January 26, 2015

random thoughts on the toddler dinner

Can someone tell me why my toddler mushes his food into a pile on his plate, but refuses to even smell a bowl of soup or casserole or anything else that's already been combined?

January 20, 2015

3 tips for beating stress in the moment

Even though my antidepressant keeps me from falling over a cliff of emotions, I still experience very stressful moments. Sometimes this happens when my son is acting up or defying me, other times he's not even around and I'm just making dinner. My pulse races along with my mind and I can't seem to catch up with myself.

My therapist (who happens to specialize in anxiety) gave me some tips for beating stress in the moment; things I can try to stop a stressful feeling in its tracks and cool down right away. After a few weeks, I've had several chances to try them out. Here are the three tips she gave me:
  1. Practice paradoxical intent. Developed by Dr. Viktor Frankl, the crazy idea behind this is to focus as hard as you can on an emotion in order to sort of confront it and break it down. In this case, when I feel stress I focus on being as stressed out as I possibly can: I can clench my fists, shut my eyes tight, and think "Stress! Stress!" It's so silly it actually works.
  2. Change the temperature. This is another technique that interrupts the cycle of stress or anxiety. Options include stepping outside to breathe cold air, running cold water over the wrists, or in extreme cases dunking an elbow in a bowl of ice water. Case in point: A few days ago, my son was clamoring at me begging for gummy candies and generally falling apart for several minutes. I wasn't going to give in just to make him quiet. So there I stood, with cold water running over my wrists, looking out the window and breathing deeply while he continued to cry at my feet. It really helped. After about ten seconds, the tense feeling in my gut eased and I felt more in control. My son? He got over it eventually.
  3. Do something intentionally. Even though I can feel stress just cooking, I actually enjoy doing it. It's the closest I can get to a creative hobby right now, and when I have time I really dig in. So sometimes I bake bread intentionally. I focus on the process -- weighing the flour, smelling the yeast in the dough, watching the mixer knead it into a smooth pattern in the bowl, feeling the texture on my fingers as I lay it out to rise. Using intention in doing something small makes me feel calm and centered so I'm less fluttered by the crazy moments that come later.
I'm not sure I have a preference for one tactic. I'm just not that organized. And sometimes I forget that I have these tools, but I can look at my son and remember that he's in a lot of pain when he can't communicate and doesn't know how to handle such big emotions. So I focus on softening myself instead and just stay near until the storm passes.

January 15, 2015

random thoughts on talking about dinner vs eating

I should know by now that, when I tell my son what we're having for dinner and he says "Mmm that sounds great!", it does not mean he will eat. In fact, it virtually guarantees he will hover around the table like a bee that can't decide whether it likes a flower.

January 12, 2015

new year's resolutions of a working mom

Disclaimer: I'm not a fan of making random or even carefully-planned New Year's resolutions. I do, however, believe in making changes when it seems necessary. In fact, I have seen the need and desire for some adjustments start to emerge over the past several months -- enough to declare to myself that I am willing to make some changes.

Unless a person is truly ready to take initiative, change is hard. In addition, what the resolution optimists don't talk about is that real change takes time. It takes initiative and intention plus a series of small steps to accomplish something bigger. In my case, the changes I want to make stem from awareness of things and people around me along with a desire to please God. After all, I am blessed in order to be a blessing. So here are the changes I'm making.

As a working mom, I will take time to incorporate different habits without putting pressure on daily life. Here's what that looks like for me:
  • Getting healthier. My relationship with food has declined, and I often eat for stress as much as hunger. Actually, I don't feel hungry very often because I snack long before I feel hunger pangs. I can easily be more mindful of quantity as well as quality. I am also getting more intentional with exercise. It's hard to squeeze it in, and way too easy to blow it off. But if I want to be healthy as I get older, I have to keep going.
  • Nurturing relationships. As my pastor pointed out yesterday, there is no cumulative value of allowing urgent things to interfere with the important things. How often am I browsing Facebook instead of making eye contact with my husband or son? How often am I watching a sitcom instead of checking in on a friend or loved one?
  • Organizing my home. It seems like I'm on a never-ending mission to get more organized, yet I have cubby bins that sit empty and my son's room continually cries out for underbed toy storage. I've started organizing my kitchen by (finally!) buying a real kitchen island that doubles as a breakfast bar, and implementing wall organizers so my kitchen drawers aren't bursting at the seams (see Ikea's Fintorp system). I honestly feel like my brain is less cluttered when my house is, and so this is part housecleaning and part therapy.
  • Nurturing myself. Actually, all of the above are things that nurture me but in a less direct way. At least a couple of days a week, I give myself permission to do something slightly indulgent that makes me feel more peaceful. That might be practicing guitar, taking an unscheduled long walk, or cooking something that looks too delicious to pass up (even if I think my family might hate it -- hello, green soup!). I have to remind myself that some days, putting away the dishes is just busywork, and sitting on the couch resting is more productive.
You'll notice I chose bullets instead of numbers, and that's on purpose. A numbered list might indicate priority, and the priorities shift every day or hour. I can never get everything done on a given day, but I can always choose one thing.

You may also notice I didn't create SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, timed). This is also on purpose. Because, um, I'm giving myself the grace to do things gradually without the pressure of a timeline. In other words, that kind of structure just overwhelms me.

As my pastor also pointed out, there is a cumulative value to investing small amounts of time in small activities over a long period of time. So I'm taking my time.

January 8, 2015

random thoughts on conscious parenting

There's a new buzz-phrase going around called conscious parenting. Kindness? I'm all over it. But let me know when someone figures out how to accomplish unconscious parenting. I'm tired. Or subconscious parenting. Because I think my son's subconscious is the only one listening.