Back to YOU

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You had a magnificent Summer. You did all (or almost all) of the super-fun stuff that you promised the kids you’d do. You took trips, you played hard, you went to the splash park and the beach and the fair, you arranged playdates, you hosted sleep-overs, you took them to camp, and you planned everything, you got everyone everywhere, you fed everyone, and you made sure that boredom didn’t crash the 12-week party. Let’s face it, you kicked Summer’s butt.

And maybe Summer kicked your butt a little bit too…

Maybe you were working extra hard to keep everything going according to plan this Summer. Maybe you were feeling stressed out about making sure your kids got everything they needed, went everywhere they needed to go, had as much stimulation as they love-yourselfneeded to have, and still rested as much as they needed and ate as much as they needed and washed as much as they needed, too. Maybe there were things you let slide, things you put on hold, things you shelved just because you were so focused on the thrill of the seasonal ride, keeping it all together, staying in the moment. Maybe you had a flash in your mind of how great it would be when you got back to that project or back to that idea or back to that new habit you were working on. Maybe you even had moments when you wanted a vacation from vacation. Maybe you were counting the days until school started back up and some of your load would be lightened. (It’s ok, I won’t tell on you…)

Nearly all of us conscientious, involved, interested, attentive, supportive, connected parents feel that way sometimes. The End of Summer is a common time for parents to feel worn thin and fraSelf-Love1zzled, simply from putting so much care and attention into what they’re doing for their kids. And when you add in the Back to School crunch and the destabilization and reorganization it causes each year — well, this can be one heck of harrying time for any mom or dad. Even those of us who homeschool aren’t free from the “Summer dizzies” or “shifting back to homeschool schedule upheaval” — we can get stressed out from either or the combination of them just like any other parent.Daisy macro

But after the dust settles just a little… After the focus that has been even more narrowly tuned to them for a period begins to soften… After you catch your breath a moment… You might have the opportunity to turn your gaze to yourself for a second. You might have an inkling, or a brief sensation, or even a strong feeling, or an overwhelming epiphany

eselfloveUnderneath all these things you’ve been doing and are doing and will do, underneath all the love you give and help you offer and empathy you share, underneath all the thankless and Herculean and Sisyphus-ian feats you pull off every single day of every year for the family that you love so dearly — underneath it all, there’s a YOU.

And YOU matter. You matter so much that your whole family could’t be and do what it wants and needs to do without you. You matter so much that your kids couldn’t survive or succeed or live happy lives making the world a better place if you didn’t do what you do. You even matter so much that people like me dedicate our lives to support you. And you do so much for others, for your family, that it matters how well you take care of YOU, too.

Lend Yourself To Others, But Give Yourself To Yourself.Now maybe you aren’t “burned out”. Maybe you aren’t “dying inside”. Maybe you aren’t “suffocating under the weight of it all”. But you deserve the time, energy, focus, (and yes, a little help if you can get it!) to do some things for yourSELF, too; to recharge, and restore, and revitalize; to put some of your big love into projects or ideas or goals that mean something to you, that you value — to feed your core.

You deserve that. And your family deserves you getting it, too. Because when you’re filled up, and/or moving on dreams that are meaningful to you, and/or nurturing who you are and how you want to grow and love and be, and/or just spending time with a deeply empathetic ally who’ll hear you out and help you find your own (perfectly YOU) way — then you’ve got waaaaay more to give than when you’re stifling your dreams, sitting on your goals, or not getting what you need!selflove

So that’s why I’m making you a special offer right now. The timing is right. The need is present. And you deserve it. And out of respect and honour for all that you do, and out of my own personal mission to be of assistance to as many families around the world as I am possibly able — out of the honest hope that I can give something back to the most important people on the planet (that’s YOU mindful parents, incase you’re wondering, you’re world-changers!) — I want to make it easy to give yourself something that is truly life-evolving.

Everyday-Self-Love-ImageWhether you’ve got parenting goals, professional goals, relationship goals, health goals, or projects you want to kick-start, or milestones you want to achieve — we can do it together!

