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my dearest readers

June 1, 2015

You many have noticed…the blog posts are getting quiet here at (r)evolving mama. You might think I am writing less. The opposite is true. I am writing more. Weekly, in fact. This week I wrote about grit. And being Glenda. (instead of being our children’s Prince Charmings). But I am writing in a different place. I am writing at www.evolving-parents.com. And I would love to have you join me there. There are number of ways to get signed up. You can hit reply and send me a quick message. You can leave a comment for this post with your email address. Or you can click over to evolving parents and enter your email there.

Here’s Grit & Glenda.

Once upon a time…when Eleanor was in preschool…there was a damsel in distress. Quite literally.

One of Eleanor’s classmates had climbed up into the reading loft. She had her arms perched on the railing, and her head tucked in her hands. And she was sighing. Loudly.

So I wandered over to check in. “Can I help you?” A shake of the head. More sighing.

“Are you sure I can’t help you?” More shaking. Definitely more sighing.

“I want you to know I am right here. Whenever you are ready, I’d like to help.” She was clearly getting exasperated. The volume of the sighing was approaching that of a roar.

“I am waiting for my Prince Charming to come and save me!” She announced a bit crossly. Because, clearly, things weren’t turning out quite as she had imagined. And that is just what we hope for.

Last Wednesday night I joined a group of parents at Narrows Brewery. The conversation focused on kids & success. One of the components we talked about was motivation. And within motivation the importance of grit.

Grit is about getting up, and doing it again. Grit is about things not going the way we hope it will, and figuring out what to do next. Grit = Passion + Perseverance for very long term goals. Grit is sticking with your ideas about your future –day in & day out — for years.

And one of the questions that came from Wednesday night was, how do we teach grit? In a world of 24 / 7 instant access, how do we teach stamina? In world where answers come at the speed of a sprint, how do we coach kids live life like a marathon?

We stop Charming them. We stop jumping in the moment they experience discomfort. confusion. failure. We no longer rescue. Not that we ignore them. But we don’t save them. We step to the side, instead of stepping in front.

Building grit is sneaky. Because we equate love with problem solving. But our children need us to be Glenda. To show them the start of the yellow brick road, provide some sparkling red shoes, and send them on their way. Grit means letting them fall asleep in the poppies. Grit means letting them get carried off by flying monkeys. Grit means they will learn to stand up for themselves and their friends and toss water on wicked witches.

Metaphor is fine and all, but what does grit look like in real life? This.

cowpajamas

Well, this is what grit looked like yesterday at my house. Eleanor has a favorite pair of pajamas. She changes into them the moment she gets home from school and hardly changes out of them on the weekends. It’s been true love since she opened them Christmas morning. Alas, all this wearing means the feet are beginning to get a bit threadbare. Yesterday, she noticed. And burst into tears. Big, huge, splashing wet tears that foreshadowed what her first break-up might look like. And I might have googled ‘girl cow pajamas’. And I might have found exactly what I was looking for. And I might have been about to say “look! look! we can order more!” before I stopped myself. And thought about grit. And let her cry. And sat there with her. And gave her time to realize that although letting go is hard, she is capable of hard things. grit.

grit2_fb

Love the Love Note? You can Pin it!

What does growing grit look like in your house? I’d love to know. Hit reply and tell me about how you do it.

And remember, come sign up for hand-crafted emails delivered right to your inbox:  You can hit reply and send me a quick message. You can leave a comment for this post with your email address. Or you can click over to evolving parents and enter your email there.

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we all fall down

February 11, 2015

weallfalldownring around the rosie

Death. It has come to our little corner of the world. It has taken the life of a young child from a local elementary school. It was sudden. And unexpected. It leaves us raw and asking why. And our children feel this, too. Why him? When me? How you?

pocket full of posies

Not long ago, we lived fully in life’s cycles. We planted, tendered, harvested, fallowed. We knew death as a season. We raised our cattle and flocks. We knew death as part of the rhythm. But now we live away from the land. We live in a place that often idolizes youth and doesn’t always hear the wisdom of our elders. We lead longer, healthier lives. And so death surprises us. Especially when it is the death of a child.

ashes, ashes

How can we help our children when another child dies?

