Tuesday, December 18, 2012

To tell or not to tell...

These last several days have been emotional for all of us.  It has been an extra stessor if your kids are elementary school age.  The worry and fret over what to tell them (if anything ) was weighing heavily on almost every parent I know.  This is a deeply personal decision and often based on your own child and their needs.  

I work as a counselor in an elementary school and have spent the last few days combing through "expert advice" and reflecting on my own personal experience in dealing with kids and crisis. Upon returning to school yesterday and fully braced with all of my "counselor tools" the only trend I saw of  the kids who were most traumatized were those who watched the news without much parental involvement or processing. If children knew, were comforted and had their questions answered-they were fine.  And for the most part, the ones who were sheltered remained that way.  No matter what you decided to do-shield completely, share a little or give details, the important aspect is that you are there for them, that you remain calm, comforting and are keeping your normal routines. 

I found a lot of valuable insight from my searching and reading, but this was the best article I have found on what to say/not say to your kids as well as how to teach self-talk and self regulation in times of stress.

I am thinking of all the parents who lost their children, although I still can't wrap my brain around it. I am thinking of mothers who were touched so deeply from this event because they have young troubled children of their own. I am thinking of mothers whose children have Aspergers and are feeling like they now have to defend their children from finger pointing and ignorance of the disability.  And I am thinking of all of you- and how this affects you personally-as I know we have all been deeply touched.

I am wishing that ALL MOTHERS will find some comfort and peace among this unthinkable tragedy.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Are you feeling a little crazy?

Tis the season...to feel crazy!  And out of balance, stressed and overwhelmed.  I have had almost all of my regular clients cancel their sessions in the last two weeks because the just can't manage one more thing to do (talk to me)!  If you are feeling like you are losing your mind right about now, you are not alone.  But, you can feel more in control.

This post will be short and sweet-I know you have a lot to do.

Out of town guests, shopping, wrapping, travel preparations, decorating, cleaning, entertaining, partying...partying and more partying.  Then we are trying to manage our sleep deprived-hyped up on sugar kids (and selves) from all the partying and late nights.  This-all on top of cold and flu season and work deadlines to crank out before the New Year.  Sound familiar?


Women are so damn hard on themselves.  Instead of enjoying the holiday season it is like a sprint to the finish-and instead of looking back fondly at the experience, we collapse.  We don't enjoy or even think about what the season means to us-we just go, go, go.  Do more, more, more.  Repeat. But the kicker is- in this process not only do we feel frazzled, but we get upset with ourselves for not feeling in control or fear we are going backwards in any progress that we have made to be organized, healthy and peaceful.

This is simply not true!

No matter how much progress you have made in whatever area of your life you are focused on right now-you are not going backwards.  The holidays are chaotic, that is why there are so many movies, cards and commercials making fun of what we do to ourselves during the months of November and December.  Some of this extra "stuff" is within your control, but some of it is not.

The best thing you can do right now is focus on eliminating stuff on the list that you really don't want to do (as I talk about here in a post from last year).  As well as give yourself permission to let go a little for the next couple of weeks with the things you can't control.  Be gentle with yourself.  You will get back on track after all the visitors have gone, the decorations are back in their bins and your cookies have all been eaten.  Mark it on your calender now-January 1, 2013-and pick up where you left your goals-along with the rest of the world.

I wish you lots of deep breaths,  a sense of humor and tons of love and warmth with those you care most about.

Happy Holidays Mamas from my family to yours!!!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Soccer season is O.V.E.R.

Can I tell you how darn happy I am to have my Saturdays and evenings back?  2 kids, 2 evening practices and 2 games on Saturdays...yup O.V.E.R.!  And did I mention, my husband coaches both teams?  I do enjoy watching them play (aside from my daughter's double header in the 42 degrees and hurricane scale gusts of wind).  But, I do NOT enjoy the time commitment.  I do NOT enjoy the nagging to find the game shirt, or to get the shin guards and cleats on.  And I NEVER enjoy rushing around from practice to practice-game to game. I could never be an Olympic mom-I can barely hang on to "soccer mom" status.

