Who am I?

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

I was almost a yoga teacher.


I hate that word – almost. It taunts me.

But if I’m truthful, that is what I am. You see, when I was almost finished with my training six years ago, the final evaluation required all students to lead a full-length class, subject to review by every classmate and professor. When it was my turn, I sat on my mat in front of a crowd much like this, and taught with all the heart and courage I had. I’m actually quite good at teaching yoga, with the exception of a single important detail.

In the week following my evaluation the emails poured in with observations and reviews. The majority were positive, but all can be summed up by the final sentence from my lead professor.

“Channing, your teaching is gentle, loving, and encouraging,” it read. “but no one can hear you when you speak.”

I was so ashamed by this flaw I could not face my classmates or teachers. I never returned to deliver my final submissions for grading. I never received a certificate despite completing all the required coursework because I tripped over self-doubt at the finish line.

The question I was left asking for years was this:

Who am I?
Who am I to try, to teach, to inspire?
Who am I but a young girl with a voice so small it can’t improve on the silence in a room of strangers?

In preparation for tonight’s program, I spent many hours attempting to write a poem about the Nativity. I tried to imagine how the different characters may have felt. In my writing, I kept imagining them full of doubt.

The angel asked, “Who am I to sing praises to the King?”
The shepherd girl asked, “Who am I to attend the Lord?”
“Who am I to mother the Savior?” asked the favored handmaid.

Try as I could to solve their imagined self-doubt, I was never satisfied with the results. One day, I sat reading over my notes and laughed upon discovery of a pattern. All my characters were asking my question – who am I? I realized that the pattern of doubt came from me. I knew the poem would never be finished. Why? The answer is simple.

There is no story in self-doubt.

For years, I convinced myself that a quiet voice really means no voice at all.

I understand now that God works in stillness, not silence. The Spirit is soft and small, but it is not quiet. The earth herself is full of voices – the wind whispers through shivering aspen leaves. The birds sing for nothing but the sake of song. The rise and roar and swell of the sea show me each voice is an essential component to the composition of creation.

If the same One who created the soft muffle of snow and the sweet drizzle of an Oregon summer rain thought the world needs the sound of me,

Who am I
To be silent?


I have learned the beauty of staying soft in a hard world. Though I may still be soft-spoken, I have found a way to speak. I enjoy writing and I am passionate about sharing my thoughts. But my favorite gift is that I have a talent for loving people. Once I fully embraced this as my purpose I became bold in sharing, because my message is love – pure, unconditional love, best known as charity. This is where I find my strength to speak.

When my message is love
And my purpose is love,
And my words are love,
Who am I to be silent?

I share these tender experiences with you tonight as my personal example that sometimes the qualities that we fear are the worst things about us, the things we think make us
too much,
or not enough,
are sometimes the very things that give us purpose.

So the next time you find yourself asking my question,"Who am I?" Remember, there is room for every voice here. Your gifts and interests, that thing that makes you weird and different, that is your calling in life.

A lesson I have learned poignantly over the last two months is that people are watching. People are waiting, but not for us to fall or fail. The world is waiting for kindness, authenticity, for courage, strength, and bravery. Though we may be called in different things and different ways, we can be united in message and purpose.

We are called to love.
We need you.
So, rise.
Be a single flame or an entire forest fire,
be a star, a moon, or a sun.
It does not matter,

So long as you shine.



I matter.

Friday, December 15, 2017

I haven't always taken very good care of myself.

Sure, I do my best to keep healthy habits like exercising regularly and eating well. But I often come up short. I went to the gym this week for the first time in months. I often skip meals, justifying the hunger by telling myself there's no time to eat. Six hours later I'm snarfing down cookies and junk from my pantry.

This isn't new behavior for me. I've always tried to make myself smaller in every way possible.

That is, until last month. I had a really traumatic experience in my church community. I was manipulated and falsely accused of wrongdoing. So hurtful and shame-producing was this experience that I had one of my worst-ever panic attacks. Eventually the situation was resolved and I was returned to good standing in my church. What was most surprising to me was how transformational this experience was.


Instead of letting my shame silence me, I took to Facebook and shared the experience publicly. I refused to be quiet about such a hurtful misdeed, as it affected not only myself but others in my community. Some may argue that the posting was immature and made the problem worse. A month later, I still stand by my actions. It was empowering for me to do and say what I did. 

I refuse to take ownership of other's judgments of me.
I will not sit down. I will not shut up.
I refuse to make myself smaller.
There is room enough for everyone, 
including me.


In addition to sharing publicly, I also took my concerns to church leadership. I was met with love and understanding. But what was more valuable to me than receiving validation was the strength and inner knowing that was growing inside me. 

I faced unimaginable opposition and handled it with grace. 
I stood up for myself to an authority figure in a terrifying situation.
I used my voice in ways I had never thought I was able to. 
I voiced my anger, my sadness, my fear in real time instead of months or years afterward. 
I walked away from this incredible experience with two words that have followed me ever since.

"I matter."

I think about skipping breakfast until I remember, I matter. So I grab a granola bar on my way out the door to take my daughter to preschool. Every day, I take a break from mom life and read a book. I schedule my dental appointment to get some cavities filled. I brave the yoga class I've been craving.  I still question myself. I still sometimes hesitate to share my thoughts, or to write a post, but those words are etched on my heart. I hear them whispering to me all the time now. 

I matter.

This is no small victory. Loving oneself rarely is. 

I am Woman - a poem

Sunday, December 10, 2017



Notes on women, creation, and cycles

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

We live in a world where time and expectation follow a straight and linear path. One where we rise from bed, wipe the exhaustion from our eyes, work until we can work no more, and sleep to forget the day is done, and repeat, repeat, repeat.

"Dreams are for sleeping", we say. Grind. Hustle. Slay.


Women, by nature, are not linear. Women are cyclical. Their bodies speak this truth in every menstrual cycle. Their desires, tastes, energy - our very souls, even - ebb and flow like the ocean. Their bodies and capacities wax and wane like the moon.


Discordance comes when women ignore their natural seasons and phases. For example, the world at large sees menstrual periods as a gross inconvenience. Its easier to pretend it doesn't exist. Except, menstruation is an essential, integral characteristic of being women. Why scorn and shame it to the corner of existence?

How about pregnancy weight? Moms around the world are convinced that any remaining weight, any visible sign of pregnancy and birth must be dropped. Quickly, like its baggage instead of part of creation. Why must the evidence of miracles be hidden or lost?

This rigid, linear path gives no allowance for variations, no grace for change. By the insistence upon custom, rules, and acceptable society, creativity is discouraged and diminished.

But, a woman's body is a creative space. Her very nature is creation. This is how women shape the world - with their unapologetic, dynamic, and soul-infused presence. Given the correct ingredients, she makes magic.


What's that? You don't believe in magic?

