Saturday, January 7, 2017

Finding Peace Through Letting Go

Hello friends! In case you missed it, I did a spot of writing over on the MOPS International blog, Hello, Dearest over the holidays. Here's the link in case you're interested in checking it out.

Home is... where the suitcases are unpacked.

“But I want my old house. I don’t want my new house.” My precious two and a half year old son sighs to me as I cradle him, chest to chest, in my lap. He speaks so eloquently for his age and is remarkable mature in dealing with his daily life, but his soft baby hair tickling my face reminds me just how little he is. 

In his short life we have moved six times. Home has been where mama is. Home has been where the familiar is. Home has been a hotel room with the smell of cheap coffee brewing. Home has been Nana and Pop’s house with Yorkie dogs barking. Home has been a familiar Camelbak filled with favorite apple juicy. Home has been mama’s breast and mama’s arms. Home has been Daddy's voice.

This move has been the hardest for all of us. After living a year and a half separated from Daddy he was reintroduced to our family. The transition, while exciting, was difficult. On top of that the home that had been our sanctuary – the first home we owned together - was now going to be for someone else. When we purchased the home we intended to keep it for the long term so that even though we didn’t have imminent plans of living in Florida, we’d be able to have a vacation home and a place to retire to eventually. It was going to be our haven and the place we imagined being happiest. Our own corner of paradise, 10 minutes from white sandy beaches. But plans change, budgets change, and we had to let go of that dream to give way to others. 

So then, there was no concrete answer for “where is home?” as we lived out of suitcases in a furnished long-term stay apartment for almost six weeks. We couldn’t go back and moving forward wasn’t happening soon enough. There is no explaining the experience of transition to a young mind. Now is always temporary.

With all this transition however, what Noah has been exposed to in his short life is astounding. All of these experiences are absorbed into his ready mind and heart. He reflects on them, too. He’s always thinking, always observing. Much more so than I ever expected or realized a person his age could. 

He speaks often of Geneva. We went there on vacation last summer and met Daddy there while living apart. We rented a home and pretended we lived there for about 12 days. Geneva is the measuring stick for his other life experiences. Nothing is and nothing will ever be as good as Geneva; the ice cream was better, the toys, the city, the playground, the life there was just complete. The memory of Geneva - mommy and daddy giving him our undivided attention 24/7 exploring new things together - is home for Noah. It’s his happy place and what he craves when he is sad or unsure. I didn’t realize it at first, when he cried for Geneva, but there is a concrete place for “home” in his heart after all and it wasn’t anything I had planned.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Travel vs the diaper change

This is one of the best travel tips I can give you. Since Noah was born we’ve traveled extensively on three continents, by plane, train, boat, car, bike, stroller, metro… you name it! There are lots of little tricks I’ve come up with to get me through those days but I will share with you now the most useful thing I’ve learned in traveling with a baby and now toddler preschooler.

Learn to change your kid’s diaper while they’re standing.

I can say that most places are not equipped with nursing or changing stations. Most bathrooms are nasty and even if they have a changing station, I worry about the last time it was tended to. When Noah was a baby I used to find a discreet place to recline his stroller and change him there. I can stealth change him if I still need to or change him in the car, but being able to take him to the bathroom with me anywhere, including moving trains, or any non-kid oriented restaurant or store, is really vital to my well-being. It gives us the flexibility to spend the day doing whatever we want, wherever we want without being hampered. Start practicing at home now and thank me later.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Where do we go from here?

One of my biggest fears when I was pregnant was that having a baby would cramp my style. I’m not talking fashion (although, good-bye silk) I’m talking about lifestyle. I was worried we would cease to see the world or lose our desire to leave the house.

At first it was tricky. It took a solid two months for my baby Noah and I to figure each other out, and get in the swing of nursing. But we ripped that travel band-aid off when Noah was only 2 and a half months old on our first 14 hour international flight from Florida back to Kuwait. Two weeks later, we were off to Scotland and a few months after that Israel. We have moved, traveled, visited, and toured many places in Noah’s short two and a half years and I’ll say this about it: It’s worth it.

It’s worth schlepping the bags of diapers and car seats and strollers and 3 changes of clothes up a mountain to see the view. It’s worth the cost of the ticket to see the dots connecting in your child’s mind when they understand that they’re on a train, they’ve seen trains in books and on TV, and played with toy trains. It’s worth the trouble of bringing a change of clothes to a farm so that your toddler hears a cow moo, touches their fur, and sees where the milk comes from. It’s true that in a way he won’t remember these exact experiences, but they are shaping his understanding of the world around him.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about this blog and where I want it to go. What do I have to say? My life has profoundly changed since having a child. It has forced me to mature and grow in ways that have been painful and triumphant. I’ve learned to be incredibly comfortable with who I am and I can see a difference in my relationships. But what aspects of my life do I want to share? And if I wear sneakers like 90% of the time and loafers the other 10, does that still qualify me as a High Heeled Traveler?

