invitations

when the little one was simply a wee one, I felt like I had to follow suit with all that hype of “read all these popular parenting books to learn how to do this”. and it was crazy-making and it was impossible to listen beyond the banter and chatter of what parenting should look like. so, I refused for a long time because in trusting myself, and my child, felt far more important than trusting a book who knew nothing of me beyond my privileged ability to simply purchase it.

but then I read Naomi Aldort’s “Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves” and it made so much sense to view this as a journey for us both, together. so I kept absorbing more, and more again, and  Pam Leo’s “Connection Parenting” spoke my hearts language. the invitation to meet them in this sacred connected space was delicious and so incredibly validating.

soon I dove into anything and everything by Alfie Kohn, Thomas Gordon, Larry Cohen, Gordon Neufield, Gabor Maté, Laura Markham, Jean Liedloff, Genevieve Simperingham and Kim John Payne. with each book I found myself having these epiphany moments, getting to yes! over and over, and finding my ‘parenting-self’ in the words shared.

comfortable. validating. connective and present. mindful and grounded.

then, life shifted. the ground shook, first, ever so slightly but it jarred me enough to take notice. then another shock-wave hit. then another. and another still. and as I held on tight it was all I could do to keep my head above water as the tidal wave overtook so much of our gentle, connected space.

this wasn’t in any of those books! (I checked) where I had such comfort and connection to this positive, attached parenting of the little one, I now felt like I lost my sail and rudder. I was so mad for so long at the universe because I felt like I did the right things and this wasn’t supposed to happen! the tables turned and my questions screamed in my head searching and begging for answers and for solace. what happens when you can’t connect? what about not being able to touch, to hold and nurture, without senses overloading and avoiding? (there is nothing so painful as your child, deep in their own pain, pushing you so far away) what happens when the words fail your little one and you beg for them to come back? I was back to those books being pages with empty words because I thought they didn’t speak my language anymore.

on the days when the floor felt like it simply fell out from underneath me, I used to hold her close to me when she was sleepy and open to touch and dance slowly in the kitchen while singing along with John Mayer’s “Say (What You Need To Say)” on the iThing hoping that in some magical way her words would come. I struggled. I mourned. I cried rivers and oceans of tears. it is the thing you must do – this deep mourning – for the shift in your world is real and it is for a lifetime.

the gravity of this is heavy, and the mourning comes in waves, still, and always when you least expect. 

today, our road is no easier and all the books in the world cannot speak to where we are as a family. but I returned to a few of them recently and re-read them anew and some of the old words connected in a different part of this momma’s journey. our connecting was there … but it was different. growing as a momma hasn’t been an option, it’s been necessary to understand so much so quickly and to be the best advocate and learned therapist to reach her, guide her, and bring her back. today we spend more time in therapist offices and special education meetings and working, working, working on progression in the smallest of increments.

success is measured slowly, deliberately, thoughtfully as the little one guides us on her journey.

invitation 1 - ourtreknorth-wordpress-com

and when I am allowed to enter her space and see life through her lens, I am humbled and grateful and always in awe. this weekend I joined her at her space, at the school in the woods and their newly redesigned playground. so much to see and often introduced to me by the little one with a smile or giggle or an open arm to join in next to her when words fail her. other times the words spill out with precision around the replaying of an exact play scenario in which she found some comfort. and then, she extends her hand, open to receive mine, and bounds us both to the new zip-line and rope-swings. it is here that she shows me why she keeps telling me “no more dresses, momma. can’t do the zip-line with dresses“.

invitation 2 - ourtreknorth-wordpress-com

she glides. she bounces. she moves her body effortlessly and purposefully, inverting her head, allowing her body to feel the push and pull as she moves back and forth. and then, the words came. “momma! look! I bend my head back like C and K taught me!” (her private occupational therapists) she was getting learned sensory input by simply being one with this space. she was self-regulating and self-modulating on her own and I sat there with happy tears streaming down my face.

invitation 3 - ourtreknorth-wordpress-com

it’s what is called carry-over and it is a hard thing to learn and promote because it comes from within. but there she was, in an expansive school playground filled with natural wooden structures and five slides and countless swings and even the “ten-tire bouncer”. and the little one was showing me how she was using it like the gym at her occupational therapists office, doing carry-over from all her countless hours of therapy. there is so much of her that remains a mystery but this I heard loud and clear: this. this is my space where I can be amazing, incredible ME.

