Category Archives: Happiness

On Loving Yourself

Ok, so, I guess I should just confess it right off the bat….

I don’t know that I l-o-v-e love myself. I like myself. I think I’m pretty decent. I’m a HIP. A Human In Progress. I have flaws and weaknesses, I have some strengths. My strengths are super cool (ie- I make well-timed, appropriately hilarious, well-delivered comments to my husband when NO ONE ELSE is looking or even nearby, my impromptu dance skillz are Uhhh-mazing, etc). My weaknesses suck (I’m not going to list my weaknesses here!!! Silly, silly.)

Oh, I should probably mention that the topic of loving yourself came up recently when I picked up a book called, You Are a Badass, by Jen Sincero. To be a true badass, I need to LOVE myself. Like, LOVE love. Like, want to spend the rest of my life with myself, and commit to myself forever and ever.

So it got me thinking…Can I say I love myself? I don’t think so. That’s, like, the wrong word. I would say I’m a fan of my work, and I’m curious to see what will develop in my peak years. I would say I’m an admirer of my life attempts.

Truth: uhhhhh…….I don’t think so. That’s, like, the wrong word. I would say I’m a fan of my work, and I’m curious to see what will develop in my peak years (which I assume will be when I’m 40). I would say I’m an admirer of my life attempts.

I guess this is problematic. Because more so than I want to be a badass, I want to teach my kids to love themselves. I want them to know the pure, simple joy of trusting yourself and loving that you are your own best instrument for success. But we can’t teach what we can’t model. I feel pretty confident about that fact.

What’s more is that as I’ve become a mother, there are new, different things I have to learn to love about myself. I used to be a different person before the kids. I was always on time. I was always clean, tidy, neat, showered. Now I’m…..uhhh….what’s that word? FORGETFUL. I think that’s the word I wanted to use.

I’m also moving in more directions. I’m prioritizing differently. I’m monitoring my thinking, my reactions, my attitude, my behavior. Because now I have an audience for everything that I do. So I’m a little guarded, and sometimes, that means a little less confident. While I would like to love myself (should I say I’d love to love myself?) most days I feel like I don’t even know myself. I’m under construction. I’m morphing and changing and growing, and I’m not ready to commit to this new version of myself yet.

Have any other new moms felt this way? That suddenly, you are a different woman, and you’re confused and feeling completely like, “Who am I now???” “Who are my kids going to think I am?” It’s completely likely that I am overthinking this, ahem, example of one of my weaknesses. Ok, there, I said it. I CANNOT be the only one though, right?!?!?

So, if a wisdom fairy were to float into my house, I’m sure she would say something like this:

Stop it. Just stop right now.
You either love yourself or you don’t.
You don’t wait until you become more loveable. Because when the hell is that supposed to happen?
Jump on this gravy train right now, and decide to start loving yourself TODAY.

So I guess if I want to be a badass, I need to suck it up and start the love-fest.
Orrrrrr…maybe I just want to be a badbutt. Or a badbottom. Or a badrump. Maybe those are, like, the baby steps I can work toward.

If Beyonce were around to teach me to power pose correctly, I feel pretty confident that I would NAIL IT.

No. That just won’t work. So, here’s my task:
I will wake up every day and smile at myself. Regardless of what I see in the mirror, I will smile and say, “Go get it, girl.” I will mean it. And on some days, I will play the Star Wars Soundtrack and tell myself that is almost as good as power posing.

Here’s to trying something new. Every day.

#workit

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My Cup Runneth Over

Lately I’ve been having these completely ridiculous moments in the quiet of my home when I look around and feel utterly speechless and overcome with emotion. It’s hard to describe, but here’s me trying to do so anyway:

I’ll be rinsing a dish or putting junk away in a drawer, and I’ll see the kids doing nothing special. Little Man #1 will color or push a truck or make the noises he’s learned motorcycles make. (It sounds like his Popop snoring…) Little Man #2 will spit up or giggle or coo or cry over the latest toy LM#1 has shoved into his face. And a thick red ball of unnameable hot something will crawl up into my throat. My eyes start to water and though I don’t cry, I know I could easily enough if I let myself.  But I don’t. Because I’m scrubbing a dish or putting junk away. I finish what I’m doing, let out a short puff of air, and smile. I feel inextricably like the luckiest person in the world. I am humbled by this stupidly simple but very very very perfect moment. I strangely feel part of something larger than myself, standing in my kitchen, shaking the water and peanut butter remnants from a bowl.

