Tuesday, July 31

the best parenting advice i have to give

When I teach prenatal yoga classes, my students often ask me for advice. While I have no problems telling them that they need a Moby and an Ergo, and that BumGenius 4.0 are absolutely the best cloth diapers, when they ask me about stuff like sleep training, I let out a long sigh. Silas is sleeping through the night now, our bedtimes are very smooth, and he's trending towards sleeping until 6am, which feels luxurious. At 18 months we are in a good place, but I have almost no wisdom to share from our journey here, except for this: it will suck, then it'll get better, and there is very little you can do in between but wait. 

This is not the advice that anyone wants, myself included. Witness the scene in our bedroom last night, after I'd had a very crappy afternoon with the boy: I was detailing to my husband all the ways in which it sucked, in which my life sucked. I looked at him with pleading eyes, asking him "Don't you have any advice for me?" "Nope" he said. "It's a difficult stage right now, and it will get better." While I know he is right, that what he says is true, it's hardly comforting to hear that there isn't one trick or hack that's gonna fix my life. And that's what we want, isn't it? To know we're one simple and genius piece of advice away from having smooth and happy days? Trust me, if that piece of advice was being doled out, no matter the cost, I'd be first in line.

What follows is the sum total of the wisdom I have acquired during my 18 month tenure as a parent. Not only is this the best advice I have to give on parenting, it is the only advice I have to give on parenting. It works for every conceivable conundrum and situation, whether you're weathering out a tantrum or the umpteenth sleepless night. It will not fix any problem at its root, it won't change your circumstances, but it will change you, which really is all that is needed, in almost every case. Are you ready to Pin my life changing life hack?

::  ::  ::

1.Breathe. When I teach yoga classes, I instruct my students to remain present with their breath as a means to prevent injury. When we are disconnected from our breath, we have lost touch with where our bodies are, what they are doing, and whether our effort is sustainable or not.  Holding the breath is a surefire sign of possibly injurious disconnect, whether on the yoga mat or at the changing table. Breathing deeply into our bellies is a way to reassert our mastery over what we are doing in the moment, and why.

2. Lower your standards.* Do you need to do the dishes right now? Is it imperative that you vacuum? Is it absolutely necessary to leave the house right this minute? Will someone die if you drop your agenda for a moment, an hour, half a year? Really? Really?

3. Relax where you are. Practice helps. Exhale, and let your shoulders ease away from your ears. Pause for a moment, look around.  Stop the momentum of your own tantrum. Pick up your tyrannical toddler and give him a kiss. Sing a silly song. Fake it until you mean it. Quit talking to yourself about how you can't stand it for one more minute--say instead, This moment is perfect.

4. Wait it out. There are times when parenting feels like some extended bivouac: you're climbing Everest, and the elements have unleashed their worst.  You've hunkered down partway up the mountain, not knowing whether you'll last the night, but all you can do is hold on for dear life and wait it out. The good news with parenting is that, without fail, the sun will come out, things will change, and you'll live to see another day. The bad news with parenting? There is no summit. So you might as well learn to enjoy the view from where you are.

::  ::  ::

*I did not come up with any of this on my own: "lower your standards & relax as it is" is one of my favorite, most useful mantras, which I got from the inimitable Pema Chodron. And this whole post owes an immense debt of gratitude to Karen Maezen Miller, as do I. It's only the best advice I have to give because it was first given to me.

Sunday, July 29


all I ever ask of a weekend is a cupcake, and to get in the river.

saturday evening, I got both.

it was so, so good.


linking up with amanda

Tuesday, July 24

what is mindfulness, part 3: self-care

In the two previous installments of this series, I wrote about mindfulness as an in-the-moment practice. But for this mama, one essential aspect of mindfulness has more to do with laying the groundwork for long-term balance and happiness than with peace in the present moment. That practice is self-care.

Self-care is a deep, beautiful and multi-faceted subject. In order to function wholly and optimally, we are called to care for ourselves on the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual planes. Fortunately for us mamas, who are usually strapped for time to care for ourselves, many practices, such as yoga, can address many if not all planes at once. But a mama doesn't live by yoga alone. She must also drink her green smoothies, and then brush her teeth.

