Happy Halloween!

Wishing everyone a fun and safe Halloween!


We trick or treat on Halloween Eve due to the parade on the 31st. We had tons of fun with our friends – Cooper the assassin and Izzy the cupcake! We adults had our own little treats to get us through, too, ūüėČ and we all had a great time. It felt like a summer day! I was sweating in my cowgirl hat!

Happy Halloween!!

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Better Together.

The other day I definitely had a moment of ‘mommy comparison’ when I saw a comment on a friend’s photo. She’d said she rarely ever gives her child sugar, and I thought to myself, “Damn, that is the type of parent I want to be.”

I consider myself to be pretty health conscious, and lord knows I am forever telling Reilly she has to eat a¬†vegetable with her dinner every single night (yet falling back on it). I try to model healthy eating around her as much as I can. I talk about the effects of food on the body, how the right foods can make us big and strong and smart while the unhealthy ‘fun’ foods can make us feel all sorts of gross.

I allow her to have certain fun foods more often than I would like to admit. And sometimes it’s purely out of desperation to get calories into her because she is just so darn picky! Other times it’s simply because it’s a little treat for her, something we do together once a week or so because she’s a kid and she likes that stuff. I don’t allow her to consume nothing but unhealthy foods. This is our way of creating balance, even though I think our scale is a little tipped. ūüėČ

Part of it, I think, is that I have battled body image issues for so long, and I absolutely refuse to put those ideas into her head. I never ever ever talk negatively about my body or anyone else’s. When she has taken up issue with her own body (sadly, when she was only 6!) I did my very best to squash it in the most positive way I could.

I am so conscious about my words regarding food, health and the body. We talk about it in terms of being strong, being able, and feeling good – never about how our bodies look or what is considered ‘good’ vs. ‘bad’. I have explained a few times that all bodies look different like all faces do, and our body sizes do not determine how ‘good’ we are, if we are capable of being well liked, or how capable we are of accomplishing anything.

I do believe I must be doing something right when Reilly tells other people she wants to grow up to be big and strong like me. She writes about it every chance she gets, like in her introductory project this year she took a picture from Oxygen magazine to show exercises we do together. Cute, right?

I know I can do more though. I can do a whole lot more modeling than talking. And that is something we discussed the other day as she walked two miles on the treadmill. (Who else’s 7 year old does this??)

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Because I know from doing plenty of reading, doing things together when it comes to health related goals is better than doing it alone. I suggested to Reilly that from now on we do better together with our eating and exercise habits. We stick to upping our intake of healthy foods, eating dinner together every single night (been working so hard on this one), and we move together as much as we can.

So I started brainstorming, trying to figure out what can we do¬†to be better together. And¬†I’ve put together a little list:

  • Play. Board games, card games, video games, math games, made up games, play school, play house, play dolls. We go through phases with how we play together but what’s important is that we do. It’s time we get to spend together doing something fun and drowning out the rest of the world.
  • Movement. Reilly loves exercising with me. To make it kid friendly, we wrote exercises on Popsicle sticks and then we will pull them one at a time and do that exercise either for a certain amount of time or reps. We mix it up as we go. It’s not only a way to be active but it’s fun because you never know what’s coming next. Sometimes Reilly likes to do exercise videos with me (to her capabilities) like 21 Day Fix. It’s hysterical and sometimes distracting but always a good time.
  • Cooking. While my girl may be a picky eater she is not a picky cook. She is nearing the end of a two month cooking class at the local YMCA, but long before that she was always asking to help out in the kitchen. I even surprised her with her own kid friendly cook book like this one. It’s a true test of my patience, to be honest, but it’s something she really enjoys doing.¬†And it’s a way for me to introduce her to new foods, maybe get her to try a few, and to make food fun.
  • Stillness. Reilly is so perplexed by my desire to sometimes sit in silence. No television. No talking. Just together, doing whatever it is we are each doing. Taking a ‘pause’ and simply existing together for a few moments in time is a great way to maintain connection. However, sometimes that does include popcorn and a movie or sitting together on the couch reading books or watching weird YouTube videos.
  • Conversation. One of the top things I have missed since¬†Reilly switched schools this year is that we don’t get to have our morning conversations in the car. We still find plenty of time to talk, about a whole host of topics, but the mornings were especially important to me. We got things off our chest or laughed or she asked me a billion questions. It set the tone for the day, and how could things be bad after something as awesome as that? I love how inquisitive Reilly is. I love how receptive she is. Even when trying to teach her or help her understand emotions or the world around her, I try to make it fun and relatable for her. Everything is, of course, age appropriate or made to be age appropriate. I think this might be my favorite thing we do together. Not only is she learning from me but I am learning a hell of a lot from her as well.

