Life has happened and therefore we are....
Mostly my personal life but also this site. Working currently on a really intensive newborn parenting course that I hope to roll out in September.
Please keep checking back or join my email list for updates. Hope you are doing well awesome mommas. Check in again with you soon.
Its Springish here in NJ and things are blooming and rain seems daily. We have been feeling a bit better because we have been able to venture out a bit more. I wonder if you have felt the same. I also have days when the outside makes me feel guilty. You should really go out, we have not had nice weather. I want to still be in my hygge attitude. I like blankets and books and snuggles. A LOT!!! Now don't get me wrong, I don't have that kind of leisure but when I do have time, that's how I wish to spend it. The other day I got a longer nap for my daycare child and I decided to take that monitor outside and I took my shoes off and sat in the chair and put my feet in the grass. You know what happened? I came inside after 30 minutes of reading and had at least 4 large welts from mosquito bites. I did get some good vitamin D feels to compensate for my itchy ankles.
Isn't this just like motherhood. It's not what you thought but it is good. It is not the idyllic picture remember this one...
Its not all filtered and smiling and sleeping babies. The haze is probably your tired eyes and you are smiling because you finally got her to sleep and now your smile turns to fearful grimace as you try to lay that girl down without waking her up again. The struggle is real.
But when you step back and re-group and think about all the good in this time of hard, you absolutely can see straight. I came inside searching for the balm for my bug bites and realized how good my toasty warm body felt after a short time. I had read a few chapters of a book I absolutely loved, too. I had done some important self-care and I was better for it.
You are a better person for being a mother. Your self-sacrificial giving and your momma bear fierce love for your child are creating a new being. Comparing this you to the old you will not do! Stop that right now! (I used to be fun, I used to have adult conversations, I used to have sex, LOL). You can still do all that and seek them out if you are feeling depleted. However, also celebrate the new being you are, a strong and gentle and amazing creature who is nurturing a LIFE! You GET to share the things you love about God's world with your child and influence forever who they will become. Its daunting but really rewarding too. Bonding with a child is a gift you give them forever. It sets them up for psychological health for a lifetime. I think that is one of the greatest things a person can do for another person. DO NOT DISCOUNT being a MOM!
Hugs to all who are struggling this week! I am praying for you.
I am working on a course so please get on the email list to be first to get the details.
I'm Mister Wookie and I approve this message:
Hi Mommies! I am excited to tell you I have been working on a course for you dears. I want to provide you with a place you can come with all your questions and a place for a tribe to gather. So I wish I could say that I am working hard but mostly I'm scared and talking myself out of it because while writing and nurturing and holding babies is all in my skill set, technology is not. But I care so deeply about my passion of helping new moms and babies that I press on. I am reading so much lately about brain formation and how important early bonding and attachment are for emotional and physical health. I cannot wait to pass it all on to you, in a really fun and approachable way. SO it is all still in the works but I am so excited about it that I really want to let you know about it as I am working on it. If you want to be in on it when it drops, be sure you sign up for emails. I am also working on special email content just for you. Please pray for me as I work on this, especially for my confidence and for the technology side because I do not yet have the finances to hire people who know how do video (or the fancy couch and paintings that all vloggers seem to have. lol.)
Ok. On to GIFTS, We all have them! Do yo know what yours are? There are literally millions of gifts to consider. Everything from a strong stomach to handle dirty diapers to an ability to know what your child is feeling. That is a huge spectrum. Really I want you to start to give yourself a gift...some credit. While I believe all good gifts are from God, He delights in our using them. (as I always say, I am preaching to myself here because I always forget.) Today I am reminding myself that I made a warm and cozy Easter celebration, yesterday. I could say, it was easy to prepare stuff, ham in a crockpot, a quick brussel sprouts recipe, pop-n-fresh dough, etc. I could think about how grumpy everyone was getting up earlier for Church breakfast before Easter service. I could have remembered a family member's poor attitude that kind of put a damper on things at the end or their sneaky way of doing what they did. (which reminded me of the dysfunction that exists in our extended families). BUT today I choose to remember how I made my house a nice place for my children and my husband and all who attended. I choose to remember how I made some memories with my children who are quickly getting to adulthood themselves.