Allow me to show you. After all, in the words of author Joan Gould, "what is magic except the operation of laws on a level our minds know nothing about?"

With correct ingredients, woman creates life.
With correct ingredients, she makes milk.
With correct ingredients, she bakes bread.
She molds a home.
She shapes a child.
She touches hearts, mothers instincts, births books and art and careers.

She does this all in her course of life. Perhaps at different times and ways from her sisters, but she creates all the same.


I think I have found a solution to the discontentment, the self-loathing, and the pressure that plagues me as a mom and as a woman. I have stepped away from the fractured, male-centric idea of an everyday grind. In its place I have embraced the acceptance of seasons, of cycles, and the wholeness of life.

Approaching life cyclically has changed me.

Instead of pushing myself to constant perfection (which is truly fruitless work), I know there are appropriate times for rest. I expect them. I take vacations like it is my God-given right to feel the ocean's cool kiss on my feet and breathe her salty air.


Instead of becoming angry or discouraged that old issues like self-worth, fear, and hate come across my path when I feel they should be behind me (path = totally linear thinking, btw), I learn to expect to see them again - but next time, without resentment and shame. I know their faces. I know their names. This is how I defeat them - with mindfulness, acceptance, and grace. How can they be enemies to me when I welcome them as guests and guides? (Reference: The Guest House, by Rumi)

I am begging women to honor their cycles and seasons. Right here, right now.

If you are in the winter of your life - barren, cold, and dark, remember that the most essential growth happens in composting, as my dear friend calls it. Sort and gather the nutrients of your experiences and use them to nurture your progression, like Psyche sorted seeds and grains.


If you are in spring, with thirst for rain and hunger to bloom with wide eyes - soak it up. Soak up love. Seek knowledge. Bask in the wonder of a world in blossom. Dream, stretch, and honor the place inside you that runs toward growth and change.


If you are summer, shine. Give. Glow. Feed. Create and master. Share and serve. Breathe in joy thick as humid air. Sing the song of beautiful, ordinary existence.


If you find yourself in fall, sit and rest in the colors of creation. By the embers of summer's fire reflect. Enjoy the fruition of spring's desires. With grace and gratitude, recognize peace. Embrace heartaches. Gently welcome the death of futile habits, attitudes, and relationships until winter's blanket comes to renew.


Whatever your current struggles - whether they be body shame, illness, heartache, discouragement, or sorrow - surrender them to your season and let the magic of cyclical nature run its course through them.

Be gentle with yourself. Confident in compost. Brilliant in blossom. Generous in giving. Reverent in reflection. This is what it means to be woman.



Know a mom with postpartum depression? Here's how to help.

Sunday, November 19, 2017


According to postpartumprogress.com, close to 20% of new moms suffer from symptoms of postpartum depression (source). To make that number real and personal, think of four moms you know who have had babies in the last year. One of them probably has feelings of worthlessness, excessive worry, unending sadness, and maybe even suicidal thoughts.

If you know or suspect a mom has postpartum depression, you may want to help her but don't know how.  Maybe its awkward. Maybe your relationship isn't close. Maybe you struggle with an illness of your own. I want you to know that its totally normal and okay to have no idea what to say or how to help! As someone who has struggled with PPD, I have some helpful ideas.

Be an awesome listener

Most moms with PPD really benefit from a candid conversation with someone they trust. Just like when you've had a stressful day at work and need to vent, moms need that too - especially women with PPD. 


Some moms with PPD may become very isolated and have a hard time leaving the house because of anxiety. In that case, some mothers may turn to social media to share their experiences. Reading their posts and offering kind and supportive comments can be very helpful and healing for moms. Don't discount the power of positive social media presence. 

Coming over to visit for a chat or picking them up in the evening to go to ice cream or dinner can be one of the kindest things you can do for someone. Two women from my church visit me regularly and I can't tell you how awesome it is to me that they come with listening ears and open hearts. Having someone to talk to in an otherwise kind of lonely trial is so helpful!

The key to listening well is to have an attitude of receiving. A listener absorbs information and learns. They ask questions that pertain to the topic. They offer encouragement and support, and maybe relevant and wanted advice when the time is right. Good listeners don't anxiously look for an opening in the conversation to change the topic to themselves and their experiences. A supportive conversation has the attributes of vulnerability, positive reception, and polite sharing of the two roles. 

Get informed

Mental illness has come a long way out of the dark ages of asylums, but it still has a long way to go. Many people still perceive mental illness as a choice or an excuse for laziness. Luckily, all that is needed to correct this flawed perspective is kindly offered facts. 

If someone has shared that they suffer from PPD in any of its forms, it helps to become informed. There are many faces of PPD, including anxiety, bipolar, OCD, PTSD, depression, and psychosis. All of these diseases have distinct characteristics and it is helpful to know them.


Some great resources for learning about mental illnesses and mothers include:
  1. postpartumprogress.com is an amazing resource for those who want more information about pre/post natal mood disorders. They have a really helpful list for a DIY screening for the most common forms of PPD as well as information on how to help and find a cure!
  2. Books are among the most helpful tools on earth. Check out the selection in the science, parenting, and psychology sections in your local library. Ebooks are also an affordable option for purchasing books!
  3. Blogs. Some are wary about using personal blogs for research, but my (totally biased) opinion is that they can be incredibly helpful. Its impossible for any one resource to contain all the information and human experience of mental illness. Knowing that there are others out there who struggle with mental illness helps mothers and those who love them feel they are not alone.
  4. Counseling and doctor's appointments. This is especially helpful for spouses! Nothing beats talking with a professional about a diagnosis. A partner can bring questions, concerns, and insights to an appointment and receive the answers and support they need. It also feels incredibly supportive to the mom to have someone attend with her!

Be supportive

Moms with mental illness need help. The level will vary, but there are many ways to provide service to mamas in need. Those include:
  • babysitting children so mom can attend her appointments 
  • going with mom to her appointments if she's nervous
  • bringing a meal (you can even have pizza delivered!)
  • delivering a treat and a smile just because
  • sending a nice card in the mail to let her know you're thinking of her
  • visiting and listening
  • inviting her to and seeking her out at church and social activities so she has a friend to sit by
  • writing a nice message or comment on social media
  • offering your home or companionship as a "safe zone" - judgement free and available for times of extreme distress
Talk with her and get an idea for what she needs. Some may benefit from babysitting and pressure-free invitations to get together. Others might need a "safe zone" especially if they have anxiety and intrusive thoughts. Everyone appreciates a nice note once in a while.


What's the best part about these suggestions? In most of these cases, it costs nothing except a little convenience to make a difference. You can choose any single one of the above options and you would send a lifeline to a mama in need. I hope these inspire you to reach out to a struggling mama around you. You never know whose life you might change (or save).