However, I know many families with multiple kids, and each kid has several activities-and it works for them.  These kids are entertained,  happy and thriving.  The parents enjoy participating and watching their kids learn and perform. The family is a well oiled machine of who needs to be where and when and which parent is going with what child for each day of the week.

I just can't be this mom.

My kids are not these kids.

My kids like the idea of most things, but do not yet have the passion and drive to carry out a season or an 8 week class of any sorts. It ends up being me who is nagging them to get ready and go.  They poke and whine about how they don't want to stop what they are doing.  I have questioned my sanity many times after paying hundreds of dollars for an activity only to drag my kids out to the car- crying that they don't want to go.  If given the choice they will always pick staying at home vs going to any organized activity.

And I have to admit, not much of it appeals to me either...rushing through homework, scrambling to get ready, eating in the car, and being a slave to my kids' schedules.  I love the evenings when we have nothing going on.  I take great joy in watching my kids run outside, play with the neighbors, cuddle with their dogs, build Legos or pretend they're in a rock band.  I like giving them the choice to help me cook dinner, being able to go for a long walk and doing homework at a normal speed instead of setting a timer.  The pace of having nothing to do other than enjoy each others' company feels really peaceful to me (unless they are bored and fighting of course)!

On the flip side, I do appreciate what sports, music lessons and the arts do for kids.  They increase self-esteem, teach self discipline and develop positive social skills.  Studies have proven that sports and music actually improve kids' performance in school.  So I get it, there are certainly benefits! For each family and each kid within a family- the magic number and type of activity is varied based on how well they manage time (homework, chores, etc) interest in the activity, and amount of down time that is needed.

We all need to find our happy balance within our family unit-whether that is no activity or something everyday of the week.

It is a good thing my husband is motivated about getting our kids involved.  It is he who encourages our kids to get try new things and takes the lead on organizing our activity schedule.  For our family, our deal is that each child must participate in one, but no more than two activities. Soccer is over, but this week starts music lessons....wish me luck!  If it was left up to me, all winter I would sit in front of the fire and play board games or build snowmen in our yard!

How do you create a balance that works for everyone in your home?

Saturday, October 13, 2012

What do you NEED when things get rough?

So, this is my life right now.  The meds on the left are my son's and the meds on the right are my puppy's.  I believe I have earned an honorary medical degree for the amount of meds I have learned about and dispensed in the last 6 weeks.  My son has struggled with a sinus infection, bronchitis and on-going asthma.  My puppy has had three ear infections, a skin infection, a respiratory infection and sniffed a small lego which caused yellow snot to come out of his nose for 3 weeks straight.  And oh ...he just got neutered on Monday and a day later I called the vet to ask her if by chance she forgot to take one of his balls off because there it was...hanging there.  Apparently, she didn't  forget a testicle, but what we described was his scrotum filling up with blood.  So he's on watch until it gets absorbed into his body. Good times!

School has been missed, clients have been cancelled, I've been on the phone with doctors and insurance companies for up to 90 minutes at a time... and the work has piled up.  But perhaps most potentially crushing to my spirits and well being (besides watching them suffer of course) is the disrupted sleep I have encountered over the last several weeks tending to my sick child and puppy.

For me, sleep is one of my top priorities.  Without it I am unkind.

We all have that one thing we need when life gets hard that we need to keep us going. I've heard some people say they need their environment to be orderly to feel more in control, so they clean.  In times of stress one of my best friends always throws a party.  She loves being surrounded by friends and family.  Many of my clients ramp up the exercise to decrease their stress level.  Me?  Definitely sleep.  I don't care if I eat chips for dinner, don't exercise or have 51 loads of laundry.  As long as I have adequate sleep I can deal with the crisis at hand and still be pleasant about it.

During this current crisis I have eaten complete junk, exercised today for the first time in weeks and nobody in my house has a clean pair of underwear.  But I am sleeping as much as I possibly can.  I am still being kind and a good care taker to those who need me.  I am calm and balanced and know I can get through this with grace and humor.

How about you? What is your thing?  What do you need to do in order to get though difficult time..and still be kind, balanced and calm?

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Are my expectations too high? What I learned about motherhood from my dog trainer!