so, those books? many of them have been donated to families who need them more than I, but their message of connection and attachment and being present remain. I mindfully stopped reading all those popular (and unpopular) parenting books, as I have learned that our journey is ours alone to travel and experience and continue to be present in. the moments, as long as I allow them to be, are rich and filled with so much that is spoken and unspoken. it is an honor to be her momma and to simply have the great privilege to walk beside her on this life journey.

and the invitation? quietly, ever so quietly, I wait for the next time the little one offers an outstretched hand for mine. for the next time I’m asked to join her zipping on a zip-line or learn how she plays with J and S on the ten-tire bouncer at recess time. knowing I can trust her to continue to show me what she needs is powerful — her voice may not be strong at times, her gaze may never meet mine fully and touch may still be hard … but in all of this, the invitation remains to meet her right where she is. and when that door opens, I will always be there for her. always. 

{this moment}

. . . . . . . . .

from soulemama

a friday ritual. a single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. a simple, special, extraordinary moment. a moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

if you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.

. . . . . . . . . .

this moment - OCT182013 - ourtreknorth-wordpress-com

glad for Octobers

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers”– Anne of Green Gables

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we’re glad too. the colors that surround us this time of the year are spectacular and ever changing – painting a landscape that we get to rediscover daily. we cherish that the apple orchard, trees heavy with crisp, cool fruit, is now five minutes from our rural home and not the day-trip we grew accustomed to in our urban home. the little one is slowly getting this momma to fill porch stairs with all the pumpkins she tells me she desperately needs from our local farm … and this momma thoughtfully, deliberately, allows one at a time to join the growing pumpkin porch-crew. we walk, we explore, we wrap ourselves in warmer clothing, woolen mittens and sturdy shoes to stave off the incoming autumn crispness that surrounds us. we mindfully spend time as family, connecting and cherishing each other, as the seasons shift around us.

in all of this, we’re settling. the little one is finding her space and place in her school in the woods. she is surrounded there by so many who want to see her succeed, to be cherished, to be supported and, above all, allow her to show us all what she’s made of. her afterschool program allows her to explore their farm and certified ‘outdoor classroom’, brings her on weekly field trips to apple pick, weave through corn mazes, go bowling, lend a literal helping hand while the younger set has a bike-a-thon. she is enveloped in community — a community that embraces her for who she is, not what she can’t do, but for the beauty she brings to the collective table.

I am the momma who is often left with happy tears brimming in my eyes watching this generosity of spirit, this amazing community, embrace us all … but especially for the little one who has struggled to find connection with such an inclusive community. 

grateful for octobers - ourtreknorth-wordpress-comtonight is the school’s annual ‘pumpkin stroll’ where each child at the school in the woods gets their own pumpkin to carve. the pumpkins? well, they were grown in the school’s pumpkin patch from seedlings started last year by the children – this full-circle theme is one this school does so well. the children will deliver their pumpkins today and parent volunteers will line the path from the school’s sugar shack through the woods and back down to the fields with the hundreds of carved, lit, pumpkins (the local university students come to light the pumpkins and join us all). we will walk hand in hand tonight, as a family and as a school community, in awe of what we’re all creating. we’ll stop at the fire pit to warm ourselves, body and soul. we’ll listen to the story-tellers, purchase 25-cent bags of popcorn and warm cider, spend time with the families and educators who make this momma grateful, oh-so-grateful, for all they give. this … this is our community now.

we are settling. we are exhaling – slowly, mindfully, deliberately. we are embracing this new world for us and are so aware of our gratitude for the October that surrounds us.

the {welcome} sounds of silence

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years ago, in a movie I watched, there was a reference to one character entering into their “quiet chapter of their lives” and that description always stuck with me. it stuck, likely because as a person who’s continually physically and mentally ‘on the go’, I’ve kind of longed for that chapter to come. and not just quiet in proximity but internally as well. as a girl living in large cities for so long, I viewed them as separate from each other — like you could have one without the other magically.