Feeding Babies: A non-biased approach

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Between my two kids, I have fed them in every way possible under the sun. I have nursed, I have exclusively pumped, and I have formula fed. Each way has been awesome in its own way, but each also has its hardships. I hope to provide a balanced, non-judgmental perspective for each so moms can make an informed decision on how to feed their babies.

Lets face it - no matter how or what your little one eats, babies are hard work. So before I even go into the options available, I want to be clear about one thing: I will never judge you for how you feed your kid. I have seen and experienced the burn of harsh words and ignorance of both sides of the breast vs bottle debate and I want no part in it. I want to be part of the more relevant and needed conversation of making informed, personal decisions!

Nursing

Breastfeeding is recommended by the AAP and WHO for infants 0-12 months. It is a fact that breast milk is the perfect food for human infants. It is so amazing! Not only does it have all the nutrients your little one needs, it also has lots of extras, like vitamins and anti bodies. Breastfeeding also has lots of benefits for you too, mama. Things like reduced likelihood of various cancers and osteoperosis is definitely a win in my book!

I don't really buy into the idea that breastfed babies are smarter than their formula-fed friends. I feel like that's kind of saying that someone who eats exclusively organic food is automatically smarter than someone who doesn't. There are so many more factors at play when talking about intelligence. It has been proven that breast fed babies are generally healthier in infancy. Personally, I attribute this to the naturally-occurring antibodies in breast milk.



The downsides to nursing unfortunately affect mainly you, mama. Nipple pain, risk of mastitis (which is the absolute WORST, btw), and a loss of time and energy can be big obstacles facing nursing moms. Almost all of these problems can be prevented or fixed with good education and the help of a lactation consultant. Also, after the first few months postpartum the pain and dedication of nursing usually become less of a burden for moms and breastfeeding becomes easy and convenient.

In summary, nursing is
Great because:
  • breast milk is perfectly formulated for babies
  • lots of antibodies and nutrients found only in breast milk
  • breastfed babies tend to be healthier
  • nursing moms tend to be healthier 
  • pretty convenient because there are no bottles to wash 
Not great because:
  • can be physically uncomfortable for moms
  • can be emotionally and mentally draining for moms
  • moms may experience social isolation because of the demands and stigma of nursing

Formula

Walk into any grocery store's formula aisle and you will find close to twenty different options for infant formula. Formula feeding is a popular and completely safe way to nourish your baby. Though formula does not have the naturally-occuring antibodies that breast milk does, it is 100% safe and acceptable to feed to babies! There seems to be a "junk food" mindset about formula, where breast milk is the good, organic, natural food and formula is the bad guy. It isn't so! Formula is created with the nutrients growing little ones need. Don't ever let anyone make you feel bad for formula feeding.

Formula fed babies tend to be slightly heavier than their breast fed friends, and that's okay! Also, formula fed babies are said to be slightly more prone to illness. While this may be attributed to the lack of breast milk antibodies, I personally feel that other factors contribute more to health. My son was exclusively breastfed until 9 months and was sick more often and more severely than my oldest was because we regularly took him to our gym's daycare. Breast milk did not protect him from RSV and bronchiolitis. It is not always the magical potion that many make it out to be.



Some babies experience gastrointestinal distress when drinking formula, but this is not a deal breaker! Try a few different brands and specialties, like those for stomach sensitivity. They even have soy formula for babies with milk sensitivities. When I formula fed my son, I used an organic brand. It was a little pricier but he never had any problems with it. I also think it tasted a little better for him. Honestly, that's my personal preference. I know a ton of moms whose babies love the brand name, non-organic formulas as well. What I'm trying to say is that you don't have to marry a specific brand or specialty. Shop around until you find something that works for you and your baby.

There are many reasons a mom may choose to formula feed. She may struggle to breastfeed because of medical issues (including mental illness) or work. She may have trauma that affects her emotional ability to juggle breastfeeding and a new baby. Whatever the reason, I never want a mama to feel shame over her feeding choices. Not on my watch. Being a mom is hard enough without having to constantly defend your parenting choices to others.

In summary, formula feeding is
Great because:

  • it is a safe and acceptable alternative to nursing
  • its convenient for both parents
  • both parents can participate in feeding and bonding
  • both parents share responsibility for nighttime feedings

Not great because:

  • the bottles have to be washed (super bummer!)
  • the variety of formula choices can be overwhelming
  • formula is expensive, sometimes even cost-prohibitive
  • slight increase of SIDS in formula fed babies (can be reduced by safe sleeping practices)


Exclusively Pumping 

Sometimes moms have difficulty nursing but still want to feed their baby breast milk. I exclusively pumped with both my children for the large majority of their infancy. I'll be the first to tell you that it is no walk in the park. EP (short for exclusively pumping) takes a level of dedication, perserverence, knowledge, and organization that no other feeding method requires. Because of this, I do not recommend this feeding method unless you are absolutely determined, mama.

EP has the potential to be the most expensive feeding option up front. You need to purchase a double electric breast pump, accessories like a pumping bra and milk storage bags, and bottles. These materials can run you close to $500 up front. You can reduce a large portion of that by contacting your insurance company to see if they can provide you with a breast pump.

When anyone asks me about my experience exclusively pumping, I always say that it is the best and worst of both worlds (nursing and formula feeding). My baby still gets all the benefits of breast milk but I still have to work around the physical demands of breastfeeding AND wash bottles. Can you tell I hate washing bottles?



The absolute worst thing about exclusively pumping is the amount of time it takes. Life revolves around your pumping schedule. In the first 3 months of a newborn's life, an exclusively pumping mama must pump 8-10 times a day for at least 20-30 minutes or risk losing her milk supply. Thats roughly 5 hours a day just sitting at a pump, and one of the pumps must be in the middle of the night. This is in addition to the actual feeding. EP moms spend close to 10 hours a day feeding their baby. Its a huge commitment.

The only reason I chose to continue EP against its difficulty was because I was able to donate my excess milk to another baby in need. It truly was the only thing that kept me going most days. If I'm 100% honest, I would not have continued to EP if I did not have oversupply.

In summary, EP is
Great because:

  • babies receive all the same benefits as their nursed friends
  • higher need babies (like those with tongue and lip ties and those in the NICU) can still receive breast milk but do not have to work as hard to eat it. 
  • moms still receive the same potential health benefits
Not great because:
  • its a huge time commitment, requiring time away from family and/or work to pump
  • bottles still have to be washed 
  • moms may be prone to feelings of depression or isolation because of the demands of EP
  • moms may suffer judgement and misunderstanding from medical professionals who are not familiar with EP

Though this is absolutely not an exhaustive list of all the ways you can feed a baby (hello tube fed, donor milk, and SNS babies) nor a comprehensive list of all the pros and cons, I hope it inspires mamas to make informed, unbiased choices about feeding. This can definitely be considered a starting point to more research on feeding options. I hope I have shared enough of my own experience in all the different ways of feeding that you can feel like you have a friend and ally in the chaos of feeding options. I'm cheering you on, no matter which path you choose. 

