10 Crucial Tools to Help Your Kid With Confidence in the World

The words our children hear are the words they will speak internally to themselves. What interactions and feedback are these little humans that we’ve raised receiving from their external world? As parents, we should be champions, not challengers, of our kids’ self esteem.  We are human, and so is everyone else in our kid’s daily life, so naturally, there will be days when someone says something negative that our child takes to heart and nurtures as truth.  We, as the protectors and warriors of our families, must be a shield against the arrows of other humans that provide feedback for our kids.

I know we’d like to all think that our child leaves their bed in the morning and walks through a field of flowers to school, meets their friends on the corner of the playground, shares a batch of homemade cookies that another mom has prepared, and heads into the classroom, where the most innovative and higher-level thinking is taught by the most qualified teachers. Does this sound like your kid’s world? Honestly, I don’t think this has ever been a day in the life of our kids.  A more realistic day would be that my kid hears his first harsh word of the day from me, unintentionally, yet still it emirates from my lips… since I’d already asked him to get out of bed for school three times and he didn’t and now everyone is late.  I snap at him and remind him that the world doesn’t revolve around him and that now the whole family is going to be “off” the whole rest of the day because we didn’t get started on time.  We shovel breakfast into our pieholes as we dash into the car, where I drop him off.  I notice a furrowed brow as he pulls his heavy pack from the backseat and onto his shoulders, and remember that he has a test first period this morning that we were supposed to go over at breakfast.  I see him running with a bagel being held by the teeth in his mouth as he swings his backpack to his front to reach in and grab his notecards.  He trips on the step just a little; not enough to fall, but enough that the boys standing by the door snicker.  My boy slows down his movements. I see him take the bagel out of his mouth, drop it into the garbage, and sling his backpack over his shoulder like life is no big deal because he knows his peers are watching and silently judging.  He glances at the boys that laughed, glances further behind him at my car, still idling in the drop off.  He smiles with just the very edge of his lip, more like a muscle twitch to let me know he sees me and that we are still on the same team, even though we had a rough morning.  He looks toward the classroom door, shoulders slumped, and enters his other world.

This is NOT the scene we want to set for our kids.  This is NOT the foundation we want to provide.  This type of morning is not a springboard for excellence and forward movement on our kids’ paths.  And this familial interaction is just the first of many hurdles our kids will have to navigate in a school day.  If we are honest with ourselves, we know they will have several other interactions throughout their day that add weight to their shoulders, then they’ll come home and do homework for hours—not what we planned for their little lives when we dreamed of being parents.

So what tools can we employ, what changes can we make to be a champion rather than a challenger? What actions can we take NOW to teach our children how to ward off criticism from others, and perhaps even turn it into power that fuels their excellence?  There are ten simple things we can take action on TODAY to change the value of our children’s school days and academic life that will promote extraordinary self worth and personal value.

These tools will offer your child internal strength that they are strong and powerful as human beings in the world.  This helps them stand tall in the face of adversity, using their own strong self of self-value.

  1. #1: Speak to your children that way that you hope they will speak to themselves internally.
  2. #2: Create an environment that promotes high function. Plan for time for  a slow wake up and morning time if your kid doesn’t get up immediately.  Read your kid’s needs and accommodate for excellence.
  3. #3: Teach your children to be self motivated, not motivated or driven by fear of failure or ridicule.
  4. #4: Model kindness to others to teach your children to stop the chain of criticism in their own worlds.  Be a kind uplifter of others around you and make sure your child represents kindness.
  5. #5: Offer opportunities for truthful and non-threatening communication daily. Ask your child how their day was and listen honestly without giving criticism or opinion.
  6. #6: Be an academic parent; be involved in your child’s academic journey. Plan for homework and study needs; be on the same page and be helpful to set your child up for academic success with your 100% support.
  7. #7: Think out of the box with your child. Teach your child that there are many ways of reaching a goal, and that sometimes teachers and friends and peers may not necessarily do things the same way, but that that doesn’t mean your child’s way of thinking is wrong and they should travel their own path.
  8. #8: Be your child’s greatest champion. Let your child know daily that you have their back and are their biggest fan.
  9. #9: Be a strong and fair co-parent. Make rules reasonable and understood.  Work with your co-parent and never throw them under the bus.
  10. #10: Show your child that they have value as a human in the world separate from what they do. We must make sure our kids know daily that we think they are magnificent, just for who they are in their souls.

You’re the Champion!

Parenting. Sigh. Sometimes… scratch that… often we feel so unprepared, so unequipped, so inadequate. No one person has all the answers, and no two children are the same. Unique, one of a kind children are given at birth to unique, completely untrained parents. In a world where every move we make has preparation attached to it; we go to college or a trade school to do our jobs right, we get instructions to run a simple coffee pot; what in the world was God thinking when He decided to drop living, breathing little humans into our laps and say, “Here, this is yours. Don’t mess up.”?

Yet, despite the absolute terror of the unknown and foreign world of raising a child, we keep procreating….on purpose. Moms with more than one kid, you know what I’m talking about; the amnesia that occurs when we are contemplating a second, third, fourth child—we forget our moans of agony during labor, our teeth-gritting threats of death to our mates that did this to us, the begging to the anesthesiologist to stick that needle in our spines so the pain will subside.  Just as we forget the pain of actual childbirth, we also bury the knowledge that most of the time we feel completely clueless how to raise a human into a thoughtful, serving, humble member of a functioning society.   We turn our faces to the sunshine, rub our rapidly growing bellies where we purposely planted that little baby, and tell ourselves that we’ve got it mostly figured out and that we can handle anything those little munchkins might throw our way—all the while ignoring our tantruming toddler who’s in a timeout for pouring red nail polish on the dog’s fur while we were going to the bathroom with the door open so that exact deed wouldn’t occur.

What in the world did we get ourselves into? How did we get to the place in our lives where we are holding one teenage girl’s hand while her heart is breaking and furrowing our brows at our boy who just informed us that he has detention tomorrow for making a joke that connectively included the words “teacher” and “buttmunch”? Mild scenarios, yet when children’s emotional and behavioral needs pile up and pile up and pile up like a wall of Lego bricks that we’ve collected after stepping on them for the thousandth time, we get worn down and wonder if we’ve got what it takes to keep going as a parent.

But we do.

We were meant to be the parent of the children we are parenting.

It isn’t a mistake, and we are the right people for the job.

Why?

Because our (and our co-parent’s) molecules and cells are the only match to the physical, spiritual, and emotional molecules and cells of our child. We are aligned in a way that no other creature on the planet is to our kid.  We are a knit-together strand of proof that we are the best of the best for our child, the greatest champion of our kid.

What if your kid is adopted, you say skeptically?  Or you are raising a kid that didn’t come out of your actual body? I say the same. You are physically, spiritually, and emotionally aligned to your kid the way no one else on the planet is.  You, as a unique, one of a kind person, are your unique, one of a kind child’s parent.  No one can replace you, no one knows the internal features, no one is better equipped, no one is more prepared than you are to raise your young, born of you or not, with authority.  You are the champion.

The problem isn’t if we can, the problem is believing we can. 

