Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Realization

It was a Tuesday evening a couple weeks ago, I was scrolling through my facebook feed instead of something else more productive I'm sure.

And that's when I came across it.

The article headline that caused the hairline fracture in the illusions in my mind--the tiniest of beginnings that ended up shattering the world I had built up around myself.


How had I not known this!?


Mislabeling, misunderstanding.

But mostly denial.

{Maybe some of my friends will be like "Duh, Kat...I knew you were a perfectionist"...maybe not. I certainly would not have ever said I was. That was something "other" people had to live with. Denial is a powerful convincing force.}

I have read all of Brene's Brown's books, and despite her words deeply resonating with me, the words she writes about perfectionism somehow just didn't penetrate the layers of identity I had about myself.

Until that fated Tuesday evening.

Then it all made sense. I'm not entirely sure what it was about Dr. Laura's article that finally hit home for me...I think it was the quote she shares by Naomi Remen and then reading this in her article:

"Agree right now to forgive yourself for all the ways you will mess up in the days to come."

Then, it all came crashing down around me.

I saw myself clearly: The endless pursuit of getting it "right", of expecting others to get it "right", of doing all things "right", of making the "right" decisions, of feeling that when I finally get it "right" I will be OK...I will finally have accomplished being a "perfect" wife, mother, woman...I will have the answers and finally be worthy...and the anxiety that builds up when I make mistakes, things don't work out and all this doesn't happen.

And like a true perfectionist, I tried to clean it up.


As if that were possible.

I couldn't even talk with my husband about it.

Because of the shame.

Oh, Brene, you are so right. About it all.

Perfectionism tells us we don't need vulnerability and this then begets shame, because no one is perfect..and then we are one pile of mess that is trying to hold it together but all we want is to just BE and feel WORTHY.

I had it all: the shame, the vulnerability, the realization...

And yet, I had nothing.

I had to surrender and accept. Mostly accept that I could not "fix" this. This was not something that could be cleaned up and made to look good.

No wonder I was on the {futile} pursuit of finding my inner peace, my zen. That was not ever going to happen without this realization.

But I was surprised that with this came so much compassion and understanding. Without me trying at all or wishing for it, it didn't take long for me to be filled with an immensely deep and bottom-less love.

I think I may have finally felt what it feels like to love myself unconditionally.

The perfectionist in me wants me to believe I can do better...find a better unconditional love.

{Oh, yes, that thought crossed my mind.}

But I know what I feel.

What comes next?

Well, I don't know.

When your entire identity is shattered, when the filter you've been seeing life through is removed, it's hard to know what you do.

Maybe nothing?

Maybe re-read some great with a counselor?

Right now, I just want to let all of myself breathe. I feel like I haven't gotten fresh air, like, never. Or at least not since that moment it time when the child-Kat was free of these self-imposed filters and beliefs.

I don't know. I do know, there will be changes happening, within me mostly, but also in my interactions and relationships with others. I already feel like a more grounded, aware mother. It's hilarious to me that I thought I was beforehand, but I did have a feeling like it was half-assed-some-piece-is-missing grounded. I catch myself having perfectionists thoughts and now know/see them as what they are. It's easier to let go or work with something when you are aware of it.

I do know another thing, my life makes sense now.

All the things I do, say and think are now pieced back to an understanding of why.

BUT, I also know that there is a major journey ahead for me as I shift into this new awareness.

I did eventually talk with my hubby about it. I felt nervous bringing it up. Almost like I could fail or not do it properly. Like I would be rejected. Sheesh! But I went forward. And I think he also felt a sense of clarity. He looked up and read about "perfectionism"...and said "Dude, that is totally what you're like." You see he's always thought I had OCD tendencies or anxiety.

I do have anxiety, but it's rooted in my belief that if I am not perfect or don't do things perfectly, bad things will happen.

Oh, just writing that makes me feel lighter and freer.

{And as I'm writing this, I am beginning to have those thoughts of unworthiness and shame: don't post this, don't share this, just delete it can't have people knowing about this.}

Thank you Dr. Laura Markham and Brene Brown. Keep on doing the work you do because you are helping so many of us break-free and find compassion and self-love.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Travelling Light

This isn't going to be a long post.

Just a simple note of encouragement for parents travelling with kids who want to make it simple.