I say, yes. It does. I named the blog High Heeled Traveler as a rift on Well Heeled Traveler. It’s like the real life version of something that seems fancy. Here’s our life in a nutshell: We move. We travel. We share the world with our growing son. And I try to do it without losing myself. High Heeled to me is asking for my experiences to be elevated, to be better, to be richer. I want to live life deeper and enjoy the moment. Not since becoming a mother did I realize just how quickly life really does pass us by. And it’s in those little moments where we slow down and check it out (sometimes at a toddler’s pace), that we truly feel alive and find that connection to the world around us.

What I want to do in my little corner of the Internet is to start a dialogue about the beauty in the moments no matter if they’re at home, in an exotic far-away place, or on the plane getting there. I hope you’ll continue to join me!

Unaccompanied Tour // 04

Navigating the R&Rs can be a source of both excitement and stress to the unaccompanied family. For non foreign service people, R&R means what it means in normal life, a break, a rest, a vacation. Depending on the post (location) and the length of the assignment, the employee gets one to three R&Rs during their time apart. We actually had one when we were in Kuwait and took a trip to Scotland for Noah's baptism and to visit some friends. For this assignment Gman had three.

While it is exciting to see the person who has been gone, an R&R is also a reality check on relationships, and a really stressful adjustment to the family dynamic. Gman teases me about messing with my routine every time but that's a serious sticking point for me. I'm a creature of intense habit. I got mad at him one time he was home because he did the laundry. It sounds ridiculous but it was something I was used to doing and something so little was magnified by the stress of reuniting.

When we finished our last R&R (praise God!) I took some time to reflect on it. I want to share with you some thoughts, observations, suggestions that we have learned along our almost year and a half of separation in regards to reuniting on R&R.

We found it difficult to pretend "normal life" as if Gman lived there when he came home. Everyone wanted to visit with him and the time slipped from our fingers. After trying to cram our entire lives into an emotional two weeks we decided the best route was to make the time off (usually 2 weeks) a vacation for everyone. It was actually really nice that way, even if Gman came home and we took day trips or just laid around at the beach all day. This way I was off the clock too and we spent more time together instead of me worried about the to-do list while Gman spent time with everyone else. It also helped the dynamic between Noah and us, as children tend to push the boundaries and act up when the separated parent returns. Being on vacation changed the rules anyways and he was less likely to push us. 

Dealing with extended family can also be difficult at times. Of course everyone wants to visit with the person who has been away and they're only home a few short weeks. But the reality is connecting with one's children is really the most important thing. Adults understand how to use a telephone and can maintain a relationship most of the time through that and FaceTime, etc. It's more difficult for children, especially little ones and they really need that physical touch to maintain a connection. We found it helpful to arrange special time with our parents and sisters so everyone felt like they got one on one but it didn't take away from time with Noah. We also had a special happy hour for friends and family who wanted to see us. 

Another thing that really helped us reconnect in such a short time was to make lists of things we wanted to be sure to talk about. We didn't really talk over the phone too much or even in email when he was away so if I wanted to be sure and ask about something financial or mention a cute story that happened I wrote it down. It sounds excessive but, again, the time goes by quickly and there are a lot of distractions. Having a list helps ensure you talk about the things you had been waiting to talk about for a few months of separation.

I hope this is helpful to you!

Please see my previous posts on surviving The Unaccompanied Tour // 01 02 03

Sunday, July 10, 2016

The Unaccompanied Tour // 03

Anger Management.

A big part of the unaccompanied tour is frankly how infuriating it can be. I say this half-joking. For example, in my normal life whenever I need reassurance or to bounce ideas off someone I just call or text Gman or simply turn to him and ask. He's there and he's my sounding board. Suddenly now he's not there and not even available to send a text to in a moment of desperation when Noah is just too much for me to handle. My partner is not there when the cards start to fall or even to tell me I'm beautiful in a moment when I sure as hell don't feel like it. I am often alone in dealing with bills, taking care of our home, and meeting the needs of Noah and myself on a daily basis. 

I don't get a break when Gman would normally come home from work. Fellow stay-at-home moms know, it's like the magically hour from 4 - 5 or 5 - 6 when everyone is ready for something new and Daddy will be home any minute to take over for just a little while. Well I don't have that. I just have to keep going. It can be exhausting and just getting through a night where Noah fights me on everything, like "time to brush your teeth" "no! not brush teeth!" and he holds his mouth closed and puts his hands on his face. And then "time to read a story" "no! not story!" and tries to throw himself out of my arms and I'm already ready to pass out myself. Yeah, those days are rough. And long. And lonely. Those are the days when burn out turns to rage and I have to keep myself in check. 

Here are some things I do to help manage my anger in a healthy way. And some I should be doing more often... I hope you find this helpful, too!

1. Take time for myself every day. This one is really much harder than you would imagine. Like before I had Noah, this was not a problem. I spent hours doing my hair every week. Now I can't tell you the last time I used a blow dryer. In fact, I didn't have one for several months. I even cut my own hair for two years. But when I take a few minutes to just have quiet time and file my nails it helps to calm me down. Whatever it is that helps you rejuvenate, do it. Maybe a cup of coffee when the kids go down for a nap or watching stand-up on Netflix for a few minutes at night. I am trying a new routine where I set my alarm and get up every morning to exercise before breakfast. It's difficult because Noah wakes up with me but so far it has helped make our mornings smoother and given me a little boost of energy. Which leads me to...