The gifts then are so unique to each person. My gift is the ability to look beyond the mundane and get to the meaning. The gifts might be something you possess yourself or something you bring to your family. Here are some categories of gifts to get you thinking about yours..
Praying for yourself and babies
Desire to Bond
Being "for" your children and spouse
Being "there for" them
Your specific skills
Quest for learning
Showing up every day
Being there for them
Exactly who your children need
Seeing the best in yourself and children
Service and Helping (being an example of care for others)
Growing your relationship with God
There are so many more but I ask you to please, please PLEASE, take a step back from the mundane and busy life of motherhood and pick out some things you do well. Think about those things. Think about how you might have learned them or maybe they were with you since as early as you remember. Give yourself a minute to say, this is hard work but I am rocking....
Yeah, I rocked Easter dinner hard and I rock making my girls feel good about themselves and I rock being an example to them of the importance of helping others. I do that well. I would love to hear your comments. What do you do well? Please get on the email list too, so you can be in the know and on the first to receive list. Once I get this course worked out there will be contests and freebies! Be the first in line!
Thank you for all you do in the lives of your children and others, it is the most important work.
Gifts, we all have them. Things that we gained, either by nature or nurture, that show our individuality. I believe that God gave us each a purpose and helped us acquire gifts to fill that purpose. You might say, " I have gifts that I bring to work, to church or volunteer work but not too many mothering gifts." I say, "au contraire!" You bring a great many gifts to mothering and you are the perfect fit for your child. There are gifts and ways of being that are unique to you and perfectly built to help you raise your unique child. It may seem to you sometimes, or often, that you had a hospital mix-up, someone took home your baby. If you are supposed to be a perfect fit for this child, whom you cannot seem to understand, that must be the case. But let's take a step back and look at it with a different perspective.
Let's go from the assumption that you are in FACT the right mom for the job. What would that change for you? I am still in the trenches on this question so we can work it through together. If I was the perfect mom for my messy, living-in-the-moment, thrives-in-a-group-child, who's love language is time spent, what of my gifts can I bring to her? My gut response is, I have absolutely no idea. My husband sure can relate, but I thrive in order and thinking ahead and quiet time to do that thinking, alone! What was God thinking giving me this child? I always feel like I am doing her a disservice because I cannot supply her needs for constant attention and creative thinking and spur of the moment projects. However, one day she will need the calming influence that I bring. She will need to learn to order her steps to complete her crazy project. She will also find that, one way or the other, her mom will always find time for her. My gifts are trying to help facilitate her creativity when I can, with planning and getting supplies. My gifts are making sure she has all the hugs she needs. She also brings me rich gifts from her storehouse. She points out things I definitely would have missed, flying off to the plans I made. This is a blessing for both of us.
Last post I asked you to think about things that made you feel strong. Today I would like you to think about things that are your strengths. I want you to see how much you really bring to the table. I also want you to think about your child's needs. Needs for love, acceptance, nurture, creature comforts, even food, water, safety. What things can you supply, in your giftings and efforts, to love your child? Next time we will list a bunch of ways moms are gifted and maybe it will spur you on think of some you have not thought of yet. You will see how they match up with things your specific child needs, even if they do seem opposite on the surface. You have no idea what good you do by giving a smile, some attention to a story or even when you take time for self-care to model that for a growing daughter. I know of a mom with a really sarcastic and witty sense of humor who will someday pass that on to her currently newborn daughter and help her laugh at a world that doesn't always make sense. IT ALL COUNTS! You get some points and you get some points. LOL. Let's think about this together. I know it is hard. I still have so much trouble thinking about what I am good at. But my trusted counsel has told me many times, I have nothing to earn and nothing to prove. So, it follows that the credit goes to the one who gave me the gifts, either by nature or nurture and some times despite (or due to) negative situations. It is all used for God's purposes. So I can brag that I have such gifts from a good God.
