Archive for kids

Sometimes The Best We Can Do Is Allow Things To Happen

Photo Credit: Dane, Flickr.com

Photo Credit: Dane, Flickr.com

My nine-year-old daughter threw me a curve ball last spring when [seemingly out of nowhere] she began to experience anxiety over the simplest of things, such as going to school. Mia had always been an eager learner, an outgoing and friendly child who appeared to take life in stride. The kind of kid who, once she learned how to skip, preferred that method of getting from point A to point B…usually accompanied by a whistle or a song from her lips.

When I began to notice my daughter’s shift in attitude and demeanor, my own anxiety kicked in. I had never experienced my daughter this way before, so I had no idea how to “handle” it. I tried many different tactics which seemed natural to me, such as listening and affirming her feelings (while making it clear attending school was non-negotiable), at times I ignored her behavior or minimized the situation and pushed her through the feeling. Another approach I found myself taking (in response to my own growing anxiety) was to ask her if she could tell me what was wrong so I could help her (“If you can just tell mommy what is wrong I can find a way to help you. I can’t help you if I don’t know what is going on inside your head.”)

One of the biggest obstacles, hindsight being 20/20, was learning my daughter didn’t know exactly why she was feeling so much anxiety. If she didn’t know, how did I expect her to tell me?!

The situation escalated to a point where I felt we needed some outside, professional help. We began to see a wonderful family counselor who, over time, was able to unravel my daughter’s anxiety. The counselor also taught Mia some concrete ways to cope with challenging thoughts and emotions (such as identifying/understanding her feelings, journal writing, and deep breathing exercises). The counselor helped her dad and I understand how sensitive Mia was to the mood and energy in our home. Even when, on the surface, she didn’t appear to even be paying attention to our discussions.

During one of Mia’s sessions my daughter spoke, at length, about a young man (a family friend) who passed away a few years earlier (when my daughter was six). I had no idea Mia ever thought about this person after his death, we hadn’t dwelled on the details, or even spoke much about the incident. My daughter did not attend the funeral…yet, she carried this grief and worry about the unknown for three years.

I learned a great deal in going through this experience with my child. The most important being sometimes the best way to handle her feelings is to simply allow them to happen, to acknowledge the feeling and be with her in that moment knowing we[moms and dads] cannot fix or change every emotion or problem our children will face. However, by acknowledging and sitting with them and the feeling it begins to become less powerful.

The point of my story is threefold: (a) our children pick up on, and are more sensitive than we give them credit for, (b) when one of your children has a mental health issue (such as severe anxiety) the entire family has an issue because the family is an interdependent system, and (c) there is no shame in asking for help, professional or otherwise, when the waters get deep and murky as they often do when raising children.

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How to Make Fake Poop

Ok this isn’t my typical post, but if you have spent any time with me at all you’d know I’m quite the joker.  As my mother tells me I really do have a junior high sense of humor.  One year (I was probably in the 6th grade) I covered the toilet in our house with clear Karo corn syurp.  My mom sat in it and got her butt stuck to the toilet…or at least she played along that she did!

I remember fondly her voice yelling, “APRIL…!!!”  That was a great day.

So when my girls, in typical Eichhorn fashion (my dad and his brothers are quite the pranksters too), were on YouTube they came across this ‘fake poop’ video and we were all laughing hysterically.  But I would have never guessed what would happen next.

Photo Mar 25, 7 08 00 PM

I left last evening to take a quick ride up to the airport to pick my mother up from her trip out to visit my sister in CA and upon my return I was being videoed by my middle daughter Molly.  Strange.

Then in the words of Clement Moore in his famous poem ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’,

When what to my gleaming eyes should appear,
but poops lying ’round the house oh so clear!

The funny part of it was when I threw one in the garbage and Monty, our dog, came right up and ate it out!  With April Fool’s Day right around the corner you might want to whip up a batch and trick your kids…

Here are a few very appropriate ideas:

1) Put a poop in their lunch box in a Ziploc bag
2) Leave one lying on their bathroom floor next to the toilet and act surprised (maybe even blame them)
3) Freak out your spouse by leaving one on the toilet seat and act horrified (blame him)!