If you'd like to do more of your own research, check out these websites:

www.kellymom.com for all your breastfeeding (including EP) needs
www.fedisbest.org is an organization that promotes healthy and safe feeding options (including formula) 
http://hm4hb.net/ (Human Milk 4 Human Babies) is an organization that distributes information about safe milk sharing practices






Reclamation

Tuesday, October 17, 2017


My friend told me she was done having kids. This is what I said.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

My dearest friend

A few months ago, we sat in a cute cafe surrounded by strangers. We talked about life and catching up, but as you'll probably remember, we talked largely about our feelings of worry and guilt over being done having children.

We talked about health issues surrounding our pregnancies, well-meaning advice from family and friends, and the spirituality of childbearing and rearing. All these conversations were underscored by the path we were tiptoeing together - is it okay to be done having babies? We walked hand-in-hand for a while, being comforted and lifted as we faced the journey ahead - no maps, no sign posts. Only intuition for our guide.


We talked heavily about being a mom to the children who are already in our care. We talked about struggling under the the cultural belief that a woman's worth is tied directly to how many children she has. But you know what got me really riled up? What I still can't get over? That story you told me about being cornered and bullied after sharing your feelings about being done having babies. When you told me that story I wanted to punch someone. Because my wanted target wasn't nearby, I instead have this letter for you - a written reminder that you can return to when you need strength to stand firm in your choice and be comforted that you are enough.

I know you probably know this, but I think everyone stands in need of a reminder once in a while:

People are not things.
Babies are not things.
Mothers are not things.

Lets start with babies. When you had Liam, I'll bet someone said, "Congrats on your new bundle of joy!". Except that, he is not a bundle. He is not joy. He is Liam. Liam needs to eat food (and choices are limited if I remember correctly). Liam needs clothing, he needs a safe space to live, and lord knows he needs a fair share of patience. Same with Ella. Same with Noah. The thing about babies is that they grow. You know that because Liam is now 6. As he grows, his needs change. He needs more of some things, less of others. You're not buying diapers for him anymore but I'll bet that boy is tough on jeans. I ask you this - who pays for those jeans? Who reads the bedtime stories? Who buys and prepares the food? Who makes the ER trips? You and your husband do.



Isn't it funny that the people who are most concerned with your reproductive biology are the ones who are least affected by its product? Mother in laws pressuring for grandbabies, for example. Holier-than-thou 'friends' sniffing for places to stick their nose. Don't forget the strangers in the mommy Facebook groups. Err-body is all up in your uterus. Kick them out. The only people who belong there are the ones you invite.

The widely-held view of a perfect mom is one who has done and sacrificed all for the wellbeing of her family. But did you know that the biblical definition of perfect is actually "whole"? If you live your life forever in the pursuit of popular perfection, you live depleted. If there are more needs than means, someone has to go without. Sure, it can be done. But at whose cost? Who suffers most?

Haven't you done enough already?

I mean, you made space within your own body for nearly a year - time and time again. Your body was stretched, poked, and literally cut open in some places to make space for a new person in this world.  You fed and nourished every baby you birthed, sometimes with your breasts, and other times with all your heart through a bottle. You have spent the prime years of your life giving, creating, breathing, and sharing.

There are people in this world for whom that will never be enough.

From my empty womb to yours, I want to simply say:

You are.

Mom Bod Shame: Its not about the mirror

Monday, August 14, 2017

My husband is a physical therapist. He loves improving the lives of his patients by working them hard with exercises, stretches, and other therapuetic techniques that bring relief and healing. It follows that he would believe that hard work and a little pain bring healing and happiness.

On that point, I agree. But he and I butt heads in this theory in one place - body image.

He holds strong to the belief that working hard at the gym will improve a person's outlook on their physical form. A healthy, strong physique is the path to contentment, he argues. I can see his point and what influences that opinion. I mean, this man hasn't missed a day at the gym in 7 years.

But what about me? I love being healthy too, but I certainly haven't found peace and content watching myself lift barbells in front of a mirror for an hour a day. My last post on mom bod shame highlighted the way the gym locker room really brings my self-conscious nature to the surface. I've been going to the gym regularly for over a year now, and I still struggle heavily with body shame.


In one of my recent counseling appointments, I talked about how OCD makes me believe that changing my environment will make me a better person (ie; cleaning my house makes me a good person). But I've learned that it is impossible to make a change from the outside in. 

I mean, think about it. If I was 50 pounds heavier, what would it change about me? My appearance and my health. But it wouldn't change the key things that make me unique. 50 pounds doesn't change my heart of joy. It doesn't change my friendly nature or my love to write. 50 pounds changes only the outside.

The same goes for losing weight. Or cutting hair. Or shaving. Or surgery. New clothes or makeup. Simply put - Outside never changes inside. The qualities that are intrinsically you do not change. More importantly, your inner landscape does not change either.

So if I am unhappy with myself at 117 pounds with a bit of mom bod belly, I am going to be the exact same at 117 pounds without. Outside doesn't change inside.

I am exploring some ideas to re-map my inner landscape. I want to explore the maiden-mother-crone dynamic that was introduced to me in the book, Spinning Straw Into Gold: What Fairytales Reveal About The Trasnformations In A Woman's Life. I want to read more about connecting with the divine feminine by checking out this book recommended to me by my friend Rachel. I want to dive into my own divine nature.

Last month I practiced being big. I wrote a slightly angry article about my kids being bullied in public and posted it - something I previously would not have felt comfortable doing. I received some dissenting feedback which was difficult for me to navigate but I faced it and came through shining. I have allowed myself to be more present working on my other creative, entrepreneur projects in home decor. I allowed myself to not be concerned with my crazy downstairs neighbors and keep living my life. I have learned to be comfortable taking up space.

Now I am ready to practice being vulnerable.

For me, that means:

  • being honest about my feelings instead of saying "I'm fine" or "That's ok."
  • being vocal about my needs and limits
  • stop apologizing for showing or having feelings
Like last time, I'll update on my progress. I just really wanted to check in and share about the idea that outside in doesn't work. 

The way your body looks in the mirror is not about the mirror or your body. Its about the eyes you're looking through.




My Children Have A Right To Be Here Too

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Over the last few months, I have become acutely aware of how other adults react to my children in public. I have concluded that people fall into one of three categories. People either:

1. don't care or pretend not to notice my children,
2. engage with them or me in a friendly, understanding way - ranging from a simple smile to physical interaction like hugs and high-fives, or
3. are completely disgusted or annoyed by them.

Obviously I prefer the first two kinds of people. To those people who talk to my kids kindly and treat them warmly, I love you. Thank you for being decent human beings.


To those who have a problem with kids in public, I have a message for you.