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What is strength?
Do you feel strong? DO you? Are you a tough mother? On the hard days? Where does your strength come from? I often wondered if I was strong. I was made to feel very weak at times in my younger days. As a mom of a newborn, I usually felt some confidence due to my many years in the daycare field. As I have mentioned before, seeing other mom's "mistakes" and having a sage guide in a very smart older mom and co-worker, I learned quickly how I wanted to parent and what resonated with me. That confidence was very surface though and only lasted through my so called expertise with newborns. As any mom knows that is a very short lived stage.
One particular time, with my first-born, when she was a toddler, I was able to identify that I had suddenly run out of experience, like you identify a Mac truck after it hits you. I was attending a Bible study group in a childless home. The hosts were newly married and all the lovely things they had gotten as gifts were on display, all of them breakable and all on end tables which, oddly enough are exactly toddler height! Also, they were pretty and shiny and my girl could not help but be attracted to them. Well, I was not able to study much of anything that night except how to outwit my daughter. I also saw how lacking I was in the ways of an energized toddler. My own strength had given out.
Strong is "showing up."
But, did you know that a strong mom keeps showing up? That should be one of the definitions of the word. An actual definition of the word is "having the power to perform physically demanding tasks" And "able to withstand great force or pressure." Ah! There is where all moms lie (HA! Moms hardly get to lie anywhere for long). Every mom I know is withstanding great pressure. It comes at us from every side, inside and out . We are pressed, but not crushed. I find my strength often in Scripture. I also find it in reaching out to those who are in my circle who can lift me up and remind me, this is hard and listen to my struggles and keep on encouraging me to "show up." They help me to get back in there and be a mom to my kids. Strong is often remembering that your style might not be the same as another mom you are comparing yourself to. It is a super power, in my humble opinion, to go the way you know your kids respond best and not the current parenting direction.
Strong is smart.
So in that way, strong is also smart. Being a detective, It means studying your children and course correcting your tactics to fit the child. I had one young child who would sit up and pay attention when I got stern, a different daughter took that as a challenge to press harder. I had to learn this and make different decisions based on my new knowledge. That is strong, that is brave! It is counter-cultural because there are moms who only do what current research says is the right way. They spent pregnancy and each hour of nap time honing a one-size-fits-all parenting method. It may have even worked for her first child but when the rule breaker comes, she is left fighting tooth and nail for the title of mom who won out (child who had to conform) or she was left feeling failure (which no mom who loves her child ever is). The former might have a false sense of strength while the latter feels defeated. The truth is the mom who "shows up" is the strong one. Playing detective is hard! Being a mom who makes mistakes and then apologizes and tries again....really freakin' strong!
What makes you feel strong?
Again, I ask, do you feel strong? Have you been down to the dregs and are still standing? That is crazy strong. Do you know who to message, what to read, what self-care to practice when you are feeling weak and worn and oh! so weary? That is a super power. Take some time today to help identify what makes you feel strong. Do that thing even when you are not down. Take that time. If there is a nap during the children's day, do it then. Dishes can wait, email can too. If they are too old to nap, make that bedroom a safe place where they can be and tell them it is one hour of quiet time. My Grammy who was my caregiver while my parents worked had this rule all through the years she took care of us. I suspect it was for her sanity but I know it has helped me as an introvert find my rest. Sometimes she had to vehemently enforce it, but we got the message, loud and clear, no negotiation on "nap time."
Strong is not putting on the mask of "I've got it all together" and telling yourself, once more into the breech. It is often in the backing off and seeing the places you need help. Super strength is asking for help in those places. It is vulnerable and awkward but if you can do it you are helping others to feel empowered to do it too. Like I learned from Grammy, I share with my children as I take a quiet break myself. Be different. I am counting on you to share your gifts with those around you. I am counting on you to be authentic. I am counting on you to be strong in these ways.
