I Am Not a Part-Time Parent

I cannot believe we still have to have this conversation, but here we are. Someone recently made a comment to me that it must be nice to be a “part-time parent” because I, like my husband, work outside of the home in an office during the week.

I was pretty surprised at the comment. “Part-time parent?” I asked. “Yeah,” she said, “You basically only have a few hours a day with your kids and on the weekends. That sounds pretty part-time to me.”

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Once I was able to convince myself not to hurl myself at this person, I decided to put pen to paper on a few thoughts, juuuuuust in case anyone reading this has had the same misconceptions about what it can mean to be a working mother.

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1. When I work during the day to help earn income for my home – to help pay the mortgage, lights, car payment, insurance, etc, I am being a parent.

2. When I stay late to try to close that deal or finish that project, so I can try to earn some extra income to save more for college for my kids, for example, I am being a parent.person holding pink piggy coin bank

3. When I show my kids that a woman can be equal to men with regard to financially supporting a family, I am being a parent.

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4. When I rearrange my day and client meetings to care for a sick child, take them to an appointment, or join for a field trip, I am being a parent.

5. When I do an entire presentation to a group of potential investors with baby spit-up down my shirt, covered by a suit jacket, without missing a beat, I am being a parent.  (BTW, this did happen, and I always felt like Michelle in One Fine Day with the dinosaur shirt on…)

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6. When I stay up late to study so I can propel my career forward with the dream of creating an even better life for my kids, I am being a parent.

7. When I get home in the evening, exhausted from a particularly trying day, and I help my kids with homework, clean up the dinner my husband kindly made, give the kids a bath and tuck them into bed with a kiss, I am being a parent.

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8. When on the weekends, I attempt to catch up on some piles of laundry and cleaning I couldn’t tackle during the week, I am being a parent. Yes, my house might not be perfect, but that’s not my priority right now. We all prioritize things differently, it’s what makes us uniquely ….you guess it…..parents.

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9. When I work on my laptop for a few hours on a Sunday to catch up because I had to pick up my kid from school because he was sick earlier in the week, I am being a parent.

10. When I take some time to go to the gym so I can set an example for my kids to prioritize their physical health, taking them with me to show them safe and effective examples of doing so, I am being a parent.

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Dear mamas, none of you are less of a parent if you work inside the home, work outside of the home, have a nanny, don’t have a nanny, or sit in a bubble bath in your spare time.

I am a parent 100% of the time, regardless of whether I am physically present with my children or not. No one can convince me anything about my parenting is “part-time” so don’t let anyone make you believe it either!

Also, let’s take this opportunity to remind each other to stop spending time with people who don’t feed your positivity. You know who they are. They are the women who smile to your face but are threatened by your happiness or success. They are the ones who will talk snidely about the fact that your house isn’t as clean as theirs or that you gained a couple more pounds than last year. These “Frenemies” have no place in my life and I hope you make a conscious decision to remove them from yours!! (See Discovering and Coping with Energy Vampires). In the words of Sophia A. Nelson:

Be a  woman other women can trust. Have the courage to tell another woman directly when she has offended, hurt, or disappointed you. Successful women have a tribe of loyal and honest women behind them. Not haters. Not backstabbers or women who whisper behind their back. Be a woman who lifts other women.

People who truly love you will understand that your shining light never dims their own. They won’t call attention to your faults or your struggles. They won’t be jealous of your happiness and try to ruin it. They will highlight your strengths and your triumphs. Those are your people. And those people know there is nothing part-time about love.

Love,

Margo

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Margo is the silly lady in the blue dress, a full time mom of two, supporter of other parents and financial advisor.

 

Discovering and Coping With the Energy Vampires In Your Life

Do you ever find yourself wondering, watching through exhausted eyes as the kids get back on the bus after winter break, why the holidays left you so unimaginably drained? The more I think about it, stories of heightened stress around the end of the year holiday festivities have my thoughts pointed in a singular direction. Overwhelming. Amounts. Of. People.

Photo Credit The Carson J Spencer Foundation blog

Whether it is travel, being around family, or the financial pressures we place on ourselves, it seems after that shiny disco ball rings in the New Year, a collective sigh of relief audibly guides us back to our sense of normalcy. Does anyone else ever find themselves asking… “why?”

After all, we can mostly push the proverbial pause button on school, morning routines, and after school/work activities for a bit. We’ve spent time at home, in our pajamas, sipping coffee and smiling at each other while the kids relished in the magic of the season, right?

