MESSY Toolbox: You are a Mental, Emotional & Spiritual Superhero

Sassy Tribe,

I want to discuss toolboxes with you! What is a toolbox? Is it a place where you keep your personal resources. A toolbox should be your go to place anytime you have a problem. The place that helps you make a plan and move forward.

We have been discussing toolboxes a lot around here. Part of the reason this sassy mama has been so quiet is because elementary school started and boy was the transition rough this year. I would love to tell you that we have handled everything with grace, calmness and ease … but I cannot.

What I can say is that mindfulness has been an amazing tool for us. It has allowed us to see how we are handling things as individuals and discuss that. The children have come up with some amazing thoughts on how they could have handled things differently and sometimes insight into how another family member could have done better.

Also, as parents it has been an amazing tool. We have been able to honestly look at some of the times that were handled without grace to flat out badly and say “we do not want to be that type of parent”, without judgement. The lack of judgement has been really helpful in mental and emotional clarity; let’s face it parental guilt sucks.

During a time of high frustration, my partner pulled out a wonderful phrase. He asked our daughter “what tools are you using for this problem?” I then sat back and watched him have a conversation about tools and our job was to help her learn about tools and build her toolbox.

This was a huge turning point in the mindset and how all of us had been approaching this school year. We were all mindful that there were struggles but the variety of approaches wasn’t working well. However, once we began to focus on the tools in our individual toolboxes things fell into place.

This led to our MESSY toolbox:

Mental
Emotional
Spiritual
Superhero
You


Inside our MESSY toolbox we have tools to help on the Mental, Emotional and spiritual level to make you the superhero that you are. Mindfulness is a primary tool that I have in our toolboxes. We use this to be aware of the moment, situation and our feelings and attitude about this. Once we have that mindfulness, our awareness is greater. With greater awareness we can judge what tool or tools to begin with.

What happens when awareness isn’t enough? Trust. Trust yourself. Use the tool of meditation and journalling to listen to your inner wisdom. Not the ego voice, which is often louder and validating our fears. The voice that is calm, reassuring, clear and honest. The one that feels right to your gut.

Once we have that guidepost in place, we can begin to navigate our way through the situation at hand with tools in our toolbox. You may think that you don’t have tools, but rest assured that you do.

If we are fortunate, we all begin with a base education that tells us how to read, perform basic math, and research information. These basic skills propel us forward in life and we build on them through work and play.

Community, family, tribe all of this builds another skill set that we put in our toolbox. It is how we relate to people. Communication, trust, relationships, relying on others, working and cooperation to name a few.

Experience. The good, bad and ugly are stored here. This is where we have pain and pleasure. A spot where warning, instinct and experience marry and color our actions and reactions.

Wisdom. The place that keeps us from acting solely on experience and instinct. Where knowledge shapes and molds our experiences and instincts allowing us to choose how we will act or respond to a situation.

There is much more to discuss and I look forward to unpacking this with you over the Fall season.

With Love,
Sassy Mama Irisa

Frankenfinger and 3 A.M. Coffee

This has been a week. Without some laughter from the sassy sisterhood, support from my best friend and love, plus kid and puppy cuddles I would have permanently lost some of my sanity. Ok, I may have done that anyway.

Sunday, ER visit 1. I slip cleaning a butcher knife and slice my pinky open. It loots like someone wrapped ma garrote around it. An hour and a half later, I cannot get this to stay clotted and off I go. Eventually I am cleaned and glued after a humorous conversation about scarring. Sweet Physicians Assistant was worried about scarring if we did glue vs. stitches. That ship has long sailed with me. After a hysterical conversation with Sassy Leo Mama where I concluded if my scars were removed my skin would probably fall off we dubbed my finger “frankenfinger” and moved on. Also, I have lost count on how many times the people in my life have hit this particular finger since I have inured it. I swear I have a homing beacon there!

Monday, ER visit 2. One of my children has been having awful headaches off and on for months. They appear to be sinus or migraine however going to regular doctor when symptoms aren’t presenting hasn’t given us much information. Since this has ben recurring we took him to the ER when it began again. My brave little man did well on the blood panel and waiting; which is amazing given his terror of needles. Our RN was absolutely phenomenal. Thankfully, no immediate symptoms of concern but now process of elimination begins to decide this is just bad sinus/migraine.

