T’was the Night Before Fifth Grade

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This “Back to School Eve”, my 10 year old son, “Munchkin”, made my heart smile. My children, more times than not, do things that impress me. They oftentimes make me proud with the decisions they make and how they navigate themselves in certain circumstances.

However, on the night before the first day of school, I was especially impressed by and proud of my Munchkin.

Normally, the night before the first day of school, I am doing last minute preparations. I am labeling notebooks with names and subjects. I am color coordinating folders to match subjects areas, if that even makes sense: The science folder has to be green because green equals earth and the study of the earth is geology, which is a type of science, right?? Right??
Don’t judge me.
I am usually popping tags off of new shirts that were purchased, and peeling sizing labels off of new pants. You get the picture.
My need to organize all of their things takes me to my happy place and usually leaves my children staring at me, wondering if I sniffed the new bottle of glue or the sharpie marker that I am using to label said bottle of glue.
But this year was totally different. This year I was not in my happy place. This year there was no new glue, no new folders, and definitely not as many tags to pop and labels to peel. This year my household took a financial hit and an unexpected household repair that did not allow for my husband and I to make the purchases that we are normally able to make each year. So that night as I placed my 10 year olds freshly washed backpack from the previous year on the living room sofa, I felt like I had let my children down. All children want to feel prepared for their first day of school and I had failed in helping to make this possible. I was disappointed, my 13 year old Papi was disappointed, and my Munchkin actually said out loud, “we are so unprepared!”
But then something amazing happened….
My Munchkin remembered all of the many notebooks and folders and pencils and erasers that we have stashed down in the basement stationery drawer. Yes, I have a stationery drawer. It’s filled with the overage of notebooks, folders and things that are purchased each school year. I hadn’t thought of that drawer in my “no school supplies funk” because I always expect to buy new things for the new school year. But my Munchkin remembered. He went downstairs and came up with five folders, four notebooks, and a marker. He began labeling his own notebooks and pairing them with folders that he designated for each subject. He did not color coordinate them, but I had to let that go. He was in his own happy place. He smiled from ear to ear as he pieced together his own supplies. “This is for my math class, and oooh, this is my folder for science, and look mom, I found this pencil case so I’m putting all of these erasers and new pencils in here!!” He was so excited. He was in a zone, people!
And slowly but surely, I realized a few things. I realized that I had been demonstrating a lack of faith in believing that everything would work out. I had almost allowed a lack of material items to put a damper on a special milestone day in my life and the lives of my children. And I also realized that my children don’t need me to organize their materials for school anymore. They got this! They no longer need to be spectators as their mom goes “label crazy”. I realized something else that evening, which was probably the biggest epiphany of all: I probably should have stopped being “label crazy” mom a while ago. My boys should have been a part of the folder and notebook designating process from the time they were able to write. Getting ready for school should have never been about my happy place to begin with. It should have always been about their happy place. It should have always been about their growing independence and maturity. My Munchkin made me so proud with his silver lining response to what I saw as a dark cloud. It’s amazing how on the day before school, I was taught a great lesson by my own child.

Talk to you soon,
Serene

Share with me: How do your children partake in the preparations for the first day of school?

Review Time: That Physics Show

Review: That Physics Show

Location: Elektra Theater,  300 W 43rd St, New York, NY 10036, United States                                                                                                                        Our Show time: 3pm

“I learned  more in these 90 minutes than I learned in 6th, 7th, and 8th grade”. 

These were the words of my 13 year old as we walked out of “That Physics Show”, an off- Broadway production that my family and I were fortunate enough to be given tickets to see. The premise of the show? Well, the name says it all: “Physics”. It was 90 minutes of Einstein meets Bill Nye the Science Guy. My son’s reaction to the show took me by surprise. Throughout the entire show, he looked less than amused. I guess it was that “don’t let them see you smile, laugh, or enjoy anything about life” thing that teens do. His 10 year old brother, however, knelt in his chair, sat on the edge of his seat, stood blocking the people in front of him, all to see experiment demonstrations, one after the next. He also whispered the occasional “I know what’s about to happen” in my ear, followed by a sped up narrative of what was about to go down so that he could beat the experiment to the outcome and have the satisfaction of saying “I told you!!”

As for me, I was pleasantly surprised that both of my boys ended up enjoying the show. My first instinct upon sitting in the small theater was concern that they were going to be bored. Well, actually, my VERY first instinct was to scout out the “Exit” signs. Having all three of my children (and my mom) in the small space automatically triggered my anxiety and had my spider senses tingling. But once that was established, I was concerned that the boys were going to stare at me some point in the show and say “Really mom? Really?” They were already giving me that look when I told them we were going to a show about science.

