It recently came to my attention that I might be propagating an image that is not entirely true to life. I am not trying to be dishonest about my family life or the way I raise my child. If I don’t mention any of the unpleasant stuff, it is not in an effort to look more perfect but to spread around the good stuff rather than the bad. But to clear the air I just want to open up a little bit about what does go on in my home.

My daughter is not happy all the time. I don’t know anyone who is and I don’t think that would be healthy. We do disagree and she does yell at me and hit me sometimes in anger. She has temper tantrums and demands my attention. I don’t believe her actions to be out of the ordinary for a 4 year old child. I try to handle these unpleasant moments with as much patience as I can. I have never yelled at my daughter. I have never hit my daughter. I have lost my patience and sighed in exasperation.

When she was 2 we did try time outs a couple of times and I abhorred those moments. I had read a book that suggested you gently tell them they can come out when they are ready to be kind and to not let them come out. We did that one time. It was torture and I regretted it the moment it started. I have no idea how that time out might have scarred her and I don’t know what terror she felt by being isolated. It haunts me to this day.

When she is misbehaving we do time ins. We sit together and talk about it or don’t talk about it. The point is, I believe that when she is misbehaving it is because some legitimate need is not being met. I try to figure out what that is and we try to fix it together.

Another thing that is missing from this blog is the presence of Violet’s father. She does have a father and he does live in our house. I don’t often write about him because this blog is mainly a blog about mothering. I do write about her father and our family life on our family blog.

My husband and I argue, a lot. We disagree about almost everything these days. Our daughter has taken to jumping in and trying the things she has learned about conflict resolution. Yesterday in fact she made a wonderful suggestion to us. She said, “Daddy, would you treat mommy like a partner today? Mommy, would you treat daddy like a partner today? Now hold on to each other really tight like you are running away from a big bear. Hold on to each other and love each other.”

What an analogy! She takes my breath away sometimes. It reminded me of the day of the tsunami, when I thought my husband might be dead. And when he walked in the doors and we embraced it was as if time stood still. All of the arguing and disagreements we had been having melted away. We were so thankful to be together and to have each other again. We felt so weak and yet so strong. When you feel you have escaped death you look at life differently. I wish that I could say that feeling lasted forever for us. It didn’t. Three years later and here we are taking each other for granted again. A life lesson gone to waste. But I don’t think it is too late, I think we can get back that zeal for life, that appreciation for each moment, each breath.

I wish that I could tell you that after she said that to us that my actions changed. I continued to feel anger toward him but I did try to get along with him for the rest of the day.

Our parenting style has challenged our marriage in ways that I didn’t expect. I don’t think it is fair to say that all of the difficulty we are having stems from our parenting style, because I think we have other underlying issues as well. I also don’t want to give attachment parenting a bad name. I think it is wonderful and I wouldn’t do it any other way. And there are plenty of families that practice attachment/gentle parenting that have happy marriages. I do hope that my husband and I can continue working on our relationship and that we can figure out a way to not argue so much. I don’t like that my daughter has had to witness our arguing and I hope that we can model healthy behaviors for her. I want her to know that marriage is hard but also that making the effort to work on it is worth it. There is nothing wrong with disagreeing with each other, but we should find a way to disagree in a healthy way. I also think that if she is going to see us argue, then she should definitely see us make up.

So, although it is embarrassing to admit that my life isn’t the perfect model of a happy family, I felt it important to clear the air and remove any veil that might be creating a cloudy image of the reality of my life. Please don’t judge me too harshly nor my child’s life. I only wanted to try sharing a glimpse into my life without the rose colored glasses.

With social media being so pervasive to our lives, I / we often have these false ideas about what other people’s lives are like. I don’t believe that your child is always perfectly dressed or that your husband always brings you flowers or that you all get along happily all the time. But when I / we only share these happy moments it does propagate an image of perfection that no one can attain. It can, unintentionally, create jealousy and envy of a life that doesn’t really exist.

In real life, we don’t have this constant stream of information about each other. When we meet or talk on the phone, we exchange stories and experiences of recent and there is almost always a mix of pleasant and unpleasant moments. We share because we long to connect with someone who will listen and understand us. I wouldn’t normally tell just anyone about my marital troubles or  my failings and mistakes as a parent, out of pride mostly. But I would and do share them with my closest friends. But since for some of you, reading this blog or my Facebook statuses is the only way you “know” me ,I thought it unfair to only share the positives about my life. So in an effort to be more open, I am sharing these details of my life. If I / we are going to continue living with social media (which I believe we are) I think it is important that I/we try to be more honest.

Thanks for reading today. I wish you and yours a peace filled day.

Anshin and the Breastfeeding Preschooler


When Violet was born, I had no idea how long I would breastfeed her. I only knew that I would breastfeed her. By the time she was 1 year old, I knew she wasn’t near being ready to stop and so I decided to just keep going.

I know that I am not the only one practicing full term breastfeeding, but at times, I do feel like the odd ball in the group of nursing mamas. When I attended the Big Latch last year, I was, by far the one with the oldest nursling. Part of me felt slightly concerned with what the other mamas might be thinking, but most of me felt proud and accomplished.

If those of us that do continue to nurse our older babies and preschoolers can’t talk about it with others or always feel we have to do it behind closed doors, we might start to feel strange or even embarrassed. I write this post to share with you all in hopes that it will encourage other full term breastfeeders to do the same. You are not alone and there are others out there like you. I hope that by reading this it will encourage you to not give in to the pressures of friends, family or those around you to wean before it feels right for you and your nursling. I am trusting my heart and my own judgment to know when it is best for my child to wean and I hope that you can trust yourself as well.

According to Katherine A. Dettwyler, Ph.D.,an award winning anthropologist, professor, and mother, the natural age of weaning for modern humans based on our size, development and life span is between 2.5 years and 7 years. Therefore, a child still nursing at 4 years old is normal, natural, and o.k.

I am planning to continue breastfeeding Violet for as long as she would like to continue. I have been practicing baby/child led weaning since Violet was about 2 months old. From the moment she was born, I practiced on demand feeding. If she cried I usually checked her diaper and if it was clean, I put her to my breast. She has always been an active nurser. She went from every hour in the first 2 months to every 2 hours and gradually to where we are today.

