That One's Life

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My kids are at the center of my world. Not as they were when they were babies - when they had to be for their mere survival - but rather because, intrinsically, they point me to my greatest purpose.

They are the catalyst to every good or hard decision or change that I make. They rely on me to make sense of their world, and look to me to show them how to live a good life. They are so affected by my attitude and how I live my own life that they show me every day, through their behavior and in the way they receive my love and show me love, what I am doing well and where I need to improve.

There is always so much to improve upon. More than I wish. The daunting responsibility of raising them, although challenging and overwhelming, is more important than anything. I want to give them my best self, yet I fail to do so, so very often.

Still... wanting to do my best for them doesn’t mean I need to sacrifice myself or my own fulfillment of wishes and dreams. I have done that too many times in the past to good short term results and negative long term ones, paying dearly for what I’ve given up in happiness and well being. I’ve decided I’m not going to do that anymore.

There’s no black and white answer to any of this. I perpetually live in gray areas. Parenthood is a never ending balancing act that is so hard to master, and an easy one to give up trying to balance.

Many people either completely sacrifice themselves for their kids to the detriment of their own identity, or they put themselves first and roll the dice on how their kids will turn out or feel about them later. I think we all wish to fall somewhere in between these extremes.

I strive to do better for them, and for myself, as far as honoring their needs, while still honoring my own... honoring who I am, what I love, what makes me feel healthiest and most alive, and how I can use my gifts to contribute to the world.

It’s out of these choices that one’s life materializes. That one’s life finds its path in both parenthood and individuality. That one’s life reaches its fullest potential and has its strongest impact. That one’s life defies the odds, winds its way through its challenges, and travels the journey that was meant for it all along.

#lifesjourney #findyourpath

*Originally posted to Instagram and Facebook

This is It

This is what I look like most days... baseball cap, yoga or running clothes, sunglasses, no makeup. This is what I do most days... DRIVE. Whether it is up and down the coast highway or over the canyon to the valley, I live in a place where I have to drive quite a few miles to get anywhere.

This is a typical Monday, when I drive the same stretch of PCH four times. Seventeen miles down the coast from home to my son's school, nine miles back up to my daughter's school, ten miles back down to ballet class, a mile to the library with my son while she dances, that same mile back to pick her up, and then a final eighteen miles up the coast to home for the night. Fifty-six miles logged in four hours without leaving Malibu.

On days like these, it's hard to feel like I've accomplished anything or was at all efficient in my day. I have to stop myself from allowing the chaos of my schedule to overwhelm me and recognize that, each and every day, no matter what I get done or don't get done in my own realm of work, websites, and writing, I am still always accomplishing something: LIFE.

This is my life, these are my days and those are my kids who are learning, experiencing and growing. They do all these things, go all these places, and learn all these things, because of me. Because I am their caretaker. Because I am their shepherd. Because I am the one that promotes and encourages and facilitates these opportunities and journeys they have.

It is easy to feel like a mere shuttle driver in their lives while we move from place to place, in and out of the car and in and out of experiences. I sometimes have to remind myself to accept, be present, and recognize that I too am on this journey, and that this is my time too. My time to hang out, have fun, and enjoy them at these ages. My time to support and guide them, love and protect them, learn and grow with them.

Regardless of all the things my mind may think up or my heart may yearn for that go unfulfilled each day, I realize that when I am with them, I am exactly where I need to be and am doing exactly what I need to do.

This is it.

To read the extended, unedited version of this post, see We Are the Choices We Make

I Grew These Feet

When my daughter was a baby, I loved her feet. Of course, I still love them today; but when she was really little, I couldn't get enough of them. I would kiss them and squeeze them and pretend to gobble them up, all the while exclaiming, "I grew these feet!" over and over again in gleeful animation. She would smile and laugh, delighted by my silly musings, not fully comprehending what I was saying; but nonetheless, highly entertained by me, her personal clown.

As she got older, I continued to playfully declare how I grew her feet, along with the rest of her, in my tummy. I liked to see her face fill with wonder at the thought of this, as I myself was in awe (and frankly, still am) that her beautiful little feet exist on this earth solely because my body fed, nurtured and protected them until they were ready - until she was ready - to leave the safe haven of my womb and be born, on this day, eight years ago.

It wasn't an easy day, to which I'm sure most mothers would attest. However, I have never once proclaimed it to be "one of the best days of my life" as I so often hear other mothers declare about their kids' birth days. I definitely can think of many actual better days. Take my wedding day... now THAT day was the best day of my life, hands down. The way I felt on that day - from the moment I opened my eyes, excited to get married, to the moment I closed them, as a blissful new bride - was nothing short of pure joy, unbridled love and overwhelming happiness, for about 12+ hours straight.

