Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Becoming the Happiest Mom: Look out for # 1

I started reading a chapter per day of the Happiest Mom because I discovered that I had not read a book in a few years and I wanted to jump start my love of reading. I was surprised to discover in Chapter 10 of the Happiest Mom, entitled “look out for #1, that Happiest Mom author, Meagan Francis has a similar experience - she realized that she had not read a novel in 2 years. 
Looking out for number 1, is really challenging for me because I was brought up to be always concerned about the needs of others.  Frankly, it feels good to be helpful to others but when the mind starts to deteriorate and the body breaks down, actually long before that happens, it is time to look out for number 1. I think that most women suffer from this need to give until the well is dry.   If we are married, we hope that

Monday, May 30, 2011

Becoming the Happiest Mom: A great plan can be your best friend

Today was one of those days that as moms, we all dream about! About 6 month ago, I bought a spa deal from Living Social and I have spent the last 6 month plotting the right time to use it. I have made several attempts but with 3 boys, there was always something going on with them that felt more important than my own needs.  Finally, my mother announced that she was coming for a visit and my wishful thinking turned into a plan - one that I was actually able to effectuate to wonderful results; tonight, my body is celebrating.

Chapter 9 of the Happiest Mom is about having a plan - knowing where you are going and how you expect to get there. I don't have any trouble making a plan; I am a "to do list" girl.  I can follow through with even the loftiest goals, except when it comes to taking care of myself. The nail technician nicely commented that I needed to get a pedicure more often.  If like me, you

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Becoming the Happiest Mom: Did You Make Your Bed Today?

I am really exhausted tonight because my mother is coming for a visit tomorrow so I spent all day cleaning the house. If like me you don't have a spotless house, you know how much work it takes to get the house ready for a visitor.  Now, with some visitors, you can just just throw that pile of laundry in the closet and shut the door but not when mama is coming; you know that the first thing she will do is peak in the closet.

In every house there is a room where the entire family congregates; that is the room that generally causes housekeeping headaches.  In our house, it is the kitchen. Both my husband and I cook so the kitchen is "lived in", to put it nicely. It has always been my view that in every house, the kitchen and bathroom should always be clean even if every other room is a mess, so I am always trying to live up to my own expectation with regards to the kitchen. Honestly, I still don't have a method that works consistently but here are a few lessons from the Happiest Mom and some things that have worked for me occasion.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Becoming the Happiest Mom: Go With the Flow, Your Perfect Day Awaits

Have you ever stumbled upon a perfect day? This can only happen when we go with the flow in our lives. This morning, I was hoping to wake up to coffee and donuts from my favorite Vegan restaurant. As it turns out, I had no such surprise i store so I decided to take my 3 year old, otherwise known as my "moon child" on our first mother-son date to get donuts. Did I mention that the vegan bakery is about 38 miles away from my house? Didn't let that stop me. The donuts were delicious and my son was perfectly behaved; he was just thrilled to have alone time with his mommy. It is not easy being the middle child.

A friend texted an invitation to the beach and I carefully weighed my options. Let's see, go to the beach or clean the bathroom?  An hour later, I was sitting in the sand watching the kids make sand castles, and joyfully splashing around in the water. Later, we continued the party at my friend's house, where the kids had pizza and played game, while mommy had some always welcomed adult conversation.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Becoming the Happiest Mom: Find Your Tribe

I was raised in Jamaica by a village of loving family and friends. I lived in a house with my Mama, my older brother, my Mama's mother, aunt, brother and an older cousin.  In addition, almost everyone in our small village was considered a "cousin".  Mothers had a lot of help. It wasn't unusual for a mother to leave our village to find work in "town", while leaving her kids behind with a relative.  There was no stigma to it; in many cases it was considered an act of love.

I expected that I would find my own village when I had children. I had a wonderful network of friends when I lived in Washington, DC but when I moved to Florida over a year ago, I had to rebuild my circle of friends. It has been challenging, therefore I identify with the Happiest Mom's suggestion that every mother needs to find and establish her own tribe.  Meagan describes it a "someone who pulls for you in tough times and stir the margarita mix

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Becoming the Happiest Mom: Keeping it Real

How much has your life changed since you had kids? Has it changed for the better? When you look in the mirror, can you still identify with the person that you see? Are you the type of  mommy that you thought that you would be?

The Happiest Mom reminds up that "keeping it real" means not clinging to every aspect of your pre-pregnancy self, even though there is so much pressure to do so. It is important to create balance by hanging to those aspects of your life and personality that you loved while embracing the mom that you are now. I spent the day at the office, the evening watching Kung Fu Panda 2 with the boys and I am ending the day writing. Writing is fun and therapeutic for me and it is an important part of my pre-mommy self that I am trying to hold on to.  I am also embracing my new role as a soccer mom; seeing how much fun the boys are having makes going to a game or practice 3 to 4 times per week worth the effort.