Violet wakes up slowly by nursing herself awake. Her body wakes up first and before she has even opened her eyes she reaches for my breast. Since she sleeps right next to me all she has to do is reach up and nuzzle in. She nurses there for anywhere between 5-20 minutes. I usually wake up as she first begins to wiggle and so I am awake while she is nursing. I stroke her hair and kiss the top of her head. If it is still very early I whisper into her ear that she can go back to sleep. If it is close to the time I need to get up, I start whispering good morning and gently massaging her back and legs to wake her up. I sing to her, softly, “Good morning to you” (to the tune of happy birthday” She smiles sweetly as she gradually opens her eyes. Some days she sits right up and says “good morning, mama!” and other days she puts her hand up on my chest as if to say let’s stay in bed a little longer. Eventually she wakes up and stops nursing. And then we get up for our day.

Violet goes to school Monday through Friday from 8-3. On those days she doesn’t usually nurse again until 5 or 6 pm. Sometimes, though, she wants to nurse as soon as we get in the car after picking her up. Since she turned 4, I’ll admit that I have become a little more apprehensive about nursing her in public. I don’t feel like I am doing anything wrong but some days I just don’t feel like enduring the looks or questions. I try to practice “don’t offer/don’t refuse” as much as possible, but sometimes I do tell her we need to wait until we get home. She is capable of understanding the need to wait for something and this is a way we practice having patience and consideration for mama’s feelings. She doesn’t always wait patiently and she sometimes cries and gets angry because I have said no but we try our best to work through it. Thankfully, our drive from her school to our house only takes 5 minutes. I know that she is yearning for that connection for “skinship” as is it called here in Japan, skin to skin contact, and so I understand where her anger is coming from.

When we get home, as soon as we walk in the door, she takes off her shoes and takes me by the hand and says “Mama it’s time for milkies”. We head to the couch and she hops up on my lap. As I get my clothes situated, she smiles up at me and giggles. Then, at last, she dives into my chest and wraps her arms around my chest and pulls me as close as she can. She drinks there and looks up at me with eyes of contentment and relief. I can feel her body relax and I feel mine relax as well.

There is a word in Japanese that describes this feeling that I think we both have during this time, it is あんしん,安心(anshin). Anshin translates to relief or peace of mind, obtaining peace of mind through faith or ascetic practice. It is so much more than that though. To really grasp the meaning one needs to look at the etymology of the word. The characters that make up anshin are these 安,which means relax, quiet, rested, contented, peaceful and 心, which means heart, mind, sprit. I actually feel that my entire being relaxes and her whole being relaxes too. My heart feels peace after a day of adult worries and stresses and her heart releases any worries that have built up in her mind during our day apart. It is a time we can unite and really be present to one another.

After that we play a bit and then I am off to make dinner. She doesn’t usually nurse during dinner anymore (unless she isn’t feeling well) and so we finish our meal and transition into our bedtime routine. She has a bath with daddy, usually, and then we either watch a short program on our computer or we just play and read together as a family. We head up to the bed with our books for the night and situate ourselves in our family bed. She is usually playful and shouts out “I’m gonna get those milkies!” as I try to arrange the blankets. When we finally lay down she settles in once again for her last nursing session of the day. I read to her as she nurses off and on and she sometimes falls right asleep during the 2nd or 3rd book. Other times, we finish the 3rd book and then I turn off the light and sing her lullabies as she nurses herself to sleep.

There have been a handful of nights when she has fallen asleep while snuggled up instead of nursing herself to sleep, but for the most part, she still falls asleep at my breast. She rarely awakens during the night anymore, but if she does, she whispers up to me “mama, may I have some milkies, please?” Then she nurses herself right back to sleep. And then we start our day over again.

Nursing a four year old is not something that I set out to do in the beginning but it is where we are today. I am fully confident that one day she will wean herself. I know that one day she will just not want to or need to do it anymore. And when that day comes, I hope that she will know that I am still here for her when she needs me. My arms will always be wide enough to hold her, my lips will always be ready to talk or offer a comforting kiss, my ears will always be ready to listen, my lap will always have a spot for her to rest on and my heart will never run out of love for her.

She often tells me that when she is all grown up and I am an old lady that has grown small again, she will hold me and rock me and give me her milkies. To her, I believe, this is the ultimate expression of love, to nourish and comfort someone at the breast. I am honored and overwhelmed by love that she imagines doing this for me one day.

So, here we are 4 years and 4 months old and still nursing, still co-sleeping, still living this life the way we feel we should be. Still feeling anshin.

Some great links for full term breastfeeding mama’s and those that love them:

A Natural Age of Weaning by Katherine Dettwyler, PhD

Breastfeeding: Biocultural Perspectives (also by Katherine Dettwyler, PhD

Handling Criticism about breastfeeding on KellyMom.com

Dr. Sears on handling criticism on extended breastfeeding

Are you still breastfeeding an older baby or child?

Have you felt pressured to stop or overly criticized?

I hope that you felt encouraged by today’s post.

If you feel like sharing your story, do so in the comments below.

And if you’d like to make a guest post here about your story please email me at violetsmama.wordpress@outlook.com

Missing You

“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” ― A.A. Milne, Winnie the Poohmom at 30 with 3 kids 

Death is a difficult thing to explain, especially to a child. Unfortunately, it is something that we all have to deal with at some point.

Our sweet daughter is very inquisitive and her questions are becoming more and more challenging for me to answer. I want to tell her the truth always but I also want to find a balance between the whole truth and partial explanation. I don’t want to over explain things and make her feel worried or cause her to have anxiety about death and illness.

A few weeks  ago in the car we were listening to Isreal Kamiwamiwo’ole and she was looking at the album cover. She loves his voice and loves the cover photo of him swimming in a pool that looks like the earth. She asked “Mommy is he still alive?” I answered that he wasn’t. She asked “Did he swim too much and then he died?” I told her he died from heart problems. Then she said “Maybe his pants were up too high and then he died.” Her questions went on and on and I tried to explain to her that some people get sick and get better and some people get a very serious sickness and their bodies can’t recover so they die. She seemed concerned but she was able to move on without dwelling on it for too long.