This day, back in 2007... not so much.

Extreme discomfort, tense anxiety, and complete exhaustion defined it... for about 12+ hours straight. And all this in advance of the baby actually being born. Afterward, once the fleeting moments of relief and elation subsided, a different variety of discomfort, anxiety and exhaustion followed, and for many more hours before the day was finally done.

So, even if the hours that made up the day my daughter was born didn't deem it an actual best day of my life, all those laborious hours put together did result in giving me one of the best gifts of my life.

Now tonight as I sit here, having just put my winsome eight-year-old girl to bed after a lovely birthday evening of dinner, homemade chocolate cake, and presents ranging from a pink ballet-themed glittery nightgown to a suction cup bow and arrow set, I am filled with gratitude for this most precious gift.

Possessing a temperament that's a perfect balance of level-headedness and devil-may-care brashness, my daughter cannot be easily summed up in a narrow label of “girly girl” or “tomboy”. Instead, she's a cool mix of contradictions: a voracious reader and dauntingly sharp mathematician who also practices ballet and plays the violin... a beach girl that spends hours at the seashore boogie boarding who also loves camping and dirt bike riding in the dry desert... a devout fan of classic Hollywood movie musicals and science/nature documentaries who will also watch motocross and surfing videos with equal interest and enthusiasm... a mighty girl that asserts she wants to be a scientist when she grows up who also identifies herself as an artist today.

(Yes, when I say "dirt bike" I do, in fact, mean motorcycle. And no, I have not lost my mind... yet. The fact is, I am married to a highly competent motorcyclist whose inherent talent and ability to ride has seduced her to follow him down the dusty trail. Although it does make me a bit anxiety-ridden, I still can't help but be abashedly proud of her and her determination to attempt it, not to mention the fact that she is actually quite good at it.)

I am also surprised that I find it exciting, rather than terrifying, to watch how the contrasting influences her Dad and I have exposed her to are rendering a complex and intriguing little girl. It seems that she has been bestowed with the best parts of both of us - those parts that made us initially fall in love with one another. Imagine that.

This little girl is also a complicated creature, as all females inevitably are... a fact that I don't believe is necessarily a bad thing. But as females go, our beautiful one challenges us with her stubbornness, beguiles us with her wittiness, and inspires us with her innate goodness. She is truly one of the most decent, kindhearted, and generous people I know; and I am so very proud and honored to be her mom.

 
 

Happy Birthday my sweet, sweet girl.

It’s Happy Hour at a Bouncy House Near You!

Over the last several years that I've been a parent, I have attended MANY birthday parties... most of them for people under the age of seven. Parties for my nieces and nephews, for the kids in both my son’s and daughter’s classes, or for the kids of my or my husband’s childhood friends. These birthday bashes for the juvenile set are becoming more frequent than date nights out, and as such, are now the primary avenue for which to hang out with other adults. However, unlike date night, leaving the kids at home is not an option; so we must improvise to socialize.  Beggars can’t be choosers, right?

Now I'm not talking about the parties at indoor play gyms with the socks only rules and two-hour time limits, or the ones at “stimulation overload” arcade joints where an oversized singing rat in purple serves pizza. My acceptance and non-reactiveness challenges are put to the test by these celebrations, with their greasy GMO-laden food, chemically-dyed sugar loaded treats, and favor bags full of toxic plastic junk. As the nerves of even the most laid back of parents are tried as well, an environment of social camaraderie amongst us is rarely fostered, and we all leave feeling like exhausted casualties of two very challenging and draining hours.

No, those aren't the ones for mixing and mingling. I am referring to the private backyard birthday parties - the ones where kids roam free alongside each other... where homemade food and libations are offered... and where parents can take a breather from their role as party chaperones. Getting the chance to talk with the other adults in attendance, whether they be siblings, close friends, or parents of other kids we may have just met, is something I and my fellow warriors in parenthood look forward to. It's as if we look to attend these parties in the same spirit as we did a college friend’s B.Y.O.B. barbecue, with a six-pack or bottle of wine in hand and a smile.  After all, the party elements are the same: good drinks, good food, lots of laughs, stimulating adult conversation... and an inflated bouncy house in the yard.

Ok, ok... It is not exactly the same, as the piñata hanging from the tree these days is not accompanied by rock music and tequila shots, but still -- we are OUT, we are FREE, we are SOCIALIZING WITH PEOPLE OUR OWN AGE! It’s the closest thing to happy hour these days without hiring a sitter.

