This is not a new normal

I want to be super duper clear here: I love my work, am happy I have the ability and privilege to continue my work, and am up for the challenge of doing so in whatever capacity I am able…

But, also…

I recognize the unprecedented nature of these times.

And I feel them.
Our kid feels them.
Our family feels them.
And the students I teach, their families, and my colleagues, feel them.

And yes, I’m fortunate to still have a job. And I know a great many are not.

But I’m not working from home. That’s not what this is.

And my kid isn’t homeschooling or learning virtually, that’s not what this is.

And my students aren’t distance learning, that’s not what this is.

Not as death tolls rise, and our loved ones get sick, and more cancellations and closures make “normal” life a distant memory, and places of worship are closed, and there are blue tape marks to illustrate six feet of distance in store checkout lines, and stores are limiting the number of people who can enter and shop at a time, and there are “plastic shields” between us and cashiers, and city playgrounds are closed, and makeshift hospitals are being constructed in parks and sporting arenas, and we worry about how close is too close when out for a neighborhood walk, and getting to the grocery store in and of itself is a challenge, and you can’t hug your grandparents if they don’t live with you already, and kids are getting zero in-person interactive play time with peers, and people are dying. Young. Old. Rich. Famous. Every-day-Joe. People are dying. People we KNOW are dying.

This is not normal. Life like this, this is not normal.

This is not working from home.
Or homeschooling.
Or distance learning.

This is a pandemic. A global health crisis.

We are living in a time of crisis.

I understand, and appreciate even, that we want to keep things moving, and keep kids learning, and keep life as normal as possible.

Except this, again, this is not normal. Not our normal. And we have to make accommodations for that. For all of our sakes.

  • I am trying to work at home, during a crisis.
  • I am trying to teach my child from home, during a crisis.
  • I remain worried about my loved ones (my husband, my brother, our friends…) who are “essential personnel” going to work, each day, during a crisis.
  • I am worried about my child who has a history of serious respiratory illnesses and thinking about how every moment she is at risk, during a crisis.
  • I am answering that young child’s questions about why this is happening, during a crisis.

Let’s not pretend this is a tiny blip on our radar.

Let’s not pretend this is a new normal.

Let’s not pretend this isn’t scary and confusing and frustrating – for people of all ages.

And if we aren’t pretending, let’s also not pretend that anything other than our mental and physical health – and that of our families and friends and loved ones – matters more than any other single thing in this moment.

Not school.
Not test scores.
Not grades.

The only thing that matters is that we create a sense of belonging, of community, of connectedness, and of love in all places possible.

For those feeling the pressure of “making it all work” – let’s stop that. Let’s collectively acknowledge the rarity of our situation. Let’s lead with love. Let’s stay home. Let’s do what we can, for ourselves, our families, our students, our colleagues, our jobs, and heck – for complete strangers!

And let’s give ourselves some grace here.

We are in a crisis.

We WILL find ourselves on the other side of this. We WILL!! We ARE strong enough.

Again, all of this is not normal. And no, it’s not a “new normal” either. It might change what we appreciate, what we go back to our lives as they were before this crisis, it might change how we act and what we do “after”, but what we are in right now is not normal. It’s just new. And uncertain, unsettling, daunting, and even a little scary.

But it is not our new normal.

We will get back to our version of normal, we will.

But right now, we are in it, this – not-the-new-normal time of crisis. In the very thick of it. So let’s stop beating ourselves up, trying to obtain unrealistic goals, avoid undue self-imposed pressures, fix all the problems…all things which are adding more stress to our plates.

  • Let’s be patient with ourselves, and others.
  • Let’s acknowledge the reality we are in, and find the bright spots.
  • Let’s be realistic about what we can accomplish in a day, and give ourselves some grace.
  • Let’s find ways to support one another and lift one another up, as a way to make connections.

Is this going to be challenging? Yes!

Can we still accomplish it? Also, YES!

With love,
a fellow stressed out human
❤️

Patience, Self-forgiveness, and Do-overs: Parenting and Home-teaching in the time of coronavirus.