"This is a great dog!"  Said the dog trainer I hired to save my sanity from my hyperactive, barking and destructive 7 month old Labradoodle.  "He is so calm and loving...and so trainable."  You really lucked out."

Uhhh...really? Are we talking about the same dog?  The one who barks incessantly? The one who drinks out of the toilet bowl? The one who body slams the front door when I go to get the mail? The one who eats my underwear, chews my kids' toys, and unravels every toilet paper roll in the house?  The one who destroyed my screened in porch in a matter of exactly 12 minutes?  The one who needs put under next week to get his nose scoped because we believe he snorted a lego? That dog?

Yes, he is one and the same. "He is just a puppy,"  She tells me.  Right, I forgot.

And then it struck me, people say the same thing about my kids.  Well, not the calm, loving and trainable part...but that they are great kids.  I often have the same reaction-Are you talking about MY kids?  I have the same conversation with my husband about 8 times a year.  It usually goes something like this:

Me: Are other kids this difficult?
Him:  Yes
Me: Do other parents struggle as much as us?
Him: Yes
Me: Our kids are so damn hard!
Him: Yes, they are strong willed kids.
Me: Are we doing something wrong?
Him: No, they are kids.  You expect too much.  You work in a school, you should know what is normal kid behavior is.
Me:  Pissed off that he didn't agree with me and walk away. He's right, I should know better.

But...when you are a mom and you have emotions tied to your own kids, AND they aren't behaving the way you want them to, these are normal questions.  I often have to remind myself that all kids say "no," ignore their parents, don't listen the first time, fight with their siblings, have meltdowns, need reminders to calm down, be quiet and have manners.  Few of them like baths, bedtimes or getting ready in the morning.  I never met a kid who behaved all of the time. They are all a pain in the ass-sometimes. That is why they call them kids, not adults. Come to think of it most adults I know need similar reminders from time to time too!  

So yes, I've decided that my expectations are too high.  That my kids behave like kids.  Yes, they ARE great kids, but they also can be a pain in the ass.  Just like every other kid I know!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Gift of Alone Time

I sit here on the eve of my husband and children returning from a 3 day trip to NJ to visit his sister.  I love his sister and her family dearly, but this trip I opted out of to be completely ALONE.  About a month ago I took the kids for several days to Pittsburgh to visit my parents while my husband stayed back. He said it was the best gift he had ever received, so he is now "gifting" me.

It is the first time in 7 1/2 years I have had the house to myself for more than a few hours.

I thought about these three days with great anticipation.  People would ask me what I was going to do with my time...was I going to go out with friends?  Starting a project?  Whoop it up?  Nope, none of the above, I planned on doing nothing productive, seeing no one and talking as minimally as possible.

And that's what I did.

I  wandered aimlessly down my favorite store isles without a list or an agenda.  I bought myself some new clothes and shoes instead of buying stuff for my kids. I took my dogs on two long walks each day.  I jogged without a care, a timed route or something to run back to. I prepared and ate my meals at super slow speed.  I took long hot showers without someone yelling for me.  I hogged the bed, the covers and all of the pillows.  I stayed up until 11:30 (gasp) watching a chick flick. I stayed in bed one morning until 9:00.  I didn't pick up after or correct anyone. I ate all healthy foods from my favorite organic market-and only used one dish, one utensil and one glass.  I rarely looked at the time. I didn't call anyone or answer my phone- and the only creatures I spoke to for more than a moment were my dogs.

It was total bliss!

What struck me about the last three days is how grounded and connected I feel now.  I have been neglecting my alone time-which was once such an important part of me.  Not everyone would have opted for three days of solitude.  Many would have made elaborate and exciting plans to keep themselves busy every moment.  And maybe that's what is calling you, but not me! I am a true introvert, as I get depleted by people (including my family) and need alone time to recharge.  I've always known this about myself and used to be (pre-children) much better at it. I just need to figure out how to incorporate this frequent decompression into my life instead of waiting another 7 1/2 years to get it!

What about you?  When was the last time you had extended time to do what you wanted to do?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Beep beep Mama's got a new Jeep!

