Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Summer of Fun and Transitions

(Meredith and Anne at MOCA with a visual art piece)

MOPS had such a fun summer filled with pool and beach playdates.  Thank you to all of you who opened up your homes to let us splash and relax.  Meredith and I braved the rain for the August girl's night at Art Walk downtown.

In less than a month, we will have our first meeting which is so exciting and everyone is in their new leaderships roles.  For many years, Lucy Bravo has kept the blog going and now as secretary I will be trying to fill her big shoes in documenting our meetings and group outings.  

I'm so ready to see all my peeps are out MOPS and POPS dinner next week and our open house on September 5th.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Cheers to another great year!

This is Tracy writing this post. I may be leaving but y'all can't get rid of me just yet!

Somehow another year has flown by, and we had our final meeting of the 2017-2018 year in May. We started off with the regular announcements and Mentor Moment, then moved into the end of the year business. Jessica recognized the outgoing leadership team and introduced near year's team. Then comes the most emotional part of the year - talking about what mops has meant to us this year, how much this group keeps us (and our children) sane and alive, and of course lots of tears.  Like I said in the meeting, I've cried so many times in that room over the years, and I know I am not alone in that. We're all so lucky to have been a part of mops! Ok, moving on so I don't start crying again right now.

Next we moved on to Anne's fabulous rendition of Family Feud. Lucy would have been so proud to know how much the blog posts came into play at this meeting! Jessica kept score and Aedan helped out with moral support. Half of the answers should have been "take a time out" but somehow Anne didn't agree, probably because she was the one who actually reread all the blog posts and picked the answers. All I know is that my group did not win. I'm pretty sure our buzzer didn't work and we were robbed. If trash talking had anything to do with our scores we would have been the clear champions.

Walking out of that last meeting was very strange for me. It felt a lot like my last day of high school: a mix of nostalgia and excited nervousness for what's ahead. It's hard to put into words just what this group has meant to me over the years. It's been great for my kids over the years, too. They've made so many friends at mops, and thanks to Leo and Niko at the last meeting they now know how to play "bubble gum bubble gum in a dish." Great for practicing counting and for driving mom crazy!

Luckily I didn't have to be sad for long, thanks to the end of the year party! Things got a little crazy, as predicted. A little bit of wine, lots of laughs, and plenty of people in the pool, most of them in bathing suits. Get your minds out of the gutter, she jumped in in her clothes!

I hope to see everyone over the summer at play dates and girls nights. Thanks Jessica for your amazing leadership this year and for helping inspire all of us to become Free Indeed!

Monday, April 23, 2018

Deep Breaths

Sometimes I feel relaxed or re-energized after a MOPS meeting. Sometimes I walk out with wide eyes and mind reeling. The latter has been the case for the last two meetings. Our very own ER doc, Kim Thivierge spoke to us earlier this month about taking care of our children in emergency situations. At first I sat there with my mouth open instead of taking notes on how many chest thrusts to administer during CPR.
Dr. Kim is a great friend to have
Kim's big on minimizing the risk. She went through a long list of things to avoid and/or keep an eye out for. Car seat safety (pull that clip up to their chest and keep it tight), choking hazards (bad bad button batteries), bolting furniture to the wall, hide n seek in the car- keep it locked so they don't go hide, put out the cones in the drive-way and helmets please! Poison control should be in your phone (800)222-1222! Talk to your children about their body parts using real words. Open conversations with friends and parents about risks, who is in the house and gun safety. Standing water around the house, fitted sheets only in a crib, jump ropes around the neck, playground safety, concussions- oh my! This would have been a good meeting for mimosas! 
Happy Birthday April Hot Mamas!
The good news is that we have this awesome support system. If you need a breather, one of us will watch your kids. Need some prayers? Laurie has a running list! On your way to the ER? We'll bring you dinner. This group has your back. That's a good segway to this week's speaker. But first, a few fun pics...
Movie Night to see Blockers! A good belly laugh is chicken soup for my soul!

Pick a Park Friday at Mandarin park was gorgeous!
So, what happens when the stress of raising these sweet children gets to be too much? You know what I mean- when it bottles up and you start to see red. Anger. Maria Inoa spoke to us this morning on how to manage our anger. Self awareness is key. Do you feel yourself getting hotter? Do you notice the body cues? We need to learn some self care skills and give ourselves some grace. There are many layers here. Spiritual, getting some quiet time, reading scripture, praise and worship. Physical- exercising, yoga and stretching. Mental and emotional- journaling, crying, support, adult time (we have a girls night on Wednesday!). It's good to normalize feeling words for your kids. It's okay that they see you cry and hear you YELL! You are human. 
Maria Inoa sharing her wisdom
Check out her contact info
Practice the pause. Take some deep breaths. Meditate. Mary Lynn told me about this app. This is something you have to practice doing. Take time outs. Ask for help. There's a whole Facebook group of people waiting to be asked. It's taken me years to finally start asking. Try Psychology Today for a counselor that fits you. It's okay to shop around. And in the heat of the moment, if you're seeing red and just can't calm down. You can always call this parent hotline: 1-854-4-A-PARENT. 
Mentor Mom, Perrin giving us wisdom in the thick of it
We've got this ladies! Breathe in. Breathe out. Let's go do some zumba!