Oh my dear mommies! I am so sorry that I have been absent. My husband had a medical emergency and I had/have to help with appointments and bandages and he cannot drive so the blog and website have had to be on hold. I am sure I will be back soon. Thank you for reading and sharing in 2018.
I have writer's block. That's why I have been absent for so long. (and LIFE has been happening) I have a lot to share but it is hard to get it coherently from my mind to the keyboard. I enjoy being in the moment with a mom (does that make it a mom-ment, sorry) and trying to help her problem solve what is right in front of her. It is harder to come up with a cohesive program of teaching or training for a new mom. I am trying to write a class for new moms but I feel it is something you find on-line at any time if you knew what you were looking for. I don't want to come off as a know-it-all or worse, just be another opinion a mom has to wade through. So how do I continue blogging when I am stuck? I guess it is exactly like motherhood. I will have to continue through trial and error and with the confidence I can muster. I will trust that God will use my words to help someone and give grace to cover my shortcomings. I don't know what the long term fruit of it will be, just like motherhood. I will make decision after decision. Really there are very few things that we do that we can predict all the variables and know it will come out how we wish. How much more with something so very open as blogging, and more so as parenting? Being a parent, you may have the illusion that you can control the outcome of parenting but truly the outcome is based on so many factors. I saw this especially in my children's temperament. They were each so different from birth. Even the birth experience was different with each one. I thought going into the birth experience with my second daughter would be the same as my first or better because my body and mind knew what to expect. It was night and day. There was so much that was different, I couldn't begin to list it all. One of the biggest things was that my middle daughter had the cord wrapped around her neck and she quickly was in distress. Something like that, I could neither predict or fix. My youngest had the best birth, laboring at home with a doula and friend and my mom and husband until I felt ready to go to the hospital. It was the easiest even though she was the biggest of the three babies by a over a pound! I had birth plans or ideas of what each of my three girls' births would be like and each time they were different, from each other and from what my idea was. Birthing a blog is similar in that it is different than I expected and has challenges I could never have foreseen. Life doesn't happen in your own timing either. You can plan and then something traumatic happens and you are thrown off your game. Nursing, you think, is natural and will be easy. More and more women are finding this hard. Lack of support and environmental and food source changes are some of the reasons for this. Suddenly, baby is here and breast feeding is a formidable challenge. How do we adjust? We press on, but remember to feel those feelings when you do. Feelings of loss and discouragement are real and do not go away when we push them down. Like a float in a swimming pool, you might be able to hold it under for some time but when you release the effort of holding it under, it will come back up with force. I am learning that the ways I was taught to deal with my emotions was not helpful. I hope you have someone with whom you can share your feelings and be accepted. Maybe if you are not blessed with someone you can talk face to face with, you can find someone online in a mom group who needs support too. Just knowing you are not alone can make a huge difference, especially if you are pregnant or are after birth are still experiencing postpartum hormones. (PS this can take years to regulate and I know some who are changed forever, sorry). But find someone who gets what you are going through and also please be a friend to yourself. I am the best at ripping myself apart, I'm definitely my harshest critic. I am becoming more aware of my self-talk though. Trying to rewrite that inner dialog is tough though.
SO my encouragement for today is, that God can take your parenting and birth story and hormones and self-talk and whatever else you are struggling with and make it for His glory. One more story, I lost my cool one day, my daughter was pushing my buttons over and over. She was talking back and being sassy and I lost it. I took her face in my hand and squeezed her cheeks between my thumb and middle finger squishing those big cheeks into her mouth. She had made me so mad that I wanted her to see what she was doing with her mouth hurt. But I did not think! This did not bring the outcome I wanted. I calmed down and apologized. She accepted and we made up but it can never be as good as if I had calmed down first. Another day, I caught her doing this awful maneuver to her young sister. I was mortified. I never wanted to hurt my daughter and now she was using what she learned from me to hurt her sister. How did God use this sin I had committed against my daughter? He is the master and so full of patience towards me and them. First, I apologized again to my daughters and they saw what repentance really looks like. Then, I was able to see how I could calm myself and make better choices for correction. (it looks more like consequences for actions). I also saw how God corrects us (consequences too, we reap what we sow) and forgives us when we repent from the heart. Mommies, let's press on. We feel the lack, we know we cannot do it in our own strength, so we grow closer to our God by asking His Spirit to help us. He promises to.