Oh wait…I forgot.

 

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There were school parties; work parties; friend parties; shopping in crowds; returning gifts; family to see, cook for and entertain; traffic; neighbors; gaggles of children…must I go on?

The point is, during this time of year we are almost forced to be around people that we may not see throughout the year. Sometimes this is a great thing and we are filled up with warm fuzzies, but other times we leave a situation feeling drained, overwhelmed, angry, depressed, anxious, threatened, and just down right OVER IT.

If this is you, my friend, then you have yourself what I have become accustomed to calling, an “Energy Vampire.” 

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The easiest way I can describe this is in terms of positive and negative. A positive person is in tune, energetic, with a light that flows outward. A negative person’s energy is blocked from the source, so their energy is dense, almost like a black hole, within themselves. The blockage does not allow the energy to replenish, so in order for them to be filled, they have to seek the energy of others.

These individuals may creep up on you, engaging you in a conversation that leaves you feeling empty.  They may not even realize that this is what they are doing to you! They just know that they can dump their emotional “stuff” into your bucket and feel better, regardless of how it leaves you feeling.

No matter what you do, how you try to steer conversation or the direction of the friendship, this one person always finds a way to latch onto you and send you energy revolving in an orbit of negativity around them.

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Most of these individuals are emotionally and energetically immature, so they lack any sort of empathy to recognize the social cues one might give them that they are being too draining.  They also may not care even if you socially cued them right upside their head, because they derive energy from other individuals, and they don’t know how to stop themselves from doing it.

I can’t stop them for you; however, I’m gonna give you some garlic-laced energy ammunition to protect yourself.  Just in case your cat-like reflexes kick in and make you situationally aware when people are waiting for an opportunity to jump into your bubble, I am going to give you some positive tools to use when your emotional capacity is plentiful and you want to be of help.

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1. Know Your Personal Boundaries

In order to ward off an “energy vampire attack”, we have to be aware of our own personal struggles, mood, and headspace.  “Energy vampires” tend to feed on the weak. The higher your energetic capacity is, the less likely your energy will be drained. Daily, self-centering practices such as meditation, and self reflection are helpful keys to prepare yourself when you have to interact with these types of people. If you know your cups are low, avoid them at all costs.

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2. Roll Deep When You Can

If you can avoid one-on-one time with an energy-draining individual, then do. Interacting with negative people is almost always easier in group situations.  Dealing with them in groups not only sways the attention from being directly on you, but often makes the individual less likely to engage in immature behavior. Supportive friends and family are always great allies in these situations.

3. Make a Clean Break

Sometimes, the best way to deal with “Energy Vampires” is to recognize them for what they are and simply keep your distance. Maybe for a short term, maybe for a long term, or maybe until they, or you, are in a better place to communicate with each other. But sometimes you just need to make a clean break. It is important to ask ourselves

“what value is this person/these people actually adding to my life?”

If you are spending way more time solving their problems, listening without reciprocation, coming to their rescue, or worst yet, taking the fall for them when sh*t hits the fanthen it behooves you have to take serious inventory as to what this person is adding to your life. This is not to say that we don’t stand by old friends when sh*t hits the fan. On the contrary.

This is where the old pros and cons lists comes in handy. It sounds silly, but, I absolve you of any guilt-ridden feelings in performing this task.   You need your energy for the things you love, giving it away to those who won’t hold it dear is not something vital to your happiness. End. Of. Story.

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4. Be Direct

If your kindness kicks in and you want to lend a hand, try and keep your conversations direct. Instead of saying things like “tell me about it,” ask them directly “what can I do to help you?” This can ring very deeply in their empty well, and help them feel listened to and appreciate you on a different level.

For example, as a sleep deprived young mother my energetic cups were often very low and easily sucked into others’ negative inner turmoil. Hindsight is certainly 20/20 as I look back and see that if I could have found the energy at that time to simply ask directly what I could do to help with these individuals’ problems, we may have been able to work together to forge a constructive way to work out our differences, and we would have all been better off. And I could have saved myself a lot of energy-draining days.

5. Have a Self-Care Plan

If interaction with your “vampire(s)” is inevitable (for example with a coworker one cubicle over, or family member that seems to always “drop in“), have a routine for self-care in place for after you are around them (to remember your awesomeness, of course).  Maybe it’s a hot shower to rid yourself of their energy, or doing something nice for yourself or someone your care for – it all comes back to doing things that make you smile and re-fill your energetic “cups.” Whatever it is, tell your partner that you will need to have that time to fill back up immediately after the interaction is over. Your relationship with yourself and with all parties concerned will be better for it.