  • Answer every why. With each question your child asks, give them the information you have. And when you don’t know, say that. You don’t have to have all the answers. None of us do. But in responding, you are honoring them with your truth, and telling them they matter. Offer answers.
  • Sit in silence. Grappling with death is big work. Providing quiet down time allows kids to think. And figure out how they feel about their thinking. Don’t feel pressured to fill the silence with words, simply sit with them. Allow them the space to start conversations. Then ask them how they feel. Offer quiet.
  • Reach out. Being held is one of the greatest comforts in grief. Give an extra dose of hugs. Ruffle their hair. Hold a hand. Rub a back. Kids open up when snuggled close. So offer couch time, or set bedtime early so they have time to talk before sleep. Offer touch.
  • See the signs. Grief may show up in unexpected ways. Your child may now not want to be alone, when before they craved solitude. Or might become afraid of the dark—which hasn’t happened in years. Or your adventurous child may suddenly not want to try new things. A great sleeper becomes restless. A loud child, quiet. A calm child explodes. Expect the unexpected. It’s all part of grief. Offer compassion.
  • Mourn in style. We grieve the way we learn, because mourning is learning the steps of death. So consider, what is your child’s learning style? Are they a reader? A writer? An artist? One who learns by talking out loud? Or does their best while in motion? Outside? Provide them options that match the way they learn best. Books. Journals. Art supplies. Talk times. Walk times. Nature hikes. Offer support.
  • Ride the rollercoaster. The feelings of grief will sometimes be sharp and at other times muted. And the feelings themselves will change. Anger. Sadness. Confusion. Even envy. All of this is real in grief. You may hear about some mystery aches and pains. It’s hard when we are hurting. Offer empathy.
  • Playground perspectives. What happens when we die? And what comes after? Talk to your child not only about death, but about your family beliefs about what comes next. Let them know that friends and classmates will be talking about it at school—what happened, how they feel, what their families’ faiths say happens beyond death. Share with them that there are many traditions about our souls, and each one speaks to the heart of the believer. Offer belief.
  • Act out. Resiliency grows when we know we are capable of making a difference, especially in difficult situations. Ask your child if they’d like to do something to remember their friend. It may be organizing a group–donating new books for the library or raising money for a friendship bench on the playground. It may be on their own–writing a letter, drawing picture, something they may want to share with his family. Whatever way gives your child strength. Offer action.

we all fall down

We will all die. If we are lucky, we will be surrounded by, remembered by, honored by those who love us. Show that. Model that. Help your child walk that path in their mourning. Because when your children know they can talk to you about death and any big event in life, it is one of your greatest gifts.

with deepest empathy & love,

Emily

Related posts:

Chains of Love. {written in response to the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary}

Finish Line. {how to help children with the bombings at the Boston Marathon}

No Words {a prayer for my dear friend upon the sudden death of her daughter}

 P.S. Please share. We want our parents to feel as much support as our children.

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#cherish

February 6, 2015

cherish_photo2

Once Upon a Time…

The beginning of every fairy tale. And isn’t that how the tales of our lives are supposed to start?

Once upon a time, we met. And fell in love.

And the love was blissful. And the love was fun. And the love was easy.

Back then, back in the bliss-full stage, when we were living the easy life {but had no idea that’s what it was} we’d read the newspaper. We’d have time to read it all, page by page, as we sipped espresso and would absentmindedly pet the dog.

And in our local paper there was a nationally syndicated columnist who wrote about relationships. And each weekend we’d read what he had to say. Sometimes we’d nod our heads sagely. Sometimes we’d lift an eyebrow in distain. But there was one column that sent both of us into hysterics. In it, he wrote that when times are tough act as if you cherish your partner. And then, over time, you’ll cherish them. Act? As if? Please.

Yet even though the column, we were sure, was completely out of line, the message lingered. It is the only one I remember to this day.

Which might be because of my mother.

She had one golden rule about the person you love: find someone who cherishes you. She said it often over the years. Lots and lots and lots of often. I’m sure I rolled my eyes. I am less sure if I was savvy enough to do it behind her back or actually did it to her face. {please note I said savvy, not mature}.

Well, here’s the thing. It turns out she was right. And so was he.

Because after the fairy tale starts of Once Upon a Time, we move on to the playground rhymes.

First comes love…

Remember that one? First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in a baby carriage.

And now here we all are. On the other side of our modern-day fairy tales. Love. Commitment. Kids. And life on the other side has, let’s be honest, less bliss. It has moments of fun, but not very often whole weekends of it. And easy? …

So it turns out, now is the time to cherish.

But not in the way either of them framed it {sorry, mom}.

Because here’s what I think they forgot to say: it is the thought that counts. The power is in your thought. It isn’t your partner’s job to do all the cherishing {sorry again, mom}. Nor is it going to happen by action alone {sorry columnist-guy}.

It is the thinking. It is the I-want-to-do-something-that-cherishes-you-if-I-did-cherish-you-what-would-that-be? thinking.

In short, #iwtdstcyiidcywwtb.

What does that look like? It’s all about the little things. For example, picking up their favorite Talenti sea salt caramel ice cream on your way home. Just because. Because once you #iwtdstcyiidcywwtb and you get to see their delighted surprise, or genuine thanks, or, hey, they in turn do something for you, you want to do it again. And again. And after awhile, your brain shortens the pathway. It becomes something more like I-want-to-act-like-I-cherish-you.

