The Secret to Holiday Magic is Self-Care

christmas-2910468_640I read an unsettling article on The Huffington Post entitled Holiday Magic Is Made By Women. And, It’s Killing Us.

The writer is honest about all of the ways in which the holidays, more importantly, preparing for the holiday magic, tug at her, until she is left feeling depleted, empty, with nothing left to give.

I felt so sad and helpless as I read about her experience. I also felt anger.

Most of us have been her at one point in time as we try to make everything perfect for the people we love. We do it so they can enjoy this festive season and have memories to cherish as they grow up and grow old. There’s so much magic to the holidays and we want those we love to experience all of it. We do this out of love. It’s a beautiful thing.

What’s not so beautiful is the cost. When was this unspoken expectation that it’s mom’s job to make the holiday magic born?

I asked my husband if he would do half the things the writer listed in her article for the holidays. He responded with a resounding “No fn way.” “Why not?” “Why?”

Why? indeed. It seems men understand the magic of the holidays, but aren’t prepared to burden themselves with it. Because my husband also doesn’t expect me to do it, when I prompted him further. So, why do I feel the need to do it?

December is upon us, and while some are completely ready for the holiday magic, others (like me) are still in the midst of preparing. This article served as a reminder that unless I take care of me, slow down and enjoy the holidays myself, no one around me will either.

So here’s to all the moms that make things happen. The extra touches are always nice, but are they truly necessary? Perhaps, if you’re feeling stretched during your holiday preparation time, take a moment to ask yourself, is this truly necessary?

The holidays are a time for magic, however they are also a time for family and friends. Hopefully this will help when we are in the midst of wrapping, baking, checking off the to-do list. And, in that moment of self-care, when we fill ourselves up so we can fill up the others who need us, we will feel the holiday magic.

How do you plan on making time for yourself during December? Tell me in the comments!

Wishing you a great, restful and magical few weeks before Christmas!

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Breathe…You Can Do This!

inhale exhaleWhen the alarm goes off and you think you have at least 10 minutes to shower before the kids get up, but surprise! They’re both awake and telling you they’re hungry…breathe…

When your husband asks what’s for lunch on a Saturday afternoon, and instead of committing murder because you’ve been juggling the three year old, the house, the coming home from the soccer game, and are desperately hoping to squeeze in a yoga class…breathe…

When deadlines sneak up on you at work and you’re staring at the calendar wondering how that happened…breathe…

When a co-worker flags a student which you should’ve flagged a few weeks prior and now that kid is probably struggling more than he should be…breathe…

When the teacher calls because your angel of a child has not behaved like an angel and now this mothering business is gettin’ serious…breathe…

When you watch all of the precious writing time be eaten up by practices, games, rehearsals, meetings, appointments, cooking, playing, homeworking…breathe…

When you look at the coming month and automatically close the calendar because it’s not possible…breathe…

When you wonder how you get the energy to do it all…breathe…

When you stop to thank your lucky stars for your health, happiness and pretty awesome life…breathe…

When you realize how freakin’ amazing you are…breathe…

Perfect in our imperfections and our imperfect lives. It’s a beautiful thing.

Hope your week’s a good one!

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Top Ten Books I’d Like My Children to Read

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Please go to The Broke and the Bookish for more details about their weekly meme. This week they’ve challenged us to list the books we’d like our children to read. I can’t pin down specific titles for my entire list so you’ll see a mix of titles and authors from whose writings I’m sure my children will learn and be inspired both now and when they are older.

5 Books to read in childhood/adolescence

  1. I Love You Forever by Robert Munsch – captures a mother’s love so beautifully
  2. Rowling’s iconic Harry Potter books – ’nuff said
  3. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett – a mansion full of secrets in Yorkshire? Sign me up!
  4. Judy Blume of course!
  5. The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis – fantasy, adventure and fun

5 Books to read in adulthood

  1. Anything by Gabriel Garcia Marquez for some Colombian heritage reading
  2. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood – because Offred’s insights and observations eerily resound
  3. Eckhart Tolle – at some point each of my children will need some tools to manage the hardships of life which I was unable to impart (or, gulp, deal with issues I may have unknowingly created…sweat beads…)
  4. The Awakening by Kate Chopin – ooooh, this book. Especially my daughter. When (if) she’s a mother.
  5. The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison – a beautiful, provoking read about identity, forging it, finding it in a harsh world

Which books would your list include?

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6 Things I’ve Learned About Motherhood

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#6. The laundry.

Oh, the laundry! If you’re just starting your family, invest in the best & largest washer/dryer set your budget allows. Stock up on your favourite brand of stain remover and be prepared to rewash a load which has been sitting in the washer for a few days or wear wrinkled clothes that never quite made it to the hanger because life.

#5. Your Calendar will never be your own again.

Play dates, birthday parties, dentist, doctor, eye doctor, practices, rehearsals, games, recitals. Curriculum nights. Due dates. Is it library or gym day today? Book orders, fundraisers, spirit days, food drives. Pizza orders, milk orders, lunch pails orders because making lunches is the bane of my existence (I wonder if that should be it’s own category?)

