Friday, July 26, 2013

Have a full mind? Try being mindful!

Welcome to the Peaceful Parenting Challenge Blog Carnival: Week #3- Practicing Mindfulness

This post was written for inclusion in the 10 Week Peaceful Parenting Challenge Blog Carnival hosted by Prenatal to Parenting. This week our participants have written about Practicing Mindfulness. We hope you enjoy this week’s posts and consider joining us next week when we share about a week of Slowing Down.

This week's challenge had us focusing on each moment of each day and embracing what it has to offer us.  Being mindful is not difficult but remembering to be mindful and enjoy the moment can be.  I have always been one to look forward to the excitement to come and can often be heard saying, "I can't wait for..."  I can't help but be excited for something that is coming up but I really have to learn to be excited about my day to day activities as well.  The reason this is so important is because if you spend your time waiting in excitement for something to come, then you miss out on the excitement of today!  You will look back on it and wish that you had enjoyed those days a little more.  Thus, being mindful comes in handy...

While practicing being mindful this week, I definitely discovered that my mind is FULL!  I walk with my baby every morning after his breakfast while I enjoy my morning smoothie.  It's a nice quiet time of my morning because he is happy to sit quietly and take in the sights from his stroller.  This is my opportunity to practice being mindful; I focus my attention on all of my senses... the smell of the flowers and fresh air, the feel of the heat from the sun and the cool breeze, the sounds of the birds chirping, the winds blowing through the leaves of the trees and the cars that drive by once in a while, the beautiful colors that I see as I pass every home with beautiful gardens in their front yards, and the taste of my fresh smoothie made from fresh fruit and vegetables that nourishes my body.  I enjoy this quiet moment of being mindful and allowing myself to be in the moment makes me very happy.  My mind does wander and thinks about what I have to do later or what needs to be done in the future but I bring myself back to the moment.  Walking with my baby, enjoying the quiet time, moments I will forever cherish when I look back.  I feel as though I have mastered being mindful in those moments.

The challenges that I had during this week are twofold; the first is being mindful in moments that don't necessarily have nice feelings, tastes, smells, sounds and sights, so I try to look at the positive aspects as there are positive aspects in every situation.  For example, when baby is crawling, climbing, touching and getting into everything in sight, you can chalk this up to him developing his brain through his curiosity.  Eleanor Roosevelt said, "I think, at a child's birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift would be curiosity."  They say that a curious mind will be successful in school and in life.  Well I think that is a pretty positive spin on a baby that is into everything, I could easily get stressed out and try to contain it to a small area, but I would only be inhibiting something amazing and I don't want to do that.

A baby is actually alot like a teenager... in the fact that their brains are developing at warp speed.  Some areas of teenage brains are more mature than others which can result in making choices that may not be good decisions because they are based on motivational or emotional regions of the brain rather than good judgement or logic.  Being mindful of this helps me interact with my teenager in a way that is productive for both of us; meeting him where he is at, rather than trying to get him to meet me where I am (let go of the expectation that your teenager is going to make sound decisions when necessary because they mentally cannot make rational decisions).  I make it sound easy but it isn't.  Being mindful when interacting with a teenager is probably the most difficult because they talk back and make you want to punch them in the face sometimes but you are the adult, you have to restrain yourself and your emotions because you are the role model for their future behaviour!  AHH!!  That fact alone (the fact of being a role model and not the fact that I can't punch him in the face... haha) brings me great stress because I know I have not always been the best role model for him, we have grown up together and I have spent alot of his life maturing myself!  However, I can't dwell on the past and can only focus on the future.  I still have many formative years with him that I can help him develop into a good, happy and successful person.  He is a nice young man, but still a teenager that makes silly decisions sometimes.  He will learn from these decisions and that is all I can really hope for.  I focus on the things he is good at and try not to spend too much time dwelling on the things he isn't so good at but I do try to gently help him improve where needed.  We can all use the skill of wanting to improve in areas of our lives that are weak... heck that is why I am in this Peaceful Parenting Challenge!

The other challenging part of being mindful is not thinking about the giant to do list that you have all the time. I found that the more mindful I tried to be (ie. living in the moment and not thinking about what needs to happen next or what needs to be done or something in the future), when I did take a moment to think about the things that I had to do, I had forgotten some things that needed to be done and/or I got overwhelmed because I hadn't been thinking about it.  Thus, I discovered that while being mindful can be a great way to enjoy most of the day, there needs to be a balance and time set aside to work on the tasks on the to do list.  I know getting tasks done and crossed off the list brings me a sense of accomplishment and being mindful in these moments can bring you happiness as well.