I’m going to admit this publicly, right here and right now. If there is any parent out there wondering “is what I’m doing right now OK?” during this remarkably uncertain and certainly unprecedented time, here me now:

I am right there with you, in solidarity, staring in the face of the hot mess that is our lives right now. There are a whole lot of things we need right now. And a great many things we could be doing right now. But first and foremost, patience (with ourselves, each other, our children, and the situation), self-forgiveness (when the day does not go as planned), and the absolute right on any day, at any hour, or minute, to call for a do-over.

We are going to get through this, but some days are just going to be messier than others.

Case in point, let’s take a quick gander at a recent day in our home. This, despite plans, and schedules, and ideas…not all things go as planned at all times. Here’s the schedule of our day today:

  • Breakfast. Nothing fancy. Cheerios.
  • A whole lot more minutes getting her to brush her teeth than we should have spent.
  • 10 minutes of reading some books she had home from Kinder
  • First argument about why she has to wear clothes if we aren’t leaving the house.
  • Turn on TV because I have a conference call with educators around the state to find out what they heck we are doing
  • Turn off TV because “mom guilt” set in and gave her the tablet to work on reading and math programs from school
  • Lunch. Nothing fancy. PBJ. Cut in triangles, which evidently is still an important thing these days.
  • Did the dishes.
  • 20 minutes reading and practicing some sight word reading and writing
  • 5 minutes on some math, which was planning to be longer but she got bored and cried. Not going to fight her when doing academic things because I don’t want her to hate academic things
  • Turn the TV back on because I have a huge professional deadline tomorrow (think final exam sort of deadline) and am not close to done.
  • Make her turn off TV because it’s internet-based and keeps crashing while I’m trying to upload documents and videos.
  • She plays in her room, coloring and singing, for about 45 minutes while I’m uploading videos. Yes, she comes in every five minutes. Yes, what should have taken 10 minutes took 45 minutes.
  • Turn back on the TV (also, I now fully hate My Little Pony) so I can try and get these documents all done and uploaded.
  • At 3:18pm I finally did. Turned TV off, turned my computer off.
  • Spend 30 minutes together doing the Mo Willems Lunchtime Doodles
  • Spend 15 minutes making duplicate doodles from the last two days.
  • Spent 20 minutes watching her make obstacle courses in the living room and hallway I had just cleaned up.
  • Got her in the bathtub.
  • Made dinner. You guessed it. Hubs has duty tonight so, Mac and Cheese it is. But, not her favorite kind, the only kind I could find in the store when I went last week, so she was angry with me the entire time.
  • Played three games of Uno.
  • PJs on.
  • Brushed teeth.
  • Read three books of her choosing.
  • Put kiddo to bed.
  • Pour myself a glass of wine.

We are going to get through this, but some days are just going to be messier than others.

Notice I don’t have times on anything. Like, none of this from 8:30 – 8:45, then 8:45 – 9:03, 9:04 and 30 seconds to 9:52 stuff. Friends, some days we just do what we can. Yes, schedules are great and important. They can and do really help. And I encourage them. In fact, I made one myself tonight that I plan to try and use tomorrow. And you can see below for links to ideas for creating kid-friendly ones with your kiddos.  Most kids do actually thrive with a structure and a schedule, this is not new news. But when you have days like I did today, neck-deep in “meet that big deadline” mode, I had to just acknowledge that wasn’t happening and let it go. You know, sometimes you gotta just roll with it.

Also notice, I am a teacher. I have a crap-ton of experience. Teaching high school. And Middle school. And Special Education. And College. And I am still STRUGGLING on days like today. I’m a trained educator and an educator of educators and yes, there are days like today where I am going to struggle with this “new normal”.  Here’s what I have to say to that: whatever your background, give yourself a break!!  It’s OK. We all will struggle some days during these next several weeks. Reach out for ideas and help (see below for a list of suggestions with links). Reach out for suggestions (great FB group called Learning in the Time of Corona is curating a bunch of ideas). Reach out for your own sanity. But for the love of all that is good, please do NOT put too much pressure on yourself!

click for a copy

Clearly, today was not a great “homeschool” day for us. But, I know I have lots of days to make up for that. And, for some kiddos, this is Spring Break. Or next week would be. Or the following week would be. At this point, it doesn’t matter when on the calendar Spring Break was supposed to be, give yourself some time to put some ideas and strategies and plans into place. Make this week your Spring Break.

