Teaching My Girls About Body Image

Swimsuit season is coming up, and I’ve been thinking a lot about body image.

Two kids later, my body doesn’t look like it did when I was in my early 20s. Deep inside I have a core belief that this is fine and that I love my body. I am happy about the way I look. I love my stretch marks, and when my kids poke my squishy belly, I’m happy to tell them that’s where they grew.

But…

But there’s this tiny voice in the back of my head complaining about the lack of thigh gap and that squishy belly and the stretch marks and everything else. I know and I believe in my heart of hearts that the voice is a liar. But it’s still a struggle.

I want my girls to not feel that struggle. I don’t want my girls to have to remind themselves that the voice lies. I want them to laugh at the voice. Or better yet, not even hear it.

So there are a few steps that I’m taking that I hope will help.

I make a point to look in the mirror and say that I like my body. “I love my tiger stripes! They remind me of when you were in my belly!” or “I like my legs. I felt so strong today when we went on that bike ride.” I want them to know that it’s okay to look in the mirror and like what they see, and I also want them to take pride in what their body can do. So I set the example.

I don’t talk about weight or weight loss around them. The only time we talk about weight is in terms of them growing. “Look how much you grew!” And realistically, that doesn’t come up except at the doctor’s office or in the locker room of the gym after swim lessons and they beg to step on it because it’s neat and they want to see if they’ve grown. Now, admittedly, I am trying to trim up my figure a bit, but when I talk about that, I talk about it in terms of Mommy wanting to get stronger so I can keep up with them on their bikes and scooters.

With food, we talk about putting healthy food into our bodies, not restricting calories.

I never, ever criticize my body in front of them. I don’t want them to think it’s okay to talk to themselves like that.

I don’t know if this will help them, but I hope it will. I hope I’m inoculating them early against what they will see in magazines. I want my girls to grow up loving themselves just as much as I love them.

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Silly Mirror self image confindence

2016: A Year of Kindness

When 2016 rolled around, I decided deep in my heart that I wanted to make kindness a central priority in my life. There’s been so much cruelty and pain in the news, that I want to do my best in my own little way by making the world a better place. Even if I’m only able to do small things, sometimes those can make a difference, right? I hope so.

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. – Leo Buscaglia

I’ve been having to explain a lot of troubling things to my children. We see the heartbreaking news of the refugees from Syria who are fleeing for their lives and politicians here who say loudly that they are not worthy of our help and compassion. We see presidential candidates talking about building walls and shutting people out because of the way they worship or who they love. We see armed men breaking in and taking over public property waving guns and then bulldozing over archaeological sites and damaging fragile habitats. We’ve seen young people gunned down because of the color of their skin.

What this world needs is a new kind of army – the army of the kind. – Cleveland Amory

It’s been a lot to take in. And it’s hard explaining all of this to the girls. They have friends who are many different faiths and we are lucky enough that they go to a diverse school and preschool. For the Grasshopper especially, it’s hard for her to understand the cruelty directed at her friends. Quite honestly, I can’t understand it either, and I don’t know how to explain it other than to say that some people have ideas that we know to be very, very wrong.

Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world. – Desmond Tutu

How do we solve all of this? I don’t know. Obviously, there aren’t any easy answers.

I think, in part, the solution lies within each of us. I think each of us, in our own small ways, can make a difference. I think it starts with realizing and admitting when you’ve done something wrong and apologizing for it. I think it starts with a word of support when you see a parent stuck in a tough situation with a tantrum-y kid. It means standing up and speaking out with compassion if you see someone mistreating another person because of the color of their skin or their faith or who they love. It’s taking the time to ask someone how their day was and really listen to them.

Tenderness and kindness are not signs of weakness and despair, but manifestations of strength and resolution.
― Kahlil Gibran

Either way, I think it all of this has to add up somehow. We can do better than this. We have to choose to be the change we want to see. We have to choose to live with kindness.

Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have. – Margaret Mead

This is why, in 2016, I’m choosing kindness as my word to live by.

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I’m Ready, Mama – Independent Sleep

Cricket and I have co-slept from the beginning, and I’ve heard it all.

“You’ll never get her out of your bed.”

“You have to teach her to self-soothe.”

“She’s never going to sleep on her own.”

Yes, Cricket is four. She sleeps in a double bed in her room, and I sleep with her. I’ve heard all of the co-sleeping criticisms multiple times. I’ve been told over and over that I’ve ruined her ability to sleep.

But here’s the thing. I didn’t. And I can say that, not with a defensive glare, but with a serene smile, because here’s the truth, the honest truth:

Sleep is a developmental milestone. When a child is ready to fall asleep on their own, they will.

