One Loving Choice at a Time

One of things that parenting has brought to the surface in my own life is my need for healing. It has required me to take ownership of my life and not allowed me to play the victim card. My daughter is counting on me to give her my best not my brokenness. Have I failed, do I still fail? Yes, I do. However, every day I am striving to be a more balanced and whole person. To create the boundaries in my life that I need so that I can mirror for her what being healthy actually looks like.

One of the biggest lessons I am learning through Madi is patience. I am not patient by nature but my daughter has required me to slow down and dig deep inside myself for the resources I need to remain calm and present in the moment. Yesterday, Madi was exhausted to the point of complete emotional melt down. A year ago, I was still struggling to handle these situations with grace and kindness and my reactions were often harsh or too emotional. I began to see a pattern – she would get emotional, I would react instead of respond and in turn, her emotions would escalate. It was not healthy for either of us. It was destroying the connection that I have always worked so hard to create with her. When she is feeling out of control she needs me to be in control. She needs to feel secure in me when she is feeling insecure in her self. So I began to actively check in with myself and become more in tune with her needs.

Yesterday could have been a disaster but instead it became a time of meaningful connection for both of us. Despite her protest and tears, I removed her from a high energy situation – her cousins at the Mall play area – because I knew she need space to reset herself emotionally. I chose to remain patient even though I was frustrated. We cuddled in the car and read Harry Potter, we went into Trader Joes and I bought her flowers, we drove back to my sister’s house just the two of us listening to Norah Jones and before I knew it, she was happily and peacefully playing with her toys in the back of the car while I drove.

You can’t fight fire with fire, it only increases the damage. Everyone is entitled to their feelings and even the little ones have bad days. I have bad days and I want people to understand and validate how I am feeling. How can I expect my six year old to feel any different or to respond in a more mature way than I am sometimes able to? As parents and as people, we have the choice to feed into negativity and anger or to actively work to bring love and peace into our situation whatever it may be. It’s not easy; gentle parenting requires a lot of energy and deliberate choice. Reacting is always easier than responding. However, if the goal is love and connection we have to actively work to maintain our relationships.

Parenting is hard, relationships are hard and not all of us have had the best examples of what a healthy relationship looks and feels like. We are all broken – but it is our responsibility to find healing for our brokenness instead of using it to hurt others. We can find a way to take our brokenness and turn it into something beautiful, healthy and whole if we are willing to work towards the healing we need. Love will always win if you let it and connection is more important than having the upper hand.

Let’s change the world together one loving choice at a time.

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As My Girl Enters 1st Grade

Miss M starts first grade tomorrow and as she goes into another school I am sitting here thinking about the power of voice, the power of owning your story and knowing that what you have to say is of value. My hope for her this year and every year ahead is that she will know the power of her own voice, that she will own who she is and stand confidently in herself. That she will be confident but kind. That she will say what she needs to say and stand up for those who need her to be their voice.

Too often as women and girls, we are told to tone it down and to be “lady like,” which typically implies quiet and small. While I want my daughter to have class and to be polite, I refuse to ask her to fit into the stereotypical mold of “being a lady.” She has too much insight and love to offer the world to just sit back quietly.

I want her to be brave, to forge ahead even when she is scared and accomplish all the things she feels in her heart she is meant to do. I don’t want her to feel that she has to “fit in,” rather my desire is that she would find the courage and strength to bring others in instead. To bring those around her into a place of love and acceptance, as they are and for who they are.

“Kind people are brave people. Brave is not something you should wait to feel. Brave is a decision. It is a decision that compassion is more important than fear, than fitting in, than following the crowd.” – Glennon Doyle Melton

When she was born, she came out yelling and she has been a force ever since. She continually challenges me. She is smart, she is tenacious and she is full of passion for life. She is also tenderhearted and kind. I hope that she will never lose these qualities. I pray that as her mom, I will be able to channel her in the right directions, encourage her, stand by her and never try to change who she is. My heart breaks and burst with pride at the same time as I watch her learn and grow.

