Thursday, May 31, 2018

The tradition of letter writing

I recently read this book and although it's good, I was really struggling with how to put the big ideas into action in my day-to-day life. But leave it to my kids to create the perfect opportunity!

My daughter is dealing with some friend stuff and maybe feeling a bit inferior in some of her activities. As a parent, it's so crushing to witness and difficult not bring all your own feelings and insecurities into the mix. Instead of talking her through it, I decided to write so I could put my thoughts together in a cohesive and mindful way. I wanted to remind her that she is seen and loved, not for her accomplishments, but just as she is.

My Dearest Emmerson,

I’ve been thinking about you so much lately. You’re growing so fast and I worry I never have enough time with you.

But I see you everywhere.

I see you in the books I find open on your nightstand, your bathroom counter, the kitchen table. Reading and devouring information whenever there’s a free moment. I know it’s not long before you know more than I do about most things. I see you in the homework you’ve written, erased, and rewritten to make sure the answers and handwriting are just perfect. I see you in the curls you wear pulled back tightly into a ponytail every day hoping to go unnoticed despite their unique beauty. I see you in the way you nervously approach unfamiliar situations and your desire to be accepted, with friends or at dance or in school, while protecting your sensitive heart. I see you in your kindness towards your brother and sister – always giving, even if it means sacrificing your only lollipop.

Mostly I see you. For everything you are and want to be.

My greatest wish is for you to see yourself as I see you. You are brilliant. You are hard-working. You are kind, sweet, and gentle with people’s hearts. You are beautiful, I mean, really beautiful. You are strong. You are creative. You are generous and giving to all others.

You deserve the world, and if I could package it up and give it to you, I would. But I can’t. You’re going to have believe in yourself and do the work and decide what things, activities, and people are for you. And you'll figure it all out because you are one capable little girl. And I will be here if you need me.

Emmerson, I see you and I love you. Don’t ever doubt that.

Have you written a letter to your child? I’m pretty sure there were a couple teenage years when letters were the only way my mom and I communicated. Ha!

Later that night I found a piece of construction paper on my nightstand with the words, "Mom, I love you." It fills my heart to say our letter writing tradition will continue.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Wise words

I hope your weekend was filled with sticky popsicles, running through sprinklers, and soaking up every bit of the warm sunshine. We have two weeks of school until summer break, but Memorial Day weekend is always such a welcoming kick-off to the season.

With the school year quickly coming to a close, this time of year can feel a bit crazy, but I also find it to be the most inspirational. As college graduates everywhere walk across the stage to collect their diplomas, a new round of graduation speeches hit the internet.

Abby Wambach's speech has been unofficially declared the commencement speech of the year and I wholeheartedly agree. Her Barnard College speech is exactly what the world needs to hear right now. Whether you're a graduate, a professional soccer player, a career woman, or a mother, she speaks to the importance of our roles and the empowerment of all women. "Claim the success of one woman, as a collective success for all women."

(After watching her speech, I'm anxious to share a related post I've been working on for weeks. It's almost there, so stay tuned).

You can watch Abby Wambach's speech in its entirety here. It's absolutely worth twenty minutes of your time.

J.K. Rowling's 2008 Harvard commencement speech will go down in history as my favorite speech of all time. Her words spoke to me at a time I really needed to hear them and I have carried this quote with me since: "The knowledge that you have emerged wiser and stronger from setbacks means that you are, ever after, secure in your ability to survive. You will never truly know yourself, or the strength of your relationships, until both have been tested by adversity. Such knowledge is a true gift, for all that it is painfully won, and it has been worth more than any qualification I ever earned."

Do you remember your graduation speaker? I think I was so excited to be there, or maybe I'm just that old, but I don't remember mine. What are your all time favorite graduation speeches?

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Preparing for summer (with kids)

Although I'm anxiously awaiting summer vacation, summertime can be a mixed bag in our household. I feel free without the responsibility of school lunches, homework help, spelling test practice, and all the driving. On the other hand, the lack of routine and autonomy can make some days so stressful.

I am definitely of the “it’s okay to be bored” parenting camp, however, at their young ages, my children still need some prompts when it comes to filling their free time.

Here’s what I’m doing to prepare for summer:

Activities: I’ve mentioned before that I’ve struggled with finding the balance in this, but I’m optimistic about this year. The girls are registered for two weeks of mornings camp; and horseback riding, tennis, swim, and piano lessons. This will provide them with some structure and scheduled time outside of the house, but most importantly, still allow time for my toddler to nap.

Crafts: Earlier this week, I stocked up on art supplies for the summer for the inevitable rain day when their normal activities are cancelled and we're stuck inside. My girls love art and nothing says possibility like a new box of crayons! I also bought scratch paper, play doh (not my favorite, but provides hours of entertainment when combined with this), beads, watercolor paints, and all the paper. I will also continue our kiwi crate subscription. Each box takes them an afternoon to put together and they play with their creations for days.