“That Physics Show” was carried out primarily by one man, David Maiullo, with appearances by his two assistants who said very little, but provided him with all the props needed to set him up for each of his “tricks”. When the show first began, he explained to the audience that he is a physics demonstrator at Rutgers University and that it is his belief that physics (and practically all sciences), would be a lot more interesting if they were taught in a hands on manner. While I definitely believe in that theory, I thought that his college vernacular would have my children snoozing in no time. With terms like “Laws of Conservation of Motion”, “Inertia”, “Isobaric Pressure”, and “Uniform Circular Motion” I thought surely they would lose interest. However, this was not at all the case as he presented some pretty amazing demonstrations to go with each tongue twisting term. Furthermore, as he performed each experiment, he tapped into the audience members’ inner scientist by posing questions like “what do you think is about to happen?”, followed by an enthusiastic  “let’s find out!” My ten-year old was always up for the prediction and waited to see if his hypothesis was correct. I, on the other hand, stayed silent not wanting to predict anything and run the risk of looking silly in front of my son. For example, did you know what would happen if people filled balloons with hydrogen instead of helium? Well, I didn’t know! (Don’t judge me). But my son knew and when it happened, the wide smile that filled his face was enough to indicate that this show was right up his alley.

After the show was over, everyone had an opportunity to take a picture  with the star of the show. My 10 year old stared at him with respect and admiration. My 13 year old gave him his props and told him how he wished all science classes were taught in this manner. My mom was just happy to get out with her grandchildren. And my 2 year old was able to keep it together with a little help from the iPad and some headphones for the last 30 minutes of the show.

Yup, it was a great 90 minutes: an outing with my kids, educational, and fun. Definitely time well spent.

Would I recommend this show?: Yes.

Who would I recommend this show to?:

1. Parents of a curious child

2. Middle school students (it’s a great way to show them how the things they’ve learned actually applies to real life).

3. Educators who need a little reminder that teaching should not be filled with lectures.

Pros:

1. A very interactive show that keeps the audience engaged.

2. My teen liked it! A teenager liked something that his mother chose to do. Enough said.

3. Extremely accessible from the NYC train station. The “A” train to 42nd street Port Authority, followed by a 50 foot walk from the train station.

4. The different physics concepts were broken down into simpler terms so that children as young as 7 or 8 years old could understand and connect it to their everyday lives.

Cons:
1. The seating was all one level, making it difficult for shorter children to see the stage.

2. Some of the experiments/demonstrations were anti-climactic while others kept me in suspense. It was like an entertainment sandwich; great experiments followed by things that I could have done at home, followed by things that absolutely wowed me. I am not sure that this is a true “con” per say, because it still held the attention of my children, and I guess that’s all that matters.
Overall Rating:

Four peas in a pod! (Out of five)
Talk to you soon,

Serene
Share with me: Have you seen the show already? What did you think of it? Do you plan to see the show? Let me know you thoughts once you see it.

My Mom: The Village Fashionista

My mother is all about appearances: your house must look good, your clothes must look clean, your teeth must look white, your hair must look groomed, your bed must look neat. Until recently, I thought she was incredibly superficial, only concerned about the surface of things. “Where’s the depth?” I wondered “And what if under the surface of these good looking things, everything is in shambles. I mean, really, what if your teeth looked white but the bleaching agents you were using were wreaking havoc in your body? What if your hair looked groomed, but the relaxer used was eating away at your scalp? What if your bed looked neat and made, but you had bed bugs? I know, that’s drastic, but you get my point.

I could never understand that aspect of my mother.I couldn’t understand her point of view. Our difference of opinions with this topic was usually the basis of all of our arguments.

And moreover, I became very frustrated by her need to throw these superficial ideals on my children. One of my biggest fears is having children who are so obsessed with superficial images that they become shallow individuals who can’t see past the look of a person to their heart, so instead they become judgmental about everything that doesn’t look a certain way and so they begin turning their nose up to anything that doesn’t fit their standard. Not saying that my mother is one of those individuals because she truly is not; but when I have a fear of something it usually is way more dramatic than the average person could imagine (hence the bed bug reference earlier). But this was my thought every time my mother gave my children an instruction that called for them to tend to something that would only impact the look of themselves or something else. And many times, I’d voice my opposition to what I thought was so shallow.