Photo Credit The Country Workshop

Setting boundaries, remembering who you are, listening to your own needs, engaging in direct conversation, practicing self care, and making a clean break when necessary, are the key components I have found successful in protecting oneself from those who feed off of your energy. I hope these tools help you to recognize who the “Energy Vampires” are in your life (OR if you are one to someone else!) and  go more confidently into situations with your own potential “Energy Vampires” and allow you to more deftly navigate them so that you aren’t left with an empty tank.

Now, go forth and be awesome!

004-1-of-1Kristy is a mother of two, Massage Therapist, and proponent of total body healing in Virginia.

Retreat Yourself! Wild and Bright Women’s Retreat Wrap-Up

In case you need a refresher or are new to our blog (welcome lovelies!), I wrote a post a while ago about my amazing friend, Dr. Sara Smith and her work as a life coach, yoga instructor, and overall supporter of the great thinkers and inspirational leaders of this world. This weekend, I attended her Wild and Bright Women’s Retreat and wanted to give you all a recap.

While spiritual workshops may vary depending on religious affiliation, this one was all-encompassing, forgoing denomination, and welcoming your individual belief system as a source of empowerment, guidance, and healing.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

In a world that is the most stressed, depressed, anxious, least empathetic, and most disconnected than it has ever been, unplugged retreats such as this one, that inspire community-based learning and self connectedness, are absolutely vital to shift the collective consciousness this world is currently embodying.

Through two days of yoga, guided meditation, and specific Life Coaching exercises, we were led to find one positive personal truth to feel within our bodies. We learned that no matter what, we have a choice to become aware, and to choose to feel peace within each moment.

The most profound lesson I took away from Sara, was that everything within me is perfectly made and is living my life in perfect timing.

I have spoken here so much of “brokenness”. I have spent SUCH a long time wondering, “what can I do to fix ________ aspect of my life?”  Sara reminds us that, we are perfectly made, and each moment we are going through, is a moment that can remind us that we are simply learning. We have been given a gift and can choose love in every move we make, instead of choosing anything that makes us feel imperfect.

For example, many of us are struggling with debt.

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I know I personally spend too much brain power and way too many minutes staring in terror at an overdrawn bank account with no hopes of reconciliation until next payday. During these wasted moments of anxiety, I would tell myself so many things.

“How could you let this happen AGAIN?”

“You’re so bad at managing money. Great, now we can’t afford anything”

“We will never be out of debt. We are so poor and we’ll be poor forever.”

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Sound familiar to anyone? This self talk comes into play in many aspects of our lives. Turns out, the way we do one thing translates into the way we do everything. Let me continue the example above, and translate it to other scenarios.

If I don’t do as well as I expected of myself in a workout:

“You could have done more. Why did you wimp out? Now everyone will be disappointed in you.”

Move into motherhood. Let’s talk about when I have a bad parenting moment, which is, until this week, I all too often labeled my moments parenting:

“You’re going to ruin your kids. They’ll never be kind and stable. You’re the reason they’ll need therapy.”

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I have wasted so many moments of my life choosing wrongly.  While these moments still happen, I must remind myself to tell the critical part of my brain to, for lack of a better way to say it, shut the hell up.

Internal dialogue has a profound effect on our outward reactions and emotions. According to an ASTONISHING article quoted here referencing research done by the National Science Foundation , “regarding research about human thoughts per day. The average person has about 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts per day. Of those, 80%  are negative and 95% are exactly the same repetitive thoughts as the day before and about 80% are negative.”

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Holy…..Bananas.

So, not only is our brain thinking mostly negative things, but we are also thinking negatively like a BROKEN RECORD! That thinking is powerful within our bodies, and has power to make us feel like CRAP about ourselves in every aspect of our lives.

When we say things like, “I hate my body” or “I wish I had her hair.” or “I’m a horrible mother” we are committing into our brain a false truth of negativity. When you are on “loop” in a negative self-talk spiral, ask yourself, is all that mind-chatter really true? If you reset to a mindset that we are created perfectly and there is nothing to fix, now are those thoughts REALLY TRUE?

I know I am glad to be breaking this awful cycle.

We must tell those repetitive thoughts to take a hike, and replace them with CHOICE. In the case of bank account chaos, instead of the swirling negativity, I can choose in the moment to break the cycle, forgive, and release it.