what I’ve found since our trek north began is that they are so intrinsically intertwined for me. quiet in my surroundings has equaled quiet in my being. my soul has quieted since we’ve moved out of the city and it’s not just been me — the little one also is less jumpy, less seeking for that long sought after ‘thing’, more in tune with the quiet that physically surrounds and embraces us.

every weekday morning I stand at the bus stop and see the little one off with her friend. every weekday morning I get in my car for the half-hour drive to the little seacoast city that I work in. the first week of this I was desperate for something to entertain me, for noise to fill that space it always filled in car rides — I searched and searched (and seriously searched!) for a radio station I could listen to as to fill the void around me. but my car has decided it will only get in two stations, both filled with talking and talking and what they talked about I didn’t care to listen to. then I decided to stream public radio from our old city on my phone and after a couple of trips of listening to folks lament over the current state of whatever we’re lamenting was enough to create more anxiety than I needed. so I turned the external noises off and went with silence.

the first morning, watching the sun come up as I traveled east through farm land and over bridges that span two bays (one little and one great, as their names tell me) I started to slow enough to really enjoy the silence. the ease of it all while I traveled beside fields covered in early morning dew with horses or cows munching away renewed my sense of connection to our new home. the morning the wild turkey’s stopped me in their parade across the road was laughable and wonderful as they gobbled their way along. but I was still itchy in my own skin with this silence … so one morning I made a game of counting and categorizing road kill along my drive.

that was clearly not my most shining moment … 

but time has passed since the newness of it all, the leaves are changing colors telling me that they too are slowing down and the drive has become somewhat rote and comfortable. now I long for the drive in silence to let go of my work-day in the seacoast town as I shift to being ‘just momma’ to the little one. in the mornings I cherish the time to myself to let thoughts wander, allowing minds time to relax and clear, to know that part of being able to enter into the quiet chapter of your life begins slowly, deliberately.renewal - ourtreknorth-wordpress-com

being the rebel I am I still do drive with an open mug of coffee on my way to the office … but when the mug also reminds me of something bigger than me in one simple word, I’m fine with my rebel-like streak.

I’m not sure when I’ll be convinced I’m fully in the quiet chapter of my life but I’m enjoying exploring it and learning to embrace the silence and the peace it brings both of us.

{this moment}

. . . . . . . . .

from soulemama

a friday ritual. a single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. a simple, special, extraordinary moment. a moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

if you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.

. . . . . . . . . .

but this week, once a year, I do add words. for this post is about how we started as a family, when we met in a county hospital and life forever was changed {for the better}

four pounds. sixteen inches. twelve days old.

my girl.

seven years ago I held on tight to this wee one and promised I’d never, ever let go … seven years later I’m still holding on and still in awe that I was chosen to be her momma. not a day goes by that I don’t thank the heavens above for this amazing child.

feliz día de la familia, mi angelita — te amo más que la luna y las estrellas y todos los ángeles que cantan su nombre.

meg and momma day

embracing and acknowledging firsts

:: first toad caught in the backyard who fit so nicely on a momma fingertip

:: first bee sting on a little finger

:: first evening of backyard play with the neighborhood ‘gang’

:: first ‘crazy hair’ caterpillar spotted and, as you do, befriended

:: first encounter with a rafter of wild turkeys stopping us in our tracks, literally

{this momma’s} first day of the new job coming up — so we’re practicing our new normal with …

… first mornings of riding the bus to school!

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in our old city, the little one would long to ride the bus to her city school but never wanted to venture to this uncharted territory. this momma would hear ‘it’s too much, just too much‘. so as a work-at-home momma, we had the undeniable luxury of driving to and from school.

this town is different in countless ways and the little one feels it deep in her bones. riding the bus to your neighborhood school is a neighborhood thing and a place where you can connect with that gang of buddies who backyard hopped in wonderful play just last night.

this morning the little one said ‘I’m excited … and a little nervous’ when waiting at the bus stop at the end of the neighbors driveway, hands wringing a little for good measure. but right beside her was a friend and classmate who already had those “first” feelings when school started a week or so ago and was there to guide the little one. never mind the bus driver that greets each child by name, including the little one who was greeted with a warm “I’m so glad I get to drive you to school!”, making this momma’s heart simply swell.