Finally, just breathe. Take a minute and take all the pressure off of yourself to be “doing” the right things or homeschooling all of a sudden, becoming the Pinterest Queen or King to keep the kiddos occupied and just BE. Acknowledge where you are, what you have time to accomplish, what you can and cannot take on. What you have to let go of. And, if you are also juggling having to get to and from work and what to do with the kids, that’s a lot on your plate. Like, that’s the whole buffet on your plate right there. The other stuff, don’t worry about it for now. Just be with your kids. Just read with them. Just play with them, introduce a new game, play old favorites. Just doodle and draw. Just tell stories. My bottom line, it’s ok to just BE during this time of uncertainty too.

Some resources that might help in the coming weeks:

The problem bigger than Covid19


When I began this piece, the morning of March 13, 2020, five states across the nation had closed schools due to concerns over Covid19. Just four hours later, that number rose to seven schools and the District of Columbia closing schools to aid in the social distancing that is needed to stop the spread of Covid19 through communities and states in this country. In other states, this has been a district-by-district and community-by-community response.

The school closures have made this virus seem very real to me, my family, and the students and colleagues I work with at our school. However, despite these closings, and the anxiety they are producing beyond the existing concerns, Covid19 is not the greatest threat our nation faces. Instead, I would argue, it’s shedding light, again and hopefully more brightly, on the larger problem our nation faces.

As our nation is currently facing this Covid19 health crisis, and dealing with the uncomfortable decisions and reality that comes with it, I feel it is unconscionable of us to not recognize the deeper and more dangerously insidious virus that is present with us all day every day…

  • Do you realize that over 20 million children in These United States rely on the breakfast, lunch, and sometimes even dinner they receive at school as their only source of meals? 
  • Do you realize that over 1.7 million people in These United States are hourly wage earners who make $7.25 per hour or less?
  • Do you realize that nearly 78 million people in These United States are hourly workers in general?
  • I’m sure you realize that workers here in These United States who have hourly jobs often get paid less and have fewer, if any benefits, than those of us who have salaried positions. 

I’m writing this acknowledging I occupy a place of privilege in These United States that not everyone has. I want to put that out the front and center. I have a salaried job in education and have paid sick leave. I am a military spouse and I and our family have access to healthcare. If the schools shut down, even though my husband will not be able to stay home from his job in The United States Navy, I will be able to be at home with our daughter and not worry about: food on the table, who will care for her, lost wages.

So while there are arguments happening over whether or not to cancel marathons, sporting events, large gatherings (and arguments over what constitutes large), and schools, and while Covid19 and the spread of this virus is a very real problem facing us, I want to call our attention to the larger problem – the reason why so many arguments out there are taking place. 

According to research from The Pew Research Center, The United States has the highest rate of income inequality out of all the G7 nations. Beyond that, while the economy seems to be, at least in some numbers games, doing increasingly well, in Prosperity Now’s January 2020 Scorecard 40% of households in These United States are one paycheck away from poverty.

I get that some are having the argument because they had tickets to that sporting event, or they had planned on going to the theater this weekend, or they have been training for months for that marathon (hey, me too!). 

But the real arguments – the really important arguments – aren’t about those things at all.

But the real arguments – the really important arguments – aren’t about those things at all.

  • They are arguments about the hourly wage earners who, when we cancel those events, lose wages.
  • They are arguments about the hourly wage earners who, when we cancel some areas like school (which we are doing), cannot take time off to be home with their children.
  • They are arguments about the children of hourly wage earners who, now without school and potentially without parents at home, are left scared and hungry and unattended for large portions, if not all, of their day.
  • They are arguments about the hourly wage earners who have no other choice but to take time off to be home with their children and so, with that loss of income, will have even more difficulty than before making ends meet, with food and housing. 
  • They are arguments about the very real income disparities that exist for people in our communities.

