Infectiously Happy

Four small Ways to Instill Confidence in Small Children. 

Super Flying Palmer... Courageous. Assured. Free.
Super Flying Palmer… Courageous. Assured. Free.

Recently Palmer told me that some other kids didn’t like him. My heart broke. I know that everyone can’t like him. There is always going to be someone that doesn’t like you. But, um, I think he is awesome so I had a little lump in my throat. I went in for further understanding. I mean, I need to know why I might fight someone. LOL. Just kidding, kinda. So he told me that the “mean guys” didn’t like him and they told him so. When I asked him how he felt about it he said, “It makes me sad.”  Cue all the feelings. I then asked him, “Do you like you?” I wasn’t ready for his answer. “Yes mama, of course! I love me!!!” So I asked, ” Do they ever hurt you physically?” And he replied, “No, because I know how to keep myself safe. I wouldn’t let them just hurt me.” That’s when the room got dusty and the dust got in my eyes. I sat with our conversation for a bit. As I said in the beginning, our “likeability” is fleeting. Wanting to be liked has held me in bondage, stifled the truth and prolonged my involvement with interactions that were not serving my best self. I have been slowly, over years, shedding that need to be liked but it’s hard. I don’t want to pass that on. On another layer, because I am raising two BLACK people in a world that is consisently devaluing our experience, I have sincere intention around making sure they know their worth. In all things, I have no control over anyone but myself. I do have control over how I interact with them. I control how I will affirm them. I control whether or not I give them agency over their minds and bodies. I am working hard every day to show them they are capable, powerful and important, even at three and one year old. We can take small steps in our daily lives to give them a confident outlook on their experience. Just a few ways…

Give them responsibilities. Somewhere, somehow, the lie started that children can’t grasp responsibility. Every day, Palmer has jobs. Small jobs, that I can easily do, usually much quicker but I need him to know what it feels like to take care of something. Sometimes his jobs are convenient for him, like putting his shoes in the basket when we come into the house. Sometimes his jobs are not his favorite, like putting away his toys before bed, when he still wants to play. That is real life. Even at three, he understands what he is supposed to take care of. He gets responsibility. He may even go off if you try to take care of it for him because somewhere inside, his little soul has pride in getting it done himself. As he grows, as Duke grows, they get bigger jobs. And eventually I am swinging in a  hammock while they make me smoothies and sweep the kitchen. Just (kinda) kidding.

Let them create.  I am not talking about a pinterest project. I mean let them create their own entertainment, help with meals, create their own fun. We can be overbearing in our need to make “fun” activities or keep them from making a mess. Let them make messes. Let them see what they can do, what their efforts can bring forth. It may take longer. Make time for them. They deserve our time. The greatest fun I see Palmer have is when he is making his own food or playing a game that only he knows the rules to. He has a things for paper airplanes and origami that makes mail or my writing notes unsafe. The joy I see when he is immersed in his own versions of meditation through play are inspiring.

Listen to them. Even if they do not yet have words. Listen to the sounds, pay attention to their body language. Feel the energy they are giving you. They know what feels good, what they want. We can allow them to say no. It is how we teach them to keep themselves safe and listen to themselves. Palmer is old enough (physically and mentally) to tell me alot about himself. I remind myself constantly to plug into what he is really saying to me. Even with Duke, who is just finding words, those little screams are his way of communicating. I vocalize that I am listening, even if what they don’t like, getting a diaper change or seatbelt, is needed. I will tell them, “I hear you.” “I see that you don’t like ____ .” If I can adjust the situation to be more pleasing, I do. For me that is about letting them know that their discomfort is important and their experiene is valued. Try showing that to grown ups, it’s much harder work.

Check our egos. They are not ours. They came through us, but they belong to themselves. We would serve them and ourselves to remember that. Our behavior has to reflect that they are small humans and not property. We have to treat them with the same respect we require because from day one they are learning what it means to be treated kindly and humanely from us. It can be hard to walk in this truth because as parents we don’t want to be judged harshly if our child is not listening our crying in public. That is our ego. The reality is that your child will not listen. They are going to do things that may embarass you or make others uncomfortable. They are learning in each moment, so they aren’t trying to manipulate you. Most likely thay are asking for help or expressing overwhelming feelings.  We have to make sure that our interactions with them are not being fueled by fear, anger and ego. Violence (Read: spanking, popping, physical intimidation) have no place in raising confident humans. It serves the purpose of breaking, training and controlling through fear and pain. You cannot build someone up and break them down at the same time. Our ego is easily bruised, even as parents. We have to be willing to check it and interact from a place of understanding and ease.

 

Just small steps that can leave a big impact. I know because my mama parented me this way. This is my intentional legacy to them. My dedication as a mother is to free, empowered, confident people who can trust themselves.