However…..

It’s funny how a point of view could change after a little self reflection.

In thinking about the function of the village in the saying “it takes a village to raise a child”, I really had to reflect upon my small village and all of its inhabitants. My mother is definitely a part of my village. This I have known since the day I had my first child and she carried him back to his crib after I cried myself to sleep while nursing him. Sleep deprivation and postpartum blues had me a total wreck. But my mom literally detached him from my breast and placed him in his bed, then came back two hours later and latched him on again for his next feeding. But until recently I didn’t realize what an integral part of my village my mom plays in ALL of her roles. During a moment of reflection, I realized that I can’t acknowledge the value of my village and at the same time, discredit the value of the individual villagers. Amongst many other roles she plays, my mother is THE VILLAGE FASHIONISTA, which makes total sense when I put many things that I know about her together: she was a model in her younger days, she majored in photography back in high school, she used to like to perform at every block party when she was a child (she would STILL like to perform at every block party as an adult, if she could find a block party going down somewhere).

She has always been about the lights, camera, show of everything.

Its been embedded in her since she could walk, or so I’ve heard from her siblings. It’s woven into the fibers of her DNA to always be camera-ready. And now that I’ve connected the dots, I understand that my super, image conscience mama has an important role in my life and in my village.

Appearance IS a very important thing to consider. There are people out there who will judge a book by its cover and won’t even pick that book up if the cover is raggedy. They won’t walk in your home, or sit comfortably in it, if it looks messy. They won’t want to be in public with you if your hair is not brushed. From my mother, my children will learn to have a crisp book cover (even if the pages are tattered and torn). From my mother, they will learn the art of faking it until you make it, to not look like what you are going through, to look like a million bucks even if you only have fifteen cents. After all, wasn’t that what Vaseline on patent leather shoes all about? (Some of you wont catch that reference, sorry).

Until now, I never saw the value in these lessons. My theory was if you are going to judge me based on the surface, then I am better off without you. If you are going to judge the home of two full-time working parents, then perhaps you shouldn’t visit; I don’t like company too much anyhow. But I realize, sometimes the overall appearance of a person can be the difference between getting the job and not getting the job. Yes, this is a fact that I still find to be a little shallow, but at times, it is the way of the world and so, these are in fact great values for my children to possess. I am not sure if I can make a total 180 about an ideal that I am not 100% in agreement with, but that’s the great thing about a village: Everyone in the village does not have to focus on the same things. They just have to focus on the same children. If all the villagers focused on the clean roads in the village, who’d focus on the houses in the village, or the markets in the village? The most important thing is that all the villagers know and understand their role and do their best not to judge or criticize the neighbor whose carrying out the duties that they have been charged with doing. And if you see that neighbor not quite doing their job as effectively as you think they should be either lend them a hand, shut up and keep doing your job, or abandon post and exit the village.

Once we learn to accept one another’s differences, we can work cohesively towards the same common goal: To raise a child.

Talk to you soon,

Serene

Are you a part of someone’s village? What role do you play?

The Garden that Grew Guilty Flowers

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“I wonder what is at the root of your guilt… Serene?”

That was the question that was posed to me one Monday morning during an hour long conversation with a woman at my job. It was an impromptu conversation that came about from me just passing her office to say “good morning”. This woman happens to be a mom and a very spiritual person, so I always enjoy my encounters with her. However, this particular morning, my brief hello turned into an insightful conversation that left me in tears, with a new life-changing question to reflect upon: “I wonder what’s at the root of your guilt…Serene?”. I don’t even know how we got to the point where the conversation took such a thought provoking turn, but before I knew it, we were discussing our outlook on motherhood, work, and self care. It may have begun with the question, “How was your weekend?”, my simple response of “Oh, we went to church and I did the usual: Laundry, food shopping, etc”, somehow led to us both discussing the “Sunday Night Mommy Monster” that was all too familiar to us both. That monster, she came out each weekend due to the anxiety of only having two days to reset our homes for the week to come.

Until this conversation, I thought that I was the only one who transformed into that green creature with the purple ripped shorts around 6pm every Sunday.

I thought I was the only one whose family feel victim to the “Hulk Smash”, once she realized that she was not going to accomplish everything on her weekend-to-do-list. I thought I was the only one who single-handedly destroyed any trace of a great weekend, as I complained about failing to accomplish the goals of the weekend. I wasn’t the only one and this Monday morning conversation opened my eyes to that.

