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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Laughing too much?

Occasionally my boys tell me that I laugh too much and wonder if I'll ever stop laughing. (Although, they also say other people don't laugh enough and they certainly don't like it when I don't laugh and get cranky!) When it's just us, apparently all this laughing is not a big deal. However, when the friends are around...sometimes we get a little self-conscious.

This morning as we chatted in the hall with one of the friends, my little one leaned in and whispered, "Don't embarrass me, Mom." I whispered back, "How would I do that?" He replied, "By laughing too much." I reigned it in a bit and wondered to myself, "Doesn't he remember I'm Laughing Yoga Mama?" LOL

But seriously, it was a good reminder for me that sometimes I can be overwhelming with my big laugh and personality. School is his place, so I'm a bit more of a background than center stage. He's Mr. Charisma in the classroom and I don't want to upstage him. When he's missing me or needs a boost, though, he is more than willing to put on a big show with me. Like at the end of the day when barrels toward me at full tilt or jumping up to hug me when I visit the classroom to help out.

I am most appreciative (and hope I can take just a teensy bit of credit for it) that my sweet little boy leaned in with a respectful whisper to handle his worry, instead of any number of other less kind ways he could have handled his feelings. I'm so glad he appreciates his laughing yoga mama, but can ask for quiet yoga mama when he needs her.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Finding balance

Flipping through The Parents Tao Te Ching this evening I came to Number 42 - Finding Balance. It fits so much for this day of imperfection and struggling with what is or isn't and how to best be there in those difficult moments.

There are so many paradoxes in parenting
that it is difficult to find balance.
Some don't even try.
They just plunge ahead 
ignoring the subtle whispers of wisdom.
Others try half-heartedly, but resort to old methods
when they get confused.
But some hear wisdom's quiet voice
and make it their own. 

They find strength in softness,
power in flexibility,
perfection in mistakes,
success n failure,
clarity in confusion,
and love in letting go.

Parenting paradoxes abound.
Don't let appearances deceive you.
Things may not be at all as they seem.
What's going on with your children right now?
Are you sure?
Or are you just making assumptions?
Buried in the most difficult of times are polished gems.
Lurking beneath serene surfaces 
lie turbulent waters.
Stay balanced.


Monday, September 21, 2009

Don't expect applause

Seemed like any other ordinary day today as we started off for school, but it ended with an unexpected gift of kindness.

Upon entering his classroom my little giggle box's teacher asked me about an activity they were doing for math. They were going to use plain M&Ms to do some graphing and with his peanut allergy wanted to make sure this was okay. We decided to have him do the activity on a separate tray - not his desk - and to use gloves so that he didn't touch them. (He'd had an odd reaction last week to an unknown substance on the swings, so we were cautious.)

After school giggle box was telling us about the activity and how he used plastic bags on his hands as they couldn't find gloves. He thought this was very funny. Then he exclaimed, "Oh, I almost forgot!" He lifted up his backpack and pulled out a paper towel all wrapped up and taped. "I saved these for you," he said handing the package to his big brother.

Inside were the M&Ms from his math activity. Big brother walking stick was touched and amazed that his little brother would be so thoughtful. They reached across the seats to hug as best they could all strapped in with seat belts and had the sweetest expressions of love and gratitude on their faces. I was welling up with tears as I peeked at them through the rear view mirror.

Walking stick pledged to bring giggle box something the next time he had a class activity involving food. I recalled aloud that he had done just that last year during his cooking class at school. I have always tried to help him understand that they way he treats his little brother is how he can teach his little brother how he wants to be treated. Today was a perfect example of that kindness returned; unexpectedly and without request.

Last week's meditation phrase from Pema Chodron was, "Don't expect applause." Give for the sake of giving. Do for others without expecting anything in return. Walking stick did just that last year and was rewarded unexpectedly with the love and kindness of his brother today.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Grasshopper and the beginner's mind

As I watch my boys find the wonder in a grasshopper hanging on the edge of a chair on our patio, I am reminded of the openness of a child's mind and spirit. My sweet boys have shown me this so many times over the years, although I do not always recognize it right away.

My youngest son and I went walking at a nature preserve this morning. As we strolled along the path the scent of sun warmed earth washed over me, bringing me back to my childhood. I stopped and brought the scent to my son's attention. He drew in a deep breath through his nose and said, "Mom, that smells wonderful!" Then, to my surprise, he told me he was really wanting to cry and was trying to hold back his tears. When I inquired as to why, he replied, "It's just so beautiful." Then my tears began to flow with him.

It is easy to forget that our children have not had all of the experiences we have had. It is easy to discount their wonder. It is so utterly fulfilling to step inside that wonder to see a grasshopper hanging on the edge of the chair as if for the first time again.

