Thursday, September 29, 2016

Me...Who I Am and Who I Want to Be

Please read this before moving on to my blog post -- DISCLAIMER: When I sat down to write this blog post, the plan was for it to be fun and about things that I've found that I enjoy but soon it turned into a reflection of who I am and how I've changed.  My life is so different from being a working mom in San Antonio, TX to a stay at home mom in London, UK.  I don't even know how I will feel in the future but these are my views and opinions right now.  I know this isn't everyone's experience and I have lots of friends that are great working moms who have found an awesome balance.  I DO NOT believe that staying at home is better than working or vice versa.  I believe that everyone has to find what works best for them and their family.

I wasn't positive that I could be a stay at home mom and be a good mom.  All those hours with the kids...would I survive, would they survive?  Would I damage them forever?  I was so terrified of what would happen to them and also terrified that I would lose part of myself.  Could I really function without working?  I had convinced myself that working made me a better mom because I treasured the time I had with my kids more than taking it for granted.  I wasn't made to be a stay at home mom. As I continued working and having kids, I sacrificed so many other aspects of my life to do work and raise 3 kids.  Both were all time consuming!  I neglected friendships, gave up on running, photography decreased, rarely went out and even sacrificed my marriage to some extent.  Jason and my relationship revolved around the kids and work.  I don't even want to admit how stressed I was or I think 90% of our conversations were focused on these two things.  I don't even want to admit how stressed out I was or how much I weighed!  My belief in myself and being successful was wrapped up into those two aspects, mom and work.  Honestly, I completely lost focus of the big picture.

I knew that my life was not what I wanted when Jason had the opportunity to move to London.  I needed to move away and really examine the person I was and what are my priorities.  The sad part is that it took such a huge change to make me really examine myself.  I feel like I got to move to London and hit the reset button.  Or maybe this is just called a midlife crisis?!??!

I didn't change overnight and not working was really tough at first.  There were many evenings that I sat at the computer for hours looking for jobs.  I still felt lost and had lots of self doubt.  Who am I and who am I suppose to be?  I would be awful with the kids and so frustrated with them.  I was on them constantly about the million things that they did wrong.  They were probably wishing I was going back to work.

I set unrealistic goals for myself and put a tremendous amount of pressure on myself.  I channeled all my energy and the need for work into projects.  The house was a project and the kids were a project and finding activities for everyone was a project.  I blew up these small tasks into huge projects that needed to be completed and took lots of time.  I think I redid every room in the house 3 times before I was satisfied.  Jason still comes home and things have been moved around because I found another project!  As I started to realize this need, I was able to start slowing myself down and learning to take in the moment.  Taryn really taught me to stop and let's go explore.  She would have tough days at school and would come home and say, "Mom, let's go do something new."  I started appreciating all the new experiences and really soaking in the moments.  I love this picture and it reminds me to take the time to enjoy what is around you!

My dad started pushing me to think about what are you doing for yourself.  I would give answers about the house or the kids or something vague and he would say ok but what are you really doing for yourself.  This question stayed with me and I really started thinking about it.  I began running again and wow it felt good.  I hadn't realized how much I missed it!  The kids love running too!  We did the Westminster Family Mile Run and Taryn ran the 5k Color Run with us.  Jillian wants to run all the time! I have ran a couple of 5ks and just signed up for my first 10k in November.  My new goal is to run a half marathon before I turn 40.

I then went to breakfast with a friend who had also became a stay at home mom when they moved to London.  We sat at breakfast for hours brainstorming ideas of what could we do for ourselves.  We then came up with a brilliant idea, let's look into wine classes.  We found the West London School of Wine and its amazing!  I love my wine class nights.  Also, the kids encourage me to go to wine class especially Sebastian.  Every so often, he asks me when will I be going to my next wine class.


I also have been learning to cook - mostly self taught.  I have been buying cook books, using pintrest, and cooking things that I never thought I would.  I don't do anything fancy but I'm starting to really enjoy it.  The kids love helping too.  They pull up the stool and we make dinner together most nights or they love playing in the garden while I cook so they can keep an eye on what I am doing.