2. Exercise. Exercise really helps soften anger. It gives you a place to put that energy and can lessen stress and anxiety also. It's hard for me to make this a priority, but the more I do it the more I notice a difference in my mood.

3. Talk to a therapist. Trying to figure out what my trigger points are and how to deal with them really gets to the source of the anger. You're going to have to deal with that eventually and talking to a therapist is a great place to start sorting through your thoughts and feelings. 

4. Walking away and then talking it through. Sometimes I get so furious that I need a timeout more than Noah. I need to teach him that its OK to be angry and show him ways to deal with it. Walking away and taking a time out is a great physically obvious way to calm down. I teach Noah to count to 10 and take 3 deep breaths. Then we talk about why we are angry. I tried this recently with Gman too and it prevented a fight. I walked away then came back when I collected my thoughts. Walking away is not to be confused with the silent treatment which is passive aggressive and not helpful in resolving conflict. I mean saying, "I need a break" or "Give me a minute" and disengaging. In my frustration with Gman I came back after calming down and said, "This is why I'm angry with you." We were able to talk through it without either of us being defensive. We even laughed about it later.

5. Find the humor. The best way to defuse angry is with humor. Finding levity in your life will help bring you back to center. One night I was so furious with Noah I thought I was going to hurt him. I was scared of my rage and told him, "mommy's very very angry right now and I need to take some deep breaths. I need you to be nice to me while I'm angry, Noah." He replied by basically mocking me. He clenched his fists, gritted his teeth, and growled! It was both insulting and totally adorable. I had to laugh at his attempt to show me he understood what I was saying. Soon laughter completely diffused my anger. After I put him to bed I thought about why I was angry and tried to find a solution to my issue. 

6. Ask for help. Ask friends, family, parents, babysitters to help you get through this really difficult time. It's hard for me to reach out sometimes because I don't even know what to ask for. So here are some ideas: ask your parents to watch your children for a night and you go to a hotel and order room service. Or maybe it's a girls night out or a coffee date with a good book. Maybe you ask someone to cook with you once a week or invite friends over for a small party or a glass of wine. Socializing and taking breaks from the daily grind stop me from being all consumed with all the things that are pissing me off. Sometimes simply voicing my frustration helps diffuse it. Sending a text to my sister like, ugh you won't believe the night I've had and her responding with a ridiculous meme or just saying, that sucks, really helps.

One last note on anger. Don't be afraid of anger. It's a healthy, normal feeling to have. And it's a powerful one too. We have seen far too many examples lately on the news of blind, ignorant rage destroying lives. But anger has lead to some incredibly positive changes in the world too like cures for cancer, fights against poverty and injustice and hunger. If you think of it this way, you can use your anger to make some positive changes in your life too.

Previous posts on The Unaccompanied Tour: // 01, // 02

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Date Truffles for the Win

At the beginning of the year I went on a no sugar cleanse. The first couple of days sucked, the withdrawal headaches and mood swings were difficult to deal with. But then by like day three, it really wasn't as hard as I expected. I didn't give up things like milk that had sugar naturally in them, but food made with sugar and all processed food. I was fine until about 10 days in. I was having the most intense cravings for chocolate. It was like the only thing I really missed. I got in a bad habit of sneaking chocolate chips with Noah around 10 in the morning which is when I usually crave sweets. So I found myself dragging my feet around the kitchen opening and closing pantry doors hoping that chocolate would  magically appear. I'm not the only one why does this right?

So then, I was talking to my neighbor, who is an avid cook as well, and she told me that she just throws some dates, raw cacao powder, and almonds into a food processor and makes truffles out of it. Dates are possibly Noah's favorite food (ranked high with avocados, yogurt, chocolate, and ice cream) so I got pretty excited.

I make these date truffles at least twice a week and I have a hard time not eating all of them as I roll them out. Noah stands at my feet while I'm preparing them, begging for "more dates, sir!" These are  indulgent little treats you can enjoy guilt free. In fact, when I was on Weight Watchers I entered this recipe in to calculate my points and it came back as zero points for several truffles. FREE DESSERT while on a diet? Hell yes!

So without further adieu, here's what you do...

Combine about 8-15 pitted medjool dates, a small handful of roasted unsalted almonds (if whole grind alone first to break down, if slivered just throw them in), and 1 tbsp raw cocoa powder in a food processor until they come together and can be formed into bite-sized balls. Depending on how moist the dates are I may at one or two more after blitzing the mixture a few times so that the "dough" comes together. You might add more chocolate too if you use a higher number of dates. Pinch off pieces of dough and roll the balls in unsweetened coconut flakes. Use your hands to press the flakes into the truffle so that it is no longer sticky and the flakes don't fall off. You could also roll them in the cacao powder. I like the texture the coconut flakes give it. And besides I put coconut flakes in almost everything.

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