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And for those of you who’ve never worked with a coach before, let me tell you, there’s no better way to get moving on things that mean something to you than to hire someone who’s job it is to support you in doing just that. It’s my actual occupation to help people — parents, professionals, college students — people just like you, to get where they most want to go; and to powerfully support them on their way. I love what I do, primarily, because I’ve seen how profoundly peoples’ lives can change from actively engaging in the process of coaching. We should all have at least one!

I specialize in connection parenting, life transformations, and project success. You can get coaching from me on any one, all, or none of them! I can coach you on anything you want or can imagine; because I don’t have to be an expert in whatever it is in order to help you — my skill lies is in assisting you to find the way(s) that mean the most to you, the ways that resonate resoundingly with who you are, the ways that thrill and fulfill you to the bone, so that you can succeed in doing what you want. You’re the expert — I’m just the best tool for this particular (and very important) job.tumblr_le9kgictkU1qbdhxao1_500_large

So go ahead. Take me up on it. Or buy it for your spouse if s/he could use it more. You and your family are worth it! And there’s never been a better time than right now.

Beginning immediately, until the end of the year, or until my roster is too full (I’ve only got so many hours in a day, too!), I am offering 4 coaching sessions with me via phone or Skype for just $199. That’s less than half of my regular coaching rate, and I can’t always offer such a thing and still stay in business, but I really want you to take this opportunity, and I don’t want anything to hold you back, so I’m doing this to make it as easy as possible for you.

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That’s the offer. I’m making it because YOU matter, and because I want to help you make the difference that you’re making everyday. If you’d like to find out more, or take this whole coaching thing for a little test drive, or just get to know me a little better and ask me a few questions — feel free to contact me via the contact page above; my website; or my email: nmmctague.cpcc@gmail.com. You can set up a complimentary consultation session with me — we’ll talk more about your situation, I’ll let you know how I can help, and we’ll get a feel for whether or not we’d like to work together. Even the consultation alone can be so helpful in clarifying where you’re headed, so don’t hesitate to get in touch with me and arrange it today!

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You do what you do out of such profound love for your family, but you can only do for them as well as you do for yourself in the long run. So be kind to yourself. Empower yourself. Give yourself something wonderful. You’ll not only be brighter and shinier and happier for your children, you’ll also be showing themself_esteem_quotes what it means to be self-nurturing, self-loving, self-assured. They’ll learn more from your taking good care of yourself than from all the words that you could ever say to them about taking good care of themselves…

And besides, YOU’RE WORTH IT.


4 Self-Sessions with me for just $199
. You’ll be so glad you did it. And so will they.

love-self

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Be well.

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P.S. If you know a parent for whom this offer would be ideal, please feel free to pass it along, and/or share it randomly with as many people in as many places as you like! We’re all in this together… ♥

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Friday Family Updates — It’s Fall Y’all!

FFeGreetings Fam-fans! I’m just stopping by with the first installment in the new series I’m calling Friday Family Updates. There’s a fair number of readers here, I know — our parents, family, friends, and followers — who use this blog as a way to keep up with what we’re doing, what life looks like from here, and how we’re pulling off our own version of Connection- and Empathy-Based Parenting. So I’m going to be giving our (quickish) family updates every Friday. Those of you who are less interested in the personal side of this blog may certainly tune these out and/or simply click on the “Parenting Ideas” category in the side bar to the right —–> in order to only see parenting-support-oriented posts. Huzzah!

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So, here’s a sample of what’s been up around these parts as of late:

1) The drawing above is a portrait Echo did of a special being in her life — Stella the giraffe.

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2) Our youngest (sniff, sniff), our little Echo (sniff sniff), got… (sniiiffffff)… MARRIED! And no, not to me and not to one of her sisters, as has happened often around here in years past…  FFaHer mother gave her away, as well as helping with her hair and other preparations. Xi helped Echo get dressed, did her make-up, was the flower girl in the procession, and the ring bearer and witness during the ceremony. Henry was also a witness. And, as is customary in these home marriages of ours (even when I have also been the betrothed…), I was the officiate.

In this case, Echo’s bride and groom was Stella.