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Trigger Words

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I was driving down the street a few weeks ago, just before Duke was born and I saw the sign for a local hospice. I pulled over and wept bitterly. Last week, while binge watching a show with my husband there was a scene where someone was dying from cancer. I couldn’t look at the screen.  I’m sharing because I have come to the realization on my own journey through grief that I have some trigger words that bring up all kinds of pain for me. Just to hear them is like a dagger in my heart, bringing up ever ounce of heartache about my Aunt’s death. Day to day I navigate this well but sometimes, it’s hard and I end up in an empty parking lot with a snotty nose. The logical, yogic part of me… the part that knows this doesn’t have to be the end of the story also knows that my healing begins in my own mind. Energy flows where your attention goes. I want my energy to flow towards joys, towards love, towards light filled remembrance. So instead of those trigger words, I thought, “Hey, what if I made a list of words that refocus my attention?” I decided to make a list so lush and full that it oozes of the things that make my heart sing. Maybe it’s silly. Maybe not because in the few days since I started building it, its become a sort of salve for my spirit. And because I feel like sharing is caring, here are my new trigger words:

Palmer
Duke
Christian
O’neill
Saint Lucia
June 12
Sushi
Yoga
Columbus Ohio
My mama
Zip lining
Turks and Caicos
Independence Air
Grandpa
Nightingale Lane
Revolution EGO
Sister friends
Teaching yoga
Inglewood, CA
Day trips
Meditation
Cooking
Birthday adventures
Museum dates
Bike riding
Grand Canyon
Snorkeling
Saint Martin
Waterfalls
Aunt Patrice

So my goal is to keep adding. They are words, places,  names that remind me of the fullness of my own experience to at least bring back the balance when I feel drawn to the less pleasant side of my own feelings. Balance: the ultimate goal. I would love to see your “trigger words”. Let them fill you up, comfort you and inspire you to focus your precious energy on the light in your own life… Feel free to share in my comments!

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Packing My Bag.

delivery bag (1)We are just over a week out from the anticipated arrival of our next little one. A son. I am so excited about meeting this little guy, but right now I am downright exhausted from chasing my passions and chasing after Palmer. As of today he is neatly tucked up with no intentions of coming down anytime soon.  We have gotten things ready around our house, my mother in law arrives tomorrow, my maternity leave began last week and I have begun the process of preparing my bag for my impending hospital stay. Last time I had a bunch of stuff I didn’t need and I had to send Frenchie home a few times to grab some things that were essential for my stay. This being my second time at the rodeo, I figured I would share some of the things I am definitely taking with me.

  • Real Food. So is it just me or is the food in hospitals suspect in the make-you-feel-better department? Salty chicken broth, gelatin and starches make my tummy ache just thinking about them. I definitely need something to help me get my strength up and sustain me. I already placed an order for cold pressed, organic juice from my favorite, Happy Apple Juicery. If I have to be confined to the hospital, I want to at least be filling my body with something delicious and good for me.
  • Boob Friendly but Equally Cute Lounge Wear. I would like to let you know that I am queen of the mumu or caftan. Pregnant or not, I love the subtle and effortless beauty of a flowing silky, printed drape. I am so very fortunate to be surrounded by talented folks and my sister-friend Kenya made me a beautiful wax print nursing caftan when I had Palmer. Two years (and hundreds of nursing sessions) later it is still as comfy as ever. I will be bringing it and the new one she is crafting with me to the hospital so I can look regal for visitors and on IG and FB, but also get to the milk bar!
  • Nipple Love. This is essential. Those sweet babies come out and will tear a hole in your nipple if you aren’t careful. They will offer you all kinds of lanolin, but I personally have sensitive skin and when it was offered to me at Palmer’s birth I couldn’t do most of its ingredients, on top of being cautious about what was going to be up against my little Palmer’s mouth. Luckily another mom had hipped me to “Motherlove”. It isn’t going to take away that initial discomfort of the two of you learning how to navigate latching but it does offer relief in between, helping with healing from blisters and cuts and the all natural ingredients are of little concern for sensitive skin and little baby mouths.
  • Moisure.  Maybe it’s just me but the hospital is the driest place ever. While I am there I always feel like sandpaper. My skin is dry, hair is dry, lips dry… I do have a quick solution though. Jane Carter’s Nourish and Shine. I can use it on every square inch of my body, it smells great and replenishes all the moisture that seems to be sucked out of my body during a hospital stay.
  • Peace and Harmony. Literally. It is a wonderful blend by NOW essential oils… Because child birth, or rather the chaos of family dynamics, doctors, nurses, sleeplessness and more can get the energy out of order!  My bestie Tinesha introduced me to this beautiful blend during the summer. I wear it almost daily and it will be in my bag for generous application as needed!
  • Milk Machine. During the birth of Palmer we had some unexpected occurrences that ended in Palmer spending some time in the NICU. Read more about that here. For several days I was unable to hold or nurse him while they stabilized his condition. I really wanted to make sure he was getting the best source of nutrition, so I started pumping right away but had to depend on the hospital supplied breast pump for the first couple of sessions. I had a pump at home, but hadn’t thought to bring it. My hubby went home for it on his first opportunity, but this time I will be bringing it along just in case. The hospital supplies were clean and sanitary, but their pump was attached to a stand that required I be sitting upright, almost on the edge of the bed, was so loud and I had to wheel it down to the NICU to sit near P. I have the Medela Freestyle which is a little bigger than a cell phone, works great but quietly and can be used in the bed, car or anywhere else with ease.