I've done it!  I've traded in my Hot Mama Mini Van for my dream car, a Jeep Wrangler!  I have wanted this Jeep since I was 16 (or maybe earlier).  I wanted this Jeep during my 20s and when I was 30 I could finally afford it.  When I told my husband at age 30 that it was time for my Jeep, he responded with, "don't you think we should get something more practical?  What if we start a family soon?"   I acquiesced and bought a Honda Accord.  Now I am approaching 40, two kids, several cars (and a mini van) later, the time has come!  I have my JEEP and I love it!  I love how free I feel as I'm driving topless (the roof that is) with the music blasting.  I love what being a Jeep driver stands for (freedom and adventure).

But most of all... I feel like yet again another layer of being confined by the needs of young children was released.

Some of us allow the confines and restrictions of early parenting to affect us more than others.  I was one to always feel bogged down by bottles, baby equipment, diapers, strollers, time schedules and the like.  With each passing phase I would celebrate.  The celebration was because my load was lightening, but each high maintenance phase gives way to more room for YOU.  It is hard to think and get around with small kids and all they require.  This mental and physical energy takes a toll and we often use more than we have making us feel exhausted.  This is when we start to neglect and put off our own needs and wishes.

I remember several years ago seeing a mother at the pool lying on a lounge chair reading a book.  I went over to her with my toddlers in tow fussing about and said, "someday I hope to be you. Please tell me it gets easier."  She laughed said, "it does get easier, but my kids are 8 and 10!"  She told me to "hang in there."

I've hung in there alright! I may not be able to completely chill out at the pool just yet, but I'm getting there.  I'm all about self-care for Mama and maintaining idenity.  But let's face it, some of our dreams and desires do have to be put on hold due to safety, practicality or time. But it does get easier, you do get more time and those things you put on hold will come!

What is bogging you down right now? 

Do you have any passing phases you would like to share? 

Is it YOUR time yet?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Bring A Sense Of Calm To Your Day

I attract high achieving, determined and Type A moms to my coaching practice.  These women come to me because the way they lived pre-children does not work when they are forced to go at a slower pace, have patience and embrace the monotony of everyday parenting.  Due to this population (and the fact they all happen to be moms) it is not a surprise that most- if not all -of my clients I have ever worked with feel stressed most of the day.  I hear common complaints such as:
  • I feel like I'm spinning all day.
  • I go through my day on auto pilot.
  • I don't enjoy the moment because I am always worried about what I should be doing.
  • I'm always rushing around and hurrying my kids.
  • I can't sit still or turn off. 
  • Even when I have time to myself I can't enjoy it. 
  • I have a restless mind during the day and at night.
  • There is no time to connect with my partner.
  • I multi-task all day long and feel like I am spread too thin.
  • I'm not tasting or enjoying my food, yet I'm eating too much.                                                       
If you can't take anything away from your to do list, you might as well feel better doing it! 

I'm not going to promise you that I have the magic answer, or if you do these four methods that you will be "Zen Like" for all eternity.  What I do believe is that awareness goes along way. If you start with just listening to your thoughts, tapping into your feelings and permitting yourself to focus on where you are experiencing stress in your body-you will automatically feel a bit better.  If you go the extra mile and are open to flexing some new muscles and committed to adopting some new perspectives-then you will feel a whole lot better overall.

Here are the steps to bring a sense of calm to your day (along with how I do them in italics):

Step 1: Decide how you want to feel.
How would you like to feel throughout your day?  Stop focusing on all that needs to get done, but how you would like to feel while doing it.

 I want to feel calm, in control of myself, focused on gratitude, connected with the people I love on a daily basis and stay in the moment with whatever I am doing.

Step 2:  Create a mantra, find an inspirational quote, poem or story that reflects how you want to feel.    Once you find or create your words get to know them well.  Decide what the words mean to you.  Post these words in your car, by your bed, on your computer etc... Read them, feel them and reflect on them often.