FFbThe ceremony was very special. Echo and Stella looked amazing. The bouquet was a glorious testament to our garden this year. And the left-over birthday decorations made for perfect wedding decor as well.

3) Fall brought a close to our wonderful Summer farm share. But not before we got loaded up with the biggest haul of the year. Holy Brussels Sprout, Batman!FFh 4) Although the Autumn has been super-gentle with us so far this year, there have been a couple freezing nights already when we needed to cover the beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, and squashes so that they could live the couple more weeks to finish fruiting. So I got out the blankets and plastic drop-cloths and snuggled-up the various cold-fragile plants that I could. Thus, we’ve only lost a bean plant and two cucumbers to date — that’s pretty impressive for a home garden with no cold frames nor greenhouse in Montana in October, believe me!FFdAnd, yes, that is a new “topknot” hair cut I’m sporting above… Natalie’s handy work.

5) Echo’s been whittling in the warm Autumn slant of sunshine on one of the straw bales we got for tucking-in the garden for Winter. She’s spent hours carving various sticks while simultaneously listening to audio-stories and/or narrating her own pretends.FFc 6) Echo’s also been making paper-roll dolls. This is Dave. His family isn’t, but some of his planned friends’ families are nesting paper-roll dolls. Natalie helps Echo papier-mâché a cardboard paper-roll and after it’s dry, Echo goes to work drawing, coloring, and creating a character. Right now, there’s a crowd of them clumped around a table of Fairy Food in the living room…FFi7) Gus got some work done on his face. What’s that? You can’t tell? Precisely! That’s because Natalie and I did such a professional job that one barely notices the signs of our work. It took weeks! But during the last third of Summer and the beginning of Fall, we stripped, sanded, primed, and repainted the entire porch (trim, columns, ceiling, and floor included!). It looks even better than new. And we already wish we never had to do it again!!
FFg 8) Speaking of art and projects — and painting we’d rather be doing — Natalie has been creating new wonders with Fairy Food the last several weeks, making wall-hanging pieces involving different scenes of characters or objects in relation to different pieces of Fairy Food. I wish I could show you all of them!FFf 9) Other current projects include Nim’s new necklace. It’s one of a collection that Echo is knitting for our rotund, grey boy. In addition to this startlingly vibrant ruby one, he’s been seen wearing an orange, yellow, and white “candy corn” blend as well — just in time for Autumn!FFj And 10) — last but certainly not least — Halloween is just around the spooky… scary… corner… So, our girls (and Natalie included) have been gearing up for the seasonal celebration by getting costumes ready! Xi (with assistance) has been working on her Captain Jack Sparrow costume.FFk And Mom and Echo have been teamed-up working on Echo’s purple, T. Rex-inspired dinosaur costume. Aren’t they both amazing already!!?FFl I can’t wait to see them on Halloween night! We’ll be sure to share pictures… ;)

Well, that’s the haps around here at the moment. Hope you’re all enjoying your transitions into Autumn too!

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Be well.

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The Power of Saying What You Want

dont-do-itIn the Positive Discipline parenting course (in which Natalie and I were trained and certified as instructors last Spring…), there are a slew of different experiential activities  that instructors may share with parents in order to help underscore or increase the impact of various points in the course. This is, in fact, one of the wonderful hallmarks of Positive Discipline courses.  Several of the ones we encountered continue to stand out for me, not the least of which were two quick ones relating to how we talk to our children. I’ve written about the importance of how we speak to our children from a couple of different perspectives in the past, but I’ve been wanting to reiterate and home in on the aspect of positive speech, or what we sometimes call Law of Attraction Speak with Kids; and the PD experientials perfectly exemplify the crux of my thesis today. So, in brief…

The first one simply involves the instructor asking all the parents to stand and do as she asks them to do. Then she requests everyone to make the “ok” sign with one hand, and she demonstrates making a closed circle with her index finger and thumb with the other three fingers sticking up above, and holds it up for the others to see. Everyone complies. Then she says, “Now put the circle (made by finger and thumb) on your chin,” as she actually puts her circle on the tip of her nose. And immediately you can feel the disconnect in the air, as a room full of grown-ups try to instantaneously decipher this sudden mystery. Some struggle against all neurological odds to still… put… the… circle… on the chin. Many assume she must have said the wrong thing and simply comply with what they see her doing, regardless of the specifics of the request. And another sizable group is utterly paralyzed — they’re hoping someone clarifies their confusion before they have to commit to nose or chin, they’re holding “ok” signs bobbing up and down in front of their faces, dedicated to not getting it “wrong”. The instructor laughs and lets everyone off the hook, saying, “See how hard it is to ‘do what I say and not what I do’?”.

