The un-mothered mother: links to look at.

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This NY Times opinion piece about one woman’s journey through motherhood while feeling un-mothered herself…totally brought the tears. I’m pretty sure there is a line in there everyone could relate to.

If you grew up without the best example as a parent and find yourself mothering someone now, chances are you will relate to the idea of trying to be a better parent than you had. And chances are you sometimes fail at that. This one is for you.

The kind of beautiful advice I would want from a mother.

And this advice, too.

Did you ever watch Parenthood? Such an interesting depiction of parenting and families. When you get done with that, check out Friday Night Lights! Such food for thought. Got any others you would recommend?!

 

Part-time preschooler (our long childcare story).

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Oh, our childcare journey has been our biggest ground-up DIY project yet. Second only to just having a child in the first place. And I’m sure many would agree with that. For his first 19 months of life I somehow made do with occasional babysitters and was able to basically be a stay-at-home-work-until-the-wee-hours-after-baby-bedtime-mom. (That’s a thing). He blessedly started sleeping 12 hours at night at 11 weeks old making those shenanigans possible. After over a year and a half of that I can officially say that caring for a baby/toddler from 7am-7pm, then rolling up my sleeves to work from 7pm-1am is pretty damn exhausting. But I have yet to hear of a version of parenthood that isn’t exhausting…

At 19 months I completely lucked into finding a truly amazing preschool and it happened to be only two blocks from us. Still can’t believe the luck. He started going two days per week and it has been amazing for our relationship, for my work and also for helping build a really cool community among the families and teachers I have met there. On a third day per week he spent six hours with another mom and toddler in the neighborhood and in return we had her toddler with us for six hours another day per week. It was really sweet having that special friend in his life for an entire year. Four beautiful seasons mostly spent in our community garden. I loved it. That 2.5 days per week of childcare was really a sweet spot for us.

Alas, that mom and toddler we swapped care with recently moved back to good ol’ NYC and shortly after that his preschool teacher announced that after 8 lovely years she would be closing her doors this winter. Just recently, I had increased his time at preschool from two days to four and while it was long awaited – it felt like a huge leap in hours apart. Though it feels like one day per week to much (for me), he thrives in the group and the friendships we have both made among the kids, staff and the other families has been priceless. It’s the community I wish I had from the day he was born. Better late than never and we are relishing it now!

So, our next preschool chapter is about to begin. I’m excited to expand our community even more. This has been quite the journey and I can see our next step but I wonder what will come after that. It remains to be seen but I know that it will be beautiful and vibrant for both of us.

Blessings counted.

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Even if you know me in real life, you might not know that in 2014 I endured a cancer scare that lasted over five months. It was terrifying. I felt powerless. And so incredibly scared that I could be leaving my then 1.5 year old behind. It was hard to talk about and sometimes even impossible, so I shared it very sparingly. I just held my breath all the days and cried myself to sleep all the nights. At the time, my health insurance situation was such that I could not get respectful and speedy care and so it just dragged on. In the end I was given a clean bill of health and the rush of relief…I cannot describe. I know, though I dodged this diagnosis, life is short and I have no guarantees. Besides earning a few extra grey hairs in the process, I’d say the experience left me with some perspective – and it’s something that still makes me count my blessings daily.

I recently stumbled on the story of Heather Von St. James, a cancer survivor. Her story of not only surviving but really thriving – is really inspirational. When she was diagnosed she was thought to only have just over a year of life ahead of her. Heather was diagnosed with a form of cancer called mesothelioma. It’s a rare cancer caused by exposure to asbestos, which she was exposed to from her father’s work jacket as a child.

Ten years later she is still here with her daughter and the rest of her family – and is able to share her story with us. She has beat the odds and it’s an incredible story to read. It will bring on some tears for sure! But it’s a deeply inspiring story and I’m glad to have crossed paths with her here online. If you have a few minutes her story is definitely worth a read – check it out here.

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Heather Von St. James + daughter Lily.

Keep calm: links to look at.

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Here is one mind-expanding way to look at parenting.

My toddler and I have been really enjoying this book/CD. So awesomely adorable to see he is listening and hear him taking deep breaths in the back seat!

A friend highly recommends this book and says it gives a really honest depiction of what is asked of us emotionally as parents. It’s on my list now.

I’ve been reading a lot about Waldorf schools and households and one thing that has really struck me is the idea of creating warmth in the home – through close conversations, candlelight, bringing nature in…and just bundling in warm layers. Loving these ideas.

I’ve got a kid who loves greens and meatballs so we’ve been loving this recipe recently. Warm, cozy dinner!

The coolest soap-dish ever.

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Photo via Amazon

Yeah, it’s happening. I’m writing about our soap situation. I’m kind of laughing at myself but I’m also really so into the solution I just found and everyone who comes over to our home gets to hear about it so now you do, too!

So, I’m kind of anti-plastic. Yeah, partly because I’m a bit of a hippie but I also have a background in environmental toxicology. We’ve been using a refillable plastic pump bottle of soap for the last almost three years. It’s been ok. Except it’s plastic and it is kind of hard for a toddler to pump. And the refill bottles of soap…more plastic. I’d been wanting to just switch to a bar of soap and a soap-dish but hmmmm just thought that would turn to mush in the hands of a toddler.

I remembered seeing one of these cool things at an Airbnb spot when we were road-tripping through Vermont…way back when we were a one-year-old family. It is a soap holder that sticks to the wall by the sink, plus a little magnetic metal piece that gets pushed into your bar of soap. Voila! A hanging bar of soap and no mushy soap-dish! It stuck in my mind and now I’ve finally clicked “purchase” and we are both so into it. I wish I got one sooner. And so fun to use it with little locally made soaps! Such a small thing but such a big win for us! Just had to share. If you get one I can’t wait to hear how much you love it!