Outings: I keep a running list in my phone of other activities we can do on a whim. Our favorites include strawberry picking, the zoo, Discovery World, the children’s museum, a movie, the farmer’s market, the library, and the fair. What are your favorite places to visit during the summer?

Me Time: Finally, I think it’s still important to find some time for myself every week. I don’t have a summer nanny, but I am hoping to secure a sitter for a couple hours per week so I can get a haircut or write or read or take myself to lunch. I always return feeling refreshed and excited to see the kids.

How are you preparing for summer break?

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

A cure for apathy

I don’t know if it’s the recent weather, but I kind of feel like a rain cloud – dreary and unmotivated. But since I assume you didn't come here to read about that, let's talk about what to do if you're in a funk. I could definitely use the reminder.

First, it's important to give yourself permission to feel. Allow yourself to take a personal day and don't feel guilty or apologetic. Everyone experiences days like this, and I can speak from experience that ignoring how you feel and pushing forward only compounds the issue.

Don't forget to practice some self-care. Take a bath, treat yourself to a pedicure, go for a walk, or try something from this list.

Do something you love, unless it's writing, then choose something else. Ha! Based on my weekend attempt at writing, I can tell you it's nearly impossible to be positive and inspirational when you're feeling despondent. But find something that speaks to you and feels uplifting. I usually crack open a new cookbook and get to work. I'm already planning to cure my mood this upcoming weekend, so help a girl out and please send me your cookbook or recipe suggestions.

Giving makes us happy, plain and simple, so do something for someone else. There’s nothing like the satisfaction I get from mailing a handwritten letter to a friend or surprising someone I love with a small gift or showing up for someone when he or she doesn't necessarily expect it.

Stay away from social media. Here's the further explanation, as if we needed it.

Say yes to something new. The quickest way out of a mood is to change up routine. If you usually prefer curling up on the couch with a good book, try hitting the hiking trails with a podcast instead. If date night always includes dinner, try a bike ride and a pit stop for a glass of rosé.

Finally, see the world through your child's eyes. My toddler screams with excitement every single time he sees a bird. It doesn't matter if it's the same ole' black crow. He runs to the window and intently watches it as it hops around picking at the grass in search of food. Everything is new and exciting to kids. Take a moment to sit alongside them and realize that all things, including the dark rain clouds above you, are miracles. That presence and wonder may bring you the perspective shift you need to kick that mood once and for all.

What do you do to lift your spirits? Any and all tips are appreciated.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Daily health habits

I have a lengthy list of unconventional habits I've collected and refined over the years. Some have come and gone, but others have become daily rituals. Rituals that provide health, balance, and comfort that comes with routine. You can always find my favorites here, but this is what currently makes up my morning routine:

Shower: Classify this one under mental health. I am perhaps alone is this, but I would choose a shower over sleep any day. I don't feel like myself unless I've had the warm water wash over me and I’ve savored a moment of quiet before the chaos of the day. I have been using this shampoo and conditioner for years. Besides the lovely bright smell, it also leaves my hair feeling clean yet hydrated.

Oil pulling: Simply put, it's just swishing oil around in your mouth for 10-15 minutes just as you would mouthwash, but longer and without the burn. I use coconut oil for the taste and antibacterial properties. I do my oil pulling during my morning shower. I've been addicted to this for years because my teeth feel so amazingly clean afterwards.

Tongue scrapping: After I get out of the shower, I use this tongue scrapper to get any bacteria left on my tongue. It's totally gross, but oddly satisfying. 

Green juice: After I'm ready for the day and have had some water, I have a glass of green juice. I make a blend of kale, cucumbers, oranges, and apples on the weekend (it's best consumed within a few days) and keep it in a glass carafe in the refrigerator. I made an investment in this juicer years ago in a desperate attempt to rid myself of winter illness. After I started nursing my son, I was constantly thirsty and water wasn't cutting it. I'm confident it has helped my hydration and immunity.

Tea with collagen: Mid-morning, I will make a cup of tea with collagen peptides. I immediately noticed a difference in my skin after incorporating it into my daily routine, but I also like it because it fills me with little extra protein and helps with joint health (thanks for the bad knees, mom). That warm cup of tea symbolizes my quiet time during Mitchell's morning nap and while both girls are at school. I heat the water in a kettle, add a teaspoon of creamed cinnamon honey, and a touch of almond milk. Mmmm.

Smoothie: The highlight of my routine is my daily protein shake. I actually feel shaky and a little off without it. I use this clean protein powder (this is a great, less expensive option), a pinch of sea salt, half a banana, and a handful of frozen cherries or blueberries blended with almond milk. Sometimes I'll add a couple drops of stevia and cacao powder if I'm craving something sweet.

