21 Day Yoga Girl challenge Day 4: Random Act of Kindness #yogagirlchallenge

For my random act of kindness, I raised another $100 for Cassidy Taber’s educational fund. Cassidy’s mom, Suzanne Shelton, and I grew up together going to both middle and high schools together. Tragically and unexpectedly, she died the night the Cassidy graduated from high school (she was put on life support for a few days and passed away June 26, 2014, but Suzanne as we knew her was gone). This picture was taken earlier that day.

After Suzanne died, I set up an educational fund on http://www.gofundme.com to help with all the costs that lie ahead in Cassidy’s adult life. In just over one month, people have donated almost $11,000, and the fund it still growing!  I know Cassidy would rather have her mom, but I wanted to do something to help her and to let her know that many people care and want to do something positive.  Cassidy starts at Longwood College in Virginia this fall, and her fund will remain open.

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I am super grateful I got to see Suzanne in January 2014 and in November 2013 when I was home in Virginia visiting. We had drinks and food and lots of laughter. She was really happy with her life at that time. She told me about her daughter, Cassidy, and that she was a senior in high school. Things were going well in her life. She was a proud mom and an excellent friend. I am smiling in her memory.
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Since I saw “Random Acts of Kindness” on the challenge three times, I’ve had it on my mind and have been looking for little ways to reach out to people. So far, I gave a homeless and hungry man some food, and I also took the time to encourage and high-five a guy next to me in yoga class the other day. He was a big, strong guy with tattoos all over. He looked like the kind of guy who could push a big truck around with no problem. But he had a little trouble doing yoga. It was the second time I’ve been next to him in class, and I’ve seen him struggling and resting in child pose when things get hard. I gave him a high-five and said good job today, way to work hard, keep at it! He looked at me with surprise like are you talking to me? He was a little hesitant and not very talkative, but he did high-five me. I hope he felt good knowing his efforts show. Yoga is hard, but the great thing about it is that you can start from wherever you are and modify it however you need to. It heals and transforms lives, so I think it’s great when I see people who are new to it and working hard at it.

Thanks for reading this entry. Peace out!

Summer 2013 In Review

It’s been quite a summer. So much going on that I took a bit of a break from blogging for the past couple of weeks. Haven’t had as much time or energy to commit to it lately. But now that it’s the last day of summer, I’d like to take a few minutes to wrap everything up. Tomorrow, another school year starts, and there will be another major shift in our daily routines as a family.

One of the joys of being a stay home mom is having ‘time off’ to take care of the kids during the summers. Early mornings rushing to get to school on time turn into lazy mornings, sleeping late, and mostly unstructured days. The kids have activities, but it’s hardly stressful because there is nowhere else they have to be. I also structure learning into their days, but all in all we have a laid-back, relaxing time during the summers. Staying home with them and being with them all day in the summers also means I’m busy with them all day and taking care of all of their needs. So, it means a busier mommy with more to worry about.

My youngest is a joy. He is eight years old, starting third grade tomorrow. He is so easy-going. From the minute he wakes up, he usually has a great attitude and does whatever he is told or asked. He is still at that innocent age and has such a nice life with both parents who live with him and love him without measure. He has been taking swimming lessons and doing Taekwondo lessons over the summer as well as having private baseball lessons. My husband coaches his baseball team, so he also has lots of daddy time playing sports.

My middle daughter is thirteen years old and is starting eighth grade this year. While parenting a teenager is certainly a tough job, luckily I’ve done it once before. She spent the summer mostly dancing, attending intensive day camps as well as evening classes. After eight years of gymnastics, age 3-11, she switched to dance but was behind the other girls her age. After two years of training and practice, she officially made the Elite competition company at her dance studio this summer. We are super proud of her and recognize all the hard work she’s put into reaching her goal of becoming a competitive dancer.