This is insane, in part, because I know I’m not actually the luckiest person. I’m one of many whose hearts swell over the simple blessings in life. I am like every other mom who wonders just how her kid got peanut butter into his eyebrows, but missed the cup I’m rinsing.

But in these strange, overwhelming, emotionally charged moments what is so fascinating to me is this: being a part of something bigger than myself was always supposed to be working for a nonprofit that resuscitated a community or brought clean water to the Congo.  I studied my butt off in school so that I could someday impact humanity in a real way, feeling driven by my need to effect change.

And then I’m in my kitchen. And I want to cry because the boys are beautiful and healthy. No one has a brain tumor, no one is hurting or crying, and no one is throwing applesauce at me. I’m not doing anything seemingly constructive for the good of the planet, or for civilization at large, but somehow, I’m nearly crying over how beautiful life is.

SOOO, I blame my hormones. I tell myself that one day after we’ve finished breastfeeding, I will return to my normal, rationale way of thinking, and something as silly as rinsing a dish will go back to just being what it is: a household chore that makes the house look less messy.

In the meantime, I’ll keep feeling my heart swell. And I’ll keep thinking that being home with them is maybe slightly less lame than I thought it was when I decided to stay home. Even if it means crying– or almost crying– as often as I do now.

#livingthedream #lifeisfunny #aintitgrand

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A Perfect Sunday

One of the trickiest things about juggling two little ones, for me, is managing a schedule. Because the babes nap at different times and eat all day long (Baby #2 is holding strong at every 2-3 hours now that his reflux meds are working) it can be tough to get everyone loaded into a car and find enough time to really enjoy something.

The best way to enjoy a sunny Sunday is to:

(1) have a plan. I need to know where I’m going and what time I need to leave the house. This is excessively annoying sometimes, but without the impetus to get up and get going, we’ll never get anywhere fast enough to ensure time for fun. Does that sound ridiculous? It is, I can assure you. But it works for us.

(2) alter expectations that the entire day will be spent in any one place. This simply cannot be if the kids are going to get naps. A great day is really two half days. And let’s face it, naps are crucial if we want to make it to bedtime without a meltdown. I can handle a meltdown, but I don’t particularly want to. I prefer tuna melts to toddler melts.

(3) pack lunches, snacks, and changes of clothes the night before.

(4) have a second plan in place in case of rain. Because sometimes sunny Sunday becomes shitty Sunday.

ChesLenPRES-11This weekend we really lucked out. The weather was perfect, we woke up after a mostly restful evening, and everyone was ready to roll by 10 a.m. This gave us 3 whole hours before naps and cranky time. The bitty baby naps in the car and falls asleep in his car seat, so we can get him out so long as there is a quiet spot to nurse him at points throughout the morning.

image1 (5) The perfect spot today was The ChesLen Preserve, out in Coatesville, PA. This gorgeous property sits on the Brandywine Creek and provides trails and shade where we could all splash and play, fish, and picnic. There are always lots of dogs playing in the creek, canoes and kayaks rolling by, and bicyclists traveling on the roads above the creek. It’s nature at its finest.

IMG_6776It’s incredible when everything works out just right and everyone feels happy and pleased with themselves. Little Man #1 caught a fish with Daddy’s rod, and searched out a crayfish with his bucket and net.  He threw rocks into the creek and floated on his belly.

image2 (3)Little Man #2 nursed well in the shade and fell asleep going and coming to our spot by the water’s edge. He loved facing outward in his Baby Bjorn Carrier, and watched while Daddy fished with a pole right in front of him.

A beautiful, safe, tranquil spot like this is why I moved to Pennsylvania. I love nature, I love water, and I love family time. It was a perfect day, and it made me smile to think how lucky we were to have it. I’m so thankful. A little planning on the front end goes a long way…

What are you thankful for lately?

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Sub-Par Wins for the Week

For a mom with a new baby, until the babe starts sleeping a bit, everyday feels like a continuous loop of time, stretched over hell, through a murky bog, and up through piles of poopie diapers. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: it’s at these times, especially, that I try to find the silver lining and smile over the wins for the week. Here are a few seemingly lackluster wins that managed to make my week laughable, enjoyable, and manageable. Enjoy and share some of your own weekly wins!

