Cabin Calm

There’s something about being up North at the cabin that allows your mind and body to enter a simpler state of calm, ease, and presence. It doesn’t happen immediately. It takes time to remember how to slow down and breathe, especially after being quarantined in your home with your husband and three children for over eight weeks. Maybe for some families it has been a time of connection and relaxation, but it doesn’t seem that way for us.

With the kids at home all the time it has felt like we are constantly just trying to keep up with laundry, groceries, meals, washing dishes, school work, and an assortment of chores that never seem to end. Having everyone in the house all the time has often left me feeling more exhausted than connected. By the time my youngest is in bed I have nothing left to give and am ready for some quiet time to myself rather than connecting with anyone else. Then it’s lights out and we do the same thing all over again.

For some reason the cabin feels different. It feels like we are on vacation from all the expectations that weigh us down at home. We can individually take more time to do what we love. We can all get a little more space. Everything slows down up here. The days feel longer and so much quieter. The sibling arguing is non-existent at the moment as we all take time to rest and fill ourselves up. Unlike our house, the cabin has an open floor plan, which also seems to add to the feeling of togetherness.

My husband got up early and went fishing this morning. I had time to make pancakes and read a book. My teens rode their bikes 14 miles round trip to the little store, something they’ve never done before. We gave them permission to go ahead and explore beyond their previous boundaries, a memory I’m sure they will never forget.

My youngest collected acorns. I saw him grabbing handfuls of sunflower seeds out of Grandpa’s bird feeder. I was about to yell at him to stop, but I paused and looked at his face. He was so in the moment, making a special concoction for the birds. I just sat and watched him. He found a container and mixed his acorns with the sunflower seeds. He stirred them with his hands and tried to crack the acorns open. Then he sprinkled them around the deck for the squirrels and birds. He saw me watching through the window and proudly smiled and waved. I was glad I didn’t disturb his creative flow.

Next my son got on his bike and we made it halfway down the driveway together. He jumped off to stop and feel the sand. He wanted me to stop and feel it too, so I reached down and rubbed my hand in the sand. He was right, it was super soft. We continued on. I was hoping to get in a good walk while he rode his bike, but he stopped at the end of the driveway. He got off his bike and plopped himself down on a dirt path.

I stood over him for a few minutes. I thought of hurrying him along, but instead I decided to sit and join him. He collected more acorns, buried them, and watched the ants crawl around. We sat there for a very long time. An old memory flashed through my head from when I was a little girl. I used to be just like him, enthralled with watching and collecting ants on our driveway for hours.

As parents life seems to get so busy and complicated. All we really need to do is slow down, be present, and allow everyone to have time to fill themselves up doing something they love. Tonight we will put the youngest to bed early and watch a movie together with the teens. Usually I would be too tired to do this, but tonight I am looking forward to it.

Now I just need to figure out how to bottle up the best parts of our north woods experience and bring it home with me!

~Do Bettter & 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

Distance Learning Day 1 ~Quarantine Day 14

So I am happy to report that our family has survived 14 days in quarantine together. I feel like I’ve been in this place before, minus the virus. Being a stay at home mom is a little like quarantine, especially living in Minnesota during the winter months. I have also been a homeschool mom for many years, so I feel like I am just travelling back in time. The only difference is that my sweet young kids who I used to homeschool are now teenagers.

So we started quarantine off with two strict family rules that applied to everyone. Even the dog.

Rule#1 Go outside before lunch

Rule#2 Go outside before dinner

These two rules were to ensure everyone’s sanity and I enforced them like a police officer. I made sure these two items were checked off our list on a daily basis, rain or shine.

My teens would roll out of bed around 11 am or so which was becoming their new routine. They would stay up late, raid the refrigerator after I was in bed, watch movies, and sleep late. Not a bad way to spend a two week “Spring Break”. As soon as I caught sight of them in the late morning though, after already being up for five hours with my preschooler, I would snap at them to grab some breakfast and get outside. I also knew I needed to keep everyone mentally healthy to survive this together. Plus I needed some babysitters so I could get my own morning walk in and have my only moment of solitude for the day.

I can’t say my kids accomplished a whole lot in these two weeks. My preschooler was probably the most productive of any of us. My older kids were either outside, on their phones, or on their computers. I spent most of my time managing everyone, but at least I also started an online course. I am proud of myself for that small feat, which I usually finish after the kids are in bed.

It sounds like some people have focused on decluttering since they are bored. I can’t say that I have ever had time to be bored and I really hate when I hear my kids say they are bored. I feel like I have so many things I’d like to do, if only I could have more uninterrupted time.

I realized my time for getting things done would come to an abrupt end today since distance learning was beginning so I started a decluttering craze on Saturday and it continued into Sunday. I was just going through old files that I haven’t looked at in far too long, just one of those things I have always put off. Maybe I was just trying to gain more control over what I can do inside my house, since everything is so out of control on the outside.