The best way to believe we can is simple; consistently, bravely and confidently tell ourselves that we’ve got it. All decisions we make, all problems and processes we encounter should be sent directly through the filter of us already believing we can find a solution that fits.  It may take lots of tries. There may (probably will be) lots of tears. But when we start from a place of confidence that we are 100% the right person to be our kid’s advocate and champion, we start the journey already equipped.  If we are to start a marathon, we must come to the starting gate with running shoes on, not high-heeled boots.  High heeled-boots, though spectacular and appropriate in many, many situations, are not the right equipment to be a champion in a long run.  Unfortunately, starting a parenting journey without strapping yourself with confidence gives you an out and a reason for quitting from the starting gun.  We don’t get an out, and we don’t get to have a reason to quit. We must tie up our laces and believe that we’ve got it.  You and your kid have what it takes. If you don’t go into it believing that, why should they have confidence in you as a parent, and why should they have confidence that you think they are worth believing in if you don’t show up with that mentality?  The number one confidence squasher in kids is when they see their parents not believing they are worth the effort. Believe in your abilities to raise your kids and you will raise kids who feel worth the effort.

And on those days when our natural tendencies to doubt our abilities overcomes us? We musn’t talk about it in front of our kid and we cannot tell them that we don’t know what to do with them.  “What? You don’t know what to do with me? Well, that sucks, Mom and Dad.  You are the only ones who might have a clue how to help me be a great, safe, stable human. If you don’t know what to do with me, hope is lost.  Why should I even try?”

I’m not saying we can’t make mistakes, that we don’t doubt ourselves or don’t freak out from time to time.  This is going to happen, daily probably, if we are being honest. All I’m saying is that some things need to not be shared with the tiny, growing human that is learning what kind of person he or she is going to be.  No matter how much doubt may creep in, we must never let our children doubt our faith in their beautifulness, in their current and future contribution to the world, their potential, or their value as a person.

Champion with confidence. Our kids will thank us in the long run with their shining confidence in themselves and their abilities to give their all without fear of failure and emotional abandonment while they are trying to figure it out.  And then when it’s time, they will turn their heads to their own sunshine and let us know they’ve got it!

Secret Christmas Present, Eh?

 

We’ve been prepping to leave for Canada on Christmas Day since like, September perhaps? Passports? Check!  Hotel, airline tickets, rental car? Check! Healthy hockey player? CHECK! Healthy sister with an intact appendix? Um…please hold.

You should have seen this poor girl every time a doctor or nurse walked in and asked if she needed something; “Can I fly in two days?”

“Doubtful,” came the reply.

“We have a trip to my favorite place, am I going to be able to go?” she would ask.

“When?”

“The day after tomorrow.”

“Um, let’s just take one step at a time,” they said, as they shook their head no at me.

One nurse even chuckled.  “Silly girl, you’re not going anywhere,” his chuckle said to her.

The night after surgery, she awoke at 4am and hit the call button. When the nurse walked in, she asked, “Can you ask if I can fly to Canada?”

Clearly, a girl can’t get on a plane if she can’t walk down a hallway without being hunched over with a pillow hugged into her gut protecting her innards from an attack as if she was an injured gazelle on the savannah.

So the sister and mama stayed home and the hockey player and his dad got on a plane after we finished our Christmas turkey and cranberry sauce to the land of poutine and maple syrup.

And guess what happened? We didn’t have time to focus on our disappointment.  Because sometimes the best gifts come even after Christmas is over.

Hannah has the best friends. For years, I loved watching these kids from my classroom door at their high school care for one another, sometimes bicker with each other, struggle through relationships with each other, help each other cram for tests, cover up for one another when someone did something naughty, plan Homecoming hallways and mayhem, and generally grow up in front of my eyes.  And these kids are the same kids, not really kids anymore, that showed up at the foot of my daughter’s hospital bed to make sure their friend was okay.  With ice cream because she wasn’t eating enough of her liquid diet.  I believe with all my heart that the love and care that Hannah felt from her family and friends healed her. Hannah had surgery one week ago.  Seven days.  And every one of those seven days someone was at our house making her laugh or hugging her. “Hand hugs only please”  was her favorite comment, along with “Stop making me laugh, ouch.” Well, let’s be honest.  The comment, “Is it time for more medicine?” was right up there too. These kids were so adamant about seeing her one day that they even broke into my house while we were making a Christmas present run and getting Hannah some fresh air, causing my parents to call and tell us something fishy was happening at the house.  You guys can break into our house anytime! Not really.

And our blood family and not-blood family; I am reminded daily of the love you have for our children. You have raised our kids with Jeff and me. More than once, the nurses walked in to get Hannah’s vitals and there was no room for them to come in.  Someone had to step out to make room.  Thank you for the warm socks and warm food and warm arms that hugged.  There was a moment when Hannah had a physical reaction to the internal fear she was experiencing and her hands and feet curled in and stuck.  Her body felt cold and paralyzed and she was so scared.  Our family stood outside the windows during her attack asking me with their eyes if she was okay.  I felt the heat leave their bodies and surge into our room through the glass trying to warm her with their will.  And that warmth seeped into her bones and through my skin too. This is the love that we often forget is right in front of us.  It is unconditional, it never fails, and there are no strings attached.

All our love to Dr. Ekdawy. When Hannah found out she had to have surgery, she said, “Is Dr. Ekdawy here?”

Our sweet and brilliant Ben, who is being mentored by Dr. Ekdawy said, “He doesn’t do surgeries on Wednesdays.”

Guess who showed up at Hannah’s side within ten minutes of her asking for him? And guess who did her surgery two hours later on his non-surgery day?

My heart is exploding with gratefulness. I might need heart surgery to repair it.

A sincere thank you to the people in our life that stopped their Christmas preparations two days before the big day, that created time they didn’t have, that displayed their hearts to us.  It mattered.  It physically effected Hannah. Your kindness changed her molecules and cells and made them work harder. She healed faster because she was fueled by your kindness.

We miss our boys.  We are rooting Ben on from our couch, wishing with every molecule that we were in the stands.  But love doesn’t have boundaries and we are there in spirit with every puck hit and every power play. Go get ‘em Ben! We are watching on Periscope! And Jeff, you are my soulmate and when you’re with our boy, I feel like I’m there too.  I’m taking care of your girl.  Thank you for your complete and unfailing commitment to our family. You are true love wrapped in skin.

Love is a beautiful gift. Love conquers fear. Love spans distance and time.  Love heals.

 

My Thank You Letter to Running

Featured Picture: Wearing my Namaste Swing Style Sparkle Skirt at my favorite running location, what my kids call “Old People Island” in Sausalito!

I'm just a little Sparkle Skirt addicted! My favorite part, besides that these skirts don't "ride up" during my long runs, is the inner pocket under the skirt, and the zipper pocket that fits my iPhone 6Plus phone at the front waist. Oh, and I guess my REAL fave part is how cute they are!

I’m just a little Sparkle Skirt addicted! My favorite part, besides that these skirts don’t “ride up” during my long runs, is the inner pocket under the skirt, and the zipper pocket that fits my iPhone 6Plus phone at the front waist. Oh, and I guess my REAL fave part is how cute they are!

When you wear something you feel good in, power and mojo is added exponentially!

When you wear something you feel good in, power and mojo is added exponentially

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My long distance running story was born from desperation almost 15 years ago.  I had two little ones, aged 5 and 2.  I had a husband that was working hard to build a future for us from the ground up. I had a classroom of fun 5th graders that I enjoyed spending my time with everyday. And I had a stomach that didn’t work very well.