My children have a right to be here too.

Go ahead, argue with me. I can listen to your stupid reasonings all day. I've already listened to my three-year-old cry "I want some spicy!" (soda) over and over for 30 minutes. I have the patience of a pony giving free rides at a petting zoo.

 You say, "Oh, well if your kids can't behave in public, maybe they shouldn't be out."

How about you take your big head out of your butt and imagine for just a moment that you have walked into a foreign market for the first time. You don't speak the language. You're surrounded by strange people. The vendors are selling all kinds of things around you you've never seen before. You are completely sucked into the experience - the smells, the sights, the sounds. Suddenly you realize you're walking opposite the flow of traffic. Maybe you're standing in someone's way. Maybe you can't read the sign that says "Don't touch". You don't know where to check out or how much something costs. All you know is that you found some things you want because they look fun or familiar. You become confused, overwhelmed, and frustrated. That is probably exactly how children feel in a store.



Luckily, kids have parents to guide them through this crazy, foreign world. They can translate words so children understand. They can teach the finer social customs and skills little humans need to navigate the world. But how can these things be taught and learned if they aren't practiced?

Children need experiences and opportunities to learn these social skills and customs. They require extra time and understanding because their brains and bodies are learning and adapting. Parents act as a buffer for kids from the outside world. We give them a safe space and time to learn skills. As a stranger, your primary responsibility is to either help us parents or shut up and GTFO.

Parents are charged to ensure children's health and safety. Part of that means exposing our kids to new experiences at a level and pace they can reasonably handle. That's why there are kids sections at libraries. That's why there are special kid movie times at the theater. Those are an appropriate space and pace to learn.

I don't take my young children to the swanky, hipster restaurants to eat. I don't take them into jewelry stores or let them run willy-nilly in art museums. They don't have the skills to cope with those situations.

Places like Target, the grocery store, the library, the thrift store, the doctors office, those are all places my kids are reasonably allowed to be. Stop acting like their presence there is an offensive surprise to you.



So, ornery old lady at the dollar movie theater - when my one year old peeks his little face between the seats behind you to say hi and get a better view of the screen, don't turn your head around and scoff at me. My son is learning what a movie theater is and how it feels to be in one. YOU are the one who walked into the kid's show at the dollar theater. YOU are the grown-up here. Act like one.

Adults at church who are annoyed at babies crying and nursing and toddlers being walking, destructive destractions, I'm talking to you. Strangers who make off-hand comments in the grocery store about parents enabling bad behavior, you're on my hit list. Downstairs neighbors who complain daily and make recordings of kids playing and laughing from the apartment above them, there's a special place on my bad side for you. Not like I know anyone like that in real life.



Kids are allowed to be kids. They are allowed to run, play, laugh, cry, be sad, feel joy, dance, sing, and explore. I do my best to give them the space and freedom to do these things without disturbing others. But as a mom, I can only do so much. Kids are their own people too, with independence and curiosity. They have feelings and opinions just like adults do. Our expectations of children should not exceed their level of experience and skill.

For the first five years of a child's life, the world is their school. They are learning how to be in a store. They are learning how to be in church. They are learning what things are and how to behave. In the school of life, every single person plays a role. By your words and actions towards them, children learn about the world. You are either a teacher or a bully. You choose.


Thoughts on Mom Bod Shame

Thursday, July 20, 2017

I spend a lot of time at the gym.

Its so nice because my gym has an amazing daycare and I can totally leave my kids there for long enough to get an amazing workout in, shower, AND do my hair and makeup. I get a much-needed mom break and usually walk out of there feeling pretty good.

As I stand in front of the giant mirror blow drying my hair, I see women walking by. Some of them red-faced and shining with sweat, others laughing with friends after a yoga class. I notice myself looking at their bodies. Looking at their bellies and wondering, do they have mom belly like I do?

Sometimes when I see young women walk in with tight, stretch-mark-free skin featured by their adorable crop-top shirts, I have the feels. I can't stop the waves. I have jealous feels. Pride feels. Shame feels.

I try to stop the onslaught of pain by thinking, "They don't know what its like to have babies. How sad!"

I pull those words over myself like a last-resort blanket to comfort my heart and hide my saggy pancake mom boobs.

As I walk out of the gym holding a hand with one arm and a baby in the other, I remember to square my shoulders and stand up straight. I've been working on standing with better posture because I have a giant slump. Some of it is from carrying the weight of babies. The rest of it is from carrying a heart full of shame.

I hate the way my stomach pours over the front of my jeans. I hate the fact that nothing fits, even though I've tried all the odd and even numbered sizes. I hate the dark colors of stretch marks and the sagging skin between them. I hate the way clothes look but the thought of being naked is disgusting. Its a fight every day to have to come to terms with the fact that I take up 130 pounds of the world and I have to eat, breathe, and take up space to be here. If everything about me could just shrink a little, I think that might be nice.


And yet, my soul whispers truth.


You have a big heart. Its full of love and purpose.
Big hearts need bodies.
And just like hearts expand to fit all the people who belong inside,
bodies expand and grow too.
bodies are extensions of the heart.
hearts need food and water.
hearts need hands to hold.
hearts need safe places to be.
hearts need equal work and rest.
You are allowed to be big and take up large expanses of space.
There is room for everyone here.


So in light of this message from my intuition, I am going to practice being big.

What does that mean? I don't know. First I will notice the things I do to make myself small. Probably by taking note of times I say things like:

There is not enough _______.
This is a dumb idea.
I should have _______.
People are annoyed by me.
People think I am too much to handle.
I ask for too much.
I eat too much.
I talk too much.

I will keep ya'll in the loop of my thoughts and progress.

I am thankful for this space and community to practice being big.

I'm The Author Now - Guest post by Kameron McKenzie

Monday, July 17, 2017

I am so excited to introduce you to Kameron from Mombie and the Munchkin Monster.com! I put out a request for Mother Stories and she responded with her powerful story. As a survivor of childhood trauma she shares her path of healing and her determination to write her own happiness on the story of her life. I am proud to share such an amazing, inspiring woman with you!

*Trigger warning: contains details of childhood trauma and sexual abuse.*


My Story – I’m The Author Now 

I was 6 years old. I can't even think back on how small I was. I know I was in Kindergarten and my parents weren't living together anymore. But I never remember a time they did live together, as is a common story with many children in our world.

I look at other children at that age now. I see their innocence, their exuberance for life. I see their energy and desire to play and explore their world. I particularly see the ways in which they look up to their parents.

Around this age, I think I wanted to be seen by my parents. I say 'I think' because I don't actually remember it that well.  I wanted to be seen by my father in particular, although I don't explicitly recall that desire. He was an emotionally distant person… so was my depressed and alcoholic mother actually, but at least she was kinda there. (My mother is a WHOLE other story).