Step 3: Do a body scan  before getting out of bed each morning. A body scan is simply allowing yourself to sit still for a moment or two to actually tune into your body.  Are you thirsty, hungry, have tense muscles or have to pee?  Take care of your needs by drinking, eating, stretching, taking a warm shower or using the bathroom.  I know this sounds silly, how many of you don't take your first drink or bite of food until lunch time? Do you still have a child that wakes you up screaming each morning and you jump out of bed to tend to their needs?  Either make them wait 5 minutes (if you can tune them out) or do this scan directly after their immediate needs are met.  This is also a time where you may find you are feeling a little run down or are holding stress in your shoulders or jaw.  See if any patterns come up for you.

I perform a body scan each morning before getting out of my bed (sometimes despite the dogs whining to go outside or a kid already jumping on me or yelling at me to help wipe their butt).  I usually find my muscles are tight and I am thirsty.  I stretch upon getting out of bed and drink a glass of water before doing anything else.  

Step 4:  Practice the body scan and mantra several times a day.  If you find during your body scan that you need something, allow yourself to have it.  When you call back your mantra if you discover that you aren't in alignment, give yourself permission to identify whatever it is that is getting in your way and restart. When you first start experimenting with this you may forget the entire day to call back your mantra or practice the scan.  However, you are training yourself to be in touch with what is going on with you emotionally, cognitively and physically.  It is a practice on slowing down and becoming aware. It will get easier.  If you can't seem to remember to do these exercises throughout the day, set a timer.  You can start with 2-3x a day if that is all you can manage right now.  When the timer goes off-stop, do the body scan and call back your mantra.

I often find that my shoulders are up to my ears from stress, that I am not drinking enough during the day and that I had not been mindful of what I have done since my last body scan.  I give my body what she needs and allow myself to figure out what is preventing me from being calm, content and connected and then call it back.

What do you think?  Is it worth a try?  It may sound complicated at first, but like anything new-it takes practice.  Any takers?  I would love to hear from you after you try it for a couple weeks.

Friday, May 4, 2012

This Mama has MOJO!

This is a picture of me (on the left) and a dear friend of mine (on the right) directly after we crossed the Iron Girl half marathon last weekend.  I am proud of myself for completing the race as a new runner and for actually enjoying it.  But, I was completely blown away by my friend's persistence and dedication-because here is the kicker...she is a single mom of a baby boy.  That's right, you read that correctly, my friend is a single, full time working mom of a 7 month old and just completed her first ever 1/2 marathon.  Now that's Mama Mojo!

When I first decided to do the race I posted on my Facebook wall asking who's "in?"  My friend (pictured above) responded that she was-and I thought she was joking.  At the time she had a 4 month old and had just returned to her full time job four weeks prior.  But she was not kidding and off we started with our training.  She did her thing and I did mine during the week, but we ran our long runs together on Sundays.  She would pull herself out of her new mom slumber each Sunday morning, drive 45 minutes to my house so my husband could watch her baby and off we went to hit the pavement.  Nothing deterred her- not the sleep deprivation, not the long drive, not her multiple aches and pains, not the million other things she that were on her to do-list...not even our 11mile pre-race run in the pouring down rain.  I would have understood if she cancelled for any one of these reasons, but she never did. She cursed at me a few times for getting her into "this mess," but she kept on running. This Mama was amazing!

She made a decision to do something for herself and made it happen-despite the obstacles. Which proves to me perhaps the most important step in making something happen for yourself is deciding to do it, period.  Everything else from that point on can get figured out.  We don't need to get caught up in the details.  We can figure those out later.

What are you thinking about doing differently in your life?  Is it a change?  An addition of something positive?  Learning something new or giving something up?  Whatever it is, you can do it!  You just need to make a plan-and here's how:

Make a Plan
I am a big believer in setting goals and intentions.  Not just big ones, but the daily ones as well.  Just thinking about what you want won’t necessarily make it happen.  However, getting clear about what you want, talking about how you are going to make it happen and getting into motion usually will!   Setting goals and visions for the future will help keep you accountable and on track.  Without a definitive direction, we are just blowing through life without much control – or as a mother … just surviving your day-to-day, trying to stay afloat.

