The Journey of Acceptance: A Parent’s Perspective

The Journey of Acceptance: A Parent’s Perspective

Today is International Day of Acceptance.

A day when people all over the world vow publicly to accept and embrace their challenges and support others no matter their abilities. 

As parents, when we think of this day and what that actually means, most of us probably think about asking others to accept our children the way they were born, or accept how they may have to live differently with a disability. Which is all true! But, what I have found is one of the hardest things about acceptance for me personally, is asking for acceptance of this new life from myself

When we are younger, we all have these ideas and dreams of what our life will be like. We may dream of our wedding day or walking down the aisle in our beautiful gown. We dream of our future home and what our life will be according to our plans. 

Then may come kids. Who will they look like? What will they be like?? What sports will they love? Would they be as terrible in math as me? (I’m sorry Ashlynn and Cristiano…I sure hope not!) As a former professional dancer, I have dreamt of the day that I’d get to see my baby girl in lights on stage; to know what it feels like to be loved by an audience….

We impose a lot of dreams and thoughts on our children before they are even here. All of us are guilty of it at some point or another. Then we get a little thrown off and may need to adjust from the “hopeful life” to what our life really looks like. This is not unique to families of people with special needs. This happens in every family. I often have to remind myself we still have much more in common than not!

Life is about learning to embrace the change that enters from day to day; to learn to recalibrate when things go wrong, or not according to our plans. You have to begin again on a new route, with a different focus in mind. 

I get asked a lot, “What is the hardest thing about being a parent of a child with different needs?” My answer is this,  it’s not the doctors visits, the different methods of treatment, the equipment…or even the knowing my daughter will undoubtedly grow up with adversity. It’s not knowing that a wheelchair will be a part of her future, although all of those things are tough for a parent to think about- it’s the recalibration process after these things happen. The “now what?” phase. There is pain, and sadness, and sorrow to work through. There is anger, confusion and desperation all found in that calibration phase, and it hurts…bad. Your heart aches for your children. We have all been there in some way, shape, or form. 

But I have do have good news! That storm doesn’t last forever. 

There is beauty in the acceptance phase. There is calm; there is peace. There is trust that the last event didn’t kill me, so this will be no different. 

You begin to learn to live a life of acceptance and trust that “Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything through the One who makes me who I am.” Such an important thing to learn on this journey, which I will pass on to my daughter. 

Once you get past the hurt and pain, you begin to gain momentum in the act of acceptance. You recalibrate your hopes and thoughts, not so much on the end result like you once had, but in the trust of knowing it will all be ok in the end no matter the result. You get back up and you continue with your race. 

I have said this before and it still remains true today. Every time I get knocked down, I stay there for a minute on my knees. I pause and remember to give thanks to God. I know He will be there every single time helping me back up to my feet for the next round. He is always more patient with me than I am myself.  With each challenge, I get stronger and stronger; my trust becoming greater and greater. 

So, no matter where you are in your acceptance journey, today we celebrate you, your family, and your children. I am proud of this journey, how far we have come and all that has yet to come. I am proud that we have days like today to talk about the many layers of this new life and the many layers of acceptance. I am proud that we are not alone. And you better believe, I will be the proudest mama in the whole room when the day comes that my baby girl is on stage, shining like the beautiful light she is. 

Happy International Day of Acceptance!  You’ve got this mom and dad and you’re doing amazing. Embrace your journey and all that comes with it, and live each day with an understanding that you are not alone.  

Finding Purpose In Every Season

Finding Purpose In Every Season

This was a huge year for us. If I had to pick one word to summarize, it would be CHANGE.  We saw a new diagnosis, the start of preschool, and a change of home (or at least, living in a transitional home).  It was my first year not having my career. We had Ashlynn’s first surgery. There was a new crown; a trip around the world.  Marriage tests. Growing faith… and questioning it too (If I’m going to be honest).

There’s been a whole lot of trying to find our place in this new life.

It was a tough year. One that would be easy to sit back and say, “Well, that sucked!” But, instead I reflect and choose to see the good in all of it.  For every trial, I can show you where the hand of God was present. For every blow, there was a lesson and opportunity for growth. It’s not always easy to see IN the moment, but that’s why I think gratitude journals are such a great idea. They make you stop and think about situations more clearly. So, if you don’t already have one, or you are looking for a “new year, new you” idea… this is a really helpful tool.

