Spiritual Lessons in the Parenthood Trenches

creativity

There are things you learn as a parent you couldn’t possibly learn without kids. Funny things. Gross things. Things that if you allow yourself to be fully open and awake, can change your world forever. Things like…

Thou Shall Feel Guilt

but do it anyway.

Everything you do or don’t do will be scrutinized. It will be judged by others and worse by you. You will for a period of time try to do everything so that no one will hurt you, but it won’t work. Or it will for awhile and you will live a shell of an existence.

If you want to pursue a passion, you will probably feel guilt. That is because you love your kids more than your arm. But give all of yourself and you will be a dry and empty well. You will want to offer your children hope and possibility, but having stifled yourself all you will have is the bread crumbs of a lost dream.

I heard this quote from author AS Byatt in Liz Gilbert’s Magic Lessons podcast and found it in this The Guardian interview:

“I think of writing simply in terms of pleasure. It’s the most important thing in my life, making things. Much as I love my husband and my children, I love them only because I am the person who makes these things.”

And Thou Shall Be Better for It

Saying motherhood changed me is in understatement. It’s the painful cracking open that made me realize I was doing more than wiping butts and feeding babies. For a long time, I believed that my children and everything that came with them was keeping me from the work of my life. One day, I dreamily thought to myself, one day they will be in school full-time and I will have time to write that book. I will have time to be a health coach. I will get to paint that picture.

That’s because the successful people I was reading and listening about only accomplished things when their kids were grown. I thought I had to suffer like a martyr and sacrifice, waiting to truly live my life.

And then I realized that they are the work. If I am attentive, if I can take care of myself, if I can learn to love and forgive myself, if I stay open when I am scared and doubt filled, if I can stay present, I will have accomplished what I dreamed about during those childless days working in a cubicle. All I wanted when I worked in that 9-5 job was a meaningful life. Your dreams sometimes come in a different package than you expect it.

Being a mother isn’t keeping me from my life. It’s pruning me for the life of my dreams. It’s a multidimensional season this parentdom. It’s stark and isolating as winter and as love giving and fruitful as spring. I have two young kids which means my time is limited. But that time is filled with precious moments of presence and laughter, and anguish and pain, all heightened because children make it so.

It is a gift you know. You might not feel it while wiping a butt, cheek, or smirk off your toddler’s face. But they are teaching you. They are teaching you that they matter, you matter, and that this moment matters. They are teaching you about the grim valleys where moments feel grueling cause they are filled with unlimited monotonous tasks like washing things. But in those valleys there is also time for rest, dreaming and being alive. They also remind us that creativity is important and what we do is important, more than what we teach.

There will be sad faces, and lots of guilty places when we take time to write, paint or read. Or there will be sacrifices to be made-favorite TV shows and sleep being switched out for our important personal work. But it all matters. You don’t have to give up your dreams. You only need to let life mold you so you have the knowledge, energy and love to push it forward.

Use your time to create the life you love by being fully present in every moment. Don’t wish away the time. Don’t spend it in jealousy on Facebook. Just keep being present. Just keep spending your precious free time doing what makes you better.

That’s the way you stay sane.

That’s the way you curate a well-lived life.

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Q & A with Mom and Revel Designs Owner Vashelle Nino

vashellerevel-design-logo_final

Vashelle Nino is a mom friend I met while she was living in Hawaii. She is genuine, kind and super creative. In a word, inspiring. I’ve been stalking her jewelry on Facebook and had to know what inspired her. Here’s what she had to say about her business Revel Designs and life in Maryland with her husband, three kids and “feisty pooch.”

How long have you wanted to create jewelry?

I have been creating jewelry for myself for as long as I could remember. It is sort of the perfect hobby for me for a number of reasons. First, since I have always been thrifty and not one to spend a lot of money on myself and my appearance, I use accessories as an inexpensive way to look put together. I truly believe it is one of the cheapest ways to feel good about what you’re wearing! Second, I have always liked creating and working with my hands. Beading and braiding and working with wire and pliers is like therapy to me. It has a focused, calming effect the same way that yoga and meditation does. Third, it is one of the only things I am good at! Ha! I love creating just about anything, but I don’t think anyone would purchase one of my paintings.