    Steps for making a plan:

  • Get  clear about what you want- Think about it, talk about it and write about it.  What do you want your life to look and feel like?  Be as specific as you can.
  • Get into action-Forward moving will produce energy.  Take a baby step or jump right in, but make a move in your desired direction.  Don't let fear paralyze you.  What is the worst that can happen if you took even the tiniest step?
  • Enlist support-Find what or who can help you.  Enlisting the help of others will also do wonders for your commitment and accountability. 
  • Stay aware and flexible-Kids get sick, situations change, goals need to be modified.  Stay flexible and positive-revise as necessary.  If something didn't work, don't view it as a failure, but an experiment from which to learn.  Take this knowledge and apply it for your benefit.
Now get out there and do something great for yourself!!!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Do You Resent Your Partner?

Do you grit your teeth every time your partner tells you he is going out with friends, heading out on a fishing trip or taking a weekend football getaway?  Do you want to smother him with a pillow each time he pretends like he can't hear the kids crying in the middle of the night or is still snoring when everyone else in the house is wide awake?  Do you secretly hope he drops a weight on his foot while he is working out at the gym for the 3x this week?


Chances are if you are feeling resentment from the tips of your toes to the top of your nose-your aren't having any fun yourself.  This common theme comes up all the time with my coaching clients.  They hate their partners for being able to check out of their parental duties to have fun.  But, when it gets down to it, they are full of jealously because they can't seem to shut off for 10 minutes let alone a night or a weekend.

I get it, I used to be the same way.  My husband doesn't go out much, but he does have a few annual trips that he never misses.  Several years ago I used to have a physical reaction to his impending departure.  The weeks leading up to his trips I was a total brat, and when he was gone and would call home, I would make sure he knew just how hard I was working and how much stress he was leaving behind. I don't know what I was hoping for..to put a cramp in his fun, to make him feel guilty, or for him to come home.  I still don't know.  But I figured if I wasn't having any fun than neither should he.  And I wasn't.  I never went out, I didn't go on weekend getaways and I never even carved out alone time.  So I would be damned if he had his cake!

Over the years I have found that he had it all right and I was a bit crooked.  Women view motherhood as all consuming where men view it as one aspect of their life-so they are able to check out and tend to their other needs.  I've learned that when I am happy, frequently caring for my own needs and have a break from my family-I am happy to return the favor to my husband.  It is healthy for both us to get away and have some time by ourselves or with other people.  When he tells me about something he wants to do, or a trip he is planning, I am happy to know that it's just one in the bank for me!

So, if you feel like reaching out and strangling your partner next time he tells you he is going to do something for himself, check your calender to see the last time you got away.  I bet it's been a while.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Where in the World is Mama Mojo?

I have been MIA for a few months, I know.  I have been thinking of all of you and wanting to write more, be more present on Facebook, and send some inspiring newsletters-but I haven't.  Part of my absence has been due to choice.  I created a 2012 intention to slow down,  focus on what really matters and to put the "business" on simmer.

But...I've also been focusing my attention on other things lately.  So here is what has been sucking up all of my time...

1) I'm training for a 1/2 marathon!  This is WAY out of my comfort zone.  I never enjoyed running and only started in the early fall to try to get some exercise.  Although I am loving my sense of freedom and the fresh air, I am also QUITE SLOW!  So, the feet on the pavement takes a lot of time, several times a week!

2) I have come to the realization only recently, that my youngest is going to kindergarten next year and I have been taking every opportunity to play hookie with him.  Once upon a time I would send him to school for every moment I paid for so I could focus on my coaching biz and try to grow it into something  financially sustaining.  Now I would rather play with legos.

3) I have been asked to be the Keynote Speaker for National Women's History Month for the Federal Government and I am freaking out!  I am flattered and excited and honored-but I am also terrified, having nightmares and could throw up just thinking about it.  Lots of time has gone into not only writing the speech and creating the power point, but doing some soul searching and self-coaching on how I can get through this fear of speaking to a large crowd of people!

So, I have put all things related to My Mama Mojo marketing on simmer to concentrate with other life opportunities which have come my way.  I will continue to embrace new clients and hold workshops, but most likely will continue to be MIA from the blog, newsletters and frequent Facebook posts for a few more months.

Please don't be strangers and contact me if I can support you in any way.