I can’t wait for more firsts as the year goes by — and certainly as the years go by. but I’m also relishing the normalcy that comes after the firsts — lets call them the seconds and thirds — the ones where the flutters in your belly float away, where you find your footing solid underneath you, where your heart begins to sing and wings spread wide. these are the moments where seeds planted take root, flowers bud, and dreams take flight.

as much as I love experiencing firsts — it’s the seconds and thirds I long for.

finding ourselves

finding normalcy in nature - ourtreknorth-wordpress-com

we’re struggling to find our normalcy in the midst of such change. I’m struggling to keep normalcy for the little one – I’m struggling to keep normalcy for this momma. all of this is new, all of this different, all of this so unknown. new faces, new experiences, new sounds and new rhythms that have a little voice asking “when does it get dark here? it’s a different dark here than before.”

so I bring us back to nature time and again – to see the familiar, to smell and feel and same as we’ve always experienced. and, most importantly, to know that even when all is changing all around us, this is where we ground ourselves. I need to see this, I need to help the little one know that in all the ‘good-different’ she’s experiencing, there’s still so much that remains static. the oak leaves and the acorns, the pine needles and pine cones … and some of my favorite moss to explore and be so wholly accepted by its soft landing.

this momma is also learning to listen to more than words all the time from the little one. learning when to hold close and when to show the little one how big those wings can stretch. nurturing connections with new friends and nurturing the strong connections with friends who have been held so dear for so long. this balance in all of us, especially for the little one, is so hard, so uncharted, often so raw and so vulnerable.

here’s to sunsets and learning about the darkness that’s different, but not for long. here’s to finding, as we did last evening in the sun-setting haze, little toads that fit on a momma’s fingertip for the little one and her friend to investigate. here’s to knowing that tomorrow brings a beautiful sunrise and, with that, the ability to start another day, together, with our faces to the sunshine.

here’s to change and new adventures – and to letting go of some things to gain others.

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first days of first grades

new adventures - ourtreknorth-wordpress-comon the way in, the jitters started and the words didn’t come out easily — and when they did they vacillated between angry and oh-so-scared. I asked the little one what I could do and it was met with loud, big words of “I do NOT know” with tears filling those beautiful brown eyes. this was big, this new adventure — all of it — and today was the starting line and the journey ahead, right then, just looked so big.

so, instead of talking, I hugged. I held hands and walked beside this little one with words that described our time — my self-narration of our journey to school on this new, first day. I talked about how every day we would get to drive by the horses (of which she tells me there are five) and the farm with the alpaca’s (she tells me the brown one is her favorite). I tell her we’ll park every day in the small Town Hall parking lot and walk over, stopping to say a good morning to the police officer and the crossing guard (they welcome us all with large smiles, warm words and envelop us in their safety). the little one never lets my hand go as we navigate down the small stairs, past the bus monitors who all welcome us walkers and start to round the corner to the front of the school.

me and my girlie - ourtreknorth-wordpress-com

and that is where feet become solid with the ground beneath them and the little one decides she can go no further. so this momma pulls her close, arm around shoulder, and asks this “how many people have wished you a ‘good morning’ so far?” (I know she’s been counting, it’s comforting to know the rhythm, to make sense of it all) the little one tells me “three, so far three good-mornings” and I smile. this is where wings  are asked to spread – even when it’s hard to do so. so, I say “three, huh? well, let’s see if we can get five before you get to your classroom with Ms D”.

and the little voice says “but I don’t remember where to go to get to Ms D” and this momma says, as is so often said, “there will always be kind people there to help you find your way”

and so we walk into a school where we’re welcomed by warm teachers and a principal who seeks out the little one, greets her with a smile and shakes her hand. we walk, hand in hand, take a left at the wooden bear, past the library she hopes to sneak into today and turn a corner … to see Ms D at her door, just waiting for this little one with such a warm smile and wide open arms.