Then our conversation took another turn and, I was telling her about my insane need to sit at my desk all day at work, to complete a daily to do list that was longer than any human, or small team of humans could complete in a 7 hour work day. I revealed to her how hard it was for me to take a lunch break each day because I felt bad about abandoning my work for something as trivial as eating. She shared with me the struggle she once had with leaving the office on time to get home to her family. This made me realize that if it wasn’t for the fact that I have to pick my little girl up from the day care at 5:45pm each day, I probably would stay at work until the building closed. She explained how well she understood my struggles, because she had once battled with similar issues, but she went on to share how she had taken a stand against being a slave to her work and that she had even kicked the habit of coming to work on the weekends. She even shared how she had come to realize that it was so important to take care of herself and do the things that she enjoyed. She explained how by doing those things she had discovered a peace of mind that she had not known before.

I stood there looking at her with admiration, as my mind entertained all the things in life that I would love to do just for the sheer enjoyment.

I thought about how wonderful it would be to leave work while it was still light outside. I thought about how wonderful it would be to eat lunch without worrying about getting spaghetti sauce on the keyboard as I answered my work emails. I thought about watching a movie on a Sunday night with my family so that we can all feel relaxed before the new week begins.

Just as I started to feel comforted by all these thoughts, this awful feeling from the pit of my stomach began to rise up and dampen my whole mood. “I would feel so guilty doing many of the things that I would like to do because I would feel like I’m abandoning my responsibilities” I told her.

Her response was a sympathetic tilt of her head, as she looked at me and asked, “I wonder what’s at the root of that guilt? That’s the real question, Serene”.

She said those words to me.
We exchanged a few more words, she passed me a tissue for my tears, she gave me a few words of inspiration to meditate upon, and I went on to start my day of work. But that entire day, that entire night, that entire week I kept replaying that question over and over in my mind. What was at the root of my guilt? The funny thing about that question is that I actually knew the answer. Deep, deep, down inside I always knew the answer, but the voice was so small that as it whispered the answer, I always drowned it out by constantly keeping myself busy. Now that I was actually thinking about the question, the answer seemed to grow louder and louder until I couldn’t ignore it.

At the root of my guilt, there was my idea of perfection. My idea that a perfect mom makes sure that the kids have everything they need and most of the things they want, a perfect wife gives her husband the time, the attention, the affection, the support that he needs at all times, the perfect daughter fits the mold that her mom intended for her to be. The perfect director runs her program in a way that pleases all her staff, all the parents, and keeps the company CEO pleased at all times with her work. The perfect friend calls her girlfriend multiple times a week to laugh and cry about life. And the perfect Christian woman never complains while achieving all of these goals. That was at the root of my everyday belief. I believed it because I thought this was how I was suppose to operate based on the responsibilities that were given to me.
However, the thing that stemmed from that root was disappointment in myself for falling short of that belief. At times, my children would want something that I couldn’t give them and on those occasions, I’d think: I failed them. At times my husband would want intimate time with me but I’d be striving to be the perfect director, so I’d be doing work in our bed, all the while thinking: I failed my husband. At work, teachers would complain, budgets would go off track, and I’d think, I’m not working hard enough: I failed as a director. My mother and I would argue over the simplest things and I’d think: I failed as a daughter. I’m not hanging out with my friends cause I can’t find the time: I failed as a friend. Then to top it all off, many days as I worked to achieve this perfection, I’d grow tired and weary, I’d complain and I’d think: AND I failed as a Christian.

Ideas of perfection at the root, thinking I failed everything at the stem. All that blossoms from this kind of plant is GUILT! And there it was!!!

My epiphany!! I discovered the root, I had figured out why my guilt had grown and why it was choking me so much. I had allowed the garden, that is my mind, to be inhabited by weeds. I had watered roots that needed to be pulled before they had a chance to flourish. Then the thought that I failed as a gardener started to cross my mind as well, until I quickly recognized what was happening again. I snapped that thought out my head. I told myself, I must be thankful for the revelation that I finally received and now I had to do something about. It was time to take back the garden of my mind. I declared from that day moving forward, I was going to pull every single weed that disguised itself as a precious flower.
And this is where I am in my life right now. I’m gardening. I’m detecting the weeds of my mind. I’m discovering that some of them are so big, they are so hard to pull, but I’m pulling. I’m clawing at them. It’s a messy job, but I know that I must do this. Not for my family, not for my friends, not for my job, not for my mother, not for husband. FOR MYSELF!!

