Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Advice Required - Self-Esteem in Young Girls... My Girl

My first-born will celebrate her 8th birthday next month. It's a landmark age, when she leaves behind her early childhood and takes one step toward adolescence. Surprisingly, I find my eyes tearing and my heart clenching as I write this.

I didn't expect that. Nor did I expect to be delving into researching how I can build her self-esteem and help her develop a healthy body-image at this stage in my parenting journey.

I've always intended to raise my children with strong, healthy self-esteem. I know that a child's internal sense of security is what assures parents that they'll make the right choices for themselves as they navigate those wondrous, often treacherous tween and teen years.

Before having children I was certain I'd sail flawlessly through that goal and raise amazingly confident, secure daughters. Then you have them and you realize parenting isn't that easy. In the grand scheme of parenting, having a baby is easy, caring for a newborn is easy, toddler tantrums... well, they pass.

Every age, every phase has it's challenges, but this is the first time I'm scared. I'm scared because I see signs in my amazing, intelligent, beautiful daughter that I never thought I'd see.

"Are you sure my face doesn't look a little fat, Mom?" she asked on the way home from school one day last week. A few days later she demonstrated very clear anxiety that her tummy looks puffier than normal. Let me assure you, since I don't post many photographs of my girls, she is the picture of perfect health.

And I've always been very proud of her for the healthy food choices she makes... but now, I wonder...

It isn't just body image that has me concerned, either. Occasionally, she'll lose her temper with her sister - the benchmark of normal sibling-hood, of course - and she'll pinch or hit. I'm not as concerned with that behavior as I am her reaction of screaming and crying that she's so stupid and running away and hiding. This one's had me worried for a while, but I'd hoped if I stayed cool it would fade into distant memory.

It's challenging to comfort the hurt child and calm her at the same time. I haven't always handled myself nearly as well as I wish I had. I haven't always been the best mom, but every single time I have ever lost my temper and acted like a crazy woman instead of a calm, compassionate mommy, I have apologized. I have made certain to tell them that when I lose my control, it is more about me than them.

I'm not a praise junkie, but I don't withhold it either. Oh gosh, can you believe how our children's issues get us questioning ourselves? I swear Motherhood has been my own biggest challenge in confidence! .

I have no worries with my Sweet Rose. She has the confidence of a Queen! It makes me wonder how two girls raised of the same parents can feel so differently about themselves. And what do I do? I feel like I have at most a year or two to get her on the right track; to change her self-talk and encourage her to develop a deep love for herself or we could be facing real trials a few years down the road.

So, I'm asking for some help, dear readers. First, tell me, anonymously if necessary, if and when your own self-esteem issues began and what they were. What's your best tip for promoting a healthy self-esteem in your children? And anything else you feel might help!

Now, as I usually do when faced with a challenge... I'm headed to the library. There is research to be done.

PS: I've signed up as an affiliate with the program on the banner. If I get 3 purchases I'll be able to take the course myself! So, please share! Share! Share! It's a great resource for parents and teaches alike and no, you don't need to start a new career or get certified! ;) 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Night is Here - The Boy's Bedtime Lullaby

Night is here, Day is done
Time for bed, Little One

Quiet now, Not a peep
Close your eyes, Off to sleep

I've written a song for each one of my babies and I still sing to them almost every night. This one is The Boy's. It's short and the simple, but hey, he was my 3rd in just over 4 years. He's lucky he got a song! When he's just on the verge of sleep I extend it with some humming and repeat it. An energetic 3-year-old sometimes needs a little extra help to settle down.

I love to sing. I sang in choirs from the time I was 12 years old until I had children. Since I couldn't justify (though it would have been justified) leaving them to go to evening rehearsals, I simply turned my singing attention to them and for a while taught Kindermusik.

Our nightly rituals of stories and song are a special time together that I'll miss when they eventually tell me to stop. I've already been through it once with The Boy...

Last summer the children stayed with my parents frequently as my husband and I packed and prepared for our move. Nightly phone calls kept our song tradition alive. Then, once we were all moved out and staying together at my childhood home before the big move, I was able to sing and cuddle with them in person again.