Overall, I would say that his challenge was great for me, it has help me recognize the goodness in every part of my day and also see that I need to balance this with my to do list.  I have to make sure that I am not constantly looking forward to tomorrow and consciously try to live in today.  When you live in tomorrow with a baby and a teenager, you can miss out on so many things that can bring you delight in your day.

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
No Need To Schedule Mindfulness– Sarah from Prenatal to Parenting discovers mindfulness isn’t something she needs to make time for.
Living in the Present Moment – Amber from shares how she has been practicing presence.  
Practicing Mindfulness Ricky at Daddy Blogger takes his wife on a date to The Dark Table restaurant in Kitsilano to practice mindfulness.   
Being Mindful - Peaceful Parenting Challenge - Week 3 - Katrina from Kalem Photography finds her way back to a good old habit.
Week #3- Practicing Mindfulness – Jennifer from The Children’s Directory discovers how sometimes we get so caught up in all the garbage that life dumps on us that we forget
the little things that makes it all worth it.
Week 3 - Mindfullness-Amanda from Family and Baby Sign Language harnesses her power to attract more positive.
Lesson Already Learned – Verena from Memory Maker Events realizes she’s already learned mindfulness.  
Mindfulness of Self - Week 3: Peaceful Parenting - Kathryn from Curiosity and the Kat finds mindfulness exhausting.

Have a full mind?  Try being mindful! – Lolly from My Journey Home challenges herself to live in the moment and stop looking forward.  

Friday, July 19, 2013

Just Breathe

 Welcome to the Peaceful Parenting Challenge Blog Carnival: Week #2 Breathe.
This post was written for inclusion in the 10 Week Peaceful Parenting Challenge Blog Carnival hosted by Prenatal to Parenting. This week our participants have written about creating awareness. We hope you enjoy this week’s posts and consider joining us next week when we share about a week of Mindful Breathing.

This week's Peaceful Parenting challenge was pretty easy... to practice mindful breathing.  Ha!  Easier said than done, especially when you are travelling from one end of the country to the other.  I feel like this week was more of a week one where I was still recognizing times where I was being triggered and getting angry or frustrated.  Travelling with a very busy 9 month old can do that to a person!  My first baby was not nearly as busy as my second; my first was happy to just sit and chill out, taking in the sights from a distance where my second wants to see, taste and touch everything he can reach.  This has obviously threw me for a bit of a loop having had many years between babies to conveniently forget what babies are like but then add about 20X more energy to this baby.  It's exhausting!  As I spoke about in my last post, I had some expectations that he would be like my first baby and clearly all babies are different.  This expectation had to be re-evaluated in order for me to enjoy my time with my littlest man.

My week long trip with my boys was anything but relaxing when you take a baby out of his comfort zone and put him into places that aren't necessarily baby proofed.  I felt that I was constantly saying "No!", "Don't touch!" and "Danger!" the whole week.  This stressed me out because you want their curious little minds to develop from their curiosity by touching, feeling, exploring and sometimes tasting their environments.  If this can happen safely, then I just usually let him do it so I felt like I was hindering him from expanding his mind through exploration and discovery.  He was also not as happy as he usually is, most likely because he wasn't allowed to explore as much and because he probably missed his Daddy who didn't come with us.  After travelling back home on a 2-hour then 5-hour flight.  I had time to reflect and resolved to embrace his busy and curious little mind by allowing him to explore his surroundings, as long as it's safe and take him out as much as possible for walks, baby groups and anywhere he can play without interruptions.

So while I still work on recognizing triggers, I also added the mindful breathing technique.  We all breathe because we have to, its an unconscious necessity our body has to do to live.  But have you ever sat and actually breathed and paid attention to your breath?  Try it!  Our challenge this week was to sit comfortably at least three times a day for 2-3 minutes and breathe in and out, paying attention to the breath. saying "in" and "out" as you breathe.  The practice of mindful breathing can reduce stress and increase positive energy in your life.  I have to say, only having done it for a few days... I already feel like I am less stressed and more positive.  I am sure being home has helped too but the act of mindful breathing is definitely something I will add to my daily life to be able to enjoy my busy little baby and my day to day in a more positive light.