Talk to you soon,
Serene “Sweetpea” Stevens

Share with me: What’s growing in the garden that is your mind? How are you nurturing it each day?


 

Time-Released Lessons

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The other morning, my 13 year old Papi ran out the door to catch his 7:20am train to get to school on time. Like always, I locked the door behind him and turned to continue with my morning routines to prepare myself to go into the office. I hadn’t even stepped into my bedroom before I heard a rapid knocking on the window and the doorbell rang repeatedly. Whoever was out there clearly had an urgent matter. As I ran back to the door and peered out the window, I quickly opened the door for Papi who had returned for some reason. “I forgot to put lotion on. My hands are extra dry” he blurted out as he ran by me, then he yelled,  “Sorry!”, as he remembered that he had run in the house still wearing his sneakers, which is not allowed in our home. Normally, I would have given him an earful for wearing his shoes in the house, but as he retrieved a handful of lotion and ran back past me and out the door again, I stood there frozen for a brief second before snapping out of my trance and closing the door again.

My son had just run back in the house for lotion! Now to some this may not be a big deal, but this is a milestone in our home.

No one except for the people that live in this home could know the lengths to which I have gone to ensure that my children keep their skin moisturized. Not just because it’s good, healthy practice, but also because it keeps ones skin from looking dry, and “ashy” (a term some may not be familiar with, as it seems to be used predominantly in the black community). Yes ya’ll, I have my superficial moments where the sheer look of things can bother me, and ashy skin is one of my pet peeves. No one knows the countless number of times that my family and I have been out together and I turned to look at Papi’s hands and they look like he has just dipped both hands in a bag of flour. No one knows the annoyance I have felt as my son smiled proudly at his ability to scratch his name into his own hand as if he was some kind of human chalkboard. No one knows how many bottles of lotion I’ve purchased only to find full bottles behind the bed, in the clothing hamper, and other strange places that just don’t make sense.

When they were babies, I’d bathe my children every night, rub them down with lotion, ensuring to cover every nook and cranny. There wasn’t a week that went by that I didn’t have someone tell me how smooth and healthy my child’s skin appeared: “His skin has such a glow.”, “Wow, such beautiful skin, what do you use?” While those comments and compliments were never my driving force to keep doing what I was doing, they definitely served as confirmation that my efforts were paying off, as his skin was healthy, moisturized, and it was evident that he was being well-cared for.

Then he grew up.

Around the age of 7, he took his bathing into his own hands, and supposedly all the things that come with that territory. I would just make sure the house was stocked with all the things he needed to get the job done. However, what I quickly began to notice is that he wouldn’t use the things that were given to him. I never expected him to be as thorough as I was. That would just be silly. I was super anal about those things, and I don’t think anyone should be that crazy. But I did expect him to care a little more than he did. But he didn’t ya’ll, he just didn’t! Until the other morning. As I closed that door behind him, I was a proud mom. I had given him the tools from a very young age.

Over the years, I had purchased endless amounts of lotion, oil and cream. And though he never took the initiative to use his little dry hands to pick up any of those items, on this morning he finally did it!! He didn’t have to be told. I didn’t have to warn him that he was pouring too much or too little. He did it all by himself, people! All by himself! It was at that moment that I made a note to self. As moms, sometimes we teach our children lessons and we want instant gratification. We want them to show us that we taught them. Sometimes we even want them to do it to prove to others that we taught them well, that they have good “home-training”. But at the end of the day, it doesn’t work like that.

Sometimes we have to find comfort in the fact that we guided them, that we showed them the way, that we exposed them to the means. We have to trust that some day, one day, those lessons will show themselves.

In the case of the lotion he may have come back because on his walk to the train station, one glance at his cracked and peeling hands made a light bulb go off. Being in middle school, perhaps the day before, a classmate may have made fun of his dry, “ashy” skin and he didn’t want to be the center of a joke the next day. Or perhaps, being 13, there is a little girl who has caught his eye and he wants to show her that he can be well-groomed. Whatever the reason is, as his mom I can breathe easier knowing that I equipped him with what he needs and one day when he decides that he needs to use the tools that he’s been given, they will be in his utility belt because I put them there. And that’s enough for me.

Talk to you soon, Serene

Share with me: What are those lessons that you are teaching your child(ren) that you hope will manifest themselves one day?

My New Chapter

(This particular blog is dedicated to a woman who inspired me to see the many chapters that we go through in this book called “Life”, and to the man who told me that I have a story to tell).