For current members, registration for next year is out! Check your email for the link! Are you on the waitlist? You should get an email next week to register. I'll post a link here when it's open to the public. You've got to act fast when you see it. Nursery space fills up quickly! Find your Fire is next year's theme. It's going to be good! You won't want to miss it!

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Observe, Don't Absorb

We are so lucky to have had Dr. Linda Miles come talk to us last week! Great timing for me since my anniversary was the following day. But also just when thinking with relationships in general. It felt great to be reminded that I am in control of me! I loved when Linda said, "Forgiveness is letting go of the idea you can change the past." Forgiveness is such a big part of moving on and getting over it, but man is that hard to do! She talked a lot of the biology of your body and what is happening when you get upset. Cortisone and adrenaline spike when you're angry. Dumping these chemicals a bunch over time is not good for you. Think about how you feel when you snuggle with your baby.
Rockstar mom, Erica here with newborn Evan!
It's that oxytocin and dopamine. Let's get more of that feeling! Take a break and get out of there. Fight with your head. "Wait 'til the iron is NOT hot." Try to learn the root. Why do you fight like that? I've been talking about Buck and Nadine all week! Ya'll have not seen my Nadine! But we can get nasty when we fight. If a fight lasts more than 2 minutes, it's about something else. Don't console; walk away when someone else is acting crazy. Later, say "we have this pattern". Tell me about what happens to you? How can we fight better? My husband and I talked about taking a time out. I'm not sure who's going to be the one to suggest this, though. I'll keep you posted!
Bunny's mentor moment has us all ears!

Dr. Linda Miles- Change Your Story, Change Your Brain

Hand outs from the meeting

Hand outs from the meeting
How can you accept a new reality? Flexible families are the happy ones. Even in awful situations, no one can take your mind away. You don't have to react. We need to practice being re-centered. How can you tune out and get in a good place? Marriage is a dance. Teach your children compassion. "How do you think that person felt?" You can be tough but still have compassion. You are the main role model. A lot of personality is genetic, but you don't have to take in the toxicity. Look from a detached point of view. I don't need to drop all these chemicals in my body. 
Observe; don't Absorb. Wow! That's good stuff!
Own your reactions. Add that power (instead of judging) to a higher power. Strong isn't mean. Train your children to do this, too. Keep them curious, get them to think. Dr. Miles passed along this link to help your kids with this, too. 
Check out her new book, Change Your Story, Change Your Brain.

To help us get in this happy, relaxed place, we have lots of activities! This month we did a take away meal girls night. Moms left with 5 meals ready to freeze for later. We had an Easter egg hunt for the kids at the park. (I'm loving turning all the play dates into work out play dates, too!) On Good Friday we did the Stations of the Cross for kids out at Marywood. We got this, ladies!
A nature trail to the next station. Each egg had a symbol for that station of the cross. Perfect for our kids to understand the true meaning of Easter!
Searching for eggs!

Monday, March 12, 2018

Digging Deep

It's Lent- that time where you look inside yourself and work to make yourself better. Reading the MOPS magazine, theme book, emails, listening to the mentor mom moments and generally being involved in MOPS is a great way to stay on this journey. If you allow it, MOPS can really change your life. This year's FREE INDEED theme is supposed to be about us digging deeper into the idea of being truly free. Remember? Letting LOVE be the loudest voice, being gutsy and going first. How's it going for you?
Mentor mom, Ruth giving us words of wisdom and sharing with us about Henri Nouwen's Lent book

Katie's taking a break

Painting frames and taking "me" time at the craft meeting

Baby poop on my shorts

Karen biking to MOPS
Today's meeting was definitely about digging deep. My messy house is keeping me from feeling FREE INDEED! Kim Vlah said the mess is not really about the stuff. I was really hoping for a top 5 list of how to get organized. Or maybe I could win her time for a few hours to come sit with me and figure it all out. But really, it's deeper than that. Cleaning out is going to take some emotional work. What a bummer! Focus on how much you do and manage on a regular basis. What's your tolerance level? Why is it so hard to get rid of some things? What are you holding onto? Do you and your partner have zones, or areas where you can/can't handle a mess? Are they the same zone? Do you have a "gorilla care giver" who gives you a bunch of stuff? That giant teddy bear? Are you good at communicating your needs to this gorilla? Are you in a fear based trap regarding purging? You know you can just go buy it again if you need it, right? How many of you take pictures of your kid's artwork? For me, managing the mess of me and 5 other people in my house is overwhelming. I recognize that this is a phase of life- but with 4 children- this phase it taking a long time. I just don't have/don't want to take the time to go through closets and drawers. I have a pretty high tolerance for the chaos but even sometimes I freak out and have to take the time to clean out. I loved what Kim said about teaching a culture of giving. My older girls are pretty good about maintaining give away bags. We've even taken a tour of DESC as a family and they help carry their own items to donate. But there's still SO MUCH STUFF. I need to be better about controlling what comes in. I have to wait until bedtime to go through the toy room with the younger kids. If they see me, they will find new "favorite toys". For the older kids, we are working on building a skill set. Kim recommended quick, fun clean up games. Children really want your mindful presence. Do this together. Ideally, each child would have a limited number of age appropriate toys that we play with together that are passed through as needed. Ha! We are not there! I think I'm inspired to tackle the play room now.
Mentor mom, Jan talked about perseverance and being gutsy to tackle big projects. Check out her latest quilt! What an inspirational woman!