I do not intent today to tell you why you need to make self-care a priority, as I'm sure you already know. I also will not extol the virtues of sleep and whole, vibrant foods and dancing, because you already know that, too. Indeed, when it comes to caring for ourselves, most of the time, we already know what to do. Our self-care routines tend to lack not because we don't know what to do but because either we lack in commitment, or we're just too worn out to bother. 

Here's where mindfulness steps in, and gently but firmly steers me in the way I should go. Say it's 8:30pm. I am spent from a day with the little one, and making dinner, and all of that. Now he is in bed, and it's my time. Yay! I get to lay on the couch and scroll through blogs or play Drop-7 or watch Gossip Girl (don't judge) because honestly, I'm too tired to get involved in anything else. While any and all of these activities are worthy and have their place, mindfulness will sweetly point out that none of them really contribute to my long-term health and well-being. I will not be a better mama tomorrow for having looked at dining room makeovers, and I won't be so glad in the morning that I've kept up with the shenanigans of Serena and Blair. Here mindfulness nudges me off the couch and into the bedroom, where I will take a shower, maybe even indulge in a homemade body scrub, I will brush AND floss my teeth, and roll out my mat and spent 5, 10, 30 minutes doing yin or restorative yoga.

I wrote before that I often feel too tired to even roll around on the floor. But the energy I need isn't the energy to do restorative or yin yoga: what I need is the energy to get off the couch and choose to do something nourishing for myself. Here's where habit helps. I sit for mediation practice most mornings, if I'm granted the necessary nap, because I have built up the habit over time. It's what I do, so I don't have to think about it, just like I don't have to think about reaching for the coffee when I stumble into the kitchen in the morning. So often, mindfulness is about remembering what we already know, and acting upon that knowledge. It's about making commitments to the practices we know will nourish and support us, and letting those commitments grow into habits that we no longer need to think about, until self-care--whatever that means for us--becomes what we do.

In no particular order, here's a list of my self-care practices:

-deep, mindful breathing & pranayama

-sitting meditation practice

-tending to my body: showering, washing my face, brushing & flossing teeth


-exercising: walking, running, lifting weights

-writing in my journal

-cranking up the music, singing and dancing

-giving myself a break

-saying yes to whole, vibrant foods: smoothies & salads!

This is what self-care looks like for me at this time. Some of these items are aspirational (my dentist would tell you my dental hygiene practice needs sprucing up!), but most of them are well-established. These are the practices I know will take me where I need to go; they are what I forget, remember, and return to over and over again.

Before I go, I want to leave you with a few of my favorite resources for developing, supporting, or augmenting your self-care routines:

I knew I was going to be writing about this topic today, which is why I was extra excited about this very well-timed arrival this weekend: my copy of The Way of the Happy Woman arrived on Saturday, and I've had my nose stuck in it ever since. This, my friends, is an excellent resource for building and expanding a regime of self-care through the cycles and seasons of our lives. I highly, highly recommend that you check it out. This is not a "you're doing it wrong! fox your life" kind of preachy tome; instead, it encourages you to incorporate meditation, yoga, nutrition and other supportive practices into your life in ways that resonate with you, to move slowly, to be kind to yourself. We could all use a bit more of that. Sara Avant Stover has many more wonderful offerings on her website.

I've also recently discovered the work of Lisa Byrne of WellGrounded Life and have found great benefit in it. She is specifically focused on the needs of mothers, which is a great relief. So often I get discouraged reading advice on nutrition, exercise, etc because it doesn't take into account the very real challenges of building those habits around the care of a toddler. (Set my alarm a half-hour earlier? When my alarm wakes up crying at 5am and has no snooze button? Get real.) I feel that Lisa gets me, and knows what I'm dealing with on a daily basis.

Lastly, I would be remiss no to mention the lovely Renee Trudeau, author of The Mother's Guide to Self-Renewal. I have the privilege of knowing Renee a little bit as a yoga student, and let me tell you that this woman is the real deal. I think we mothers owe a lot to her for making self-care such a big part of the conversation these days. Please check her out!