So far, no one that Violet has known very closely has passed away. We lost friends in the tsunami 2 years ago but she wasn’t quite old enough to know what that meant . She knew that life was different for a while and we had to move to a new house with new books and new toys and new clothes but the loss of life was not something she could comprehend at the time.

When my friends sister passed away a year ago, she saw that I was sad and cried a lot. She was so young and left 2 young children behind and a loving husband, sister and parents and countless friends. I tried to explain my sudden bouts of sadness to her and tell her that mommy was sad because her friend had gotten sick and couldn’t get better. She would pat my back and tell me it was o.k. to cry. Her death reminded me of my own loss. The loss of my dear, sweet mother. I was 21 years old when my mother was taken from me. Her children were only 4 and 6. I grieved for them and each time I looked at my daughter I saw her daughter searching for her mother, crying out for her and not understanding why she didn’t come. At 21 years old I felt that same pain but my mind was more capable of comprehending her absence. My heart felt like it was breaking all over again and I felt all those feelings over again. Anger, sadness, frustration, fear and pain.

About a month later I was blessed with an experience I had never had before. As I was nursing Violet to sleep I was overcome with the feeling that my Mom was surrounding me with her presence. I saw her face so clearly in my mind. Usually when I picture her I see her as she looked before she had cancer. With her beautiful brown hair. That night she had her post chemo hair (a beautiful purplish grey). She was smiling so wide and she was glowing. I felt so warm and full of light. My eyes filled up with tears and I whispered “Please don’t go Mama. Stay here with us a little longer.” When I started to feel her slipping away, I whispered it again. I felt her there with me for the entire time I was nursing Violet to sleep. I felt like she was holding us both and looking at her beautiful granddaughter. I don’t know how to explain the feeling I had except to say it was close to perfect happiness. I couldn’t stop crying and my tears were dropping onto Violet’s tummy. She didn’t seem to notice that I was crying, thankfully, and fell peacefully to sleep.

There are more times than I can count that I wish I could call out to my mom and seek her reassurance, her love, her understanding, her praise. Since becoming a mother myself, I feel it even more frequently than I did before. Since she left this world there has been a constant hole in my heart. Every occasion and celebration is missing her presence. I know how much she would have loved to be a grandmother. She never got to be “Mimi” (that is what she wanted to be called by her grandchildren). She never got to hold her grand-babies and shower them with her unmatchable love. Her sweet grandchildren will never know how her hugs could calm any fear, how her smile could brighten even the darkest room. They will never get to laugh at her corny jokes or be comforted by her heartwarming words. They will never know how much she loves them.

At the same time, I feel so much closer to her now than I did in the immediate years following her death. I can understand in a way I never did before how much my mom loved me. I remember her telling me “when you’re a mom one day, you’ll understand…” There was no way I could understand that until my own daughter was placed in my arms and I knew that I would walk through fire for her. I now know how deeply it hurt her to see me hurting and how overwhelming the love in her heart was for me and my brothers.mom 35 with teenagers

A mother’s love is like no other love. No one will ever love me like my mother loves me. I was perfect in her eyes,though she knew I could and did do wrong, she knew I was not a bad person.  When I broke my mother’s heart with poor choices in my teen years, I couldn’t understand how she could forgive me and keep loving me. Now I know why. When you carry life inside your own body, although they enter the outside world at some point, they are always a part of you and the love you feel for them can never be taken away.

My mother’s love surrounds me now. No matter where I am or what I am doing, she is there. When I lie awake watching my daughter suffer through an illness, she is there worrying with me. When I hold my daughter close to my breast and nourish her with life giving milk, she is there holding me. When my heart fills with the purest joy at seeing Violet accomplish something new, she is there celebrating with me. She is there. She is there. She is there.

mom on her last trip to Colorado, 1 month before she passed

Though Violet never got to meet her Grandma Pam, Grandma Pam is there. She is always in my heart and so I know her love is pouring out to Violet through my love. Violet has been very vocal about her and asks questions all the time about her life and why she had to die. She misses her. She has even cried for her before, crying out that she misses Grandma Pam. As she grows older and asks more questions I can see her grieving for the loss of the grandmother she never knew. I wish that I could protect her from ever having to experience the pain of loss and heartbreak. But I cannot.

My dear friend put it so eloquently in a post on her blog saying, “Daily, I wish I could protect my children’s innocence. I wish I could shield them from the harshness of this world. I wish I could always protect their hearts, their minds, their souls. I wish they knew nothing of the sin, brokenness, and ugliness of this world. I wish I didn’t have to tell them that they can’t trust everyone, and that there are people in this world who are not good. I wish they knew no sadness, experienced no loss, and lived carefree and happy all of the time. That is Heaven though, and not Earth. As long as they live on this Earth, they will experience all that we experience – they will break hearts and their hearts will be broken”

I fear losing Violet or her losing me or her daddy. I try not to worry about it but I know that one day one of us will be gone from the other. I cling to the hope though that we will be reunited. Just as I cling to that hope that one day I will embrace my mother again. I am trying to help her find ways to understand pain and to deal with it in a healthy way. Teaching her that it is ok to cry and it is ok to miss someone. These are natural feelings. We are also trying to teach her to look for love and joy and peace and beauty to bring her out of sadness and darkness.

Talking about death with her has allowed me to realize that there are not always answers to every question and I don’t have to pretend to have the answer to it all. I am praying that as she grows older she will come to understand in her own heart what happens after we die and that even though we don’t know for sure, we don’t have to be afraid of it. Love will live on, Love will always live on.

How do you talk to your children about death?

Has your child asked you questions that you don’t know how to answer?

Thanks for stopping by today,

Violet’s Mama

So fast

What is it about life that makes time seem to fly by so fast?

A common phrase among us all is, “Time flies when you’re having fun!” And when seasoned parents speak to new parents they often say “They grow up in the blink of an eye!”