#iwtalicy

And after a dozen or so #iwtalicy moments in which the action gets great feedback, you find yourself, well, cherishing them. It starts so small. And ends in an avalanche of love.

So this year, don’t wait. Don’t wait for the calendar to tell you it’s time for 1000 long-stemmed roses. Or hundreds of balloons. Or dozens of chocolates. Or one big piece of jewelry. Don’t wait. Start early. Start tiny. Start now. Each day. #cherish. How will you act? I’d love to know. Keep me posted.

And, if you’d like some sweet support getting this started, come join us. Return to Us is all about {re}discovering each other.

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fallen angel

December 17, 2014

eleanor_angel

The curtain went up. And Eleanor went down.

An angel brought to her knees by a too-long hem. Or maybe a slippery floor. Or it could have been due to shaky nerves. The cause doesn’t matter. The effect was the same. The littlest angel had fallen.

I sat in a row filled with moms. We all gasped and leaned in.

Dress rehearsals are designed for this. To get out the kinks. The pre-show stress. The missteps. But this dress rehearsal included the video cameras for the official Nutcracker DVD. This will be the fall that lives in infamy.

The fall that was followed by a stumble.

We all gasped again.

But Eleanor hung on. Literally. I watched as she gathered the front of her floor-length dress and lifted it ever so slightly, holding firmly with both hands to candle and costume. And she smiled, albeit wide-eyed, throughout the rest of the dance. She hit every mark. Didn’t miss a cue. At the end, our row of mothers leaned back. Heaved a collective sigh.

The moment it was over I did not rush to her side. Not because I didn’t want to be there, but because I didn’t know what to say.

Earlier that morning my friend Emily and I were talking about exactly these kinds of moments. Moments where we, as parents, can clearly see the disaster at hand, but have a harder time perceiving the gift it brings.

Each. Step. Down. The. Auditorium. Stairs. I. Wondered.

Then I saw her, surrounded by a host of other angels. All worried. All reassuring. All trying to make the bad thing better. I saw her trembling lower lip and her eyes brimming with barely held tears.

And I knew. I knew what the gift was.

“That was the best I have ever seen you dance!”

“Mom” {amazing how much pain and sarcasm can be expressed in a three letter word} “Weren’t you even watching? I fell.

“Yes. Yes you did. And it was spectacular.” I recited a play-by-play of the three minutes and 28 seconds of the score from mortifying tumble {full-on face plant, really} to triumphant end. And I told her how that dancing, that ability to make a mistake and keep your cool and figure out a solution and keep smiling all the way through, that, as Anitra, the mom sitting next to me, said, “that is professional grade.” And it was. And I told her I was more proud of that dancing than if her performance had been flawless. And I meant every word.

And the tears evaporated. And the lip firmed into a genuine smile. And the rest of the day she held her head high and floated wherever she went, as if the halo and wings were still in place.

Her fall was a gift that day. To both of us. She learned about her own grit and resiliency. And I was reminded of the wisdom of my host of friends. The women {and men} like Emily and Anitra. Parents whose children are not the same age as mine—from Emily’s young daughters who are part of an audience to Anitra’s daughter who, as a graduating senior, is dancing her last Nutcracker for our studio, these parents help me through. Lift me up from my falls. Help me see past my stumbles. Remind me of my grit and resiliency.

There will be many gifts exchanged in the days and weeks ahead. The best with be those that are unexpected. Which will you unwrap? And who will help you? I’d love to hear about each one. Keep me posted.

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home for the holidays

December 11, 2014

claranutDearest Clara,

It is dark. The house is silent. As I sit beside the Christmas tree writing to you, the moon’s butter glow is partially masked by the wisps of passing clouds. Our annual party has ended, and your uncle has given you a handsome nutcracker and with it a magical dream.

Tonight I am giving you another. This nutcracker is not handsome. She is beautiful. She is strong and she is graceful. She is witty and bright. She is you.

A reminder of what’s within you.

This nutcracker is holding another, a miniature version of your uncle’s gift. When you are holding your dreams, your hands are full of possibility, not gripped by fear. When your eyes are focused on the radiance of the wishes in front of you, the dark pull of worry falls behind you.

A reminder to cradle your hopes.

This nutcracker is wearing red pointe shoes. Shoes that will help you hold your center, ground you in good moments, lift you over obstacles when there are hurdles along the way. Shoes that will always guide you. Just click your heels.

A reminder that there is no place like home.

Home. For all of your childhood it has been here, with us. Yet you are no longer a little girl, you are becoming a young woman. A woman who will soon leave our home. So this nutcracker is smaller. She’s ready for travel, and adventures unknown. Whether you are out exploring the world alone, or are surrounded by a world full of others, she will be there for you. With you.

Home. It is not a single place. For a time it may be a small apartment, or a shared space. It may be the contents of a suitcase. It may be nomadic. Here with us for the holidays, then back there to the circles of friends you have gathered into a tribe, into a family.