Don't go without leaving a comment on your own self-care practices! Where do you turn for support and nourishment? What are you inspired to make part of your daily routine? Is there a change you know you need to make, but don't know where to start? Do share!

Sunday, July 22


:: welcoming ::

-two new, life-changing books

-fresh cleared spaces

-provisions to sustain us for the week

-beginning to build strength

-a new vision for how things can be

:: releasing ::

-literally, junk from the trunk (of my car, that is)

-liquefying vegetables from the bottom of the crisper

-the way cupcakes used to make me feel (they just don't serve me like they used to, I'm sad to admit)

-a full journal, two months' worth of pages

-old fears of being stuck where I am, how I am

here's to embracing what nourishes you, and releasing what no longer serves. playing along with amanda

Wednesday, July 18

what is mindfulness, part 2: the kitchen sink

This past weekend, I attended an afternoon workshop with one of my yoga mama gurus, the deeply fabulous Jenn Wooten. It was a yin yoga workshop, a practice to which she introduced me over two years ago, and one with which I fell deeply, madly in love. In yin yoga, poses are usually done close to the ground, and held for long periods of time, the better to target and stimulate the deep connective tissue woven around the joints, and the joints themselves. It's a practice in which we play with the edge of our discomfort, lean into sensation, and, as Jenn beautifully put it, learn not to feel stuck even when we are stuck.

In short, it's a perfect primer, and support, for motherhood.

image source :: half pigeon pose

Let me give you an example: you move into pigeon pose (or as it's known in yin yoga, sleeping swan.) You settle in for a hold of about 3 minutes. At first you're sailing along, breathing, remaining present. And somewhere into the second minute, an irritation begins to rise, like an itch that's becoming more and more imperative to scratch, and all of a sudden, you feel this urge to bolt. Get me out of here. In this very moment lies the heart of a yin yoga practice, and all that it has to teach us: how to grow curious about the sensation, find our breath, remain present, re-commit to the moment. On the other side of this high pitch of discomfort lies a deeper sense of ease, of space, of softness. If we learn to stay and abide with the strong sensation, not push it away but lean into it, there is a whole world of peace to be gained.

Or, shall we put it another way? It's 4pm, and you've exhausted the amount of times a reasonable parent will let her toddler watch Thomas & His Friends. You are both tired of each other, and it's either too hot or too wet to go outside. You are trying to work on dinner, and your little ray of sunshine needs your help every 2 minutes to retrieve the truck he insists on driving under the couch. There is no more wine in the fridge. And now little arms are wrapping themselves around your legs, you feel tiny teeth bite down into your thigh, and grubby hands grasp at your pantleg and pull as a chorus of mama! mama! mama! pours out from your child's mouth. Do you feel it? The urge to bolt. Get me out of here. Except that, in motherhood as in yin yoga, we have committed ourselves to stay. There is nowhere to go. What to do?

Lean in. Soften. Breathe. Find the space.

The infinitely wise Karen Maezen Miller says that in order to practice at the kitchen sink, you have to practice at the cushion. If we are to have the resources and resiliency to remain present through the challenging moments of motherhood, we have to hone or practice those skills somewhere--and, for me, both the meditation cushion and the yoga mat are that training ground. And whether I am on the mat, the cushion, or at the kitchen sink, what I am working with is the same: that urge to bolt, to scratch the itch, to reject the present moment. Tibetan Buddhists have a word for it: shenpa, which means "attachment", or "being hooked" or "stuck." This hooked feeling has a familiar, ancient flavor: we've been there a million times before. Something irritates us, displeases us, doesn't line up with what we feel should be happening in the moment, and before we know it--boom, we're hooked.  We're hooked, and we're being reeled into an old story about how unpleasant things are, and there's this irresistible urge to act out in a violent way: to bail, to scream, to lash out. Sound familiar?

What mindfulness practice gives us, whether it's yoga practice, yin or otherwise, or meditation practice, is not a life free from such moments of feeling hooked. (Wouldn't that be nice?) Instead, it teaches us to develop the skills to first recognize when we're being hooked, and then to allow a pause in which to breathe, find space, and soften. That pause is what allows us to remain present with the difficult sensations in the pose, and find the release on the other side. That pause is what allows us to remain present with the cranky toddler, to find enough space in which to breathe, and connect to the inner resource that will turn the moment into a tickle fight instead of a generalized tantrum. 