I have been curious why things seem to be going faster the older I get.

When I was a child, I remember it seemed like years before the end of the school year or waiting for Christmas to come again. From birthday to birthday felt like ages and some years I just couldn’t wait to “be bigger”. Why is it that now, as my 35 birthday approaches, that I feel like I blinked and my teens and twenties were gone?

I decided to do some reading on the subject and found some very interesting articles. One in particular stated that it all has to do with anticipation and retrospection. This resonated true with me. When we are waiting for something monumental to finally happen the anticipation can make it feel like time is moving in slow motion. Where as after it has happened and we look back on it, it seems as if time was moving at the speed of light. As we continue to age we pass more and more milestones. The more milestones we pass the faster they seem to have gone by.

As we grow up and get older we are constantly waiting for the next milestone. The next birthday, the new school year, getting our driver’s license, voting for the first time, graduating from high school, college, turning 21, getting married and having our first child. This is just to name a few along this journey called life.

I have definitely had a lot of fun in the past 35 years of my life and so I could believe that because of all that fun time has flown by. But I have also had a lot of sadness too. The most difficult to bear being the loss of my mother. As the anniversary of her passing approaches each August, I reflect on the last month of her life. The last 2 weeks in the hospital with her as she slowly faded away and her body succumbed to the terrible cancer ravishing her organs. Those two weeks in the hospital felt like an eternity. All of the waiting and wondering if she would make it through. Not knowing if each touch of her hand would be the last. The day she passed felt like the longest day of my life. Learning to go to sleep without her physical presence in my life anymore felt like an unbearable task. Singing at her funeral and greeting each guest that arrived to honor her felt like a mountain I would never finish climbing.

Now as I look back on it almost 14 years later, it seems like it was only yesterday. The fun and the sadness in our lives all seem to pass by quickly in retrospection but in the moments of anticipating the next stage they seem to drag on.

Since becoming a mom the milestones that I am anticipating are those of my daughter. It seemed like an eternity until her birth when I was pregnant. Then she was here and as I looked back on my pregnancy I couldn’t believe it was already over.

summer palace ChinaHer first smile, first words, first tooth and first steps all seemed to come so fast. Why are her milestones slipping by faster than my own? Or are they both going by just as fast but I am more focused on hers? I don’t really know. I suppose the latter is true.

How did I go from this little girl on the beach with my mom and siblings to being the mommy?kid to mommy beach

Violet has seemingly grown up over night. When we first moved into our temporary house (housing provided by the government to those who lost their homes in the tsunami) she was only 19 months old. She couldn’t reach handles and needed help opening doors. Now almost 2 years later, she is closing the door opening the fridge and showing herself to the bathroom without any assistance needed. I blinked and she became a little girl rather than my baby girl. She will always be my baby, of course, but she so big now.

moving into temporary housing

Witnessing the changes in her life both physically and emotionally is such a gift. Last month every day that I dropped her off at school was heart wrenching. She cried and begged to stay with me. It tore my heart in two each morning and each night as she would ask me if there was school tomorrow and I had to answer yes. The school year starts in April here and she started a new class (preschool class) on April 4th. The first day of school was so different than the days before that. She woke up excited to go to school. She told me she loved me best but loved her friends too. My heart soared that she had found a way to find happiness at school.

Now, she tells me in the mornings sometimes “Mommy, I am not going to say ‘No school today?’ anymore because I am a grown up.” I tell her that she can if she wants to but it’s o.k. if she doesn’t. She has told me she is not going to cry when we get to school either because she’s a big girl now. I again tell her that she can if she wants to and it’s also o.k. if she doesn’t.

When we take her to school she wants to walk in sometimes vs. being carried in. And this morning when we were saying goodbye after several kisses and spoken goodbyes she stood at the door to her class and said “mama, I’m not going to say goodbye anymore. I love you.” and then she walked into her class. She did pop her head back out though and wave and say I love you in her kitty voice until we could no longer see each other.

First day of school with mommy

It is so precious to see her growing up. I sometimes can’t even believe how fast this has all gone. I imagined it feeling fast but not this fast. Some days I just want to stop the clock and stay in these moments forever. I want to hold her so tight and wrap her up in my arms and never let her go. But I know that I can’t do that. I want her to have a full life, exploring every opportunity that she chooses to explore. I am excited about reaching future milestones with her while at the same time wanting to hold on to these days as long as I can. I am always trying to learn how to hold on without holding her back.

The fun times and the sad times will continue to pass through our lives and I will probably look back on today a few years from now and think it was only yesterday that she was going to preschool. I know that time will continue to go by faster and faster the older I get and the older she gets.

As parents the days are sometimes long and the years are often too quick. Days of nursing, changing and late nights will seem so close yet so far away and one day she will be graduating from college and I will without a doubt be whispering in my heart “How did my baby become a young woman so fast.”

One day I will be writing about her weaning and I will again be hit with the heart wrenching awareness of how fast she has grown up. Today I will cherish the moments of the day. Tomorrow I will look back with fondness and awe at how quickly it all went by.

sweet smile carseat 1st day of school

“I’m Not Pretty Enough” Violet Age 3

The four words that broke my heart and all too soon, I might add. My 3 year and 5 month old daughter watched as I put on my make-up yesterday morning before work and as usual wanted to experiment with a little of it on her own face. I usually give her a soft powder brush that I have never used in make-up before. Yesterday however, she was very aware that there was nothing on her brush or in the cap she was using to dab her brush in. So I gave her a tiny bit of transparent Bare Essentials powder to play with.

I wear make-up every day and I usually put it on when she is not in the room but sometimes she sneaks in and wants to be like mommy and pretend with it. For the most part, I only wear powder, concealer and mascara. The times I have the most trouble keeping her out of my make-up are when I wear eyeshadow. I don’t usually wear it but for special occasions I dab a little on. Yesterday I attended the graduation ceremony of one of my schools and so I was dressed up. I wore a dress and tights (I usually wear pants) and Violet was thrilled to see me in my dress. My daughter wears a dress or a skirt every day, not because I make her but because she loves to wear them. She insists on it actually.