This was by far the hardest year yet. In so many ways. But as I sit here and make a list for myself of all that happened this year, I still can sit here and smile.  I know this was a growth year. And anytime there is growth there is pain and discomfort. But there is movement…

No one is a pro at managing change all the time. And when you throw a partner in the mix, how you manage that change can get pretty tricky. Chris and I had a tough year coping and managing our change together. I saw him as being able to continue on with normal activities – his job, his normal routine, his protein powder and gym time… his happy self… meanwhile, nothing remained the same for me- not my job, my home, how I spent my time, my writing … all changed! And super quickly. I went from part time mommy RDH (registered dental hygienists), to full time mommy PT.

At first, all I could see was resentment. Why does he get to come home well dressed, clean and happy and I’ve been bawling my eyes out most of the day in my pajamas that I wore to therapy??

Driving from here to the city, to the burbs, and back again.  Going from waiting room to waiting room. Getting different diagnoses, getting news on Ashlynn’s condition, progress reports, plans for treatment… follow-ups, prescriptions for equipment, all on me.  I felt like the success of Ashlynn solely relied on me and my abilities to get her from point A to Z, making decisions on the spot, oh and let’s not forget the “normal” duties of being a mommy-of-two on top of all of this. The physical part was no problem, but it was the emotional weight of it all that wears on you.

I had to change my thinking and I had to do it fast.

So I started challenging myself to look for God everywhere we went. Each waiting room, each doctor visit, and each nurse or fellow parent I came in contact with …  there He was. I can even remember one time in particular where I saw it in the kindness of a parking lot attendant when I forgot my wallet at home.  My outlook began to lighten up.  I knew I was chosen for this.  I knew I could handle this.  And I knew I was not alone.

Instead of resentment I started to see the plan.

Chris working gave me the opportunity to actually be with my daughter every day so she can get the therapy she needs to excel. Sometimes when God chooses you for certain things it may not be what you are used to, or even what you want to be doing.  In my case, I felt it was emotionally hard on me to watch my daughter struggle from day to day in her therapy sessions. Seeing her cry and work so hard broke my heart at first. But it also made me feel so proud that I could be there to hold her and console her.  To cheer her on and see all her firsts with my own eyes.

This year also brought some amazing things: her first rolls, first minutes of sitting, standing, and taking her first steps!!! I could sit here and talk about all the sad and hard things but why would I when we are seeing these miracles right before our eyes!? The arguments, the tight bank account, the transitional living … all trivial things compared to what God has shown us!!

For everything there is a season (Ecclesiastes 3:1). Seasons of hardships, seasons for growth, seasons of prosperity and joy… The thing about a season is they never last forever.  Just like the weather, there is a time for it to snow, a time for rain, a time for sun… you get the idea.  If we begin to look at our hard times as seasons, we begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel much more clearly. What makes things difficult is when we feel we have been in a drought or a stuck in a season for a really long time. But, I can assure you that just because we don’t see movement in front of our eyes, does not mean change and growth are not happening. God is always working behind the scenes.

God has worked on my heart in ways I never knew were possible. There is always a silver lining and this year I challenge you to CHANGE your thinking when you go through tough times… Look for the good, the lesson, the growth… I promise you it’s there.

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” – 2 Corinthians 4:17-18

Many blessings to you and your family this New Year!!

family confetti

Celebrating World CP Day!

Celebrating World CP Day!

World Cerebral Palsy Day! ashlynn pink shoes

This day is not just to raise awareness, but also to celebrate the lives and achievements of both those living with CP and the amazing people/ organizations that support and love them. The goal of the day is to create a powerful voice for the CP community in order to enhance their influence on the world and act as a catalyst for social changes. world cp day

The other day, I ran to the grocery store because Ashlynn was teething pretty badly and, of course, I was inconveniently out of children’s Tylenol. I walked up to the entrance of the store and there was a young girl and a severely disabled man in a wheelchair out front. They were collecting for a cerebral palsy camp that was actually right down the street from my parents’ home. It’s funny how when you know the battles people have gone through, you look at them much differently. Before Ashlynn’s diagnosis, I may have looked at him with empathetic, maybe even sympathetic eyes and thought “Wow that is so sad. It’s terrible he has to live that way.” I may have even looked the other way, in order not to make him, (or myself – if I’m being honest,) uncomfortable. But now, I look through much different eyes. I see him as a true warrior; a victor. I now know what it takes just to be sitting in that wheelchair; to be putting yourself out there in front of people who may not understand what you’re going through. I see a true fighter.