The second activity is similar, but an even better example of what I what to discuss today. The instructor lets everyone know that she is going to guide the parents through the next activity and they are simply to do as she requests. Then she begins to instruct them to do certain things with their bodies (standing, moving an arm, turning, siting back down, etc.) exclusively through “don’t” requests. “Don’t remain sitting.” “Don’t keep your left arm by your side.” “Don’t face me.” “Don’t keep standing.” And, of course, relative chaos ensues. No one can figure out exactly what she wants them to do or not do. They bumble around trying to guess what is intended while also trying to avoid what isn’t. Some of them, myself included, struggle with the overwhelming urge to disobey the prohibitions and/or do something other than what seems intended because the instructions don’t guide toward anything specific, they just guide away from the other thing (thus leaving lots of options besides what the instructor intends).

After the activities, the PD instructor always asks the parents, “What did you feel invited to feel or do when…?”. And even though I have long been a proponent of using positive requests (particularly with children), I can easily say that I never had such a clear sense of what it’s like to experience the opposite until going through these activities. Personally, I felt invited to rebel! I immediately wanted to do everything she said not to do. And I didn’t want to do what she was hinting at through her prohibitions. I wasn’t convinced of something new in this case, although I could see the faces of the parents/future instructors next to me who were; but I was, however, firmly convinced of something I had only guessed before. That is, our kids do/will have an easier time doing what we ask of them if a) we aren’t doing/don’t do the opposite, and b) we ask them to do what we want them to do (rather than asking them to stop doing what we don’t want).

Hopefully you can get a sense of what these experiential moments were like, and if not, feel free to experiment with these activities yourself. The truth is, we’re almost all built the same way in terms of how we receive information, what information gets precedence, and how we respond to instruction. Sure, the nuances of what actions we wind up choosing in such situations are a bit more idiosyncratic; we don’t all have as strong of a desire to rebel or do our own thing as, say, I do. But what most of us feel invited to do/feel in such situations is pretty much universal. Prohibition doesn’t feel cooperative, it doesn’t feel encouraging, it doesn’t even feel guiding. Aaaannd almost every human under 4-feet tall feels inspired by the idea of exactly what’s prohibited.

Go ahead — try and disagree!

You’ve seen them — if not in your house then everywhere else in the entire world — parent says, “Don’t play with that!” and the kid immediately tries to go back and get the thing, or begins to wail.

Or parent says, “Don’t go in the street!” and the kid immediately runs into the street, racing around the defensive-line parent.

Or parent says, “Stop shouting!” and the kid immediately goes back to eye-ball-splitting screams.

Or, “Stop throwing that at your sister!” and the kid immediately throws it another time, and more vehemently!

Or the parent says, “Don’t hit…” and the grinning kid immediately smacks the parent in the face again!

Or the parent exclaims from 30-yards away, “You better stop right there! Don’t you run from me!” and squealing with glee, the kid immediately runs off in the opposite direction…

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Even if you rule your roost with an iron claw, you can’t get around this truism of human nature. Even if you have a “zero-tolerance for disobedience” policy set firmly in place, you can’t stop kids from wanting to do exactly what they are told not to do. And in any case, you can’t make it easier for your kids to do what you want them to do by making it harder for them to comply. Period.

There’s a bottom line, here, that I don’t want to step over, though it’s not the bottom line for the moment… That is — kids are designed, by their neural development and their psychological identification with their caregivers to do as we lead them to do. That’s just part of human biology. In the present case, however, this tendency shows up in two seemingly defiant ways.