I want to instill great and healthy habits in her while she’s young, before the world tells her who they think she should be or how they think she should act. I want her to be confident in herself, comfortable in her skin. I want her to know she is taking the very best care of herself both inside and out, and to stay rooted there.

In addition to all of that I want her to always feel as though she has a strong support system behind her. I want her to know no matter what she does in life, what she looks like, whatever choices she makes, however she feels, she will always have at least one person standing up behind her.

There have been plenty of times over the past few years that I’ve assured her I am forever going to be with her no matter what. I often refer to us as a Team. Because we are. We love each other unconditionally and want to continue to have fun while we go on this little adventure that is our lives, together.

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That is why it is so important to me that we are well taken care of – body, mind and soul. Having dealt with depression, an eating disorder and the residual hurdles during recovery, I am well aware of the importance of overall good health. If I want her to practice healthy habits and feel good about herself, I have to live that myself. After all, talk is cheap!

I’m going to keep Reilly at the forefront of my mind as I move to keep my own well being in check. After all, what is parenting/care giving if not setting a good example and being a positive role model?

I want for us to have a long and full life together. And that starts with good health.

What are some ways you stay healthy with your kids? How do you set a good example? And how do you squash comparing yourself to other parents who seem to be doing it “better”?

 

Lessons in Parenting – Protection.

I think the hardest thing (so far) about caring for children is accepting that you can’t completely protect them from the world. You can’t shield them from negativity. You can’t inject them with self confidence.

As parents and ¬†caregivers we do our best to instill good values and kindness toward others, but once they go out there into the world we can’t control how they react to their environments and others in it.

Something I never thought we would really have to deal with, or at least hoped we wouldn’t, is bullying. Probably naive of me! But Reilly is such a sweet and fun little girl. She gets along well with everyone. We’ve never had anyone come to us about her behavior.

So when she became the target of bullying on the bus, I was stunned. As it is she is brand new to this school and to riding on the bus. And she had been looking forward to both for so long. Yet now her experience was being tainted.

I contacted the school immediately and much to my relief they handled it swiftly. I got a follow up email this morning that all parties have been talked with individually and collectively. They shook hands and said they’d try to be friends. But that part is and isn’t ok with me.

I have instilled in Reilly for years that regardless of how we feel about people we always treat them with respect and kindness. But we don’t have to be friends with everybody. And I was really happy to hear she said as much to the other kid.

We won’t always like every person we meet, and every person we meet may not like us. And that is perfectly normal and ok. It does not mean we treat the other person differently. We just don’t go out of our way to converse or play with them.

I have now had to have the conversation about how other people treating us badly is not a reflection on us. Some kids are mean because they are insecure. It helps them to feel noticed and ‘better than’. It puts them into a position of control. And I¬†have had to explain to her that sometimes we do simply have to ignore these people unless it gets out of hand, becomes physical (which it did), or is hateful (also did, regarding her ethnicity).

We are not tolerant of such behavior and taunting and thankfully neither is the school.

I know what it is like to be extremely sensitive, as Reilly tends to be. I know what it is like to be a little different in the way I express myself outwardly. I don’t ever want her to lose any of that because of negative outside influence. She is who she is, and that is a beautiful thing. I don’t ever want that to change.

This entire situation had me wound up, worried she was miserable in school and anxiously watching the clock so I could race home and make sure she was ok. Which she was thankfully. The day went well and her teacher emailed to tell me she was shocked to hear Reilly was upset that morning because she was nothing short of happy in class. See, I too am really sensitive, especially when it comes to her.

As she gets older I know Reilly will likely face similar situations, hopefully never any worse. She will meet plenty more people she doesn’t like or get along with, people who won’t like her for one reason or another, and will experience situations I can’t face for her. And I know as her caregiver I have to give slack to the rope and allow her to navigate the world on her own, making her own judgments and decisions and do the best I can to instill good morals so she is well equipped to take on whatever life will throw at her.

If there is one characteristic I try to model for this girl it is strength. I want her to be able to stand up for herself. I want her to be able to stand in who she is no matter what other people think. And I also want her to stay soft and curious. I don’t want her to lose her feelings or turn hard. I want her to be able to maintain a healthy balance of emotions while¬†always remaining true to who she is.