Happy Birthday March mamas!

"I want people to live and work in beautiful and efficient spaces that inspire them and make them feel productive and happy." - Kim Vlah
We had the MOPS & POPS Valentine's dinner at Cool Moose. I love those events when the guys can connect! We did a Pick a Park work out play date and a beach play date. This past Friday we went to Dinosauria at the Zoo. If you have a play date idea, please let me know. Play dates and girls nights are a great way to get to know each other. Be gutsy and join us!
The beach is so hard to get to- packing up and driving out there. But once you're there, it's perfect!


Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Love Isn't All We Need

We've done a lot of fun things since my last post so let me show you some pics in case you are missing out. You know you have to show up to get something out of this gig. We are missing you, too! My favorite thing is getting to know the newbies. So, come share your story!
We did a "play date" at IKEA- sipping coffee and walking through show rooms while my son enjoyed Small Land was fabulous (and dangerou$)
Claire hosted possibly the most fun girls night, game night!

Congratulations, Elise!

"Gymnastics class" at TNT, train park then La Nap!

Dinner and a movie- we ended up seeing "Molly's Game", which was really good!
We had a leadership meeting then a therapeutic play date at Chick Fil A. If you haven't thought about leadership for next year, I think there are a few spots available. This is a great way to get a bang for your MOPS buck. If my grammatical errors bother you, there's even a blog spot open! It's neat to see the behind the scenes for each MOPS meeting. You also get a vote for speaker topics for next year. Talk to a Jessica or Laurie for more info! 

I loved the speaker for our last meeting, Dr. Roxanne Louh. She talked to us about having a healthy marriage. This came at a PERFECT time for me! After dealing with a #mancold, I needed a pick me up! We do have higher expectations for our spouse. We should be waiting for times of non-conflict to have an important talk. Dr. Louh referenced Dr. Gottman a lot. Definitely add one of his books to your reading list! We often become so focused on parenting. We need more than love to make a marriage work. Remaining in love is a choice, not a feeling you always have. Learning love languages in important. Laugh! Don't criticize. Have something to look forward to (like our Valentine's date night this week!) Do you have a curious friendship with your spouse? Check out these hand outs. I love all the questions- do you really know him?

Whomever calls the time out, ends the time out. Have you ever been flooded? When you need a time out and can't empathize or even hear? That was me last weekend. During the meeting, I scheduled "wine on the porch" with my husband later that night after the kids were in bed. I didn't bring up any fights from the weekend. We just sat and relaxed together and I listened to all his latest stress. We ended up laughing and enjoying each other- just what we needed! Gotta protect that relationship! 
Mentor Moms rock!
Our biggest fundraiser is Shrove Tuesday! I'd say we had another successful party! Great job, ladies on all your hard work!
Serving breakfast for dinner on Shrove Tuesday!

Packed house!

Getting crafty!
I can't think of a better way to kick off Lent and Valentine's Day, then bringing Valentines to the residents of a nursing home. This is a great activity to do with little ones- a win-win! We had a play date last week- Pick a Park Friday to make Valentines. So, we had plenty to bring! It was so awesome making them smile!
Former MOPS mom, Kassie let us come out to the farm to help with some chores- feeding the cows and horses! What a great way to spend a non-MOPS Monday!

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Uncomfortable Conversations

Death is not something we like talking about. It's sad, depressing and uncomfortable. We're in the trenches right now, why add discomfort to these long days? My good pal, Brian came to MOPS today to talk to us about why that's so important. Bad things do happen. Having an uncomfortable conversation now will make things less stressful later. Brian answered all sorts of awesome questions. There was laughter and there were tears.
Brian answering lots of questions

Moms asking lots of questions

Kathryn's notes
We discussed setting up trusts and the pros and cons, figuring out who should be your children's beneficiaries, talking to your parents about their post life plans (Claire found some awesome links to help with that! Death dinners and It's time to talk to your parents.), covering the 3 basics: power of attorney, health care surrogate and your living will. Lots of "what if's" and "how does this play out". Ultimately, it was a good one! We have a girls night and play date this week so stay tuned! In the meantime, make an appointment with Brian (or another estate planning friend). Lori-Ann or Karen's husbands are financial advisors that can help with the other side of it- or Brian can recommend someone else. Do it, girl!
Rock climbing at Picwick Park. Emily brought a cheese board again. The bar has been raised!