Covid19 is a very serious, very real problem for us all, globally and nationally. People are justifiably concerned and appropriately responding with an abundance of caution. And I appreciate the proactive nature with which many of our communities are handling the situation: shutting down events, closing schools, discouraging large gatherings.

But, I think we need to acknowledge that there are larger, more systemic problems that Covid19 virus is bringing up for so many.

As our nation is currently facing this Covid19 health crisis, and dealing with the uncomfortable decisions and realities that comes with them, I feel it is unconscionable of us to not recognize, acknowledge, and act on the deeper and more dangerously insidious virus that is present with us all day every day: the income inequality in These United States that, when a global and national crisis like Covid19 arises, plummets those in our communities who are already at risk into deeper and more desperate times.

Sources cited for this piece:
Schaeffer, Katherine. “6 Facts about Economic Inequality in the U.S.” Pew Research Center, Pew Research Center, 7 Feb. 2020, http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/02/07/6-facts-about-economic-inequality-in-the-u-s/.

Wiedrich, Kasey, and David Newville. “VULNERABILITY IN THE FACE OF ECONOMIC UNCERTAINTY.” Prosperity Now, prosperitynow.org/sites/default/files/resources/2019_Scorecard_Key_Findings.pdf.

Parenting amid morning meltdowns: a PSA courtesy of a six year old


This morning was a mix of easy going and rough — that probably sounds pretty typical to you if you have young children.  One minute all things are going along just hunky-dory, and the next minute, you are in the middle of a catastrophic meltdown, often clueless about the origin.

That’s what our morning was like. We woke up with smiles, and five minutes later, there was a fight about socks. We got over that and went about the morning, more smiles and giggles and no fighting about breakfast. Then, another breakdown, with tears and raised voice (kiddo, not mom) about a half of a croissant I was packing in my lunch.  While the alarm of concern was raised at the first meltdown, now I really knew something was up. 

I got down at her level and here’s how that went:


Me: honey, it seems like you are having a tough morning and having a lot of feelings right now. Do you want to tell me how you are feeling?
Kiddo: No!
Me: Ok, well, do you want to tell me why you don’t want me to have that croissant?
Kiddo: No!
Me: All right, well, I’m right here if you want to tell me about what is making you have tears this morning.
Kiddo: It’s just that sometimes big kids and big people forget how hard kid life is.
Me: Oh, honey, I know. You are right. Sometimes we do forget how hard kid life is. That must be really frustrating for you.
Kiddo: It is because it makes it harder and harder and harder.
Me: I’m sorry that my forgetting how hard kid life can be is making it harder for you. What can I do to help make kid life be a little easier right now?
Kiddo: Can I maybe just have a hug?
Me: Absolutely. Let’s hug.


And we hugged. And then she ran off to put her shoes on. And I sort of stood there amazed, not really sure all of what just happened but realizing this was a moment of breakthrough.

It was also a moment that reminded me that when our kiddos are melting down, freaking out, and crying…those big emotions are coming from someplace BUT they may not be coming from a place they even are aware of or can articulate. That doesn’t make those feelings any less real.  It doesn’t make those feelings any less challenging to get through – for both the parent and the child.

children get frustrated too

Indeed, according to The Child Mind Institute, “tantrums and meltdowns are among the biggest challenges of parenting. They’re hard to understand, hard to prevent, and even harder to respond to effectively when they’re happening.” In the moment, especially when in any sort of time crunch (ahem, like morning-we-have-to-get-out-the-door-now-or-we’ll-be-late situations, remaining calm and not matching the emotional dis-regulation of the child can be especially challenging for parents (speaking from experience, here).