People fear and shy away from the unknown. Well, in addition to sharing our story, this blog serves as my way of creating a bridge; my olive branch, if you will.  This blog is my way of closing the gap and showing it’s OK to be different. It’s OK to ask questions. It’s OK to say hello. When my husband and I decided to be public about our family’s journey, it was not only to share our testimony, but also to show others who know nothing about disabilities like CP, that you don’t have to be scared, or look the other way.ashlynn and Cristi It’s ok if your child innocently and curiously points at someone using a wheel chair. Instead of “shoo-ing” them away or discouraging this curiosity, I’d like to inspire you to take that opportunity to teach them about differences.  For example:  “Some people just move differently.”  Simple. If we begin to introduce these concepts when they are young, it will just become second nature.

I thought today it would be appropriate to share a few things about what it’s like living with Cerebral Palsy (CP), as a parent and for our daughter Ashlynn Grace.  To understand fully what it’s like, you have to know what CP is. Cerebral Palsy is a brain injury.  It’s not genetic and it does not necessarily mean there are cognitive delays. Every case of CP is very different and that’s because it all depends on the location and extent of the brain injury. Ashlynn’s injury affects the motor areas of her brain. More specifically, her damage is near the occipital lobe of her brain near the optic nerve.  Both her arms and her legs have been affected. She has a generalized increase in tone, which means it’s sometimes hard to get her arms to relax when she tries to move them or when she gets excited. She was born with pretty severe strabismus (crossed eyes) due to the increased tightness of specific eye muscles.  But, ever since she had surgery to correct this, she can see so much better! I can tell because she smiles so much more now at people farther in the distance.  This is just one example of the amazing interventions available to us today to improve the lives of people living with CP.

There are many reasons why babies are born with CP. Some of the reasons have to do with injury due to preterm birth, infection, or brain bleeds.  It’s extremely difficult to pin-point how, when, and where the injury and damage occurred.  Some occur in the womb and others at the time of birth. As a mother, that is a tough thing to think about.  Carrying a healthy baby to term is the mother’s very unique job.  When things don’t go perfectly, there can be immense feelings of guilt to overcome.  For me personally, I still have a hard time letting that part go. We will talk about that more at a different time when I am ready… and besides, today is a celebration day!

Our brain has many neurologic pathways that communicate to our body how we should move.  When those pathways are damaged, you see motor difficulties or delays. The best way to think of this would be to imagine having to use your much weaker, non-dominant hand for everything. As you might imagine, that takes A LOT of thought, concentration, and practice. We knew Ashlynn would most likely receive a CP diagnosis very early on, so we wanted to take full advantage of neural plasticity (this refers to the brain’s ability to “re-wire” itself and adapt).  The amount of work that Ashlynn puts in at this young age will directly affect how she will move later on in life.  Hence, taking her for therapy 5 + days a week, and, hence my new job of “Mommy PT.”
standing all by myslef!There are many “levels” of CP that range from very severe, to mild, to high motor functioning. For some people, you may never even know they are living with CP.  Others have difficulty speaking, moving, eating, and/or taking care of themselves.  It’s really hard to tell where our daughter lies on that spectrum right now, but a good indication will be if we can get her to sit up unassisted, by the time she turns two years old. A lot of times, professionals use that specific milestone to tell if a child living with CP will be a walker or not. I don’t care if I’m 90 years old, I will always believe our daughter will walk. I will never lose that hope for her. I will never stop fighting for her independence and happiness. Not that she needs to walk to be happy, but it’s just that I want her to be able to do anything she chooses to do.  As of now, she’s doing great with sitting up a little bit here and there. She keeps making progress and that’s a beautiful thing.  Keep going, baby girl!!