As I was putting on my make-up she came in the room and asked if she could put some on too. She quickly hurried off to get her stool so she could see the mirror and reach my make-up bag. She said, “I want to look pretty too, Mama.” I told her, “You are already pretty sweetheart. Make-up doesn’t make us pretty, it is just fun to wear. Mommy, just wears it for fun.” She asked again. Finally, I relented and gave her the powder brush and empty lid to pretend with.

She wanted the eyeshadow though. I tried to distract her with the softness of the brush and then put a tiny bit of the transparent powder in the lid. But she really wanted the colorful eyeshadow, and why wouldn’t she? It’s sparkly, and full of bright colors like her paint box. I told her she could have the powder then she looked up at me and uttered those four words I was dreading to hear, “But I am not pretty enough!” My husband and I both shared a heartbreaking glance and I tried my best to think of what to say next. I went over to her and hugged her and told her that she was beautiful and my husband came and told her that mommy was beautiful with out makeup too. I didn’t know what else to say.

How did this happen already? How did my sweet little baby come up with the idea that she is not pretty enough in her own skin? We don’t allow her to watch princess movies or even read the books. And she doesn’t play with Barbies. Was it all from just watching me? What could I do to change her mind on this? Is it too late?

Last night, as I showered and got ready for bed my mind still couldn’t stop thinking of what had happened that morning. I wondered about how long it had been since I felt comfortable in my own skin and confident enough to leave my house without wearing at least powder. I can’t remember.

From the time I was at least 14, I felt the need to have make-up on my face to be considered acceptable for public appearances. I remember begging my mother to let me start to wear make-up when I was in the 6th grade and her trying to convince me that I didn’t need it. She finally allowed me to wear blush and pale lip gloss to my first boy girl dance that year. After that came a nude lipstick and clear mascara. By the 8th grade I was wearing it all, from foundation to blue eyeliner and bright lipstick.

I loved my make-up and feeling like a grown up as I painted my face each day. I felt prettier. I felt more confident and more noticeable. Where did I learn this from? Probably from my peers, books, magazine and TV.

My mom was a beautiful woman and I can remember thinking, I can’t wait to be old enough to not worry about imperfections (pimples) that I needed to cover up. My mom had such beautiful skin and she did leave the house without makeup sometimes. I often thought she was one of those people lucky enough to not need make-up. I, on the other hand, am not one of those people. I have breakouts (still do at almost 35) and fever blisters on occasion. I have an uneven skin tone and small eyes. All of these features on my face that were created to be just as they are make me feel insecure and less beautiful. So I have worn make-up to “better myself” on a daily basis since I was a young teen waiting for the day when I wouldn’t need it anymore.

Last night I remembered a girl in college who gave up wearing make-up for Lent to remind herself to not focus on external beauty. At the time I thought, “She can do that because she has perfect skin. I could never do that.” She did have beautiful skin but I am sure she felt insecure about certain things just like the rest of us. It made an impression on me but didn’t cause me to take any action toward changing the way I felt about myself.

As I continued to think about her and then think about my precious and beautiful daughter I realized that the best way to show Violet that she doesn’t need make-up to be beautiful was for me to feel that way about myself. I needed to feel pretty in my own skin to be an example for her. I am not saying that moms need to eschew make-up permanently or that I am a bad mom for wanting to wear it. Because, although I do wear it to improve the way I look, I also really do still love to play with it. What I realized was that I needed to find a balance and that I needed to make sure that she sees me leaving the house and being around other people without it and still feel confident in myself.

So, this morning I took the plunge. I made the decision when I woke up that I would not wear make-up to work today. I showered and styled my hair as usual and then got dressed for the day. When my daughter came in the room I knelt down beside her and asked her to look at mama’s face. She touched my skin and said, “your boo boos (pimples) are all better mama!!” I smiled, knowing that the scars from my last breakout were still visible to me but to her they looked all better. She rubbed my skin and I told her, “mommy is not going to wear make-up to work today. I am pretty enough without it.” She smiled and took my hand.

I want my daughter to feel beautiful everyday. I want her to see the beauty in other people. I want her to see that prettiness is only skin deep but true beauty shines from our souls.

I love that she thinks I am beautiful just as I am. To her, I am perfect. There isn’t a thing about my body that she would change. From my soft arms to my fluffy bum. She loves me. I want to love myself that way too because I want her to love herself in that way.

Yesterday, I wore a short sleeved dress but put a sweater on top. She begged me to take it off. I did for just a moment and she shouted with the purest joy “Mama, I can see your beautiful arms! You are so beautiful!” I believe her when she tells me I am beautiful and I want her to believe me when I tell her she is beautiful too.

Today, I feel a little nervous without my make-up to hide behind but I am trying to make myself make eye contact with people and to smile. It is a start right? I am pretty enough. I am beautiful enough. I am who I am and I hope that I can be confident in that not just for my daughter, but for myself too.

Who will join me in this journey? Let your daughters and any other young women in your life know that they ARE pretty enough. Let yourself know that you are pretty enough.

This is me without makeup today. Join me on facebook or here in the comments and post your beautiful picture without make-up.


A letter to my daughter

Today I was asked to write a letter to my daughter to submit into the end of the year memory book for her nursery school. I was only allowed a page. So I will write what I submitted along with everything else I wanted to say. ❤


Dearest Violet すみれ、

We are coming to the end of your first full year of nursery school. You have been going for a year and a half actually. I never thought I would be working outside the home after you were born but here we are. Every day that I send you to school a piece of my heart goes with you. But each time I pick you up at the end of the day, your smiles put my heart back together again.

I wanted you for so long. I loved you before you were even born. From the moment that little plus sign showed up on the first of 4 tests, I loved you. As I carried you in my womb I worried and prayed for your safety and well being. The first moment I saw your tiny form at 7 weeks on that black and white fuzzy print, you stole my heart. When I finally heard your heartbeat racing through the speakers of the ancient Doppler machine at our doctors office I no longer knew where your beat ended and mine began. And I laughed and cried tears of pure joy and relief. When I felt that tiny butterfly movement inside my growing belly for the first time, I knew that I would do anything to protect you. Watching my body change and grow to accommodate your growing body was the most amazing miracle I have ever witnessed. When I finally saw your tiny sweet face and looked into your innocent eyes for the first time I finally knew what it was like to love someone without restraint. When I held you in my arms and brought you to my breast at long last, I felt peace, I felt like this was where we were supposed to be. I knew that I was born to be your mommy. It was as if you had always been with me and yet I was filled with such anticipation to know you.