Why blame them? It just adds to the fun and makes it seem that you are not a part of the disgusting scene…until you bust out laughing!

Here is the video with a simple recipe.  Enjoy!

What are the best memories you have of April Fool’s Day?  What are your best pranks?

Share them below and we can all try them out for some super family fun.  One lucky mom will win an e-copy of Ride the Wave: Journey to Peaceful Living.    That is no joke…

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Gratitude: One Photo at a Time

13 11 22 Gratitude Collage

Frustration.  Toleration.  Acceptance.  Gratitude.  Love.  Freedom.

Traveling the journey to greater peace and gratitude one photo at a time.

These past 4 weeks Brene Brown’s Course “The Gifts of Imperfection” have been nothing short of life changing saving for me.  Thank you Oprah for having her create this course for me!

Being a perfectionist, by nature I presume, is not easy.  I have put a lot of pressure on myself, and others, to keep everything running smoothly, and neatly…and that’s not easy with three kids, a husband and a plethora of pets!

In 2010 I had the epiphany moment that it was okay if my house wasn’t perfect, which is part of the story of how Ride the Wave: Journey to Peaceful Living was born.  A constant source of tension was released, which was huge for me and my family.  That may seem like a simple realization, but for a perfectionist, being able to live without stressing while some dirty dishes lie dormant in the sink is nothing short of miraculous.

Well as all journeys begin with excitement and mystery it continues on to this day with revelation after revelation, setback after setback.  I’ve certainly had my highs and my lows.  But you see the honest truth is I’ve been struggling lately.  Even having accomplished so much and having launched my first big conference just 2 months ago, I had fallen into a slump. 

Have you ever felt that way?  Like, when is enough enough? How much more do I have to DO to prove to myself that I’ve done a good job?  It’s flat out exhausting!  So in my job as a life coach I wear the hat of a teacher most often, but I needed some time to be taught and I signed up for the course, not really expecting anything supernatural, but thank God for the unexpected.  The commitment to stick with it and keep going on this path to teaching moms how to be the best they can be has been renewed over these past few weeks.  As I sit here typing this now I feel a great sense of joy.

What happened?  How did this change come about?  It lies in the transformation of a mindset of tolerating to being grateful.  There is a difference between tolerating something and embracing it…you know what I mean?  Tolerating is equivalent to ignoring but ultimately zaps your energy.  It’s the things you are ‘putting up with that need to be fixed’.  Embracing something is knowing it’s not perfect and saying, “That’s just fine.”

Back to the story…my house had become a ‘toleration’ and so had my business.  They were both something that I put up with (albeit peacefully) but in the back of my mind there would come a point where I needed it fixed.  Whether that meant cleaning up messes at home or ramping up my programs online I had to jump into action to make it ‘right’ again.  Be the best in every area.  

So after completing the first 3 weeks of assignments which included making a list of things I am giving myself permission to do (or not do) during the class…for me one of them was permission to cry…finding a picture of me when I was at my most authentic, and also my most awkward and then recognizing my trigger points, how I numb myself when I’m triggered and what brings me true comfort, I thought I was home free.  They were fun and revealing exercises, but nothing too heart-wrenching.

Photo Nov 25, 8 49 48 AM

Enter week 4.  Gratitude.  Now to say this was orchestrated by the greater powers that be is an understatement.  Two months ago I was booked to speak to a group on the power of forgiveness and gratitude THIS WEEK and what is this week’s lesson?  Gratitude.

Assignment: Get behind your camera and take pictures of the everyday things you’re grateful for.  Easy enough…or not.  I was home one morning and decided to tackle the task.  I walked around the house with my iPhone and started snapping.  A pile of shoes in the closet brought a tear to my eye.  A sign taped to Sadie’s bedroom mirror “Disney Imagineer at Work” stuck out amongst her unmade bed and messy floor, Molly’s miniature drum set sat atop her neatly arranged desk overlook her trampoline, the one she begged us for last Christmas, and Amy’s self-portraits from kindergarten.  My how time flies.  Her progress shown right there hanging proudly on her magnetic dry erase board.