For us, living with CP has been all about learning and understanding what we are up against at this point. Taking it day by day.  We find the things Ashlynn can do, and work on the things she cannot do as of yet.  We are always pushing forward. It’s really easy to let yourself get stuck in a tough place mentally. You can be flooded with a lot of “what ifs.” One of the main things I have had to come to terms with is asking myself, “What are you so afraid of?”  I’ve actually written out my fears, only to crumble up the paper and release them. Sometimes the things we don’t say out loud hold a lot of power over us. When we speak them, we can release them and eventually move on. My strong faith is a huge part of our journey as well. I know that no matter what – we can do bow No diagnosis, no name, no condition is more powerful than our God. I also know God only gives us things that we can handle. That’s not to say there are days I wish we didn’t have to weather this… or days that I don’t cry because Ashlynn had a really tough day at therapy. My heart aches for her when it’s hard. And trust me, there are a lot of those times. But, I choose to see all the good. All the success and all the happiness. I am hopeful I can pass this perspective down to her because in the big picture of her life, this is not about me or how I feel, it is about her and how she feels

I think every parent can relate when I say the hardest part for me is seeing her struggle. This is something I can’t fix.  It’s something we have to live through. That can bring pain at times. But it also brings so much joy and perspective for which I am eternally grateful. Every little bit of progress is a small victory. My hope for my daughter over everything else physical, is that she is happy. I want to show her to be proud of who she is. I want to highlight the gifts God has given to her. I want her to lack for nothing. I want to celebrate both her, and my son, for how unique and special they are to me and to this world. So from mother –to- mother, or parent -to -parent, I am not much different from you, it’s just that we will have a different kind of perfect and we will take a different path to get there.

ashlynn and cristi 2
Thank you for taking a moment to read my blog for World Cerebral Palsy Day! If you are interested in our whole story, you can click back to my very first entry “A New Journey.” The entries are written chronologically in a series from that point on. Don’t forget to say hello and let me know where you are reading from! Thank you for stopping by today to help us celebrate World CP Day!

One Year & Counting

One Year & Counting
Ashlynn18.jpgLast week, our beautiful Ashlynn turned one year old. I’d ask myself, “where has the time gone?”  But, I know that from the nonstop chaos of this year, it’s just literally flown right by us. We’ve had a wonderful year with Ashlynn and our family. When she was born, we had so many uncertainties. We were told at two weeks old, she may be blind. We were told that her brain damage would be very severe. By the grace of God, neither of those are true. We do struggle from time to time with Ashlynn slowly reaching her milestones. But, the fact that she is reaching them is all that matters. Mommy and Daddy have shed a few tears at some of the more difficult appointments, and equipment sizings but, overall this year has been a huge growth year. We take things day by day and here we are 365 beautiful days later, with a beautiful family.
God is good.
I thought that being a mother of a child with physical disabilities would be a lot more difficult. More painful. Not that it’s easy. It’s absolutely not!! No way!! I also know the road has many more curves ahead…
I thought I would be in constant sadness and heartbreak. Especially when my friends post pictures of their daughters playing soccer, or their first day of dance class, or when I see a little girl jumping and playing with ease. Where I am at in my process, I am able to look past the “comparison game.”  I know for many fellow CP mama bears, they have had to remove themselves from social media or unfollow pages that have anything that reminds them of what their child may not be able to do. I wholeheartedly understand that and maybe that day will come for me too? We are all in such different places in our mommy journey and we are all absolutely learning as we go. I recently said it’s been an honor to be a mother of a child with differences, and I wholeheartedly mean that. I have come in contact with some of the strongest, bravest, inspiring mothers I have ever seen. I learn from them. There is a silent nod from parent to parent when you are part of this different world. It reminds me of the phrase from Avatar… “I see you.”  Meaning I see, and know what you go through and feel from day to day, and you are safe with me.
For some reason, I don’t know if it’s all the praying I have done to calm my anxiety and my fears, but it doesn’t hurt like I thought it would; like it did at first. 
I know there is more for her. I know Ashlynn will find her “sport.” I know Ashlynn will walk in her purpose (Pun absolutely intended). I know Ashlynn, and her testimony will bring so much light.
Picture Day!
I absolutely love family pictures… especially of my children. To me, it’s a snapshot of that exact moment in time. A time we will never get back. When we scheduled Ashlynn’s one-year photo shoot, I knew that we had to be thoughtful about her posing. Ashlynn cannot sit up yet completely unassisted for longer than about 20 seconds. So, unless we wanted a whole lot of blurry falling over photos, (which I have plenty of) I knew I had to get creative.
I began to find alternative ways that we could showcase what she CAN do. Instead of focusing on what she couldn’t. I started looking for beautiful chairs and discrete props to hold her up. We discussed strategic camera placement so we can get Ashlynn’s beautiful face and not focus on the fact that she was being propped up.
The cake smash was also something that would weigh heavily on me. Ashlynn doesn’t have free use of both her arms. She has a tightness to them that sometimes doesn’t allow her to move the way she wants to move. (This is referred to as “tone”). I wasn’t sure that she would be able to reach out and grab a cake and then eat it on her own. About a week before her photographs, I decided I was going to test it out. Much to my surprise, Ashlynn showed me she absolutely can eat cake with the best of them!
For her pictures, I decided that I wanted to have a different take on the cake smash. We decided to use her feet in one of the shots and I think it turned out adorable. Very “Ashlynn.”  And then I decided to use a smaller cupcake because I knew she could grasp that. It was the first time she had a cupcake like that all on her own and you could just see it in her eyes how much she absolutely loved it. Ashlynn47
My favorite shot is of Ashlynn looking at her NICU photo. I have to admit, I borrowed this idea from somebody on Pinterest, but I knew the moment I saw it it was something that I wanted to do. It’s meaningful in so many ways, but I love how Ashlynn studied it. She smiled after a little while and my heart swelled. She showed me that our tough experiences don’t necessarily have to bring tears to our eyes. Although they often do. Sometimes when I’m driving through a quiet road or deep in thought at home when I begin my writing, I can’t help but smile. I reflect on all we have been through – the hard stuff and the good stuff- and I just smile.

