40 Things I Know to be True

40 Things I Know to be True

It’s my birthday!  In celebration, here are 40 things I know to be true.  And because it’s just boring without pictures, a few of my happy places.  If you make it all the way to the end, I have a little gift for you.  Because what is a birthday without presents?

Daffodils

  1. Don’t leave sharpie markers on the counter with toddlers in the house.
  2. Family is everything.
  3. You cannot have it all. Which part of “all” matters?
  4. Sleep! 7 hours is my absolute minimum do, 8 is better.
  5. Never do complicated when simple will work.blog-1697
  6. Less is more.
  7. No is a complete sentence.
  8. Risk management is not just for bankers (and that’s probably the most important thing I learned in banking.)
  9. Other banking lessons? Character trumps all – it is more important than a financial position, history, future plans.
  10. Gratitude is the antidote for the blues, materialism, entitlement, all that ails you.

  11. If you don’t know where you are going, you will not know that you’ve arrived.
  12. There is beauty and worth in every single person, no matter how annoying. My job is to find it.
  13. Read. Read. Read.blog-6134
  14. Sometimes we don’t deserve the good things we get. Sometimes we don’t deserve the bad things we get.
  15. Grace is enough
  16. Tomorrow I’ll wish I started today.
  17. One mess-up does not ruin the rest of the day/week/month/project.
  18. Done is better than perfect.
  19. Make your bed every day. (Thanks Mom.)
  20. You always have a choice.blog-8733
  21. Travel is mind-expanding.  What people everywhere have in common is so much greater than our differences.
  22. You can only change yourself.
  23. Two ears, one mouth. To be used in that proportion.
  24. Garbage in, garbage out.
  25. Nothing lasts forever. That gets me through the tough times, and reminds me to be here now.
  26. Saying “yes” to one thing always means saying “no” to something else.
  27. What other people think is true for them. It doesn’t have to be true for me.blog-1264
  28. Imagination is the way to solve problems.
  29. Create something everyday. A doodle, a dinner, a clear sentence. Anything.
  30. A small decision to do the next right thing can determine your whole direction.
  31. Being a mom is the toughest (and most important) thing I’ve ever done.
  32. Encourage your children.
  33. Optimism is indispensable.
  34. Your children want you. (Thanks April Perry!)
  35. Those long quiet nights up with a nursing baby? You’ll miss it.blog-1365
  36. Plan for the unexpected (especially with little guys around!).
  37. Marriage? Forgive, forgive, forgive. And try to forget.
  38. A smile and a kiss go a long way, as does saying you’re sorry.
  39. I don’t know who said this but I believe it wholeheartedly: “you can be right or you can be happy.” Your choice.
  40. All you need is love.

And because every birthday needs presents (who doesn’t like presents?) I want to give you one.

Are you feeling overwhelmed? Don’t know what is vital to you anymore?

Jump on the phone with me for 30 minutes and I’ll walk you through my step-by-step way to clear your head, find what’s next, and focus on making your highest contribution.  I have set aside some spots on my calendar – click here to book your appointment now. (And yes, since it’s my gift to you, it’s free.)

 

This is Now –  Embracing the Tough Times

This is Now –  Embracing the Tough Times

While I can be as Pollyanna as it comes, I have to acknowledge that life, motherhood, expat life is not always what we imagined it would be. Sometimes there are wonderful surprises. Sometimes, the surprises are not what we might have hoped.What did you think mothering would be like? Did you expect that your heart would break every day when you saw a child struggling to make friends? That reading your favorite books would not be sweet moments snuggled together on the coach, but rather admonishing of “If you don’t stop pulling your brother’s hair right now, I will stop this story.”
Expat life? The expectations would fill a book, the reality another. Maybe even in a different genre.
I’ve been learning so much about persevering through the tough times. Sometimes I think those are lessons I could really do without, but in all honesty, I know this is where the growth happens. Here’s a few lessons I’d like to share with you, so you can make the most of your tough time lessons.

1. This is now.

Sometimes, when times get tough, I find myself wishing for the next phase – please let this little kid fighting phase end. Please let them outgrow this habit. Only 18 months until we leave this country for the next, only one more Christmas here. When I catch myself, I stop and wonder at the questionable wisdom of wishing your life away.
This is now.
Cliched as it is, this moment will never happen again. In this moment, there is something beautiful. Take a deep breath, slow down just for a second, and think about the beauty, the joy, or if nothing else, the growth, in this moment.

2. Embrace the tough.

Hear me out. I’m not saying that you should be grateful that something horrible is happening to you. In fact, let me say that sometimes life is hard, and I’m so sorry that hard times are happening for you.
Here’s what I’m saying. Lean in. Feel hurt, feel sad, feel angry. Then acknowledge the growth opportunity. You are strong enough to do this. Hey, if you belt out a chorus of “I will survive” all the better.

3. Ask for help.

There is nothing that says you have to tough it out alone. Talk to other parents. Talk to other expats. Maybe the situation requires professional help. Get help.  Ask.  You never know what resources may be at your disposal.  Figure out what you need to make it better, and then ask. People want to help, but often don’t know what you need. Are you overwhelmed with the needs of the new baby? I bet you a friend would be happy to pick up groceries, bring a meal, or take your older child to the park. Allow others in. Ask for what you need.

