Sunday, April 26, 2015

What if we raised eachother up

I recently came across a video I shared on Mama May I Facebook page about a beautiful woman photoshopping herself in order to show a visual depiction of the internal angst we often feel when others critique and criticize us in the very public social media world. I thought the video was very clever and have always been tormented by my own self esteem issues that (as a parent) I've become very cognizant of. 

My children view their bodies and their self worth in such an empowering, beautiful way.

I wish I hadn't let society take that brilliance from my vision. And I'm working really diligently to own my beauty and my self acceptance and self love now that I can see what's been going on all these years. Mostly because my children have inspired me to look more closely (and more gently) at myself. To be less critical and more grateful and to practice the kind of self love I dish out to else I meet in my journey.

Haters are going to hate. But how do we stay strong, remain strong, be self confident, radiate self love, self acceptance? ... How do we build self confidence in our children? 

The kind that's not conditional to what other people think or say? 

Practicing self love? Is that even enough? In a world filled with so much judgment, hate, hurt, so easily accessible with social do we teach our children to tune out the negative, venomous spewing and hold on to the beautiful positivity they think and feel when they look in the mirror now..

At their young ages, my girls embrace their powerful beings and showcase their "I got this" attitudes. And yet, my 7-year old is already beginning to be conflicted in trying to understand "beauty" and where she fits in. Why does that positivity fade over time? 

How can we continue to nurture and rejoice in Each Other? Broadening the scope of what is beautiful and just being more accepting human beings over all....less judgment, less hate, more love. 

The things we see and hear are internalized...they become the ticker tape of our self talk. 

Practice self love. You deserve it. 

You Are Enough. <3

What if we raised eachother up instead of tearing eachother down ? What if we were kinder to others and then mirrored that kindness onto ourselves? What if we reached out with words of love, non-judgment, acceptance.... 

Tonight I was reminded of these beautiful notecards ( ) that my friend Lizzy made...and finally had the chance to purchase them! I began to wonder what I can do to change the tickertape for others and for myself? The only way we can change the negativity is by replacing it with positivity. I am going to start with some of my closest friends and family. Those I  love and those who have inspired my journey. 

Who inspires you?  I would love to hear from you! <3 

Love and positivity to you,


#MamaMayiShop #Mindfulness #SelfLove #WhoInspiresYou #Positivity #SpreadTheLove

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Build a Driveway River with Aluminum Foil

I was delighted to wake up to the sunshine and bright blue skies today. Nowhere to go. Home. Well, at our cousin's house visiting, but "home" for the day. I love these laid back, pajamified mornings where we take our time eating, dressing, and waking. No need for shoes. We ran barefoot. I ran laps around the house. For exercise. For fun. For chase. For catch-me-if-you-can. 

It's on these days my little ones most remind me to slow down and breathe in the sunshine. Yes, the sunshine. Do you remember what that feels like? Just letting that solar energy waft over your entire soul while you lay on a picnic blanket reading Harry Potter with Grandma and eating red raspberries. Bliss and blue skies.

We sidewalk chalked. Rode bicycles in the drive away. Practiced yoga poses. Had a tea-party-turned-picnic. Read aloud. Played ball. Chase. Trucks. Dance-party. And then we built a river with aluminum foil (Aunt Caitlyn, we need to buy more btw!) 

This little "let's try this" project turned into an hour and a half of engaged experimentation, construction, and water play. We made the river by folding aluminum foil and sculpting the sides to reinforce the riverbank. We stacked each piece inside the other all the way down the driveway. We turned on a splash of hose water. We used plastic condiment cups as "boats" and let them sail down the rapids to the bottom. It wasn't long before they realized that the more water that went down, the faster the ride, and they began constructing dams out of twigs and rocks to collect and unleash the water. The river got stepped on a few times (thanks to the one-year-old) but the other two quickly problem-solved ways to fix and reinforce the sides. Aluminum foil was such a fun and easy construction material. What a fun way to spend our afternoon! 