I once was told that some of us are called to be “heavy lifters.”  I have no doubt this is my calling and my purpose. Is it easy all the time?? Absolutely not, and if given a chance, would I ask for complete healing?? Absolutely!  I do so every single night. For her.

I am so unbelievably happy with our sweet, joyful Ashlynn as she is.  I remember sitting at our first visit, right after Ashlynn was given her diagnosis, I was asked, “what is your goal for your daughter?” I looked at them and said without hesitation, ” I want her to be happy…” followed by, “I want her to walk.”
I think this whole year has been a lot about finding a different way to achieve our new “normal.” Balance of work and play. Celebrating family and friendship. Giving a nod to the hurt and pain, but focusing on the victories and the growth.
Happy birthday, baby girl!! Thank you for an absolutely amazing year.

Speak Your Truth Even If Your Voice Shakes

Speak Your Truth Even If Your Voice Shakes

First and foremost, I have to apologize for my recent blogging absence! I have not forgotten about you all!! From now on, I will be back on schedule with some great posts that are all ready to go!! To say I got a little overwhelmed with all the recent events going on all at once is a major understatement!

So, let me try to catch you up a little bit with the “Cliff’s Notes” edition.  😉

Ashlynn: Baby girl has met some major milestones! She sat up for the first time, unassisted!! (Mommy cried happy tears for like three days)  AND she rolled over!! Even MORE happy mommy tears!!!

These accomplishments are HUGE and were exactly what we needed for a little bit of an energy boost.  It really gave us something amazing to celebrate and fuel our fire.  Also, thank you so much to the family and friends who have been supporting, encouraging, and praying for our princess. We have a long road ahead of us, but to those who are following our journey, HER victories are YOUR victories!  Deciding to be so public about something traditionally viewed as “private” was a big decision for us.  We are so unbelievably proud of our Ashlynn and we hope that by sharing our story, we can be a part of yours as well.  There is strength in community. We are not afraid to speak our truth and show it is absolutely OK to have a different kind of perfect. I can honestly say we are stronger because of you all.  Also… can you believe we are planning her first birthday party…NEXT MONTH??! WHAT?!