We love travelling but we really dislike the transitions in between airports or Point A to B and try to make these as easy as possible. In December we went away for a week and only took carry on. Nobody believed me, with 4 kids and 2 adults it seemed impossible. But we did. And it was actually our saving grace on our return flight as we barely made our connection! If we had needed to wait for our checked luggage we would have missed our fight for sure and added a few hundred dollars more to our expenses.

Anyways, it is possible to travel with just carry on! And I didn't really need to sacrifice much. But of course I'm not the type to wear multiple outfits a day or have the need to put my children in multiple outfits a day. Over the years I've streamlined and know what we need and don't need. And it took a bit of planning and organizing toiletries into travel sized bottles.

I just had the 9th or 10th person ask me about it today so I thought I'd make it Internet offical and say: Yes we did it!

For our second trip we've swapped the over the shoulder bags with backpacks and it's been WAY better. It helps too that our kids are old enough to help pull their own bag along.

So if you're travelling with your kids and you want to go light, then do carry oh-oh-oh on, carry on, carry on!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

A little vacation planning insight...

So, the good people at Home Away brought it to my attention that this little gem of a video existed.

I have loved Kid President's videos for a long time. And this just made me love him a whole lot more!

The message of "Whole Vacations" is one we need so much nowadays. It's sad that it's come to have to remind us parents that our technology and screens are interfering with time spent with family. But yeah, it's true.

We went away for a week in December. Me and the hubby and all the kids. It was a lot of work. But it was SO much fun. Leading up to that, OBear had been very clingy and I think it's because I hadn't been spending enough one-on-one time with him. Within a day or two of having me all to himself, the difference in his behaviour was amazing!

Hubs and I had talked ahead of time that on this vacation we were there to BE with the kids. We agreed to limit phone use to only taking pictures and sending the occasional email to family back home to let them know we were OK.

It was hard to stop ourselves from going on facebook, I was guilty of posting pictures and updates during OBear's naptime, but it wasn't so bad because the bigger kids were with Papa having fun, so I didn't feel guilty!

It's so tempting to feel that you have to plan elaborate excursions and outings. But that's just so stressful and in the end, it has the potential of backfiring and leading to no one having fun. Like one day we went on this Catamaran tour. We ended up so seasick and the beach was too wavy to enjoy. We can laugh about it now, but it was pretty awful.

I'm not saying to not go and experience some awesome outings...just think about them carefully before you book them. Take into account your kids ages, and what you're hoping to get out of it.

With younger kids, less is more!

They just want to play and hang out with us. Keeping it simple is definitely more fun.

Anyways, I had not seen this video until recently, so I wanted to share it with you.

Hope you enjoy it too!

PS This is just a true blue share of some awesome insight from Kid President (I haven't been paid or compensated in any way). If you then go and check Home Away out for yourself and enjoy the process, you can come back and say thanks in the comments ;-)


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Point Not Usually Talked About When Bringing Home Baby

I've had to do the whole "bringing home the baby" thing 4 times, 3 of those times to other siblings at home.

We want our children to make the transition as easily and smoothly as possible. We love them and don't want them to feel neglected or replaced.

I did some things right, and some things just went haywire.

I think a lot has to do with the siblings personality and coping ability. And their age, because usually age is somewhat related to emotional maturity.

And the point we don't usually talk about is that the biggest factor in how it all goes down is: YOU!

There are TONS AND TONS of resources out there on how to make the transition as smooth as possible. Loads of tips on how to help your child, what to say, what not to say, how to include them in the integration of the baby.

This info is all FABULOUS. Dr. Laura's book, Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings, has a whole, super helpful chapter on these tips.

But please, take it from me...YOU, the parent, are the key factor in how it will go.

How do you feel?

How are you feeling after the birth and how it went?

Are you happy? Are you stressed? Did you eat? Are you {somewhat} rested? Do you have help? Do you need to talk to someone?

Because the truth is that if you are tired, not nourishing yourself, feeling stressed and overwhelmed, etc, etc (you get the picture)....You are NOT going to be able to implement and follow through with all the amazing tips and advice you read and want to do.