One night, when I started singing The Boy his song and he interrupted. He held his hand out signalling me to stop and said, quite firmly, "Mama! Don't ever sing that song to me again!"

I was crushed! Fortunately, my solid sense of humor allowed me to laugh and share the story with my whole family. The Boy stayed firm in his decision for months. Then, just as winter settled in, he asked me to sing to him again. Happily, I do every night... (that he lets me).

Want to hear how it goes? Press play. Then you can sing it to your babies!

This post was inspired by Mama Kat's Pretty Much World Famous Writer's Workshop!  I'm linking up with her. Are you? 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Big Dreams, Little Dreams - Perfect Fulfillment Found in the Kitchen and Garden

20 Cherry Tomato Plants and
I still have more!
It's a perfect spring day. The sun is shining brightly, the sky is blue, the bees are buzzing, birds are chirping and I am one with my tomato plants.

I have big dreams for my writing, my Passion Test certification and becoming a speaker inspiring women all over the world.

Yet, I have a quiet, little dream to spend my days gardening and baking bread. Spring brings with it a longing to cultivate new life. No baby fever here, just vegetable and herb fever!

There's almost nothing more satisfying as plucking fragrant, tasty herbs from my own garden and making homemade bread (no machine, please) is nearly as empowering as child birth. I'm serious.

Secretly, I think I'd be perfectly blissful taking over the reigns of my mother's greenhouse. In the spring and summer, a gardening haven and into the Autumn months with an addition of a selection of freshly baked breads, homemade flavored oils, hummus and the goods to serve them up with beautiful presentation.

Last year I had 36 Basil plants on my deck.
Maybe I'll top that this year!

For now, I'll have to be content with a backyard garden of my own. I picked up a few seed packets and trays from the pound store (dollar store) and here we are.

I still have more tomato plants growing in a bunch, too small to transplant yet. Pictured on the right is my Basil. I love Basil so much it's nearly an obsession.

Not pictured are the Majoram, Thyme, Chives, Garlic Chives Mint, Dill... oh, and an apple tree that Sweet Rose is growing from a standard old apple seed.
What will I do with all of these gorgeous tomatoes and herbs when they're ready? Bake a lot of bread to go with them! Bruschetta on a slice of this (my latest creation to the left)? Yum!

Or herb breads served up with a bit of Olive Oil... Heaven. Pure heaven.

What are you growing this summer?

Monday, April 22, 2013

Happiness on the Inside

I realized one day that I wasn't happy. No matter what joyful moments appeared in my life, when they faded, so did my happiness. I searched and searched hoping that something, someone might make me happy.

Make Vs. Choice

A couple of months ago I began my NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) training and learning about the grip our subconscious minds have on our reality. That every detail, every event in our lives is documented and stored in our brains. Things you can't consciously recall are there. Every. Single. Thing. And it all effects how we perceive the world.

I also re-learned something I already knew - that our feelings are just our chosen reactions to our thoughts. That's right. Event + Thoughts about event = Feelings.

No one and nothing can make you anything. Your husband can't make you mad, you choose to respond with anger. Your children can't make you shout. You choose to respond by shouting. Life and bills and traffic can't make you feel anything - you choose to.

With this knowledge, one can begin to choose a different response. Which is great, but there's more to it.

Confidence Vs. Self-Love/Worth

There is confidence and then there is self-love or self-worth. Confidence is a state or behavior. You can achieve a state of confidence at any given time it is required. You confidently tie your shoes, confidently toast your bread, you confidently drive your car. You know you can do these things and you do them with confidence.

An NLP coach can even "anchor" confidence within you, so if you're not feeling confident and you'd like to, you just use the anchor and boom! You're feeling confident again! Now you can go give that speech or ask for a pay raise without the jitters.

But you can't anchor self-love. You can't just snap your fingers and feel like you have value in this world. I think of it like an umbrella in the rain. The rain is all of the doubts, the criticisms, the negativity that you or others shower on yourself. The umbrella is self-love or self-worth. The bigger your umbrella, or the more you love yourself, the drier you'll stay.