Night time was the worst; after bath time, during story time, amidst smooches and prayers, you could hear it; the dinner in my stomach, that at this point I was mostly pushing around on my plate rather than consuming, would CLUNK.  That’s what the kids called it.  “Mommy, your tummy’s clunking again.” My food just wasn’t digesting.  It would sit there for hours.  Ultimately, many months from these days and nights of suffering, it would get so bad that I would throw up the food that wasn’t digesting after it clunked until 3 or 4am, going nowhere. Tests would be done, tubes would be shoved down my nose into my belly for 24 hours to test my stress and acid levels, endoscopies and colonoscopies would be performed, surgeries for gallbladder and polyp removal would be done, medication for colitis would be administered.  But not yet.  At this time, with these two little ones to care for and a bank account that couldn’t accommodate medical bills, I just nodded my head while our kids anticipated each clunk and accompanying grimace on my face.

One night, after the kids had fallen asleep and The Crocodile Hunter and American Idol had long been turned off of the television, I lay in bed staring at the ceiling, feeling my stomach churn.  I turned to my husband, who was restless and awake because he knew I was miserable.  “I’ve got to do something to get this food to digest.” I sat up and threw my legs over the edge of the bed.  “I think I’ll try to just go run down the street and see if exercising will help.” Jeff nodded, knowing that we were pretty much willing to try anything and this was a natural, healthy way that seemed reasonable. He was concerned that it was 10pm and dark outside, but he knew what needed to be done.  I tied my running shoes—shoes that had been worn for some 5K races and jogs here and there over the years, but shoes that had never seen more than three miles at a time.  Jeff moved to the chair by the window so he could watch me while I was out on the street.

I smiled weakly at him, opened and closed the door quietly, and ran back and forth on the little street where we were renting our duplex.  Back and forth, back and forth.  That first night, I ran for an hour.  I didn’t want to stop.  I immediately felt relief.  While I was running, my stomach didn’t hurt, and I was afraid if I stopped, the pain would return.  And of course, it did, once I finally came back into the house, panting and out of shape.  But it wasn’t clunking as heavily as it was when I’d laced up.  I was able to sleep that night without waking up to try and use the bathroom.  I was able to sleep in several positions, rather than solely on my back without moving so as not to jostle my stomach.  I was able to wake up the next morning a little more rested.

So I ran again the next night, and the next, after we put the kids to bed.  Jeff sat by the window in the chair each night, watching every few minutes for me to pass by the window. I began to venture out further, adding miles on each week, taking our new mobile flip phone with me.  I wasn’t willing to miss story time and prayers, but I did begin to go out before the kids were fast asleep, so that Jeff didn’t have to sit up worrying so late. Months went by, the miles piled up, I adjusted our dinners to be earlier so I could run without getting a side stitch, and I began to feel a little better. And something else happened.  I was feeling this little tickle in the back of my head.  I was feeling strong because of running. I was feeling powerful because of running.  I was feeling extra joyful because of running.  It was changing the way I was seeing things.  I started noticing other people’s shoes, and wondering if they were runners; there were other people out there that liked to do this too!  I began searching our very slow internet for running plans that I could follow so there would be a system.  I’m a systems person, and I’m a to-do list person, so a running plan seemed inevitable. And I discovered there were hundreds of lists to be picked from, and thousands of other people running too!  But then this other thing happened.  Someone randomly asked me if I was training for any upcoming races. “What are you talking about?” I asked.  “I’m as slow as a turtle”, I said.  “Why would I sign up for something that had the word race in the title?” But there it was.  My inner athlete had been born.  The tickle began to itch like a rash.

I entered a local 5K and was so proud that I even finished, though it was the slowest time in the history of the race I’d bet, and I’d been up all night with an undigested steak keeping me company.  But it was the first of many medals I’d eventually hang on my wall.  Not right away, but once the kids got older and I’d gone through some healing medical intervention, I’d find myself hanging half marathon and marathon medals up there as well.  I would eventually run half marathons with my teenage son and husband, I’d run 5K’s with my daughter, and I’d run marathons on my own.

Running saved my life. Literally. Because of my stomach problems, I began to run seriously.  As my problems progressed to the “vomiting up undigested food” stage, I was unable to run.  Because I wanted to run more (and also because my family convinced me it was the right thing to do), I finally went to the doctor for tests. Because of those tests, my gastrointestinal doctor gave me a colonoscopy at an age much younger than one would normally get a colonoscopy.  Because of that procedure that I never would have otherwise had done, a mushroom polyp was found and removed.  When I went in for my follow-up, the doctor told me that “if you hadn’t come in for a colonoscopy, we never would have found that polyp and it would have killed you by the time you were 35.”  I sat there, staring at my young boy playing with his Bob the Builder toys on the doctor’s office floor, and said a quiet prayer of thanks.

Now, years later, I still love running.  I mean, maybe not so much during an uphill climb during Mile 7 of a hilly half marathon, but I really do love running.  It brings me joy and clarity and balance.  It keeps my 44 year-old bones from feeling creaky and crumbly.  Today, I am a miraculously colitis-free, wife to my healthy husband, and mom of a creative college student daughter and a hockey-playing high school son.  I am a runner because I love to run, not because I have to run to feel better.  I do still love to run at night, though now I don’t have to go alone because there aren’t babies in bed back at home.  Now those babies run with me, or ride their bikes next to me, or they just stay home and Snapchat me while I’m running and my husband runs with me.  My sister is my running partner and we are currently training for my fourth and her first marathon.  I have wonderful friends that now run, and I constantly look forward to signing up for “races” with them.  We run in them rather than race in them, but we don’t care! Regardless of speed or destination, I run for joy, not for pain.  I am thankful for the relief that running gave me, and I am thankful for the life that running has given me.

Be a NOW World Changer! Here’s the secret of HOW!

My kids have #4 nailed! Sort of?

My kids have #4 nailed! Sort of?

Listening to my world changing son teaching me about social media posting

Listening to my world changing son teaching me about social media posting

Listen up Future World Changers! Wait! Why do we say “Future” World Changers? Teenagers! You are the “NOW” World Changers! YOU are the strong, powerful, connected voice of what this world needs, not in the future, but RIGHT NOW! And you want to know the secret to being a teen that has the most power, the highest level of leadership, the strongest impact capability? Because I know the secret, just lean in and listen. Are you listening? Good! Because that’s the big secret! Be a listener. Humans that listen to other humans compassionately and honestly and with a heart for finding solutions that the world is craving are the most powerful change makers. How can you be a best friend? Listen with your heart. How can you be a leader to your peers? Listen to their needs. How can you be a proponent for change and receive an audience that will listen to you? Listen to those that are speaking about what change is needed and speak to that need.

Check out these FIVE REASONS why the best World Changers are LISTENERS!