Next up, Cristiano. Well, Chris has gone ahead and introduced him to scary ghost stories (insert blank stare).  Yes. Our three year old is now obsessed with scary YouTube stories.  “Thanks, Daddy!!”  In all seriousness, he’s really turned a corner in the “amazing big brother” department.  This is such a fun age and we’re getting him all set up to start school in September!  cristi mirrorYou know I’ll be a mess when that day comes.  He’s been my little sidekick for the last three years and the time is coming to allow him to move into that next more-independent phase.  More on that later. Also, he will also be starting outdoor fall soccer! YAY! With a name like Cristiano, how could we NOT give soccer a try!?  Aaand we’re also planning his 4th birthday for the end of September!  Time is flying right before our eyes at warp speed!

In addition to our family news, I decided to break out the pageant heels one more time.  A really great opportunity came up out of nowhere and, after talking with my husband and soul sister, I decided to go for it!  Although I partially felt crazy to commit on such short notice!  I usually give myself months to prep for something like this, but this time I had only 5 weeks!  Hey, no better post-baby fitness plan than having to be in a swimsuit in a matter of weeks…on a stage!!  LOL.  It was not easy, but it was absolutely worth it.  I am so honored to have been chosen as Mrs. USA Universe 2018!!  I still have to literally pinch myself.  The last two weeks have been a crazy whirlwind of events… with even more “crazy” coming up in the next few weeks.  To be completely honest, I welcome it all with open arms. Mrs USA Crowning

So, I have been a little busy… but, I wanted to take this opportunity to share a specific experience with you.  Not so much about the pageant, even though that was great, but about something much more miraculous that happened to me that week. Let me explain…

One of the areas of this pageant was a 5-minute forum presentation. You basically have 5 minutes to share who you are, your platform work, and your goals for the year.  Your audience includes the 5 judges and all the other contestants.  Five minutes goes by VERY fast by the way!  So, it’s important to have this presentation down to an exact science.

The minute I decided to participate in this pageant, I immediately sat down and began to plan my presentation. I’m usually really great at these things, but for some reason this was like pulling teeth!  Nothing flowed, nothing felt right. I had been doing work for my kindness platform for the last 4 years and spoke numerous times about it… why was this so hard now??! After wasting two of my 5 weeks on trying to make it work, I began to reflect and realized what was going on.  As my life had drastically changed in the last year, so had my outlook and my heart.  My “platform” was evolving.  What I had devoted the last 4 years of my life to was no longer my “whole” truth… I was leaving a huge part out.

If I wanted to be successful, l I HAD to speak from my heart.  I had to be transparent.  And, that meant talking about what we had experienced with Ashlynn.  From that realization, I knew what this all meant and why I was brought to this opportunity in the first place.  I had been praying for quite some time – for direction – for God to show me what my purpose was in everything that had been taking place in our lives.  I had been praying for the path that I was supposed to take.  It was finally all clear to me, and I knew what I had to do.  And let me tell you, I fought it for weeks. Why?  Because I knew it would hurt… and I was absolutely right.

Here I was, given an opportunity for major personal growth and maybe some healing.  Sure, I had written about our journey in my blogs before, but I had yet to speak about any of this formally… out loud… to the public… let alone to a room filled with strangers for a judged score?!  Was I nuts??!  I began to see this wasn’t so much about winning a pageant as it was about me learning how to speak my truth. After all, if God was going to use me in some way, I had to get comfortable talking about the things that make me uncomfortable.  More so, I had to trust the path He was leading me on.

I sincerely believe speaking your truth comes from listening to your heart and your God-given intuition. As my good friend Suzy Bootz would say, “Listen to your God Whispers.”  Everyone can hear that little voice, but it requires focus.  If we allow self-imposed limitations or fears about what others may think to cloud our hearts/ minds, that voice can be muffled.  God has a unique plan and purpose for each of us.  He has placed words on our hearts and wants us to use OUR voice to share our unique message and make a positive impact on the world.  But, this requires leaving behind the urge to seek the approval of others.  It’s about stepping over those lies we are told, by others AND ourselves. “You’re not good enough for this.” “Who does she think she is?” “You shouldn’t be talking about stuff like that.”