How did you first learn how to do it?

I taught myself jewelry-making techniques long ago just by getting in there and trying it! I’m still learning so much, and there is actually a lot I have yet to learn. Recently, a friend made a custom order with materials I had never used before—real gold and real Tahitian pearls. It was so nervous making this fine jewelry, and I had to do a little bit of research on the materials beforehand. I enjoyed the process and am always eager to learn new things.

What’s your inspiration?

Cost of materials is what drives and inspires me 80% of the time. I love shopping for beautiful beads, stones, charms and accents when they are at their best price. It allows me to sell my finished pieces at a reasonable price. Again, I believe great style can be achieved through accessories—affordable ones at that—and I love being able to contribute to that. The other 20% is when I see materials so beautiful I cannot resist using them in a piece. I get an image in my mind of how I want to use it and I go for it.

That is my creative process.

But what inspired me to open my own jewelry shop to begin with is this: I met a lovely lady in 2014, back when I was living in Hawaii. Her name is, ahem, Brandi. She was a fairly new mom, a kindred spirit, and I saw her striving to live an inspired life doing what she was passionate about. It made me ponder, what do I love? What am I passionate about? And why am I not doing it? It took a while for me to figure it out. I had just had my third child and was about to embark on a cross-country move from Hawaii to Maryland. I did not have the time or stability to focus on that sort of thing right away, but once we settled down in our new home I was able to reflect on what I was good at creatively. I will always be thankful for the sweet serendipity that brought Brandi into my life and what her presence did for me.

Did you have any fears or challenges about creating it initially? If so, what helped you get through these obstacles?

I cannot say I was fearful of anything. I have failed enough times at other things not to care about my ego or embarking on another failure. I had gotten to the point of thinking what is there to lose so I pretty much jumped in!
My biggest challenge when it comes to creating is time. As a mother of three, spanning an age group of 2 to 14 years old, I have very little time set aside to create. I often pine for there to be more hours in a day, but don’t we all!

I often hear from friends, “How do you do it all so effortlessly?”

And I often reply: “I don’t! Would you like to see the mold in my shower, or the three baskets of unfolded laundry hiding in my laundry room, or the Easter wreath still on my front door even though it’s October?”

I think the idea of having it all or doing it all is an illusion. We parents are busier than ever—and I don’t believe that is a good thing. Did your mom do with you as much as you are doing with your kid(s)? Was she as sleep-deprived? Did she worry about the 762,983 things the media tells us to worry about? I doubt it. And I think we should let some things go for the sake of our own sanity.

What do you see for your creative future?

I hope I will still be creating jewelry and perhaps some other things. My love for creating is REAL. I am happiest when I am using my hands and getting messy. I love colors and shapes and textures and all mediums, and I have referred to myself many times as a “sensory whore.” Ha!

I hope to continue selling on Etsy, as it is a comprehensive, reliable and credible platform for my shop. I have had nothing short of a great experience using it.

I also hope to do more craft shows in my area. Incredibly, I moved to the most appropriate place to embark on my new creative venture, as the community in Harford County, Maryland celebrates and values local art and business. The opportunities to showcase my work are plentiful.

What are you most proud of thus far?

Sticking with it and not giving up too soon. My family and friends were the bulk of my customers at the beginning. While I am immensely appreciative of their support I knew they did not sign up to support my business forever, nor did I expect them to! So I remember how excited I was when I got my very first non-family/friend customer through Etsy. I was like What! Someone found my shop, actually liked something and bought it! It was an incredible feeling. And even though I’ve had many non-friend/family customers since that first one, I still get very giddy and humbled. I love the transaction process, knowing that many Etsy shoppers believe in supporting artisans. Even though it is a modernized process using technology and postal services, it gives me the wonderful feeling of being a craftsman vending at an exotic bazaar. I love that.

vashelle vashelle-ninohttps://www.etsy.com/shop/RevelDesignsbyShelly
Instagram: @revel.designs.by.shelly

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From Monday Mom Blues to Monday Blooms

Motherhood MondaysA mom friend told me as a stay at home mom you have oodles of time to think, but do little else.