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
Teaching My Spirited Son About Deep Breathing – Sarah from Prenatal to Parenting shares some ways to teach kids about deep breathing.
Deep Breathing Challenge Ricky at Daddy Blogger has been practicing and will be putting his deep breathing to the test on his family trip.  
Just Breathe - Peaceful Parenting Challenge - Week 2 - Katrina from Kalem Photography goes up against her incessant need to be busy.
Remember to Breathe – Jennifer from The Children’s Directory discovers how breathing can work with parents-in-laws, friends, partners, co-workers and annoying neighbours as well as children.
Week 2 & Epic Fail -Amanda from Family and Baby Sign Language discovers how challenging it is to find a few minutes to herself.
Breathing On  – Verena from Memory Maker Events talks the difference mindful breathing made in her busy days.

Week #2 Peaceful Parenting Challenge - Michelle from My Peaceful Parenting models deep breathing for her sons.

Friday, July 12, 2013

The two faced Mom in search of Peace

 Welcome to the Peaceful Parenting Challenge Blog Carnival: Week #1 Creating Awareness.
This post was written for inclusion in the 10 Week Peaceful Parenting Challenge Blog Carnival hosted by Prenatal to Parenting. This week our participants have written about creating awareness. We hope you enjoy this week’s posts and consider joining us next week when we share about a week of Mindful Breathing.

Like most people, I wear many hats and have many faces.  I have to change my outward emotions and expressions for each situation even if the inward emotions and expressions don't match.  I often do this at work, with friends and acquaintances but how often do we change ourselves for our family, the people closest to us often take the brunt of our real emotions.  How come we are able to mask what we are really feeling in certain situations and able to handle things much better than we can with the people we love the most??  Mostly because we are comfortable with them and we need to have someone in our lives that we can be real with and not have to worry about holding things in, right?  Well, if you are going to care about controlling your emotions better with anyone... it should be the ones that you love and hold close to your heart... like my partner and children.  The ones who will be near and dear to me for the rest of my life, I would like to think that the rest of my life is going to be happy and peaceful and I am going to teach my children to be happy and peaceful in the process.

Parenting two children that are 15 years apart can be a challenge!  I have decided that I need to alter my expectations of parenting, I have parented my teenager for 15 years and the parenting style I have with him is quite different than the one needed for the baby.  The movement of my curious little mind has decreased many things I have come to love in life.  My independence is no longer, relaxation and reflection, what's that?  Even the time I took to chat with people has been minimized.  I don't want to see these as losses, but they are going to be different now and I have to learn to embrace the difference.  I often have to switch back and forth from parenting a teenager to parenting a baby, this is where I often have difficulty because sometimes my frustration with my teenager can overshadow parenting my baby and vice versa... I need to find a balance.  I need to learn how to be more mindful and aware of my own emotions before I can create an environment that everyone can be happy to be in.  I strive to be happy and whole, to be a good role model for my kids but there are times that I catch myself in an intense emotional state in certain situations which I would like to change not only for myself, but for my children and the rest of the people within my environment. 

Thus, I joined a "Peaceful Parenting Challenge" on facebook that I am hoping will help me to become... well... a more peaceful parent for both my children.  This week was the first week, and the first challenge is Creating Awareness where we identify our triggers by writing down situations where we had an intense emotional reaction to something.  I have to say, this was not easy for me this week as I was home for a couple days in the beginning and then flew to the East Coast for the remainder of the week.  I didn't have any intense emotional reactions to anything other than the printer not working the way it should when I was trying to print off my boarding passes at home, this created great frustration for me as I have the expectation that when I want my technology to work, it will.  I tried thinking of situations in the last couple weeks where I had intense emotional reactions and though there hasn't been many because I truly try to live a peaceful life already... the common trigger is my EXPECTATIONS.  If I allow myself to have expectations, when they do not get fulfilled, it creates an emotional reaction within my brain and this transfers into my behavior.  I already knew this, and know that having expectations of any day, any situation, any thing can end in disappointment creating sad, angry, resentment or frustrated emotions.  The solution then is to not have any expectations!  Easy!  Right?  Not as easy as you think, because having expectations can also induce happiness, excitedness and fulfillment, and who doesn't want those emotions!?  Though if I can remember that we can also get these emotions when we don't have expectations, resulting in being delightfully amused by day to day surprises that we don't expect.  It just seems to easy when you say it but I know it is not and I still have alot of work to do to. 