No, at this age I look back and only see the bad. I remember the time I peed my pants on the playground and was so embarrassed. I remember the time my mom dragged me out of school for showing up in pajamas after staying the night with my father. But the memory that dims all other potentially good memories at this age is the intrusive one of my father sexually abusing me.

I'm currently 37 years old. I spent nearly a decade… maybe more, processing this trauma. Before that it shaped my life in ways that I didn't understand until much later. I spent many years in counseling. I experienced failed relationships and made a lot of decisions I very much regret when it came to men.  I dealt with PTSD symptoms such as intrusive memories,  hypervigilance, and extreme body memories to name a few. I spent many years depressed and full of anxiety. I hated my body and was disgusted with my reflection in the mirror.

I placed blame on myself, and still fight shame about what happened.  Couldn't I have stopped it?  Why did I want to be around him when this happened?  Why did I experience pleasure? 

Like I stated, it took years and years of therapy, and a self-driven desire to understand and heal, to realize it wasn't my fault. What I experienced was a normal reaction for something that is in no way normal. Children are not supposed to experience these things. Ever.

But now I'm a statistic. Statistics show that 1 in 5 female children are sexually abused. 1… in… 5!! 

If you consider your child's classroom of 15-30 or so children. 3-6 little girls have possibly experienced this kind of trauma. Yes, that's an extremely depressing fact.

Now that you're thoroughly bummed let me turn the page here.

I have come a long way in my healing. My resiliency in life has astounded me many times. I should have been a drug addict, suicidal or possibly dead by now. Through my darkest times, I managed to somehow gain a Master's degree in Clinical Psychology and maintain a full-time job in the field of Police Dispatching. After a lifetime of being agnostic, I found Christ, learned to love myself through His eyes and married the incredible man God used to bring me to Him.  This is the healthiest I've ever been.  My life has been made anew.

And now I'm a mom.



At the age of 36, I became a mom to a beautiful and healthy baby girl. She has changed my life in the most extreme and beautiful ways.  She makes me want to be a better person. Because if I'm a better person, I can be a better mom, and through this, she gets the childhood she deserves… the kind of childhood every child deserves.

Since I'm a new mom, I pretty much have no clue what I'm doing!  I've found myself googling tons of things about the development of my now eight-month-old child. I've spent hours on the couch while my baby nursed to sleep researching developmental milestones, what's normal and what's not about a ton of topics.

Why does my little one flail and arch her back?  Why at three months is she eating like a linebacker?  My munchkin started acting clingy and fussy at the same time she learned a new skill… what's going on??  What are the reasons she cries?  How do I best soothe her?  Is it ok to nurse to sleep… because I totally do.

I've become quite obsessed with learning and learning… and learning. It's in my nature I suppose, to want to be as informed as possible about things I don't understand.  And I sure don't understand my child. I have instincts that I rely on to guide me. But researching facts helps me to understand her. This knowledge empowers me as a mom and helps me understand realistic expectations so I can better interact with my child.

But here's what I kinda expected but had no clue how it would manifest… how my trauma history shaped the way I parent.

I had no idea I'd be anxious about the way my child is cared for. Who knew I'd be uber protective over who watched her in my absence when I go to work or have the ever elusive date night.  I also had no idea how much I'm drawn to being a stay at home mom.  I want to be able to provide my daughter with as much of my time and love as I can give.

I want to be better than my parents were. I want her to know love, tenderness, and safety. I want her to know I'm present and can always be a safe space when she's scared or needs to talk... WHEN she can talk of course.  I trust in myself and my relationship with her father to know she will be daddy's little girl. I want to learn how to love her more and more and raise her in a way that gives her every opportunity to have a rich, wonderful childhood.

I've learned self-sacrifice and how to be attentive. I've learned to manage my frustrations, mixed emotions and found my voice to advocate for my daughter when I need to do so. 

I'm the mom I am because of my difficult journey.  And for that I'm grateful. 

I have found a passion for being a better mom for my little girl. But I've also found a passion for helping others to be better parents to their children as well.

 I've started a journey to do just that.  My blog www.mombieandthemunchkinmonster.com is a testimony to my love of researching child development and passing along what I've been learning.

I hope, soon, to be starting a new project that inspires, educates and encourages parents who have experienced childhood abuse because the cycle of abuse can be broken. But more so, we do not have to be defined by our past.  Nor do our children need to live in the shadows of this during their lifetime.


I'm excited to be able to start this new book in the story of my family.  I'm the author, and that knowledge empowers me!  The generational cycle of abuse and dysfunction does not need to continue.  My family's future and the story that is told, it starts today with me.  If you hear yourself in my story, know that your story can indeed change, and it all starts with you.


Thank you, Kameron, for sharing your heart with us! If you'd like to learn more and connect with Kameron, check out her blog at www.mombieandthemunchkinmonster.com and her Facebook page ! Also, remember that if you have a story you'd like to share please contact me!

Channing

An Open Letter To Bad-Ass Moms Without Moms

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Happy Mother's Day, Mama.

I know for you, mother's day is a bittersweet celebration. Thats a bold assumption, but I think for any woman who has childhood trauma in her past, its true. Even if you have healed and moved on from the past. Even if presently those relationships are in good repair or on the path to reparation. Even if you're a mother yourself. The truth is that those wounds still sometimes ache, like the ghost-like tingle of a lost limb.

This mother's day, I want to celebrate you - the mom that no one talks about. I want to celebrate the forgotten. I want to remember the mothers who were once children of neglect and abuse.

If you're like me, sometimes you're afraid of admitting that there are holes where a childhood should have been. I am ashamed to admit that Hallmark cards and heart-pulling Facebook videos make me feel super uncomfortable. They are a reminder that in the place where a mom should be -where those tender feelings lie in others- is something different. Sometimes that space holds anger or resentment. Other times it holds forgiveness and hope. On good days it holds a balance of the two. Whatever it holds, that place gives me the feels on Mother's day.


I am here to tell you, mama, that this day is for YOU. Mother's day typically is about celebrating the moms in our lives, but what happens when there is no mom of your childhood? How do you explain the feelings of grief and sadness for a woman who was there, but not there for you? 

This day is for the women who have mothered themselves. The ones who pulled themselves from tear-stained pillows to look in the mirror and see beauty, strength, and value where no one else did. The ones who figured out how to do their own laundry because no one was around to fold it nicely for them. This is for the girls who wanted, just once, for someone to make her a damn sandwich and ask her how her day at school was. Her friends had people like that at home. Why not you? This day is for the woman who grew up faster than she wanted to because no one was there to tell her to slow down. In fact, no one was there at all. 


Mother's day is for the women who have been mothers all their lives. It is for the women who know sacrifice because they put aside their childhood so they could care for those who could not care for themselves. This is for the girls who knew how to make a box of Kraft mac and cheese before they knew how to do long division. This day is for those who stepped into a place of care and nurture because they saw that was an empty role and refused to see it stay that way for the siblings they cared about.  