I woke up frustrated this morning.  I woke up tired this morning. I woke up frustrated because of why I was tired this morning. 

You see, last night I spent the hours of 9pm through 4am defending my parenting style to a group of people.  Particularly, my parenting style as it relates to my preteen/teenager.  Usually, I like a healthy conversation. I even like to engage in a healthy debate every now and then.  But I usually never like to have conversations where I have to DEFEND myself. It’s exhausting and by the time it ends, depending on who I am conversing with, my point or my perspective is never acknowledged or justified anyway, so essentially it is a waste of time.  (Hence, frustration!).

As of late, I feel like I have been having one too many conversations where I am defending my parenting style.  And while I would like to stop right here and just set the record straight by saying, I am open to much advice! I love advice.  It’s feedback and feedback helps improvement. In fact, I like feedback and advice so much that I seek it, but only from those who have been through a similar experience as what I am seeking advice for, which is not the same group of people who I am having these conversations with as of late.

So with that said, I am not that person who is getting all these interventions from these experts right now and I am just having a tantrum because what I really am is just oblivious to the needs of my children.  That’s not what this is.

And what I am definitely not as well, is an EXPERT on raising a pre-teen/teen.  Why am I not an expert? Well, because I am smack in the middle of still raising a pre-teen who is about to be a teenager. And it is my belief that one can not be an expert on something until they have EXPERienced that particular something and come out on the other end of it successfully and even then, it could be argued, that they are still just an expert from a very small perspective in the grand scheme of things.  Multiple experiences would truly determine mastership over that area and thus expertise.  Perhaps, that’s just my opinion (shoulder shrug).

And, so with that said, today, through my tiredness and slowly declining frustration as I write, I have found my next new venture, or rather my new chapter.

And that chapter is called, “Writing a Book”.  The purpose  of this book will be to capture my journey through trying to become a preteen/teenage expert. Not for every preteen/teenager, but, for the one that matters the most to me right now: mine.

As he embarks on this third year of middle school, I have also learned many lessons in the first two years that will dictate how I help him to navigate through this year, both academically and socially, at home and at school.  I have discovered, sometimes through the help of outside influences, and sometimes just from my own observations, the need to change my approach to dealing with him in certain areas.  I have also discovered that I still have far to go. This discovery has also come from both some outside influences, and from my own observations. Either way, with some pushing, I have decided, that it is time for me to document this journey in the hopes that I will come out in the end as an expert on dealing with MY 12/13 year old, which will be determined by his success through the rest of middle school and start of high school.

Now, I have never written a book before so I don’t know exactly what it entails but what I do know is that every book begins with a story to tell, and I have that at least.  So without further adieu, here I go… Wish me luck!!

Talk to you soon,

Serene

Share with me: Any advice that you have about publishing a book.  I am going to need it. (See how I ask for advice when I need it. HA!)

Pot of Sweet Peas

How Are You Really Feeling?

I love my kids! Let me just start by saying that,so once you read on, you don’t think otherwise.

So with that out of the way, let me just ask: is it wrong for me to tell me children to “Please get out of my room”?, is it mean for me to say, “Hey, I would love to hear your (very long) story but I’m just so tired right now?”, or am I a bad mom for occasionally wishing that I could change my name from “mom” to something that they can’t pronounce so easily? Well, let me answer that for you. No, it’s not wrong, No, I’m not mean and No, I’m definitely not a bad mom. I know these things now, but if a mom would have asked me those same questions a few years ago I would have given her the side-eye all the while dailing the number for Child Services. So what has changed my mind? Reality and an inability to lie (most of the time) to my children about how I am really feeling.
When I was a child, I never knew how my mom did it. How’d she raise us as a single parent, work full-time, put herself through nursing school and never ever grow tired? She came from a school of thought where you “never let them see you sweat” and she didn’t let us see it, AT ALL! My brother and I never knew how our mom was feeling unless she was in pain and couldn’t hide it. It was like living with Robo-Mom. Now don’t get me wrong. I am not complaining. There are definite benefits to having a Super-Mom. My mom was and still is the strongest role model that I have.
But imagine how I felt being a mom of two at the time, raising my children in a two parent household, going to school, working full-time, but actually being tired some days. There were days where I would come home and want nothing more than to climb in bed and cover my head. I rarely did it, but I did feel like it often.

What the heck was wrong with me? Had I not inherited the “Invincible” gene?