First, when we tell our kids not to do something they may hear the “not” but what they hear a lot more of is the thing we’re asking them not to do. And like a light switched on inside their heads, suddenly the idea of the thing is put into their thoughts — “RUN FROM ME” shows up on a neon marquee, and “don’t” barely shows up at all. They are driven to be guided by us, far more than they are driven to be dissuaded by us. (Feel free to read that again if necessary…)

Secondly, we have been taught to use negation a hell of a lot. “Don’t do this,” “Don’t do that,” “Quit so-and-so-ing…” “Stop whatever you’re doing…” “Never yadda-yadda again…” — it’s almost all that most of us parents ever hear ourselves saying. We wear out our “No“‘s to the point of making them almost completely invisible. And we wind up shrinking their significance compared to the rest of the sentences they’re in even further. When we keep using negation and prohibition, we both undermine their power, and thwart our kids’ natural proclivity for doing as we lead them to do — a double-whammy that most parents continually have to slog through, simply because they created a disconnect in their kids understanding of parental leadership. Then the parents and kids are stuck in a cycle of prohibition, non-compliance, escalation, discomfort, and disconnect, which then leads to more antagonism and more vehement prohibition(s), escalation(s) and disconnect(s).

The bottom-most-line here is this: if we want our kids to do what we say, then we have to start saying (and doing) what we want them to do; and stop trying to tell them what to do by telling them what not to do. No matter what we want them to do, we want to become practiced at guiding them to do it by asking them to do it! In this manner, we work with our kids’ biology, and with their drive to follow us, and with the human brain’s propensity for processing information before/instead of negation.

It feels a little funny in your mouth at first, and can be a bit of Zen mind trick to make habitual. Our programming, and our culture, work pretty hard to keep us in the illusionary protected state of prohibition. We’re taught to think that the only way to say “No” is with “No”. But we can just as easily, and more successfully say “No” by saying “Yes” to the opposite. It sounds silly, but just try it and see how differently your kids react — or better yet, get someone else to try it on you and see what you’re invited to feel and do!

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Need some help getting started? Here’s a list of common positive requests that we have and/or currently use:

On the Playground:
“Keep yourself safe!”
“Stay friendly!” or “Keep it friendly!” or “How do we keep it friendly?”
“Play gently with the little ones!” or “How do we play when there are little kids nearby/involved?”
“Let’s take turns!” or “Let’s let everyone have a turn!” or “How can make it so everyone has a turn?” or “Let’s let him have a turn now.” or “Can you find someone to share that with/give that to/ let have a turn with it?”
“She was playing with that. Please give it back to her.” or “Was she finished with that?”
“He’s still having a turn; let’s wait/play/go over here.” or “What do you want to do while you’re waiting for a turn?”
“Hey how about throwing the sand in this direction?”
“Let’s go up the stairs and down the slide for now…”
“Let’s stay together…”
“You want to run over there? Ok, I’ll wait for you here. Come back when I call you, ok?”
“Can you listen to her request please.” or “Let’s play in a way that feels good to everyone.”
“He’s not liking that, can you help find another way…?”
“It’s time to go, do we have everything?” and/or “It’s time to go, what do you want to play on the way (to the car or to the next thing…)?”

Around Prohibited Items (with the added caveat that all prohibited items that can be safely explored with parental guidance, should be at least once or twice):
“I’ve helped you check that out already/before, do you want to see it/check it out once more?”
“Let’s leave that here/there please.” or “Let’s find something better for play.”
“It’d be better to find something else to play with. How about this (holding up surrogate item)?”
“Let’s go this way please.” or “Stay with me please.”
“Is it safe to…?” or “Keep yourself safe.” or “Are you feeling safe?” or “What’s the safe way to explore/do this?”
“I’d prefer if we… (anything else).”