So, here is my additional advice when it comes to adding a new baby to your family:

1. Prepare and become informed about birth. The more you are prepared and the more you know, the better able you will be to navigate decisions you may need to make. There will always be some decision or many decisions you will need to make during your baby's birth. You need to do your best to make informed decisions you will feel good about so you enjoy your baby's first days and weeks without feeling lost, regret, or angry about the birth experience. Birth is the first foundation block to the relationship you build with your baby...and consequently with any other kiddos you have at home. If you feel good after your birth, you'll likely feel good at home and have the emotional ability to cope with whatever parenthood throws at you!

2. Take care of YOU! It's not selfish to want to maintain some aspect of your most valuable and core personality, passions, hobbies, etc. The way you get to do them may change and you WILL have to learn to adapt. But it doesn't mean you have to give everything up altogether. Explore how to include your kids in the activities you enjoy. And it's also perfectly OK to want to do things on your own too. That's where it's great to share the parenting responsibilities with your partner, or someone else you trust to look after your kids while you take a break. Even if it's just a short but relaxing yoga practice in your bedroom while the baby is being held by someone else or sleeping. You will find a way to make it work, you just need the motivation to be willing to start. Also, something VERY important: Eat and drink!!! As in stay hydrated, not the other kind of drinking...wink...wink. If you're depleted and not eating wholesome, nourishing meals there is NO WAY you are going to be an optimal parent. And don't forget to get fresh air. Get out of the house at least once daily, even if it's in the driveway while your toddler picks up every flower or leaf or saves bugs and the baby's in a carrier or stroller. Fresh air and being outside are so energizing and can turn a bad day into a better day.

3. This is gonna sound cliche, but don't be afraid, ashamed or proud to ask for help. You don't get a medal for trying to do it all. You just get burnout and possibly adrenal fatigue. So yeah, just don't. Look at your life and your chores, responsibilities and keep the ones that are super important to you and delegate the rest. If you've got too much on your plate you're gonna feel overwhelmed and obliged to do it all, and your kiddos are the ones that get the brunt of that stress...oh yeah and don't forget about your adrenals.

4. I'm really bad for this one STILL. But make sure you get some regular exercise. When I do this, it changes my whole perspective. And when I don't I wonder why I feel so rundown, so not myself and pessimistic. So then I say, "Oh yeah! I need to exercise!" Sheesh, you'd think I would have learned by now.

When you are a parent who looks after YOU, you will be so, so much more able to run a smooth household. Your kiddos will feel that, feel the low stress environment and you will be able to implement the helpful ideas to help begin and nurture a strong bond between siblings.

Friday, September 4, 2015

The Deeper Lessons We Learn From Sharing

I don't know about you, but when I was growing up, we were taught that if you had a toy or item you were playing with and another kid wanted it, you relinquished it over to them so they could have a turn. I remember this pretty much sucked because usually I was enjoying playing with it tremendously and then had to lose that joy to hand it over. Then when I became a mother, I really had the belief that I HAD to teach my daughter to share no matter what. When you see sharing from a kid's point of view you realize that it's no wonder kids may resist sharing!

{Just imagine if as adults we were expected to take turns with our phones, cars or clothes! It's kind of ridiculous and funny when we think of it that way.}


You also want to teach your kids that it's important to learn how to take turns, to have patience, and to have coping skills and tools to negotiate the whole art of toy and cool stuff management. We also want to teach our kids that we can't always get what we want when we want it.

Certainly the old-school thinking isn't enough to actually teach kids all of that because you're just teaching them that they HAVE to take turns by handing the toy or coveted item over to someone else.

So how can we teach sharing with empathy, coping skills, and the art of negotiation?

Well, at least in my house it's a combination of communication, natural consequences (with a little chat after to explain why and how it happened), and parent-guided mediation between kids.

But sometimes the towel gets thrown in...

And the kids do fight sometimes...or other times what we've practiced seems to come through and I get to witness the miracle of them negotiating and being empathetic as they decide how to share.

One thing that has REALLY made a huge difference is to make clear that some toys are not for everyone to use, with these special permission is needed. At first this was hard for me because of my internalized beliefs around sharing (e.g. that everyone can have turns with anything). So I had a bit of guilt around this when I initially was introduced to the idea that kids don't ALWAYS have to share. That it's OK to have extended turns, to have special items that require permission from the owner to touch or use.

But it makes sense.