As parents we are reminded often that we are the best examples for our children and most parents have had the experience of realizing that their child is watching – at all times. This is true when they are in these heightened emotional moments as well. When our children are struggling emotionally, they are watching how we are handling and regulating our emotions – they are looking for us to be there for them, but also paying attention to how we are there for them. According to Tamsen Firestone, Editor-and-Chief of PsychAlive, “the child having a temper tantrum or meltdown experiences the entire world as being overwhelmed by the emotions that she is feeling. By showing the child that you are not only not overwhelmed, but not threatened or upset by these emotions, you are offering your child a way out of a state that she perceives as inescapable.”

As I stood there pondering our morning interaction and continuing to put together her school bag for the day, admittedly already running a bit behind schedule, I quickly reflected that this morning could have gone so differently, could have ended with us both in tears, frustrated, and heading off to our day apart angry and upset. By reminding myself to remain calm, by getting down to her level, and by giving her the opportunity to share with me her struggles, without judgment, shame, or frustration, we were instead moving through those hard and emotional moments and leaving our house with smiles. As I zipped up her backpack, she came trouncing back in (still with only one shoe on – #breathe #babysteps) and gave me another big side-hug before skipping back into the living room to finish with her shoes.

I wish I could say that all challenging mornings would end like this. I know they won’t, despite my best intentions — but this one did. So there’s that.

And truth be told friends, I have NO idea what really set her off. But that doesn’t really matter, does it?  All that matters in this instance was that she was struggling and that she felt heard and loved and supported. 

Sources:
Miller, Caroline, and Child Mind Institute. “Why Do Kids Have Tantrums and Meltdowns?” Child Mind Institute, Child Mind Institute, childmind.org/article/why-do-kids-have-tantrums-and-meltdowns/.

April, Elissa, et al. “What to Do About Kid’s Tantrums and Emotional Meltdowns.” PsychAlive, 2 Nov. 2013, http://www.psychalive.org/what-to-do-about-tantrums-and-emotional-meltdowns/.

“Our Deepest Fear…”

I absolutely did NOT want to work out today.

I wanted to hit snooze. I actually didn’t feel like doing much of anything today. I love my job, but it was also one of those days where I did not want to go to work. I was feeling overwhelmed with it all – “all the things” that I had to get done, that were not going to get done even though they are perpetually on my to-do list, the struggle with the kiddo in the morning, the general “ugh” of it all.

I was feeling woefully inadequate in all areas of my life: my family, my physical health, my mental health, my career, my not-happening-novel-writing, my looming deadlines for blog posts and essays, my consulting work…Yeah, today I was just like “nope, not today…”


Yep, even happy, chipper, positive me has mornings likes this.


Today was one of them. 

Day 17 of Whole30. Day whatever of the school year. Yeah, I was just tired. 

But I got up. 

Begrudgingly, but I did. 

And I will admit, I felt better afterwards. Not 100% better. Not immediately. But better. And my day took a little turn when my attitude about my day did. All those feelings, those didn’t just disappear, but I was more reflective about where they were coming from, more able to acknowledge the space I was in.  

“It is our Light, not our Darkness, that most frightens us.” 

Working out does help me feel grounded and centered and gives me energy…and even though I know this, there are mornings like today, especially because honestly I’m just newly back into this routine I love so much (and if I’m being really honest, my routine sucks and is a struggle with this new job and all that, but I’m trying…).

And, more honesty: I’m not anything close to what anyone would call a “prima ballerina” but I felt strong this morning, and even a little graceful in fact. So, there’s that too. 

As I felt better, as was able to reflect on my response to my morning, I realized I was, yet again, putting all the pressures of everyone else on myself. I was leveling unknown expectations about who and what I was supposed to do or accomplish against all the work – the really damn good work, I might add – that I am doing on a daily basis.

And in those moments of reflection and realization, I was reminded of these words that poet Marianne Williamson wrote: 

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. 

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. 

It is our Light, not our Darkness, that most frightens us. 

We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you NOT to be?”

Her words are a great reminder, I think, don’t you?

Look for the little things…they can be BIG.

Can we talk for a minute about these three little things?   Two are literal ‘things’ and one is a symbolic ‘thing’ of something else.