Tuesday, date night with hubby. Halfway thru the night enters food poisoning. Are you fucking serious? thankfully, the case was mild but for the love of god can we please catch a break?!

Wednesday, kid birthday. Dog gate breaks. Four and half month old pit bull puppies are loose in my house while I drop kids off and go find a replacement gate. That is almost as terrifying as the sound of silence is to parents when their kids are home. Thankfully, I still have a house and furniture. New folding gate was acquired and I managed to get back to the kid party for cake and impromptu decision to bring the kids back here for sleepover.

Thursday, One year anniversary of my mom’s death. All I can say right now without crying more.

Friday, this has started at 3 a.m. with a toddler who doesn’t feel good and goes from happy giggling to crying. I am almost afraid to wake the other two. Mama needs a nap.

This has been a weird, emotional week. I think I need to crawl into a video game and a cup of coffee for a while and forget the world.

Much love, Viking Mama

Silent Voices, Ringing Waves

I found the following post in my drafts. It was written during the Summer of 2019 and never finished due to the emotional nature of hearing loss and how it affects your life. While I am no longer completely deaf, my hearing was drastically damaged from years of ear infections and my own premature birth. This final set of infections from working in dust and dirt for weeks did leave my hearing worse than ever but I am thankful that it is not gone.

Ruminations from the Summer of 2019. Ringing covers the sounds of my world. There is no sound of thunderstorms, breezes, birds or nature. What is worse is the loss of the sounds of my loved ones. No more childish giggles, no tones or inflections to their voice. Everyone sounds the same; when I can hear them which is infrequent at best.

Illness came upon me like a thief in the night. One moment I felt an allergy attack the next a double ear infection and ruptured ear drum. Swiftly the illness moved as a squall from sea to land.

Three weeks I live in a world of ringing and uncertainty. I feel isolated in a room of people because I cannot hear anyone so conversation is impossible. The ringing alone is enough to drive me mad. No break, no silence just constant noise.

The uncertainty of recovery is frightening. My youngest is just learning to speak. The middle child about to enter school and the oldest loves to chat and share. Currently, I am missing so much because they have to face me and yell for me to possibly hear them. They are tired and frustrated; as am I.

Constant reminders that if I am yelling I don’t know it because I cannot hear my own voice. Reminding them it is alright let me know I am yelling.

Now, I have learned to modulate my voice and tone more consistently, but when you cannot properly hear yourself it is difficult. Tinnitus is an almost constant companion and I am immensely grateful for the rare moments of true silence. What I am most grateful for is that I can still hear the voices of my loved ones. The silly way words form when toddlers learn to speak; the way losing childhood teeth impacts speech on big kids. Their precious laughter.

Stay Sassy, Viking Mama

Adventures and Transitions in Parenting

As a parent I find that my life has been in a constant flux for the last eight years. When my children were infants I felt as though I was trying to survive on interrupted sleep, coffee i.v. and cuddles; with the occasional adult time with my partner. As toddlers we worked through emotional, mental and physical growth in their body, mind and spirit; often in leaps and bounds.

Now my children are 8, 6, and 3. The infant stage is long behind us and while I miss the cuddles of infancy, I love seeing my children’s personalities emerge and grow. I don’t know if I am better at seeing the cognitive and emotional jumps because this is my third child or he is just more obvious in his behavior changes but we are going through the three’s. With my three year old there is a sadness when his stages end, as we are done having little kids.

Conversely, my 6 year old struggles between his personal freedoms and staying home with mama. But I love hearing his stories of lunchtime escapades. Yesterday, he was pikachu and his best friend was his trainer … they paired up against another trainer and Pokemon in the schoolyard. I am not sure how they were “catching” or “battling” each other but I got a call from school about roughhousing at lunch and the scrape on his chin. After finding out it was a tiny scrape and the story behind it the nurse did not know how to react when I laughed at the boys escapades. I was just glad he was having fun with friends and using his imagination.

My 8 year old and I are going through a huge transition. Traditional schooling is not working out for her, so we are beginning our adventures in online schooling and homeschooling. She could not be more excited. Especially since she has a laptop from the school, something she had been begging for and we said no. However, I have borrowed one from the school because I like the flexibility it offers me in her education and still attending to her brothers pre-school homeschool education.