So of course I will have comfy panties and my phone charger, but these essentials are going to add some comfort to my exciting adventure next week! I am pretty sure the next time I share with you I will be snuggling up to my new baby. Congrats to all the new mamas who check this out. I appreciate all the love and encouragement that has been shared with our family leading up to this time. See you on the other side of this adventure called childbirth!

 

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Raising Boys is Gross.


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In a few weeks, I will welcome a second son. And to answer ahead of time, it’s unlikely I will “try for a girl”. I wasn’t disappointed.  I am all about everything happening exactly as it should. I am supposed to be mothering two sons. In my short time in this role, I have come to the understanding that the raising of sons is gross but more like disgusting and it has nothing to do with my actual children. I am a woman, raised by another woman so I know the truth of what we face in the expectations and limitations of how we are socialized. I have though, come to a whole new understanding of what it means to try and raise boys to men in a society so consumed with outdated ideas of what makes a man…

Men shouldn’t cry. Do you know how much it kills me to hear parents say to their sons, “stop crying, you’re being a baby?!” So everyone, even grown men, have tear ducts meaning everyone is designed to cry. It’s actually scientifically proven to be a stress reducing and cleansing operation both physically and mentally.  Somewhere along the way it was invented that crying is a lesser emotion so as a man it shouldn’t be done. I call malarkey. I actually make space for it. Palmer you are crying? Let’s talk about why. Come to me so you can be comforted. Let’s actually use this moment to learn more about you. How in the hell is it helpful to teach our sons to suppress a natural body function to perpetuate a false idea of manhood?

Your worth is tied to what you do. Or who you love. Or what you wear. I want to raise fearless, free humans. I refuse to teach them that they have to curtail their passions, their interests and their life’s work or decisions to a mold of worldly standards. Go to these schools,  get these kinds of jobs, buy all the things so the world can see how manly you are… This thinking creates unhappy drones, living lives of suffering.  When I talk to my grown sons I want to hear light and inspiration in their voices. I want them to be so happy with themselves that they make the world around them a better place. It starts at a young age by encouraging your children to create and play on their own. Actually exposing them to things broader than your own interests or letting them play just for the enjoyment of it creates space for them to discover passions and life interests. The focus on what you memorized or what score you got on a test, just reinforces the warped idea that success is measured by trivialities.

Women are here for your entertainment. Or conquest. Or to serve you. And the only way I can do that is by being a real woman with flaws and honesty. By becoming the highest version of myself,  loving myself and lifting other women up I hope to show my sons that women are humans with equal capabilities, goals and contributions. Connect with a woman, knowing that she is complex and worthy of engagement on intellectual and spiritual planes.

It all makes you gay. Playing with dolls or expressing interest in “girl toys” is not a life changing thing. Dance classes and playing in your mother’s things is not an early indicator of anything. Children learn through engagement and observation. I want my sons to know how to gently care for a baby because one day they may have a family and I want them to be the type of loving father they are growing up with. If they are talented in dancing, fashion design or anything else deemed “feminine”, I am here for it because it doesn’t make you gay!   And get ready to clutch your pearls… you dont control who your children will be when they grow up. You do contribute to how they will navigate life. Will they be able to trust you enough to come to you? Will they feel loved and supported instead of tolerated should they live and love differently than you?  File this under “things you should know about me”: being homophobic is the quickest way to ensure your exposure to my children will be cut. I won’t do it. I don’t know who they will love and for the sake of all possibilities I am not going to let you poison their thinking against others based on foolishness.

We are all multifaceted. We are all having very human experiences. I want my sons to know they are more than earnings, sexual conquests and dumbed down emotions and experiences. It’s disgusting that for some it’s going to seem weird or strange. As a fearless and free mama, I am willing to take the risk in the spirit of nurturing whole individuals with a life that exudes love, truth and joy.

