Let’s start by talking about the broken neon sign that I discovered last night as I was ushering my kids into bed in anticipation of solitude and wine. This particular neon sign was given to me and my husband when … Continue reading
The “gun issue” is one that is steeped in double-sided propaganda and is often used to further a hidden agenda. Can we skip the politics and agree that a lot of people own firearms in America? Even if you don’t … Continue reading
Submissions are now being accepted for the 2015 Southeast Texas ‘Listen To Your Mother’ show! If you haven’t heard of Listen to Your Mother, then take a few minutes to check out their YouTube channel, here. The show is a … Continue reading
As a professional photographer, I should probably have oodles and oodles of beautiful images of my family taken with my fancy, schmancy, big girl camera…but, I don’t. The truth is that like many of you, most of those funny, sweet, … Continue reading
I was raised with the firm belief that children should have their own space in the house. Their own room, certainly, and perhaps most importantly, their own bed to sleep in. Despite a few staged pictures from my childhood that … Continue reading
My youngest daughter recently fell and hurt her hand and what immediately ensued was her crying that cry that told me that even though she was going to be fine and we weren’t looking at an ER trip, she had really hurt herself and the only thing that was going to fix it was some snuggle time in my lap. I was doing some computer work but forgot all about it and went into auto-Mommy mode, a state that I know all you mamas are familiar with. “Come here and let mama kiss it and make it all better, Baby”, I told her. she climbed up in my lap and got some mama snuggles, I kissed her hand over and over and all was immediately right in her world again. In an instant, I snapped straight out of Mommy mode and I had one of those moments where some auto-piloted task that has been previously taken for granted suddenly becomes very, very profound.
It hit me like a ton of bricks.
Oxytocin. Much googling ensued and the information I turned up was exactly what I expected it to be. I already understood the power of oxytocin for laboring women and the oxytocin “high” that happens during many intimate situations like breastfeeding, childbirth and even love-making but this oxytocin release had done something for my baby that I’d never thought about before. It had helped to reduce her pain in a very real and tangible way that had offered her almost immediate relief.
Oxytocin, in layman’s terms, is known as the “love hormone”. It’s released in our bodies anytime we have a pleasant encounter including skin-to-skin contact with another person. It’s also the primary hormone that controls labor and childbirth and that helps to establish the bond between a mother and her child in the postpartum period. There are so many postive effects that happen as the result of an oxytocin release that they’re almost to numerous to list. For today, though, I want to talk about it in regards to pain relief:
“Amazingly, oxytocin can also be used to heal wounds (through its anti-inflammatory properties). Studies have also shown that a rise in oxytocin levels can relieve pain — everything from headaches, cramps and overall body aches.”
If oxytocin and pain were WWE fighters, oxytocin would be Alberto Del Rio and pain would be some loser WWE fighter that you’ve never heard of. (Do you have any idea how difficult it is to find a list of lowest ranked WWE fighters, by the way? Let me just tell you it’s hard. VERY hard. Even google doesn’t know. It must be some industry-guarded secret.)
Oxytocin is one of the hormones that are responsible for our monogamous nature as humans. When oxytocin is released, chemical pathways are formed in the brain which are similar to those that drug addicts form. In essence, oxytocin creates a state of “addiction” and over time, bonds us chemically to the people who are involved with the release of the hormone. This process is otherwise known as “falling in love”. Our brains are hardwired to pair-bonding as the result of this amazing stuff.
For more information on the amazing abilities of oxytocin, check this out:
Oxytocin, in regards to the story I told at the start of this blog post , was at work as I snuggled my baby girl and comforted her after she hurt herself. I’m not sure I’ve ever quite heard it talked about in this way, but as mothers, we can literally “kiss and make better” our children when they’re hurting. Kissing and snuggling them causes an oxytocin release in us and them and oxytocin is linked to an increase in pain thresholds. Of course (and I hope I’m just paying lip service here and not actually surprising anybody with this), I’m not suggesting physical contact in the absence of necessary medical treatment. If your kid has fallen and sliced open his noggin, hugging them won’t make a fine and dandy substitute for heading up to the ER and getting sewn back together. It might just be one of those tools we can stash away in our mommy tool boxes for use while we wait, though.
