Posts made in September, 2012

Everything I Need to Know About Making Friends I Learned From My 3-Year-Old

Posted by on Sep 24, 2012 in Bug & Bear | 2 comments

Everything I Need to Know About Making Friends I Learned From My 3-Year-Old

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Mommy! Look!! I made a friend!!!” I looked up from digging through the racks of shirts at the store we were in to see this…

Then she wanted me to take pictures. That’s my Bug, she could make friends with a brick wall. Or a mannequin.

Yesterday I took her to the park and her face fell when she realized there were no other kids there to play. About 10 minutes later a car pulled up and a girl slightly older than Bug jumped out and started towards the playground. Bug screamed, “Look, Mommy, a friend!” Then she ran towards her new friend and threw her arms around her in a long, meaningful embrace. The girl looked uncomfortable. “Sweetie, try saying hi and tell her your name,” I tried to gently redirect. The child is extremely social. Let me be clear – she does not get this from me. I wish I could say she did, but no, it’s just the way she came into the world, so full of life and enthusiasm for people.

Before Bug was born I tended towards shyness. I was very private and only really opened up to my closest, most trusted friends. I would never have inserted myself into a group of people and joined their conversation, not because I don’t love people, but mostly because I thought it would be rude.

Two things changed for me after Bug was born. First, from the time she could move she started moving herself towards people and finding ways to meet them. At the park, she would walk into a group of moms and start passing out mulch as a gift. I was uncomfortable joining the group, but you can’t really unleash a toddler on a group of moms you don’t know without offering some supervision. More than that, I knew that no matter how uncomfortable I may feel I didn’t want to squash Bug’s social nature. I had to get comfortable talking to new people and joining new groups.

Second, I was lonely. The transition from working outside the home to staying with a baby inside my home was a difficult one for me. I felt lonely, isolated, and pretty bored. Reaching out to people, meeting a friend at the park, finding any source of adult conversation throughout the day became a lifeline.

Thanks to Bug leading me out of my comfort zone, I discovered how easy it is to make friends with other mothers. We have so much in common, no matter how different we may be on the surface. More importantly, I learned how desperately we mothers need each other for support, companionship, encouragement, and adult conversation. If you are feeling isolated and trapped inside your home speaking fluent baby talk, you must get out and find some mama friends right away! Here are all the inside secrets I learned from my social butterfly Bug…

1. Lead with, “Hi! My name is ______________.” Everywhere we go, Bug immediately finds someone there and uses this simple introduction. Children and adults usually respond with an introduction of their own, and then connection follows.

2. Invite someone new to participate in an activity with you. Bug’s intro is always followed by, “Would you like to play with me?” Most often the invitation is accepted. If we meet new friends when we’re out, we try to exchange phone numbers and get together to do something fun.

3. Laugh in the face of rejection. Unfortunately, sometimes kids (and adults) can be cruel, and at times Bug’s, “Would you like to play with me?” is met with something along the lines of, “NO! YOU’RE NOT MY FRIEND!” Bug is utterly unfazed by this. The subtitle to this post could be “Everything I Need to Know About Facing Rejection I Learned From My 3-Year-Old.” She just shrugs it off and extends a new invitation to a different friend, usually with great success.

4. When someone new invites you to join them, always accept if you can. Bug always joins the kids who include her in their play. Sometimes they turn out to be wonderful friends, sometimes they’re a little bit of mischief. You just don’t know until you give someone new a chance.

5. Love the ones you’re with. Bug engages with whoever is available when we go out, even if they seem to have nothing in common. They almost always end up having fun, even if they don’t have enough in common to become regular playmates. Even if the mothers around you aren’t who you would choose for your very best friend, talking to another adult briefly while your children play can really save your sanity.

6. Get out of your house. Bug is social, active, and loves change. It seems that the more new people and experiences we have outside of our home each day, the happier she is and the better she sleeps, so we get out quite a bit. Turns out, the more you get out, the more people you meet, and the more opportunity you have to make new friends. Bug and I have both made great friends by going to the library story time, mother’s groups at church, public parks, walks, even the grocery store.

7. Assume people like you. Bug completely lacks shyness or self-consciousness. I adore this about her, as it is just so totally different from my own personality. She just assumes people will like her and be thrilled to know her and play with her – as a result, they usually are.

8. Notice those on the sidelines. Sometimes there is a shy kid who wants to play but just needs someone to notice them and reach out. Bug always pulls the kids on the sidelines into the hub of activity. The shy kids usually want to be included but just need a helping hand. Same goes for the shy adults.