To be honest, it’s made me dread a whole fresh week of nothingness. When I first started as a full-time stay at home, I watched hours of mindless TV. But recently, all this unusable time has given me pockets of spirituality. It’s cultivated within me something that I never had before and didn’t know I needed. Time to sit, rest and be.

I no longer fear Mondays. In fact, I recently discovered 5 simple ways to transform every day from drudgery to delight, which is no small feat when you’re wiping butts, making meals, washing dishes, rinse and then repeat. There are still ways you can carve out time for yourself and look toward the week like a spiritual retreat. This will minimize your own mommy tantrums when you’re dealing with your kids all day. Add your own but start with these and see my other ideas in Meaning Making Mom.

  1. Listen to podcasts.

TGFP otherwise known as Thank Goodness for Podcasts! I love listening to Young House Love has a podcast, Elizabeth Gilbert’s Magic Lessons podcast, and podcasts from SoundsTrue. I do it while I’m putting away the dishes, picking up my son from school and walking the other son in the morning. Doing this makes me feel like I’m a human being not just a janitor, babysitter, and housecleaner. I get to learn something new, laugh, and discover my inner creativity. It’s like taking a class on life and makes me feel alive. I’d recommend a dose of podcast to anyone who’s stuck in the doldrums.

2.Write down everything you wish for yourself.

We often get caught up with hyperfocus on our children. It’s a worthy cause so why not? Well, our kids need us to have a life of our own or else we depend too much on them. Spending a few minutes writing down your bucket list, your dreams for yourself on both superficial and deep levels can be reinvigorating. You might not have time to not achieve all of them, but it will remind you that you and what you want matter too.

3. Look at something shiny and pretty.

Whether it’s a glass vase of fresh flowers, or your recently polished nails having something around that makes you feel good even when you haven’t brushed your hair or teeth yet, is soul nourishing and necessary.

4. Stop holding back.

I think the problem we have as mothers is a fear of being who we are. We don’t have a great career to broadcast to the world so sometimes we confuse our own accomplishments with that of our children. Because of that we hold back sharing how vulnerable we really feel, how we’re afraid of messing up, or how we’re struggling. Yet what we really yearn for is connection. I love what Immediate Fiction author Jerry Cleaver says about writing, “Push things to the limit, to the extreme…Creating more trouble forces your characters to use more of themselves. In using more, they reveal more. When they reveal more, you, the author, and the reader have a deeper experience of the character-identification.” When I read this passage I thought about how often we as mothers hold back our true selves. Not that we’re supposed to rob banks and murder for love, but that if we take more risks by saying what we really feel or taking a class we’re afraid of failing, we will achieve connection with others and ourselves.

5. Do one thing a day (minimum) for you.

Massages, manicures, all those would be great. But on a daily basis, you don’t have to do the big expensive things to feel good about you. Writing this blog, reading Immediate Fiction, and doing 10-minute exercises are enough to make me feel like I’m taking care of myself, which is like breathing air when you have two young kids.

This is just a small sampling, but I hope you will try it. We’re in this together dear friends. Motherhood is a battlefield, won with lots of love for our kids, but most importantly for each other.

 

 

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Mourning Motherhood

Motherhood transformationMotherhood strips everything away. You leave humility behind in pregnancy and there’s no going back.

The person you are now is a thin shadow of who you thought you were. You may have spent a substantial amount of your adulthood figuring out your identity. That’s discarded when you become a parent. You’re forced to say goodbye to all the superficial things you thought comprised your core self. It’s a earth-shattering kind of thing that will change you in a good way forever.

There are the clothes you used to wear post-baby you will never ever wear again.

There are the jobs you won’t get because employers and clients can smell a sleep-deprived mother thousands of miles away.

There are the interests that used to define who you were, but you no longer have time for.

There are the friends that grow weary of hearing baby talk or rescheduling their lives to accommodate yours.

There are the beliefs you used to have: “I’ll never be that lenient/hard as a parent. I would never look that disheveled. I will never be that parent.”

But with everything that’s taken away from you-there is something that comes in its place.