Mamas, your bodies are the result some of the pretty amazing evolutionary twists and some of their abilities achieve almost superhero status. Any of you who have ever used nursing your baby as a way to calm them down after a minor accident has seen the beneficial effects and the healing powers of oxytocin first hand. Keep those in mind as you snatch up your sweet little ones up the next time one of them encounters a minor bump and use it to your advantage – even if they do deserve it because the were doing the exact thing you’ve told them a hundred times would hurt them for the hundred and first time!
WMC Doula, Amy Jones
Amy is one of WMC’s Founding Mothers with four children of her own; her oldest graduated high school and her youngest started Kindergarten in 2014. She’s currently rocking Southeast Texas as Founder, Chairman and Peer Counselor with the Beaumont Breastfeeding Coalition, a Breastfeeding Counselor with Breastfeeding USA, and waiting on the final exam to be the only Certified Professional Midwife in the Beaumont area and preparing for her upcoming role as a pregnancy surrogate. She is a DONA-trained birth and postpartum doula, welcoming over 100 babies into the world over the last few years.
Every mom has those moments, the ones where you have to be out the door 10 minutes ago, and the only thing keeping you from getting in the car is your preschooler trying to tie their shoe. “No! I can do it!” is the response to your offers of assistance. Some of us crack, grumpily say something dismissive, hastily do it ourselves and are out the door a little bit quicker and a little more stressed. Some stifle the urge to intervene, but quietly seethe, just a bit, until we can finally leave. Others still, those “perfect moms,” wait patiently while their little one finishes on their own, offers a word of encouragement and then float out to the car on their magic mom cloud with their smiling child and go along their merry way. I don’t know many of those last kinds of moms (at least not any that are that way all the time), and I’m embarrassed to admit that I personally fall into the first category.
Shelby has always been on the independent side, wanting to do things herself and do them her way. Lately she’s been choosing her clothes and dressing herself in the mornings. I love it, because it’s one last thing I have to do, she gets a great sense of personal pride from it and has pretty good 4 year-old fashion sense if you ask me (*polishes nail on shirt*). But some days, when we have somewhere to go for instance, that’s just not going to work for me. There’s coordination to consider, not to mention the weather. She doesn’t get why she hasn’t been able to wear any spaghetti-strap sundresses the last few days (with the temp topping out at 40). When she must be forced to wear clothes that are not of her choosing, dressing herself makes her feel more in control. And that’s cool, I respect that. But she’s sooooooooo slooooooooow. I admit, I have less patience than any mother should. I tap my foot and I sigh loudly, and too often I get too frustrated and somewhat angrily do it myself. I really hate that about myself, and it’s one of my resolutions this year to make a conscious effort to be more patient. After all, I’m a stay at home mom, and beyond the housework and the errands, my number one job is taking care of my favorite little person.
That fact alone, though, isn’t enough to keep me from wanting to scream when she’s buttoning her pajama top. One. Button. At. A. Time. So. Very. Slooooowly. But I’ve realized I need to take a second to take notice of what’s going on: She’s doing it. All by herself. This little thing that couldn’t even drink out of a cup with no lid, or who couldn’t talk or ride a trike not that very long ago, is actually using her tiny little fingers to do what is actually quite a complex dexterous task. When you look at it in that (somewhat dramatic) way, it makes it a bit easier to breath for a minute and let them do it, because you realize it‘s value- a developmental milestone. I remember not long after we moved, we had to be somewhere, and she was looking for the exact fairy she wanted to have in her pocket. She couldn’t find the right one, and in my frustration I told her “Just pick one! It’s not important!“ She replied, “But mama, it’s important to me.“ Bam. Right in the heart. It’s things like that that make you step back and think. She’s not dragging it out to goad me, she’s being deliberate. And while my child is one of the champion dawdlers of the world (payback my mom says, apparently I was a pro “daisy picker”), I know that when it comes to carrying out a task, unless she’s trying to get out of it all together, she’s trying to do it right. And I’m glad. She can’t go through life with me doing everything for her. I refuse to tie her shoes for her when she’s thirty, you just have to draw the line somewhere. So I’m glad she’s so keen on practicing now.