My "keeping it real" thoughts are:

  • I may not be perfect but I am perfect for my kids (quote from Kelsey); that is why God blessed me with them and them with me.
  • I'm not sure if motherhood has made me smarter because with every child, I lose more of my ability to remember important things, like where I put the car keys; however, it has made me much wiser.
  • I have mastered "mind travel" - all the exotic place that I visit in my mind during a tantrum.
  • So sorry for all the times, before becoming a mother, that I gave a mommy the "why can't you control your child" look.
  • I am not the mommy that can create lovely scrapbooks or plan the perfect pirate themed party for the boys but I am good at the things that are important to them, like laughing at all their potty jokes, watching the movie Cars with them hundreds of time and always playing the "smell my stinky feet" game. 

How has motherhood changed you and what good skills has motherhood taught you?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Becoming the Happiest Mom: Trust Your Gut

I had my first son in 2004. Even though I had read all the parenting books and absorbed advice from every relative and stranger, I was still overwhelmed when I had to leave the hospital with my "Sun" child. The nurse handed him to me and said, "you can go home now." I thought, "are they going to really trust me with this precious child, I have no experience!"  

Chapter 3 of the Happiest Mom talks about trusting your gut; some people refer to it as instincts or intuition or that strange feeling in your stomach but regardless of what you call it, it is unlikely to lead you down the wrong path.  We all want to be successful parents so we spend a great deal of time conducting research and getting advice.  Sometimes the advice is unsolicited and not helpful and an appropriate response is necessary. Unfortunately, I always seem to think of a good response 5 minutes too late. I think that Meagan has either been bitten by the nice bug or she has really mastered the art of retaining her inner peace and not becoming defensive.  For example, she would respond to a childcare provider who says,"I really think that she should be potty trained by now" with "I talked to my pediatrician, and she agreed that it is better to wait until she is older." Great advice but I would have said, "If you didn't want to change diapers, you should have chosen a different profession!" Just kidding! That is what I thought; my actual response was "let's keep him in the 3 year old class for a few more weeks and when he is potty trained, he can join his peers in the 4 year old class." I was able to respond this way because of experience with my first child. I felt pressured to potty train him and my sweetie would hide in a corner or behind a sofa to take care of his needs in peace. It was frustrating at the time but now I say, "good or him!" He used the potty when he was ready and not a minute before.

Words of wisdom for today:
  • Don't let anyone shake your confidence in your own judgment
  • If you read something that conflicts with your parenting philosophy, ask yourself: Is what I'm doing working?
  • Beware of mothers, mother-in-laws and parents with older kids who have selective memories and will of say,"when Johnny was 4, he was the perfect toddler," Don't believe it!
  • It is normal to want advice from others; consider the advice, conduct your research but go with what feel right for you and your family.
  • If you don't like any of the advice in this blog post, ignore it :-).
My gut is telling me to get off the computer and go watch Kung Fu Panda with the boy, and since I always trust my gut, I am signing off.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Becoming the Happiest Mom: The Kids are Alive!

My husband went out of town and left me with the boys and when he returned, the dishes were piled high in the sink and toys were scattered all over the house; he looked horrified. I felt judged so I said, "you should be happy that the kids are alive!".

"Aim Low and Go Slow" is the title of the second chapter of the Happiest Mom. The chapter advises moms to set realistic expectations - for you and everyone around you - and be patient with yourself and others.

Today, I am reminded of the following:

  • No 2 kids are the same. Sometimes the "terrific 2" starts at 2, sometimes it starts at 4 and sometimes it starts at 18 months and lasts until 5.
  • Set the bar high for things that really matter to you. For me, any safety issue is a high priority. I wouldn't chose more than 5 things because if everything is important nothing is important. Set it low for routine tasks, such as sending the kids to school with matching socks or getting a gift to the teacher everyday during teacher's week. I managed to get all 12 teachers a gift card at the end of the week and I am sure they were still appreciative of the gesture.
  • I am sad that my six year old has a cavity but it is not the end of the world - the tooth fairy will appear, a new tooth will replace this one and I will do better with the replacement.
  • So happy to hear that my child is not the first to have mooned someone.  I will apologize to our relatives at Thanksgiving for the next 12 years but when he turns 18, he can issue his own apologies.
  • Don't rush the kids into reaching milestones before they are ready. I can guarantee that the boys won't go to college in diapers.
  • For the past 5 years, I have been meaning to create a "first year" photo album for my now 6 year old. Apparently I am not the only mother with this unrealized goal.
  • In addition to my "to-do list", it is ok to have a "don't do" list and a "don't do ever" list. Awesome advice. Thanks Meagan!
  • I can have it all and do it all but just not in the same day or month or even the same year. I can happily live with that reality.
After several unsuccessful attempts at a family meal at a relatively nice restaurant, I have learned that "aiming low and going slow" means stick to restaurants that are super kid friendly. Why spend the entire dinner asking a 3 year old to be quiet or prying the knives from the baby's hands or diving to catch the glass that he is about to throw. 