This is for the women who've been told in word or action that they can never be enough. For the ones who have suffered unspeakable abuse, who have stayed awake deep into the night wondering if the deserved to see the sun rise. This day is for the girls, who as children or grown-ass women, are afraid to tell people that they've been hurt because people might not believe them, or worse, tell them it wasn't so bad. This day is for you.

I see you, mama. You spent hours looking through Mother's Day cards at the store but never bought a single one because there wasn't one for your life. Your mom wasn't a good one and you know it. She's not someone you can give a funny card to either because this is not a laughing matter. This is the woman who should have been there for you and never was. So you never send a card. Maybe you make the obligatory phone call in its place. Maybe you do nothing. I see you. This day ain't for your mama. This day is for you.


I see you. You've been a mama your whole life. I don't pretend to understand your demons, but I see your pain and I want you to know - this day is for you. Even if you don't have children of your own, you've been a mom to yourself, and that's a job that not a lot of people can do as beautifully as you have. 

When I was growing up, each mother's day at church every woman in attendance would receive a gift. Usually it was a potted plant or a treat. Every year I asked for one. Every year I was denied. I know a nine-year-old girl asking for a mother's day treatment is common-place. Of course I did not have kids of my own, nor was I even capable of it. Of course I was not a traditional mother. But the way I see it is this: I'm 26. I've had my own children in my care for three years but I still have 18 years of mother's day gifts to make up for. So excuse me while I take two cookies for myself this Sunday at church - one for me and one for the bad-ass 8 year old inside me, begging for some love and recognition.


I feel a little bit guilty writing this. My mom is still alive and our relationship has made some amazing progress through my adult years. We talk regularly and have had many candid conversations. The hurts of both the past and present are discussed openly and forgiveness is given in abundance. She is more of a mom to me now than ever before, and I am grateful for her. But amidst those feelings of guilt, one truth shines through - this is my Mother's Day story. I refuse to be silent about it. This is how it happened for me and that is a perspective worth sharing.

Maybe you feel guilty reading too. If you're thinking, Channing, you just way over-exaggerated painful mother's days, that's okay. Because I know there's another mama out there who drags the dead weight of her childhood along behind her, still wondering if she's mom enough because she never had anyone to teach her how to be a good one. I hope you're reading this. 

Hold your head high. You are the most freakin' awesome mom that has ever breathed. You made it through some tough stuff and you're living your life. There are flowers growing in the cracks of your childhood because you planted them there. On Mother's day I want you to eat those cookies they pass out in church and freakin' enjoy it. I hope you hoard those macaroni necklaces your kid makes. I want you to open your eyes to see those who mothered you in any way, in any minuscule moment - whether it was the woman who birthed you or a perfect stranger with kind words. I hope you open your heart to all the love that comes to you from any place - you deserve all you can get and even more than you can hold. 


Mama, you are loved. Remember that on Sunday, May 14th, 2017, its okay to cry. Its okay to handle this day however you need to, ignoring the phone or not going to church, or being brave and saying the words you're afraid of. Take a bath. Scream at the sky. Write in your journal. Do whatever you want, because you're the mom and you do what you want. 


I'm rooting for you, Mama. I am awed by all you do. You are one bad-ass mother. Own it.

Love, 
Channing

Thoughts on Story Sharing

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Sharing stories is a two-part process - sharing and listening. For a long time I mainly focused on the sharing aspect. During that time I craved the validation and acceptance that comes from sharing. But recently I have been developing my listening skills and have learned that listening is equally important. Being on both sides of the story sharing process has taught me some valuable lessons - mainly those in humility, acceptance, and the importance of stories.

Sharing

I have thought about sharing my story a million times and 99% of those times, I never do. It is dang hard to sit down and put your life into words that actually mean something to someone.


Part of my hesitation to share is that I feel like I have to start at the beginning to give perspective on my life. That's especially hard for me because I've had a fair share of potentially shameful experiences. I personally don't have a hard time sharing those but I am afraid of hurting people in my life by doing so. In moments of bravery, I remind myself that storytelling is extremely personal and that there is a place for my perspective, too. Finding myself between the sensitive consideration of other people's privacy and the burning drive to share has been a refining experience for me. It has forced me to take ownership of my feelings, my thoughts, and my pain instead of trying to blame others.

Secondly, I feel like I have eight million types of stories. Which would you like to pick from? I have a story about:

  • surviving abuse
  • my journey through yoga
  • healing a broken marriage
  • recovering from trauma
  • natural birth
  • exclusive pumping
  • losing and re-gaining my faith
  • being a mom
  • having OCD

Like, seriously, which one would you like to hear? I don't know where to start or which details to include. Some of the topics are easy because they were positive experiences or the pain has healed. Others, like being a mom and having OCD, don't really have an ending. Do I just stop in the middle? I never know.

I love writing because it allows me to practice being vulnerable. I feel like it works in stages - I am brave enough to write. Then I have strength enough to review. Finally I am brave to share. Each stage I am sweaty and shaky at the keyboard. Each end of the cycle brings a sense of relief and weightlessness.

So when I say that story sharing is a sacred calling, I mean it. Its not for the light-hearted. Story sharing is heart-pumping hard work. No wonder I'm sweaty when I'm done.


Listening

Telling the story is only one part of sharing. Listening is a valuable skill to have and its unfortunate that more people haven't spent the time developing it.


The two parts feed each other. Without a witness, story sharing is simply gives a voice to the words inside your heart. And while that is sufficient for a while, my experience tells me that the words become empty and stale without someone to listen to them.

Listeners (or readers, in this case), you are an essential part of story sharing because you give it meaning and purpose. This is no small task.

The best listeners do the hard work. First, they allow a safe, neutral space within themselves to allow the story to simply be told. Free from judgement, the words unfold themselves to show a full and detailed picture.Secondly, excellent listeners appreciate. They appreciate the artistry of the story, the unique voice and personality of the story teller. Then, they appreciate the weight of the story and the bravery required to share it. Finally, they respond. Maybe they have questions. Maybe they have support. But their most important role to play is simple.

"I hear you. Thank you for sharing."

The best listeners are quiet until the very end. They ask questions to understand, not respond. They allow the story to just be. No "At least...". No trying to make it better. No "one-upping" with a story of their own.

I have not always been a great listener; however, with age and experience I've gotten better. The best way I've figured out how to hone my listening skills is actually through listening to podcasts. Its impossible for me to respond in real time, so I am forced to just sit back and enjoy the ride.

One podcast in particular has been life-changing for me. Briana Johnson, hostess of The Life Beats Project, has perfected the art of the interview. I am absolutely blown away with her ability to collect the stories of her guests and then share them in the most compassionate, complimentary light possible. Just this year she has shared stories of people overcoming trauma from human trafficking, healing from a particularly bitter experience of domestic abuse, and discovering their incredible talent for inspiring creativity in others. If you want to perfect the art of listening, you pretty much need her podcast in your life.