I believe that now I have a real relationship with my children that has good parts and bad parts. Each relationship is different and I love how uniqueness of each child.  I have gotten to know them more as individuals and we have developed different types of relationships.  I admire Taryn's tenacity but we struggle with communication. She is so much like Jason!  Sebastian makes me laugh and he loves to try to get me to laugh while he is getting into trouble which totally annoys me. He is so much like me that we just click!  Jillian and I have a very dynamic relationship that changes from day to day.  She probably pushes me more than my other two combined.  I love going on outings with her as she learns new things and wants to understand everything.  I hate the tantrums and I remind myself daily that its a phase!  I love the pictures below that capture my relationships with the kids.

The good is great but there is the bad too.  When I was working, it was so much easier to be good for the few hours a week that I spent with them and hide the bad.  Now that we are together all the time, it is harder to hide the bad and the true me is on full display for my kids.  We also call each other out when our behavior is not very flattering or proper since we are in England.  My children see me at my best and see me at my worst and vice versa.  At first I wanted to hide my worst from them, but I have come to realize its how I handle the aftermath of my worst that is the teaching moment for the kids.  I apologize for losing my temper or I apologize for the mean words I said.  I tell them how I am going to change so that it won't happen in the future.  I hate admitting when I am wrong, but it is a skill that I know will help them in the future so I try to hard to demonstrate it.  It has made me such a better person to apologize and correct my behavior just as I expect them to do the same.

Then at the end of the day we love each other for who we are regardless of our strengths or our weaknesses or our best or our worst.  We are a family and we will always love each other and continue to develop our relationship.  We push each other to be better versions of ourselves and we encourage each other to pursue our interests.  We cheer each other one and encourage each other to go explore new things.  Please, don't misunderstand this, I'm not friends with my kids but I am continuously teaching them with my actions and continue to develop a relationship with them.  I teach them with words and punishments as well.  The more I can be an example for them, I am hoping the more they will learn and it will make them better people in the future.

Over the last year and going from a working mom to a stay at home mom, I have learned a lot about being a friend and developing friendships.  I am developing deeper relationships that aren't superficial and make time for friends.  I am being built up by people that help me be a better mom, who encourage me when I get frustrated, who understand the type of person and mom that I want to be.  I listen to my friends and admit to them when I need help and truly appreciate their advice.  I try hard to be the same for them.  To take the time be there for them when they need me or send a text to encourage them.  I tell my friends how much I admire them or how inspirational they are to me.  I want my friends to know how I feel about them.  Before I was so quick to dismiss my friends and think that i don't have time for these conversations.  I wouldn't tell them how I felt or spend the time to encourage them.  I felt like I had nothing to give them.  I don't have time to share who I am or to learn who they were.  I also wasn't sure that I want them to see who I am.  I treasure my old friends who have put up with me at my worst and appreciate the new relationships that we are developing.  I love my new friendships who get to experience the new me.   I am honest with myself and others about who I am which is what friendship is really about.

I still have lots of self doubt and I am always comparing myself to others.  I still feel that I fall short as a mom and as a wife and as friend.  I beat myself up at the end of the day for all the should have moments.   I want to be the type of person that has an impact on my friends and families lives.  The type of person that can be relied on and is always honest with everyone.  The type of person who is not self absorbed or solely focused on my success but is excited by other's successes.  I want to be the type of person who enjoys the little moments and treasures memories being made.  I want to reflect on the day and constantly improve myself instead of beating myself up.  I want to be confident in who I am and proud of who I am.  I want to be an example for my kids and I want them to see a person that they want to be when they grow up.  I am continuously working on me and I truly appreciate each of my friends who goes on this journey with me, you have no idea how much I need you!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Cat and Mouse

Ugh, I hate it, we have mice.  There is one tiny little mouse that loves to run across our kitchen floor late and night.  I think it just does it to scare me to death.  I hate their tails!!!