LISTENERS ARE LEADERS: You know those people at your school; the people that are the center of attention, that seemingly have all the confidence in the world, that it seems like other kids are drawn to…well, NEWS FLASH! The people that speak the loudest are typically the most insecure and are just trying to forcefully prove to anyone around them that they can demand power and attention by being the loudest or most funny or quirkiest. Come on, you know those people…every school has those people. But, now turn your attention to not the attention seekers, but the action DOERS. They are spending their time taking action based on a problem that they’ve LISTENED to that needs to be solved. How can you lead people if you don’t know their needs? If you don’t know what they want? Opening your ears to the hearts of those that need you (our world is desperate for leadership that puts others first; we are craving leadership that listens, which means you are a high commodity if you are a listener) makes you stronger and more appealing as a leader than every loudmouth on the planet combined! Leading people where YOU think they should go is one technique, but leading people in a direction that they feel passionate about will propagate and grow strength and wholeness as a society? Now THAT’S leadership!
LISTENERS VALIDATE OTHERS: People that are listened to become powerful, just because you cared about them enough to listen! Your goal as a leader is NOT to prove your power, but to help others discover the power within themselves to then join the charge! When you listen to others, they feel validated in their important thoughts, which will support their feeling of strength, which then automatically encourages them to take action in a cause you both believe in. By listening to others, you are encouraging other powerful world changers—just by listening, you are exponentially causing a ripple effect of action!
LISTENERS ARE LEARNERS: People who talk more than they listen are inward livers. They perceive that they have the answers inside their own minds. Listeners show that they believe there is so much in the world to be learned; they are outward livers. Listeners find value in the knowledge of others. The see the weight of others’ intellect and feel that other humans have knowledge to offer that will help them become even more effective in their world changing capabilities.
LISTENERS HAVE HUMILITY: One of the most noble traits we can exhibit is humility; that we find the value in others to be just as important as our own. It is important and NOT WRONG to have a strong sense of self, to feel self confident, to have a strong ego. Lots of people think it’s bad to have an ego. WE MUST HAVE A STRONG EGO! We are made to be powerful, and we have to believe in ourselves to fulfill this purpose. However, when we go wrong is when we decide that others value is not as important. EVERY HUMAN ON THE PLANET HAS A PURPOSE AND A VIEW OF THE WORLD THAT IS JUST AS IMPORTANT AS OUR OWN. Humility is shown by listening. Humility is cultivated by embracing others. You don’t have to agree with their views, but you have to believe that they have credibility as a human and respect that they are allowed to think differently than you.
LISTENERS ARE DIFFERENCE MAKERS: How can you be a world changer if you don’t know your direction of action? Yes, of course, you can have an idea that has never been heard of and create change in the world that people have never thought of; that’s incredible and beautiful and the reason we are such a forward-thinking society! But even then, create a plan for that brilliance based on feedback you receive from those you trust that you run your ideas by. Listening is NEVER not a good idea. You may decide to go a different route, but feedback is always a benefit.

World changers, open your hearts and minds by opening your ears! That’s the first step! Listen to your fellow humans, cultivate your humility, and create other strong leaders by listening to them. Teenagers, I am honored to be on this planet at this moment with you! I am excited for the future of our world with you in charge of it! Put these tips in your phone notes in a condensed version (you can even copy and paste what I put below for your phone) and start analyzing your actions when you’re around others. Are you a listener? Are you cultivating growth in yourself and others? Making daily changes—one powerful step at a time—will help you accomplish all you have inside you to do! You were created for excellence, don’t allow yourself to behave in a way that doesn’t fulfill this destiny.

Put this in your phone—————————->

AM I A LISTENER?
Am I leading others by listening to their needs?
Am I validating others’ feelings by listening with my heart?
Am I receiving the knowledge outside of myself by listening to the wisdom of others?
Are you practicing humility?
Are you creating change that is moving our society forward by listening to need?

A View From the Balcony

I am cocoNUTS for these two!

I am cocoNUTS for these two!

Fun and games under the family palapa!

Fun and games under the family palapa!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s always an unexpected joy for my husband and me when we are in a position of secret observation of a child engaged in imaginative play; not in a creepy, voyeuristic way, I promise. It’s not like we go hiding behind hedges, peeking our eyes over the top in search of children we can spy on. It’s those natural moments of pure thoughtful childhood freedom that we are honored to observe; those moments when a child is playing, fully engaged in an imaginative world where there are no boundaries or rules or obligation.

…like when we were children and played with no limitations or expectations that our time of fun was finite.

It’s almost like this child at play is a conduit for healing, like a shot of antibiotic fighting the disease of the hazy, heavy life that adults have chosen to wear like a badge of honor, proving to ourselves that we are hard at work, earning the eventual right to a vacation—the “right” to a moment to return to our innate need for abandoned play, if you will. It’s a funny cycle we’ve created for ourselves; play with all our hearts as kids, then grow up and stop playing so we can work hard to earn money for some time away so we can forget our obligations for awhile so we can return for a moment to “play” without worry or stress.

We were created to enJOY life.

Remember any childhood games you used to play? I remember as a 3rd grader, my friend Erin and I would ride our bikes down the street to a house that had a driveway with two entrances connected by a half circle driveway. We would ride in through the entrance and out through the exit, making invisible designs on the pavement while we rode. The driveway was curved, which was just perfect to represent the curved back of a squirrel. We’d make the arched back design, then ride out into the street, ride in a 360 degree formation to make the head, then continue to the middle of the street to “draw” the paws. We’d fake vote whose design was the best, then we’d start all over again with a different drawing that required an arch in it so that the driveway was constantly useful to us.

Now I ride my bike to the store, or to accompany one of my cross country team on a fast run. I haven’t drawn a street squirrel in almost 40 years.

Watching children play without the timid, guarded actions of a person that has been judged for their silliness one too many times, or the restraints of adult responsibility that stifles us is a reminder of that for which we were intended to experience and feel and enjoy, regardless of our age.

Why do we prescribe to this boxed in way of thinking as we age? Why do we allow history to dictate that imagination and playtime only exist within the confines of childhood? Why does it become “immature” to build a sandcastle or run through a field trying to get our homemade kites to catch flight? Remember making kites out of old newspapers and sticks? Remember tying colorful hair ribbons onto the tail?

Why has it become our nature to become the opposite of what is natural and encoded within us?

But, alas, we do prescribe to this mentality. We do wake up one day, deciding that we are no longer at an age where we can imagine ourselves as lords and ladies in a castle with a moat full of alligators surrounding us, waiting for the imminent strike of the opposing army, only to be rescued by the gallant knight. Instead, we become servants to our jobs, swimming with the sharks, chained to our need to pay the bills and, of course, saving for a vacation where we can escape the monotony of our repetitive days that are not typically defined as FUN. The need for financial security is a necessity, no doubt. I’m not denying this for even a moment. We have to earn a living. We have to support our families. I just don’t think we have to do this at the cost of our pure and unadulterated happiness. Why do we have to throw our childlike joy to the wind, trading our youthful whimsy for pennies? Keep the whimsy; keep the pennies. It’s not a one or the other choice that has to be made. If fact, I would argue that the more joy you are creating, feeling, and expressing, the more pennies you have the potential to make. Joyful people are productive people. Productive people earn some piles of pennies.

Why can’t our work and play be in harmony? Why can’t we maintain our childhood joy and still take care of our adult needs and the needs of our families? Why must we be tainted by “maturity” as society has dictated? Maturity should continue to connote wisdom, but why must it conjure boredom and frustration for ourselves and those we have emotional access to?

Which brings me to Preston.