After having our third child, I realized that while it would be nice to have the “Super” title, what’s even nicer is to be honest with myself and my children. And the honest truth is I’m human. I get tired, I have headaches, and I even cry. I don’t mind letting my children see me sweat cause guess what, people sweat! As a matter of fact, people sweat when they are working hard. I want my children to know that parenting is hard work. Working a full time job is hard work, and being an adult is hard work. They are all things that I love about my life but they ain’t easy. I want my children to see that things don’t just come so easy.
So do I just sit there whining to my children about the struggles in life? No, of course not. At this stage in their lives they don’t need to know all the hardships that come with being a grown-up. Some things they will have to discover on their own once their time comes. But when they hit a bump in life, I need for them to be able to acknowledge the bump, patch it up and keep moving. When they are feeling tired I want them to be able to say “hey, I’m tired. I need rest” and then they actually rest. I need for them to recognize when they need their own personal space to recharge their batteries. I want them to cry if they need to, but then wipe their tears and push through to victory. And the only way they are going to be able to know that all of these feelings are okay is if they see it at home. Genuine feelings, genuine emotions, genuine perseverance.
Our strength is not defined by our ability to carry the weight of the world. It is defined by our ability to live life to is fullest despite the weight of the world.

Talk to you soon,
Serene

Share with me: Do you think parents should share their feelings and emotions with their children? Why or why not? 

Pot of Sweet Peas

A Healthy Balance

As a mom it’s very easy to have a one track mind and I’m definitely not referring to sex cause let’s face it, usually when you have little ones running around, sex is the last thing that you can focus on.  But, back to the topic at hand. As a mom it’s really easy to become so absorbed in the daily “have to’s” that you develop a tunnel vision and can only see the things you have to do. I have to pull out dinner for tonight.  I have to cook dinner for tonight. I have to sign trip permission slips.  I have to make sure these bills are paid. I have to wash laundry so that clothes are ready for basketball practice.  And the list goes on…and on.

Too often this chant becomes so embedded in us that we forget one of the important “have to’s”, which is ” I have to find a healthy balance or I just may lose my mind!!”.

For me, that realization didn’t occur until child number 3.  Prior to her arrival, I tried to be superwoman and as a result I suffered from panic attacks and overall mommy burn out. But now I have come to realize that Mommys are people too (who knew!!?) and with that comes a need for a balancing act. So what are the keys to a healthy balance? I’m glad you asked:

Here are my top five absolute necessary keys to being a healthy and happy mommy.

  1. Spiritual health: For me this is key. Without the strength from my higher power, I don’t have the patience, determination, and sometimes the will to do any of the other much needed things.
  2. Mental health: Every now and then I have to assess the situation at hand and come to a conclusion of whether I want to tackle it or leave it be. This applies to many things from dealing with a loved one to dealing with a load of laundry. Every situation does not have to be handled by me at that exact moment.  Knowing that AND accepting it is great for the mind.
  3. Physical health: Every morning I wake up 45 minutes before anyone else in the house. For those 45 minutes I take out the time JUST FOR ME!! I spend 20 minutes doing a workout focusing on whatever area of my body that I want to for that day.  Then the last 20/25 minutes is spent getting dressed and primping in the mirror. (Physical health is as much about looking good as it is feeling good).  For those 45 minutes, it actually feels like pre-children days. Then 6 o’clock hits and mommy duties call.  Back to reality!
  4. Social/emotional health: Once I became a mom I quickly learned why it’s great to have a best friend. Someone you can vent to, cry with and have an adult conversation with. Having children will make you forget that you have a well developed vocabulary. Thank God for friends.
  5. Cognitive health:

It’s so very important for me to be a student forever. In this world there is always something new to learn and there is always room for growth. I challenge myself often to learn something new. Right now I am in the process of trying to perfect my Spanish. I can speak the language but I aspire to read and write it. Lucky for me… There’s an app for that!!

Stay healthy moms, your babies depend on you. – Serene

Share with me: What do you do for your healthy balancing act?

 

Pot of Sweet Peas

Just a Mom

My decision to have a third child was definitely not a choice that I made on my own.  T and I had talked about having a third child, but it was only talk.  My husband comes from a big family so having more children was always an option for him.  Me being one of two, I always thought two was enough.  I began entertaining the thought of having a third child when I got the desire to have a little girl.  Sure, I love my Papi and Munchkin, but there is something very different about a mother-daughter relationship.  So the urge was tugging at me.  But it was only TALK!!