With Others:
“Keep me safe!” or “Keep her safe…” or “Are you keeping him safe?”
Instead of “Don’t hit!” — “Let’s pet him very softly… (showing gentle pets).” or “Can you show her how gentle you can be?” or “Gentle touches please.” or “Can you play softly?” or “She doesn’t seem to like that. Can you do something she likes?” or “… Can you find another way to play?”
Instead of “Stop shouting!” — “Can we keep everyone’s ears safe, please!” or “Can you play in a more quiet way, please.” or “Can you find your volume switch? (kids say, “Yeah?”) Ok, now let’s turn them (getting quieter…) waaaaay… down… (whispering) low.”
Instead of “Stop messing with your sister/brother!” — “Hey, I notice that you’re really needing some kind of interaction with her/him. Can you find away of connecting/playing that s/he likes better?” or “Will you ask her how she’d like to be treated right now?” or “C’mere — let me give you some loving for a minute, then maybe you two can find a more fun way to play together…” or “Do you need to wrestle?! I’ll get you!!” or “Hey, you know, I bet she’d like it better if you…”

For General Requests and Corrections:
“Please wait until you’ve finished chewing before you talk.”
“Stay at the table until we’re all finished with dinner, please.”
“Can you please grab that sweatshirt you left on the couch and take it…”
“I’d prefer if you walked/sat/whispered/began ______, please.”
“Let’s all get our shoes and coats on (beginning to model it as you make the request)…”
“Let’s keep everyone safe and pick these toys up from the living room floor.” (Again, with younger ones in particular, model or join in as you make the request; with older kids, asking and co-planning are usually enough.)
“Generally, it works better if you/we…”
“I’d like to see you ________ instead.” or “Let’s _________ instead.”
“Is now a good time for you to… (do that thing we discussed earlier)?”
“How about you/we ________?”
“I’d really like it/love it for you to _______.”
“Would you prefer to _______ or _______?”
“We have to _________ now. Would you like to _______ or _______?” (e.g. — “We have to leave now. Would you prefer to walk or fly?” or “We have to go now. Do you want to wear these boots or these shoes?”
“Oh wow, that doesn’t seem safe. Can you ________ instead?”
“What’s your favorite part of… (the thing/s we have to do)? Do you want to be in charge of that part?” or “Do you want to do that first?”

Obviously, it’s not an exhaustive list, but it’s close! I got worn out trying to think of more, anyway… Feel free to hit me up with your specific ones in the comment section. I’ll give you my best positive spin on any prohibitive requests you currently use. Though, I warn you, I may also suggest that you reconsider your request(s) — that’s fair game in the sport of “Co-Operation” as well. ;)

As I mentioned, it’s a weird head-trip to begin this sort of rewiring of our normal guidance protocol(s), especially if we’re heavily entrenched in regular “‘No’-slinging”. But it can be done! Take it from someone who was raised on a whopping diet of prohibitions and who is, himself, one the most practiced naysayers around; you can change how you request and prohibit things from your children. And when you do, you also get more cooperation for your efforts! Sounds like a win-win to me.

Again, if you want help finding your positive request voice — give me a holler. I’m here to help. <3

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Be well.

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Bats in Montana (The Lost Month part 3)

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Greetings Fam-fans! I know most of us have at least someone headed or already “back to school”, and the seasons are already shifting away from the long languid days of sun and play, but I’m here today to wax photographic once … Continue reading

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The Lost/Last Month (pt 2)

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Ready for a mini photo album? In this and the next post, I am going to be sharing a smattering of the thousand pictures we (and other family members) took during our various epic escapades last month. Today, I’m going to … Continue reading

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The Lost/Last Month (pt 1)

UpcloseI found myself outside in the garden at 9:27pm with the sunlight still clinging to the sky. The hot, dry earth was like crumbly stone and the going was slow. The weeds clung to everything, forming a well-woven chaos. Squatted over the garden bed, I chiseled and yanked and swore.

At one point, I looked up at the house — you know, “Gus” — and there were only a couple of lights on inside; most notable among them was the steely glint of the LED on the phone Natalie uses, illuminating the book she was reading while waiting for Echo (eye-mask-clad and snuggled up in bed next to her) to fall asleep. I didn’t have a kid or kids to usher toward bed. I didn’t have anyone to read to or tuck in or snuggle up. Suddenly, “the Summer” had come and gone. Bella’s 8 weeks zoomed by, and now both she and Xi were off to their other houses. And I was by myself in the yard at twilight.