And Dr. Laura explains it so well in Chapter 6 of Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings. She even has scripts and examples of how to teach kids effective sharing.

The other great thing about this chapter is that it has a list of simple but effective sharing guidelines that will help kids understand sharing and feel good about it. I won't list them all, but my favourite ones are

"In our family the person using something can decide how long their turn lasts. At the playground we take shorter turns so everyone gets a turn."


"With visitors, we put away toys that are hard for us to share. When visitors are here, we take short turns, so everyone can enjoy playing in our home."

So once I let go of that guilt and that expectation that I was supposed to have kids who readily handed things over, I was able to see things from my kiddos' perspective, and I got to heal that inner child part of me that never got a chance to learn that.

The key here is to realize that teaching about sharing is only the surface lesson. The deeper, more important lesson, is to teach kids to see another person's perspective (empathy) so that sharing actually becomes an act of empathy, not just social norms or expectations. When kids learn this deeper lesson of empathy, they actually are MORE willing to share something, even special items they treasure, because they can relate and empathize with the kid they're sharing with. This teaches them that happiness can come from receiving, but is multiplied when we also get the chance to give. But the MOST important lesson they learn is empathy itself. So many problems in people's lives have to do with the lack of empathy, the lack of skills in communication that stem from not having received empathy ourselves or of not knowing how to have empathy for others. The more empathy we can teach kids, the more peaceful and stronger their relationships will be.

And I love seeing this happening in my kids. They are (usually) so happy to share, even special toys, with each other and when their friends come over to play. In fact, they usually send their friends home with a toy!

Another important lesson I wanted to teach my kids was not to become, for lack of a better way to say it, pushovers. When you expect kids to just hand stuff over, perhaps the underlying lesson we are teaching them is that their needs and point of view may not matter as much as meeting the expected social norm.

{This is something that I am STILL working on personally. I still get that tightness in my throat when I want to say something but hold it in because I erroneously feel I will be failing as a person or not meeting social expectations.}

So I wanted them to know how to express what their needs are, to stand up and stand strong, and how to communicate and effectively negotiate taking turns. And how to establish healthy boundaries and say "No thanks" when needed. Because, yeah at this age, it's just about toys...but when they are older these are skills that are going to be extremely necessary and very useful to have.

We're working on all this. Just as we make great strides forward, we seem to start from scratch again because we have four kids at different stages of development. We move forward with the older ones, then the little ones begin their learning journey from square one. But it is super cool to see my two older ones help the little ones by example or by actually helping them negotiate and communicate, I have hope that in the end I'll look back at this phase of my life and be glad I did it this way!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Time Is My Kryptonite For Peaceful Parenting

It's no secret that I've been loving Dr. Laura's new book Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings.

It's also no secret that I have four kids, run my own businesses and spend most of my time dealing with food, messes, and all the assorted issues associated with having kids.

So time is a luxury I often don't often have. I find myself staying up late most days to accomplish tasks that didn't get done during the day (like writing these posts!).

Parenting is a gig that you're in 24/7. Peaceful parenting even more so (in my opinion) because you just can't say I'll deal with it later or just separate everyone and send them to their rooms.


Well, because it doesn't really solve the issues and won't teach anyone anything beneficial.

In Chapter 5, Dr. Laura explains why when teaching children to resolve conflict, you just can't take any shortcuts.

So what's a busy parent to do? What about the times when ALL HELL breaks loose at the SAME time and you have a poopy diaper to change, children yelling and trying to hurt each other, supper on the stove, a 3 year old who is cutting her hair and you as the parent have to deal with it by keeping yourself calm and with empathy, compassion?

The truth is, it's really HARD.

But it's not impossible.

It does take practice and definitely some RE-TRAINING of our minds.

This Chapter, like Chapter 4, has scripts and scenarios to give you lots of tools and ideas to work through and implement.

But in addition to that, I'd like to share that it's not as easy as the scripts make it seem.

You WILL have to fail first before you succeed.

You WILL wish you could and most likely actually just quit and send the kids to their rooms or timeout.

You WILL loose your cool and yes, maybe even raise your voice.

But then...

You WILL realize you CAN do it differently.

And that's why Dr. Laura is so great. She has empathy not just for kids, but for parents too. She KNOWS it's so hard to do the whole peaceful parenting thing. But she also has a way to explain why it IS SO important to parent this way.