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Oh yea, and she also dyed the ends of her hair hot pink again this summer (with my help).
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My oldest daughter is twenty and is starting fifteenth grade this year as a junior in college. She recently changed her major to business accounting, and this was her first summer staying at school during the summer, living, working, and taking classes. I took two trips to visit her there this summer, and she also came home for a week. How nice! When I was her age, I also lived and worked away from home, but I didn’t also stay and take classes, so it really was a new experience. Both weekends I was there, I had a blast, but I also had my first introduction to parenting an adult child. We moved her into her new apartment, and I helped her out with several other logistical aspects of her young adult life. It really made me realize how much time and energy I spend running other peoples’ lives. Just being away from the two little kids for the weekend left me with a feeling I wasn’t used to, and then of course, all the different ways of mothering an adult child were new experiences to me. I’ve never helped one of my kids move and decorate apartments, made a resume, or helped with the logistics involved with finding a job and living independently as an adult. She and her fellow classmates are living a lifestyle where they have almost everything provided for them, and all they have to worry about is themselves and their classes. It’s an amazing window of time on the verge of adulthood.

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My visits both made me reflect on my experiences as a twenty year old and on the kind of mother I am trying to be. I aim to be a different kind of mom than I had. I want my kids to be able to talk to me about anything going on in their lives. Kids are going to do what they want to anyway, so I would rather accept that and guide them than to hide my head in the sand and be an unapproachable parent. I would rather have open communication with my kids so I can try to help them navigate the waters of life. However, knowing what the kids are doing can also be quite stressful for moms. We worry about safety and well-being. We want our kids making safe, smart decisions that usually come from a lifetime of experience and a brain that is fully developed; two things that twenty year olds don’t possess. So we worry. Then we communicate and brainstorm solutions, so I think we are on the right track. I loved having the chances to get to know her friends and be part of her life for a few days!

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I’ve had a really rough summer with my food allergies. I got diagnosed with gluten sensitivity in May and have been off gluten three months now. But, I keep accidentally getting corn in my diet, ‘corn poisoning’ as I call it. I haven’t been diagnosed with a corn allergy, but I react and get sick every single time I have it, so I think allergy or not, I really need to completely eliminate it from my diet. This summer, it was a margarita (corn in the lemon/lime mixer), a gluten free pizza (corn in the dough) and a protein smoothie powder (xanthan gum – which is corn – used as an ingredient). Each time, I get sick for a couple of weeks, so put those three together and you can see that I’ve been feeling pretty sick all summer unfortunately. I’ve had such bad swelling and eczema that I finally saw my allergist the other day and got a steroid shot to make it all subside. When I have reactions to foods, my stomach hurts, I get joint and muscle pain, and I have a bad rash of eczema. So, it makes me really grumpy. Unfortunately, I’ve felt grumpy for a long time recently.

We did do some fun things too: we took our annual beach vacation in Destin, Florida. I’ve written about this place and the beach in general before. I love what the beach does to my soul. I wish we could live at the beach, but I’m thankful we get to take a yearly trip.

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I also went to some fun concerts. My husband and I saw Kid Rock, and my daughter (13) and I saw One Direction. Great times.

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Last week, we went to the Perot Museum of Nature and Science as a family. We bought a membership, so we can go back anytime we want to for the next year. There are also special events and other perks for members. I was fascinated by the architecture and impressed by all the interactive activities. I especially loved seeing the dinosaur bones, gems/minerals, and the human body exhibits. There were even slices of real people, one man and one woman, who had donated their bodies to science. They were embalmed, frozen, sliced and displayed in plastic with a light behind them. It was FASCINATING to say the least. We could see all the anatomical parts and compare the younger, healthier female to the older, less healthy male.

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I continued guitar lessons over the summer, and my son also started taking weekly lessons. We are learning “Carol of the Bells” to play together at Christmas. He loves the lessons and can’t wait to start rocking out! I am still working on improvising and have been working on a couple hard songs this summer: “Uncle John’s Band” by the Grateful Dead and “Over the Hills and Far Away” by Led Zeppelin.