Why is story sharing so important?

Its a huge question and there are five million unique answers. For me, story sharing is essential for developing compassion, understanding, and empathy for others. By learning and appreciating the unique journeys and experiences of others, I've realized that people are not always as they appear. More importantly, I've learned that I understand others through the lens of my own experiences instead of their reality.


I briefly talked about my goal of sharing other mother's experiences here on Whole Heart Mom in my previous post Less Judging More Loving. I hope that by providing a platform for story sharing that this can become a place of understanding - a place to destroy judgement and shame, allow them to compost, and let acceptance and empathy grow in their place. So moms, if you have a story to share, I want to hear about it. Your story - long or short, finished or not, well-written or full of spelling errors - is important, valuable, and worthy of being shared.

If you're interested in sharing your story with me, send me an email at channing.parker at wholeheartmom.com and I will send you my submission guidelines!

Moana and Motherhood

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

When I first saw Moana, I rented it and put it on for my kids while I put groceries away one hot Phoenix afternoon. I made it about 15 minutes into the movie before I was completely sucked in.
Its one of those movies that afterwards I say, "Dang, I wish I had seen that in theaters!". But when you've got little ones at home and limited babysitters, movies at the theaters is not a thing. Heck, I didn't even get to see Rogue One when it came out for that exact reason, and its actually a grown up movie!

I've made up for missing Moana on the big screen by watching it almost every day since it was released. I'd blame it on my kid's obsession, but the truth is that I can't get enough. The music. The story line. The perfectly dynamic characters. The imagery. I didn't think it possible, but its my new favorite.

Moana is my "soul movie". My husband laughed when I told him that. With a smile he asked, "What is a soul movie?" Well mamas, I'll tell you. A soul movie is a fine piece of film art that speaks directly to your heart. It holds multiple layers of meaning to you personally. It may answer your deep questions. It may give you comfort during difficult times. It might give you inspiration or peace. Over the years, favorites may change, but a soul movie will always speak to you.

There are many lessons in Moana, but some of my favorite ones are about motherhood. I know, I know. The story is not about motherhood, but that doesn't mean I can't glean some pearls of truth from it anyway.

***Spoiler alert! If you haven't seen the movie, why are you even reading this? Go watch it and come back!***

Lessons on motherhood from Moana

My children are not mine. 

Since she was young, Moana felt a calling to sail the ocean beyond the barrier reefs of her home island. Her parents, afraid of allowing anyone to sail further for safety's sake, discouraged her from exploring the water for her entire childhood. Moana grew up understanding that every person played a role on her home island. She even wanted to embrace her role as the daughter of the chief and find content there; however, the pull of her dreams of the sea only got stronger as she aged. Watch the scene here. 



My children are no different. They have their own personalities, their unique mindset. They have their own dreams and goals to reach. Even if they aren't aware of it yet, their souls have a purpose that is specific to them. I have my children for a time only - to teach skills, to show love, and keep safe. In the end, while I may be their mom, and they may be my children, they are not mine to keep. They are their own person. Moana reminds me that no amount of discipline or distraction can drown the sound of dreams.

Parents can't meet every need.

My favorite character is Gramma Tala, Moana's grandma. Every story needs a wise old guide, and she is absolute perfection. Tala has a close relationship with Moana and ultimately is the catalyst for Moana to embark on her hero's journey. Throughout Moana's life, Tala is a constant source of guidance, encouragement, and wisdom. As the self proclaimed "village crazy lady", she is the quiet, constant force of teaching in her own way - through dance, storytelling, and her connection with nature. 

One of my favorite parts of the whole movie is right after Moana attempts to sail beyond the reef for the first time and completely fails. She takes this failure to mean that she isn't meant to sail the ocean and decides to stay and embrace her role on the island. When she tells this to Gramma Tala, who has always encouraged her to listen to her heart, Tala simply says "Okay!". Moana is confused and asks, "Why aren't you trying to stop me?" and Tala says, "That's what you said you wanted!" Watch the scene here.


Oh. My. Gosh. Can you guys even handle the wisdom? I would trade all the chocolate in the world for someone in my childhood to have loved me and encouraged me no matter what I decided to do. 

As parents, it is so easy to be so busy simply keeping our kids alive and functioning that we miss the nurture part. Moana's dad, Tui, was so keen on keeping Moana on the island so she would be safe that he missed nurturing her heart. As parents we need people that can fill the roles we cannot. 

Don't feel guilty mama. The makeup of modern motherhood implies that moms can be everything to their children all of the time. Not only is this belief a lie but it is literally impossible. Don't try it. I have and I'll be the first to tell you that it doesn't end well. Instead, I want us mamas to try relying on wise people in our lives. For a lot of moms that means relying on grandparents and family. Some moms have to function without those built in social constructs, but that should not stop us from finding good role models in our community. Teachers, church leaders, parents of friends, and coaches are all really awesome people to rely on.

Storytelling is an essential part of parenting.

One of the main themes of Moana is the importance of stories. Stories of ancestors connected Moana to her soul's purpose of "wayfinding" and bringing the tradition of voyaging back to her people. Watch the scene here. Mythology of her culture became a very real part of her life as she met demi-gods, monsters, and goddesses on her journey. Understanding an experience her father had with sailing increased her understanding for his unbending nature when it came to her fascination with the ocean.


Stories teach in a way that empty words cannot. Myths and bedtime stories provide a rich environment for exploring and teaching new and difficult concepts. Ancestral stories give a strong sense of deep connection to family and community. Personal life stories makes adults human and approachable, which are two great characteristics of a peaceful parent. 

Mama, don't be afraid to tell, give, and share stories with your children. I personally believe they are an essential building block of childhood. Read Harry Potter with your family. Tell your kids about the time you got in trouble because you snuck back out of the house after checking in for curfew. Give your budding reader a beautiful copy of your favorite book from your childhood. Watch Moana together. These are moments and gifts that connect you and your child in a way that nothing else can.



There are so many inspiring lessons and positive values taught in Moana. I'm literally obsessed with it. My daughter and I love watching it together and singing the songs. A few weeks ago she started asking me if she could have a "heart of Te Fiti". I looked on Etsy to buy one for her and they are near $25 a piece! I refused to pay that much so I made my own out of oven-bake clay and paint. They turned out so dang cute! I love watching her play with hers.

I made a batch of these to give to a few young girls in my life. I have one left over and I would love to send it to a lucky reader. So, mamas, tell me in a comment what lesson you learned from watching Moana. Your comment here on the blog counts as your entry! I can't wait to share my heart with you! (pun intended)

*GIVEAWAY CLOSED.*

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