Monday, March 23, 2015

I Choose Love

This post is about keeping it real. 

Lately, our house has been a bit chaotic. Words are exchanged, tempers flared, tones of voices used as weapons. And it's not just the kids. When I'm anxious and overwhelmed I lash out too.... And then I immediately feel guilty for it. But it happens. We all get grumpy sometimes. My 7-year old has a new found attitude that I cannot even handle. (And sometimes I don't. Now, when I'm feeling overwhelmed or like I am going to raise my voice, I try to be mindful. I peacefully say I don't deserve to be talked to/ treated like that...and walk away.) Of course we return to it later to have a conversation. But, I've learned that trying to talk through it while in the midst of that energy doesn't work. No one is actually listening, everyone is just trying to prove their point. Everyone is reacting. Self directed time outs can be a wonderful tool in regaining composure and recentering. 

When anxiety is high and things aren't going according to plan (trigger) we both kind of melt down, internally. I didn't realize how much anxiety I actually had until about a year ago...when I was searching for how and why some days I couldn't breathe - only stand still and hyperventilate. I'm learning to recognize my triggers and my whole family is grateful for the work I am doing.... Work that leaks into how I parent and becomes the ticker tape in the minds of my little ones. I am excited about the change in script (wow, how powerful to be able to change the script!) and in living with intention.

 My 7-year old is beginning to argue like....a teenager. And it doesn't jive with the let's practice love, peace, and kindness with each other routine that I thought I was nurturing. The rude hurtful words--the one-upmanship---the tone of voice---the attitude---the melt downs when things don't go a certain way, as expected, as planned---The fallout. In so many situations I have reminded myself to BREATHE..."she didn't mean those hurtful words"...."this is only a phase"..."she is feeling hurt/left out/scared and that is where this tone is emerging from"... "What is the deeper energy that is driving her behavior?" 

It's been a challenge to walk in patient parenting. 

The other day, on our way to co-op I said:

"You know...I've noticed that we haven't been using the kindest words or tones of voices with each other lately. And I really want to work harder on that. Do you think you could help me with that?"

---big smile...any time they feel like they get to help remind me / teach me / have power over the situation ... They are into it.

I liked that we were making it a team project - all for one - trying to work through kindness together. (We need more exercises in team-building and cooperation). 

At first I thought if we could share a safe-word when someone was beginning to talk disrespectfully, hurtfully, begrudgingly.... Maybe that would make a big difference. But then it hit me... I realized I had been trying that and, actually, it seemed to make matters worse, not better. 

You see...when we are already feeling maxed out, stressed, and using verbal seems that, when triggered with words, we feel the need to defend ourselves even more which comes out as confrontation. It only escalates the situation. So, as I was talking through ways we could help each other through grumpiness I came up with using a sign (hand signal) to remind the other person to find kindness.

And we focused on love. 

Because that's where this conversation began. In love. This work is not easy. Parenting is not easy. Self reflection and mindfulness is not easy. Watching myself grow and change ... Owning my choices (even the ones I'm not thrilled to own) is not easy. Watching myself refind mothering has been a journey and a process....founded in love. So we settled on I LOVE YOU. A simple, one-handed a visual reminder to the other person to redirect focus on something else. Love. A reminder to breathe and think about what is being said and how words are being spoken...what kind of impact tone of voice gives. And to refocus on love. 

It was kind of an aha moment for me. And we were excited to get started. 

The first use was right after co-op, on our way home - disappointment about not stopping for ice cream turned into a "you never let us do anything special. .." Rant. 

I looked directly into the review mirror and made eye contact with my 7-year old. I held up my I LOVE YOU hand....and, almost as if by magic, her eyes softened. Her faced relaxed. She took a little breath. And, just like that her whole attitude changed.