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Turning, “We are broke and we’ll never pay off debt”, into “We have delicious food on the table, all our true needs are met, and we come home to a warm and safe home every night” can make all the difference in the world. It can turn a sense of lack and fear, into gratitude and the feeling of abundance. And the power of that choice is ours.

Is this mindset going to be easy to maintain? Probably not.  Of course it’ll take constant reminders and integration into my routines. But! I am committed to choose LOVE instead of anxiety, worry, and negativity, or anything that does not serve me in my life that will not lead to peace. For it is from that peaceful and mindful state that we can create true and meaningful Action.

Example from Today: “I yelled at the kids today. I was feeling negative and anxious about money. I choose to let the anxiety go because it does not serve myself and or my children anymore. I am learning better habits every day.” <Breath. Pause. Release. Smile> “Hey kids!! I sure love you guys! Who wants to play freezetag???”

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Photo Cred: Eva Centeno

Have any of you attended a retreat? We want to hear about it! Commend below!

 

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Kristy is a peace-seeker, wife, mother of 2, and constant student of spiritual uplifting in Virginia.

Fave Fridays: Smart Screen Time

Look, we all know the deal with screen time by now. Every kid is better off outside with their hands in the dirt, chasing balls and butterflies and speed racing their bikes than they are with an electronic device. Fact.  Every day of the week.

 

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But sometimes, just sometimes, my wonder-woman tiara slips a little and I need a break from ball-tag, I need to shower before midnight, or I don’t know, let’s go crazy here… I want to prep a nice meal without making 500 snacks in the process. And it is during those limited times that I have learned to give myself a break and allow my kids some limited (and legitimately educational!) screen time without guilt.

 

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In case you need some help letting go of the screen-time guilt (as I did) here are the facts. AAP put out an official review you can see here. As with everything, (and regardless of the type of screen time involved) moderation is absolutely key.  But, there have been some encouraging studies showing educational benefits from a child’s “active” screen time, i.e., engaging with apps via an iPad or tablet.  For example, a recent study published in the International Journal of Education in Mathematics, Science, and Technology* found that:

…children can develop emerging knowledge about print in digital contexts using an iPad, or a similar tablet, and that it offers unique ways to employ reading, writing, listening, and speaking within one context.

When it is used appropriately (read: not binge-watching baby shark do-do-do) the screen can provide children with learning opportunities. To be clear, we are in no way advocating for a tablet to substitute for your guidance or play time with your child. Screen time is NOT a filler for social skills, coordination, or emotional development. Face to face interaction and active, tangible learning time is imperative for every child’s development. However, smart screen time CAN be a wonderful educational tool to supplement your child’s day (particularly in moments of parent burn-out).

The AAP also found in research** that:

Well-designed television programs, such as Sesame Street, can improve cognitive, literacy, and social outcomes for children 3 to 5 years of age and continue to create programming that addresses evolving child health and developmental needs (eg, obesity prevention, resilience)

Caveat: if you’re momming kiddos under 2, all of the current evidence unfortunately says, no benefit***. The brain of a kid 15 months to 2 years can learn from some types of interactive apps if they do them WITH you, but not watching videos or slapping the screen of an ipad unattended. With all that being said, we’ve collected here some of the most fantastic and legitimately educational apps for littles that can be downloaded to your phone or iPad to provide some smart screen time for your kids, when they (or you) might benefit.

So, without further ado… here are the keys to your next quiet, guilt-free shower. You can thank us later.

Smart Screen Time Apps for Kids

Endless Learning Apps

 

endless readerTrue story: this app is responsible for teaching multiple of our collective children their letters and early sight words. Preschool teachers legitimately asked for the info on this app because our kids far exceeded grade level in early phonetics – and as much as we’d like to take all the credit for that… we just can’t.  The full repertoire of Endless apps includes Endless Reader, Wordplay, Numbers, Alphabet, and Spanish. They have all been wonderfully educational and entertaining for our whole harem of kids.

Ages: 2 and up

Cost: Apps can be purchased separately or bundled. They run about $8.99-15.99/ea. The complete school bundle is $59.99, and is worth every penny.