From the second story balcony of our vacation rental in Cozumel this past week, Jeff and I got to experience this free, imaginative play hour after hour from a beautiful little boy named Preston. We barely wanted to leave our balcony to explore the island because of the front row seats we had to the joyful theater on the sand before us. We judged his age to be perhaps 10ish, and he was not only a lover of Batman and Superman, as his clothing dictated day after day, but upon our continual observation, we learned that he frequently assumed the role of Superhero himself. Super Preston built fortresses out of sand, directing laser guns and cannons outward from the center to ensure the complete protection of the inhabitants (we think they were sand fleas and ants primarily, maybe a few little crabs, too). Preston collected fallen coconuts from the beach and placed them strategically around the entrance to the sand city so that bad guys couldn’t pass. He sat as still as a statue for minutes at a time, observing birds that were perched in the palm trees to assess if they were a threat—he decided that the black birds were the enemy but that the pelicans were sentries that could also provide food service by delivering fish to Sand City when there was a food shortage. And then Super Preston noticed that the iguanas were infiltrating his city from beneath the…

“PRESTON!” Mom shouted from the porch below our balcony. We couldn’t see her face but we knew what it looked like from the frustration in her voice and the sharp way her tone lowered in the second syllable of his name.

Preston didn’t answer. He was directing the laser pointers toward the sidewalk under which the iguanas were tunneling toward his city. Super Preston began to build a rock wall of coco….

“PRESTON! I have called you three times! Quit ignoring me!” Mom said.

Preston looked up. “Sorry Mom. I was just building a…”

“Honey, why are you doing that so close to the stairs into the condo? You’re going to drag sand everywhere inside. Can you move a little further down toward the water next time? We don’t want to have to clean up the mess before heading to relax at dinner.” Mom smiled sweetly and absently patted his head.

“Oh, don’t worry, Mom!” Preston beamed. “I’ll clean it all up before we leave. I just have to secure the fortress and the people will be safe from harm while I’m away. Wanna see the laser beams that are set up on each corner of the city?”

“That’s cute, Preston, honey. I don’t have time to come see right now, everyone is ready to head out to dinner, but maybe tomorrow I’ll sit and play with you for a sec, okay?”

“Sure.” Preston stands up and walks up the steps toward his condo, careful to brush the sand off away from the city. “I don’t want to create a sandstorm in the city,” he says. Jeff and I almost fall over the ledge while craning to soak in as much of Preston’s joy as there was to be had as he walked under our balcony and out of view. I sat down carefully and gently, not sure what I was feeling completely. I looked at Jeff without saying anything and knew he was feeling the same as me.

Preston is a boy. He is a bundle of skin and muscle and bones and hair and toenails that have dirt under them. He is resilient and fantastically energetic. This one interrupted event didn’t rob him of his childhood. This one round of play that ended abruptly didn’t disrupt his ego; his SUPERego, if you will. He will play again, probably within the hour. His mind is his own. His imagination is a cohort. Together they are Super Preston.

But Jeff and I aren’t children. We don’t often release ourselves of inhibitions and play in the sand together. We looked at one another. We both felt sad. We felt sad that Preston maybe had to grow up just a little bit in that moment, and that it was essentially a step toward learning adulthood rules that don’t include playing. We felt sad that our own vicarious playtime that we were experiencing through Preston had been sabotaged. We were sad because we were both reminiscing about our own 16 year-old boy, who was at that moment sitting out on the beach in a chaise lounge checking out girls that were walking by instead of being the incredibly awesome Sand City-building Super Ben, though we smiled through our sadness because we knew at any moment he would jump up and try to climb a coconut tree just to see if he could get to the top because staring at girls all day is dumb when there are coconut trees daring to taunt his athletic ability directly above him.

And it must be said that this one small moment of interrupted imagination of course did not undo all the Texan close family awesomeness that we had been observing throughout the week from our balcony perch. This was a tight-knit family, with many more extended family showing up throughout the week. By the time we were packing our bags on day ten of our trip, there were three condos in a row inhabited by this big family that seemed to be, indeed, populating the entire state of Texas themselves with their family tree. Preston got to play with cousins galore, one of which brought his own Sand City building expertise and architectural genius. That was one very glorious and invigorating play session for Super Preston. No iguanas or black angry birds or preoccupied moms infiltrated the city that afternoon! Grandpa even got in on the Sand City action for a good 15 minutes before he felt the pull of the surf and the tequila being poured by someone’s brother by marriage two porches down.

Jeff and I spent some time talking about Preston’s mom too. What journey did she take that brought her to the place that in that moment she cared more about not having a mess on the condo steps that directing her attention to what Super Preston’s laser pointers were protecting millions of Sand City residents from? When did her imagination and whimsy leave the party? What experiences has she had that this time in Cozumel with her family contained baggage that shadowed childhood imagination and respect for the pure, innovative thinking of her boy? I’m not declaring that she is a bad mother or that she emotionally abused her kid because she made a comment about messy sand and didn’t sit down for a minute to play, I’m just saying that I wish Mom could have felt for a moment the joy that Super Preston was putting out into his little superhero universe and embrace it as fuel for her own engine and antibiotic medicine for her tired soul. Maybe in the giving of her time to him for just a moment, she could have traveled inside the walls of Sand City herself and left behind her internal walls that she had built around her own playful imagination.

No matter where we are with our kids, adventure exists. We, as adults, needs to take a momentary step back and visualize the experience not from urr old person glasses, but from the glasses that we wore before we needed glasses—the filter of imagination and pure joy that makes coconuts look like cannonballs and branches from trees look like laser guns. We need to provide not just vacations from “adulthood” for ourselves when we are traveling, but we need to provide the opportunity for our children to express their vision of the world in their own beautiful and creative way; and perhaps we can learn to return to this utopia because of their teachings—a utopia that exists regardless of our location or destination and a utopia that we don’t have to just occasionally visit.

5 Study Skills High Schoolers Need to Ace Exams and Prepare for College!

5 Study Skills High Schoolers Need to Ace Exams and Prepare for College!

1. Fortress of Focus
High school students that learn early how to protect their time and have boundaries around their study time have been super successful in their classes, and this good habit transfers to college with them. They may not be able to take their doggie to college with them, but they can take their fortress of focus! Daily, students (and adults!) should set aside a specific, purposeful, habitual time of day where almost nothing can interrupt their study time. Even if there is no test the next day, spend this time preparing for future exams. There is always a list to memorize or research to be done. This does away with cramming information into the brain just to do well on a test, it actually helps it to stick. If there is absolutely nothing that needs to be studied, this is an opportune time to listen to personal growth podcasts or read a book to better yourself. There will never be a lack of informative material to learn from in the world. The fortress must be distraction free. If phones are a distraction, this must be a phone-free time. If music helps, then add music to the fortress, but be honest and evaluate if it is actually helping you, or if you just are bored without it and it truly is a distraction. The student must decide for him or herself what a personal fortress looks like; for a fortress is for one person’s growth and betterment. And be non-metaphorical about it. Actually visualize walls around your study time, a full moat with no drawbridge; no one can interrupt your time, and you can’t get out of your study time. Embrace the solitude and learn!