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10 reasons you may love Tulum

IMG_20151218_201440After a very crazy fall, Frenchie and I decided that a family getaway was in order. We lost two beloved family members in a short amount of time, had been working opposite schedules and we were heading into the end of my pregnancy and probably several months without being able to travel. We needed some time to unplug and reconnect our little family. Palmer’s birthday was approaching and after some research we decided to head to the town of Tulum for just shy of a week.  It was exactly what we needed!  Our vacationing has had to change in some ways to accommodate naps (for little people and pregnant ladies) and car seats but some things remain true,  we like to be in quiet places, with beautiful water, delicious food and have a chance for adventure. Here’s the top ten things I loved about Tulum that may make it perfect for your next vacation…

1. You understand that dinner is best enjoyed under the stars. Every meal is basically offered al fresco. Even restaurants that are mostly indoors have a completely open front so you can enjoy the sunshine or moonlight, sounds of the street or beauty of the surrounding beach and jungle.

2. You are on a smoothie challenge. The smoothie game in Tulum is lit. Every restaurant has various and interesting options available all day made fresh with local produce. I don’t even know how many smoothies I had but I enjoyed every last one!

3. You want to be appreciated as a vegetarian /vegan diner. I have been about this vegetarian life for a minute so I can go out and make a meal, no worries but Tulum is busting at the seams with options for those of us that have a plant based diet. There are mulitple plant based restaurants and even steakhouses had 3-4 options that have nothing to do with steak.

4. You like your sand like baby powder. There is nothing like soft power sand under your feet next to crystal clear water. These two things can make me love a place all by themselves.  We spent most of our beach life at Playa Paraiso which was quiet with a great little beach club. The sand was truly like baby powder so we enjoyed building sand castles, walking the shoreline and just plain chilling most afternoons.

5. You like to eat well but on the cheap. Oh to always have access to such fresh, real food in such plentiful portions without depleting my pockets! This family likes to eat so we always have a substantial eating allowance, but Tulum didn’t break the bank. We basically ate all day and I would be amazed at how much delicious food could be devoured for so little dineros.

6. You don’t do big resorts. I love people but when I am on vacation I like to be around as few people as possible.  For this reason I prefer small hotels or even a local residence. Tulum is perfect,  it is home to boutique hotels and rent-able houses and condos. We rented a little apartment with a pool and a rooster across the street.

7. You are a bicycle enthusiast. To reach Tulum, most folks fly into Cancun and either rent a car or take a shuttle for the hour and half drive. It’s a straight shot and we rented a car to accommodate car seats and pregnant ladies. (Note: Car seats are not required in most states in Mexico as long as your child is in the back seat, but uh, that’s not how I roll) Once you arrive in Tulum, the most popular mode of transportation is by bicycle. They are for rent everywhere for low prices and the streets are wide enough, with drivers respecting pedestrians on foot or two wheels.

8. You like clean facilities. I have a secret. I am easily grossed out. Wet leaves… food in the sink drain… dirty bathrooms. It’s something that I would like to say I am working on but the truth is, it gets worse as I age. Whenever traveling, a part of me knows that I will be exposed to less than stellar facilities and I just do what I have to do but I was pleasantly surprised the entire time I was in Tulum. The bathrooms everywhere were, at least in appearance, much cleaner than I am used to in the public. Many even had attendants to keep everything on the up and up. One small thing to remember: in Tulum they often ask you not to throw any paper, even toilet paper, into the toilet. There is usually a sign and a trash receptacle for your rubbish.

9. You like paradise with a side of history. One of the things that deeply bonded Frenchie and I is our love of history, one of the others in a love of beautiful beaches. Tulum is a perfect combination of both. The city itself is the site of the archaeological ruins of the Mayan city of Tulum, the only city of its kind uncovered. It sits majestically over looking the sea with the jungle at its back. Additionally, just about an hour away, you can easily reach the city of Coba, which is home to the tallest Mayan temple in Mexico and is the start of a major trading highway across the Yucatan. Coba sits deep in the jungle and has only been partially uncovered. We spent part of two different days, wandering and learning at both sites.

10. You seek a kid friendly but not kid centered experience. I love my baby. He is a very important part of my life. He is not, however, the center of the universe or of our vacation plans. Palmer has been hitting the road (or air) for his entire two years so he adapts well to travel. Tulum was interesting because no one was bothered by our toddler, in restaurants or at beach clubs, but sometimes there were no high chairs, definitely no kiddie pools or playgrounds. We are readily raising a person who knows how to have fun everywhere and I loved how kind and friendly folks were to us as a family. Sometimes I run into grown ups who forget that children can eat in a restaurant or have the right to fly on planes. We were informed upon arrival that not many children visit Tulum, but everywhere we went Palmer was treated like the human he is. Our hosts even provided a life vest for our adventuring.

So that’s Tulum. The trip provided us with much needed time together and I would recommend it to anyone looking for an inexpensive and quiet piece of paradise.

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