So just like I tell myself, hang in there. It is worth it in the long run. Take the time (again with the time thing!) to practice and practice the reels in your mind and change them to a more calm, less reactive version of Mama. And once you do, you'll realize it comes easier and doesn't require much for you to dissipate and resolve a situation.

So what did I find helpful?

Be aware and mindful of what your kids are doing, saying and feeling. Almost always an escalated situation could have been halted if a child had their needs met. Hunger, thirst, sleepiness...and all that, are major triggers. If you know your child is experiencing one of these primal states, you also know they won't have the patience or know-how to deal with the emotions that come when their little sister or brother ruin their game, take their toy or just say "the wrong thing". But here's the thing: if this happens and a primal need triggered a fight or argument, take a few moments after it's resolved to teach your kids WHY it happened. Explain to them that if they get too hungry, thirsty, etc...they will not have patience and get cranky. Once I began explaining this to my kids, they put the two together and now the older 2 are very good about taking care of their needs (mostly on their own, but sometimes they do ask me for help if it's something they can't do). I'm still holding out on the younger two...have a ways to go!

Go on YouTube and make a playlist of videos you wouldn't mind your kids videos, kid songs, funny animals, whatever! You can set the privacy setting to 'private' and then play it whenever you need a few minutes of quiet. Yeah, I know it's like using the Internet as a babysitter, but it works and it's not like they are watching unsupervised, commercial-full shows. If you have Netflix or some other streaming site, that works too. But I like the YouTube playlists because you can have variety and set it to however long you want. I especially do this during meal prep times or when I need to put the baby down for a nap.

Find shortcuts in your life that will make the times of day when things usually fall apart a bit easier. For example, is dinner time hell at your place too? For some reason that is the time everyone is tired, hungry, needs something ALL AT ONCE. And I'm trying to get supper ready and getting interrupted. So. I said enough is enough. Most days I'm on the ball and have supper planned and prepped WAY BEFORE dinnertime. That way I just have to take a few minutes to put the final touches together and this leaves me more time to be attentive or if the kids are having a good day, I can take a few minutes to chill out (happens once in a blue moon, but I'll take it). I know it's tricky when you work full time and are getting home late, or you have to take the kids to classes...but there are always ways to find shortcuts. Freezer meals, batch cooking, or making a healthy twenty minute supper (yes, it's possible!). Breakfast for supper is always a favourite at our place for a day when planning ahead didn't go so well. Get yourself on Pinterest or some other Internet sites, and look for recipes and ideas for healthy, easy meals.

And that leads me to my last point: kids are what they eat. Doesn't have much to do with actual 'time' but when we think about it it can save you a lot of meltdowns and free your day of unnecessary cranky times.  If they are not well fed, and I don't mean just 'not hungry', I mean fed foods that will nourish and fuel their little bodies and brains...they are going to show it in their behaviours. It's truly amazing, but not surprising, how the food we eat affects our mood, behaviour and of course our health. This applies even more so if a person is eating foods they are sensitive to but don't know it. If you notice your kid goes bonkers or their mood changes noticeably after eating a certain food, you may want to try eliminating it and see what happens. For example, my oldest doesn't do well with dairy. She's not allergic, but she definitely has some sort of reaction. She will get SO irritable and complains her head hurts. With my older son, it's wheat. He gets hyperactive and will also break out in eczema a couple days later. Of course we all know the classic sugar high. And that applies to all kids and even adults. I am definitely not one to always remember this food point. I love that I can just give them a granola bar when I'm busy with something. BUT I almost always pay the price later when they come down from their sugar high. I'm trying to make a point to batch bake my own granola bars, protein balls, and other healthy snacks from scratch so I know what's in them and can control the amounts of the usual suspect ingredients. However, this isn't always happening because I'm drowning in laundry or dishes or spilled water or some other mess. Maybe my fairy godmother will come and help? Nope. I just have to remember to delegate and maybe while the hubs folds the laundry I can whip something up. Or heck, maybe I should cut my Facebook time in half and use THAT time for a better purpose?

I don't have other time solutions right now, but if I think of any, I'll let you know. And if you have any, I'd love to hear about them.

Chapter 6 is next...see you then!