here’s to hearing all about her adventures this afternoon, and tomorrow afternoon and the many afternoons beyond. this momma can’t wait to hear of new friends, new skills learned and how she gets to choose to buy (on her own!) chocolate milk every day at lunch (as you do when you’re in first grade!). there will be bumps, there will be tears, there will be laughter and so much joy ahead — but that is the beauty of this journey, which we do together, hand-in-hand.

say hello, wave goodbye

there’s a favorite David Gray song whose tune has been rambling through my head in the past couple days as I fill boxes, make trips to donation centers, unearth long-lost items that become new treasures. a song about closing one door and opening another – it’s how I’m feeling as our little family stands at this starting line and as I help guide a little one who is struggling with what must feel like an enormity to her.

so, this week we slow down and to-do lists get put aside. we get out those long-lost treasures and rediscover them anew.  I sit while I get my ‘hair done’ with a hundred clips and hundreds more giggles. we’ve stopped it all to paint finger-nails and toe-nails, make momma’s special gluten free pumpkin muffins and know how blessed we are when friends swoop in and graciously take your little one so you can manage this all. we marvel at how our home looks when furniture leaves for a new home — leaving us with ample floor space to have visiting Gramma’s join you in play that’s so needed, so connective, so grounding. and then there’s this – this is how the week has unfolded in its truest form …

end of our summer days - ourtreknorth-wordpress-comso while we spend our last full day here at the old house, getting ready for the new house and first days of school, it’s that moment that I’m holding onto. the little one and her always loving, always patient fat-cat and their wonderfully strong bond. a moment of bare floors, of moving boxes and packing tape, of laughter and love — something that has always been in ample supply in this house all these years.

but, in the pit of my stomach is a knot that won’t leave – it’s part excitement and part momma-worry – that the leap we’re taking is a good leap. but it’s a leap that has to be taken – and it’s a leap that’s healing as it is allowing this little family to trust again that schools do ‘do right’ by every child and shouldn’t have to be an uphill battle for quality, no matter what skills you bring to the collective table. today, I’m grounding myself in the opening and closing of chapters and of doors, literal and figurative. saying hello while waving goodbye and always, always keeping our faces to the sunshine. 

on philosophies …

we had a chance to visit the new school earlier this week and I’m not sure who was more excited … and who was more a bundle of nerves and a wee bit of anxiety. school has been hard of late … hard academically, hard socially, hard to just navigate on many levels and this school visit seemed to have brought all those things to the surface for a little one.

walking in we’re greeted by a warm, smiling, jovial man … the school’s principal, he introduces himself to the little one with the warmth of a man who knows first-day jitters all too well. “you must be here to meet Ms D” he announces to me and my clinging one. “take a left at the bear and you’ll find her” are the instructions, along with a genuine “we’re glad you’re both here”.

so far, so good … this school has yet to disappoint in every interaction so I’m waiting for the other foot to drop. yes, I’m the ultimate optimist, a genuine pollyanna, but, sheesh!, who were these amazing people doing all sorts of really good things for the children in their care?!

then, right at the bear where we’re to turn, I see this big, proud display of the school’s philosophy — even hand calligraphed — speaking the words this school believes. and I stop, and I read as I hold the little one’s hand … and I get to the bottom and read this …

school-philosophy - ourtreknorth-wordpress-com

it was this … this is where I stopped and stared for as long as the little one, waiting so patiently, would let her momma.

” … we must continually evaluate and improve techniques for meeting the dynamic needs of our children and ourselves”

I had to hold back tears.

genuine, heart-felt tears that what I’ve been asking for, for so long — to listen to and meet this child where she’s at — is right here. this school may not be perfect and I know there will be spots where we don’t see eye to eye. but I know this, they’re at least willing to listen. and they’re willing to collaborate and connect. and as I sigh, internally and audibly, I can also let so much of my own angst go and start to trust again in people, in connections and collaborations, and not ‘systems’ where the battle is uphill from the word go.

when I look to this little one and see her excitement that this school has a library (a real library that’s the physical center of the school), that her new first-grade teacher is warm and welcoming and so beautifully grounded and in-tune, that she’ll cook this year, and garden in the raised beds every classroom has outside their doors, that recess happens twice a day and she even gets to watch butterflies grow through a life-cycle like she did over here …  I have a feeling that wings will spread this year, butterflies and little ones alike.