1.) Both kids passed out before 1 p.m. It was Wednesday and I got both kids fed, semi-clean, and poopie-diaper-free. One diaper may have had a little pee in there, but Baby #1 was asleep already and I had to move on…

2.) The little purple buds on my iris plant popped! I’ve been waiting, unsure if the part of the yard where I planted would work out and BOOM! Flower power. Gorgeous purple has entered the yard. Andddddd….. I sprayed some non-toxic yucko crap that smells like piss everywhere so the deer won’t eat it. Fingers crossed, legs uncrossed (get the joke, ‘cuz it smells like I peed in the yard….)

3.) I found the bananas. My older son approached me with sticky hands on Tuesday and I had NO IDEA what he’d gotten into. The consistency of goo was indeterminable from touch or smell, and I did NOT want to taste it. Then he said it. “Banana.” I searched the floor, behind the couch, under the table, found the smoosh-fest and got it clean before ants found it. #WINNING #wherewerethebananasbeforehegottothem? #canheclimbmycabinets #Ineedtohidethefruitbetter

4.) My son was quiet. Plenty of you folks know I’ve had a hard time feeding Little Man #2. Even though the medication is really helping, he is nearly in month 4 of life and is SUPER distractable. I needed to nurse him and Little Man #1 was up my butt, trying to show me his super awesome, very vibrantly noisy and light-flashing motorcycle (thanks, Grandparents….). I knew that if LM1 pushed any of the noise-triggering buttons on the motorcycle, it would end our nursing session. It could take some time before LM2 wanted to settle in to nurse again. So I kept whispering….”Shhhh, your brother needs to eat! It’s quiet time now. Let’s sit nicely.” And son-of-a-gun, he listened. We got through nursing and everyone was happy. Lesson learned: I need to figure out an organized activity for LM1 during nursing time. It probably shouldn’t be anything messy and it probably shouldn’t be time with the iPad because that makes me sound like a crappy mother.

If only mine looked this good....

If only mine looked this good….

5.) It rained. When the weather is gorgeous, and I get caught up inside with laundry and general baby shenanigans, I feel SO guilty about missing the sunshine. So, when it rained this week, I didn’t mind. I caught up on a few things, read books to the kids, managed to make banana bread, and felt just fine about missing a jog with the stroller. So, I guess sometimes when it rains, you get banana bread…

Question: Did I use the smooshed bananas my son made his mess with for the banana bread?

Answer: LOOK! I added chocolate chips and apple sauce to the recipe! How snazzy……

What were your weekly wins?

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On Being Supportive

I have often felt like everyone thinks they know what it means to be a supportive friend, mother, father, daughter, spouse, etc. But, the more experience I’ve had with being supportive, the more I’ve come to see how difficult it is. Truly being supportive in a compassionate, respectful, and helpful way involves a lot more self awareness and control than I think I’ve ever acknowledged. Here are some recent realizations I’ve made. As always, if you have extra thoughts or tips, don’t hesitate to offer them up!

1.) Keep opinions to myself. Lots of people assume that if someone is coming to you for support and help, they want to know what you know. But what you know is only based on your own perceptions and experiences. More often than not, being supportive means being there, listening, and placing no judgment on what’s being shared. This is hard, but for the most part, I’m pretty sure my job is to listen!

2.) It’s not about me! Sometimes I find that once I’m engaged in conversation there is something I want or need to talk about, too. I must refrain from this! There will come a time and a place to make it about me. A lot of times, when a friend comes looking for support, it is a real turn off to hear for him/her to hear all about ME. Even if talking with the person who most often offers you love and support, I have to make sure the timing of unleashing my own issues is appropriate. It’s usually my your turn to shut the f*$% up. #igotaclue

3.) Be patient. Being supportive does not mean fixing the problem right then and there. It may mean discussing and considering the problem over and over again. Even if I’ve made up my mind about the best way to tackle an issue, this does not mean the person coming to me for help has made up his/her mind. We resolve things in our minds at different times, at different paces, with different solutions.  I need to be patient and understanding. We’re not all the same, and this is a good thing!