Being present in this moment with our beginner's mind. Remembering we have seen grasshoppers and smelled the earth many times in our lives, but we have not see this grasshopper or smelled this patch of earth in this moment ever before. Allowing ourselves to see, hear, feel, and touch whatever our experiences are free of the judgement and expectations that prevent us from being fully present.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Allowing vs. struggling

I've been reading a book that was sitting on my bed stand collecting dust for longer than I care to admit (so I won't) called Stretching Lessons by Sue Bender. It leaped out at me from the shelf at Barnes and Nobles some time ago so I bought it. Apparently, I've been a bit resistive to reading it as I've even packed it on a few trips, but never managed to crack it open...until this week of course. I guess we really can only hear (or in this case read) the things we need to when we are really ready.

The content that has struck a chord with me is Sue's realization that she continually struggles for all of her successes, even when she doesn't need to. She discusses taking a "stretching class" and is opened to the possibility of allowing things to happen rather than struggling with them.

As I struggle with the demands and challenges of motherhood, I am realizing that I really do too often struggle. This seems especially true as the boys get older. I'm pushing and pulling and trying to get to some destination that apparently is not such a big priority for everyone else. This concept of allowing instead of struggling seems like a good next step to practice. I'm pretty good at the struggling, so a new skill seems like a good idea.

As I listened to one of my favorite authors, Pema Chodron, today this concept came up again. She described how everything becomes so small and narrow when we have pain and struggle against it rather than facing it. This is so amazingly true! My view is unbelieveably narrow when the sock on the floor, the dishes on the counter, or the time on the clock are the only things I can see. My vision without my glasses really is nearsighted, but I can apparently still be nearsighted even with my glasses on!

So, how do I go about practicing allowing? I guess the first step is to notice when I'm struggling. From there I can begin to step back, broaden my perspective, open my heart, and practice allowing. I'm thinking laughing is going to be a big part of this process. Laughing at myself and the crazy things I get worked up about will be a great first step. Onward, I go...(giggle, giggle)

Friday, September 11, 2009

Giggle box and walking stick cut a rug

A couple of weeks ago we were at a reception celebrating my cousin's wedding. When the dancing music came on little giggle box said, "Come dance with me, Mama." So off we went. We spun and twirled and shook our hips. Then he turned on the real show and started his fast tapping feet with the wild arm accompaniment. It was so cute and funny and really proud of himself.

Initially, big brother walking stick said he was only a "one foot dancer." He demonstrated by sliding his right foot to the side and back several times. What a goof ball! When giggle box found himself in the center of a large circle showing off his moves, walking stick decided it was time to get into the act. He slipped onto the dance floor and began to draw the crowd toward him. Feeling the rhythm, he created moves I'd never seen before. What a hoot to watch him experiment and strut his stuff.

My little giggle box was a bit under the weather and did not have the stamina to keep up with big brother. After getting his groove on for a while, he got a foot rub from mama and a snuggle from dad and crashed.

Walking stick continued on for a couple of hours working the crowd. He was so engaging with his dancing that at one point the wedding photographer took him off to the side for his own little photo shoot. I cannot wait to see those pictures!

There is something about dancing that allows us to explore and create. It was a delight to see the freedom my boys felt as they slid, shimmied, stomp, and swayed to the beat. When we put down our armor and flow with the music, our souls revel in the joy of the moment.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The results are in

I approached the weekend with limited voice and energy, but much attention to my own behavior to try to figure out this whole following directions mystery.

The first thing I noticed is that when I didn't have much voice, I had to make sure I had my children's full attention before giving them directions. (Big light bulb! How many times have I given that advice?!) I didn't have the option to holler up the stairs or even talk across the room, I had be next to them and have eye contact. At work I call that increasing proximity (love the fancy words) and model it all the time.

The next impression I had was that when my boys knew I wasn't feeling well, their empathy meters were in high gear. They were worried about me and a bit scared, so were really paying attention to what I was saying and needing. This level of vigilance is not advisable on a daily basis (it's called neurosis), so it is both positive and exasperating that they do not feel the need to hang on my every word every minute of every day.

My final bit of insight came from our dinner conversation this evening. When discussing a family outing we had this morning, my husband asked the boys why they did not stop a particular behavior when they had been asked to stop. They acknowledge hearing the direction and even recognizing that others were not enjoying their behavior. The insight came when they indicated that at the moment they were asked to stop, they were enjoying the behavior so much those other factors didn't really matter. Just what we've always suspected, but could never before prove!

So what have I learned from my weekend research? First, practice what I preach...have their full attention before saying anything I actually want them to hear and respond to. Second, remember that their little heads are full of thoughts and ideas that have nothing to do with me most of the time. Third, sometimes they are getting so much from their behavior that I need to be even more creative with my incentives to get them to stop.