I kept thinking, how can I stay dry if it just keeps pouring down on me? Then I started practicing self-love. Yes, if you don't know how to do something, you have to practice until you are proficient. There are tools and coaches -just like with a sport.

My tools are EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique), Guided Meditation/Hypnosis (not like the magic show kind ;) and "I am" affirmations. My coaches are the many teachers I've listened to interviews with on Your Life Without Limits and The Aware Show. They are the voices on the meditation and hypnosis recordings I listen to - Chris Howard (my NLP trainer), Bob Proctor (Law of Attraction expert) and Lisa Nichols (author and speaker extraordinaire), among others.

Happiness Comes From Within

That's what they say, but do you really get it? I didn't. Now I do.

After nearly 3 months or more of practicing, I've achieved proficiency. I'm experiencing a feeling within myself that I probably haven't had since I was a kid. A true, deep and profound love for myself and it is such a peaceful feeling. It feels right. It feels good, just like love should.

*** You can find my favorite meditation by Lisa Nichols on an App called Omvana here. I am not being compensated for this post. This post is sponsored solely by my heart and my desire for every woman, man and child to have a deep and steady love for themselves. Imagine the world then?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

3 Little Spirits

There is a story I tell my little ones of how they came to me. You see, I’ve always known, just known, that I would have three children; two girls and a boy, in that order.

I could feel them all around me – 3 little spirits – just waiting. Then it was my turn to wait. Their papa and I were finally ready for them, but they just wouldn't come to me. One day, after we’d been hoping for a baby for a long time, I was browsing through a book on Greek Mythology and I came across a name I’d never heard before.

The name. Her name. I knew in that moment that I had discovered the name of my first daughter. Two weeks later we learned that I was finally pregnant. It was as if she had just been waiting for me to find it.

Last week, my grandmother died after 101 years of glorious life. One night, a few days later, I was tucking in The Boy. In his sweet, 3-year-old voice, he told me she was a spirit now and that she could protect us, just like, “…we did when we were 3 little spirits, protecting you and Papa.”

My 3 Little Spirits (Autumn 2012)

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A Disconnected Yo-Yo

The past week has been a yo-yo of highs and lows. One week ago my beloved grandmother died. My internet and phone line died the same day. At that time, my mobile phone was also down and I had no access to phone, email or internet. All except for a spare mobile I keep minutes on, thank goodness, just in case.  

My husband was away and my children were still on their break, as here they had two full weeks off after Easter. Losing the internet was both a blessing and a curse. I couldn't post anything, yet I did some writing.

The girls couldn't play their favorite online game (Moshi Monsters), yet that gave them more time to play creatively. That they did! We hit the library for loads of books and the English equivalent to the Dollar Store, Poundland. For less than a “Tenner” the kids had a fishing game, dolls, cars and I had a new notebook for my return to journaling.

My Sweet Rose is Craftastic! She checked out 3 or 4 different activity and craft books from the library. We experimented, we baked, we painted, we glued, we cut, we pasted! Sometimes I wonder how I, the Anti-Craft, had a daughter with such passion toward anything creative and artistic. Then I remember she has artists on both sides of the family and she clearly inherited the gene.

 One of Sweet Rose's many activities this week.
 This seed has since sprouted!
The biggest high of the week – on Thursday my little brother became a daddy!!!! He’s going to be amazing. My sister-in-law and gorgeous new niece had very special angels watching over them. Both of her grandmothers had died and the birth of her daughter came between one’s funeral and the other’s viewing. Perspective.

Perspective aside, I had a terrible day on Friday. I needed internet access to get flowers sent before my grandmother’s viewing. To my surprise, the library we went to didn't have wifi. The other branch does… never assume. Absentmindedly, I had left my purse and library card in the car. I decided to let the girls stay in the library while The Boy and I raced through the pouring rain back to the car. After 30 minutes of painfully slow internet access I had achieved success. My only one of the day, but the most important one to me.

I quickly paid a couple of bills and add stress upon stress, was completely disheartened to see the amount that remained. Bills or groceries? I've experienced that dilemma far too often in the past two years. I’m over it.