Home. It is not determined by location or configuration. Home—a real, true home is a place where you love and are loved. It is that simple. And that profound. Love is a home’s only necessity.

And here beside the tree there will always be a place for you. Return whenever you need us, carry us in your heart wherever you go. And we will hold space for you and your dreams. Always.

With all my love,

Mama Stahlbaum

{This is the 6th year I have performed in The Nutcracker, my 5th as Clara’s mother, and the 4th time I’ve written a letter to the two young women dancing as Clara.  Here’s a link to the one from last year, the year before and the original.}

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Becember Jars

December 5, 2014

becember

Somehow, it is already the sixth of the month.

And when I look at the days ahead, it seems our calendar is bursting with events. As if we have a marathon course of occasions that need to be run at a sprinter’s speed. Do you feel it, too?

For years I wondered, how can we pace ourselves? And I realized it wasn’t by throwing everything out, getting rid of all the holiday cheer {although it was mighty tempting}. The best way for me was to down-shift our focus from our endless to-do list and spend a breath of time being with our children.

Just a moment. Each morning. When they unscrew the lid of their Becember Jars. Jars filled with an I-love-you-note for each day. Focused not on what they do, but who they are. I love your devotion to reading…I love your clear sense of style…I love how joyfully you to give to others…I love how clearly you speak your mind…I love being with you.

Some mornings they read them aloud. On others a sly grin spreads across their face, and they silently tuck the note away. Either way, they know we see them. In a jar full of ways, we are saying I feel your heart and hear your soul. These are, in essence, advent calendar of love. And no matter our faith or family traditions, love for a child, deeply given, speaks to the spirit and magic of the season. So why not? Right now. Grab a jar, a pen, a scrap of paper. Build your own Becember. Fête the is-ness of each child. What aspect of who they are will you revel in each day? I’d love to know. Snap pictures. Share stories. Keep me posted.

And Happy Becember.

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Magic in the Mix

November 5, 2014

supergirl

A bright blue cape. A red sparkle skirt. The iconic “S” emblazoned on the chest. This year’s Halloween costume of choice? Super Girl. It had been carefully curated months in advance, and she proudly paraded it in the after school celebration.

And then, Eleanor changed her mind.

And she had plenty of time to obsess about it, because there were no classes on Friday, thanks to parent-teacher conferences. {Et tu, administrators?}

First, she was definitely going to be Super Girl. Then….she wanted to be a witch. For sure. Absolutely. No! Wait! A vampire! Well, maybe Super Girl after all…Round and round it went, all day long. Costume 1! 2! 3! 1.1. 2. 1. 3! 2.2. 1. 3.3.3!

With less than an hour to go, it was settled. She was really really really sure. A vampire.

One. Slight. Problem.

While we had a complete Super Girl costume, and also had a witch’s hat and broom, the only piece of vampire-gear we owned was the pair of plastic teeth.

Time for some ninja Martha Stewart moves. Except, I’m not exactly Martha-esque. So let’s just say her costume included a black T-shirt from her dentist turned inside out {points for irony, right?} and a cape sewn together with six different pieces of fabric, no pattern, and threads still hanging off the ends as we ran out the door.

The rest of the evening, thankfully, unfolded exactly as planned. Dinner with her BFF, followed by running in the dark. With no rain. For Halloween in the PNW, this is as good as it gets.

Then sometime during the night the Switch Witch transformed the candy my allergy-ridden children can’t eat into a treat that they love.

And so Saturday morning I awoke to hollers of joy. Magic in the Mix had been left behind, soon to be devoured. We curled up in our pj’s right next to one another, and were happily reading aloud to one another when there was a sudden stop.

Eleanor was suspicious about the identity of the Switch Witch. “Are you actually the witch, the same way you are Santa? Look me in the eye and tell me THE TRUTH.” {Santa? Me? This was a conversation we have never had. I am still adjusting to the events of last year’s holiday with her much older brother}.

I took a slow breath, looked at her skeptically and asked “What evidence do you have that says I am the witch?” Silence. “Listen to your heart, what does it tell you about magic?” A moment of nothing. And then there was a quiet, reassured sigh.

As much as children want to know the truth, the truth they want to know is that love and magic are alive and well in the world.

Did I lie to her? Not in the least. I let her developmental stage inform her truth. She is a Super Girl. One day, she’ll become Wonder Woman. But right now she is in the Switch. In that place of childhood where anything is possible. Where everything can still have magic, if you choose to believe.

One more glance into my eyes and she nestled back into my side. And we returned to reading, returned to the land where there is still magic in the mix.

And for you? What magic lingers? Where are the red sparkles? And capes of blue? Where do you still meet your child for adventure? I’d love to know. Keep me posted.

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