At my bridal shower, my friend Gladis gave me the best advice. She said "lower your expectations and you will have a happy marriage." I think this is also good advice for raising kids because it allows us to be realistic with our expectations of ourselves, our kids and our spouses and every good thing that happens is a reason to celebrate.  

Monday, May 23, 2011

Becoming the Happiest Mom: Happiness is Within Reach

Yes, I can! I am not sure if I am referring to claiming my happiness or reading a chapter a day and blogging about it.  As you may be able to tell, it is almost midnight and I just found time to share my thoughts from the first chapter of the Happiest Mom.

The nice thing about a good book is that it encourages reflection. Here are a few of my random thoughts after reading the first chapter:

  • Kids everywhere prefer to have their sandwich without the crust much to the horror of most moms.
  • A 3 year old's heart can break because his brother called him a "bad boy". Don't overanalyze it, just give him a big hug.
  • The existence of the human race depends on moms keeping their boys from accidently causing great harm to themselves.
  • There are other mothers out there who would trade in brunch with the family for a few hours of quiet enjoyment/reflection on Mother's day.
  • If you want to give a mommy a great gift, give her time alone to grocery shop.
  • You can recover from taking the kids all the way to school only to realize that you forgot their shoes.
  • I think that I know how to raise happy kids but can anything be done about the whining?
  • I am not the only mother who has been tempted to cry and call my mother for a hug.
  • My oldest child is 6 and I have ironed his clothing maybe twice and I am fine with it.
  • No is a beautiful word that should be used without guilt.

The best quote from the first chapter is "How can you find happiness if you can't find your keys?"  I am a law and order mommy, and a happy life for me means an organized life. It doesn't have to be perfect, I just need to know where the pieces fit. I get a quick happiness boost from rearranging furniture in my house. Does this work for anyone else?

I am an optimist and I always want the glass to be way more than 1/2 full, which is why I am drawn to a book about finding happiness as a mom. The mommy war stories are funny and I relate to many of them but they can leave moms feeling hopeless and resigned to just getting by. It is nice  to read that happiness is within the reach of all mothers. It is for the taking, now, not when the kids get older or better behaved or reach some other milestone.  I look forward to getting past just surviving and actually thriving! Now where are those keys? See you tomorrow. 

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Reading the "Happiest Mom", Join Me!

I love to read and I love to write! I always thought that those 2 passions helped to define me but today I realized that I have not read a a book, not including legal books, in over a year. How could that be?  I have been carrying around the book, "The Happiest Mom" by Meagan Francis for a few weeks now but every time I pull it out, a baby tugs on my skirt, the phone rings, and the pile of laundry starts to call my name.  Now, this is precisely why I need to read this book. I need to organize my life and reclaim my passions and my happiness.

This is where I need your help. The "Happiest Mom" has 10 chapters and starting tomorrow,  I am committing to reading 1 chapter per day and I am holding my feet to the fire by blogging about it daily. This is a very cool book; I know this already because I have been following Meagan's advice on her Website for a few months now.  If you haven't read the book, stop by Amazon or your local book store, grab a copy and join me over the next 10 days. If you have already read the book, stop by and comment.

With 3 toddlers to foil me, I am nervous but happy to jump start my love of reading.  

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mothers, You are Royal, Today and Everyday!

Happy Mother's Day to everyone who has ever provided a child with a special hug or smile, who has changed a diaper or stayed up late at night with a sick child.  Your love for a child nurtures that child but also impacts the future of a nation. The way that we love as adults reflect how we were loved and nurtured as children.  It takes a village to raise a child and I am especially thankful for the women who raised me. Special mommy hugs and love for my Mama, Linett Wills (photo), my Mother, Roslyn Chambers, Granny Da and Aunty Fan. Thanks to them, I had a childhood filled with love and have been able to pass that love along to my own kids.

If you are the nurturer of a child and today you are feeling tired, overwhelmed or under appreciated, just know that you are royal, your love heals, and the love that you give today will last a lifetime.

In the heart and mind of a child, mother's day is everyday so Happy Mother's Day to you, today and everyday!

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