Fall is coming here in NJ. Well, maybe... uh, its supposed to be. However, we are still having 80 degree days and humidity. But there have been a few chilly mornings that give me hope for “sweater weather.” Fall is snuggly to me. November especially. My Grammy, Mom's mom, was born in November and she was the host for Thanksgiving. She had a cozy home and a way of making me feel loved. Grammy also could cook! I was about to go on down this track but I think I'll save that for the feasting post, that is coming up soon. But she had a way of making things cozy. Do you have memories like this? Is there someone in your life that made you feel accepted and warm and cozy? If so I'll bet that you realize how important that was to you. It adds so much to who we are as people. Feeling loved and accepted and right and comfortable is so very vital. It helps us to grow, it nurtures our souls and opens us up to think of things bigger than ourselves. I have been on Pinterest lately and I looked at Hygge. What is this? Of course now my page is inundated with Hygge posts. Hygge for Fall...Hygge your home...Hygge yourself! What is it?
In the book “How to Hygge” Signe Johansen says this: “A Danish/Norwegian word that translates as a feeling of cosiness, hygge can also mean kinship and conviviality.”
This got me to thinking about our current topic of Sabbath Rest. Coziness is very restorative to me. My Grammy had hygge down! I felt cozy and the feeling of belonging or kinship there. Not every kin feels like kin. What creates this feeling of coziness? The first sense memory that comes to mind is the smell of her house. The cooking smells, her personal smell, even the smell of the blanket that I wrapped up in for a nap. I think smells are a very strong memory trigger for many of us. I wonder what smells my daughters will associate with home.
What else made me feel cozy and warm and loved at Grammy's? There was a calmness there that I did not experience elsewhere. An unhurried air. We had things to do and there were schedules at times but often it was just a time to play in the yard or basement with few toys. One of my great memories of that time was being about 5 or 6. They had a very old piano in the basement. I would go downstairs and play. Now my playing was as a 5 year old would. Probably a cat walking across the keyboard would make more appealing and listenable sounds than my banging, but I would play my “piece” and then go to the stairs and holler up, “was that good, GRAM?” She would sweetly reply, “Yeah, it was great, play some more.” Now, as a mom, I see that that was a great way to keep me out of her hair and a way to know exactly what I was doing in the basement, but as a child.....I felt heard, I felt accepted, I felt encouraged. I could affect the world positively and I was encouraged to do so. I could make someone happy even though I was little. How warm is that?! And how easy it was for her. I hope I am doing this in my own life as a mother. I hope I am making them feel loved and special and warm.
Physical touch also added to the hygge at Grammy's. We got a hug coming in and going out and any time in-between that we wanted. Our special blankets were in the hutch so they smelled clean and fresh and cedar-y. We curled up on the couch for quiet time and were surrounded with softness. I felt secure and able to rest after a busy day of play or school or a special holiday meal. Though she often had chores to do, she would stop occasionally and look at a photo album with us or play a game. I remember playing at being a waiter or chef many times. I also made it difficult because whatever she ordered, I would be out of. But she would pretend she was frustrated and order again. She made time to be close. As I write this I am thinking that I feel restored when I spend time reading with the girls or snuggling with a movie. I especially like to color or do a puzzle with them. I hope they do too. I want to be more intentional about making time for these things.
I encourage you to take a few minutes to remember what things made you feel cozy then and and what makes you feel that now. Practice some self-care in whatever phase of raising children you are in. Sit and snuggle. Read out-loud to your baby all the way up to your teen. Think of ways you can slow down the pace of life and restore coziness. Let me know what ways you feel hygge or Sabbath rest.