However, dreading the former and anticipating the latter parties mentioned in these specific ways is a fairly new reality for me. Since up until very recently, ANY type of kids' birthday party had elicited the very same reaction in me.

I've come to realize that, at varying ages and stages of my children’s development, my feelings on the subject have changed drastically, reflecting the current reality and my existing state of mind.

It breaks down like this:

The Newborn Stage (0-12 mths) : A party invitation to a kid's birthday party is like a winning lottery ticket! Yay! A chance to get out of the house, take a shower and change out of my pajamas! Nursing a baby all day and taking photos of her lying on a blanket sucking on plastic keys or shaking a rattle can start to drive even the most devoted mom a little cuckoo if done too many days in a row without a change of venue.  For the upcoming party, I would dress my little bundle up in her cutest party outfit and show her off with pride to the party goers who relished the chance to "ooh and ahh" over a newborn. What fun it was to repeatedly share that my baby was “6 months and 3 days old”, had just started sitting up unassisted last week, and was now happily eating mashed sweet potatoes! Talking to anyone who could talk back about anything under the sun (who are we kidding, the baby was the subject of the conversation 99% of the time) was a real treat, and a welcome departure from the isolating world of taking care of baby at home: nursing, napping, playing and pooping. (*the stage applies to firstborn children only, since after that you will have an older toddler running amuck that thereby eliminates the joy of this stage)

The “Walk at One” Stage (12-24 months): Once baby started to walk, the prospect of going to these events loses at bit of its luster. Why? Well, the baby only wants to do at the party what she does at home: WALK. And who gets to accompany her on this walk fest? YOU. Or in this case, ME. My little Frankenstein walker and I would often spend the duration of the party exploring every nook and cranny of the host’s house, surveying all the rooms and deciding which ones had the most interesting things in them to possibly break. There was no more sharing baby milestones with fellow partygoers while your cute bundle sleeps in a nearby stroller or sits happily in the comfort of your arms. This new energizer bunny has gotten her first taste of independence, and she will not be content to stay put in your arms while you chat leisurely with your best friend. This kid wants to move and if you attempt to hold her and convince her to stay within the parameters of the festivities, she will unabashedly wriggle and squirm out of your arms and take off down a dark hallway. So guess what? No socializing for you. No keeping company or enjoying conversations with adults. During this stage, it was me alone in the corner of a play room with my one year old testing how many toys she could dump out of their rightful bins or off their shelves before she headed off in another direction. Following this kid and trying to impose limits on her behavior, all the while attempting to clean up the mess she left in her wake, was utterly exhausting.  Most of the time, it left me feeling like I should have just stayed home. At least there I could stay in my pajamas!

The New Toddler Stage (24-36 mths): Walking has lost its novelty and your two-year-old is now ready to dig in and join the party. Yes, conversations with other adults can be initiated, but only to be cut short 30 seconds later when your kid is getting into something they shouldn’t. So you are still your kid’s shadow, but you are now performing your role in the actual party environment. This has its own drawbacks, since although you are now somewhat experiencing the event for yourself, you still cannot engage with anyone for any significant amount of time. And if you are off your game in any way, get engrossed in dialogue with someone and foolishly trust that your two-year-old will be ok unattended, you will inevitably kick yourself for this, as they most often will find something to damage and you will have to apologize profusely for their unintentional vandalism. I often found myself standing around alongside a bunch of other silent parents, as we all quietly watched our kids interact, like we were scientists observing lab mice. There seemed to be an unspoken understanding that no one should even bother to try to strike up a conversation with another observer, since at any moment one of the mice would most likely do something that required intervention by one of us. You know, like grab a toy, a piece of food, or a limb of another mouse and start a riot of crying or screaming.

The Older Toddler/Big Kid Stage (3+ years): Congratulations! This is your chance to be social again! Thankfully, this is the stage I am now in with both of my kids. Now that my son is three, I can leave him to go off with the other kids to play and not worry that he will snatch a toy from another kid, eat dog poop off the grass, or wander through the house breaking valuables. The only problem at this point is, if it’s not a party for one of his preschool classmates, most of the other kids there will be bigger and older than him. So I still have to worry about him being trampled inside the bouncy house by the rougher, older boys (and by older I mean four and five-year-olds). They can sure be bulldozers. My saving grace in these scenarios is my daughter. As a seven-years-old female, she takes on the role of my son’s guardian at these functions and does a pretty good job of watching over him and protecting him from harm.

So now that I have reached this coveted "big kid" stage at children’s parties, the brass ring, and am free to indulge in the happy hour at the bouncy house, I have recently discovered there is yet a new phenomenon I must encounter that I didn’t anticipate or expect...

STAY TUNED ; )

(to be continued here...)