Well, let me back up a little bit.  We have about 3 cats that come around our house pretty regularly that the kids have named.  There is a white one named Snow Fluffy, a black pregnant cat named Daniel, and a scrawny cat named Tiger.  Snow Fluffy has been coming around a lot because the kids leave their tennis ball out and she loves to play with it.

So last night, Snow Fluffy shoes up and starts attacking something in our backyard.  Ohh, I get excited, I'm thinking she is going to get that annoying little mouse.  Nope, she killed a frog and was so proud of herself.  But then...she left it in our backyard.  I was truly disappointed.

I want to introduce you to Snow Fluffy...

Phonics Test Success!

Taryn had a rough start to school and really struggled with the new expectations.  She really struggled with phonics and reading.  She had a interventionist that pulled her out of class a couple of times a week to focus on her reading.  We were playing phonics games at home and constantly working on her reading.

At the Easter break, Taryn had a complete meltdown.  She was tired from trying so hard and she is not capable of reading.  She told me that all she wants is to be able to read.  We worked hard over that two week break - lots of reading, some easy and some extremely hard.  We practiced sight words and worked on phonics.  We talked about confidence and that you have to believe in yourself.  She learned that you have to work hard to accomplish goals and not to ever give up.  She went back to school with a new attitude and an eagerness to learn.  She quit comparing herself to other kids and started trying her hardest.  Within two weeks, she was reading!!!

Then in June, all year 1 students had to take a phonics assessment.  I think I was more nervous than Taryn that week.  Every morning she would say, "Quit worrying, Mom, I got this".  She was the last one in her class to take the phonics assessment, she came running out of her class to tell me she got 39/49 correct!  She passed and did so well!  I was so proud of her.  Her teacher, Miss Bruce, was so proud of Taryn's hard work and accomplishment that she gave her a certificate.  I hope that every time Taryn looks at that certificate she remembers all the hard work and accomplishing her goal.

As Taryn starts Year 2 today, I'm looking forward to watching her accomplish new goals and to overcome new challenges.  I hope she continues to build her confidence and continues to try new things.

Language and Speech Workshop

Sebastian is delayed in his speech and is sometimes hard to understand when he is talking.  It has caused him to withdraw from other kids in social settings so we've seen a therapist a couple of times to try to help him.  The therapist has referred us to a Language and Speech Workshop at a school in Feltham (7 miles from Chiswick).  The logistics of it all have made me nervous since the beginning but today I completely failed!

All of us - Jason, Taryn, Sebastian, Jillian and me - yes, this took every single one of us this morning and still didn't go smoothly!  I digress, we all walked Jillian to school where she was much more shy today.  It took a little more effort to get her to go in and start her day.  She talked about how she misses Sebastian all the way walking to school.

Then Jason and Taryn walked us to the train station where we said goodbye.  Jason took Taryn to her first day of school while Sebastian and I got on a train to go to Feltham.  And here is where everything falls apart.  Chiswick Train Station is the worst by far!  The boards don't say which trains are coming or where they are calling.  All they say is Welcome to Chiswick, seriously!??!  So a train comes and I tell Sebastian that its going the right way and I believe it is our train.  We get on and then I tell him the next stop is ours then all of a sudden it says the next stop is Whitton.  I'm totally lost and have no idea if we are headed towards Feltham or not.  The next stop is St Margaret's so now I know we are not where we need to be so we hop of the train and I order a taxi.  I'm so frustrated and feel horrible that he is going to be late on his first day of school.  The taxi driver comes and he nicely says that St Margaret's is quite a ways from Feltham.  Yes, I know...

We pull up to Sebastian's school and I had completely forgotten that I had given Jason all my cash that morning so now I can't even pay the taxi driver.  I run Sebastian into school and give him a quick kiss (I think and hope I did).  The taxi driver takes me to an ATM so I can pay him.  I wonder around Feltham for about 30 minutes and realize that this is nothing like Chiswick.  I find a Starbucks plop down and type of this blog entry.

I picked Sebastian up and he was all smiles and very chatty!  He enjoyed his workshop and was very excited about what he learned.  We are back on a train tomorrow morning and hopefully it goes a lot smoother.

Its all worth it for these smiles at the end of the day!