Marina Grace turned two-years-old on Monday. My goodness. Ya’ll already know how I feel about my babies growing up and time passing too quickly, so I’m not going to get into it… again. Instead I’ll share these photographs that I snapped at the aquarium the other day.
Instead of a traditional birthday party, we decided to spend the day at the Adventure Aquarium in Camden. It’s a bit of a ride, two hours each way, but it was a lot of fun. I’ve been obsessed with aquariums and zoos for as long as I can remember. Visiting them has always been a favorite pastime and I’ve visited lots of them all over the country during my travels. However, because my babies weren’t always the easiest to take out and about, it’s been over four years since I’ve gone! Far too long.
This day was very special for me and for the littles, as well. Marina was more than willing to share her special day with the whole family and we had a blast. Best of all, they were both so well-behaved. Proving that, indeed, they are finally ready to start exploring the world beyond our usual routine. What a joy for this Mama’s adventurous heart!
Happy Birthday, my sweet Marina Grace. You are funny and loving and wild. You have the most-determined little spirit I’ve ever come across. I know that it will serve you well. Stay strong and fierce, my beautiful girl. I love you always and always and all ways. xo
It’s been over a year since I’ve done a Roman update. That makes me so sad, but considering the year that I’ve had, it’s understandable. You know how most of the time you look at your child and you’re busy thinking about life’s happenings. You look at them but you’re thinking about what you’ll make for dinner or the fact that they need their hair washed or how they’ve managed to get a hole in yet another pair of pants. But then, once in awhile, you look at your child and you’re just looking at them. Nothing else is on your mind, just them, and you’re taking them in, admiring every little detail of their face, you’re taking in the full miracle that is your child.
Lately when I have those moments, looking at Roman, I’m just struck by how big he is. I mean we’re always in awe that our children are “getting so big, so quickly,” that’s a constant in parenting. But these days there is something different, a massive transition. I remember when he transitioned from a baby to a toddler and it was shocking and exciting and sad, all at once. But right now, he’s transitioning from a toddler into a boy… and it’s just. I’m crying just typing these words. I have to pause.
Life has this way of being a never-ending roller coaster, that’s how it is, highs and lows. But parenthood, damn, it’s on a whole different level. Sometimes the breeze is just right and your sails are full and your cruising across smooth waters. Then, in the blink of an eye, from nowhere, a storm blows in — a storm of biblical proportion and everything that you thought was steady and secure vanishes from beneath your feet and you’re tossed into a treacherous sea.
It’s been getting harder and harder to pick him up, he’s so heavy. And last night, for the first time that I can remember, he tried to curl up on my lap and he’s just so big, we couldn’t get comfortable. Now the tears are coming, fat and ugly down my cheeks. Perhaps it wasn’t the craziness of life that’s kept me from writing this post. Perhaps, it’s rather the fact that it just hurts, that I just want it to slow down and it won’t. It never will. It will only go faster.
When Roman was a baby, I made these detailed posts about his development. I placed all of this emphasis on his growth, his sleeping patterns, how he was eating, and so on. I stopped doing that a long time ago. I hardly every did it for Marina, maybe just in her first few months of life or so. As I’ve moved deeper into my role of mother, I’ve realized just how unimportant those silly details were. These days I’d rather be fully immersed in enjoying and cherishing my baby’s milestones as opposed to meticulously writing them down.
Gosh, this post has become so much about me, and not really about Roman at all. So let me say a few things about him.
My sweet boy started school in September. He loves it. He loves his friends and he loves his teachers. He’s never once hesitated when it’s time to go into his classroom. While so many of his classmates hesitate at the door and even have tantrums, refusing to leave their mother’s side, Roman bounces in with a heart of love and excitement each morning. I had my first parent teacher conference a few weeks ago and Roman seems to be doing great. He has a little trouble controlling his emotions at certain times, but his teacher assures me that it’s all developmentally appropriate.
At home, he is as smart, sweet, and creative as ever. I see this emotional and intellectual transition occurring in him, where simple explanations no longer cut it. He’s not just content with yes or no, he wants to know why and how, too. He is a little love. He caters to my constant requests for cuddles and always gives me “a kissy” if I feel sad or get hurt. He’s an excellent big brother, happily caring for his “baby ‘Rina” and teaching her the ways of the world.
He has his moments, of course, as all three-year-olds do. We’ve definitely experienced more behavior issues this year than we had during his one’s and two’s. He doesn’t like to be told no, and he gets very emotional very quickly — red face, tears, the whole works. We’re working on these things, and with the help of his preschool teachers (who assure me it’s normal for his age) we’re definitely seeing progress.