Upclose3For 8 weeks we’ve been in bliss.  For 8 weeks we’ve been our whole family unit, undivided by time and distance and circumstance. For 8 weeks we just were. And over the last month in particular, the rest of the world faded finally, completely out of focus, and even things as close as the front yard softened into happy blurs. We had more family come and visit. We camped. We played. We celebrated. We rivered. We went to the lake. We went to the mountains. We went to the shore. We went to weddings. We did it all. We had the very best summer of our lives and it was all before August even started!

As a result, almost as soon as Xi got picked up and I dropped Bella off and returned to a thinner, more solemn Gus; almost as soon as the last soft edges of Bella and Xi faded out of sight (but not mind), the rest of the world came careening back into focus in glaring, wanting, necessary detail. I grew a list like a magic beanstalk. And at or near the top of the list was my other baby, our yard… For those of you who don’t know, we have more of a Rocky Mountain English Garden than a lawn.Upclose5 Upclose6 Upclose7 There are nooks and crannies of amazing life out there that I track all summer long each year just to find again in order to nurture them onward. So I ventured outside with my mind on microscope mode in order to fine-tooth-comb through some particular areas and tame back some unruly intruders.

Upclose4Twenty-four hours later, it is 9:27pm, and the sunlight is clinging to the sky and I am hunched over face-to-face with the dirt and the weeds. Out of those 24 hours, I spent 6 of them sleeping, 2 of them eating, and the rest in perforated chunks somewhere in this jungle maze, eye-ball deep in plants.

I watched a fly with something egg-like hanging from it’s back end struggle to take off, as though trying to scrape off the egg-thing, only to discover that the egg was an ant, struggling to hold the fly down. I huffed in mirth and blew the dueling duet into the air where the ant rode the back of the fly like Bellerophon on Pegasus. Then, presumably because of the increased weight (of an ant!), the fly crashed down again, where the ant promptly grabbed hold of the nearest hunk of earth and prevented the fly from leaving the ground once more. Then another tiny gust launched them briefly skyward over the canopy of weeds again, and back down at last, at which point, the ant gave up and stalked dizzily off.

Upclose2Other things I’d been “missing” came into focus as well. My list grew even more, as I worked to trim it back. In between moments when I hunched and toiled and swore, I breathed deep and slow and long. I settled back into a version of myself I hadn’t been wearing much at all lately. I’d been so carried away with being my (much preferred) fully-familial self, that I found all this unused me hanging around all over the place. I kept getting in my way, and tangling myself up, a well-un-woven chaos.

I’ve been doing this co-parenting thing for something like 12 years now. I know what it’s like to be in “full family mode” and then shift back to “work mode” or “single adult mode” or, as it’s been in recent years, “single kid family mode”. And I’ve become good at diving in and getting as much out of my time with my girls as I possibly can. It’s gotten a little more poignant with Bella over the last few years, now that we only see her during Winter break from school and those 8 weeks of Summer. Now when she comes, we really go all out — much in the same vein as it’s always been with Bella’s time, but now on steroids… So in the vacuum of her departure, especially since it coincided with Xi leaving on the same day, I feel unnerved, unsettled, unkempt, stalking dizzily around my to-do list.

Upclose8I’m getting there. Things are continuing to come back into focus. The light isn’t quite so stark, but the clarity is still rich. I went back to Facebook today and had something like 64 notifications… I see things I want to get to. I see people I’m eager to connect with. I even see you — friends, family, and other blog followers — and am typing away at these weeds grown up between us.  I’ve got several new missions — some of which you will no doubt be hearing more about quite soon…! — and I’m ready to take things to a new level.

I’ve been to the mountain, but now, I’m back.
Upclose1

Stay tuned… Next up, I’ll be posting some photos from our recent adventures!

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Be well.

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Aaannd We’re Off…

Summer is officially a full-go around here — both in calendrical terms (Happy Solstice, All!) and in the sense that we are all settling nicely into our favorite seasonal routines.