Moose Math

 

Moose MathMoose Math actually succeeded in making math fun for our kids. And as adults who struggle to use “math” and “fun” in the same sentence…  we are big fans. Through a mathematical adventure, Moose Math teaches counting, addition, subtraction, sorting, and geometry through activities like the “Moose Juice Store” where kids add ingredients to create smoothies, Puck’s Pet Shop, and the Lost & Found. The app aligns with Common Core State Standards for Kindergarten and 1st Grade and includes a Report Card section for parents and teachers.

Ages: 3-7

Cost: Free

Kodable

 

KodableCoding for kids. That your kids will like. In other words, awesome-sauce.  This app uses cute little fuzzy guys (sort of reminiscent of Pac-man?) navigating maze-filled planets to teach concepts like sequencing, order of operations, algorithmic operations, and conditional logic statements that comprise the fundamentals of every modern programming language.

Basically, the great minds at Kodable figured out how to utilize the fact that “long before your children can pronounce the word ‘algorithm’ they have an astounding ability to learn how to use them.” We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.  Kodable is Common Core aligned and  is the only complete K-5 curriculum taking students from “learning to think like a programmer in Kindergarten to writing REAL JavaScript by 5th grade”… and our kids ask to play it. So, yea. Smart screen time, touchdown.

Ages: Grades K-5 (ages 4-11)

Cost: App is free, in-app purchased Parent Pack is $29.99.

Sky Guide

 

SkyGuideIf you have any space-loving guys or girls in your family, this is the app for you! Just hold your iPhone or iPad up to the night sky and Sky Guide automatically aligns itself to the stars above you—no setup required. Our kids love identifying the planets and seeing the constellations’ illuminated illustrations. (Um, ok, really I use this alone too. It’s just straight nerd-mom cool.) You can search for meteor showers, track satellites, or show your child what the night sky looked like the moment they were born! You can also receive notifications whenever the International Space Station flies over your location, which our family loves to track together! Sky Guide works anywhere— with or without Wi-Fi, cellular service or GPS. This app is packed full of information and is sure to please curious stargazers of any age!

Ages: All

Cost: $2.99

Merlin Bird ID

 

Bird IDOur kids love using this app to identify birds they see at our feeder or on walks around the neighborhood. They enjoy browsing through the photos and hearing different bird calls or even playing the calls to “talk” to different birds they identify in our backyard. Powered by Cornell Lab of Ornithology, this app is full of vibrant photos and encourages outdoor enrichment to locate and identify different species. Grab your binoculars!

Ages: All

Cost: Free

Flowkey

 

FlowkeyThis piano-lesson app is best for older kiddos 4 and up. It has a HUGE library of contemporary and classic songs for piano and uses visual demonstration of which keys along with teaching music reading. It will “listen” for you play the right key before moving forward in the music in Flow Mode, freeing you up from sitting there watching if they’ve played correctly.

Ages: 4+

Cost: $19.99/month – less if you sign up for multiple months. Sounds expensive, but is way cheaper than actual piano lessons!

In conclusion, all screen time is not created equal. But smart screen time for our kids is one aspect of technology that we are all hallelujah-dancing-in-the-aisles kind of thankful for over here in the parenting corner. When a parent or caregiver reaches burn out, or heck, when our children’s talents reach beyond our means for that matter (we personally cannot teach expert level pop-piano tunes on a whim), we are happy that they have an educational, enriching alternative to well… us.  So when ball-tag injuries require quiet time or the fall leaf-pile-diving allergies have brought your active braniacs inside, we hope that these fantastic apps provide your whole family with some entertainment and growth.

Rock on mommas! We’ve got this.

b8fd0f48-abdd-41a9-9b27-0b537b307a55Real As A M*ther is made up of 4 best friends from high school. We are now a doctor, lawyer, doula, and financial advisor; and collectively we are moms to 9 beautiful kids and counting, We write to keep it #real with advice on parenthood, health, home, money, and more.

 

 


References

*Beschorner, B. & Hutchison, A. (2013). iPads as a literacy teaching tool in early childhood. International Journal of Education in Mathematics, Science and Technology, 1(1), 16-24.
**Anderson DRHuston ACSchmitt KLLinebarger DLWright JCEarly childhood television viewing and adolescent behavior: the recontact study. Monogr Soc Res Child Dev2001;66(1):IVIII, 1–147pmid:11326591
Christakis DAGarrison MMHerrenkohl Tet alModifying media content for preschool children: a randomized controlled trial. Pediatrics2013;131(3):431438pmid:23420911
***Anderson DRPempek TATelevision and very young children. Am Behav Sci2005;48(5):505522

Crazy Chicken Lady

So you know that one neighbor whose garden is flush with edible landscape, where noises come from animals and kids everyday when they are outside, and whose chicken tractor moves every week to a different location to start the growth of new grass? Yup, that’s me. Hi, I’m Kristy, and I am a proud crazy chicken lady.