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Watching the MTV VMAs on the last night of summer. Mine was Miley Cyrus “Can’t Stop.” “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke was my second favorite.

What was your favorite song this summer? How was your summer?

30 Day Photo Challenge: Day 30 Love

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Love is spending a long weekend with my college daughter and then having to say goodbye. Twenty is such an in-between age. Clearly mature and grown up enough to live independently and go to college, yet too young to fully take control of life and all its responsibilities and demands. We are all getting used to her first summer living away from home. For us, it means twelve months this year of only two kids at home. For her, it means working to pay rent in addition to taking summer classes. I spent several days with her, doing the things that mothers do, going grocery shopping, helping take care of errands and scheduling appointments etc. We had long talks about school, work, and friendships. It made me feel needed as a mother, and I hope it helped her feel less all alone in a big world and that her family is here to support her all the time. It was hard to say goodbye, but it was a heartwarming feeling knowing my presence made a difference. I’m also super proud of her and her hard work and happy to see her growing into an independent woman.

Thanks for reading this entry. Peace out!

30 Day Photo Challenge: Day 26 Home

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This is a picture of my house and home. We moved to Texas from Virginia seven summers ago to take advantage of the housing market. We were able to buy more than twice the house for less money than in the DC area. Although I miss my hometown in Virginia and being in the DC area, I’ve always wanted a nice big house where I can raise my kids and then they can return when they are home from college. Now that my oldest is finished with her sophomore year of college, that dream has already come true. She says she appreciates that she can come home and have her old bedroom. Moving into this house literally changed our lives overnight. We were all able to spread out; each kid got their own room and walk-in closet. We went from one living room to four living rooms. I love coming home to our house and hope to be there for a long, long time!

Thanks for reading this entry. Peace out!

30 Day Photo Challenge: Day 16 Family

This is the last time my family was all together, so even though it’s not a picture I took today, I didn’t want to post my family incomplete. My husband and I have two kids together (8 and 13), and we each had kids from previous relationships (they are both 20). His son is in the army, and my daughter is in college right now, so we just have the two smaller kids at home with us day to day. We both love each other’s kids like they were our own and believe firmly in the idea of “Ohana (which means family and family means nobody gets left behind).

Thanks for reading this entry. Peace out!

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My Experiences with a Ouija Board

Have you ever used a Ouija board? Although its a cardboard board game made by Hasbro, it claims to allow users to commune with the Spirit world. There is a game board with every letter of the alphabet as well as numbers, hello, goodbye, yes, and no. Players touch a plastic piece, and it moves around the board to spell out answers to questions. People use them to talk to the dead. Ouija boards open up a door to the world beyond ours, and people can supposedly communicate with spirits.

I played with Ouija boards when I was in college. I played with friends at school in Lexington, VA, and I played with friends on visits to my childhood home in Springfield, VA. I was open to the idea but recognized the probability that of one of my friends pushing the plastic piece around.

Things changed for me when one particular spirit consistently started talking to me. It kept spelling out SUSU (I went by Susie back then). I would ask, “who is this?” And it would answer, “SATAN.” Freaked out? Yes. But I thought my friends were probably messing with me. Then the same thing happened with different friends in Lexington while I was at college. I played with entirely different people and didn’t tell them about what happened at home. I didn’t understand how the same thing could happen with entirely different people. And I know I wasn’t doing it.

Then one night, I woke up with half my bedroom on fire. I fell asleep with a candle lit. It was on top of a speaker with a bandana under it like a little table cloth. Don’t hate-I was in college. I also had a tie-dyed tapestry hanging from the wall and some dirty laundry on the floor by the speaker. All of it was on fire, speaker and everything. Adrenaline pumping, I called 911, woke my roommate and got out of the apartment. I think four fire trucks arrived on the scene. It was quite a scare.