Through the cracks of who you once were, there is a stronger, braver, more authentic you. When you are forced to leave behind the person you once were with all of her demands and expectations, you become a soft, vulnerable heart that suddenly understands the world’s ache.

Here’s what happens:

If you allow your children to change you, other people’s stuff won’t affect you in the same way. You will grow compassion for the mother that’s super slow in the grocery line. You won’t even wince when someone is rude. You will have saved your energy for the things that truly matter.

Because your time is so precious and valuable, you will willingly let go of friendships that don’t serve you. You will give up jobs you thought were necessary for your self-worth. You will want more for yourself the way you want the world for your children.

You may even grow forgiveness for your parents.

Children are our mirrors. They remind us that we are responsible for our own actions. They teach us that presence is the greatest present there is. They re-awaken the part of us that always knew that time is our most valuable resource.

If we see our own longings, frustrations and inner issues through their tantrums, cries and rebellions, we will be better changed for it. We are wounded children ourselves trying desperately to heal so we can become the parents we needed.

Children give us that second chance.

What I once thought was a sacrifice, I now realize was a blessing.

Yes there is a painful shedding and mourning of the old shell.

The person that arises aware that our children are here to teach us and not the other way around, will triumphant and so will the world.

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Surviving Airplane Travel With a Toddler and an Infant

Payton drawing

I’m fresh off of my ten day trip and wanted to share what helped ease the pain of traveling with two babies.

I scoured the internet for weeks before my vacation. I found information on air travel with a toddler and air travel with an infant, but none for both. Maybe because many parents would rather avoid traveling until their babies are older. But I’m glad I took a risk. It turned out way less scary than I imagined.

Prepping + low expectations + luck = pretty painless trip

While I’m no way close to being an expert, I did learn a few things that may help you tote your tots:

  1. Read Busy Toddler Happy Mom’s Traveling with Toddlers by Gayle Jervis and Kristen Jervis Cacka. This short travel book packs a punch. Mine is full of tabs and so valuable I packed in our already packed luggage. It’s not only helpful for traveling, but for those rare times when you go out to eat.
  2. Make “surprise” eggs. I don’t know about you, but my toddler loves watching those surprise eggs videos on youtube. I tried to mimic the action by filling eggs with things like play dough, capsules that turn into animals when you drop them in water, and jelly rings that light up. While I had to keep my 9-month old away from the tiny toys, he was pretty excited with the plastic eggs themselves.
  3. Pack new novelty books. Scratch n’ sniff books were a hit with my baby, toddler and me too.
  4. Wipeable workbooks. Who knew workbooks could be fun? The dry erase workbook that helps toddlers trace and draw was a lifesaver keeping my three-year-old busy for about an hour.
  5. Bring on the carseat. This is a secret tip shared by my flight attendant cousin. I believe it was the biggest reason for the ease of this trip compared with the hell ride we went on a few months earlier. He was so comfortable, he even fell asleep.
  6. Toddler safe scissors. Since I never gave my three-year-old scissors before, he was fascinated with using them to cut play dough.
  7. Build a fun bag. I read about how others mom created play kits out of makeup bags. Genius! Now why didn’t I think of that? Basically you fill these clear folders or binder pencil cases with things like antibacterial wipes, new toys, books, and snacks. This saved me a huge amount of time since it eliminated the need to dig through my carryon.
  8. BYOT(rash)B(ag). A flight attendant complimented me on this, but I have to give credit to one of the moms who wrote about it. The benefit of toting a trash bag? I didn’t have to wait for an attendant to take our cups, napkins, and everything else overflowing the seat pockets.
  9. Bring snacks they both can eat. Cheerios were a popular treat for both my kids.
  10. Dress your infant in socks. This is great for babies that are walking, standing or cruising. You can plop them on the ground and not worry about their feet getting dirty. Their hands? That’s another story.