We have spent the last part of this month in what is called unschooling. Allowing a natural transition from the traditional school environment to being homeschooled. She has been a part of setting up the kids office space and today will help me rearrange the bookshelf to put all her schoolbooks away from the toddlers reach; plus keep her art and science supplies away from our house art and science supplies. Each day she has been doing assignments and reading based on what I have given her to see what does and doesn’t work. She has ADHD, so this has been a good time for me to learn what does and doesn’t work for timeframes and projects. It will be a learning curve but for the first time in a few years she is excited about school.

Yesterday, I spent the morning signing up for this semesters homeschool classes at the zoo and science center. There are several homeschool co-ops to reach out to in the area, drum lessons to be procured. Plus arrangements to be made with friends for guitar lessons and music reading/theory. We are fortunate that the pool of people to assist us with homeschooling and supplemental education include: IT professionals, Computer Sciences Professor, Professional Storyteller, Environmental Conservationist, Earth Sciences Enthusiast, Math teacher, Music teacher, Musicians, crafters, artists …. and this is why it takes a village.

The adventures continue and I find that as they do my personal focus can begin to shift a little more personally. A lot of who I am and what I love has been set aside for the last eight years to fully be there for my family. I didn’t want to miss a moment of my little ones being little, especially since my husband gave me the gift of being a stay at home parent. There is not a moment of regret at this sacrifice, but now that they are growing it is time for me to reclaim and rediscover mama.

I have been spending a lot of introspective time. In this I have been reminiscing on who I was before children and who of that person is still there. My love of writing has never diminished; however I do wish inspiration struck during the daylight instead of the middle of the night but I will take inspiration however I can get it. There is also the craftsperson, gardener, herbalist, chef, meditation guide, aromatherapist and lover of the old ways that honor the cycle of life. Slowly, I breathe life back into myself and allow myself and my children to discover who this person is.

Sassy Mama

Letting Go and Trusting Growth

Another school year has begun in Ohio. My eldest has begun third grade and my second child has begun kindergarten. Fortunately, both children are very excited to begin school. I am sad to have them out of the home and miss them terribly. Thankfully, my youngest is not yet school age so I am not completely child free during the days.

I am not someone who looks forward to them returning to school. Seven years ago, I retired to be a stay at home parent. Being with them has been a blessing and I am not ready for this phase of our lives to end.

We live in an amazing school district that works with the parents. This year I am looking to be more involved with the school as I have better opportunities to participate with the school and have the youngest cared for.

I have not had an opportunity to be a room parent or participate in the Parent-Teacher Organization. So this will be an interesting experience for mama; plus an opportunity to meet other adults in the area.

As much as I miss my children, they are growing, learning and having invaluable life experiences while they are away from us. They are becoming more dynamic, fascinating people each and every day. So, we shall continue on this journey together and see where it takes us.

Happy Schooling,

Irisa

parenting

schooldays

Wildlings, Errands, and Parental Judgement

The snow is calming my spirit. I am drained from school prep and two errands with my wildlings. This morning was an inability to focus and by the time I had one kid dressed another was undressed, sigh. However, we made it to school in time.

Off to the grocery store. Only one trip running off and chasing the youngest while telling the middle child to stay put. Only one unknown item in the cart at checkout;caught before paying thank you!

Library. Dear gods I am exhausted from the library. Teaching the youngest to not run off ; not remove all the books, and not climb the shelves. Reminding the middle boy to stay off the computers … books please! Keeping them both within eyesight. The men’s room there is nice. I know this from having to fish the two year old out of there.

Then we rode the elevator upstairs so I could check out two books. We’re fine, we’re fine. Elevator stopped. Alarm sounded. Okay, I got this. Running off once I got where I needed to be. Fine. Fine. Some illusion of control maintained. Long enough to get two books and go back downstairs.

Mad toddler because I wouldn’t let him set off the alarm. He laid on the floor crying while I checked out. It’s fine. The library staff was nice to me. Okay. Coats on, trying to leave and toddler meltdown commence.

And there it is. A screaming, kicking, tantruming toddler. Refuse to walk, fine. I tried to pick him up; now the kicking, thrashing, and sliding out of my hands. We make it outside; oh yeah my coat isn’t zipped and it is 18 degrees out. I can’t keep ahold of him and don’t want to drop him on the sidewalk. I attempt to put him on his feet.