I wouldn't have a prayer of finding that breath, that pause, at the kitchen sink, if I hadn't developed the ability to do so on the mat. When I first encountered yin yoga, I knew I had found a practice that would profoundly inform and support me when I became a mother. I leaned on the practice all throughout my journey to conception, and through my pregnancy. Since becoming a mother, it has been a constant companion, a resource and a refuge, one for which I am deeply grateful. I drift away from it from time to time, oftentimes being too tired in the evenings to even go lie down on my mat. But it was a wonderful treat to revel in over two hours of guided practice this past weekend, to go back to the source as it were, and to find fresh inspiration. I know I'll reap the benefits of it next time I'm at the kitchen sink, feeling that old familiar itch again.

For much deeper and more eloquent discussions of shenpa, please turn to two wonderful books by the incomparable Pema Chodron: Practicing Peace in Times of War, and Taking the Leap.

Tuesday, July 17


Some days it doesn't matter what I do with it, just a little bit of quiet is a huge blessing.

Monday, July 16

you look great

Something like this usually happens when I visit the yoga studio where I used to teach regularly: I run into one of my seldom-seen teacher friends, and they tell me, "You look great!"

And, usually, I take this to mean that I must look so awful that they tell me I look great just to cheer me up.

What is up with that?

But, wait.

What if they see something I don't?

What if they're right?

Does this happen to you? Do you sometimes fail to believe the good stuff people say about you? And please understand that I'm not writing this post so you'll tell me in the comments that I do look great. Though it's sweet of you to think so.

Sunday, July 15


rain, thunder, and the best lightning show ever
tacos, milkshake and smashed potatoes
afternoon naps and 2.5 hours of yin yoga
playground and art journaling
louie and mad men
it's been a good one

playing along with

Thursday, July 12

what is mindfulness? (part one)

"To pay attention, that is our endless and proper work."  -Mary Oliver

This quote by Mary Oliver became an absolute favorite of mine long before I stumbled upon the teachings of mindfulness and recognized them as my life's true work. A teacher once said to me that we recognize wisdom on the spot because it's what we already know to be true in our own hearts. That's how it feels when I read the writings of my favorite mindfulness teachers--a bone-deep, steady and excited YES.
The name of this blog, mama here now, encapsulates my deep desire to live my days in this spirit of mindfulness. But--what is mindfulness?

"Mindfulness is deliberately paying attention, being fully aware of what is happening both inside yourself--in your body, heart and mind--and outside yourself, in your environment. Mindfulness is awareness without judgment or criticism."   -Jan Chozen Bays, Mindful Eating

That last part in crucial--without judgment or criticism. Mindfulness invites us not only to be aware of the quality and texture of our experience, but to embrace it as if we had chosen it.

"Die to having to have anything be different in this moment; in your mind and in your heart, give yourself permission to allow this moment to be exactly as it is, and allow yourself to be exactly as you are."  -Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever you go, there you are

I'm a lover of quotes, devoted underliner, copier, and re-re-re-reader of passages, and this last one is one I come back to over and over. I recognize mindfulness as my life's work not because I am so good at it, but because I am very, very, very bad at it. Being a SAHM of a 17-month old toddler is the job I've always wanted, and I don't want another. However, it is a hard job, hard in ways I would never had anticipated, and the hallmark of my days is not acceptance but a near-constant rejection of my experience.

When my toddler clings to my pantleg and bites the back of my thigh; when he wiggles and kicks through diaper changes; when it's 100 degrees outside and I'm sweating and he's cranky and he grows rigid as a plank as I try to put him in his car seat; when he won't nap; when he naps through playdates; when he wakes for good at 4am again; when he climbs me like a jungle gym and wants to run his truck over my face; when he whines mamamamamamamama and I don't know what to do to please him; when we are both sick of each other and it's 6pm and my husband texts me that it'll be another 30 minutes before he gets home: my full-body response is to shove back at the moment and want to yell this isn't happening.