So into a new school year we go, hand in hand.

Madi –

You are the joy of my heart, you are the greatest gift. May you always know the power you hold deep inside. May you continue to let your love and light shine brightly. May you always have courage and be kind.

I love you, xo

Mom

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A Safe Place to Land

There have been many times during this process of separation and divorce that I have wanted to explain things to Madi but I can’t. There are things that are too far beyond her ability to comprehend and process. Sometimes she asks me the hard questions …
“why can’t you and daddy live together again?”
“why did we have to move from our old house?”
“why do I have to leave you?”
And my heart feels like it’s dying a little every time.

I don’t always have the words that she needs. I know that she will understand someday when she is older but I don’t want to bank on that and wish her life away. In these moments, all I can do is hold her close and validate her feelings. I let her know that it’s ok to be sad, that I feel sad too. I let her know that she is so very loved by so many people and that we will get through this together. Of course I wish I could erase the hard times in her life altogether.

I don’t have all the “right answers” or a magical fix, but what I do have is the ability to give my daughter a safe and secure place to land. Sometimes this is as simple as cuddles on the couch while we watch a favorite movie, other times it means being ok with “not ok” behavior. It can be easy to forget that children have bad days too. Often it seems that our adult expectation is for children to “behave” with little consideration as to how they may be feeling. I know that when I am having an especially rough day, I just want someone to understand that, be ok with it, and maybe give me a hug. Why should I expect any different from my child?

As adults, we won’t always have someone there to give us support when we need it. As a mom, I am able to give my daughter the support she needs. Often this requires letting go of my expectations of her behavior and allowing her to express her emotions in whatever way she may need to. On days where I am at my best, this is easy. On days when I am struggling myself, this can be especially challenging.

In her article on teaching children emotional intelligence, Dr. Laura Markham talks about allowing for emotion while still limiting potentially harmful actions. She states, “while you limit behavior, your child is allowed to have, and to express, all her emotions, and that includes feelings of disappointment or anger in response to your limits. Children need to “show” us how they feel and have us “hear” them, so meltdowns are nature’s release valve for children’s emotions. Instead of banishing your child to her room to get herself under control (which gives her the message that she’s all alone with those big, scary feelings), hold her, or stay near and connected with your soothing voice: “You are so mad and sad right now. That’s ok, Sweetie, I am right here, you are safe.”

When it comes to our children, the goal should always be for connection. When we tell our children to suppress their thoughts and feelings, we are creating isolation and shutting down meaningful communication and connection. “Children WANT to have happy, warm interactions with their parents. They want to be good people. Misbehavior comes from overwhelming feelings or unmet needs. If you don’t address the feelings and needs, they’ll just burst out later, causing other problem behavior (Markham, 2016).”Our children deserve to be seen and heard. Their thoughts, feeling, and emotions are valid and deserve respect.

There are various ways that I make a purposeful commitment to be there for Madi when she is having a rough time.  I never isolate her in the midst of her emotional outbursts. Even if she runs away and slams the door on me, I go after her. However, I respect that she may  need personal space. Sometimes I sit and quietly wait until she is ready to come to me and other times I am able to pick her up and hold her until she calms down.There are times during conversation, she may share a negative interaction she had during the day. I make sure to acknowledge her feelings about the situation, validate her right to speak up for herself  and still encourage her to be kind in spite of what other people may say or do. She’s a little girl with big feeling and it’s my job as her mom to help her sort them out.

When we take the time to connect with our children, to validate their feelings and give them a safe place to land, we are creating emotionally intelligent children. There is less of a need for children to act out when their emotional needs are being met. Of course just like us, children are human and will make mistakes. However, the way in which we respond to their mistakes will determine the value of lesson that they learn.

Raising My Strong, Brave Girl

I had a memory tonight – I remember the night I decided I was done being pregnant; I wanted it to be over and I wanted to meet my girl. It was the night before her due date and I decided to dance. I created an M.I.A. Pandora station and I dancedyes, really, really danced!