We have loved every second of having you in our lives. Through changing diapers and late night nursing, we have loved you. Through sleepless nights and joy filled days, we have loved you.

For three years now we have been given the gift of enjoying your smiles, your laughs, your hugs and your kisses. We may have taught you a few things along the way but dear Violet, you have taught us so much more. You have taught us how to be patient, how to be compassionate and about true empathy. When you are sick or sad my heart actually hurts. When you laugh my soul shines. You have taught me how to live each day with pure joy and to truly live in each moment we are given. With you, I now know what true unconditional love is. I know how it feels to give it and to receive it. It is a humbling experience to be loved so much by one person.

I have made many mistakes in this short time I have been allowed to be your mommy and I don’t doubt there will be countless more. Thus far, you have been quick to forgive and so you have also taught me what it is like to be truly forgiven. To forgive and to actually forget the wrongs done to you and to go on loving as if it never happened.

I will do my best to protect you dear daughter and to nourish your great strengths while also letting you experience your life. There will be times that I cannot protect you but I have faith that you are always in the care and protection of the One who made you. I am learning every day how to hold you without holding too tightly.

Thank you for loving us, Violet. Thank you for being our daughter, our friend and our teacher. “I love everything you are and all that you will be.”

With love that lasts forever, Mommy


Reading is fun!

Reading is Fun!posterI have been an avid reader since I was a little girl. If I had a picture of my favorite place to read as a kid and teen, I would post it. We had this high backed chair in our house that was reupholstered 2 or 3 times I think. It came from my Grandmother’s house originally. When I was about nine it was upholstered in a pink,white and turquoise, southwestern pattern. (Very popular in the early 90’s) I used to love to lay on it with my back and head on the seat and my legs up along the back of the chair and feet hanging over the top. Sounds weird for reading, I know, but I loved it. I loved reading all kinds of books and I was lucky enough that my mom was an avid reader who happened to have a wonderful collection of books from her youth too. So I was stocked! I had my own personal library plus mom always took us on trips to the library to check out whatever books we wanted. I can still remember the smell of our little library and how the cold steel on the doors felt so revitalizing on a hot South Texas day. Walking into that quiet library knowing that there was an endless number of adventures awaiting my mind and my fingertips was exhilarating to me. I still feel that sense of excitement when I step into a library today.

During summer vacation, my mom and I would often read a book together. I would wake up in the morning and go crawl into her bed. She would pull the soft cotton sheets over us both and we would pick up where we had left off the day before. Reading aloud to each other, alternating after a chapter, the stories would come alive. My mom had a great reading voice and always drew us into the story with her enthusiastic reading. One of our favorite books to read together was The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. The copy we read from was my mother’s from when she was a young girl. The pages were a bit yellowed and there were some small tears here and there. The scent of the old paper and the inscription on the inside cover “To Pamela with love, The Roberts” drew me into her world. I could picture her as a 10 year old girl opening the pages with anticipation of what adventures might lie within this new gift. She had some neighbors who gave her books on special occasions. We read The Secret Garden aloud to each other the summer of my freshman year in High School. We had both read it several times before but it was one of our favorites so we decided to reread it together. We were lost in the gardens together and lost in the love of a mother for her son even after she had passed on to the next life. Little did I know that 7 years later my own mother would no longer be with me in this world. And so that book still holds special meaning for me.

I read to Violet every day. I have read to her since she was in my womb in fact. Every night we read at least 3 books. We started out with just 1 book a night but as her love for the written word has grown we have added to the nightly ritual. We read throughout the day as well but definitely at least 3 books as we are lying in bed. If she is feeling particularly sleepy she will nurse while I read. She struggles to see the pictures and will often tug down on the pages to get a better look. Other times she is content just to listen to my voice as I read to her. She has memorized the way I read her favorites and if I put emphasis on a different word than I usually do she will correct me. Or if Daddy is reading one that I usually read she will correct him if he doesn’t emphasize the same words. For example I usually say “I just can’t wait to dance.” But if I say, “I just can’t wait to dance” she will ask me to read it the right way. With a smile. Another funny thing she does when I read is if I yawn while reading she will say “Mama, can you try that again please?”

I love snuggling up with her and reading. It is hard for me to see the words over her sweet head as I hold it down for her to see the pictures while she is nursing. But I love how she wants to be close to my heart. I can remember laying on my own mother’s chest and feeling her voice as she spoke to me or read to me. It was enough to soothe me even as a teenager.

I am thrilled that Violet has developed the same love for books that I have. I can’t wait for the day when we can read aloud together alternating and sharing in an adventure. But for now, I am enjoying entertaining her with my own renditions of our favorites and cherishing the closeness of our nursing/reading sessions before bed.

She is growing so fast and I can hardly believe how much she changes even week by week. Two weeks ago, Violet read her very first book aloud all by herself. We have been using The Bob Books as a tool for reading and she just adores them. The stories are simple and have words that use the first phonetic sounds only. For example, “The cat sat.” She was so pleased with herself and when she finished it she looked up at me with a surprised look on her face and said “I read that book, mama.” It was a special moment for us all.

Just in case your interested, our favorite books to read together are:

Zippity Zebra and the Windy Day by Claire Henley

Someday by Alison McGhee

Love You Forever by Robert Munsch

any Sandra Boynton Book (especially The Belly Button Book)

Bear Feels Scared

Bear Stays Up For Christmas

Bear Snores On

Bears Loose Tooth

Don’t Be Afraid Little Pip (and all the above Bear Books) by Karma Wilson

Nursies When the Sun Shines by Katherine Henley

Winter Days in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder

I Wear My Tutu Everywhere by Wendy Cheyette Lewison

What are some of your favorite books to share with your little ones?
Do you have any special memories involving reading?