SKO1We got our Bella back. And our Xi, too, for that matter. Since we returned from our time in Santa Cruz, we’ve only been with Xi for a few overnights (as part of the schedule balancing-act we arranged so that she could come with us for part of the Santa Cruz time and be with us for more of Bella’s Summer time); and we haven’t seen Bella (other than our skype dates) since the Winter holidays. #holycoparentingjugglebatman…

Scenes like these always make me sigh. When all three of our girls are with us, it’s like home is more home; family is more family. Where I am and what I am doing in the universe makes more sense. The world is friendlier, fuller of promise, and made of fresher atoms. And when the days yawn out before us, and we have no concern for how soon Bella has to be back, or how to make the days count double — then there’s no doubt that Summer is on.
SKO3 Another sure sign of Summer in our house is the parade of Grandparents! This year, Grandpop Michael kicked off the celebrations, showing up just a couple days after Bella and Xi. We wasted no time getting him to his favorite spot in Missoula — Big Dipper Ice Cream.SKO8And, in fact, we made sure he got back there at least once, every single day for the week that he was with us. We got split single scoops each time. He got 5 or 6. SKO2Oh yeah, and Bella is 13… See… ^^^

Grandpop, on the other hand, is still only 12…
SKO4Nevertheless, in between delivering his nearly constant supply of jokes, and impromptu wrestling bouts with the girls, he also rebuilt our renter-injured door frame, repaired both our incomplete and ornery gate latches and our sprained garage door, took us to our first roller derby, lavished the girls with clothes, and took us to about a dozen of our favorite local restaurants, among other silly adventures. Our last stop on the way to return Grandpop to the airport — not Big Dipper (as one would do well to expect), but the ranch supply store for some good old fashioned Montana cowboy boots… Now that’s how you finish off a Summer trip to Big Sky Country!

Also as part of our Summer kick-off, we undertook a wonderful science project the last few weeks which culminated over the last few days in the release of 5 new Pink Lady Butterflies into our neighborhood ecosystem. We’ve been researching pollinators a fair amount lately, studying the habits of the several species of bees that we have in our yard and planting bee-friendly flowers for them, and the butterfly project fit perfectly within that subject area. We got this kit, partly pictured below, that came with everything but the caterpillars, which we ordered separately and were sent to us in a little sealed plastic cup with some special food for them. We watched them munch and wriggle and crawl around the cup for about a week until one by one, and almost instantaneously, they affixed themselves to the paper lining on the lid-ceiling of the cup in snug translucent chrysalids. Even after zipping up their transformation (not sleeping) bags, they would occasionally give an odd swaying jiggle, as if they were really 5 tiny Houdinis slipping out of their caterpillar straightjackets while hanging upside-down in burlap sacks. And then, miraculously, each to their own impressive and triumphant musical score, they suddenly emerged unscathed from their daring reinventions. Then after allowing their wings to “harden”, we set them free in our garden and marveled as they hit the wind like skilled flapping hang-gliders and soared over our heads and into their own Summer epics.SKO5And speaking of “our garden”… here’s the flash version of what’s been up out there:
SKO6Currently the peonies have full reign of the yard, but the columbines, irises, poppies, and fruit blossoms (cherry, apple, strawberry, and raspberry) were no less impressive.

Also “out in the garden” we now have 5 teen chicks just settling in to their new digs in the enclosed run and newly remodeled coop. SKO7Natalie, who fashioned the last coop out of an old garden hot-box made of even older windows, took the previous model and stood it up on one end and reoriented everything so that now it’s warmer, has more room for the chickens to roost and has an additional nesting area.  SKO10Instead of a ranch-styled home, these fancy ladies get to live in a high-rise condo.
SKO9This week is a bit of a “lull” between major events, more exciting escapades, and another round of grandparenting — Bella is in theatre camp all day, Xi is having a week with her mom, and Echo is making audio-files of her current game narration(s). And Natalie and I are bobbing and weaving between work projects, gardening, and play. In a word, we’re all gleefully Summering!

I hope you’re all finding your seasonal sweet spots too!

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Be well.

 

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