Sunday, March 19, 2017

A gratitude list.

On Friday morning, I went to a yoga class before we had to take Cambria to her follow up doctor's appointment with a pediatric dermatologist after a bit of a health scare at her four month check up. I find that it is easy to have gratitude in the comfortable and beautiful moments of life, but a lot more challenging when there is something to worry about. However, those are the times, in the midst of feeling anxious, when practicing gratitude is most helpful to me. I was really worried about Cambria this week while we were waiting for our follow up doctor's appointment. 

As the yoga teacher began and we closed our eyes and deepened our breath, we were asked to set an intention for our practice. I focused on having gratitude for our daughter. It was a beautiful hour where I was able to be fully present and active. After the class ended, we were welcomed into the reception area and offered complimentary Dark Horse coffee, and everyone was smiling and friendly. As I walked to my car, the sun shone on my face, the warm coffee warmed me from the inside, and I was grateful for the simple beautiful things: yoga, coffee, sun, exercise, friendly people.

As I reached my car, the worry that I had tried to escape began to creep in once again, so I decided to take a moment to finish my coffee and make a list of everything I was grateful for that week.

It helped me to feel hopeful and positive, even though I still felt anxious.   

Grateful for:
  • my beautiful children.
  • sunshine.
  • lots of time outdoors.
  • picnics.
  • playing in the water.
  • photography.
  • time to journal.
  • yoga.
  • the opportunity to create a fun and adventurous childhood for my kids.
  • a career that I am so passionate about that I miss during time away.
  • time off to be more present for my family.
  • making new friends.
  • dinner with long time familiar friends.
  • reading books with Everett.
  • living room dance parties.
  • a rare moment of silence in our home.
  • lots of loud moments of liveliness in our home.
  • podcasts.
  • nap time.
  • baby smiles and giggles and noises.
  • music.
  • discovering animals with my son- gophers at the park, caterpillars on the grass, a lizard on a tree, hummingbirds in the garden, and butterflies in the backyard.
  • having a garden.
  • extra light at the end of the day to spend outdoors.
  • a kind and caring husband.
  • watching the sibling relationship between my kids develop.
***

Cambria and I have spent a lot of time lately lying on blankets in the backyard, while Everett rides his bike or scooter or literally just runs in circles around us. The weather has been beautiful, and I am loving it after all of the rain we had this winter.

Sometimes, Everett takes a break from his busyness to come cuddle with his sister. Seeing these two together brings me so much joy. These pictures crack me up, because Everett is being his crazy, loving self, and Cambria is like, really?

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Five months old.

This little girl turns five months old today, and we've never felt more grateful to have a healthy, happy baby. This week was a tough one with two doctor's appointments and a little bit of a health scare for our sweet girl. Yesterday we found out that everything was okay, and I cried on the way home from the doctor's office with a huge sense of relief. It's amazing the vulnerability that parenthood brings, when it feels like your heart might just break as you worry for the health and well being of your child. 
***
She brings me joy and I love her.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Sweet Cambria.

It's funny to me now that I ever worried I wouldn't be able to love our second child as much as the first, because my heart is so full of love for this sweet girl. I look into her eyes and sense a certain depth there, something special. I want to simultaneously protect her from the world we live in and send her out into it as her biggest encourager, telling her, "you're strong and brave and independent and capable of great things." Even though she is only four months old, sometimes I softly whisper affirmations like these to her, because I want her to grow up knowing these truths that I am still trying to learn for myself sometimes. 

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Preserving his spirit.

“Mama, I sit in this basket? This is my spaceship. I go into space?” Yes.

I am learning these days that one of the best things I can do as a mom is say yes and let Everett’s imagination rule what we do. Before I had kids, I thought my job was to shape them into amazing human beings, as if they came to us void of personality, a blank slate. Everett definitely came to us with a personality all his own, and we are seeing Cambria’s personality reveal itself little by little, too. (That has been one of the most beautiful parts of having two kids, seeing how different and unique they are from each other, just simply because of who they are.) Although I want to help Everett be the best version of himself he can be, I want to make sure I focus on preserving who he already is. He is curious, independent, stubborn, adventurous, imaginative, and smart. He knows how to have fun and learn and live life to the fullest better than I do. I want to help him maintain his spirit and soak up all I can of his enthusiasm for life.