Down and on the ground screaming tantrum. A mom and her kid walk by me, muttering comments and giving me dirty looks. Thanks for the judgement lady. I didn’t need that. What i needed was a moment of kindness. Would it have been too much to pick up the bag of spilled books and help me out? No, instead taking a shot when I was already feeling defeated is exactly what I needed.

Why is it so hard to be kind and supportive? Maybe you are lucky and have never had a child so strong willed that cooperation takes longer to learn. Maybe you have forgotten or never had kids.

I love my wildlings but teaching them how to best communicate, act in public, and getting them to listen can take longer. In the meantime be patient with the parents as we navigate our children and take the time to teach them without breaking their spirits. Have kindness for us because that can be what we need to survive the hard moments. The moments our kids are arguing and we are digging deep for strength and patience, that is when we need kindness because self-doubt about our skills might already be the loud voice in our heads.

Solidarity!

Irisa

Giving a Fuck

I was reading an article this morning on Scary Mommy. The author discusses the changes that she had to make once she had a third child. I relate to so many of the comments she made. Parenting three kids is a juggling act. Someone is always waiting for your time and attention.

My youngest is a year and half old. Since my pregnancy we have all been making adjustments. From the slowing down as I got big enough to need my own zip code to preparing the kids for another sibling to making peace with the necessary changes in my parenting. Slowly, I have been finding my way to not giving a fuck.

The biggest realization came recently when my anxiety and exhaustion caused a full breakdown in front of my family. Tears and crying that there was not enough of me to go around for all of them. That I felt I was failing them. The most amazing thing happened. Instead of them validating my fears, I received unconditional love and support.

My middle child (age 4) gave me magic kisses and hugs. Squeezing me tight saying “my hugs are magic and will make you better, right?” … always baby, always. The oldest (age 6) gave me a kiss on forehead, told me it would be okay and then went and got my childhood teddy bear. The youngest laid his head on my lap and patted me. In that moment I realized I wasn’t a total failure as a parent. These kids learned unconditional love and support from their dad and I.

The other realization to my anxiety trigger came from my husband. He pointed out that I wasn’t failing anyone. Our life was not filled with the hard deadlines I was used to from my career and past relationships. Things were fluid here with different priorities than I was used to. We discussed that a bit more.

This moment has been playing over in my mind and my heart. It summarizes the internal struggle I have been having. As a child and young adult I struggled between my wild self and doing as I was told so my parents would love me. This behavior translated into my teen and young adulthood, shaping how I had my first adult relationships.

On a professional level, I learned how to play the corporate games. How to act in that environment so I would get the right review and pay increase. Inside I was drowning. Twisted in anxiety and depression because my true self was being smothered every moment of every day with other people’s deadlines and agendas. All for the pretense of love and acceptance.

On the surface I had a wonderful career and family. Inside I was dying and it made me a person I disliked. Looking in the mirror was painful because the image reflected back was one of self loathing. The more I told my now ex-husband how unhappy I was, the more ungrateful and impossible to please he told me I was. This spiraled for almost two decades until it exploded.

The explosion brought with it much happiness and the life I wanted. But the anxiety haunts me. I have spent so much of my life being what everyone else wants I cannot shake the feeling that I am a fraud. The hardest expectation I have ever had is the one my current husband has for me, to be myself. He likes who I am. Something I am not used to as I was raised that wild, passionate, outspoken, clumsy person is something to be ashamed of.

Today, I have no deadlines to change my personal behavior or habits if I want love. The love is simply there. There are no expectations to have the house and kids look a certain way when he comes home. Alive and hopefully happy (they are toddlers) is enough. It reminds me that even my approach to a more organic and fluid life has been a structured plan in my head with timeframes to accomplish certain changes. The opposite of organic and fluid.

In my own way I have been working towards not giving a fuck what others think of me or what they feel the agenda for my life is for many years. Those that have been close to me over the years have not understood why this was so hard. It was impossibly hard because it was tied into being loved, accepted and valued. Until I learned the true meaning of that I could not move forward.

Each day I get to decide what is important and whether or not I give a fuck. Love is wonderful and messy, not a Hollywood production with music, perfect light, and often unlimited funds. True acceptance is filled with flaws, communication, raw honesty and love. Those are the things worth giving a fuck about.

Irisa MacKenzie

5 April 2018