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I decided that since there are a million posts about chickens all over the inter web, I’d share with you all a personal story about how I found out that I care very deeply about my chickens.

It was an amazing early summer evening, the kind where the nights are still semi chilly and humidity hasn’t plagued us with it’s relentless wet blanket effect.  We had spent the day outside, ate dinner on our deck, and had just begun to doze off to a cool breeze from the open window when we heard the noise…

The horrible sound of a chicken distress call. Which, if you are so blissfully unfamiliar, is a saucy mix between a fog horn and what I would imagine would be the Blair Witch stubbing her (does this particular haunt have a gender?) long and writhing toe.

“Holy S$#&, the chickens are getting attacked!” I jump out of bed screaming to get the flashlight to shine down while my husband rushes to get on suitable clothing for saving the day. That is when we see its ringed tail dragging my favorite chicken towards the fence.

“It’s a BLEEP BLEEP BLEEPing Raccoon” This is where I feel like I must have sounded like an old lady in curlers and nightgown in a 60’s western with only a couple teeth and a shaking fist “Get that sumbitch, babe. It’s got my favorite chicken!” The flashlight scared the beast off, thankfully, and we trudged outside to see what was left of the rest of the flock.

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I heard my husband shout, shouted “She’s still alive!”. Much to our surprise, a little tan Buff Orpington was crouched down by the fence. This is amazing if you’ve ever had chickens and a raccoon attack has plagued your coop. It rarely ends well for the fowl if they even can be found.  Anyway, my husband picked her up and tried to put her back in the coop. She flailed and flapped, clearly in distress. (ummmmmmm, duh)  In hindsight she was probably thinking,

“Holy crap, dude, that’s literally the scene of the crime and you’re asking me to just waltz right back in there! NOT COOL, tall guy, not cool.”

When I reopened the door, she jumped right into my arms. I knew something wasn’t right. We made her a “coop” in the garage where she would be safe from looming mischievousness, and from her coop-mates that love to pick on an injured chicken. Assessing her injuries, we noticed a huge bite taken out of her side and her thigh with layers of muscle, fat, and skin missing. Her left side had been literally skinned down to the breast and of course, feathers were everywhere. My heart just sank. I knew there was little to no chance that she’d make it.

The next morning, I vowed to her (Natalie is her name), that I would do everything in my power to help her. I got the cat crate out, and hauled her to the only vet in town that would see her. I got antibiotics and pain medicine and had to administer them every 8 hours for three weeks. Say What now? The vet told me it was her only chance.

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A little backstory here. When I got Natalie (she was the only chick I named) she had a broken right hip. She was a hatchling that I assume got injured during transport. Normally, these chicks don’t survive. But Natalie did. She was small, hobbling, and loyal to her “sisters” from day one. She thrived despite them leaving her alone at night by herself under the heat lamp. She pushed her way into that flock, and climbed her way into the middle of the pecking order.  She was a fighter, and I was gonna be damned if I was gonna let a dumb ole raccoon take away all she worked to establish.

So, I did it. Every eight hours, pain medicine and antibiotics. Getting a chicken to swallow one, let alone TWO big pills may have been the hardest part of it all! Each day, Natalie started to show signs of progress. The wound was drying up and scabbing over. I’d talk to her and syringe her some water to keep her hydrated. She eventually began to nibble on some food.

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After about a month, we introduced her very delicately back into the brood. Chickens can be the meanest of mean-girls when it comes to re-inclusion, so we would let Natalie graze next to the coop, and visa versa. To our surprise, the other hens came running to her, seemingly as amazed as we were that she was alive. When it was finally time to move her back in, they had all accepted her and she was right in with them up on the perch during bedtime.

She is now the most vigilant hen I’ve ever had the pleasure of owning. She, long necked and eyes peering, is the first to call out to her sisters when she thinks there is danger. Although she keeps her distance from me, she always shoots me an eye while the others just devour their food as if to say, “I see you lady. And thanks”

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“You guys hide, I GOT this”

The moral of this story is two-fold.

  1. Even though most people told me to give up on her, I wouldn’t. We don’t give up on those we love. No matter what form of life they take, life deserves at least a chance to keep going.