“Mama, I wear my pajamas and my rain boots and ride my scooter?” Yes.

“Mama, I wear my orange cape to the store so I can run fast?” Yes. 

“Mama, I sit in this basket? It’s my train. I a conductor.” Yes.

Sometimes it feels like so much of my time is spent saying no, but I’m pretty sure the times I say yes are more important. And a lot more fun.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Gratitude over guilt: Photo journaling as a gratitude practice.

On a recent hike, I noticed this heart cactus rising up in the midst of the chaotic brush, and I thought it was a beautiful visual and mirrored life these days: there is a lot of love and beauty amidst the chaos. 
I have been a guilty person for as long as I can remember. It's just part of my personality. One of my earliest memories is hiding behind a blue recliner in the apartment I lived in when I was young holding an Oreo cookie that I had taken without permission. My mom was asking me to give the cookie back, and I remember looking at it, thinking about eating it, and then returning it to my mom, because I felt too guilty to actually consume it. Throughout high school and college, this sense of guilt about doing something wrong probably kept me from making a lot of bad decisions, so it hasn't always been a negative thing, but throughout my mid-twenties, feelings of guilt also kept me from experiencing joy to the fullest. As I was getting my master's degree in peace and justice studies when I was twenty-five and learning about so many horrible injustices and atrocities, I felt so guilty for the life that I had. There was nothing I did to deserve this life; I simply had it good because of where I was born and the family that I was born into. I felt like I didn't deserve to experience joy or happiness when others around the world were suffering so. That year, I didn't take out my Christmas decorations or get a Christmas tree, because I felt like I couldn't let myself experience joy or indulge in something so wasteful and frivolous as a Christmas tree.

In my current season of life as a stay at home mom, the guilt creeps in a lot, and I am not even talking about mom guilt, which has also consumed me at different points along my motherhood journey. Currently, I often feel guilty for not doing more for the world, since my attention is so focused on our family right now. It should be enough that I am keeping a four month old human alive solely with my own body, and pouring myself into trying to create a kind, loving two and a half year old, while dealing with all of the stereotypical happenings of the “terrible twos.” It should be enough that I haven’t slept more than 3.5 hours straight for the past four months, because I am nurturing tiny little humans literally 24/7. Mothering two young children is a daily feat, and I should end the day celebrating myself for my accomplishments instead of feeling guilty for not being or doing enough. 

Since that sad Christmas without decorations and a tree, I have learned that in order to give of myself to the world and have something to offer those around me, I need to let myself revel and indulge in the seemingly frivolous things that bring me joy. A warm bubble bath, an indulgent novel, a picnic in the sun, a run, a yoga class, a slow walk through my neighborhood, capturing moments through my camera lens, photo journaling, connecting with other women, drinking a glass of wine, sipping a cold beer in the sunshine, holding a cup of coffee to warm my hands and my spirit. Some of these things seem completely selfish. They bring no good to the world except for my own enjoyment. However, time and time again, I realize that if I do not let myself experience joy every day, I have nothing left to give. If I can do things that bring me joy, I can have a spirit of gratitude for this life I have been given. When I live in a place of gratitude for this life and focus on living a life full of joy, I find that I have more to give to those around me. This is a constant struggle for me. It seems like having joy and being happy should be easy, but I have found that I have to make it a practice. This is one of the reasons I have decided pick up my camera more these days: as a practice of gratitude for this life. Taking photos and journaling is something that helps me to focus on and find the joy, and so I find myself taking too many photos and journaling too much even when I feel like I can’t string a thoughtful sentence together; perhaps for me, that is when it is most important for my well being to just try and write. And when words continue to fail me, photos strung together can hopefully document my appreciation for the simple moments that fill our days.