But it is. Whether I  want to or not, what is happening is happening. And the choice is mine: I can either resist and push and kick like my son does when he doesn't want to go in the car seat, and in so doing create more tension and cause the unpleasantness to escalate; or I can relax, and go along for the ride, and move on to the next moment. It sounds simple, and really it is. But simple doesn't mean easy--far from it. I forget every single day, several times a day. But not always: there are rare, glorious moments in which I remember to find my breath, to exhale deeply, to let my shoulders melt away from my ears, to smile, to surrender. It's in those sweet moments that I know, in the marrow of my bones, that Mary Oliver was oh-so right: this is, indeed, my "endless and proper work."

Drop by next week for more explorations of how mindfulness can support and assist us in our lives as mothers!

Tuesday, July 10

just write

I have the whole coffeeshop to myself. Bejeweled longhorn skulls adorn the walls. The day outside is gray and drizzly, a rarity here in Texas, making indoors feel even more dim.

I am showing up to write today, because it is my day to do so. A lovely young girl is taking care of my sweet boy, not five minutes down the road, while I revel in what I crave most in these motherhood days: time, alone, at the coffeeshop, with books and coffee. While I drain my dark mocha I refill my cup: I scroll through blogs and fill up on inspiration.

I am feeling a subtle but powerful shift in these days, like the first hook of a strong undertow. Changes are afoot. Old ways of being are about to be cast off, like worn, ill-fitting pieces of clothing belonging to someone I used to be in another life. I am seeking and craving nourishment: not the rush and fizzle of the sweetness I reach for as a balm to soothe the dull ache of discomfort, but a long, lasting goodness like rain drenching down to the parched tree roots deep in Texas summer. The same rain I opened the bedroom door to last night, listening to its drumming on the tin porch roof from where I lay stretched out, root-like, on the yoga mat, opening to what is hurt and broken inside, this listening the first step in beginning to mend.

Rain in summer in the South; being able to be outside, comfortable, in the afternoons; opening doors and windows: small miracles we welcome with open, cupped hands, ready to drink in the goodness. In this season of miracles, maybe I'll reap one more: believing that I can, and will, make a change.

:: playing along with heather at the eo ::

Friday, July 6

peaks & valleys

:: valleys ::

-erratic toddler naps resulting in several missed outings & playdates

-a cranky, teething boy and a overheated, uninspired, confused mama

-forgetting my running shoes, thus rendering a trip to the gym pointless

:: peaks ::

-finding renewed joy and energy on the treadmill and the mat

-an extra day off with the mr. in which to nap, make potato salad, and not do much of anything else

-hot pink yarn in the mail

-happy friday with just-because flowers, sprinkler runs and a cupcake

playing along with Ink + Chai

Location:N Guadalupe St,San Marcos,United States

Thursday, July 5

finding space

The above is my favorite spread from Susannah Conway's book, This I Know, which a marvel and a delight.
"Slow down. Listen in. Create space." A mantra for these drifting days.

I've been slowly coming back to my evening yoga practice. Over many weeks it went dormant: my studio, the only room in our house that doesn't have an A/C unit, is unusable in the summer, and without a regular space to anchor it, I more or less lost my way to my mat. Habits are funny things, aren't they? No matter how well established, the slightest change--like needing a new space--can derail them. But with the general lack of structure of my summer days, in which everything depends on the boy's wake-ups and naps, and these are moving targets at best, I find I need some solid ground upon which to release and unwind. So I've been unrolling my mat right in the middle of the messiness of our bedroom and stretching out, letting go of some of the day's tension. My body is tight, tight, no doubt a result of my trying to hold on to something, anything stable and permanent. I'm uneasy with these days' drifting. I feel my need for order and predictability rising in the face of my shifting schedule, a no-win situation. In those moments I have been giving myself over to the mat at night, some of those tight knots are beginning to loosen. Not unraveling just yet--but finding some space inside the tightness. A little more room for breath. I need all I can get.

Monday, July 2

i went to the gym today

This photo was taken while parked outside the gym as Mr Silas took a 20min power nap and I got caught up on blogs.

I went to the gym this morning. And it was awesome.