Sure, the AP books all say this, but it’s hard to believe when what seems like the entire world tries to convince you that sleep training is a necessity.

But it’s not just the books that say they will sleep on their own when they are ready. I’ve seen it with my own eyes with both children.

I nursed both of my babies to sleep every single night from the time they were born. Then, one day, at around 18 months, nursing stopped helping them fall asleep. They still nursed before bed, but it didn’t put them to sleep. After a strange and confusing week, both of my girls learned to nurse, lay down beside Mama, and fall asleep. On their own. There was never a need to teach self-soothing, whatever that is supposed to mean. No need to “train” them to sleep. They were ready. They knew sleep time was a time of comfort and peace, so they were able to lay down knowing they were safe and comforted.

But wait, some folks might say. You’re still sleeping in bed with them! How’s that going to work out?

With the Grasshopper, I got Hyperemesis Gravidarum. I never got the chance to find out whether she would be able to learn to sleep on her own because the sickness took away my night time parenting abilities. With Cricket, though, we’ve been able to go at her pace, and while I sometimes doubted, my trust in her ability to know when she was ready has paid off.

A few weeks ago, we were in the car coming home from the grocery store (because all big conversations seem to happen in the car), and Cricket announced that she wanted to fall asleep like a big girl. It was completely out of the blue. We were listening to the Frozen soundtrack and she just piped up with, “Mama, I’m ready to go to sleep like a big girl now.”

And she was. She likes patterns, so we do a pattern. Every other night, I tuck her in, kiss her head, and say goodnight. And that’s it. No training. No tears. She just closes her eyes and goes to sleep. She knows that if she needs me, I will come to her immediately, so she feels safe trusting that Mama will be right there.

To all the tired mamas out there, keep the faith. Trust your kids. They will get there. It’s hard sometimes, I know. Cricket used to wake hourly in the night some times. But it’s not a forever thing. It will pass. Cuddle those babies. It’s what they need.

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Things that don’t belong in noses…

This week my husband and I leveled up in parenting. Cricket snagged an apple from the fruit bowl Sunday night for a pre-dinner snack. I heard her give a little cough and glanced over to make sure she hadn’t started to choke. She stood there beside the table with her eyes wide and her arms stiff at her side.

“Honey, are you okay? Did you get some down the wrong pipe?”

“Is in my nose.”

“You got some apple up your nose?”

“No, da ticker.”

My brain kicked into overdrive for a few seconds trying to figure out what a ticker is.  “You’ve got a sticker in your nose? What sticker?”

“Da Apple ticker.”

“You rolled the apple sticker up and stuck it in your nose? Does it hurt?”

She nodded. I rubbed my face with my hands and tried not to panic. Visions of emergency room doctors with probes danced in my mind. I reminded myself that nose-stashing was bound to happen at some point. Thankfully, the sticker was shallow enough in her nasal cavity that I could see it with the flashlight.

Her dad trundled downstairs with the tweezers, and a moment later he had removed the offending label from her orifice. She grinned, did a little jig, and went back to eating her apple, leaving us to ponder what it is that makes a preschooler think that sticking and apple sticker up the nose would be a good idea.

Now according to the nifty book our pediatrician gave us when our first daughter was born, you’re not supposed to try to use tweezers to pull out objects from children’s noses. That can actually push the objects deeper. You’re supposed to have them gently blow it out.  But Cricket still doesn’t quite understand the difference between blowing and sniffing and the possibility that she would actually hork it back into the dark recesses of her sinuses were pretty high.  So we went with the tweezer route.

With a preschooler, there truly is never a dull moment.  They are just all id all the time with no reason whatsoever for most of the things they do.  It’s a wonder any of us make it past our 10th birthdays.  I hope this is the end of our nasal adventures, but I wonder what she has in store for us next.

Maturity is Like a Gate

This morning, while waiting for the bus, the Grasshopper looked up at me and said, “Mommy, I think our family would be better if we were only three.”

I knew she was talking about Cricket who is three and going through a tough time.  Last night, while my older daughter and I were trying to read before bed, an activity that is sacred to us, my little one shouted, shrieked, asked questions, blew raspberries, and generally did everything she could to interrupt reading time.  It was frustrating for all of us, most of all for the Grasshopper who felt the deep unfairness of the situation.  Why couldn’t she just have a few peaceful minutes of reading time with her mama?

This morning, though, my heart broke when I heard her words.  I wanted to put the words back in her mouth, to tell her to never say such a mean thing.  Instead, I took a deep breath and gave thanks for her trust in me.  How hard it must have been for her to entrust that dark secret to me?  I hugged her and struggled with a way to explain things to her.