Little thing #1: 

pair of gloves, a wedding ring, topical CBD ointment

I’ll start with the gloves.  I’m training for my very first Century road race.  Ya’ll…that means I’m going to be riding 100 miles in one day.  I’m doing it as my annual Team in Training fundraiser for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (I’ll hit you up later for donations, I promise!).  Well, as a triathlete, I haven’t ridden long distances like this in the past.  And in trying to transition from swim to bike to run quickly (my version of quickly), I also tried to be as minimalist as possible with “gear.” This has meant I have not ridden with gloves on in the past.

Well, let me tell you — my first 50 mile ride, I learned that was a very, very, very bad idea. 

My poor little hands (and they are little) were so tired.  And actually bruised and blistered and peeling on the palm of my hand!

Before my next 50+ mile ride, I went and got this little pair of gloves. Purple because, well…Team in Training colors… and HOLY SMOKES!  World of difference!  My hands felt so amazing – not sore at all!  And, that little tiny flap in the underside of the two middle fingers?  That’s so you can easily slide them off without “insiding them out” (that’s a thing.).  

Game changer, I tell you.  Rookie mistake not to know this, but now that I do…

Little thing #2:  

This is a two-parter…I’ve been cycling, yes, but I have also been back at lifting and strength training as part of my daily workouts. And I’ve been lifting pretty heavy (ahem, proud of myself here…).  But last week my thumb-area and my wrist were really sore during and after a lifting session.  And, my knees were sort of sore too.  I chalked up the hand to sleeping on it wrong coupled with heavy lifting. And the knees to 1) cycling 50+ miles for a couple weeks in a row and 2) needing to pay closer attention to my lifting form and 3) getting old.  

But after a day, both still hurt.  Like a dull pain. Throbbing sort of, not stabbing…but there.  Always. Painful actually. A little massaging of it didn’t help the hand. And the knees were hurting every time I stood or sit down.  #gettingoldsucks Then I remembered I had this little jar of my topical CBD.  I took a pea size – literally, that small – and rubbed it on my knees and on my hand (one pea size for each area).  I SHIT YOU NOT, within 10 minutes there was NO PAIN.  NONE.  It was gone.  I kept bending my thumb to make sure.  And standing up and sitting down just because – really?  But yes, really?  The pain never came back — gone!

I was totally on board with my new favorite CBD oil before for helping with my insomnia and my migraines and my anxiety…but you better believe, I’m all for this topical now too!

Little thing #3

The ring signifies my husband.  Our marriage. And a silly little thing that really wasn’t so silly to me at all.  On my first really long bike ride, just a third of the way in, I was feeling totally defeated – by hills, by heat, by knowing I was going to miss a few training weeks for our upcoming trip…and when you are cycling, you aren’t having a whole lot of conversations so you are really “in your own head” and I was NOT in a good space in my own head.  At a break, I texted my husband and said “There is NO WAY I can ride 100 miles.”

I had just about convinced myself of this. I was missing golf lessons for the kiddo Saturday mornings.  I was tired of getting up early.  This ride was already painful and I wasn’t even close to the 100 mile mark.  I could put this off and train for a different event…and on and on it went.

If he had texted me back “yeah it sucks” or “just do a different race” or anything really…it would have sealed the deal.

Know what he texted back? 

“Yes you can!”

Those three little words brought me to tears on that corner.  I didn’t believe in myself in that moment, but HE believed in me.  He didn’t even realize the POWER of that response.  And I was reminded in that response that words are powerful and that believing in other people is powerful too.  I wasn’t out there riding because I was going to win this race.  I was out there riding because I am dedicated every year to helping find cures for blood cancers.  And because I do things that are hard a lot — I set a goal and I reach it.  He knows this about me. It’s a thing I do. And he knows this is an important part of who I am….and he believes in me.  Even when I have crazy ideas, that seem impossible, that’s what he does: believes in me. And that little “yes you can” also says a lot about our marriage. And how far we’ve come in a short period of time (haven’t been married like eons or anything) and how we’ve gotten there with consistent and constant work. It’s not about all the big, grand gestures – like gifts or trips or whatevers. It IS about the little bits of big work we do each and every day to create a marriage built on love – and believing in one another. 