Because I love you

after workViolet and I were sharing some time on the couch after returning home from school and work. I decided I would ask her “what’s your favorite thing about having milkies?” I wasn’t sure what she would answer. I thought perhaps she would say the milk. She looked up at me with smiling, sparkling eyes for a moment. Then she pointed her short chubby finger up at me and touched it down onto my chest and said “you mama!” I said “what about me?” She replied, “I love my milkies mama because I love you. I love to be with you.” Then she also said that she, of course likes the taste of her milkies too.

Love can be shown in so many ways to our children. Spending time together is one of the most important ways, in my opinion. For Violet, when we sit down or lay down to nurse she gets my undivided attention. We look into each others’ eyes and we share a conversation without speaking. I am thinking of her and she is thinking about me. I know this because I have asked her, “what are you thinking about now sweetheart?” She usually answers, “you.” These moments are so precious and so sweet. Sometimes during a nursing session she will stop and ask me questions about my day or tell me something about her day. Breastfeeding such a vocal child is so rewarding in so many ways.

This connection that we have will not last forever. One day she will not need her milkies anymore. I have told her over and over that she can have her milkies until she is ready to not have them anymore. I tell her this not to try to encourage her to stop, but to let her know that she has the ability to decide when she wants to stop. These conversations usually happen after she asks me if “so and so” still has milkies. For example, her cousin and aunt that she looks up to so much are 9 and 10 years old. She has asked if they still have milkies. I explain to her that they had them before but they don’t have them anymore. She asked me why they stopped. I told her that they stopped because they were ready to stop. Violet is very much into role play. She loves to pretend to be her Aunt or her cousin and many other people or animals that she loves. When she is pretending to be someone who doesn’t breastfeed she will tell me “I am Maddie now so I am ready to not have milkies anymore. But then I will be Violet again ok, Mama?” I always play along.

I see her reaching out for her independence. I am watching her experiment with letting go. I will not hold her back and I will not push her forward. I am lovingly letting her be and letting her discover this on her own. She still nurses quite frequently when we are home together all day. But I know that she is thinking about it more than she used to. We co-sleep and she still nurses to sleep as well. Sometimes she will tell me that she just wants to fall asleep by herself. I let her try and wait for her to ask for me. A few times she has just fallen asleep laying on top of me instead of nursing. We will take this journey at what ever speed she chooses. I will cherish these days for as long as I live. This journey has been a lot longer than I expected it to be but I have not regretted one day of it.

Are you still nursing a toddler or preschooler?
When did you start to see a change in their frequency?

A letter to my future self

Dear 70 year old me,

I have no idea where you are living now. I have no idea what you will be doing at this age. In my 34 year old mind I like to imagine that you and Gabe have retired and are enjoying spending time together. I pray you are cherishing each other as the days go by. I imagine that you are doting on a grandchild or two and definitely still adoring the friendship you and Violet have created through these years. I am sure as you sit back and think of the days when she was small you wonder how the time could slip through your fingers so quickly. How in the blink of an eye she was grown and gone off to create her own life and her own way in this world. I hope you remember the simple things in your life. I hope you to live for each moment. I pray you wake with the spirit of that 3 year old girl so many years ago that woke you with kisses and giggles, feeling that the day is not to be conquered but enjoyed and treasured. I imagine that in the span of your life you have not regretted the lack of sleep that you got as a mother of a young child. I would wager to say that you do not wish that you had slept just a little bit more in the mornings before heading off to work. I can almost guarantee that you are wishing, in fact, that you had woken up earlier to relish in the laughter and hugs and kisses of your little girl. To cradle her in your arms while you still could. To linger in her arms as she squeezed your neck so tight and left warm wet kisses on your face. To watch as she pounced out of bed ready to greet the morning with energy that could not be contained any longer. I imagine that you often close your eyes and still see that tiny ballerina dancing in her pajamas as she made her way to the next room, then insisted on putting on her “real ballet clothes” to give you a special, private performance of the Nutcracker Ballet. I want you to remember this morning. The love you both felt for each other. Remember the joy in her voice as she stood behind the curtain that separated the shower and the kitchen announcing “Today I’m going to do a big ballet show”. She flung open the curtain and began dancing along to the Nutcracker music, remembering what each movement portrayed and trying to recreate it herself. Then asking you to join her, and at that moment saying to yourself, “Remember this, cherish this, this time in her life of carefree bliss.” Remember the sheer joy that being together brings to her heart and to yours. Remember what she answered when you asked her “what does love mean?” She said “Love means always being together.” Spending time together is how she shows and feels love. I am sure love will mean many things to her as she grows and matures into a woman. But at this moment it means being together. Whether she is living next door now or is if she is on the other side of the world, remind her that you are always together. If we carry each other in our hearts we are always together.

Now that you and Gabe are on your own again, perhaps you are getting a little more sleep than you used to. I am sure you miss these early mornings and wish that you could go back to them for just one brief moment. So I want to tell you that I am cherishing them for us. I am soaking up every minute. I am trying to preserve these memories in my heart of dancing before dawn and cooking breakfast in the dim light of morning. I am holding on without holding her back. So that one day, when you close your eyes and listen to the music that plays in your heart you will be there. You will be there with this tiny ballerina, this beautiful soul who loves you no matter what, who forgives you no matter how badly you fail. These days she often asks “Will I always be your baby?” and you always answer “always and forever!”. And then she asks “how long is forever?” you always answer her “forever means it never ends, it goes on and on and on. It never stops, never fades.” She will always be your baby no matter how old she is. These days went by faster than you ever dreamed possible but I am sure you remember the love.

Love, you (mom of 3 year old Violet)

It all started wth a memory

Yesterday was one of those days when sadness crept up on me and caught me by surprise. I am sure we all experience them from time to time. I felt overwhelmed by grief yesterday and it stayed with me till I picked up Violet from nursery school.

It all started with a memory.