Now I love to dance, I’ve always had to find an outlet for this in some way, shape, or form. However, at almost forty weeks pregnant, it had been a VERY long time since I had let loose and danced my heart out. The night before her due date though, I wasn’t scared anymore. We had made it past all the crucial developmental points, made it through all playing it safe days, and I was free to move without fear or restraint – so I did!

I was home alone, there were no neighbors living below me at the time – thank god for their sake – and so I was free to let myself go a bit crazy. It was liberating, exhilarating, and it worked. My contractions started later that evening. She was not born the next day, no she is way too strong willed for that. She made her appearance, screaming might I add, two days later.

I chucked to myself tonight when I realized that of all the music I could have danced to, I chose M.I.A. – one strong willed, free spirited, and yes, crazy chick. Not that Madison will be listening to her anytime soon but …

I realize time and again, that as challenging as it can be to raise my determined little girl, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I am surrounding her with the understanding that she is powerful, capable, and her voice matters. When she was very tiny, I used to whisper to her, “You are a Strong, Brave Girl Madison Elise.”

To this day this is something that I remind her of – in fact while she was throwing her body on the floor the other day because she was upset, I told her, “Nope, we’re not drama queens Madi. We’re Strong, Brave girls. We don’t throw fits to get our way.” I am wholeheartedly, subconsciously and consciously, sending her a message of strength and determination.

It’s not about pretty, it’s not about fair. It’s about believing in yourself, believing you are capable, and being brave even when you don’t feel as if you are strong or capable.

Not long ago, I heard myself saying, “I can’t” to Madi and around her. I realized that if I want her to believe she can, I have to change the way I think and speak. Instead now, we say, “I am not sure how to do it, but I can learn how.” One of my proudest moments happened while we were watching a group of construction workers on a job site. Madi said to me, “I am sure I will see a girl worker too Mama.” In her mind, there’s no I can’t, there’s only everyone can. I passed a construction sight today and there was a woman, hard hat and all, working on a project. It took everything within me to not stop and take a picture like a crazy person just so I could show Madi that she was right!

The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.

We can speak life, strength, and the ability to dream big into our children’s lives and into the lives of all those around us. Let’s promote strength, bravery, courage, love, joy, and yes even a little bit of crazy. The world needs lots more “I cans,” because that’s where innovation begins and we are certainly in need of that!
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xoxo

The Next Chapter Begins

It was a wonderful Summer. Madi and I spent days and days by the Ocean with friends and family. We soaked up the Sun, we had lots of Ice Coffee/Juice, Donuts, and Ice Cream. I personally have so many great memories of back decks and beers/Sangria. Summer 2013 officially rocked!

Now here we are in September. I was apprehensive but excited at the same time as we approached this new chapter in our life and stepped off into a great unknown – Full time work for me and back to school for Madison. We have had a great ride Miss Madi and I; full of ups and downs for sure but full of so much more love and joy than I could have possibly imagined before I had my little beauty.

The first day …  

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And we didn’t cry a single tear    … talk about Growth!! We both had a wonderful day and we were both excited about our new adventure and we both wanted to go back the next day.

Life is full of seemingly small, but rather large Miracles.

We also thought it would be fun to take pictures of each other, I’m rather impressed by her camera skills but then again, she hasn’t met a touch screen she doesn’t know how to handle!

And so here we are our second week in and now I have school to add to my schedule and today at one point I started to feel like maybe I overestimated my ability to take on so much all at once and then I realized that I have to live what I preach – It’s All About Your Attitude!

ImageThe challenges are always great, but “If we are growing, we are always going to be outside our comfort zone.” * I was exhausted during class, but I made it and then I did one of my favorite things, blasted my music, windows rolled down, and enjoyed the beautiful night drive. I came home energized and feeling alive! Life is Good, your life is good too,  you just have to realize it, embrace it, and live alive.

And breath in the quiet moments that are ours to enjoy like I did on my short lunch break in the Woods … Embrace the Moment, Live Alive.

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 “She didn’t Talk About It, She did It!”