Without getting too far into a lot of the “milestones” conversation, just a couple of points. First, he’s huge. He towers over other three-year-olds and even four and five-year-olds, too. At age three he wears clothing made for age five and shoes made for age six. Consequently people always think he is much older than he actually is. However, he is so well-spoken and polite that people continue to struggle believe that he is only three. He is most definitely mature beyond his years in many ways, while in other ways he’s right on target.
There is just so much to say about my Roman James. But mostly, he is a pleasure. Brilliant, funny, outgoing, and adventurous. He has an excitement about life that fills my heart with the greatest joy and gratitude. Every time that I think my heart has reached maximum capacity and I simply can’t love him anymore — the limits of my love are stretched again and my adoration for my son explodes to greater heights like fireworks.
Thank you so much for allowing me to be your Mama, my darling Roman James. I loved you then, I love you still, always have, always will. ♥
Travel has always been an integral piece of my happiness puzzle. Exploring new places, meeting new people, and having adventures make my soul come alive. My greatest travel adventures happened when I was alone–flying across the country to Seattle when I was in college; studying abroad in Kenya; and spending a week alone in Paris.
I loved traveling alone. There’s something wonderful about answering only to your own desires and not having to worry about anyone else. I know that one day, in a distant future, I will travel alone again. But now, as a mother with two little ones, most of my adventures involve my babies and I’m just fine with that.
It’s been a road getting here, as is the case for many mother’s, my children’s infant-hoods were riddled with challenges. And yet, here we are, Marina is just days away from turning two and Roman is a full-blown little boy, not really a toddler anymore at all.
It’s been well over a year since we’ve traveled at all, and I’m just itching to plan a getaway. Money is tight right now, as tight as it’s ever been, so budgeting will be the name of the game. For me that just adds to the fun of it. The process of trip-planning is just as enjoyable to me as the trip itself. Planning itineraries, researching the best places to eat, and the most wonderful things to do fill me with delight.
As I embark on planning my first “big (actually little!) trip” with my children, I’m giddy with excitement. Up until this point, they’ve only been exposed to such a small piece of our great big world. I am so excited to break them out of this little bubble that they know and show them all of the magic that is waiting for them beyond the familiar.
I’ve been wanting to write this post forever. I’ve started it in my head countless times. I kept stopping though, I could never get it out. I want to say so much and I want to say it well.
It’s just that the message is so much more important than simply, “You have to take care of yourself.” And yet, that is the message. I hope that saying something will be better than saying nothing at all. I hope that you will read this and that it will touch you to make a change in your life, a change that you very much deserve.
It’s been a month and a half since I found my way out of the darkness, again. The past few years have been a roller coaster in every way. The only constant has been my lack of self care. Sure, there were a few times when I stepped up my game and did something positive or healthy for myself; but all of those attempts fizzled quickly.
The thing about self care is that it’s a massive undertaking. It’s not about one thing, or even a series of short term efforts. It’s about a lot of things: a permanent, holistic picture of healthiness, happiness, fullness, and balance. When I “woke up” at the beginning of this year, it wasn’t so much a matter of wanting to, as it was a matter of necessity. I was literally slowly dying.
Over the past six weeks, everything has changed. It had been so hard to take care of myself for so long, because I fell into the trap that a lot of women (and men) fall into–I believed that I mattered the least. It’s a natural belief, easy to fall into, especially when you are a mother or a caretaker. It’s instinctual to a degree, to want to put your babies or loved ones in front of yourself in every way.
The unfortunate thing is that ultimately, and almost always, it ends in disaster. When we do not take care of ourselves, we fall apart. Our health suffers and our mind suffers. We run ourselves ragged trying to do everything, and be everything, for every one; and even if that works for a little while, eventually, it always falls apart.
Sometimes we think that by neglecting ourselves, we are serving others; but that is not the truth. When we are broken, the love and the care that we give to others is inadequate at best. You cannot serve from an empty vessel.
I have found that there are five key areas of nourishment when it comes to self care. If we can meet these five areas, truly and completely, then we are, indeed taking care of ourselves. When we are our best selves, we can also care wholly for the people that we love. In order to effectively, love and care for the people and things in our lives, we must first love and care for ourselves.
There are five areas of nourishment for self care:
Emotional: First, we must be nourished emotionally. Self-love and emotional wellness are the very basis of self care. If we do not love ourselves, everything else in our lives will be out of balance. The challenge of emotional nourishment often comes down to our beliefs about what we, ourselves, deserve.