2. Prioritize
Often in high school, there are 37 things to do after school and teachers don’t always communicate with one another; it will often happen that you head to baseball practice right after the bell rings, get home in time for dinner, and then have 5 tests to study for, on top of homework in 3 classes. This can be overwhelming, but the solution is available. Keep a planner and write down everything that comes up throughout the day. Baseball should already be pre-written in there, as well as any other obligations you already knew about, like asking your sweetie to prom! When the bell rings, take 3 minutes to open your day planner while standing at your locker, number the obligations in order of priority, and then follow that order, not moving to the next thing until the previous thing is checked off! How to decide what order the numbers should go? First, the classes with the lowest grades should have highest priority. Prom invitations can wait a few hours if you have a chem test to nail. If you have a 99% in English and a 75% in math, your English class should be studied for, but not more than or before math. Prioritize based on the results you need to achieve. If you are having a conflict with home matters and school, seek help from a parent. Parents need to help set a student up for success; if grandma’s 90th birthday party is Wednesday night, and you have a big test on Thursday the family needs to help on Monday and Tuesday night with studying or making the home a productive learning environment on those two days so you can hug grandma endlessly without worrying about being unprepared the next day.

3. Protect the Temple
Your body, you know, the one that houses your brain and vital learning organs, is the only one you’ve got! Physically pushing yourself to the limit and not providing your brain house with vital nutrients, water, and sleep is asking for a poor functioning physical environment. Eating too little, or too many processed foods, or foods full of sugar, or caffeinated drinks, or alcoholic beverages, all lead to slower and less clear brain function. Dehydrated brain and body cells are not receptive to new learning material because they go into freak out panic mode and work on just staying healthy. Same with less sleep. Your body will start to focus entirely on restoring itself if you deprive it of sleep and will stop seeking anything that is not rest. To be the best high school student, you must care for your physical self.

4. Arm Yourself With Knowledge
Look further than the book or the study guide that your teacher requires. The more you know about your exam or class content, the more knowledgable you will be. Your teacher is a source of content, and your own research is a source of content. Think bigger than the test. Dive below the surface of the basic information required of you and turn yourself into an expert on the content. Ask questions. Seek more. Think beyond the textbook. Train yourself to be a learner, not just a taker of tests. Entering college as a thinker will be forever beneficial to you.

5. Be In Control, Don’t Be Controlled
You are not a pawn in a game. You are the master of your day. Behave in a way that keeps you in control of your circumstance. Your teacher may assign an assignment or exam, but you are in control of how you approach and address the assignment. If you wait until the last minute to attack it, you will not be in control of it, but it will have you by the tail. Stay ahead of the race and keep your mind alert and ahead. This will help you determine how to balance everything else, and you will rarely have to pull all nighters or miss fun events if you are in the lead.

Thanks Samuel Morse!

Snapchat is awesome! A bridge from the laundry room at UCLA to our living room (posted with permission!)

Snapchat is awesome! A bridge from the laundry room at UCLA to our living room (posted with permission!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“So glad I didn’t have to deal with this when raising my children!” was a comment one mom posted on Facebook in response to an article in the New York Times on how social media has infiltrated our children’s world. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat, Kik…the list is endless.  And once we, as parents, have even the tiniest grasp on one or two of these platforms, another Gen Z’er becomes a billionaire from the creation of the newest Claptrap, PeepingTeen, SnoopScoop, CheapChirps platform that allows us to be “social”.  And the general viewpoint of most parents we work with? We believe that this social media is a distraction for their teen, drawing them out of the “real world” into pseudo friend groups that do not allow them to nurture true and lasting relationships.  This complaint/worry is in addition to the basic idea that our kids are obsessed with their phones, drawn out of the family dynamic, separating themselves from shadowy, dreary family time to be warmed and comforted by the glow of the screen where their cyber relationships reside. And we haven’t even broached the subject of cyber bullying, comparison of their self-conscious teen selves to unrealistic media expectations, and of course, the ultimate betrayals of the digital experience, stalking, cyberporn and child endangerment.

Truly, Samuel F.B. Morse is to blame for all of these digital communication shenanigans. In 1825, Morse was working as a painter and was far from home when his wife became ill after the birth of their baby.  Morse found out too late, and by the time he got home to be by her side, she was dead. Morse was so heartbroken, he went to Europe to grieve.  On that trip, he met an inventor, Charles Thomas Jackson, and together they invented Morse Code, which led to the invention of the telegraph.  Long distance communication was born, and the emotional death of our children through social media soon followed.

But, is it possible that this is just fear speaking? Is there a flicker of hope that maybe, just maybe, social media could be used for good and not powerful, life-altering evil? Well, we say yes, there is more than a flicker that this could be possible.  In fact, we say that there is a raging fire of a possibility that this can be used by parents as a bridge to your child, a connection to their world, that otherwise you might have to fight for entrance into.  Our teens, due to some organic chemical matter flourishing in their bodies out of control, have an innate sense of needing to become snails.  Yes, I am talking about their slow-moving, trail-leaving, pouty-mouthed aura, but also, and more emotionally difficult for parents to accept, our teens may have a tendency to curl up into their shells and retreat while they are figuring out their world.  This is natural and necessary; they realize they are their own person and want to figure things out from the inside out.  It’s safe there in that shell.  As they mature, they will slowly graduate to peeking their heads out of their safe zone, and then eventually, if all goes well, a full immersion into their adult world will occur.

So, we ask ourselves—how do we know what’s going on inside the minds of our kids? Is there an X-ray machine we can create to help us see inside their hard candy shell? Why, yes there is! Samuel Morse created it for us a century ago.  It’s digital media! Now, let me be clear. I am not implying that direct communication and an intimate, safe relationship with our teenagers is not possible or necessary here.  I will never believe that there is any substitute for a personal communicative relationship with our children, no matter what age.  I am saying however, that instead of viewing social media as a devilish temptress that is luring our kids over to the Darth Side, we can embrace the culture we are in and go to where are children are residing, instead of  alienating them by demanding they stay where we, the adults, are comfortable.

**Before continuing, I must make a note about Snapchat and Kik.  These sites both erase content immediately after your child responds.  In our family, these two sites were not an option until we felt confident that the maturity level of the child was present enough to manage us not checking their content frequently.  We must make decisions about sites like these with a different set of parameters than the others.  Obviously, kids can erase any content they choose , but if they are in that kind of sneaky space, they shouldn’t perhaps be on any social media, much less apps that do the sneaky work for them.  We must just use wisdom and confidence in our own decision making in these cases.**

There are five major reasons why social media is a parent’s best friend:

1.  You can identify the personality of your new, hormone-fueled teenager by evaluating how they use social media.  Are they a Facelooker or are they a participator?  Are they a joyful peruser or are they comparing their value to others? Are they a posting joyfully or are they drawing from negativity?  From his or her side of the screen, it is possible to track your child’s actions or lack of action and put together puzzle pieces of how your child is feeling.  What are the hashtags that he or she is searching? What ads pop up on the sides of your child’s Facebook page? These ads are a possible reflection of what your child is perusing. However, we mustn’t be fatalists as parents if a random ad pops up that make our stomachs flip.  It isn’t a 100% accurate reflection.  It just means we need to continually talk with our kids, and not from an accusatory place.  We can bring it up in a very non-intrusive way that just tells our child we have interest by saying something like, “Oh my! I’m so bummed that popped up on your page! It’s so interesting how social media can try to influence our thoughts and purchases with their ad placement.  Have you ever noticed this? What do you think?” It lets your child know you are aware, but doesn’t alienate them because they don’t think your coming with guns loaded to “catch them”. Is your child “lurking” in the shadows of someone on Instagram they are comparing themselves to? This may be a great bridge for you to walk over to help your child build some confidence in that area.  Is your child searching birdwatchers? Perhaps they are expressing in a new love they haven’t told you about, or perhaps they are enjoying a specific birdwatching page because the person in the photo is super cute.  Either way, this gives you insight through your child’s social media.