  2. Even when you least expect it, however you hobble yourself back into your “people”, trust they will love and welcome your broken self back with open arms and a warm nesting spot they’ve been saving for you.

Who’d a thunk such great life reminders could come from a chicken?

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Kristy is a certified massage therapist, doula, homesteader and mother to 2 human children and 5 chickens in Virginia.

A tribute to preschool wisdom

My family recently relocated with the military (more on that adventure here if you missed it) which means all of our young children went through the sometimes scary and always eventful process of beginning new schools and making new friends in a new place.

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Recently, while driving through our new town to my youngest son’s new preschool, I asked him to tell me a bit about his new friends in class. We discussed his peers in the true little-boy fashion I have come to know and love, which includes standard points like their names, what activities they do together, but also (and more importantly) what superheroes they like, what ninja moves they can do, and the fantastical tales they share about pirates, dinosaurs, outer space, and legos (all of which I’m certain I still don’t completely understand).IMG_6534

But what I found most interesting was his response when I asked him about one boy in particular that he mentioned playing with a lot, even garnering him with his “best buddy” status (which this kid doesn’t throw around lightly, believe. you. me.). Being the nosy mother I apparently am, I asked him what the little boy looked like. Not because it matters at all really, but because for some reason I wanted to see if I could find my son’s new “best buddy” in the class picture, or spot him on the story carpet at drop off. I don’t really know why, I think I was just excited that my little guy had a new friend more than anything else (and I tend to inherently want to know everything about everything our kids do. Sorry in advance to their girlfriends/boyfriends.)  So, I asked our son “what does your new best buddy look like?” and I really wasn’t ready for the preschool wisdom he was about to drop on me.

“I don’t know” he said.  “When I play with him, I look at him, but I just see a buddy. I don’t matter about the other stuff”

His simple, perfect answer hit me right in the chest and actually choked me up. Maybe it was because I was a little sleep deprived from being up with our 1.5-year-old the prior night, but mostly I think it was because he was so. right. on. And I… wasn’t. Because he was telling me, Mom, I don’t care about what he looks like in the way you are asking. All I see is my friend. And just like that, my little preschooler put me back in my place. Does it matter what his friend looks like? No, it doesn’t. Does it matter if I know what his friend looks like? No, it doesn’t. I don’t need to exert one ounce of my potential parental judgment into a classroom friendship that is making him happy.

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As adults, we tend to place so much emphasis on what we look like. In fact, I would even wager to say that we miss out on potential friendships because we can’t get past all of the things we “see” when we look at someone. Clothes, hair, color, shape, size, occupation… to name a few. Just think what we might see if we all looked at each other with a non-judgmental preschool heart. Past the physical qualities that so often define us to focus instead on our commonalities and shared experiences. Like being a mother or a father, a son or a daughter, a person looking for happiness, a person that likes dogs, sports, cooking, (or of course what ninja moves we can do, if only we could be as cool as our kids) or WHATEVER. What if we could “just see a buddy” in the people we meet? I for one, am going to try harder…

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So thank you, to my son for opening my eyes. And thank you, to his friend for playing with the new kid. May they enjoy many days of Batman, shark-hunting, and ninja-kicks together. And may we all bring a little preschool wisdom into our day.

 

fullsizeoutput_658Christiana is a Navy wife and mother of 3 inspiringly resilient military children, attorney and former realtor, world traveler, home renovator and decorator, yogi, fitness enthusiast, and recipe & wine explorer.

Photo credit: Tara Liebeck Photography

 

A Modern Day Village: The Birth Worker’s Inspiration

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I recently had a conversation with a client who is about to be a first time Grandmother. As I listened to her speak about her worries about her daughter’s upcoming birth, her struggles during pregnancies with depression and Hyperemesis Gravidarium, I was completely struck by the feeling of isolation that she was describing in her daughter. She is the only one of her friends pregnant, and although she does have a Fiance, he is  not operating on the helpful wavelength that she needs.

Immediately, my head swirled with questions to find out more.

“Who did this new soon-to-be-mama have to ask questions to other than the doctor she sees once a month?

Why is no one there for her other than her mother? Is the doctor leading her to support groups, mothering circles, moms with prenatal or postpartum depression? What will she do when she actually HAS the baby? If she’s struggling with depression now, who will watch out for the signs/symptoms of it in the postpartum months? Who will help this woman!!!!!!!??????”

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A little voice in my heart spoke up right then.

You, silly. You’re a birth doula. You have all she needs. Help her.