What daily habits and rituals do you most enjoy? Do you have a good smoothie recipe or a favorite tea? Please share below.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Worthy Reads: May edition

Maybe it's the stretch of spring weather we've been having but the world seems alive again, and the internet has been killing it lately. Much like this little boy can devour dessert, I've been insatiably consuming all the great stories and products, anxious to share them. Here are my monthly favorites:

This book brings about helpful discussions with our girls on feelings. And then I saw this version for grown-ups. Perfect for all the men in your life who believe in the existence of only two feelings. Ha!

Finally, someone is speaking the realities of nomadic travel

If you're in the market for a new pair of jeans, I finally pulled the trigger on these and will be living in them for the next six months. Plus, with their amazing "blue jeans go green" program, you can score $20 off any pair. 

Another good read brought to you by Aha Parenting: Teaching Your Child the Art of Happiness, but also so applicable to adult happiness.

At the risk of sounding hypocritical, I'm so tired of bloggers pushing beauty products that don't live up to the hype. But you guys, this eye cream is so good! It's pricey, but I'm noticing a huge difference.

If you've seen me in the past month, you've probably heard me talk about this podcast. There is so much good information here; from marital expectations, to parenting and giving our children our best selves, to loving one another in this polarizing political climate. A must-listen! 

I finally subscribed to this magazine after buying the last couple issues. The articles have been so good. Have you read it yet?

What caught your attention this month? Hope you are able to enjoy this gorgeous spring day.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

An unexpected lesson on validation

As I mentioned here, I spent the last two days in New York. It was a quick trip, and one I knew I would mostly spend alone while my husband was tied up in meetings, but I knew I wouldn't regret going (no matter how much that mom guilt tried to convince me otherwise). I have a love for the city that doesn't grow old.

This is the first time in a couple years I've been overnight without my children. At first it was strange not to have a little one around, but I quickly settled into the trip -- reading, eating (so many good meals), shopping, and finally, leisurely walking through the MoMA. As I studied the paintings, I found myself thinking about what these artists were feeling; most of them having fallen on hard times, prisoners either by war or of their own minds, and using art as their escape.

But it wasn't until I sat on a bench in the room surrounded by Claude Monet's water lilies that I had such a strong reaction to art.

The water lilies were a series of paintings Monet created late in his life, while burdened with cataracts and health issues. He fought local authorities to plant the imported lilies in his pond, ultimately doing so without their approval.

Art critics believed the water lilies to be that of an amateur impressionist, and these  paintings to be his weakest work. But he continued on, painting 250 in all. For many years after his death the work sat abandoned. It wasn't until they were revealed to the masses that the collection was admired.

As I sat on that bench, I was struck with the emotion behind his brushstrokes, seemingly erratic and uninhibited, but also with such purpose and reverent energy. I teared up as I thought of this old man, staying so true to himself despite never receiving the validation he deserved in his life. If only Monet could see us all now!

As we age, we come to care less about validation and approval, but even then, there's a certain amount of fearlessness that's required. It doesn't matter if you're an artist or writer or businessman or parent. None of us are quite sure how our "art" will be received and whether it will be validated in our lifetime. But we continue to put our work, and ourselves, out there, staying true to our hearts the best way we know how. And maybe there's substance and validity in the knowledge that we all experience the same fears and hopes. Monet has taught us that learning to embrace the vulnerability that accompanies those feelings is the only way to have a life well-lived.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

On perfectionism

I've had something on my mind recently and feel the urge to set the record straight. I write a lot about motherhood and balance and self-care and eating well, but that does not mean that I do these things perfectly.

In fact, just as a doctor makes the worst patient, I can be guilty of giving advice without being able to see my day-to-day life as clearly. Sometimes I snap at my husband, I lose my patience with my kids, I eat all the cookies, I lay awake at night with anxiety, and I forget what’s important.

But I write to hold myself accountable to the hard work required for improvement. Every day, I’m trying to do better and be better. I’m not trying to achieve an impossible level of perfection. I am smarter to know that perfection doesn’t bring you love or acceptance, it only brings about more expectations.

There are days I want to abandon the high expectations I've set for myself, but as hard as I try, I can’t. I find my personal expectations and drive to be so intertwined. Instead, I remind myself I’m more than my to-do list and accomplishments. I'm a human being, not a human doing.

I try to be gentle with myself and let go of the times I’ve fallen short. In doing so, I hope my children witness that self love and don't fear the times they may not meet their goals. That unconditional love, for myself and my family, is constant and unwavering, as is their love for me.

Are you a recovering perfectionist? How do you cope?

In an effort to do more "being" and less "doing" next week, I'm tagging along on my husband's business trip and taking a short writing hiatus. I'll be back later next week, but in the meantime you can follow along here.
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