How do I teach that? How do I model such behavior? How do I foster her individuality while teaching her the ways of the world?

We all want the children in our lives to grow into better people than we were/are, to have more joy and fulfillment, more experiences, more goodness than maybe we had.

But how do we do that while also allowing them to be exactly who they are, to get hurt, to be disappointed, to experience failure, to know the not-so-great sides of life?

How do we learn to let go a little more with each passing day and trust in their ability to be good people? How do we let go of their little wings and let them fly?

The Future Freaks Me Out.

I try not to get too far ahead of myself. I don’t like to think too far into the future because it causes major anxiety and self consciousness. I have long term goals and I am very much a dreamer, but I prefer to keep myself planted as closely to the present moment as I possibly can.

So when my mom started talking about ten years from now I started to get a little skittish. She began¬†the conversation with how old she will be by then, continuing on to how old the girls (my nieces) will be, and then comes the bomb: “At that point things are going to start falling more on you.”

This momentarily paralyzed me.

Not for the fact that this thought had never entered my mind. It is with me in nearly every decision I make about my life and my future. To hear it coming from someone else though, actualizing the thought and reality, terrified me.

I’m not ready!

My situation is somewhat unique, although sadly not uncommon these days. Due to circumstances outside of our control my mom and I are raising my two darling nieces, ages 7 and 1. And even though I have chosen not to have my own children, I do love parenting these two little ones, watching them evolve as people and being a big part of their everyday lives. For not wanting to ever be a mom I do love and appreciate my role as a “parent.”

This is not an easy situation to be in. It seems like just as we start to gain some footing there is another wrench thrown into the wheel. It is highly unpredictable. But we manage. We do the best we can, we love as much and as hard as we can, and we do it because we are family.

It has been my goal for a few years to be the main caretaker of Reilly, my eldest niece. She and I have this intense bond and anyone who knows of our relationship would attest to that. So needing to have a plan, stability, and a means to get by have been at the top of my list. I knew I needed to be able to provide for her and give her the best life possible within my means. It felt manageable and inspiring.

Then along came baby and everything was turned upside down, especially because of the situation from which she came to live with us. It has been a rough few months for me. My depression was raging for a long while. The intense motivation I had at the beginning soon crumbled all around me leaving me exhausted, bitter, and out of sorts. Only recently have I been able to really face the situation head on and begin to make peace with it.

I want to heal the broken parts of me so I can be better for these kids. And coming to grips with the reality of being more responsible for these two precious lives is a heavy weight on my shoulders. I often wonder how I will ever be able to do it and God forbid I have to do it on my own… I try not to let my mind wander there.

Thirty¬†three¬†is inching closer and closer with each passing day, and I am so far from being “there,” from feeling “ready.” I am the type that likes to be prepared ahead of time for everything. So the thought of being mostly, or solely, responsible for two more lives is freaking me out!

And I know this is exactly what parenting is all about, but it is completely different when you are planning for and wanting it than when it is thrust upon you with absolutely no warning.

I constantly wonder, will I ever be ready? What are my next moves? How do I prepare for this?

I have absolutely no idea!

All I can do is my best though, right?  I have to keep these kids at the front and as the reason for nearly everything I do. And head toward the future face forward.

Is that how this parenting thing goes? Am I doing this right?

Checking In.

If I had to pinpoint one of my weak points it would be consistency. I have so many ideas and plans, and typically I am full speed ahead right out the gate. Until life starts to interfere, other plans and ideas and responsibilities pile on, and I get farther and farther away.

That is exactly how I feel about my little blogging space. I want to nurture it and water it and watch it grow. I have this intense desire to connect, and writing has always been my preferred method of doing just that.

But then I start to doubt myself and what it is I have to say. Who really wants to read what I have to say?

So I start trying to plot out all of these ideas and what I could write about. And sometimes what I come up with feels so authentic and I have this urgency to get it out. When push comes to shove though I get stage freight. Is that really the best way I can say it all? Does this encompass everything I want to convey?

I become paralyzed by my perfectionism.

¬†It’s a frustrating cycle and one I am working hard to finally break free from. I have been doing a lot more meaningful writing every single morning, before the sun rises, before the littles rise, before the day can get its hands on me. And I think so much more is starting to come up to the surface. I think I am finally ready to share more of myself with a little slice of the world. Consistently.
 
So… hello.
I’ll be back soon.
xx