I didn't want to blog about it immediately because I really wanted to see how it played out. And sure, it hasn't worked quite as magically every time .... But overall, it has worked. Something so simple. Today , my Mom was here visiting and we shared with her our Secret Code. She later confided in me that she used it once and it made a really big difference. 

I've found it's helped both of us remember kindness and love --- and more than that, has put us back on the same team somehow. 

Sometimes it's hard to see your choices reflected back to you.... But I am beginning to allow myself the space to be inspired by those reflections as a way to better my self. 

We all have grumpy days but we can recenter and refocus and move on....we get to choose love. It has been a great visual reminder for her ... And for me. I Choose Love. <3

Monday, December 1, 2014

Mama May i Countdown to Christmas - December 2

December 2nd

Suggested Reading:
Joy of Giving by Jan and Mike Berenstain
Queen of Christmas by Mary Engelbreit
Franklin’s Christmas Gift by Paulette Bourgeuois

- List Making (build writing skills and penmanship) :
- What would you like to gift to others this year?
- Kindness Calendar : talk about giving this Season and brainstorm ideas of how to make that happen
- Collect something gently used from home to pass along to another little one for the Holiday
- Make something to give away in the You’ve Been Snowed On Challenge

Step Into Second Grade
I love the idea of this writing prompt to get little ones to think about needs versus wants.

Coffee Cups and Crayons
I love how simple this calendar is to implement in your daily life!
Just grab and follow through! Spread some Holiday Cheer this Year!

Tatertots & Jello
What a sweet way to pass on Holiday fun !

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Mama May i Countdown to Christmas December 1

Mama May I Countdown to Christmas
A Holiday Bookworm’s guide to titles and projects in celebration of the Season

 Our house was all abuzz today with thoughts of festive times ahead. Every year (for three years) we have been doing a Christmas Countdown, Holiday Advent series beginning on the first day of December. We made these delightful fabric bags, and inside each bag I hide a Holiday-themed book and project. You see, this time of year is extremely, super duper, crazy busy for me as a toy maker (I feel kind of like Santa!) Because of my intense schedule I like to make sure I carve out time every day to celebrate the reason for the Season with my growing little ones. I love curling up with a book and reading to them….and I love being able to engage their minds, hearts, spirits, and play times in the merry festivities of this magical time of year.

I try to mix up the projects: crafts, gift-making, music and movement, sensory experience, pretend play, baking, science, writing, and gratitude.

If you are in the spirit and want to join us, I have provided a list of books we intend to read and some suggested activities. I wrote the ones we will be doing and also included some links to other ideas. Feel free to substitute your family’s favorite books or craft ideas to best suit your little ones’ interests. I wanted to make this an easy-peasy way for families to pick up a calendar and get inspiration for daily fun and memory-making in the spirit of the Season. Happy playing and exploring together! 

I will be posting our photos throughout the process but wanted to give you a heads-up on some of the December 1st activities. I would love for you to join us this year……my six-year-old, in particular, has been diligently choosing the books we are going to use this year. She has been planning, prepping, and organizing. I will post a calendar of our book picks now and update as we go along….hopefully ahead of schedule so you can get some inspiration. If you want to check out our Pinterest board I posted many of the projects we did last year….and many we will be doing again this year. Enjoy!

December 1st

Suggested Reading:
Curious George Christmas Countdown by Tish Rabe and H.A. Rey
Snowbear’s Christmas Countdown by Theresa Smythe
Merry Christmas Curious George by H.A. Rey

Suggested Movie: 
Curious George: A Christmas Monkey

Christmas Countdown Craft
I really love this FREE PRINTABLE by @TOMFO

La classe della maestro Valentina
What a fun way to work on number sequence with just a piece of lined notebook paper and some stamps. I love that my little ones will get to practice their cutting skills every night, too!