9. Be the leader. It’s hard to hang back by yourself when you’re the one in charge of organizing a group or activity. Bug often organizes games of chase or tag and soon has every child around talking to her and playing with her.  I was shocked at my shy self’s ability to step out of my comfort zone, reach out to people, and open up when I led a mom’s group at one point. When you’re the one responsible for drawing people in it’s a lot easier to be outgoing.

10. Smile and laugh. Bug is always smiling, and sometimes she just breaks into spontaneous peals of laughter. It attracts people and is positively contagious.

Lest you think I’ve completely lost my mind, no, I do not think we should entirely emulate the behavior of a 3-year-old in our adult interactions and relationships. I’ve learned, for instance, that most people do not respond favorably to roar-like-a-lion competitions or tantruming when hungry or exhausted. Those things I do not recommend. I do, however, recommend doing whatever it takes to connect with other mothers and keep a healthy dose of adult conversation and fun friendship in your life if you spend the bulk of your time with young children. It is sanity saving, emotionally encouraging, and fantastically fun!

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Low Calorie Fish Tacos

Posted by on Sep 18, 2012 in Cooking | 0 comments

Low Calorie Fish Tacos

Husband has lost nearly 50 pounds in the past three months, primarily by counting calories. I’m sure carrying children up and down mountains is helping, but mostly he’s just watching what he eats. I’m so proud of him. He has worked really hard.

I want to support his efforts so I’m making an attempt to cook low calorie meals, but it doesn’t come easy for me. I was raised in a home where dinner involved a roux, or a cream sauce, or a healthy helping of butter. I like my food to taste good. Plus, you can really only eat so much grilled chicken and salad before that meal drives you to do something drastic, like eat a whole pizza by yourself or fire up your deep fryer instead of your grill.

I have been on a mission to cook new and interesting meals that are tasty, different, filling, and low calorie. This one was all of the above, AND it came in at just 280 calories a serving!

Low Calorie Fish Tacos with Chipotle Cream

Fish:

1 lb Coho salmon fillet (or you can substitute any fish of your choice)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp chili powder

Preheat broiler. Combine salt, pepper, garlic powder, and chili powder in a small bowl. Place fish skin side down on a baking sheet and sprinkle evenly with seasoning mix, then gently rub in seasoning. Broil fish until opaque in center, about 10 minutes. Remove fish from skin and flake with a fork.

Cabbage with Chipotle Cream:

1 head green cabbage
1/2 cup fat free plain Greek yogurt
Juice of 1 lime
2-4 canned chipotle peppers, minced

Slice cabbage very thin. Combine Greek yogurt, lime juice, and chipotle peppers to make chipotle cream, then toss with cabbage to combine.

Serve fish and cabbage with chipotle cream in corn tortillas (which are lower calorie than flour), topped with guacamole* and salsa.

Serves 4
Calories per serving of 2 tacos: 280
* guacamole adds extra calories – topped with guacamole I calculated each serving of 2 tacos at 350 calories

 

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Enjoy!

The Good Enough Mother – Part 2

Posted by on Sep 14, 2012 in Bug & Bear, Faith, Mental Health | 4 comments

One of my least favorite things about writing is that it seems like whatever I choose to write about in a given week becomes an area in which I struggle exceedingly that week. It’s a reason I often want to just stop writing and sharing altogether. When I write about my marriage, then it seems Husband and I fight and bicker more. When I write about trusting God, it seems I struggle with a greater measure of fear and worry. And when I write about my kids, it seems I struggle with less patience and greater feelings of inadequacy.

Just a couple of days ago I wrote The Good Enough Mother. The next day, I woke up with a feeling of heaviness, a feeling that I’m doing a bad job with my kids. I’m surprised at my tendency towards impatience and anger. I should know better, for goodness sake, I’m a child therapist. In trying to determine the source of the heaviness, I became vaguely aware that it had to do with unrealistic expectations of myself and children and inaccurate perceptions. When I looked deeper, I saw that when my kids don’t listen or follow the rules I unknowingly let a slew of lies flood into my heart… It’s because I’ve done something wrong… It’s because I’ve been so dang imperfect… It’s because no one in my house respects me. Giving these thoughts real estate in my brain then generates a snowball effect. I end up feeling so inadequate that it negatively impacts my mothering, my attitude towards myself, my relationship with Husband, and the atmosphere in my home. Then, to compensate, I try to work harder and be better. Do more. Become different. I unknowlingly get caught up in trying to change my behavior into something more perfect instead of weeding out the roots of my inaccurate perceptions and giving myself (and my family) grace to simply be Good Enough.

Just so you know, in case these same thoughts ever invade your brain as well, they’re all lies. Your kids don’t disobey and fail you at times because you’re a failure, but because they’re kids. Kids just don’t know all that much, they lack judgement, common sense, and life experience. They’re learning, but it is a long and tiresome process.