I was thinking about our sweet Violet at about 10 months old. Violet had this cute little bonnet with birds on it. It was a handmade bonnet made my Urban Baby Bonnets.Image She loved her hat. In fact her first word after mama and daddy was hat.

Every day Violet and I went out for a morning and afternoon walk. She always pointed and said hat before we walked out the door. I can see her smile and the twinkle in her eyes as I placed the bonnet on her head and snapped the snaps beneath her chin. I would then snuggle her into the sling and out the door we would go. I can hear the click clickety clack of our sliding door and feel the warmth of the sun on my face as the door opened to our front yard, just like it was yesterday.

We first stopped at our cherry blossom tree that Daddy planted when I was pregnant and we found out that we were going to be having a girl. It was Violet’s tree. We counted the leaves and talked about the colors we could see. The color of the branches, the leaves, the flowers in the spring.We looked up to the sky and sang “Blue Skies”. We would walk around our block and talked to our neighbors and kitty friends.

One day Violet realized how to unsnap her bonnet. Just as she did so a gust of wind blew and her bonnet flew off her head and through my fingers as I tried my best to catch it. But I failed and the hat flew straight into a covered ditch.

Violet and I looked at each other and she started to tear up. I knew she loved that hat so I ran down the street and found an opening. I carefully stepped in because the water was low and not rushing too fast. We waited and waited but her little hat never came.

When Gabe came home that afternoon I told him what had happened. Being the super daddy that he is, he told us not to worry.

We all walked down to the last place we saw the hat. He got in the ditch and started to look around. It was there, in a spot directly under a heavy concrete slab. He found a branch nearby and then lifted the concrete as much as he could and carefully fished out Violet’s favorite hat.

It was covered in mud and gunk from the ditch. But Violet knew it was HER hat and she smiled so wide. We took it home and washed it over and over and finally it was ready for her to wear again. It was a little stained but still very wearable. She loved that hat. I imagined that I would keep it in a box for her to see when she got older and that perhaps she would put it on her daughter’s sweet head one day.

But that will never happen. It was washed away once again but this time forever.

The tsunami took many things from us. And I know it is silly to mourn material possessions. I know that things are just things. But the memory of that little hat reminded me of all that was lost and that is when I began to feel that feeling…that feeling when you can’t catch your breath. When you feel that lump in your throat will take over and air won’t be able to pass through it. It was then that I felt the warm wet tears begin to fall down my cold cheeks.

I was walking from work to the nursery school. I knew that people were driving past me and thinking what could be wrong with that woman. But I couldn’t stop it. It had already begun.

We have all tried so hard to just move forward since the devastating events of March 11th. I think that in a way I have tried to push it away as much as possible. But some days it is just too much. The images of my friends faces who were taken away flashed through my mind and I saw their smiles and felt their warm embrace. I thought of friends who survived but seem lost in their survival. Those of us that survived may feel guilty for surviving and maybe we feel guilty for missing our old lives.

I miss our life before. I miss our walks, our neighborhood, our flowers and trees. I miss our warm bed and the memories that we made there. The pictures and videos that we were so careful to take that were lost forever.

I miss the faces of the mothers and children that we played with on a weekly basis. And the volunteers that worked at the center. Three times a week we went to the play group on the mountain. In fact on that day we were there in the morning. We played and laughed and communicated with out words. These women and children were part of our life and although we didn’t talk much because my Japanese is so poor, we shared our motherhood. We were all learning together. It was a happy time, a time I will remember for the rest of my life.

Two weeks ago I asked Violet if she remembered her old house. She said yes. So I said “what color was your bed Violet?” She smiled and said “Red. That’s where mommy and Violet had milkies.” Gabe and I looked at each other with amazement. She really does remember. Violet always slept with Gabe and I in our bed and we had red sheets.

Yesterday, for some reason, I finally began to grieve the loss of that life. It seems like a lifetime ago. So much has changed since then. Gabe and I always say to each other, “He took away everything we had and left us with everything we needed.”

After walking and crying for 40 minutes from my office I finally arrived at Violet’s nursery school. I wiped my face and did my best to put on my smiley face for our daughter, although the sadness still seemed to be taking over my heart.

When I got to Violet’s room I saw her running to the door. She was crying for me. She said, “I was looking for you but I couldn’t find you mama.” I wanted to break down right there. But I didn’t. I swept her up in my arms and wrapped her up in my love. She stopped crying very quickly and gave me that sweet smile of hers. The one that shines through her eyes.

Her teacher came to the door and said “Today Violet did something that she has never done before.” I started thinking “oh no I really hope she didn’t hit someone” (something she has not done before). Her teacher continued, “She hugged 4 of her friends today at different times during the day.” I remembered the devotion we read the night before in Violet’s book, The One Year Devotions for Preschoolers. It said,

“Do your friends ever get mad? Maybe you could give a hug to an angry friend. Or you might say something kind to that person. Hugs and gentle, quiet words can help an angry person to calm down. Sometimes people who are mad just need to know that someone loves them.” “A gentle answer will calm a persons anger.” Proverbs 15:1 “Dear God, if someone is mad today, please help me to know what words to say. “

After we read that devotional I talked with Violet about her friends at school. Recently she has been getting hit and bitten. It breaks my heart to see this happening. I told her after the devotional that if her friends seemed angry or if they seemed sad maybe she could give them a hug. I told her that sometimes when people are sad they get angry too. She looked up at me and said “A gentle answers calms anger.” “Yes” I said. I was surprised that she remembered the verse. So we practiced the verse a few times and then we hugged, of course.

I told Violet’s teacher that we had talked about hugging our friends the night before and we were both amazed and happy that she had put that thought into her mind and remembered to put it into action. As is our ritual, on our way home I asked Violet what her favorite part of the day was. She usually answers ‘finding mommy”. Yesterday, however, she answered, “Hugging my friends!”

It was at that moment that my sadness and grief melted away. Our daughter teaches us everyday. I was reminded of how powerful a hug really can be. So many of us are hurting, many of us are angry or lonely. Imagine what a great change you can create in someones day just by showing them love, by giving them a hug. Thank you Violet for hugging me and Daddy and your friends. You show us what love is everyday.