body. When he said stop, I stopped. He emerged from the pile of pillows and they scattered around us. We snuggled up in the dragon nest and just laid there together for a while breathing in this calm, quiet moment of connection.

My son is very sensitive, like myself. We take in all the commotion around us and seem to be hyper-aware of the energy of others. This little experiment was a great demonstration of the law of attraction. When you feel calm and loving your child will attract towards you with the same feelings. Your child needs you to be present and hold space for them when they are struggling. This will help them feel safe and regulate.

When you are disconnected, stressed, and not present, your child will feel the same. When he is in a state of dysregulation and then feels your stress on top of it, even if you are not aware of it, he will go into fight or flight. So, it’s really pretty simple. If you can change your energy level to a calm, positive, present state you can change your outcome to the same.

Four Steps To Calm Your BABY Dragon:

  1. BE Quiet
  2. BE STILL
  3. BE PRESENT
  4. Breathe in love

I was reading a story this afternoon with my son. It was called What Makes You Happy? It talked about all kinds of silly things that might make a kid happy. I asked my son, “What makes YOU happy?” I was shocked by his wise answer. I thought he was going to tell me riding his bike or watching his favorite show. His profound answer for a 5 year-old was, “Getting love.” Kids don’t want to make our lives hard, they just want love.

~Do Better & Shine

Little Pieces Of Joy

I used to think I was the most patient person in the world, until I had children. Maybe you are lucky and you have an easy child who listens to your every word and follows your every direction. Well, most children are not like that, especially mine. I guess you can’t consider yourself patient until you are really put to the test. Quarantine adds a whole new level, especially when we have just completed week five.

It’s been a rough week. I have a teenager who thinks he can stay up all hours of the night now. He isn’t required to be up at any certain time for Distance Learning, so his evenings are when he connects with friends and has his fun. He talks on the phone for hours on end with his headphones stuck to his ears. Friday morning he startled me out of a deep sleep by slamming the refrigerator door a bit too hard. I was not happy when I stumbled into the kitchen to find him making a mug cake in the microwave at 2 am. I gave him a glare, shook my head and went back to bed.

It took me two hours to finally fall back to sleep since I was tossing and turning in utter frustration of why he would want to stay up so late. Then as luck would have it my five year-old wakes at up at 4:30 am ready for the day to begin. I knew it was going to take a lot of work for me to survive the day. I do not do well when I don’t get enough sleep.

With everyone at home all the time there is a lot of clashing energies. Frustrations seem to build quickly. I am trying hard to keep the meltdowns to a minimum, but they still seem to happen daily. If I am not on top of my game things can spiral downward very quickly and when you get past the point of no return, it is never pretty and takes even longer to recover from the madness.

I’ve let go of a lot of expectations. The house is a mess. Kids are stressed. My husband is out of town. I can’t do it all and I am trying to be alright with that. The basement floor is covered in legos and I just have to walk away. I don’t have the strength to worry about that right now. I am taking care of myself first by writing this blog, even when there are a million other things I could be doing. My nights are for myself. I will do yoga, take a bath, read, and try to learn something new.

Today was long since I am still recovering from lack of sleep from the day before. I am beginning to get my youngest ready for bed. I gave him a bath. He still won’t let me wash his hair, but I was flexible and let it go. I brought him a warm towel and jammies from the dryer which I have never done before in my life. He loved it! He brushed his teeth after taking his time and doing it all by himself. I thought I was in the home stretch, ready to head down to bed and then he asked, “Can I have a snack?” Of course I had to say yes, in fear he might starve to death overnight, so I gave him a banana.

I thought a banana would be a quick, simple snack, and then we could be on our way to bed. When I sat down next to him at the table he quickly jumped up and went to the drawer to get a butter knife. At this point I was too tired to tell him to put it back. He peeled his banana and then began to cut it into slices. I watched patiently without saying a word. He didn’t stop there though, he then proceeded to cut each slice into tinier pieces until he had a mound of little banana pieces on his plate. After this intricate cutting work he began to slowly eat the pieces with his fork.

I just sat and watched him in amazement. He was so present in what he was doing. He actually ate the whole banana pile, which was amazing in itself for such a picky eater. After he took his last bite he looked at me proudly with a big smile on his face and said, “I was practicing my cutting!”

I could have stopped him and told him to put the knife back. I could have yelled at him for making a mess on the table and wasting time. I could have just said no. Tonight I decided to let him be in charge, maybe it was just pure exhaustion, I’m not sure, but I let him take the lead and it took a little longer, but added a spark of joy to his night. After this fun and exciting snack he happily went to bed.

Sometimes it’s the little wins that make everything seem ok. Sometimes we need to let go of the control and let our kids just be. It’s ok to let them stay up late in this unprecedented time. It’s ok for them to make mug cakes (maybe not at 2 am). It’s ok if they cut their banana into as many tiny pieces as they like.