#4. You will shop incessantly, except not for yourself.

Because growing bodies need new clothes for every bloody season. Shoes can’t be so big they’re a danger to everyone or so small they’re outgrown in a month. You must analyze weather patterns, predictions for how cold or warm fall/winter or spring/summer will be and then say “f*%! it!” and buy whatever they’ll wear anyway because who has time for arguments about clothes in the morning. Regardless if you go thrift, mall, online, discount stores…you will shop. For them. (And don’t even get me started on gear for sports which need to be purchased months in advanced because by the time the sport is in season, every store everywhere will have every size available except the one which fits your child).

#3. The hostile take-over of your home.

Everywhere you turn there will be evidence of the people you created. And, I don’t mean the play pen, high chair, bouncy chair kind of take over because you decide where those actually go. I mean the toys. The toys! In every corner. And you may swear you will never spoil your child with toys, but everyone else will. And, of course, you will too. Regardless of how many times you sing the damn clean up song, or swear to throw it all away each time your foot is impaled by a sharp object in the middle of the night, or create a game or rewards chart or simply threaten the entire household…the toys will take over your home. (Add to that every single piece of paper they scribble on at school; the problem exponentially grows before your very eyes).

#2. The energy it all takes.

Motherhood is a continuous ebbing and needling and prodding for attention. Everyone needs something. So it’s important to put your energy where it matters.

Weaning them off needing you takes work, too: “You can pour your own cup of milk” “Try the step stool” “Did you check the dishwasher?” “The milk may have been pushed to the back of the fridge” “There’s more paper towels in the storage room downstairs”.

One thing to remember is that every battle doesn’t need to be fought: yes, you may wear a t-shirt and shorts to school on the first cold day of autumn because the cold will get you into warmer clothes faster than I ever can.

Everyone needs something. All the time. And while daddy is sitting right next to them, willing to address their needs, mommy is always the first resource. Even on the good days, the energy required to mother two children, maintain a home and a career is almost miraculous. Never mind this ambitious endeavour of writing on the side.

#1. Self-Care is paramount.

I always loved going to the gym and having “me” time…who doesn’t? I didn’t realize that it would become vital to my very survival. Making time for myself is the only way to keep from breaking down. I do that by (in)consistent yoga practice, (not so) daily meditation and writing, sprinkled with a few outings with dear friends when I can get away. I can feel my entire being rebelling when I haven’t spent the time on my mat, at my keyboard or chatting away with someone I love who is not a part of my family. It’s easy to be swept up in the feeling of being needed by your family, of being indispensable to them…but one day, they will be their own independent people (because that’s the goal, right?) and I want to still have something that’s mine, that can’t be taken away when they’re continuing their journey without my everyday care & guidance.

I think I could write on this topic forever because with motherhood the learning curve has been steep…and, oh so worth it. After all, I wouldn’t be the woman I am without my two and I have to admit, I kinda like her.

Any lessons you’ve learned you’d care to impart? How do you self-care in order to keep going?

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Saying Goodbye

I’ve been inundated by waves of nostalgia of late.

The babies are gone. An incredible little person in the form of a 7 year-old boy greets me every morning and awes me with stories of learning, friendship and growing up every evening. An incredible little person in the form of a nearly 3 year-old girl shows me the power and strength of will in a larger than life personality. Both are so very loving. Both are so very courageous.

I am humbled by the privilege to mother each of them.

Watching your children grow into themselves is nothing short of miraculous. As exciting as it has been for me, I can’t help but feel haunted by the ghosts of the babies I once cradled in my arms for endless hours – quite often in the middle of the night.

I find myself lost in memories of the cooing, the first recognition of their extremities, the gurgling laughter bubbling out of cherub cheeks when their favourite stuffy reappeared from behind the cushion again and again.

I find myself projecting into the future. What will their future selves be like? Who will they grow up to be? Above all, my only hope for each of them is happiness. As long as they are happy and at peace, everything else will fall into place.

But, then I have to nudge myself out of these reveries because I’m missing them now. These days which sometimes seem so long, are fleeting. Losing myself in their past or in the possibilities of their future prevents me from enjoying them NOW.

I don’t know if all parents experience this kind of nostalgia. And, I never in a million years thought I would fall privy to such sentimentality. But here I am.

So, rather than hiding from my feelings, I’m owning them with the intention of being able to lovingly say goodbye to the past, to the babies which brought so much joy into my life, and embrace the present. Be with the children who light me from head to toe. I can see now that this will be a bit of a state of being for me in this whole parenting business.

Nonetheless, every night, once they are fast asleep after a day full of adventure and fun, I indulge in a brief moment of mothering by tucking their blanket around them, ensuring their favourite stuffy is cuddled up close, and after a soft kiss on the cheek I quietly whisper good night. Another day has passed taking them farther and farther away from the babies they used to be.

That’s when I realize, I couldn’t be happier because it means I get the chance to witness these beautiful people unfolding and growing into themselves.

And, that is something I don’t ever want to miss.