Life Lately: Letting It Out.


I had a good cry the other morning. It isn’t something I do often. I don’t handle vulnerability well. But I couldn’t hold it in, couldn’t hold it together. I walked out of Reilly’s school and it all came pouring out of me.

Life with two kids is more challenging than joyful on some days. I am not one to put on airs about parenting. I love raising two wildly different girls, but there are days I wish I could hide in a closet for a little bit in an effort to preserve my sanity.

All families have their own set of challenges, and we sure are not short on those around here. Everyday it seems we are learning something new as we navigate these waters. Each child has their own strong willed personality, their own special needs, and both require nearly constant attention during waking hours.

I constantly feel pulled in every direction but forward. I constantly feel as though I am falling behind in my own life in an effort to always be present in theirs. And I constantly feel like I am falling short in providing for them what they need emotionally.

To me, there is no sacrifice too great for those girls. Things I may want to do for myself pale in comparison to the mutual joy of spending time doing what they want to do. I may not get to go out for dinner, go to the gym, or even pee alone, but as long as they are happy in that moment it’s worth it.

As independent as these girls are they still yearn to be noticed at all times. They need constant security that we are going to be there for them, and obviously I see it more in Reilly as she is getting older. She wants so badly to grow up and make her own decisions, and we are working on negotiating the latter, yet she needs to feel the security of having one of us nearby.

At times it’s difficult for me, as an introvert, to constantly provide what they need emotionally. I cherish my alone time. I recharge by settling into the comfort silence brings and, needless to say, that is hard to come by these days. It can feel daunting and draining to fill up their cups without adequately refilling my own.

I constantly fear being authentic in my own emotionality will cause negative repercussions in their behaviors and their sense of security. I worry that by sometimes showing my own negative, human emotions I will cause this negative ripple effect that will somehow shatter them from the inside out.

How do I find balance in that? How can I express myself, and teach these kids to always express their wide range of emotions, without making them feel less loved, less cared for or less secure?

In recent months we have taken action in helping Reilly learn to better express herself, to manage her emotions in a healthy manner, and doing so without compromising who she is innately. It’s tricky territory and all very new. And it forces me to face more of my own emotions and how they cause me to react in relation to hers.

I have my own struggles with vulnerability and verbally expressing myself. For so long I would shut down, shut out the world, and go about my business stone cold. I can’t do that now that I have children to take into account. The old ways have no place here, and so I have my own growing and expanding and expressing to do.

How does one do that though? Well, I’ve started by being a lot more honest, with myself and with others. Stuffing down how I feel about someone else or a certain situation does not serve anyone well. It creates unnecessary strain on the relationship and adds to my already accruing amount of stress.

I’ve learned to buck up and say the things that are hard to say. In the past I have had a tendency to ignore or keep quiet in an effort to not hurt other people but I knew deep down I was only adding to the problem. So I started opening my mouth. Respectfully, of course.

I have started to weed out who and what isn’t serving my life in a positive way as well as what I am no longer serving. I say ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ a lot more, and I mean it each and every time. I am no longer interested in giving into what other people want from me. And this is most definitely a lesson I am trying to teach Reilly at a young age. I don’t want her to ever feel pressured to conform to other people’s expectations. I did it for far too long, and it hasn’t ever gotten me anywhere.

My writing has also expanded over the last nearly 600 consecutive days during which I have written at least 750 words each and everyday (see: 750words.com). It went from just wanting to write more and more consistently to venting, to digging, to expanding, and creating. I have used it as a tool for growth. I have used it as a means to express myself. I have used it as a means to hold myself accountable for my actions and feelings.

So much good has come out of my writing. I have dug deep into my subconscious and I’ve dragged out to the surface so much that has been repressed over my lifetime. It has been and continues to be a transformative experience for me each and every time I sit down to write.

Which leads me to expression. I encourage Reilly to use her words, to use her emotion cards we made together, to let it all out but in a way that is healing and productive. It’s a tall order for a seven year old. She has already had to deal with so much in her short life. I can completely understand her frustrations and outbursts. They are justified.

But they are not healthy. They are not the best way in which to ‘let it all out.’ I want her to learn that, yeah it’s ok sometimes to scream and cry and throw a fit. That should not be her go-to method of expression though. It isn’t constructive. It won’t help her to work through her feelings. She then becomes a slave to her emotions instead of being in control of them.

So how do I work with her to make sure she feels more in control and understood?

Well, I like to think of myself as fairly progressive when it comes to self care and self expression. I may not have mastered it but I have sure done my fair share of research with plenty of life experience to back me up.