4.) It’s not my way or the high way. I’ve heard asked this question more than a few times: “If you didn’t want to listen to me, then why did you ask!?” Lots of times, I’ve received excellent advise and support that led me to make good decisions for myself, even if it wasn’t the exact advise given. Sometimes talking and sharing gets me to the next step, even if it is not in line with what my supportive friend recommended in the first place. Who cares? So long as a person moves through a problem and comes to a solution, I need to consider my mission as a supportive confidant accomplished. #Getovermyself. It’s my job to let people live their own lives.

5.) Being supportive doesn’t make me a “yes man.” It’s not my job to agree with everything the other person is saying. It’s my job to ask questions. Help a person come to conclusions. I think I can be supportive without only agreeing with what the other person has to say. There are delicate ways to say things, without being too one-sided.

Good luck being supportive and share your thoughts!

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Toddler’s First Snow!

The little man is walking, running, jumping, toddling, etc, which means he could enjoy the snow for the first time this winter! (Last winter he cried in a snowsuit that allowed little movement, since it was too puffy and he wasn’t yet walking!) We got about 2 feet here in PA, all perfect, soft, white, fluffy snow– which is super duper for sledding.

image3 (1)

Boy meets sled…

I made the mistake of bringing Little Man to the window and pointing out Dad with the snowblower a little too early. Before Dad had finished the job, I scared L.M. into insisting that we leave the house immediately to save Daddy. This is to say that instead of laughing or being delighted to see his father out in the snow, Little Man immediately burst into a rage of tears, shouting “Outside! Outside!” Instead of taking my time with coffee and breakfast, I dashed to complete a quick gathering of the zillion and one winter-time gear we’d purchased for L.M., all in the hopes that we would have some kind of snow to use it in. Here’s what he made it outside in:

  • a vest
  • an L.L. Bean snowsuit
  • a hat
  • the snowsuit hood pulled up over the hat
  • mittens
  • a woolen scarf (Dad’s!)
  • snow booties– a little big, but on sale at Target
  • two pairs of socks, one of which was some kind of fleecy wool jam that Nana found at the store two weeks ago

After noting that the gloves purchased were not quite warm enough (because L.M. held them up in the air at me and stared, as if to say, “Are you kidding me, B?”) I threw a pair of my fleecy super wool socks over the mittens and created sorts of multi-layered sleeping bags for his hands. I think this did the trick.

When I opened the garage door for L.M. to see the great outdoors and emerge into the snow, he heard Daddy’s snowblower and my shouting for Dad’s attention, and immediately burst into tears. He cried until Dad turned off the blower and approached, though L.M. was still cautious. I don’t know that he recognized his father under hat, hood, and ski goggles.

snow1

Daddy helps them gain speed! L.M. is not even holding on!

The crying settled when curiosity struck.

Since we live on a quiet lane and no one was out just yet, the hubs and I managed to construct a perfect little chute for a toboggan in the street.

“Should we luge or skeleton?” Hubs wanted to know.

“Meatballs don’t fly,” I advised. “You’re sledding with the boy, and I think you should be sitting straight up.”

Thankfully, Hubs is a listener. Unfortunately, my son is not. L.M. wanted to luge, skeleton, stand up, surf, you name it. The boy tried everything he could on the sled and giggled his little face off as a result of his own inventiveness. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that others had, in fact, devised the concepts of tummy-first or on-your-back sledding. Life is tough. This we know.

snow 2

The end of the day…we could tell he’d had enough.

All in all, a great day for the man. He enjoyed the weather, the rush of winter-time sports, and kept us outside for over an hour and forty minutes. The only advisory info I learned for myself is that snow blowers may be scary, and sledding while standing will likely be something to look out for in years to come. I, perhaps, have a snow boarder on my hands…

How was YOUR first snow???

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ISIS Needs Adele

AdeleSo, the thinking on my post today is offered somewhat in jest…but it’s something to think about anyway. The hubs and I watched the taped version of Adele’s performance in NYC this week. Thank YOU, NBC! We love Adele and we got to enjoy a full hour’s worth (well, minus the commercial time in between…) of Adele’s beautiful notes. She is incredible. She is gifted. She is joyful and remarkably down-to-earth when she talks to the audience. I LOVE ADELE.