2.  You can evaluate what type of people your child is naturally drawn to without them even knowing themselves. It is not uncommon for a teen to have thousands of pins or grams or tweets from people they have never met.  Something a parent can do is find commonalities in the collection of media platforms.  This is like a magnifying glass into the mind of your child.  Look past the content to the person behind the content.  This is where the true connection lies with your child.  Humans are attracted to what other humans are doing.  It’s not the thing, it’s the person doing the thing.  And again, this is not to bust our kids. It’s to gain knowledge about what they value so we can know our children better.  This provides engagement.  There may be circumstances that require redirection, but primarily we just want to take every opportunity to know our kids.

3.  You can be active in letting your child feel your presence in their digital lives.  As much as our teens want freedom, they want love more.  They may not act like it, but it is so.  They will roll their eyes, they might slam a door a little too hard, but those actions are much more desirable for a parent than a kid who shows indifference because they don’t feel the connection. It makes them feel secure to know that we care enough to be present.   It is possible to monitor our kids heavily without helicoptering.  Social media actually helps us in this area.  Here’s the plan: gather your kids’ social media passwords, and be honest.  Tell them it is for their protection and that in your family there is open communication in all areas.  It should also be a family habit that if passwords change, children let you know without you having to ask.  It doesn’t need to be more difficult than that.  If they refuse, then social media is not an option for them.  And then the trick is that you consistently check their social media.  But you do it quietly without making a big deal about every post.  Our kids don’t want to have discussions about their posts over mac and cheese at dinner, even if you just think they’re adorbs.  Let them have their space.  And definitely, we mustn’t infiltrate by responding or commenting on all of their posts. Occasionally is great so they feel our presence, but they aren’t posting to hear from their parents constantly.  Finally, the less we remind our kids that we are monitoring, the more honest and true their posts and searches will be, allowing us to see what we need to in order to truly understand where they are coming from.

4.  You can use it as a tool for discussion, conversation, and growth. Blogs, discussions about mistakes they make on social media are communication tools, too.  Though it feels like social media is a communication device that pulls our kids away from us, it can be a constant and continual device for drawing them closer communicatively.  Talking, talking, and more talking about social issues, not just within their “friends” circle, but also about posts politically, environmentally, socially, etc. are at our fingertips for intellectual conversation and understanding of our teens.  If you see something on social media that his a hot topic in our world, or even just a little chirp about an ideology that catches your interest, make a note on your phone and bring it up over hot chocolate or dinner and talk it out.  Social media is a great platform to dive into conversations that will help our kids decide how they feel and what they think about life topics.  We must, however, not try to direct their thoughts toward our own ways.  We must let them communicate and share how they feel so they feel valued and respected for their own opinions.  On moral issues, we can share how we feel, but we must let our children come to their own decisions. We must let them make mistakes while they are in our homes where we can help them recover.  They will not blindly follow our lead at this age.  In fact, they might just explore the opposite of what we enforce simply because that’s where they are at in the process of becoming an independent adult.  We can guide and give markers, and they will swerve in and out until they find they path that they feel is right for their adult behaviors.  Additionally, add humor as a connection!  My husband posts the most hilarious snaps to our kids; snaps that would be so embarrassing if their friends could see, but it makes  our kids burst out laughing every time! And more than once, they’ve received a snap of their Papa’s bald head with blue hair drawn into the bald spot.  Dumb? Yes! Pointless? In the world of snaps, yes.  But in the world of connectivity, far from pointless.

5.  You can be a model of maturity.  Time and time again I will log into social media and see a parent sharing information about their child that is either embarrassing for the kid or humiliating for them.  We don’t air our child’s flaws for the world.  In fact, not one post or photo should go up that represents our children without their explicit permission.  We show respect, and we will get respect.  What we think is the cutest photo of our kid laying on the couch in their pajamas eating a bag of chips could be the death of him or her at school where kids are often brutal.  Modeling respect and responsibility and maturity to our kids through social media is a big lesson that we can provide without lecturing or even breathing a word to them.  Our actions speak volumes.  We can’t harp on their social media practices if our own are not stellar.

There is no denying that some children should not and cannot handle social media.  Our children should feel our presence and our decision-making based on their proven success as a social media participant.  We should not just declare these platforms as bad because it takes more work on our part to monitor.  Additionally, we, as adults, often decide that something that is different than how it was for us is bad.  Not so, necessarily.  Sometimes we need to grow as much as our children.  We need to travel this road alongside our kids as aids for their physical, social, and emotional growth.  That’s our job.  And if we embrace their like and dislikes respectfully, the journey can be pretty fun!

Feathering the Nest

Our baby birds

Our baby birds

Raise your hand if you already knew that parents receive lessons when their kids go off to college. We send them on their way to receive a higher education, and what happens? Every waking hour we are being schooled. At least that’s what’s been happening around this nest….

I just knew it would be tough when Hannah moved away to school. In fact, I anticipated the trauma of her leaving so much that I turned the months before into a mental roller coaster for all of us. In two months, no one is going to be here to watch trash Kardashian television with me OR oh my gosh, it’s June, when October gets here, how am I going to decorate for Halloween by myself OR I better not scold her for her disgustingly messy bedroom today, I will miss this mess just a short 94 days from now.

 Mental torture! And not just mental torture….self-inflicted mental torture. I’ve always joked with Jeff that he needs to keep a bed open at one of his mental health facilities for me, and now, truly and finally, it looked like the time had come to stop joking about it. I checked myself into the mental health facility inside my brain and watched life through a foggy window for a minute. But just for a minute, because I am not a person who can live life inside fog. I can breathe in the thick, musty air for a small period of time without choking on its staleness, but then I have to clean house and rid myself of the negativity that I occasionally like to wallow in. So I found myself doing just that; literally cleaning house.

I discovered that I was nesting again, just as I had done when I was carrying the children in my belly; just as we do before the beginning of every school year; just as many mommies do anytime there is a big change coming. I didn’t know that’s what I was doing, but it certainly was. In fact, I was sitting the other day with another mom whose daughter had just left for college and she said to me, “Have you stopped nesting yet?” I just looked at her. “What do you mean?” She smiled and answered, “Aren’t you re-organizing, cleaning, and getting your nest comfortable again? That’s what we all do.” My mouth dropped open. Oh. My. Gosh. A bird flying out of the nest provokes the same reaction as a baby bird entering the nest; preparing said nest for arrival and departure.