4. Nothing lasts forever.

It is the great tragedy and the great joy of our lives – babies grow, we get older, times change. I am a huge fan of the Anne of Green Gables books, and here is one of my favorite quotes:
“I’ve kind of contracted a habit of enj’ying things,” he [Captain Jim] remarked once, when Anne had commented on his invariable cheerfulness. “It’s got so chronic that I believe I even enj’y the disagreeable things. It’s great fun thinking they can’t last. `Old rheumatiz,’ says I, when it grips me hard, `you’ve GOT to stop aching sometime. The worse you are the sooner you’ll stop, mebbe. I’m bound to get the better of you in the long run, whether in the body or out of the body.’” Anne’s House of Dream by L.M. Montgomery
While I don’t wish my time away, I know that this will end.  My boys will get bigger, the challenges of parenting will change.  This tour will be over, and our new location will have its own challenges.
If I do this right, I will be ready to face those new challenges stronger and maybe a little wiser, because of the tough times I face today.

Imagination (and toys)

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Oh, going to space from the back yard.

Every parent knows the lure of the cardboard box right?  My sons prove again and again that the box is always more valuable than the content when it comes to toys.  I am such a huge fan of Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne.  Kids really thrive when I am intentional in giving then more simplicity, less choices, and more unstructured play time.

I try to enforce some simple toy rules.

1.  We edit constantly.  Toys are rotated so that there is never more in the toy cabinet than they can clean up easily at the end of the day.  We keep toys in canvas bins, and when one bin comes down to the accessible part of the toy closet, another goes up and out of reach.

2.  We try to be intentional with the toys we buy.  I like toys that are durable, don’t require batteries, and can be used in many different ways.  We have not gone plastic free by any means, although I do love wooden toys.

blog-46673.  Open ended toys rule.  We have always loved Lego around here – my son got his first box of duplo when he was nine months, and has no graduated to “big kid lego.”  Of course, his younger brother is still firmly in the duplo age, but refuses to be left behind.  In the last week, there has been lego fish (and sharks and whales, and a hermit crab).  Before that it was museums (with restaurants) – pictures above.

4.  Dress up is not for girls only.  We have a pretty large collection of halloween costumes (a few picked up after halloween on sale) and several mama made costumes, along with scarves, hats, swords and shields, and many of the other bits and pieces that make pretend play so much fun.

The last load of cloth diapers

lastdiapersThat was my last load of cloth diapers.  While we’re not diaper free yet, his preschool asked for pull-ups, and at home we are using underwear.

It’s a little bittersweet.  My boys are getting so big, and I can’t help but realize that everything they learn to do for themselves brings them that much closer to leaving the nest.  But let’s not get ahead of ourselves shall we?

For now, I’m very grateful not to have to scrape and scrub dirty diapers.  ‘Nough said.

What are you grateful for today?  Please share in the comments.

My youngest son

blog-3154Let me tell you about one of the reasons I am filled with the deepest gratitude every day. My little boy, my John, my baby, is now closer to three than two.

Everyone warns you that it goes so fast.  They lie.  It goes in spurts.  Some nights are so long that you wish you could go to sleep and just not wake up.  Some days are so awful that you wonder about your fitness for motherhood.  But those nights and those days make up such a small percentage.  The majority of your time is spent in ordinary days. Doing laundry, dusting yet again, cleaning another mess, changing another set of sheets, cooking another meal, drawing another picture, reading Llama Llama one more time.

In the midst of all that, there are moments of such transcendent beauty that your heart swells so much that you are sure your ribs will crack.  Moments so awe inspiring that you want everything to stop, so you can smell the back of the baby’s neck forever, that you can watch little brothers in their school uniforms walking hand in hand into the gates just one more time.  You take pictures furiously, you write down everything they say on a calendar, you hope you remember.

Right now:  My youngest son has lived on three continents, and spoken four languages.  He is gregarious, an absolute flirt, and a huge hit with his older brother’s female classmates (much to the disgust of said brother.)

I can tell you he is vegetarian most days, will eat pasta until we worry that he’ll explode, loves fruit, his brother, Pokoyo, and Llama Llama.  He sings and dances constantly, especially to that awful song Chu Chu Wa.  He is mischievous, and knows just how to make his brother laugh (and cry.)  His Spanish is much better than mine, and better than his English now.  He loves drawing and painting, and is never without a car or truck.  His greatest joy is “driving” daddy’s jeep.

None of that explains him as well as this story:

One recent morning, he wanted to help me wash the dishes.  My husband and I left our wine glasses and a coffee cup in the sink the night before.  At five on a Saturday morning, John carried his step stool to the kitchen, got a hold of the dish soap, and started the water, all standing on tippy toes.  From our bedroom in the back of the house, the first indication I had of a situation about to go wrong was the tinkling of wine glasses.  I ran to the kitchen, half asleep, to find my little guy in his PJs and bare feet surrounded by broken glass.  “Boken! Boken!” he yelled with urgency.  Then he reached to hug me. “I help you mamma.”

I can never forget what might have been.  But I know in this life there are no guarantees, and I am deeply aware of what a miracle this little boy is.  The years may go to fast, but the love lasts an eternity.

My little guy on the gratitude list in 2012: He’s nine months old.

This Moment

{this moment} – A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.  Inspired by Soulemama.com

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