I chose groceries. Here you need a 1 Pound coin to get a grocery cart. I forgot to bring one with me (forgetting is the theme of this story if you haven’t noticed so far), so I decided just to grab the absolute necessities (including something of importance that day with the brand name Always). The kids were absolute gems in the store. I was so grateful because I was on total stress overload by then.

We went through the checkout and I placed all of my items in my reusable grocery bag. Then, I put my debit card in the machine and suddenly had no idea what my pin was. None. The first two numbers came back to me but my brain was too fogged over from all of the other stress and I just couldn't clear my mind and recall the whole thing. I know the numbers are stored in this brain somewhere! I dug through my wallet to see if by some chance I had left the number disguised on a receipt, but that old reminder was long gone.

After three tries and a bit of panic, my debit card’s security kicked in and it locked. I had no cash and no other cards. No money. No groceries. No feminine supplies. Thank goodness I had paper towel at home.
I unpacked the bag and led three confused children back to the car. Never be ashamed to cry in front of your children; just be sure to compose yourself in front of them as well - preferably within a minute or two.

Another high is that through my Indiegogo campaign I have my NLP certification funded. The low is that without the internet I can’t access the training! Furthermore, I haven’t been able to promote a sadly lackluster campaign during its last week. I was hoping for more support, yet with less than 18 hours remaining by the time I get to the closest wifi spot, I’m nowhere near what I need for my Passion Test certification.

That breaks my heart a little bit, because I want it so much. I know that’s the way for me and I can’t wait to share it with the many mothers who find themselves a little lost in the overwhelm of parenting and life. However, I know I need to keep my focus on the what, not the how.

I suppose that’s the key at the end of the day, isn't it? Keeping your focus on what does work, the good that we do experience. The joy that cuts through the stress and grief, even if for a moment. To reflect gratefully on all of the blessings in our lives because at the end of the day, as the authors of The Passion Test themselves say, “What you put your attention on grows stronger in your life.”

Acknowledge the downs, and appreciate and give your attention to the ups. I’ll leave you with one final mantra. I can’t recall who said it (right, I obviously have memory issues). Even so, I love and try to live this:

What you appreciate appreciates.

I appreciate you. Thank you for visiting.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

In Loving Memory of my Grams: October 24, 1911 - April 8, 2013

My grandma died last night. It’s seems somehow stupid to feel such a painful loss when for 10 years we've been saying, “Well, she could go any time, you know. She’s 90… she’s 96… she’s 101.”

101 years of life for a spectacular woman. It makes me so proud to be her granddaughter. A woman who “did it all” long before feminism even existed and she did it without all the fuss and fanfare. She was educated, refined, dignified. She was a teacher, a mother, a wife.  She married a farmer and had 5 sons, 2 of which she outlived. 

She flawlessly, in this admiring granddaughter’s eyes, combined career and family. Artist, teacher and beloved matriarch.  5 sons, 18 or so grandchildren and 20 or 30 great-grandchildren in her lifetime, with more on the way. 

I remember my father telling me that he never once heard his mother yell. 5 boys and no yelling? She was a saint. I had the good fortune of growing up next door to her. My grandparents were our only neighbors. 

We’d sneak in and watch her teach art lessons, breathing in the delicious smell of oil paints and varnish. Nicking a butterscotch candy – permission granted by the gorgeous twinkle that rarely left her eyes. 

Her rosy cheeks were always lifted with a happy smile. Indeed, she had one of the brightest spirits I've ever known. Strong, rarely cross, always with a sunny attitude and a positive outlook. Her laugh, a glittering cackle, infectious. 

I wish I knew more of her story. Wish I had listened harder; written it all down. Wish I had made more time to spend with her this summer when I still had the chance. Wish I had gotten around to interviewing her so I could write her biography. There are enough friends, students and family to fill in the gaps, but…
But, I’ll never get to sit with her again. To visit. Long, heartwarming conversations with comfortable, quiet lulls. Pats on the hand full of grandmotherly love.  

And I won’t get to be there to say goodbye. Too far, too broke to get across the ocean to pay my deep respects and to comfort my family, my father, and to reminisce. The tears, the laughter, the joys and sorrows that go along with saying goodbye to a loved one somehow provide solace and closure. I don’t get to be a part of that and it makes me angry. 