Listening to her gave me the warm and fuzzies. I was so proud of her! And happy for her! And astounded by her! Listening left me speechless at some moments and in total awe at other moments. She is a reminder that we all have gifts, and when we find our gifts, incredible things can happen!

This got me thinking that sometimes it is truly the arts that open our hearts. I joked with Hubs and told him we should send members of ISIS copies of 25 and see if it opened their hearts up. Who knows. Maybe someone at ISIS just needs to hear, “Hello. It’s me…..”

Some joking aside, there are extraordinary artistic contributions that helped to change society for the better. Music can be transformative, but all the arts can be so as well. Here are a few examples:

1.) “We Are The World” (1985) is a charity and single that raised over $63 million for humanitarian aid in Africa and the US. Admit it– you remember this song, and you couldn’t stop singing it, and somehow it made a difference.

2.) Blood Diamond (2006) is a film that drew attention to the civil war in Sierra Lione also managed to decrease the overall selling and distribution of blood diamonds, taking it from 4-15% down to 1%.

3.) I Am Malala (2013) is a book that brought a personal narrative to the Pakistani Civil War and rise of the Taliban. Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Malala’s words have helped to promote efforts to educate young women and campaign for peace.

4.) The Feminine Mystique (1963) is Betty Friedan’s book that names the unnamed itch women were feeling throughout the 50s and 60s. She is credited by many with sparking the second wave of feminism.

5.) The artwork of Diego Rivera (1886-1957) made political statements and showed the world that a 20th century artist doesn’t only have a vision, but an opinion, a voice, and a political effect. He is sometimes credited with being one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. I may not be into communism, but I can respect a man whose work informs and transforms.

6.) The Color Purple (1982) is a novel by Alice Walker, turned film, turned musical that earned Walker a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award, making her the first female black writer to accomplish such a feat. The story promotes self love, explores self awareness, challenges what were cultural norms of the time, and challenges readers to recognize what dignity really looks like.

What has changed your world?

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On Being a Team Player

peace

I have been thinking about growth, development, and change recently, thanks to an interesting meditation experience I’m doing through the Chopra Center for Meditation. I’m listening to 21 days of meditative guidance that seems simple enough, given that there’s plinky-plunky music to help me relax, and Deepak Chopra’s voice– which I’m pretty sure is like listening to the Buddha bell tones, which is therapeutic for many reasons. .

I started the course because I thought a god way to relax while the baby is napping would be to try this out. As we get closer to our due date with baby #2, it’s been harder for me to stop my mind long enough to take a nap myself. Sooooo— Deepak it is, for 15 minutes a day. It’s like the Diet Coke of meditation, without the aspartame.

The particular course I’m taking asks us to consider our beliefs and how these shape who we are. To be honest, I had to dig deep to figure out some of the things in which I believe. The basics felt universal to me: (1) I believe in love (2) I believe family is the most important thing (3) I believe people are fundamentally good.

But after listing these beliefs, I felt a little let down. These beliefs didn’t seem to make me the individual the meditations are telling me I am. How these thoughts make me different from most other people, I couldn’t understand. The point of all this is to learn to know myself, and I seemed to be coming up a little short. So I dug deeper and considered recent experiences that might give me some insight into myself. That’s when I realized it: I don’t believe in being a true team player.

Let me explain….

In the very least least, if I needed to consider myself as a team player, I’d have to say I’m a poor one. I hated group projects in school because I always felt like I was going to do more work than my peers, then they would rob me of my grade. If I didn’t give my all, my grade would suffer. I liked the idea of only having to be accountable for my own work and earning what I felt I earned. As a result of this sort of thinking, in my teaching life, I don’t even ask my students to work in groups all of the time. I know that some students will hate group work and I don’t want to force them into it.

So, I had a belief, and now I needed to learn what it tells me about myself. Then, I need to consider how and why making a change could lead to my own growth.

Super. Thanks, Deepak. Not sure what this is going to accomplish….but I gave it a whirl.

teamworkNot being a good team player is SUPER LAME! How I’ve gotten by for so many years without learning the value of collaboration is stifling! What’s more is that the most important team I am a member of is my marriage. WHOA. STOP IT. WHAT?! Yes. It’s a team! And I realized that if I have been carrying around this knowledge that I am a terrible team player and that I have done nothing to change it, I may be setting myself up for disaster in other areas of my life!team for two

This led me to think about my marriage. Do I include Hubs in everything? Do I consider his point of view seriously and wholly? Do I involve him enough in the planning processes so that he is a leader in our decision making, too?