Bonus tips:

  1. *Let them play on your phone or tablet. If all else fails, save those really tantalizing age appropriate iPad games for the trip. It’ll give you a little time to either entertain the baby, read (I actually got to do this!) or rest.
  2. *Prep them beforehand. For weeks before our trip, my toddler and I practiced our airplane voice. I told him that we had to be quiet on the airplane, other people would be on there and if he’s too loud he might get scolded by the flight attendant. Your child may not need a little warning, but doing so seemed to help mine.
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The Things They Teach Us

Mom and child silhoutteIf anyone told you that one day you would endure hours of physical pain, mindless work and emotional struggle all with little hope of continuous sleep, you would think they were talking about imprisonment or self-torture. But many of choose this life when we become mothers. And surprisingly, we want to do it again, and again.

The reason?

We lose our ambition. We lose ourselves. We lose friends. We lose sleep. But there’s nothing like a child that can return you back to what’s truly important.

Love.

I don’t know of any other job as hard. I didn’t think I would one day grow up, spend a ton of money on school and more school, and end up being a mother. But now that I’m knee deep in it, I can see I was meant to do it.

My ultimate goal in life has always been inner growth. There’s nothing like a demanding toddler or a fussy baby that forces you to get real with yourself. You can’t hide behind a false sense of yourself or get away with whittling away with your time. For children, now is everything. In the process of breaking me open, they’ve changed me forever. These are the precious lessons they’ve taught me about what’s really important.

If you’re going to write, get to it.

Play is as necessary as breathing.

Don’t waste time and energy cajoling with un-joyful folk.

What you say matters, but what you do matters more.

Things are nice, but memories are everything.

Messing up is a daily necessity.

You don’t grow out of tantrums when you get older. It just looks cuter in kids than it does in adults.

It’s not the mistakes you make, it’s how you clean up afterwards.

Boys are dirty. Get over it already.

Life is more than what you’ve accomplished.

Rewarding moments rest in the most ordinary days.

One day soon your worst days will be the ones that had the greatest potential for growth and change.

Change is hard for everybody, kids included.

Babies and toddlers know what’s up every when they can’t say it.

If you want to teach your child kindness and empathy, teach yourself first.

Academics are not everything. There are many measures of success.

You can grow up poor, but feel rich with love.

You can mess up your kids in so many ways, but remember this. What they will remember most is whether they were loved.

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You Know You’re a Mother When…

Moms

 

This title is kind of ridiculous because once you’re pregnant, you can’t really be in denial any longer. With that being said, there are a few funny tell-tale signs that signal a giant shift from life without kids to life with kids that all moms will appreciate. So without further ado. Here’s how you know you’re a mom even when you’re not with your kids:

  1. You tune in not out to the sound of a wailing child.
  2. Your morning routine has dwindled down to taking a quick glance at your shirt. You want to make sure it’s relatively snot and milk free. Oh and make sure your button and bra is on if you are a nursing mother.
  3. Your idea of a wild time is going out late at night, which is any time after the kids are asleep.
  4. Having free time makes you overwhelmed with options. Should you do the laundry or flip mindlesly through a magazine?
  5. Going to the market kids free feels like a shopping spree.
  6. You don’t remember what you did with all your free time before kids. But you kind of wished you saved some for now.
  7. You don’t know if your memory loss is due to lack of sleep or age.
  8. Sleep feels like a fairytale just like unicorns and gold at the end of the rainbow.
  9. You’re suddenly extroverted and can make friends with anyone who has kids.
  10. You’re as excited about going to a wedding as you used to feel on date night.
  11. When you go out to eat, you automatically check the menu for entrees your kids will actually eat. And you do this even if they aren’t there.
  12. You feel the urge to blast the radio when you’re in the car alone. Anything that’s not nursery rhymes is literally music to your ears.
  13. You can’t pass a store without thinking about what to get your kids.
  14. You cut all your food into small pieces.
  15. You find yourself humming to kid songs like da-da-da-da-da-da two and four and six and eight…(Bonus points if you know what song that is.)
  16. If you’re a stay at home mom, your day is broken down to: how many hours until my partner gets home.
  17. You can’t remember what you did that day, but by the end you feel like you’ve been run over by a truck.
  18. Your nightstand is about to topple over under the weight of all your parenting books.
  19. Food floating in water, boogers, poop and pee doesn’t disgust you like it used to.
  20. You know more about characters on Sesame Street and Mickey’s Clubhouse than what’s going on in the news.
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