I thought that if our house could be organized online school would go so much smoother. Well, when you start decluttering, sometimes it just makes a bigger mess. And when you have three children and a husband who do not help in your weekend declutter craze, well sometimes things don’t quite get done. So here we are today, decluttering not close to complete and school work, well I wouldn’t say that got completed today either.

It takes a while for my kids to get in the swing of my rules, but the one thing that did stick with them is to go outside in the morning and afternoon. Their computers sat empty most of this beautiful sixty degree day. I’m glad they have the flexibility to take breaks, but today was definitely more outside time than inside. I’m all for daily exercise and mental health breaks, but they took it to the extreme.

Tomorrow it’s time to get back in the swing of things again. It took us two weeks to get accustomed to quarantine life, I’m sure it will take us another two to get accustomed to quarantine plus distance learning life. After today, I realize I need to start setting my alarm again so I can have time to myself before my kids get up.

Distance Learning is going to be a challenge. It will be a challenge for the teachers, the parents and the students. We are all in this together and we need to give everyone grace. We are all living this new normal and every family has their own unique challenges right now. Teachers, I promise to do my best to make sure my kids are completing their work, but I only have so much time in my day to watch over their every move.

We are all doing the best we can each and every day. That will just have to be enough. I thought the first day of quarantine was rough, but we eventually started to get into a groove that worked for our family. All of our days became the same. There was no such thing as a weekend anymore.

I think getting used to distance learning will be similar. Today was a rough start for being able to focus and complete work, but I know we will eventually find our groove again.

We can do this! We will finish the year healthy and strong and come out better on the other side!

Thank you teachers for all of your hard work! We appreciate you more than ever before!

~DO BETTER & Shine

Joy Is A Mindset

I wrote this blog before the worldwide craziness of the coronavirus set in and never published it. When I read through it again just now the things that triggered me of course seem pretty trivial at this point, as compared to what many people in the world are experiencing. I decided to go ahead and publish it anyway, because more than ever, being stuck in quarantine, I think the whole world needs to remember that joy is a mindset. Here is what I wrote:

Today I decided to stay open to joy. My day started off really well. I was able to enjoy a cup of coffee and steal a little time for myself. This motivated me to even squeeze in some yoga. After yoga I was feeling the joy flowing through my body, which inspired me to do a little work on my computer.

The thing is, as a mom, it seems the more I try to tune into myself for a little self-care, the more things start to unravel around me without me even noticing. Oh, how I love my breaks, a chance to stop with all the multi-tasking for awhile, but kids need attention. And when they don’t get what they need things just seem to fall apart.

I can feel in my body when the stress in the house starts to build up. Kids need to be pulled in so they can begin to regulate again. I had filled myself up, but what were the the kids doing during this time? The opposite I guess, because as I fill myself up, they are now running on empty.

I think about my mindset, and instead of getting annoyed, I try to get myself back on track. The sun is shining, but still only 47 degrees. I will tell myself it is a beautiful day outside, although still a bit chilly for my taste. I decide to send all the kids outside.

It’s a solid plan on paper, but my children think it is spring and, surprise, my teens choose to not dress appropriately for the weather. My daughter, along with other neighborhood kids, is wearing just a sweatshirt. I am not impressed, but am able to let it go because I know teens need to try and look cool. My teen son, on the other hand, is wearing just a long sleeve t-shirt. Again, I could have just let this go; it’s his body after all, and sometimes kids do need to learn from experience. If he wants to freeze, it’s his choice.

Still, my mindset quickly changes from calm to annoyed. My children making poor choices is a trigger for me. I know wearing a t-shirt is not a life or death situation, but for some reason my brain tells me it is. I can’t let it go; I open the window and yell at him to put a sweatshirt on. I can’t believe how one little experience closed off my joy and sent me straight to irritated.

Worse, I made the mistake of sending my youngest outside with my teens. I dressed him up in snow pants, coat, hat, mittens. The teens chuckled when they saw him, actually dressed appropriately for the weather. My hope was that they could keep an eye on him outside, but they are too distracted by the other neighborhood kids in the yard and want little to do with a four-year-old when their friends are over.

I decided to be kind and relieve them of this babysitting duty, so I got dressed to go out and get some fresh air and sunshine myself, so they could just hang with their friends. As I walk outside, I see that my son is soaking wet from head to toes, running through deep puddles as the muddy water splashes around him. Of course it’s predictable; since the big kids are ignoring him, he tries to get attention through his dysregulated behavior. My “joy” mindset immediately disappears again!

Thoughts of joy from breathing in some fresh air quickly turn to sadness, when I have to chase down a red-zone kid and carry his soaking-wet body back in the house for a time-in with mom. I peel off the wet snow clothes and take him straight to his room to change and get back in the green zone.