We all need to find the little things that bring us joy right now. Not everyone will choose the same thing, but we all have something that brings us joy. Make a list and then carve out as many moments as possible throughout your day to bring the sparks on your list to life. It can be as simple as cutting a banana. It will make all the difference.

Do Better & Shine

Quarantine Birthdays

My daughter was lucky. She turned 15 on March 3rd, before our concern for COVID-19 hit. My sons were not quite as lucky, they both had birthdays that will go down in history. Their birthdays were April 1st and April 6th. Quarantine birthdays. It’s crazy how birthdays only one month apart can feel like a completely different lifetime.

For my daughter’s birthday we were able to sneak away for the day for some mother-daughter time. We went to Caribou first, which is always a great way to start the day. Then we went to the mall and just spent hours leisurely walking from store to store, enjoying our time together. We arrived when the mall opened in the morning and the day flew by quickly. When we realized it was already late afternoon we made our way to a small Russian restaurant.

My daughter was adopted from Russia and chose to celebrate her birthday with Russian food, which I thought was a great idea. We enjoyed being adventurous and trying all sorts of new foods. We had an amazing day together, just the two of us enjoying some much needed time girl time and getting out of the house.

Fast forward from the beginning of March to the beginning of April. These next two birthdays for my sons felt like no other. They had no choice about inviting friends, dining out, or going to fun places. We have been on quarantine for three weeks now and we are all craving a little more excitement, but we decided to go ahead and celebrate the quarantine birthdays anyway.

It is really hard to let go of ideas about what a birthday party should look like. We want our kids to be happy and have a party they will always remember. We want smiley pictures for their scrapbook. We want them to be able to look back and have fond memories when they are older. We want them to feel special and loved.

It’s funny how parents get caught up in their own stories. Some have memories of their childhood birthdays and want to make sure their children’s birthdays are just as special. Some don’t have the fond memories, so they want to do everything possible to make sure their children’s birthdays are better than theirs were. Either way, we usually think we have the child’s best interest in mind.

Here’s the thing, I don’t think kids actually care so much about all the hoopla. Kids just want us to be there for them. They want us to be completely present with them. This becomes almost impossible to do while concentrating on all the usual birthday hoopla. Parents with the best intentions end up being the ones who miss out because they are so distracted. When this happens, kids lose too. They lose their parents presence.

We have to get these crazy ideals out of our heads. My husband and I both risked our lives going to stores to get items we thought we MUST have for a birthday party. I went to Walmart first, sanitized my cart, then proceeded to walk through the isles as people passed me with their facemasks on. This was my first time out in a few weeks, so I didn’t even know what to expect. It never even dawned on me to wear a mask grocery shopping, but next time I will. As I found myself holding my breath in the store I suddenly felt like germs were everywhere. I tried not to breathe anything in. All this for a birthday cake.

I thought to myself, “This is crazy! What am I even doing here? What is more important healthy parents or a birthday cake?” Oh, the stories we have in our heads about the way things need to be. I could have turned around and walked out, but I didn’t. I risked my life so my children would have cake for their birthdays.

Next on my agenda was balloons, plastic tablecloths, birthday napkins and paper plates. So instead of going home I risked my life even further by going to the Dollar Store. What is a birthday party without decorations? Again, in the big picture, would my kids rather have healthy parents or balloons and partyware? We really need to rethink these stories. My husband was just as bad. His love language is gifts so he went to the local bike store to purchase a bike for my five-year old. The story in his head is that his child will not feel special without an amazing gift. All this shopping right in the midst of a pandemic. Kind of crazy!

We could have stopped there, but what is a party without grandparents? My parents have done a great job of following the quarantine rules up until this point. They are in their late 70’s. We invited them over because that’s what we usually do. We planned for everyone to stay outside and tried to stay 6-feet apart at all times, but there were a few times we broke the 6-foot rule by mistake. I hope a few careless moments don’t get my parents sick. What is more important- grandparents at your party or healthy grandparents? We are such creatures of habit and my parents felt they needed to be here in real time. That’s how grandparents show their love.

I hope you learn from the mistakes we made. If you are a parent and your child has an upcoming birthday go ahead and celebrate. It doesn’t have to look like all of their other birthdays. Keep it as simple as possible this year. Your number one priority right now is safety for yourself and your family. What your child needs most this year is healthy parents and a healthy family.

A healthy family is so much more important than presents and cake. Your child wouldn’t trade you for anything in the world. Your child just wants to be seen by you and have you spend time with them in their world. Relax about all the party details and spend that time connecting with your child instead. I guarantee it will make your child feel happy and special, even without all the hoopla.

Do Better & Shine