It comes down to that relentless being present mantra. Being present with my words and actions, being present with their needs, and taking the time to assess the situation and respond in this moment, rather than having an automatic response that they automatically ignore anyway.

Some days I do this better than others. The good news is that I have plenty of opportunities to practice every day! 

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Parenting with a whisper

It's amazing to me how sweet and cooperative my sons have been while I have had laryngitis. What voice I have sounds like a whisper and I'm using clapping, tapping, gestures, and sign language to communicate. They are being helpful and responsible, following directions, taking the initiative to get things done, and trying to take care of me.

Last year when I lost my voice they both told me they thought I was going to die. I assured them I wouldn't die from laryngitis, but I'm wondering if that was buzzing around in their heads as they became oh so helpful the last few days. "If we are nice enough to mama, maybe she'll get her voice back and she won't die."

I was with some dear friends last night when one of them posed the question, "Why do my kids stop when I say 'that's enough,' but not when I ask them to stop the two times before then." As I noticed this recent increase in compliance with my own children, I wondered the same. What is it that is different when we are sick or exasperated that gets them to stop? And how can we bottle that so it happens all the time? Are we doing something different or are they?

Perhaps our children are better at reading us than we think they are. Perhaps we don't deliver the first message with the same intent, therefore they perceive a bit of wiggle room. Maybe we aren't fully engage or attentive with the first request or directive. Maybe they tune in more when we are sending out different signals. Maybe I should do some research!

I'm going to attempt to observe myself over the next few days with my limited voice and as it fully recovers to see what I'm doing differently that they are interpreting in my tone or body language. My mini research project for the weekend.

Stayed tuned for the results...

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Mama's voice

So I have my annual back to school cold that is starting to drop down into my vocal chords and turn into laryngitis. This is the fourth year in a row this has happened and I am beginning to wonder what it is the universe is trying to tell me with this ailment. I have clearly not gotten it so far!

Is it about finding my voice, using my voice, not using my voice, listening to my inner voice, listening and not talking...the possibilities seem endless.

Goodness know my boys hear my voice enough, maybe too much! That's a vote for the listening more, talking less.

I've been searching for way to find and share my voice through writing, like this blog. Maybe that's it, more writing. I do enjoy sharing all the nutty adventures of my boys and the amazing insight with which they provide me and I hope you readers enjoy it, too.

I use my voice to teach yoga - lots of talking, but just started teaching a meditation class this week - no talking. Maybe that balance of talking/no talking is it.

The vocal chords are at the fifth chakra.  "5th Chakra: Throat: Tied to creativity and communication.
Feels pressure when you are not communicating your emotions properly." (from That seems pretty interesting.

Lots to ponder as I begin my time of a quiet voice. At least my fingers can't get laryngitis and I can still write!

If you have any thoughts, please share. :)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Still a rookie mom

I came across a book today called The Rookie Mom's Handbook. It is based on a blog by two moms who share ideas about things to do with your baby throughout the first year. As I pondered this very cute and entertaining guide, I began to wonder when we move on from being rookie moms?

When my oldest son was born everything that happened was new and I felt like I faced each day's challenges in a very mindful and present manner. I definitely knew I was a rookie mom. When my second son was born I realized that while I had the experiences from my first son, I couldn't do things exactly the same because he was a different child and had different needs. I found that when I would get frustrated I was often expecting my son to act or respond differently than he was. I wasn't being present in that moment, I was expecting it to be like some other moment I had experienced or wished for. I didn't always look like a rookie mom to others, but I was definitely a rookie at being a mom to my second son and a rookie at being a mom of two.

In some meditation traditions we are taught to practice staying in our beginner's mind. This concept helps us to keep ourselves in the present moment, rather than slipping into old patterns. If we are in our beginner's mind, all experiences are new and unique. We can be observant and make choices based on the current situation without dragging in all of our history. I think a rookie mom perspective is very much a beginner's mind perspective.

Even though my sons are nine and seven, I still feel like a rookie mom much of the time. They continue to grow and change and every day is full of new experiences. The days are also full of experiences that are very familiar like getting ready for school, eating meals, preparing for bed, etc. The challenge through those familiar tasks is to maintain that rookie mom or beginner's mind perspective. If I can do that and remain present in the current moment, I can respond to my children as they are right now in this moment with compassion. When I forget to "be here, now," I find myself much less compassionate and much more impatient.

Parenting is a practice, just as yoga and meditation are practices. We practice every day beginning where we are, listening to the messages our bodies (and our children) send us, and knowing that each time we practice we are a little bit different. Each day, each practice is different, even though much of it feels familiar. Be present. Be here, now. Breath by breath. Moment by moment. Just be.