This child of mine.

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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again (and I’ll probably just keep on talking about it so bear  with me!): it’s a strange and bittersweet road of watching my child become more independent. I remember when my child was a newborn, the feeling that if he was away from me I would just stop breathing. If he died? I would die. I would just stop breathing. That’s how interdependent and synergistic the mom/newborn relationship was for me. Slowly over the first few months I could tolerate being in a different room from him. And slowly, over almost three years I can tolerate having him in preschool four days per week. We are securely attached. We are both wildly social animals who thrive with some time apart to carry on our own conversations and return to each other with stories to tell.

From what I’ve seen via friends and strangers, the single mom/baby relationship can be more intense than the experience of having to “share” from day one. There is no one to share the bond with, the decisions with, the hopes and dreams. But also no one to hold him for five minutes while I pee or take a walk or, let’s face it, a deep breath. It’s a hard job and a special one to be a single parent. Learning to see that more and more clearly everyday. And at the same time I see how he is growing up to be his own person and that my job is to protect that and not so much shape it. I have high hopes for him to be a kind, conscientious, open-minded person. So I will do my best to try to hold him in the light of those things until he is on his own someday.

Recently I’ve met several parents of children ages preteen to adult. I’ve really enjoyed their perspective on things. It’s easy to kind of stick with my “cohort” of moms with children right around the same ages – our children are going through very similar stages after all and it can be very helpful to trade notes/ideas/tips. But I recently got to remembering back when I had a babe I could cradle in one arm – and we witnessed our first toddler together. What a wild, wild animal that was. I found it quite alarming. Now, I have that wild child and I’ve had a few interactions with moms and their young babies and I can see the look in their eyes that I had back then. Fear for sure! Denial that my child would misbehave, definintely. I cringe to look back on it. It kind of got me thinking that perhaps at that time I should have soaked up the wisdom of those parents that were a few steps ahead of me. I’m making a new resolution to do so now. And it’s already been so very helpful. This time keeps flying. Just trying to keep a little perspective on that through the hard times and the beautiful times. They are all instantly memories after all.

 

The Great Indoors.

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Sometimes I will see a pregnant woman walking down the street and it takes me right back to those days. Those secret, silent conversations I had with my little partner who I carried around in my belly. The plotting and planning what our life would look like, be like, feel like. The moments of excited uncertainty. All the fun decisions to be made – names, clothes, homes, ways. How sure I was about how I would parent with ease and be the fun mom baking chocolate cakes at all hours. I can laugh kindly at myself now but I do like to relive those memories every once in a while. The moments I had back then of feeling so sure have been some of the most comforting in my whole life. It’s a lot to coast on and you can for quite a while.

Back then I really thought giving birth would be the hard part. That if I could just get through that hard part I would do just fine. I guess there is some truth to that. But, for me, birth was not the hard part. Finding my footing as a parent in a world that has sometimes wanted to knock me down has been the hard part. There have been some seriously hard days as my child and I have gotten to know each other over the last (almost three!) years. Just when I think I’ve got it all solved – another developmental stage appears. So we begin again together – figuring out our way.

It’s been quite a cold winter so far. It’s kept us inside a little more than usual. Well, that and catching a few bugs right in a row has done us in! I don’t know about you, but just about the worst thing for us is being stuck inside. I learned pretty early on, right around the time my baby could crawl, that being outside for most of the day would be our classroom, our safe and inspired place and quite literally: our saving grace. These past few illnesses right in a row combined with being inside so much have really left me feeling worn down and stressed at times. And has left the two of us truly at odds at times – more than ever before. I think I’ve gotten through just barely on the fumes of random bouts of laughter, dance parties, huge stacks of library books, some Tension Tamer tea and short jaunts outdoors to nearby gardens until we are so cold we can’t stand it anymore and return to the great indoors to begin it all again.

How about you? Does parenthood ever wear you down? Do you escape to your memories? Or to a nice hot bath at the end of the day?!

New Year’s resolutions.

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I used to make sooooo many resolutions every year. Learn one new song on the piano every month, say goodbye to all “frenemies,” go vegan, have a dinner party every Thursday night, heck I even tried out for the local NFL cheerleading team one year. There were some seriously fun ones in there over the years. I think about it now and marvel at all the time I had to focus on myself, my personal goals, my personal growth and just fueling my own adventures. I simply don’t have the time for all those specific goals right now as a single parent of a young child. What I do have time for is two gentle changes that I can only imagine could actually be quite life changing.

I was just chatting with a friend about our hours-long rituals of reading the internet every night. Just read this Aziz Ansari quote, too: “I read the internet so much I feel like I’m on page a million of the worst book ever.” Ugh, that is definitely how I feel. I am grateful though that I have found some community and connections online – through emails, Facebook, Meetup groups. I LOVE being able to put a dozen books on hold at the library in just minutes online. I love being able to write here. I love being able to shop online and have what I need delivered right to my door. That’s all great stuff, but the rest of it? Reading the news via Facebook, yuck. Looking at the hazy and beautifully edited Instagram accounts of stranger after stranger – SO not helpful. Doing internet search after internet search of parenting questions, medical advice and ex-loves – ohmygawd NO.  So one resolution this year will be to read at least one book per week (in real, physical book format – not on a screen). That means at least 52 books. And I’m excited about it. First up is Hammer Head!

The other thing I want to add to my life is a kinder, gentler fitness habit than I recently embarked on with running. The running felt good and was really going great…until I hurt myself. I think running may not be for me – maybe just in the short term but maybe not ever either. So what I’m going instead is going for a 30-45 minute speed walk every morning when I drop my toddler off at preschool. And every month I will add in something different. For January it will be a month of “yoga camp.”

How about you? What are you big or small goals for 2016?