So my goal for the next week is to be more aware of my emotions, hold back the reactions that the emotions create (especially for the ones I love) and to try not to carry too much expectations into my days.  Thanks for joining me on this journey of becoming a more peaceful person, thus a more peaceful parent which will create peaceful children.  Below you can find links to other blogs from parents who are also challenging themselves to become more peaceful.  Enjoy!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
Balancing being a stay-at-home-mom & working from home – Sarah from Prenatal to Parenting realizes her home base business and mommy duties don’t mix well.
My Top Card - Amber from shares her experience attending the Peaceful Parenting Mini Retreat.
Peaceful Parenting Challenge Week 1 - Katrina from Kalem Photography explores her expectations on herself and asking for help.
Peaceful Parenting Challenge Week 1: Awareness – Jennifer from The Children’s Directory talks about her frustrations over getting out the door and dinner time.
Emotional Highs and Lows of Parenting  – Verena from Memory Maker Events talks about the emotional highs and lows of parenting.
Peaceful Parenting Challenge Week 1 - Kathryn from Curiosity and the Kat is reminded about checking her “stuff” at the door before dealing with her twins.
The Two Faced Mom in search of peace - Loly from My Journey Home chats about expectations.
Week #1 Suddenly aware of all this anger… - Michelle from My Peaceful Parenting becomes aware of her anger.
Week 1 Triggers and Emotions -Amanda from Family and Baby Sign Language describes her physical response to intense emotions.
Ricky at Daddy Blogger reflects on how peaceful the first year of his daughter’s life was and wonders where all that peace has gone.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Birthday reflections..

Yesterday was my 34th birthday... it was an amazing birthday, I am so so lucky to have the people I have in my life but also took some time to reflect on the things I need to improve upon or let go of...

The news of someone's passing was the first to be read on my facebook, so very sad it is to read that someone's loved one is gone, lost their life in a tragic accident.  Reminds me much of my father's passing, a time that is so hard to think about when I was so young, a tragic accident took him away from us too.  A few facebook posts later I read that a baby has been born, a baby girl, my little niece, Emileen, named after her Grandmother who too passed suddenly not that long ago.

While I celebrate my life and reflect the good, the bad, the ugly (though I try not to spend too much time thinking of the bad nor the ugly) in my short (and sometimes long) 34 years, I think about how short and precious life can be and want to share something I feel is an important lesson that I learned over the years.
I am so very lucky to be in a very happy place in my life.  I have an amazing partner to share it with, a teenage boy who can be such a pain in the butt sometimes but he's still my baby that I am so proud of for everything he is, a baby boy who is so darn curious, full of energy and wants to see, touch and taste the world, he is teaching me alot about myself that I didn't know yet.  We share our home with our two teenage homestay students, one from China and one from Korea, who are both very nice young men enjoying their life here with hopes and dreams of continuing their studies in Canada for many years to come.  Then there's our two dogs, who have graciously (ok maybe not so graciously) allowed a new baby to take over much of their territory in the house.

I know how lucky I am to be here, but it wasn't an easy journey as you know if you have read my earlier blog posts... which I know there is still much to share.  Life can be very hard, but if you know how to deal with it, it does get easier.  Every situation that you are presented with are there for a reason, for you to learn and grow from it.  If every choice, decision, situation was easy... what would we know?  Not a lot.  Life throws lemons on purpose, we can either be sour and bitter about them, or we can take them, add some water and a little sugar to sweeten them up.  It is really all in how you want to deal with it.  Sometimes it is easier just to be sour and bitter, but in the long run... the negative energy will make life even more difficult.  You can choose to be happy, choose the good, positive energy and this will help you get through anything.  Really!  It will... I promise.  So next time you are in a situation that is difficult, try, just try to look at the positive side of things, embrace the lesson that the situation is teaching you and enjoy the fact that you have learned something new about yourself.  Life gets easier the more you choose happy.  So simple, yet so hard for some.  But I know you can do it, and when everyone can do this, the world will be a much better place.

So while one life ended today and another began... remember that you are still very much alive right now and if it ended suddenly, would you be happy with your life so far?  If not, go do something about it!  Choose happy!  Yes, it is a choice!