The next time I played with the Ouija board was the very last time I ever played or will play again in my life. Again, ‘SATAN’ contacted me and called me ‘SUSU.’ Then it said, “FIRE LAVA HAHA’ over and over again. Seriously. I’m not kidding.

I packed it up and went to the back of the apartment building and threw it in the dumpster.

Real or not, it freaked me out. I can’t explain what happened.

I’m not sure if I believe in ghosts, but I also don’t think there is evidence against the possibility of ghosts. So who knows? I just know I’m staying away from Ouija boards!
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Being a Mom

It’s nice to be needed. My son who is eight years old loves school but says it’s hard on him because he is away from me. I wonder how long that will last! He doesn’t like being upstairs alone and frequently showers in our bathroom and falls asleep in our bed because he doesn’t like being alone upstairs. When college-aged sister was home for the holidays, he slept in her queen sized bed with her. It’s a good problem to have that our house is big enough that being upstairs alone is an issue. I get it that he is old enough to be in his own bathroom and bedroom full-time. And my husband usually takes him upstairs to his own room after he falls asleep in our bed. But most of the time he comes back downstairs either to our bed or to one of the couches. When I ask him why he won’t stay in his bed all night he answers, “I don’t like being far away from you.” He’s good about keeping his room clean and doing chores and ‘mommy homework’ (math, reading and writing Mon-Thursday excluding holidays). In many ways, he is learning some responsibility and independence. But in this way, he is still my baby, the littlest kid whom blessed to have stayed home with until he started school at the age of six. These years while he still feels little enough to want to be near us will pass quickly, so I cherish them now with gratitude.
My twelve-year old daughter needed my help on her science project today. She did the plan on her own and got a 70%. I like to let her go on auto-pilot as much as possible with her work, but when her grades tell me she isn’t working to potential, I step in to help. And she accepts it. She knows having an educator for a mom has its rewards. The main advice I gave her was about measuring the data. You have to have a way to quantify the experiment. I helped her figure out what graphs to make, how to measure her leaps and jumps, and took videos of her experimenting with dance using different kinds of dance shoes. She also learned how to make a sandwich this week. I know that sounds silly, but apparently she didn’t know how to make one because I always make them for her. Don’t get me wrong, I couldn’t believe she said she don’t know how to make a sandwich (figuring it is so easy that of course she knew how to make one). I thought it was ridiculous that she wants to be mothered to that extent, yet she also thinks she is old enough and responsible enough to go to public places without adults. She does her own laundry and has chores so she can learn responsibility and independence. As I said, I also don’t micromanage her school work, and most of the time she gets As and Bs on auto-pilot. She is at that age when she wants me to bring her lunch from subway to school, but she doesn’t want me to stay while she eats it in the cafeteria. (On the other hand my son wishes I would join him for lunch every day)! She hugs me and asks for my help on her own time. When she needs me, I’m there, and I feel lucky.
Even my nineteen-year old daughter at college still needs me for this and that. Of course, she needs financial support, but I’m also there for her as a mom in many other ways, for emotional support and to lend guidance and advice about the many facets of her life as a college student. I haven’t been able to visit her since moving her into her freshman dorm. In fact, last year I was injured during family weekend, and she told me not to come for her sorority’s moms’ weekend because it wasn’t a big deal, just a brunch. I was also really busy last year working as a teacher. Well, it turned out she missed me when all the other moms were there, and I wasn’t. I promised her I would attend this year and just booked my flight and hotel reservation yesterday! I’m excited to visit her in her world and am proud to be her mom!
Little things like these remind me that while they aren’t so little, they still need me for different reasons. Or at least they want me to be there for them as their mother even though they might not technically need me.. I Being a mother changes over the years, but it is wonderful to be reminded of the fact that there are certain things that mothers can do for their kids that soften their worlds. And I am grateful for all of those little things that remind me what an important job being a mother really is. It’s not glamorous. The hours are grueling. It can be a thankless job. But I wouldn’t want any other job in the world!