All this long-ass post is to say: little things friends.  LITTLE things can make a HUGE difference.  

Don’t just walk around your day looking for the “next big thing”.

Walk through your day taking time to stop and appreciate the little things too.  

Much love,

Colleen

A little heart(s) can go a long way

I am your run-of-the-mill Pinterest-Fail mama.

No, really.  

I am.

On my daughter’s first birthday I attempted to make an ombre pink floral three-layer cake that I found on Pinterest.

Somewhere a picture of that disaster exists, but my mother and my sister can attest – it. was. a. failure.

Charlotte 1st birthday
first birthday proof

Not to mention the fact that I made it a chocolate cake to find out a few weeks later – our daughter was ALLERGIC to chocolate (she’s fine, and no longer allergic, thank heavens!).

So, yes, I’m the Pinterest-Fail Queen.

And yet, I keep looking.  And trying.  And keep failing.

But this…this my friends, this has been a Pinterest SUCCESS.

Somewhere on Pinterest I saw this idea to put little hearts on your kiddo’s bedroom door starting February 1st, leading up to Valentine’s Day, listing many reasons why you love your kid(s).

I tucked that idea away as something to try and then promptly forgot about it. Until one day I was in the craft store (clearly I’m a glutton for punishment) and saw some pre-cut paper hearts and was reminded of the Pinterest Valentine’s Challenge (what I’m calling it.)

And so I bought those paper hearts and we did this.  

And in a million years I never would have thought I would have loved my decision as much as I have.

It has made my day every morning and, I think, made hers.

Each morning we read the new reason, reaffirming why we love our child (there are SOOOOO many reasons, of course), and then she takes some blue painters tape (gotta preserve the paint), and decides where to put the heart on her bedroom door. 

Before bed each night or before we head off to school (or both), she points to each heart and I re-read it off (she can’t read yet). Sometimes, she just turns to me and smiles.  Others, like for “you give the best hugs” she rushes over to give me one her famous hugs before returning to the door and pointing at the next heart.

So. Many. Feels.

As far as reminders for why she is loved – why, yes, this is amazing. 

As far as knowing that I’m sending her off on her day filled with affirmations of those reasons – real, concrete reasons why we love her – (like, she’s always kind, or she has a great laugh…you know, cute little things she can hold with her) yes, that is amazing too.

But, as far as slowing our morning or evening down and reconnecting — this has been the best thing ever.  

And it has taken NO time and hardly any money, and zero effort — it’s NOT difficult for me to think of reasons why I am in love, over the moon, beyond happy that this kid is ours —— why would I NOT want to share those reasons with her all the time?

Our kiddo knows we love her.  We say it all the time.

But we don’t always take the time to be specific.  And remind her in every moment that we not only love her because she’s our daughter (which we do, unconditionally), but for reasons she might forget, or reasons it is always great to reinforce:

She is kind.  This is true. She’s one of the sweetest little creatures ever.

She is also brave and creative.  Those aren’t things everyone will always notice – and those are qualities we want her to be proud of, to hold tight to, to grow with.

These little hearts became more than a silly little Pinterest craft. They became a way for us to reinforce with our daughter, not just all the reasons why we love her, but reasons why she should be PROUD of who she is, who she is growing into.

So yes, this this little Pinterest idea from some amazingly creative mom (not me) has won my heart (pun intended).  We don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day in our home – we forgo flowers and chocolate and fancy dinners out –  but I will keep doing this every year until our kiddo moves out on her own, and heck, maybe even after that!

Truthfully, she will NEVER get too old for me to list, for 14 days in February, some very real reminders as to why we love her so much.

*and these heart-shaped pancakes on Valentine’s Day morning were an after-thought, a spur of the moment purchase at Paper Source, and were also a sweetly smashing success! #momwin #winning #illtakewhaticanget