Last time we talked about rest and what that would look like for a mom. There were four elements of Sabbath that my Pastor lined out, they were:
a)worship (which we discussed last time)
I told you in that post that I wanted to go out of order because I thought there was a hierarchy for moms. I still do but I feel that play and resting are equally valuable. So I must pick one to do next and I chose play. I choose that next because it really struck me as we were listening in church,
this is a key that modern moms are missing!
Pastor shared it like this, that we are told that the kingdom of heaven is filled with joy. Therefore, joy on Earth is a picture of eternity. My pastor then reminded us that CS Lewis had his Jesus character Aslan in the Chronicles of Narnia, romp for joy after his resurrection scene. Did you lose your joy at the birth of your child? Are you so full of responsibility, as I am at times, that you forget the joy of being the mom of this little person? Does the work feel like drudgery and you forget to smile at your toddler? It happens. It does! But stop a minute. The dirty bottle will wait, (the dirty diaper might not, phew) but the housework definitely will. Smile, tickle, hug, play peekaboo, find something funny. Fake it 'til you make it but please do let down your guard, relax a bit and find the joy. You will! At bath-time, watch as your child marvels at the bubbles or put some on your chin and watch your toddler explode with laughter at the ridiculousness of it all.
True confession time. I had to stop playing Barbies with the girls, I had to find other things to play. I realized each time I was playing, I couldn't just let the prince climb the tower and get the princess. I had to ask, is this prince a Christian? Will he be saving his kiss for marriage? There was no silliness, no joy, just what I thought was moral teaching. And it was awful. And I was being ridiculous. I was much better at painting or doing a puzzle or other make believe play. I found that that was OK. The girls enjoyed time with me and we found other ways to giggle and romp that did not involve a serious teaching moment each second. Find your happy place with the older children. The best was often a dance party or blanket fort. So fun and easy to do quickly. Go with what makes you both joyful. Luke 11:32 to piggyback on yesterday, says “For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the kingdom.” I can't get my brain around that, but it does. Practicing kingdom rhythms makes God happy. Imagine how He must love it when we are being joyful with one another? That is amazing to think about.
I'm praying that you can leave your work behind a bit and change your mindset.
Besides what I just said about the restorative powers of playfulness, there is tons of research on the mental and emotional, cognitive and developmental benefits of play for children. If you are finding yourself worried about if your child is developing well or if you are easily swayed to the tiger mom camp, where you want everything your child does to give them the edge, I say two things, one, go back to the beginning of this series and see that this is just setting you both up for the culture of exhaustion and two, playing actually is the best thing you can do to foster good development in your child. Time to play. I know it can feel awkward at first. I really do. But if you let your child lead, the smile and light in their eyes will help you have confidence that you are doing the right thing. You will both feel refreshed and restored and Sabbath rested, no matter when it is.
A word about time. If you feel that if you open this door it will never end, you should remember that you are in control. You can say to a child, I need to finish this and then I can play for 20 minutes and then we will move on to quiet time, whatever has to happen. They may be upset at first but they will see that the play time is worth it, though it has to end.
Maybe play is painful for you. Maybe thinking of childhood is hurtful or someone took advantage of your playfulness and now it is connected to abuse. You are not alone. This is a broken world where that goes on. It is not what God planned for you but He can use that pain to bring healing and closeness to himself. Seek a guide, a christian counselor or therapist or a pastor who can help you through that or talk to a trusted friend. Don't miss out though. I have shared in the past that buried abuse can show up as you interact with your children. Your brain wants to protect your child and can call the trauma to mind. Use the memory to get to the bottom of things. I have and it has caused me to grow. HEAR ME: I am sorry that happened to you and it is not your fault.
I hope this week you find good ways to restore your soul and may sweet old-fashioned play be awakened in you. It is so good for you and it is huge for the life of your child. God intends for us to have joy. I hope we both can seek it as we practice Sabbath rest.
Paula is a wife and mother of 3. Follow along on her journeys of motherhood and her fulfilling work as a postpartum doula