As soon as I recognized all of the lies that were leading to my sense of heaviness and feelings of failure as a mother, I set to work evicting them from my mind and replacing them with a better tenant – truth about myself and my children. For me, the truth about who I am as a person and mother and who my children are as little people comes from what God says about us.

Before each of my children was born, I got to know them through praying about them, and felt like I had a Bible verse for each of their lives. For Bug, it was that she would be “full of mercy and compassion, slow to anger and abounding in love.” For Bear, it was that she would have “great peace and undisturbed composure.” Ironically, Bug often struggles with anger and Bear often struggles with fear. Sometimes I think that God gave me these specific verses for them as an anchor to keep me grounded and focused on the truth when I could see no actual evidence of these truths in the children who are actually in my home. It works. When I start to feel overwhelmed with their challenging behavior in these areas, I purpose to stop and speak these words of truth about them. Then I purpose to speak these words to them. It never fails to change their behavior and my perception. Truth will do that. And it serves as a much better motivator than negativity, criticism, and punishment.

As for myself, I am highly imperfect and in need of much grace as a mother. Thankfully, that is okay, and part of simply being a Good Enough Mother. More importantly, in spite of my human imperfection, my heart is home to a perfect God who helps me be better than I am in and of myself when I let Him. Because God lives in me, love lives in me, and this is what love is:

“Love endures long and is patient and kind; love never is envious nor boils over with jealousy, is not boastful orvainglorious, does not display itself haughtily. It is not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride); it is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly. Love (God’s love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it [it pays no attention to a suffered wrong]. It does not rejoice at injustice and unrighteousness, but rejoices when right and truth prevail. Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything [without weakening]. Love never fails [never fades out or becomes obsolete or comes to an end].” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8, Amplified Bible)

In an effort to speak truth about myself as a mother, and because I believe truth is a better motivator for me than negativity, criticism and punishment just as it is for my children, I started saying this about myself in the morning before the children awake and start pulling on my emotions:

I endure long and and I am patient with and kind to my children.

I do not display myself haughtily in my home.

I am not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride); I am not rude to my children (unmannerly) and I do not act unbecomingly to them.

(God’s love in me) does not insist on my own rights or my own way, for I am not self-seeking; I am not touchy or fretful or resentful with my children; I keep no account of their mistakes after those mistakes are addressed.

I can bear up under anything and everything that comes, I am ever ready to believe the best about my children, my hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and I can endure everything [without weakening].

God’s Love in my family, my marriage, and my relationships with my children never fails [never fades out or becomes obsolete or comes to an end].

Speaking words of life and truth about myself and my children in the morning did not magically make me the Perfect Mother, but it did change the tone of the entire day. There was less frustration and negativity, more patience and grace. I know that as mothers we try to speak kind and encouraging words about our children each day, but what if we did the same for ourselves? What if every mother mothered herself with kindness and love? Kindness, love, encouragement, and truth are, after all, better motivators than negativity, criticism, and punishment. An added bonus of filling ourselves with these things is that we are then full of them to pour out to our children – it is hard, if not impossible, to pour into our kids what we are not full of ourselves. Try encouraging and building yourself up instead of tearing yourself down in your thoughts today and see how it lightens everything in your home.  See if it doesn’t give you the grace to believe you’re Good Enough.

The Good Enough Mother

Posted by on Sep 12, 2012 in Mental Health | 3 comments

The Good Enough Mother

One of my favorite concepts from all of the theories and therapy models and treatment methods I learned about in the course of my education as a Clinical Social Worker is the Good Enough Mother. Say it with me – Good Enough Mother.  Doesn’t it just make you feel a million pounds lighter to string those words together?  This mother, well, she’s not perfect, she doesn’t do everything right, she makes her fair share of mistakes, she has to give herself grace and acceptance for her perceived shortcomings, even her children aren’t perfect, but she’s good enough. Good Enough.  I think I can be that mom.