When I found out that I was 5 weeks pregnant, you talk about being speechless!  I cried so much on the day I found out, and then I cried a bit more for the next two weeks to follow.  I was so unhappy.  In a matter of weeks my entire future flashed before my eyes and the headline, in neon lights read, “You are destined to forever be JUST A MOM”.  Now don’t get me wrong, the job of mom is definitely an important one that I love very much (most days), but when you have children who are already becoming more self-sufficient and able to entertain themselves for hours and hours, the thought of bringing another helpless, dependent, little life in the house can be very daunting. My family of four had already established our rhythm. Our days had become predictable in their unpredictability.  I had mastered life with two children and had just began to feel comfortable with the idea of doing more things for myself.  Now with the thought of a baby coming, I heard the cell door slamming and the judge saying “you are now sentenced to another 18 years of motherhood”. Man, I didn’t even finish serving the first two sentences! Now I know all of this sounds harsh, especially coming from a woman whose life and career surrounds around children, but that’s how I truly felt. Let’s blame it on the hormones.

Anyhow, after a few nights of talking with the hubby and other mentors, I finally realized why I felt so sad about what was meant to be a joyous occasion.  I had many dreams for myself as an individual.  In my career, I wanted to open my own school. In my marriage, I wanted to be able to take out the time to enjoy my hubby the way I did before the children came along, and as an adult, I wanted to be able to go out and enjoy the company of other adults.  As the boys were getting bigger, all of these things were coming closer into view.  But as my belly grew larger, not only did my feet disappear, but so did any ideas of reclaiming back my life… or so I thought.

Around 20 weeks of pregnancy, I had a heart to heart conversation with my hubby who felt like he could not enjoy this pregnancy as much as he wanted to because I was so down in the dumps.  He really wanted to know why I felt this way and what he could do to help.  I explained to him all of the things that I wanted out of life and aspired to become.  His answer was so simple that it made me kind of upset that I didn’t think of it myself. He said “Why can’t you still be those things?” What!!!! I thought, how can I have all these complex feelings and he comes up with this simple answer? It didn’t seem right. But he went on to explain that none of these things should be put on hold just because we are having a third baby. Of course, a new baby would mean that a little more effort has to be put forth in order to make these things come to fruition, but to put them on the back burner would be nonsensical if they are things that I really want.

Sometimes the answer could be that easy but it could be so hard to see when you are flooded with emotions and fear. To this day, I still struggle with doing things for myself versus solely focusing on the demands of motherhood, but every now and then I have to reassure myself that taking out the time for me is not sinful, and it is also vital in order for me to be the best mom that I can be.  It’s all about a healthy balance.

Baby number 3 turned out to be a girl, our little Lylo, and I know one of the many things I want to teach her is that we are much more than how society portrays us as women and how we even portray ourselves.

Yes I am a mom. But I’m not just a mom.  I’m also a wife, a lover (that’s an extension of being wife), an educator, an entrepreneur, a daughter, a friend, an advisor, a spiritual leader, and now a darn good multi-tasker.

Talk to you soon!

Share with me: What have you done for yourself lately?

Pot of Sweet Peas

Unexpectedly Expecting

Two days ago I received some very surprising news.  Despite all of my planning and prevention methods, my husband and I are expecting!! Oh…My….Goodness (Jaw still dropping).  The news came in the form of an email as that is how my doctor reveals all blood-work results.  To say that I was shocked is an understatement. There were tears of all kinds of emotions but mostly of astonishment.  We’ve talked about it in the past, having a third child, but my hubby and I have always had slightly opposing views about it.  He comes from a big family so the thought of more children is always welcomed by him.  And I, being one of two children always figured “hey, I have two eyes, two ears, two hands, why not just two children.  With a 7 and a 10 year old, we have all finally gotten into our rhythm and routines.  We know pretty much what to expect from each child. Everyone has his own place in the family and all seems well with the world.  I guess God has other plans.  

I know that we are only in the month of April but this year so far has been a life lesson for me that I have now for the first time truly learned:  No matter how much planning we do in life, we are not and can not be in control of everything!!  Sometimes things happen because they are just meant to happen.  Some call it fate, others call it destiny.  I like to call them miracles and blessings.  

I am still in shock and it will take a minute for me to truly process this news.  But I can now say from the bottom of my heart that I am excited!  Sometimes we just have to let go and let God.  He has never left us thus far and I know He definitely won’t leave us now that He has blessed us with another bundle of joy.  

Talk to you soon!