The Gift of Being Present

Mom and Baby Polar Bear Playing at the Columbus Zoo

Hi Readers,

These days I don’t have as much time to blog, as I’m a full-time mama plus writer/illustrator.  But I haven’t forgotten you or your loyalty to this blog. So today I have a special treat. A special gift for you. It’s the gift of being present.

And it’s really all I have to give right now, even to myself. And especially to my daughter. Every day is different, with unexpected challenges and rewards. I’m constantly on my toes. Every moment has become precious. I’ve learned to do things in bite-size increments. In some ways, I feel like I’m living fast and furious. As in, how much can I get done while she’s napping? Do I clean bottles or fit in 30 minutes of writing or go take a nap? I’m sure many of you out there can relate, whether you have kids or not, but especially if you do. And certainly if you’re a first-timer, like me.

But how do we get through it?  And do we even want to? Or should we slow down and savor each moment? After all, everything changes so fast, especially when it comes to small children. So you learn to live by moments. The first time they sit up by themselves. Their joy at eating blueberries for the first time. When they finally call you “mama,” even if they don’t quite understand what it means yet, especially to you.

Schedules go out the window and plans change, sometimes by the hour. Just as you were about to go out for a walk, a dirty diaper sidetracks you. And then laundry. And then bottle washing. And then a nap. Maybe for the both of you 😉 But what a welcome thing a nap can be. And maybe just the thing you really needed. You both wake up refreshed and happy to see each other again.

This is what being present is all about. Open to whatever comes your way. Noticing the small things, that seem so insignificant. The tiny miracles that sometimes go unseen in day-to-day life.

Another upside is you don’t have as much time to focus on the past or future, which alleviates some anxiety. Past mistakes become learning opportunities and you move on. Fewer plans are made, but they’re quickly replaced by the joy of spontaneity. Small adventures. The first flower of spring. A vegan blueberry scone. Your daughter delighting in a bluejay soaring through the air. And maybe the mountain of dishes will get done. Maybe they won’t. And that’s okay. Cuddling trumps all!

I’ve definitely learned to be more efficient, but is that always better? Sometimes you have to embrace being before doing. And because some things just can’t wait, you prioritize what really matters. Like playing pat-a-cake just to see that smile that lights up the whole world.

And at night, rocking my baby to sleep becomes just as relaxing for me as I watch her eyes flutter shut and send her to dreamland. Watching her sleep is what being present in the moment is all about. After all, she won’t stay this tiny forever. I carry her everywhere now, but soon she’ll carry herself through the world. I’m not ready to think about that 😉

Baby Giraffe Standing On Its Own at the Columbus Zoo

I’d like to leave you all with a mantra I learned in my baby yoga class.

“Be present, not perfect.”

Enjoy the gift of moments! And if you have any special ones, please share 🙂

 

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Making Art with Kids: Mashups!

I visited my nieces and nephew over Thanksgiving, a real treat since I don’t get to see them very often.  Usually I read them a bedtime story over Skype once a week.  So when I visited, I asked them to tell me stories.  And boy did they!  A fractured fairytale about Rapunzel and a story about a fearless princess kicking a three-headed dragon kept me on the edge of my seat.

Then on our last day together, we decided to make art.  A few weeks ago on Skype, I was talking to them about a stuffed animal I had as a kid called a Wuzzle.  Does anyone remember those?  They were basically hybrids of two different animals, like a bear with butterfly wings.  So that got us thinking.  What if these animals really existed?  What would they look like?  Only one way to find out!  Time to draw.  Here is what we created.

Frog Owl and Owl Frog with a little “help” from my nearly 2-year-old niece Charlotte 🙂

Lion Dragon breathing fire created by my 6-year-old nephew Joey

Monkey Horse created by my 8-year-old niece Allie

Devil Mummy created by Joey

Then we decided, why limit ourselves to animals?  What else can we mash up?  How about fruits?  Don’t mind if we do!  Sounds tasty 😉

Fruit Mashups

*See the fruit Joey created pictured above in his Lion Dragon picture.

Orange Apple created by Allie

Then Allie decided to get all serious and artsy by creating a very sophisticated bowl of fruit complete with shadow.  Why?  Because she’s a seriously talented artist 🙂  They both are!  I’m just honored I got to spend an afternoon creating with them.  What will they think of next?????

Bowl of Fruit created by Allie

That’s all from the mashup gallery for now.  But just for fun, try creating some of your own.  If you need help, just ask a kid.  They’ll get you started 🙂