These are tough questions I’m still answering. I love driving the boat. I love being at the helm. I love taking charge and taking pride in what I’ve accomplished at the end. But maybe I will feel wonderful if I take a more collaborative approach, too. Changing who I am and how I behave is not easy— but change is growth and I want to keep growing.

What are YOUR beliefs? Do any of them surprise you?

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A Few Words from Rabindranath Tagore

Every now and again I read something that really strikes me as incredible. Becoming a mommy and uprooting our lives this past year has been a humbling experience, to say the least. This has been a transformative time, full of change and numerous unknowns, all of which has led me to read some new and interesting things.

Recently, I was working through Sadhana and came across a passage that may inspire, so I thought to share. Consider this:

“The chick knows when it breaks through the self-centered isolation of its egg that the hard shell which covered it so long was not really a part of its life. That shell is a dead thing; it had no growth, it affords no glimpse whatever of the vast beyond that lies outside it. However pleasantly perfect and rounded it may be, it must be given a blow to, it must be burst through, and thereby the freedom of light and air be won and the complete purpose of bird life be achieved.”

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Upping the Ante

Just before I left my last job, before I had my son, the school principal said a funny, yet profound thing to me.

“I didn’t know if you would make it–”

She wasn’t talking about what you might immediately assume.

She knew I would teach for the school and survive. She knew I’d work well with the students and find my routine. What she didn’t know was whether or not I could maintain my cheery, positive attitude.

“You came in here with quite the perky smile,” she said. “I didn’t know if we’d see that by the end of the year.”

I wasn’t at all offended when she said this. The school year wreaks havoc on every teacher. By the end of the year, we are all tired from our efforts and ready for the rewards of a restful, restorative summer break.

But, for me, my smile and attitude are something a little different. Whether I’m tired and burnt out or not, you’ll likely see the pearly whites.

I get excited and energized around other people a lot of the time– especially when I’m doing something that I love. Teaching is one of those things that brings it out. I love my students. I love their stories and their discoveries. It’s pretty magical getting a chance to watch them in action, so I can’t help  but smile.

Plus, I’ve always been told to “fake it till you make it,” and “smiling releases endorphins, which make you happy.” So, I’ve been a smiler for years.

Since leaving the classroom full-time to be at home, I’ve noticed that I smile at my baby a lot of the time. However, my life as a mom is still new to me. Everything feels different, my routine is taking a longer amount of time to work into place, and every day is extraordinarily different from the next. I can’t “lesson plan” my days and “assess my son’s learning.” I won’t see the rewards of my work for many years to come, if I am so lucky. My self assurance is lingering at times, and this makes the broad smiles sometimes less frequent. Without my routine smile at the start of every day, I’ve lost a little confidence, somehow.

There are so many more unknown factors at play now. When I was teaching, the everyday smile came with everyday certainty. Even if my classes did not run smoothly, I knew that I had time to make things right the following day. I don’t give up on my students, and they don’t give up on me. They show up to class the next day because if they don’t, I can fail them (well, sort of). Right now, I don’t have any of those tricks at my disposal.

When I think about what the school principal said to me all those weeks ago, I repeat the phrase in my mind. “I didn’t know if you would make it.”

I took such satisfaction in sitting there in the office, smiling away, assuring the principal that, “This is just me. It’s who I am– so I’m the same person at the end of the year.” But now, with completely  new challenges, I’m the one wondering if I’ll make it.

There is no principal to whom I have anything to prove. It’s just me and a little man with my husband’s feet and hairline, waiting and wondering if I’ll crack.

I guess the stakes have changed, and I’ll need to up the ante.

I’m a creature of habit, I must admit. So, I think I’m going to start planning out the days– warm up that old smile, and tell myself that this is no different than the classroom. A “Good Morning Song” never killed anyone. A little routine never hurt. And heck, if I want to sing and smile like we’re in kindergarten, so be it. Maybe I’m just that kind of girl.

If I can believe in myself the way I’ve always believed in my students, I’ll bet some pretty magical things will start to happen. I’ll keep you posted….

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