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Almost moved to tears, the words fell out of my mouth reflexively. “I remember those feelings all too well in both of my pregnancies,” I said sympathetically. “It sounds like she could use a birth and postpartum doula.”

The only difference between this mama and me when I was going through those same terrible feelings while pregnant was, I wasn’t actually alone. I had my doula there one phone call away at any moment. I had the cohesion of care between my amazing midwives, my doulas, myself, and my team. I had created my village.

After explaining what a doula is and does to her, (if you still want to know what that is, reference my Demystifying Doulas post here) it occurred to me that in some cases, women have no idea of the need for a village.

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Photo Cred Doulamatch.net

Back in the day, we lived in literal villages that would commune together for the birth of a new village member, and either call the midwife or have one on hand. 9 times out of 10, the birthing mother had a sister, mother, friend, neighbor, SOMEONE, with her until the midwife could arrive to her. Thus, the doula is born. Even female elephants know the importance of gathering around to form an impenetrable barrier of support for the birthing mother. I frickin’ love elephants.

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While modern-day women and birthing communities are certainly bringing doulas back, there is still too large a proportion of women who go unsupported during the pregnancy, birthing, and postpartum process. Why, you ask? Mostly because, they do not know we exist. It is the lack of conversation, or the lack of clarity on our exact role, that I sadly have to believe is one of the main reasons that birth has the potential to be such a traumatic experience for some women.  Having the guidance of your doula to shepherd you into the parenting life with grace, provide you with materials to support you every step of the way, can provide you with your lifeline if when you need it.

A glorious benefit in making the choice to hire a doula is that he/she may in turn lead you to your permanent, modern village.

Truth is, the years of preconception, pregnancy, transitioning to becoming a mother of one, two, three, multiples, etc., can come with many mixed emotions. No matter what your situation turns out to be when you find out you are pregnant, the feeling of isolation can be sudden and agonizing. When hiring a doula, you’re not only receiving the personal care of a hands-on teammate in your birthing journey, you are also DSC01327choosing an expert in community, local resources, birth education, knowledge of primary care givers specific work, and access to birth related evidence, articles, and, yes, even a postpartum sounding board. The doula will, in essence, be your trail guide for navigating the rough and unknown waters of this new chapter.

It is time, now, that we stop isolating ourselves as mothers. Let’s remind our world that we have been supporting each other proudly and strongly for…well…since the dawn of humankind. We do not need to do it alone. It may feel too daunting a task going to these mothering circles full of strangers, organizing birth class dinners at your house, or even seeing a therapist to get the necessary prescriptions to aid you. What if, in lieu of uncertainty of the support you need, you could Call. Your. Doula.

We can support this adventure every step of the way. We are here, so that you can be here and present through the whole process.

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Now that I have you convinced of the awesomeness of unconditional education and no-judgement support during your birthing years, let me illuminate the steps necessary to finding your perfect doula.

  1. Ask a friend: Ask around for a connection or connect with the doulas in your area by using the ultimate doula search engine: Doula Match  
  2. Interview a few: Find the right candidate by sitting in the energy of several different people.  Remember, you are hiring for a job, so the right fit is important. Birth is a vulnerable experience, so pick someone who will make you feel completely safe, who makes you feel confident, and someone by whom you and your birth partner feel empowered.
  3. Ask all the questions: Make sure you understand their vision of care, fees, and schedule and those align with what you had in mind for your birth vision. After all, it is your birth, the team you hire should complement it in every way with encouragement and advice that makes you feel informed. Do you want a doula just for prenatal education and birth? Do you know you’ll need postpartum care? Do you even know what that means? Does this person have the resources for all of that?
  4. Contract: You should always enter into a contract with your doula. That way there is an expectation of care that is agreed upon by all parties. This agreement is key, as mentioned above, it will be the catalyst for your new life as a mother.
  5. Get excited: Your doula should help you feel connected to birth classes, books, and other materials to prepare you for your upcoming experiences and all outcomes!

We all need the help. It is up to us to choose, in this modern world, just what our helping hand will look like. Most of us consider this calling a service to womankind alike. I am here to let you know it’s out there. I am writing to speak aloud that we are everywhere. We are your friends, neighbors, sisters, mothers, co-workers and colleagues, gym members, professionals, and tradeswomen.nature.jpg

We are your village, and we are here for you.

Kristy is a doula, massage therapist, energy worker and mom of 2 in Virginia.