There’s something about mothering children that tends to make women feel not good enough. Every mother I know, even those I look up to as seeming to have it all together, feels it at times… a sense of guilt, a nagging insecurity, a feeling of failure in at least some area, self-doubt. Why?  I don’t know, exactly.  I have ideas…

I think in general we live in a society that strives for and celebrates the appearance of perfection…

Mothers struggle under the weight of information overload – there are a million billion trillion books that spell out, step by step, exactly how to be the perfect mother, so why, why, why can’t she get it right…

Mothers are more isolated than they have ever been before – we raise our children primarily in solitude, then look around at our friends and neighbors and, from the outside, they look to be making easy work of raising children…

Mothering is just freaking hard – it’s a lot of work, and the costs of messing it up seem so high…

And so arises the exepctation, pressure, and drive to be the Perfect Mother. The Perfect Mother is not nearly as nice as the Good Enough Mother – not to her children, not to the other mothers around her, and certainly not to herself.  With the drive for perfection comes the expectation for perfection.  Those who let the Perfect Mother down with their messy imperfections spark anger, resentment, bitterness, and judgement. Most often it’s her that’s letting herself down, and herself she finds on the receiving end of her own enormous anger, resentment, bitterness, and judgement.  And it’s no wonder – being perfect is even harder, more impossible work than being a mother. And being the Perfect Mother requires a relentless pursuit of something that can never be acheived.

Let me introduce you to D.W. Winnicott, who conceptualized the Good Enough Mother. Winnicott was a British pediatrician and psychoanalyst who pioneered many prominent psychological ideas between 1930-1970.  He worked extensively with mother/child pairs and based his ideas on decades of experience. His work revealed that what a child really needs from its mother for optimal development is just an ordinary ability to respond to his or her basic needs.  In infancy this looks like intense responsiveness to needs for food, bodily care, and comforting of difficult emotions, but as the child grows and moves more and more towards independence, it looks less like total self sacrifice from the mother in service of meeting each and every need, and more like a mother preserving a sense of herself while helping her child to experience both the general satisfaction of met needs and occasional frustration of unmet wants.

“A mother is neither good nor bad nor the product of illusion, but is a separate and independent entity: The good-enough mother. .. starts off with an almost complete adaptation to her infant’s needs, and as time proceeds she adapts less and less completely, gradually, according to the infant’s growing ability to deal with her failure. Her failure to adapt to every need of the child helps them adapt to external realities.” (Winnicott, 1953)

Well there it is, failure, right there in the explanation of what good enough mothering entails.  The Good Enough Mother fails.  Not only so, but her periodic failures in the overall nurturing and secure relationship she has with her children are actually to be embraced and celebrated as valuable moments in her parenting.  Despite what we’ve been led to believe, our children are not meant to experience us as being perfect mothers – what a horrible set up for failure in the world outside of our homes.  It’s enough for our children to be generally satisfied with what we offer, but at the same time frequently frustrated with our inability to give them everything they want. The frustration our children experience as we meet their needs quite imperfectly is, in reality, something important that helps them separate into being their own person, develop a sense of self and autonomy, and gain independence and self control – isn’t that the goal of parenting in the end?

Can we collectively agree to kick the Perfect Mother to the curb?  To stop putting the pressure on ourselves to achieve perfection, and stop casting judgemental glances towards the women around us who we think aren’t quite perfect enough either? It’s enough to be Good Enough.

 

Blueberry Lemon Yogurt Muffins

Posted by on Sep 7, 2012 in Cooking | 3 comments

Blueberry Lemon Yogurt Muffins

I’m about to tell you something that I usually keep quiet, and I’m asking you not to judge. A major staple of my children’s diets is cream cheese. They slather it on just about everything. From what I understand, it makes my cooking more palatable. So you can imagine the horror when we run out of the beloved food. We’re talking tears and hunger strikes. Not really. Okay, sometimes.

During a recent visit from my mom, we discovered while preparing breakfast that we had no cream cheese. My mom rushed to the store in the hopes of heading off a cream cheese meltdown, and in her haste accidentally grabbed this…

Blueberry Cream Cheese

Best. Mistake. Ever. This stuff is gooooooood. You should get some. Go now. You can read the rest of this when you get home.

Are you back? Anyway, the children wouldn’t touch the blueberry cream cheese with a pole, but the grown ups devoured it in no time at all. Then we bought more. When I wasn’t eating it, I was thinking about it. I knew it was destined for more than just toast. And so it became the inspiration for these Blueberry Lemon Yogurt Muffins.

Blueberry Lemon Yogurt Muffins

1/2 cup sugar

2 eggs

1/2 cup apple sauce

Juice and zest of one lemon

6 ounce container of lemon flavored Greek yogurt

1 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries, rinsed

Blueberry cream cheese

Grease a 12 cup muffin tin and set aside. Preheat oven to 400.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar. Add the applesauce, lemon juice, lemon zest, and lemon yogurt. Stir to combine.

In a separate small bowl, combine the flour, bakind soda, baking powder, and salt.

Pour dry ingredients into the medium bowl with the wet ingredients and stir to combine just until everything is incorporated. Fold in the blueberries. Scoop the batter evenly into the muffin cups and bake 15-17 minutes until tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

Top each warm muffin with a generous tablespoon of blueberry cream cheese.

 

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