When I started my journey of self care, I struggled intensely. For a long time I would start only to stop again quickly thereafter. I finally found lasting success when I began using my self-love mantra, “I deserve to be happy and healthy.” When I feel like I can not (or should not) reach personal success, I repeat my mantra to myself. It empowers me to keep going.
Physical & Nutritional: These two go hand-in-hand. Physical and nutritional wellness are the bedrock foundation on which wellness is built. For some people, these things come naturally. Regular physical activity and a healthy balanced diet are staples in some peoples lives. For others, however, it’s just the opposite. Sedentary lifestyles equate to constant aches and pains. The diet consists of almost entirely unhealthy, processed garbage food.
I could write a novel on this bullet point alone, but for now, I’ll simply say two things.
Exercise–You must do something that stretches your muscles and elevates your heartbeat every day. A brisk walk, a dance party in the living room, a ten minute yoga video on YouTube. Any of these things will suffice. Further, you must exercise hard–until you sweat–between one and three times a week. If you think this sounds impossible, start with a mere fraction of what I am recommending and go from there. It is not impossible. Wherever you are today, just start. Even if you have long forgotten its magic, your body is still a wonderful, powerful temple. It is waiting for you to reclaim it.
Diet–Imagine that your body is a garden. If you want it to grow and flourish, it needs certain things. It’s very simple. We all know that gardens need water, sunlight, and rich soil to grow. Our bodies are similar. We need water, vitamins and minerals, protein, and fiber. There are many ways to achieve this, thousands of diet plans in the world. But most basically, what we need is real, organic food. Fruit, vegetables, lean meat (in moderation or not at all). It’s that simple. Everything else, other than the things that I’ve described here, is garbage. With very few exceptions, all processed food is garbage, loaded with chemicals and preservatives. Cigarettes, alcohol, and drug abuse–would you pour battery acid all over your garden?
Spiritual: Once we are emotionally, physically, and nutritionally nourished, we can turn attention to our spiritual lives. Spiritual nourishment comes from a whole host of areas, and for each person, it means something different. For many, religion plays a part in soothing the spirit. For others, time spent alone in nature is critical to spiritual health. Almost everyone can benefit from art–reading nourishing books, listening to touching music, visiting a museum, watching a moving play, and so on.
When it comes to spiritual nourishment, it’s really simple. Do whatever it is that makes your spirit come alive.
Interpersonal: Relationships are the final piece of this puzzle. Ten years ago, I was in an amazing place in my life. I had just overcome anxiety and depression. I had lost seventy pounds. I was living a life that I had always dreamed of living. At that time, I absolutely loved helping people. I was building my career on my ability and desire to help people. What happened next, however, I never could have anticipated. My desire to help people almost killed me.
I was so blinded by my desire to help that I dove into it headfirst without caution. Both in my professional life and in my personal life. I was so committed to helping and healing others, that I completely forgot about me. I fell so hard and so quickly into a trap and I never, for a moment, realized that in trying to help, I–myself–would be destroyed.
By the time I finally realized what had happened, I was so far gone that I was unrecognizable. My life had fallen apart into a million broken pieces. One day I looked in the mirror and I had no idea who I was. It’s taken me a year and a half to slowly crawl out of that hole. I can finally see the light again.
My point regarding interpersonal relationships is that you have to be extremely careful about who you allow into your life and how. Not every person can be helped. Not every person wants to be helped. It is critical that you choose relationships that nourish you, build you up, and empower you to be your best self. Do not settle for anything less–whether in friendships, romantic relationships, colleagues, or acquaintances. Never, never settle. You do not have to tolerate toxicity in your life, ever.
When I first started therapy, again, I received some of the best advice I’ve ever heard. She said, when you are talking to yourself, speak as though you are talking to your children or to your best friend–to someone who you love very, very much. It took me awhile to fully come around to it, to truly embrace it. I still stumble occasionally, but mostly I am here now. I treat my self with the love and care that I deserve. And thereby, I can love and care for the people around me with a full, strong, nourished heart–which is the greatest love that can be given.
Every morning when you wake up, think of the best compliment that you could ever receive–and then give it to yourself. Say it in your mind. Say it out loud. Say it again, and again, and again. Then say it again at lunchtime. And again when you’re getting ready for bed. Not just today or tomorrow, but every day. Then watch the magic in your life unfold. ♥
Put on your oxygen mask before helping others.
You can’t help anybody when you’re dead.