My child is my first priority, and I’m working to work at her pace. I mean, what do I have to do that is so important I can’t take a few minutes to let her choose which oatmeal she wants in the morning, or which stuffed animal she wants to sleep with at night? I’m pretty sure those socks will still need sorting when I’m done waiting. As a first time mom, I’m finding out everyday those tiny little battles and triumphs that non-parents don’t even know exist and that get a small from veteran child raisers when I talk about them. The molasses time warp of having a preschooler is just the tip of the iceberg.
I expect tardiness to Kindergarten to be quite frequent.
I don’t know about you, but sometimes it seems like our house just has a funk. Not a less-than-clean funk (which does occasionally happen), but an overall vibe that is less than pleasing. I’m always envious of tv commercial homes where everyone is always smiling (even when the 4 year old just poured and ENTIRE jug of juice on the floor. Again.) and it seems for all the world like someone pressed the “easy” button… That’s just not real life! At least, it’s not MY life. Not that we’re ogres or anything, but sometimes, it seems like everything is stressful and too fast-paced when I really want it to be serene and totally zen-like.
How do you get there? Here are some suggestions:
1. Set a good example.
CHOOSE to be happy. CHOOSE to see the bright side of things. In today’s world of anti-depressant laden parenting, it’s HARD sometimes to just choose to be happy, or in a good mood. As a mom who does take anti-depressants, I know first hand how difficult it is to pull yourself up by the bootstraps and make a choice NOT to be grouchy. As the mom, it usually does fall to us to take the lead in attitude, and knowing that makes it both harder and easier to lead by example. It is worth it though if you’re the one who tends to set the tone in your home. Being concious of that fact and making the choice to be cheerful can help drive that negative energy away.
2. Focus on the positives
Start with yourself. Take a couple of minutes every morning (or evening – whenever) and concentrate on the things in your life that are positive. It may be something small like, “I totally resisted the urge to have an extra donut at breakfast” or “I am so glad that the kid’s aren’t counted tardy until the 8:30 bell” 😉
From there, work on your family. Pick a time and make it a habit – at a mealtime is a good one, and have each person take a turn to share something positive or interesting they learned, saw, did, or thought about. Use that time to be encouraging and uplifting. Start small – once a week if every day seems like a big-undoable-thing. Don’t let it get overwhelming!
3. Clutter causing your funk?
We sometimes don’t realize how our home’s physical environment can affect mood. My personal philosophy on “stuff” has become (with LOTS of work), “Whatever is in my space should be something that I LOVE, that makes me HAPPY, makes me feel GOOD or BEAUTIFUL.” That has helped me (major packrat that I am) to let go of things that I’ve been hanging onto that don’t conform to the above!
If there is a mess in the main living areas (or even your own spaces), or you have clutter causing problems, work together to clear the space. Start a “5 minute family clean up” time focused on one problem area. We call ours the “10 Second Tidy” (from that show, “Big Comfy Couch” – even though it’s longer than 10 seconds). Set a timer, play some energetic music (Tejano/Latin/Salsa music is GREAT for motivation!) and either let the kids decide what to contribute to cleaning, or assign tasks. Make it a game… Start out doing it once a week, or once a day, and build from there. There are several schools of thought about the placement of things in your home, or the colors that you use to decorate having an effect on your moods too. Even if you don’t subscribe to those reasonings, everyone enjoys a change of scenery once n a while. If all else has been eliminated and the funk persists, try changing things up a bit with different furniture placement or paint colors.
4. Focus on enjoying your time together.
Family togetherness – just enjoying being together as a family without the outside world intruding is a great way to improve the vibe in your home. You can start small – family dinnertime (or whatever meal works best for all of you) – Dinner Games are a great way to get into a new routine. Advance to Family Game Night, Family Dance Party (each person picks a song and dances however they want to the music; after everyone has a turn, put on a different song and have everyone dance together), Family Craft Night or whatever floats your boat. If you’re more of an outdoors-y or techie family, find activities that fit your family’s style! It may take a while to find a good fit, but you can make the journey part of the fun.