I found that caring for my nest relieved the feeling of losing control of what had become so comfortable and normal. To be able to control my actions and do something was the best way for me to see the realness of the situation and not live in the shade of what I had created as reality. And the clear things I saw gave me the fuel I needed to approach this life change with what we are all gifted with—strength and power. Here are the things I saw more clearly:

  • I saw my little girl sitting on the couch, making list after list and blog upon blog of all things college. But she wasn’t just making lists and writing her heart out, she was looking at me, patting the couch next to her to sit and talk through the lists with her. I almost missed this part while wallowing.
  • I saw my boy, the brother and best friend to this college-bound girl, working through his own realization of what’s coming in the future. And he was looking to Jeff and I as models for how to handle this change. I almost missed opportunities to support his needs and grow with him while I was basking in my own perceived loss.
  • I saw my husband quietly observing the dynamic in his home to decipher where he needed to provide extra reinforcements to the nest. He was seeing Mama Bird flapping her wings pretty wildly to maintain flight and wanted to be sure the nest was padded just in case she couldn’t handle the landing. I definitely almost missed seeing his strength while I was focusing on my weakness.  And I most certainly wasn’t supporting his Atlas-like balancing of the globe above his head while his own heart muscle was aching. It must be pretty hard to balance the weight of the worlds while your feeling like you yourself are not standing on solid ground. Completely missed that phenomenon. I completely left my superhero without a place to rest while he was being ultra superhero-ey.
  • I saw glimpses of my own spirit of fun bubbling at the surface to actually be excited about and enjoy this transition. I realized that I was excited to go through this with her, but every time I would get joyful, I’d feel guilty. Feeling joyful about her future out of our home made me feel like I was declaring that I was glad she was leaving. I almost missed the joy of my own experience because I was weighted with guilt.
  • I saw friends and family members offering support and confidence to our family. People that have been on our life’s journey with us from the starting line were reaching out and asking what they could do. I almost missed the joy of friendship and hands being held out.

In fact, one hand that reached out to me was instrumental to the revelation that I needed to open my eyes. The day before Hannah was moving, I was at work and couldn’t catch my breathe through the lump in my throat. I went to my principal and friend to ask him if I could go home after lunch. His dear wife had already slipped a note of encouragement into my hands earlier in the day. What a supportive couple they are. With tears rolling down my face, I entered his office. It was the first time I had cried about her leaving outside of our home. I couldn’t get any words out. He smiled and told me he remembered this feeling when he had delivered his own girls and most recently, his granddaughter, to college, and that it would get better. But then he said one other sentence. And I eventually embraced it, but initially the sentence actually caught me off guard and fired me up. He said, “If I can offer you one bit of encouragement, don’t let your sadness rob you of your joy for the experience.” What??!! Excuse me??!! That’s MY line! I counsel to my kids, I preach it to my students, I blog about it, I LIVE it…………..don’t I? That’s why it made me mad. The truth sometimes burns. Was I not walking the joy walk? Nope. It’s hard to walk the walk when you’ve allowed yourself to strap on ankle weights filled with dreary, heavy cement.

I did come home from work that day, but not to sit and mourn my baby leaving like I had planned. I cleaned out my mental nest and revisited how I truly was feeling, as well as what the destination feelings were that I wanted to aim for. And I also had to have a mental talking to with myself about how I was providing for the needs of my other nest mates.

Every day has not been cushy and easy since she left. But it certainly has been full of joy. Hannah has included us in every aspect. We have used Face Time and group Snap Chats relentlessly. I myself feel like I have gone through rush week after she has so beautifully shared her days with us. I am enjoying the dining hall food as if my own taste buds are living it. I remember when the kids were little and we were homeschooling, I would take them to the ice rink three times a week for lessons. I watched them skate so much that I forgot I couldn’t skate. Until I got onto the ice one day and thought I knew how to hockey-stop. I barrel-rolled straight through the barriers that separated the big kid rink from the little kid rink. But I digress only to share that this is a hockey-stop experience now. Hannah has gone to UCLA. That makes her a Bruin for life. And that makes us a Bruin family for life. Just like I’m a hockey mom for life , and a wife who will forever love Pink Floyd because her husband introduced her to the music one their first date. The nest just gets bigger.

Mommies, this transition is not a new occurrence. Millions of parents have sent their kids off to school, or to the military, or to adventures awaiting them that don’t include their mommies and daddies being directly present. But that’s the trick; we can be there without being there, if we don’t self-sabotage the experience. That’s what I was doing. I was forcing a separation that Hannah didn’t even ask for or want, thinking this is what I was supposed to do. I had heard so many “end of her childhood as you know it” stories and had read so many articles on “getting back to dating your mate” and “finding a hobby to manage the stress”, that I took these stories on as my own. Those articles and stories all have great value, just as all the advice from other moms with horror stories that scared me to death have value (I guess….), but what I forgot to remember is that we all write our own stories and we all follow the path of our own choosing. Nathasha Bedingfield said it best in her song “Unwritten”. Staring at the blank page before you, open up the dirty window, let the sun illuminate the words that you cannot find, reaching for something in the distance, so close you can almost taste it, release your inhibitions, the rest is still unwritten. No one can write my family’s story except us. And I am not alone in my family’s story. There are others who get to have a say in how our story is written. And if I listen to their words, the story is so much better than it could ever be if I tried to write it all by myself. A family is a family no matter where the birds are flying. They hatch in the nest, but what a glorious next chapter when Mommy and Daddy Bird get to perch on a branch over a vast valley of unknown and watch their little birds fly with wings spread. And when the baby birds are having a little wind resistence or have a little injured wing, we are at home feathering a safe landing spot whenever they need it. This doesn’t mean they should run from their troubles and move back into that now roomy nest where a home gym has materialized, but the heart-part of the nest is always open for occupancy. A nest resided in the heart. That is not something to be mourned, but to be joyful about.

A Letter to Teachers: Heart2Heart

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It’s time again, teachers! Time to unlock those classroom doors and windows, let the fresh air in and the musty, dusty smell that has been stored in our classrooms over the hot summer out, and time to begin preparing for that day that is approaching quickly; the first day of the new school year!

What does your preparation look like? What does your physicality and your mindset consist of? What is your focus?

The challenge, fellow teachers, is our purpose.  What is our purpose?

I challenge us to teach this year with the student in mind, rather than the content.

I challenge us to prepare our lessons, not with the what in mind, but the who.

I challenge us to grade our papers with the heart of a caregiver that is looking for ways to help our students learn, not to catch them on what they are doing wrong.

I challenge us to look into the heart of the student when we speak one on one with them, not to look at the student with our eyes glazed over with assumptions about their intent.  Students that are frustrated or not understanding will put on a cloak of indifference. We must not assume they are checked out, but dig with our hearts into their fears and uplift them.

I challenge us to bring our best everyday.  Our energy is a catalyst that lights the spark of learning. We cannot show up with a dull light.  The children cannot see if the way is not lit with our bright light. It is possible for our students to look forward to coming to our classes. We make this so with our light.

I challenge us to seek knowledge continually, so that we can push our students toward greatness and their own seeking.  Teaching used lesson plans that are not added to or updated every year does not honor our purpose.

I challenge us to keep our doors open.  Students that need help may only seek it from us if we make ourselves readily available.  We must give our students a vibe of love and openness to their needs so they feel comfortable to seek our help.

I challenge us to think out of our box and encourage our students to do the same.  Teaching to our own strengths rather than teaching to our students strengths does not serve our kids.  Go to where they are and teach there.  This will teach our students to step out of their own comfort zones to explore places they’ve not before been.

Fellow teachers–our job is to teach the student.  Everyday, before I greet my first student, I pledge to serve the student; every boy and every girl.  I pledge to teach the content to them in a way they will hear it, not in the way I think they should hear it.  I promise to enter my school with heart open, not shadowed by frustration, laziness, or assumptions.  I will give of myself so that my students will give of themselves; not to me, but to their world.

Teachers, enjoy your school year!  Our life purpose was directed toward this moment, and we are meant to be right here at this moment for what we have to give.  We shall embrace the joy that is being gifted to us every day through our students! Happy School Year!