This is what I told her:

Sometimes your brain has ideas on things that might be interesting to do or say.  But, you know, it’s not always a good idea to do or say those things.  Sometimes you look back after you make a choice and think, “I wish I had not done that.”  It’s like there is a gate in there, right?  That gate lets you make a choice to let some stuff out and keep some stuff in.

Three-year-olds don’t have a gate at all.  They just let everything out, whether or not it is the right thing to do at the time.  In a lot of ways, they can’t help it.  We help them build their gate by teaching them when their behavior is appropriate and when it is not.  Just like when we helped you build your gate.

You’ve got a pretty good gate right now, don’t you think?  It helps you to behave in appropriate ways and make the right choices about what you say and do.  Sure, sometimes stuff slips through even when you’re trying to hold it closed.  Like yesterday when you did the crazy dance before bed and got in trouble for being too loud at bedtime, remember?  And I will let you in on a secret.  Adults have gates, too.  Sometimes my gate lets the wrong thing out and I make choices that I shouldn’t make.  We own our gates, and we need to keep a careful eye on when we open them to let things out and when we close them.

We will keep helping your sister build her gate, and I promise things will get better.

 

kindness

Toddlers and Tonsillectomies and Things to be Thankful For

Cricket had her tonsils out a few weeks ago. It was a stressful time for our family and things have been pretty crazy.

Thankfully, the surgery went well and she has bounced back quickly. Too quickly! Keeping a toddler quiet for two weeks has been difficult. We’ve played lots of games, colored lots of pictures, and watched way too many cartoons.

During this recovery period, I’ve discovered that I have lots to be thankful for. Our overnight hospital stay really drove that home.

At the start of our stay, I felt sorry for myself and for Cricket. How awful it was that my baby was having surgery. How hard for her and for us. I will admit that I spent a few hours wallowing a bit.

But the reality is this: Time in a Children’s Hospital puts things into perspective pretty quickly.

While Cricket slept, and I was alone with my thoughts, I thought about how lucky we were.  A deep feeling of gratitude quickly overcame the self-pity I felt.

I’m thankful for so many things.

I’m thankful for a stellar medical team who took wonderful care of Cricket during her surgery and hospital stay.

I’m thankful for my family who came to be with us during the surgery. I’m thankful for my Mother-in-Law who stepped into my shoes at home and cared for my family and home while I focused on Cricket.  And my Father-in-Law who played with the Grasshopper and helped her to feel special while her sister was getting so much attention.  And my mom who was willing to drop everything to come help, but equally willing to let my Mother-in-Law step in to help, too.

I’m thankful for a circle of friends who shared with me their experiences, checked on us, and kept back the things they knew would frighten me.

I’m thankful that I have a job that allowed me to be with her the entire time.

Most of all, I am thankful that we all came home together, healthier than we started.

Surgery on my Baby

On Monday, my little Cricket is having her tonsils and adenoids out.  I know it needs to be done, but it sure isn’t easy.

Before this year, I thought that tonsillectomies were for older kids who had strep throat a lot.  I wasn’t really aware of any of my peers having it done, so I never knew much about it.  As it turns out, there can be a variety of reasons for removing tonsils and adenoids, with infections being only one of those reasons.

Since she was born, Cricket has always been a stuffy kid.  When she was a newborn, I called her my little bulldog because she would snort and snuffle and grunt and snore just like an English bulldog.

This January, the snoring became much worse.  It stopped being cute and quirky and started disrupting both of our sleep.  I felt silly calling the doctor to complain about it.  I mean, can you really take your kid in to the doctor for snoring?

Yes.  You can and you should.

As it turns out, she has sleep apnea.  As she sleeps, her muscles relax, allowing her very swollen tonsils to come together and block her airway.  She will snore for a period of time before the airway closes complete, jolting her awake.  I spend my nights adjusting her body, lifting her head to make sure her neck is extended and the airway is as wide as possible, pulling her shoulders back to open her chest, and repositioning her arms so they don’t dig into her neck.

Neither of us are getting much sleep, and I have this constant fear that I will sleep through an obstructive episode and she will just die from positional asphyxiation.  At this time, we cannot allow her to fall asleep in her carseat because her head slumps forward and she cannot get oxygen.  Her ribcage caves in as she struggles for air.  It is frightening.

The image above shows her sleeping in her stroller which is not an option now because of how restricted her airway is.

I know that this must be done, but still I am frightened.  I would appreciate any prayers and loving thoughts that you might have for her and her doctors.

If any of you have ever done this before, I sure would love tips for the healing period.  Is there anything you wish someone would have told you going into this?