Wishing You Love, Peace, & Joy Always,

Leah 🙂

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*John Maxwell

Take Me Back

Take me back to the time when you were all mine …

Comforted only by the warmth of my body, the beat of my heart

Those precious moments in time before you could speak

But yet you somehow spoke volumes to me

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Now I look at you, beautiful you

And a little sadness creeps in as you run away

You’re only heading off to play

But still it’s hard to let go even in the small things

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You take life by force, without fear

And I am frustrated yet so very proud

Growing, becoming, laughing, yelling,

Being You

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Dancing through your days, with dreams all your own

Imaginary tales with such creative plots

A sense of humor beyond your years

Fills our home with laughter

IMG_3212This love so strong,

It breaks my heart and fills it at the same time

You are my best girl, girl of mine

You will always be

The sweetest gift ever given to me

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The Beauty of Not Fighting

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Here she is, napping peacefully next to me. Naps had become a challenge once she learned she could get out of her bed without my help.

I was so overwhelmed, lost, & confused. I spent two weeks trying to figure out what to do. The back and forth of putting her back in her bed was frustrating to both of us, not to mention it wasn’t working … Skipping her nap wasn’t optional yet. This little wild child still needs to crash at some point mid-day.

When I finally let go of my agenda and my fear of creating a “bad habit,” we found the solution. It was so very simple, the solution was ME. So now if she is having a hard time going down for a nap, I lay next to her and rest while she falls asleep. It works everytime and there’s no need to fight.

Afterall, where else could I possibly need to be that would be more important than her need for me?

Moments with Madison

Today was our first time back at the Y for swim lessons in a while. At first Madison was nervous and clinging to me but soon she was back to herself again, enjoying the water. At this age, all the kiddos wear bubbles; I am not a big fan because they tend to tip her sideways but they are somewhat helpful. Today though she was not only wearing the bubble but the teacher also handed her a pool noodle and it was like she was born for this moment! She was yelling something at me but I couldn’t make it out at first and then I realized she was saying, “Let go!” So I did, and she took off on her own. For the first time she was moving around the pool without my help at all. I was amazed and so very proud! Life lesson, if you want your child to thrive sometimes you have to let go …

Tonight, we had our own dance party. As I’ve said before, this kiddo LOVES music! We danced our hearts out and all I could think of when I saw her happy face was, “these are the moment’s memories and heart to heart connections are made.” It’s the small things; it’s the little moments, which connect you with your child in meaningful ways that will bring you closer to your child and keep you close as well. I’ll be honest, I am not always good at this. I am by nature a “busy” person but I am learning to slow down and just enjoy the silliness and even the repetitiveness that comes with being a toddler. We danced our hearts out, we laughed, we were silly, and we cuddled – melt my heart!

Before bed Madi likes to watch a “moonie” in mama’s bed on the laptop. On nights when Jeremy is working late, I like to have her stay with me and fall asleep in my bed. Tonight thought, she hopped down and said, “No, the baby bed!” If things are small, she refers to them as “baby.” She didn’t want to sleep in my bed, she wanted her own bed. And so I was reminded just how quickly she is growing up, how fast she is becoming a little girl, and just how important it really is to slow down, let go, and be in the moment with my girl.

Moments with Madison #2

Playing with “trees.”
While we try to teach our children all about life,
Our children teach us what life is all about.
~Angela Schwindt

Cuddled with kitty
Its always cozier with a friend.
Walking the Trail
Pausing to listen to an airplane in the sky,
stooping to watch a ladybug on a plant,
sitting on a rock to watch the waves crash over the quayside –
children have their own agendas and timescales. 
As they find out more about their world and their place in it,
they work hard not to let adults hurry them. 
We need to hear their voices. 
~Cathy Nutbrown
Children need the freedom and time to play. 
Play is not a luxury. Play is a necessity. 
~Kay Redfield Jamison
Making the decision to have a child is momentous. 
It is to decide forever to have your heart,
 go walking around outside your body. 
~Elizabeth Stone