Then, I think, if it were my mother or father, sister or one of my brothers, I’d move mountains to be there. Nothing could stop me. But not for my grandmother? That makes me angry too. 

In the end, at the end, I know she understood what she means to me. I took every opportunity to tell her so. To let her know what a phenomenal woman I think she is… was. How much I loved her. That knowledge brings peace to my heart. And though the last couple of weeks were sad and strange, with her signature clarity traded for incoherence as she approached her end, she died as she lived: with grace. 

In loving memory.
Marion Carey Zoner
October 24, 1911 – April 8, 2013

Saturday, April 6, 2013

My Father is the Son of any Mother's Dreams

I'm moving slowly today. I am pensive. Lost in thought. Floating back and forth between gratitude and grief. Gratitude for the gift of knowing my amazing grandmother for the last 38 years of her life, and grief at the reality of losing her. Grief for my father losing his mother.

Yet, today, my focus is not on my grandmother. Today, my focus is on one of her 5 sons, my dad. As children, we only think of our parents as someones sons or daughters in order to make logical familial connections. We are self-absorbed and think only of family relationships only as they relate to ourselves.

As adults, our perspectives shift, and as parents that shift deepens. Yesterday, with the arrival of news that my 101-year-old grams was in the hospital for the second time in a week and very possibly for the last time, I found myself watching my little boy; wondering if 60 years from now he'll take care of me like my father has taken care of his mother. Brilliantly. Lovingly. Gracefully.

For 40+ years, my father has lived next door to his mother. A two-minute walk down a hill, past her art studio and beyond the pond. Another son and his wife, their children grown and gone as well, live an equal distance on the other side.

But it is my grams' Tommy Boy, my dad, who has for the past 10 years or more given every spare moment to his mother. Caring for her, safeguarding her, ensuring her every need has been tended to, including her need for independence. Arranging home-care so she could continue to teach her art lessons summer after summer, be surrounded by the familiar things she'd gathered or created in her long life, visited frequently by friends and family who love her so, and live right between two of her beloved sons.

Through selflessness and love, he made those things possible for her.

Through conversations from one mother to another, I know what my dad means to my grams. Her eyes shine when she talks about him, her rosy cheeks rise high with her bright smile. Pure love and appreciation radiates from her. She knows how lucky she is.

Today, I think of my father from a mother's perspective. Damn, my grandmother must be proud. I know I am.

I love you, Dad.
My grams and The Boy last summer. I'll be blessed if my son turns out half as wonderful as hers. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Have an Eggstra Wonderful Easter Monday with the National Trust!

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of National Trust for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

It's Easter Monday and what better way to enjoy than to Join in the Easter fun with National Trust. The 240 locations throughout the UK are joining up with Cadbury offering Spoon Races, Sack Races and of course, Egg Hunts! 

Easter is one of the most exciting holidays for my children and probably yours too! An egg hunt in the garden is a blast for any child, but with the majority of us in the UK having bite-size gardens, the trails of National Trust properties are well worth exploring! 

Hop on an Easter egg trail with National Trust and Cadbury to make your Easter weekend eggstra special this year for you and your family. To combine the joy of Easter with the silly-ness of April Fools Day, you'll also find locations having Fancy Dress and blind-folded races! Find a fab family Easter event for your crew. 

One favourite feature for my little artists is the Egg Head Competition. They are hard at work designing new Cadbury wrappers even as I type. The winner's design will be featured on an actual Cadbury Egg! 

If you miss the Easter events, fear not. There is something wonderful for your family every day. Spring is an especially wonderful time to venture out and spend hours discovering and exploring the many nature trails. Be sure to visit the National Trust website through any of the links provided within this post to find the trail nearest to you! With the National Trust's 50 Things To Do Before You're 11 3/4, you can keep your kids busy every day during the long school holiday! 

We're fortunate enough to live just minutes away from The Vyne in Hampshire. If the sun keeps its promise and peeks out today, my family and I will be headed over to discover what flowers and birds have sprung up since our last visit and perhaps we'll even find a few eggs along the way! 

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