As I look around his room, it looks similar to the typhoon that I just scooped up from outside and carried in. His room is just as messy as he is. How do I get back to a joyful mindset? My brain goes straight to “overwhelm” as I know this is going to be a time-consuming clean-up job that he won’t be able to accomplish alone.

I stop and take some deep breaths, with my son now swaddled in dry clothes on my lap.

I remember joy is a mindset, and I realize that it is my own preferences that are limiting my joy in this moment. I breathe in again, and try to let all my preferences go, as hard as that sometimes can be.

I prefer regulated kids. I prefer kids who make good choices. I prefer kids who clean their rooms. Breathe again. Let my preferences go.

And then, the realization and acceptance. These are my triggers that have nothing to do with my kids. These are small things in life that can steal my joy on a daily basis, if I let them. If I want to stop feeling these difficult emotions of sadness, disappointment, frustration and overwhelm, I am the one who needs to change my mindset. I am the one who needs to get a handle on my triggers; I am the one who needs to choose joy over frustration.

Depending on your life circumstances, this can be easier said than done. However, if you are lucky enough to live in a household that offers up extreme challenges on a daily (even moment-to-moment!) basis, you will have even more opportunities to practice keeping a joyful, positive mindset. And I know that when I do happen to succeed, it is much more likely that the rest of my family will be able to follow.

~Do Better & Shine

Love Is Not Perfect

After a stressful school day that just happened to occur on Valentine’s Day, my teen daughter suddenly announced that she hates holidays. Every holiday. Even Christmas…and Valentine’s Day, which appeared her current source of grief. Personally, I have fond memories of Valentine’s Day as a child, but I also know love isn’t perfect, so I guess I shouldn’t expect Valentine’s Day to be perfect either. Our kids’ struggle with holidays is nothing new, but it seems like every year we hope things will change, but there were some other factors making this particular Valentine’s Day a rough one.

First of all, to really make things challenging, I have the flu, so just surviving the day with a preschooler home for the entire day was a huge accomplishment for me. My husband helped out by taking him off my hands for a few hours, and then picked up the kids after their sports practices. This is when everything really started to go down hill.

It’s hard when mom is sick and routines are thrown off. The stress must have been brewing in the van ride home. Sitting and waiting for 45 minutes for my daughter to come out of practice is not ideal with a preschooler tagging along. A Happy Valentine’s Day greeting from my youngest turned quickly into a spitting episode. Then there was fighting and arguing between the older kids. When my older son finally arrived home and entered the kitchen he was steaming mad about the interactions on the horrible car ride home.

In my flu-altered state of mind I was lucky to just get the oven preheated for the take-and-bake pizza. To continue the chaos my youngest thought he would try to be helpful and transfer our homemade Valentine’s cake from the counter to the table without asking. In the process he dropped it and it flopped smack on the floor, breaking into pieces. All I could hear was the sound of my husband’s loud groan, and my little one’s crying. Oh well, I thought, love is not perfect.

My husband picked up Valentine’s heart pizzas for dinner. I made the not-so- smart decision to cook them together so they would be done at the same time. Well, the one on the bottom came out burnt and the one on the top came out soggy. Oh well, I thought, love is not perfect.

As we sat down to eat I saw a not-so-nice snap chat conversation on my daughter’s smartphone. She was embarrassed. She could see my disappointment, as it brought up my fear of who she is outside our home. She was mostly silent all through dinner, then took her cake dessert to her room. Oh well, I thought, love is not perfect.

My son was unable to join us because he continued to be so irritated by the simplest comments his younger brother would make, such as, “I get the first piece of cake!” He must have had a rough day too, because he just couldn’t seem to tolerate anything or anyone today. He ate his pizza by himself when everyone was out of the kitchen and opened his cards without a thank-you (so far). Oh well, I thought, love is not perfect.

We ate our soggy, burnt pizza. We ate our broken cake. It must have tasted fine because there were no complaints. We continued on and exchanged cards and gifts with each other, and slowly, the tension began to soften. Hearts were warming. There were tears of emotion for kind words written, and thoughtful gifts. There were moments of excitement, joy and gratitude. These are the moments I will hang on to; the rest I will let go.

Included in the evening was a discussion about what makes holidays hard, and one heart-felt reason, offered by my daughter, was the people who were missing. This is a common struggle for adopted children. There was a discussion about emotions and fears. There were apologies and more tears. There were long, strong hugs where you could really feel the love. Then I thought, this is the perfect way to celebrate Valentine’s Day. It’s a lesson to be learned. Love is not perfect, it’s messy. That doesn’t mean give up; it just means that growth is on the other side.

I hope my daughter will someday learn to be more at ease with holidays, which might come with a full understanding of why these special days can be hard for some people. Everyone comes to the table with their own backpack of “stuff” from the day, and personal experiences, accumulated over the years. Once we are finally able to unpack it all, we will clearly see that all that is left…is love.

Do Better & Shine

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

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