People who are light bringers, earth shakers, world changers don’t stop to think “Hmmm I wonder if they will like me and my message?”   Why? Because it is their real truth.  And the truth does in fact set you free.  I can whole heartedly say there is nothing more empowering than speaking from your heart. It’s not easy that’s for sure.  I practiced for DAYS saying one sentence for my interview, “My name is Nicole Zwiercan and I am proudly the parent of a child with different needs…”  Sometimes I would break down and cry, other times, I sounded like a robot…   My point is, speaking your truth takes practice.  And it takes time to accept our truth and be vulnerable.  I still sometimes trip on the sentence “My daughter has Cerebral Palsy.” I actually just did last week in an interview I gave, but I think that is to be expected so early on in our journey.  Who knows, maybe that never goes away… but, I do know one thing- the more I say it, the more proud I am… Of my daughter, of my family.  We are fighters.  SHE is a fighter- and speaking our truth will help so many others that are just like us.

So I guess I should tell you how my presentation actually went. I wish I could tell you I nailed it, but that’s not exactly the case. I didn’t get more than two sentences in before my voice began to shake and my eyes began to water. I started to lose it a couple times…but, I tell you what, I wasn’t the only one.  I didn’t give the homerun performance that I had envisioned, but I did for the first time, speak my new truth.  And it felt great.  I sat back down after it was all done with the biggest sense of relief I’ve felt in a very long time.  I knew this was just the beginning to fulfilling my purpose.  I know my voice will get stronger and stronger the more I speak, and as I get closer and closer to what I am called to do.  It’s all a process and often taking that first step is the hardest part.

If you haven’t already, I want to encourage you to try it.  Try speaking from your heart about your truth. I’m not saying you need to sign up for a pageant or even be public with it, but more so, begin exploring your deeper purpose- what’s YOUR story, what’s on your heart?

I leave you with this to think about… If you had to give a 5- minute presentation about who you are, your passions, and what you want to accomplish for your future – what would you say? Go ahead… I can wait!

Then ask yourself, is this your whole truth?

The Great Balancing Act

The Great Balancing Act act – an action or activity that requires a delicate balance between different situations or requirements.

When it comes to having time to do things, I always feel like the grass is greener.
Sometimes, I’ll see other moms and for example, I’ll think to myself: “Wow! She has three kids, two dogs, looks great, they all look clean, and she’s happy!  How does she do that??!” I’ve even been asked, “Where do you find the time to get all of that done??” Truth of the matter, there are a lot of things that I never get to. I have learned to create a balance that works, (on occasion) with me and my family. I say “on occasion” because I don’t necessarily have it down to a science, but I can say we still manage to find time to enjoy the things that make us happy and keep us ticking! I hope my suggestions will help you get it all, (mostly) done and keep you smiling at the same time!

I have been both a full-time, working mom, and a full-time stay -at -home mom and I can assure you neither is easier than the other. Both have their major challenges. Well, maybe the fact that you don’t have to watch Kipper the Dog on repeat when you go into work might make things a tad bit easier 🙂 But either way, if you let it, it’s extremely easy to get overwhelmed by the fact that you feel like you don’t have enough time. Time to spend with your children, time to clean the house, time to keep up with the laundry, time to even go get your nails done or do something nice for yourself. And of course, the time to work out.

It’s a balancing act. Some of you have perfected this technique better than others. Some of you realize that you need some help!  By the way, if anyone wants to be a live -in nanny for me – for free- please let me know! But, nonetheless it absolutely can be done. It does take some effort, of course, but there are ways that you can get back to you in such a busy chaotic “Mom world.” It comes along with the idea being kind to yourself. Giving yourself a much needed mom-break… For everyone’s sanity!

The first thing that is absolutely crucial in getting it all happily done is planning ahead. I actually stay up late at night, when it’s actually quiet, and plan out my whole week; sometimes even a whole month. I completely understand things come up at the last minute and I think that’s where flexability comes in.