This is a classic with a twist

Ultimately we chose the third project for three reasons. 
1. We had lots of Christmas themed paper in stock
2. My three year old loves to cut and it is a skill she is building
3. I thought the act of building the chain links TOGETHER would help us work as a team --- a skill we are definitely still nurturing :)

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Gently Parenting Separation Anxiety

I am so grateful for the group of Mamas in my life. I have so many questions about parenting and my journey in motherhood. Loving that I have this wonderful resource - a collective of strong, gentle, nurturing souls surrounding me. Some are near (I can chat with them at the park) while others are hundreds of miles away (we stay in touch via Facebook) - but they all offer such amazing insight and perspective to every hiccup or challenge I have so-far encountered.

Here is a for instance: Today, this was my plea:


Layla (6) started camp this week. She loves being there, has so much fun, but leaving her in the morning is such a production. She cries. She's scared. She doesn't want me to go. She feels afraid "without mommy there". Etc.

She has always been sensitive but when I'm trying to wrangle all three of them I get so so anxious and overwhelmed at this. I want to validate her feelings but I also want to push her to have fun with her friends and have some space without us for a bit. 

I want her to honor her commitment. But I also want her to feel safe, listened to, and just have fun.

She's like I was as a child - miss responsible. Her own worst critic. Harder on herself than anyone else could be.

We homeschool and this just makes me feel awful - like I am doing her a disservice. It makes me feel like maybe my homeschooling her is making her extra clingy. We are out of the house almost every day - at workshops, at friends', socializing, playing....she loves that (but I'm always present).

I feel like this is extreme separation anxiety for a six year old and I'm not sure how to get through it - in a positive way. I don't want to bully her through it, but I also think she could use some time and space of not having to play the role of "big sister".

I don't know. I'm so conflicted and I don't know how to help her.

She had such a hard time today that she chose to come home instead. I can't have this fight every day.



I wanted to bribe her into staying. I tried to lighten her anxiety by telling her we would meet her during playground time. She was excited about this the whole morning....until we got to camp. Then she melted down.

I wanted to force her to stay.

A part of me wanted to shame her into staying (You're six! Most six-year-olds do this.)

I actually told her if she came home we would do "none of the fun stuff" (this I am absolutely not proud of).

I wanted her to just "suck it up" and "follow through".

And then.....I took a deep breath.

I saw her eyes and heard her words (and the sound of her voice). Through the chaos of Lincoln melting down because he was ready to nurse and nap and Lillian's constant interuption because she wanted to go outside and play, I finally managed to listen to her scared voice. And I said:
"Okay. Go get your bag and your towel and we will go home."

I knew better than to say much else because I was feeling upset. Upset that my six year old couldn't handle being away from me for half a day. Upset that camp wasn't so magical that she didn't want to stay forever and ever. Upset in the feeling that I could be doing her a disservice - the whole "homeschooling thing." Sure, she was socialized, but apparently she hasn't exactly separated "healthily" from me. There. That was it. It was guilt that made me want to override her feelings and words and make her say. I felt responsible. I felt like I might be screwing her up forever more because we hardly ever have a chance to separate. I am within arm's reach, if that's what she wants, daily. I suppose I was also feeling a little embarrassed that other people don't understand and judge our "homeschooling lifestyle".

But then I regained perspective. I remember being young and wanting to be close to my parents. I know what it feels like to have plans changed, new places to be, and routines to establish. I never did well (and still don't, honestly) with a disruption. And I listened to her.

All she could muster were gurgles and lip quivers and "no, mommy, don't go"s and pulling my arms and legs to keep me close (yes, my six year old).

Eventually I got this out of her when she had a chance to calm down a bit and we could talk to one another:

"I am scared, Mommy. I am scared to be away from you. What if something happens to me? What if something happens to you? What if I need you and you aren't there?"


The more I think about it, the more I am not surprised. She used to do fine with the task of separating. She loved seeing friends, going to workshops and classes, sleeping at Grandma and Poppop's. But then, mid-year she started freaking out about all of it. Her anxiety was at an all-time high. She did not want to leave my sight. We did a lot of breathing through it. A lot of talking through it. A lot of talking through our routine and what would happen. We used rescue relief. Lavender spray. Special friends...whatever worked to get her through the day. Her anxiety seemed to lessen (though it never went away completely and separating was still not easy).