5. Need less pressure?
Try this: simply BE with your kids. Turn off the TV, put away the PC, throw your schedule or agenda out the window and just BE with them, doing what they’re doing. If they’re in a bad mood, just observe – be in the moment with them. Don’t try to cajole them out of it, just BE. If they’re in a good mood, great – let your kiddos lead.
6. Count your blessings – literally!
Tack up a big poster board and start counting your blessings. Each person contributes one item on the list. It can be as plain or as decorated as your family wants to make it, but the focus should be on all the positives.
7. Get a motto!
If you’re spiritually inclined, put up a verse or saying that makes you feel good in a prominent space and let that be the “reminder” for your family. We have a big chalkboard in our kitchen that often has song lyrics or something funny that one of us said written on it. You can get a cheap “whiteboard” or “dry erase” board by taking a piece of posterboard to Manning’s and having it soft laminated. Make it easy!
8. Fill your home with love.
Give lots of hugs and kisses and cuddles, and say lots of “I love you”s. Remind your spouse that s/he hung the moon for you. Make sure that your kids know that they are the EXACT children you asked for. Leave little love notes tucked into random places for your family members to find. Never underestimate how much positive feedback and self-esteem building little things like that can influence the atmosphere in your home. Happy people make happy spaces.
9. Create a cleansing ritual for your home.
Talk with your family about how to improve the funk. Kids love words accompanied by action! Grab a broom and sweep, sweep, sweep the negativity out the door. Make your house smell great – bake some bread or cookies, try potpourri, scented oils, essential oils, incense, Renuzit, Air Wick, whatever makes you inhale deeply and smile. If you’d like some spiritual help, try burning some sage (if there are not respiratory issues), sprinkling some scented water, reciting a poem, reading a verse or saying a prayer…whatever speaks to you and yours.
10. Practice being kind to each other.
It’s okay if it’s exaggerated so long as it becomes a habit. Don’t underestimate the impact that silliness backed by sincerity can have on your kids. Expressing appreciation for the kindness received or witnessed is sure to build confidence and regard.
11. Have a Family Meeting
If you’re feeling funky, then you can bet that your family is, too. If your kids are old enough to communicate, then they may have some valuable suggestions for improving things, too. Giving them a forum to be heard can drastically alter the way that they see things and can make a positive impact on your home’s vibe.
Whatever you decide to do, doing something on purpose to positively affect the energy in your home is going to net some kind of benefit for your family. Making your family part of the process is even better.
For a stay-at-home mom, it may seem like spending quality time with your child is a given. After all, you’re there within arm’s reach (more or less) of your beloved all day long. But lately I’ve felt disconnected. All the stress and anxiety stemming from an out-of-state move we may be making in the near future for my husband’s job, mixed with the normal frazzled-ness of life,and telecommuting to work for a local organization I’ve recently joined… Mama has been a bit tense.
It makes me feel terribly guilty that I’ve let the things going on in my life affect how I interact with my daughter. For all of her drama and craziness, questions and negotiations, Shelby is a pretty cool kid. She’s also extremely tiresome at times. That mixed with the afore mentioned worries has left me at my wit’s end, and I’ve been ready to about jump off a time or two! But that’s no excuse for a short fuse with the preschooler I adore.
So…. Now that I’ve confessed to not being Mother of the Year, what am I doing about it? Well, I’ve moved my laptop- my social and business lifeline- to the dinning room table. It’s situated perfectly where I can survey the entire living room and most of the house, as well as be close to the kitchen to grab snacks and juice when she calls for them. It also prompts me to want to take more breaks because of the crummy seating (antique = cool, not necessarily comfy). But the biggest perk is that Shelby can sit right beside me and do whatever, all the while, we can talk and I can listen to the new song she’s made up. I have a pack of new crayons I keep in the kitchen for just these occasions. They’re only for the table, and only when I’m sitting at it. This A) keeps them from getting broke/lost/used for mischief and B) it entices Shelby to sit next to me, color and visit. We love to draw together, and I make sure to post our creations on the fridge at the end of the day.
Are there other things that I could do? Of course, there always are. But until Bootsie gets tired of our current setup, it’s what works for us. And I’m getting lots of art to add to her scrapbook.
What do you (or can you) do to stay connected to your kids? If you have any tips, tricks or ideas, don’t be stingy- share ‘em! We’d love to hear.