 Don’t forget about you! If I’m going to be completely honest with you, it’s those times that I’m able to do small things for myself that I feel most energetic, most happy, and most content. So why not work those things into your schedule? Don’t you deserve a minute or two? But you also have to know your limits. Sometimes you have to say no to things. Which is something I’ve still been working on! I’m one of those types of people that says “Yes, I’ll be there!   Sure, I’ll come!” And then think to myself, “Oh wait, I have three things going on that day. And I still don’t have a babysitter!”

Life has never been more complex than it is now for my family. Ever since we came home from the NICU, we have been busy nonstop. Ashlynn is in physical therapy 4 to 5 days a week, Cristiano is not yet in school. And, sometimes I like to work still! Talk about planning ahead. That list doesn’t even include extracurricular activities, volunteer time, spending time with friends or family, or even a few minutes for alone time to do something I enjoy. (Yes, you’re allowed to do that!)

As mothers, it’s very important that we take care of ourselves both mentally and physically. I can speak from experience when I say there are days when I put myself absolutely last so my kids look adorable, clean, and cute.  I’ll have on a sweatshirt and jeans that I’ve probably been wearing for two days straight. But I can’t stress to you how important I feel it is to get dressed up and show up. Now I don’t mean full face of make up and lashes … clean clothes will do just fine! 😂 As frequently as possible, I wake up before the kids do to wash my face, brush my teeth. put on clean clothes, and get ready for my day. It’s as much a part mental preparation as it is physical preparation. The days I feel sluggish, the days I feel like not doing anything, are the days that I don’t get up with the mind set “I’m ready to go.” Please remember you are also allowed to have lazy days!

In finding a happy balance in your life, there is no right or wrong.  Create a situation that works for you and your family. It’s always great to get advice on what works for others, but, at the end of the day it has to work for you!  What makes YOU happy? What keeps YOUR family running smoothly? I am guilty of this, but I think as moms we listen to those that offer their opinions when no one asks them. Block out that noise. Who cares if your priorities are different from the Jonses? Who cares if your kids aren’t on a tight schedule, or ate a cupcake after 7pm. You’re not a bad mom. And if you get judged for that, then shame on them. Moms that don’t support other moms have so much to learn still. It’s a reflection on them and their current state of mind. (Which can always change btw!)And if you do have your kids moving like clockwork- it’s good you found something that works! Point is – DO YOU!

When I was a first-time mom, things like that bothered me…  this second time around, I honestly could care less what time things happen. As long as I can keep my scheduling perspective, my sanity, and my husband and kids happy, I feel like I had a successful day!

Speaking of priorities. What are your priorities? Make a list of your priorities and make sure those things come first. For me, my husband and kids always come first; everything else follows. I always like to make sure that I have some time to do my writing, or volunteer work. Maybe do dinner with a friend, or work out. Why? Because they make ME happy!! I am a true believer that a happy mommy creates a happy home.

Another helpful suggestion? Pick your tribe wisely. There is absolutely no time in your busy to-do list for mama drama! I have found a group of moms that are extremely supportive of each other. momsWe all do things differently, but support each other in the things we choose to do with our lives and our families. I have one friend who is an actress and brings her daughter to her rehearsals and plays. How fun is that!? I have one friend who is a full-time working mom boss and manages her 3 kids, under the age of 3 beautifully! I have another Mom who prides herself in taking her child somewhere new every single Saturday. I love that!  Another one is a pastor of a church and has 3 kids as well! As you can see, we are all completely different. Diversity is a beautiful thing for me.  Each of them bring something completely new to my life and my perspective. I am so unbelievably thankful for them and their condition-less support.

My last piece of advice, which I feel is most important – Focus on the positive!! This idea has never been more important to me personally than it has been this year. We’ve had some pretty tough stuff thrown our way and I have to say, my husband and I have remained, for the most part, on the up. We have so much to be thankful for…And those are the things we choose to focus on.
In the beginning of our tough stuff, as silly as this sounds, I actually made a list for myself. When I found myself creeping to “the Darkside” I would pull out this list of 10 things that were positive in my life and immediately after reading that list, I felt better. It may sound silly to some of you, but I can honestly tell you it really has worked!

So maybe you’re seeing a theme here: you have to “DO YOU!” You have to find things that make YOU happy and able to function in a positive state of mind. No one should ever tell you how to “Mom.” What they should be telling you is how to find your happy so you can be the best you possible.