I truly believe she reached a developmental milestone of some kind; of greater understanding of how big (and sometimes scary) the world was. I think she was beginning to realize that things happen (all the time) out of her control - that something had the potential to happen to any one of us at any time and that underlying thought caused her great distress.

Last week we had an incident with Lillian (3) while we were at the Children's Museum. She had a seizure and we had to go to the hospital. Layla went with family while I went to the hospital with Lillian and she had no idea what was going on (we didn't have many answers at the time) or when she would see us again. The last thing she (probably) remembers is seeing her baby sister laying on the ground, listless, surrounded by her own vomit and not responding to Mommy's voice - and Mommy having to leave her (while she was scared) to be in an ambulance with Lillian and go to the hospital.  I am certain (in my heart, and after taking this day to reflect on her insecurity) that it rekindled her uncertainty in the world and in the people around her and in the unknown of "emergency situations". All of the uncertainties. All of the what-ifs.

So here I am, on the other side of this day - reflecting on her behavior; her words; her actions; her body language. This morning I was upset that she wanted to come home with me. Tonight, however, I think she needed to come home with me (for whatever reasons she had in her heart). Today all the children played more lovingly and amicably than most other days. Today, Layla was such a big, sweet, sensitive soul. Today, we talked. Today, we listened. And today I reached out for advice from my amazing Mama support system. I am so grateful I was able to talk through my thoughts and emotions with a group of positive-parenting, big-hearted, loving, amazing women. I could have gotten a lot of "you're crazy. You should have made her stay there" advice. I could have gotten "you have to tear off the bandaid sometime" sentiments. But, instead.....this is what I got:


- Developmentally speaking, 6 yr olds go through a bit of a clingy phase as their consciousness expands and they step into the next phase of childhood. Don't worry yourself about homeschooling being the reason! If you feel completely centered and positive that she is in the best possible care you could ask for (and you truly need to feel this in your heart) she will feel more secure. If you have anxiety about her coping, she will absolutely doubt herself. Children are very receptive this way especially with their mama's emotions. Believe in her and make the challenge a little smaller at first by picking up early and lingering for her to play then slowly increase the length of day.

- Hugs Mama. I think it's wonderful that you're opening up about this and willing to ask for support. In my personal therapy, I have noticed that as I make breakthroughs, my girls are there to test me with the worst displays of our old challenges. I go back to prayer and forgiveness every time. Gratitude also helps and I've seen you working through that. I think what you're doing is wonderful and you know the girls better than all of us. I just want you to know that these shifts we make are worthwhile and our children will pick them up at their own time, especially when they know that we'll love them through the hard days.

You mentioned that you feel anxiety from the drop-off. Is there anything you can do to help yourself?

- My son is 7 and really just got over that this year (& he goes to public school). The guidance counselor (who is AWESOME), had to meet him at the door in order for him to leave my side. So it may have nothing to do with homeschooling her. We have seen a therapist as a family just to make sure that communication is open within the family unit- highly recommend it! Also reassured me that there was nothing 'wrong' with him. Try asking her in a matter of fact kind of way specifically what her concerns are about leaving you. Is she afraid you won't come back? Is someone being mean to her? Really explore gently with her:). I feel your pain!

I remember at a meeting at my kids' school, one of the fathers admitted that he cried every time he was dropped off at school until 3rd or 4th grade. He has 5 boys and he sees his middle boy doing the same. He talked about how he was ok with it & understood that it was just his way to grieve being away from family. He gives his son a big hug and reassures him. He makes sure his son knows there is nothing wrong with showing his emotions. I am not sure this is helpful to you but it might reassure you that some kids just have a harder time with transitions & letting go. It has nothing to do with what you did or didn't do.