It seems that for every awesome trip to the gym, there is one that is mined with small disasters: either we don't ever make it to the gym because the boy naps at times which are incompatible with the gym's childcare hours (8am to 12pm), or my time on the treadmill is interrupted by diaper emergencies, or a baby who is either throwing up or inconsolable. But when it's good--man, it's so good.

Later this month it will be one year since I started going to the gym. I started to go last summer because it's too hot in Central Texas to exercise outside, even first thing in the morning, and never mind while pushing a stroller. Also, since 2 hours a day of childcare is included in the (very reasonable) membership fee, it seemed to make good sense. What better motivation to work out for a new mama than free childcare and the promise of time alone? Over time I found that going to the gym provided much-needed structure to our anchorless stay-at-home days, and gave me a good excuse to get out of the house every day.

I found my rhythm pretty quickly. There is always at least one empty racquetball court at my gym, and so once the boy is settled in the childcare room I duck in there with my mat and do anywhere from 10 to 40 minutes of yoga. Most often it's either a Sadie Nardini routine that I follow off my phone, or I do my own stuff, which is still heavily influenced by her. Then I hit the treadmill. I have started the C25K program over a bunch of times (I love this app.) I find that I don't mind so much where in the process I am, so long as I am doing it. And I certainly have fallen off the wagon many times, not darkening the doors of the gym for weeks at a time. But eventually, I always bring myself back.

Because here is what I found out: I love to run. I don't care how slow I am (read: very slow) or how long my running segments are, or how often I have to walk. I love running because it makes me feel awesome. On the best days it makes me feel strong and beautiful and capable. I love running because it gives me that BRING IT! feeling, like I can handle anything that life has to throw at me, and with a toddler to care for, there is lots of throwing. I love running because no matter how shitty and miserable everything else feels, at least when I get off the treadmill, I know I have spent some time in my day building towards health, happiness, and wellness. And also, when everything feels shitty and miserable, I have found there is nothing quite so cathartic and healing as pounding it out on the treadmill with Madonna and Adele blasting in my ears.

I came across this article this weekend (via Tsh), and while my own kid is nowhere near that articulate in his whininess, I could so, so relate. I run (hm, really, I jog, but it doesn't sound as sexy) because there are so many demands on me that I need that space and time to build up my strength and sanity, to recharge and renew. And also because there is no better way I know to move through the frustrations of a mama's daily life than to run through them. There was also this article earlier this year which also really resonated with me. Karen writes :

I love the idea of exercise being more for your brain and emotion than your body.  It sort of takes all that weird baggage of trying to look like some warped societal ideal of beauty completely off the table, doesn’t it?

I won't lie to you--I have a lot of weight to lose. My yoga practice keeps me reasonably fit, but I'm nowhere near where I need to be. Still, I found that if I focus on working out as a weight-loss-only proposition, I get despondent, and lose motivation and enthusiasm really quickly. The measurable improvements there just happen so slowly, and there is so far to go. But if I focus instead on exercise as a way of improving my mental and emotional health, then BAM, I hit the ball out of the park pretty much every time. Which is super motivating and encouraging and keeps me coming back for more.

So there you have it: I go to the gym, not in order that I may look good, but so that I will feel good. And after today's workout, I feel awesome.

Where do you work out? What keeps you coming back? I'd love to hear from you--even if you haven't been to the gym in ages! I have certainly been in that place. Are you feeling the tug to go back?

Sunday, July 1


saturday was not at all what i planned
after the 4am wake up call with a teething, cranky boy
ravelry, coffee and bob the builder before the sun came up
starbucks parking lot nap with knitting and radiolab
instead of the farmer's market and playground
mama dazed at the birthday party
an afternoon nap for mama instead of a date with the mr.
then a family outing, knitting in the car,
pitas and ice creamat the playground
not bad after all, just different

sunday dawns soft and quiet
promise of rain yet to be fulfilled
a meal plan for the week
getting organized and motivated again
looking forward to a date raincheck this afternoon
maybe some book browsing, maybe some coffee
or reading by the river
for sure knitting in the car and tacos for dinner
and more mad men to cap the weekend off

ps happy Canada Day to my fellow country folk!

let's hear about yours! link up in the comments. playing along with amanda.