Photo Nov 25, 9 01 26 AMAs I sat down at my computer to review my photo shoot, I took one last shot.  This is my life.  Me.  My yoga pants.  Working.  My computer.  On the kitchen table.  With Monty at my foot.  How these moments slip by so quickly unnoticed.  I began crying.  I mean really crying.  It felt weird.  I wanted to stop it, but I remembered my permission slip, so I went there.

No one was home, the kids had gone off to school and Jim was at work.  I felt my heart that had been so productive and focused and goal-oriented for the past 3 years crack open to a new sensitivity.  The tears were running down my cheeks and I let it all out.  Recognizing that what really matters is the mess. 

My girls who are growing so quickly.  My husband who is so relaxed that a messy pile of shoes wouldn’t even register on his radar.  And my freedom to be able to work from home, pursue my passion to help moms live happy and fulfilling lives and still be present for my kids.

This is what I’m grateful for.  I’m not tolerating my life, the messes, the to-do list, I am grateful for it.  It means that there are people around me who need meals cooked for them, it means the girls have permission to be themselves without the pressure to perform to my preference of perfection, it means I can embrace my hubby without thinking about the pile of shoes that need straightening.  That is true freedom.

So I challenge you to look at what you are tolerating and see if you can embrace it.  Stop just accepting life as it comes, be grateful for each and every moment no matter how small.  Gratitude for the small things brings love, freedom and a new appreciation for whom and what surrounds you. 

With Thanksgiving just a few days away take a minute to snap a few of your own photos to mark this precious and fleeting time in your life and see how that brings new perspective on the ordinary, messy and often overlooked moments.  I bet a tear will come to your eye too.

Post a comment below to tell me about your Gratitude Photo Experiment.  I’d love to hear it!

April O’Leary, B.A. Ed. is a Certified Master Life Coach and founder of the University of Moms.   She is the author of two books: Ride the Wave: Journey To Peaceful Living and Focus on You: Your Needs Matter Too.  She happily resides in Southwest Florida with her husband and three daughters. 

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A Milestone Reached: Reflections from a Happy Mom

Yesterday I heard the dentist say, “Your daughter has no more baby teeth to lose.”  The tears hid inside my eyes and my heart, while happy, sank a bit too.  “Where has the time gone?” I thought quietly to myself.  I’ve been a mom for 11+ years now and although the time has flown there are times that I think back to and wish I could somehow get a ‘re-do’.  Although my degree in Elementary Education and my years of experience with kids before that prepared me for the developmental stages of childhood (and gave me a solid repertoire of activities to keep kids entertained), nothing prepared me for the emotional stages I would go through.  I went from a blissful new mom to just a few short years (and a few kids) later a mom who was overwhelmed, stressed-out and angry.  The moments of frustration that I took out on my girls linger as a sour memory.

For all that we gain with being a mom, hugs and smiles, hands to hold and artwork to cherish, oftentimes we lose something too.  We lose a good night’s sleep.  We lose our privacy.  We lose our autonomy to go where we want and do what we want, even if only for a season.  But sometimes we lose something even more valuable…OURSELVES.  Yes, it is a common trap moms fall into.  Under the umbrella of ‘doing what is best for everyone else,’ we sacrifice ourselves to such a degree, that we turn around and wonder where our carefree days went.  We wonder why we feel clouded over with negativity.  We feel desperate to be a better mom, we WANT to be better, but we don’t know what we can do differently.

So as I walked out of the dentist’s office, my three girls hopping into the minivan, listening to the laughter on the way home, I smiled.  Why?  Because things can change!  I am no longer angry or frustrated or overwhelmed anymore.  I don’t feel guilty taking a break, saying ‘no’, stepping back and slowing down to do what I need to to do take care of myself first.  But this didn’t happen overnight.  In fact, I had to learn the hard way what NOT TO DO in order to come out on the other side smiling.  So if you want to know what you can do to be a happier mom, if you want to enjoy your kids more, if you want to find yourself again and not look back years from now with that regret, “I wish I’d yelled less.  I wish I had smiled more.  I wish I wasn’t so stressed out.” then sign up now for our free 4 lesson Video e-Course where you will learn how to “Find more time for you and be happier too.”

Remember when mom is happy…everyone is happy too!  Now is the time to put yourself back on the priority list and I will show you how.  Sign up below.


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