- Being on the receiving end of kindergarten (aka teacher) I can assure you that everything she is experiencing is absolutely normal for her age! She sounds like a sweet soul! one thing that I often have to remind myself and the parents in my care is that we need to teach children not to be afraid of their emotions by showing that we trust them and that they can trust in us. If she cries we comfort and show empathy and respect for her feelings. We still go ahead with our plan because we know that the challenge we have set before her is within her reach and we show her that we trust she can manage. Often what will happen is that the little one will cry, which is so hard for the parent because they don't see the child immediately end their tears as soon as the parent is out of view and literally jump into play!

I always call the parent right away and they are amazed at how quickly their child has moved on. I agree with that some children just need to release their big emotions to their parents as their way to prepare for the next part of their day.

- One of my favorite quotes that has helped me understand my role as a guide to children is by Magda Gerber: "Always be open when your child says he is afraid. Never belittle him by saying, "There's nothing to be afraid of." Don't argue about fear. Listen to whatever your child wants to express. You don't always have to share the fear, but always be willing to listen.

Refrain from saying, "That's silly. That monster under your bed doesn't exist," because it exists in your child's imagination at the time. You have to become a good listener. Later in life people pay huge amounts of money to therapists who don't do anything but listen. Perhaps you can avoid that by listening to him now." 

- Some small things- taking a transitional object with her, reading books about the separation and coming back- we have a couple you're welcome to borrow. Hugs!

- I just want to tell you that I've seen many a homeschooled kiddo really come in to their own independence around age 7 or 8 (including my own). 6 is still quite young and even though many kids are dropped off at school/camp at that age, it doesn't always go smoothly. I think its just the age, not homeschooling, maybe she worries that she might be missing out on something awesome you guys are doing without her? Can she bring a special stuffed toy or a pic of you with her? Could you include a surprise note and treat in her lunch for her to look forward to? Maybe plan a super fun after camp activity to anticipate?

- My daughter experienced the same transitional stress/issues. (ironically my younger daughter will just jump out if the car and run throwing an arm up and yelling "Bye Mama!!").

What was helpful for her was having a ritual. We would talk about it t
he whole way there (sometimes in repeat). "I am going to walk in with you, help you take off your backpack and sun hat. (Pause) i will give you your first hug and kiss then we will walk to the playroom. Then we will sign in and you will walk me to the door. I will give you your second hug and kiss and you can open the door for me. I will wave and then you will have fun with your friends." The predictable routine and talking through it on the way there and the as we were doing it was realllllly helpful. She is a deeply feeling soul and the gentle routine seemed to make the otherwise overwhelming idea of me leaving her for a time manageable.

- My youngest has a lot of anxiety. When dropping him off anywhere I went about 30 min early & told him I would stay until he was ready for me to go. He was in control. It was very helpful.


I am amazed at, not only how many other children go through this, but also at how many wonderful tips, tricks, tools, and positivity came from putting myself out there. I am hoping that some of these things will resonate with you and that you can find peace and ease in whatever parenting challenge you are currently facing (or gathering tools for the future).

Here is another great resource I was given by a mama-friend from Code Name Mama

Ideas Gently Manage Separation Anxiety

Monday, March 24, 2014

How does your garden grow?

Spring has sprung and, although colder outside than I would like, we are feeling pretty spring inside our house right now.

Before I went to bed last night I prepared an invitation to "garden" sensory bin for the girls to find in the morning. I used black beans as the base, some wooden scoops, wooden pots, and wooden boxes to pour, scoop, and spill. Hidden in the "dirt" I planted a Vegetable edition Make a Match edition and a Veggie edition Label for the girls to excavate, plow, match, and label. Lillian (3) had fun finding and naming vegetables while Layla (6) enjoyed trying to find each picture/word pair. It was a great way to invite the outdoors inside and start thinking about our garden while the earth outside is still to solid to sow. 

Make a Match - Vegetable edition