I know what it’s like to feel erratic and misunderstood. I know what it’s like to feel as though there is an overwhelming amount of emotions swirling through my head. But I also know it’s possible to regain control of how I react to the world around me. I don’t, however, know how to teach that to a child.

I read plenty. I ask the right people. But that only goes so far because children are by no means cookie cutter. What works for some doesn’t work for others. What professionals suggest doesn’t always work. It’s a cat and mouse game. You win some, you lose some.

I won’t ever give up trying. I know I will never be a perfect parent. I will never be the parent I envision myself to be when I close my eyes and breathe in deeply. That is something I work daily to make peace with. It is another bullet point on my never ending to-do list.

This is all part of my human experience though. And while at times in writing this it doesn’t feel as cohesive as I want it to, I want to convey to other parents and caregivers that not a single one of us has this figured out.

We are all doing it right and doing it wrong at times. It’s ok to be a little messy and scatterbrained and not know what day of the week it is. It’s ok to be a jumble of emotions. Because we are all human. And we are doing the best we can.

So let’s cut ourselves a little more slack. Let’s offer up a tired yet genuine smile to one another. Let’s have each other’s backs. And let’s vow to always forgive ourselves and wake up the next day with a little more love in our hearts, for ourselves and our kids.

No Excuses November.

I will freely admit that I am very much like other working parents. Your entire world revolves around your little one(s) and not much time is left over for yourself.

Your health, your goals, your dreams and your hobbies start to slide farther and farther down the ladder as you prioritize your littles over yourself. By the time the kids are fed, homework is done, teeth are brushed, and they are down for the count there just doesn’t seem to be enough time left for yourself before having to do it all over again. Raise your hand if you’re with me!

Not everyone is like this, of course, but I tend to think there are plenty of people out there who can relate.

Our situation here varies from the ‘norm’ and changed dramatically at the end of Spring, when we went from a family of three to a family of four. As the weeks and months have passed, I have fallen farther and farther behind the kids in what needs to be tended to everyday. I haven’t been taking care of myself well enough, and the longer I’ve allowed it to continue the worse I’ve felt.

Truthfully it happened because I continued to make excuses. There weren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done. There wasn’t enough help in order to accomplish one task or another. I didn’t have enough money or my energy reserves had bottomed out. I didn’t have enough willpower. It wouldn’t make a difference anyway. I fed myself so many lies and got so far away from myself.

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I think I kind of needed this period of change though. I have spent so many years living fairly rigidly so to have let go for a while has taught me some valuable lessons. Now I am ready to sort of wipe the slate clean and step outside of my comfort zone in order to start achieving great things.

As October started inching to a close I felt the pull to put the wheels into motion. After a little bit of brainstorming I decided to do my own No Excuses November challenge in order to give myself a good kick in the pants.

What does No Excuses mean to me?

It means doing the dirty work. It means showing up everyday. It means doing things that are uncomfortable, doing things that feel impossible, doing things that will get me closer to that next place I’m supposed to arrive at. It means asking for what I want. It means standing up for myself. It means not allowing life to happen to me but for me. It means not making excuses for poor behavior and taking responsibility for my actions. More living out of intention instead of habit. It means fighting for what I want even if at times I’m fighting myself. It means sacrifice, sweat, and maybe even some tears.

I’m not even quite sure I could put my finger on what changed, on any one thing that lit the fuse. I think it’s been everything over the last several months piling up and finally I feel ready let it all go. I feel more ready to take back control of my life, continue making positive changes, and put the past to rest.

In no particular order, some of my intentions this month are:

  • Practice more patience.
  • Eat more for health than pleasure.
  • Cook more, with and without the little one.
  • Finish one book.
  • Work on being Kris a little bit more and not always Kiki (myself vs my parent self).
  • Deepen my connection with my small circle.
  • Keep an open mind to new experiences.
  • Begin to pave a more fulfilling path for the future.
  • Ditch fear.
  • Move my body more.

These are all general ideas that I’ll define more and more along the way in order to figure out what is realistic and works best for me. I’m not looking for quick fixes. I’m not looking to impress anyone. I want to finally feel good in my own skin, and I want to feel at home in my own life.

Because when I am better for me I am better for everyone else, especially the little ones.

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Feel free to join along with me! I would love to hear what some of your excuses are and how you plan to turn things around.

 

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, 😉 and we all had a great time. It felt like a summer day! I was sweating in my cowgirl hat!

Happy Halloween!!

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. 😉

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?