Pronouns, Gender, and Feeling like an Outsider

A few months ago, I read an article about a mother who read The Hobbit to her daughter. The little girl insisted that Bilbo Baggins was, in fact, a girl, and, after some discussion, the mother agreed and began reading the story as if Bilbo was a women, changing the pronouns appropriately.

Initially, I recoiled at this. I’m somewhat of a literary purist, and Tolkien ranks up there, for me, as some of the finest works around. Certainly, his work is the basis for almost all modern fantasy. Changing his work is like changing… the Bible or something. You just don’t do it.

But the more I thought, the more I wondered, “Why not?” How does having Bilbo as a female change the dynamic of the story? Wouldn’t a female Bilbo be an exciting adventure story for our little girls to connect to? Isn’t this what I ask for over and over in stories? A rollicking adventure with a dynamic female lead who isn’t concerned with finding a darn prince for once?

The more I thought, the more I wanted to give it a try. So I did. For the past few months, I have been switching the gender pronoun of the main characters in all of Cricket’s stories. I tried it with the Grasshopper once, but she can read and quickly and firmly corrected me.

It has been an interesting experiment. Hearing the female pronouns over and over is jarring. It has gotten me thinking about how othering our language is. The default for everything is male. That can leave non-males feeling like outsiders and that’s not good.

Slowly, I’ve been getting used to hearing and saying female pronouns. It doesn’t feel as awkward as it did at first. I take that as a positive sign that thought patterns can be changed.

Words are powerful and I want the words my daughters grow up hearing to be about them. I don’t want them growing up feeling like outsiders.

Drastic Steps: Facebook Detox

Tonight I did something dramatic. I deleted the Facebook apps from both of my iPads, removed the links and shortcuts from my computer, and posted a note telling people to call me or email me.

I’m setting a trial period. 3 weeks with no Facebook. I’m looking at it as a social experiment, but really I need to get it out of the way because it’s really interfering with my ability to be present with my children. Plus, I am sick of the drama brought to me by people I don’t know in real life and wouldn’t recognize if they walked past me on the street.

This evening, while watching Nickelodeon with the kids, there was a commercial with all these kids in amazing situations: camping, in a treehouse, at the beach, and you know what that commercial was for? Nintendo DS. Instead of enjoying the world around them and the amazing places they were blessed enough to be able to go to, they had their faces crammed into a video game. Like it was a good thing! I felt sick seeing that. I don’t want that for my kids.

I guess you could say this whole thing was inspired by one of my hyperemesis gravidarum sisters who recently left Facebook. I thought the idea had merit, but I was too afraid to cut loose.

Tonight sealed the deal for me though, if you don’t mind the horrible cliche. It’s been an awful day. Road construction kept Cricket from napping at all. She’s been cranky and miserable all day. Tonight, I’ve been completely exhausted and tuned out. The Grasshopper was in the tub and Cricket was running around, so I decided to pop in and check Facebook. Well, that turned into way, way too long of me sitting around doing God only knows what for God only knows how long. Seriously, what do you do on Facebook that takes that long anyway? How many Upworthy links, Sherlock gifs, and circumcision arguments can you read anyway?

During the time that I was farting around on Facebook, I heard them playing and reasoned that as long as they were laughing, it was all good. How wrong I was. I came into the bathroom to discover that the Grasshopper had poured several gallons of water from the tub onto the floor, telling her sister that the dog had peed. Cricket, who gets upset when the (elderly and incontinent) dog pees on the floor, was mopping it up with every single washcloth in the house. Not cool. I could not believe how much water was on the floor.

I ended up yelling really bad at the Grasshopper (not something I’m proud of), and having to mop up the whole mess, carry it downstairs, and run a load of laundry. She is grounded from TV through the weekend, which is a bummer because there is a Ninja Turtles marathon on.

And you know what? If I had just been present with them, none of this would have happened.

So goodbye Facebook. I’m just not able to have you in my life right now. I can’t be a good parent with you stealing my attention and I can’t seem to break away from your hypnotic grasp.

My plan is to start with 3 weeks. 3 weeks cold turkey. From there, I will see what happens. I will severely limit my feed to people I know in real life or people who I regularly have positive interactions with. I plan to reduce the number of groups I’m in pretty severely, too.

It’s going to be hard. I usually use Facebook as a way to make contact with my friends and plan outings with my mommy buddies, so I will have to work harder to keep from getting isolated. I’m also in a few how-to groups for cooking that I use fairly actively. But you know what? I have lots of cookbooks, and if I can find my phone, well, then I can get together with my friends that way.

As a final note, the irony of deleting Facebook and then immediately blogging about it isn’t lost on me. I’m trying to find other ways to find the balance I seek in my life and find healthier outlets for my energy.