Business is Blooming

Darcy's Utopia Right Brain Business Plan

Darcy’s Utopia Right Brain Business Plan

I just passed my one year anniversary since I registered my business, Darcy’s Utopia. It felt like a huge leap of faith, and it still does. Every step feels like it requires courage that I didn’t have the day before, but I know that if I’m pushing my own boundaries that I’m moving in the right direction. Lately I’m feeling blissed out just by the idea of helping fellow Mamas, and each Mama I connect with simply makes my day.

The collage pic to the right is the first page from my Right Brain Business Plan. I developed my “business plan” while I was pregnant, and I barely want to admit how much time I spent clipping through magazines to find inspiration for my yet-to-be-born business. I spent months asking myself questions about how I was going to bring my services into the world.

In those early months of starting my business (while on maternity leave), I kept the image of planting seeds in my mind. I tried to have patience, knowing that all natural systems take time to flourish.

So, I smiled to myself this week when two women reached out to me about hosting Simplicity Parenting workshops, both of whom I had talked with last spring but the timing didn’t work. Now, the timing feels better than ever, as I feel my momentum gaining with each small action step.

Becoming a Mama Bliss Coach feels like such the perfect fit that in hindsight I wonder why it took me so long to find this calling. The other day I decided that I finally needed to start printing up some stuff and use a binder, so I found an old binder in the basement (a very nice purple one). I had to smile because inside was at pages full of coaching questions that I was asking myself at least five years ago.

It used to be that self-help was an entirely solo venture. People would thumb through used books on their own quest toward becoming the best version of themselves. Then seminars, like Landmark Education became a powerful way to break through your own barriers (I did the Forum back in 2002). Somewhere along the way Coaching became more and more common, with less of a stigma than traditional therapy. I like to say that therapy is all about how your past is affecting your present, but coaching is about how the present affects your future.

I’ll soon be launching my first full-fledged coaching package (beyond individual sessions, and with a great deal of benefits/bonuses). I’m sooo excited to be finally getting myself services out into the world and can hardly wait to connect with all the lovely mamas who could use some extra bliss.

Wishing you Mama Bliss!

Darcy

My Pin Code Mantra: geaj = bliss

Pin Code MantraI just gave you the pin code to my phone. geaj.

I only put the code on only really to keep my kids from hijacking my phone, but I wanted to give those four digits a deeper meaning. Now each and every time I access my phone, I repeat to myself Grace Ease Abundance Joy.

GEAJ, my personal pin code mantra. Typing the letters out actually feels odd because I don’t even think of them as just letters, but a personal story of my values.

Grace

I simply loooove the feeling of grace. I liken it to feeling my spirit in flow, with complete faith in the next step on my path. It’s a deep sense of peace, knowing that all is well. To me, experiencing grace is like experiencing the divine.

The word grace has an additional layer of meaning for me, since we are members of Grace Memorial Episcopal Church. It is a lovely urban church with a spiritually progressive bent. They have a special family service that we attend monthly, and we love it as much as our kids. We also love Grace because they have an amazing Grace Art Camp, which is now bringing art/cultural education to partnering countries. The most active members are truly dedicated to community service, and making the world a better place. While my spirituality can’t be summed up in a blog post, I am grateful for having a community to explore my beliefs.

Ease 

I would never claim that parenting is easy, but it is possible to parent with a sense of ease. For me ease is a way living where you don’t fret about things beyond your control, and you do your very best to be present and accepting of whatever life is throwing your way. My morning meditation practice (now for the past two years) helps me connect with my higher sense of purpose so that even when the kids are fighting or the day just turns out wrong, I can maintain an authentic poise. By connecting with my breath in the moment, I can feel a deep sense of peace and ease.

Abundance 

I cherish life’s abundance, and love the tarot imagery of a cup overflowing. While the world is full of injustice and suffering, I know that shining my light as brightly as possible is the only way to help others feel life’s abundance. Giving is the path to receiving. For me true abundance isn’t just feeling deeply satisfied on a material level, but also having enough love/light/cash/smiles to give freely as your heart calls you. It’s also a balance between loving your life now, but being bold enough to keep asking and working for more and more.

Joy

What other point is there really? Yes, I want to make the world a better place, but living my joy is the only way to get “there.” Honing in on joy in about finding what lights you up (and your kids!), rather than going along with what everyone else is doing. It’s about finding ways to express yourself and share your gifts. In the end, I feel like joy is my/our life’s purpose.

In Mama Bliss Coaching School we were given an exercise to help us (and clients) discover our deepest values. I wasn’t surprised when even after reconsidering a myriad of other values that I still typed out the same four letters. For me, geaj spells bliss.

What four letters spell bliss to you?

Can I help you live your bliss?

Darcy

Getting Back Into Inspired Action – My Mama Bliss Coaching Packages

This photo was taken by my BFF at the Michael Franti concert out at Edgefield, where I celebrated becoming a Mama Bliss Coach! Teagan had a blast and Franti even patted her sleeping bottom when he was crowd surfing. :-)

Taken by my BFF at the Michael Franti concert out at Edgefield, where I celebrated becoming a Mama Bliss Coach. The girls had a blast with Makenna on my shoulders and Teagan in a sling dancing. Franti even patted Teagan’s sleeping bottom when he was crowd surfing!

I’ve been doing a mental happy dance all week to finally have both of my older kiddos back in school. Don’t get me wrong, we had an incredible summer, but it also feels wonderful to be productive beyond fixing the next snack or packing for the next road trip. We seriously put over 2k miles on our Swagger Wagon on six trips, including 12 days in Beautiful British Columbia all the way to the Pacific Rim! It felt amazing to give myself some real vacation time and truly unplug for a change.

But it’s seriously inspiring to be back “at work” after the true work of caring for my family over the summer. It also feels like an anniversary season for me, since Teagan just had her first birthday and I’ve been working/caring from home for a full year. I couldn’t feel more blessed to be following my passion, and thrilled dive back into building my new Mama Bliss Coaching service. One of the first things I did was create my first “Coaching Packages,” which offer both entry and intensive level coaching. I want to make my coaching accessible to mamas who are ready to invest in creating their utopia.

I’m excited to share that all of my initial “freebie clients’ have chosen to continue to work with me at some level. It definitely validates all of the work that I put into my coaching training and the gut feeling feeling that this is my life’s calling. I also want to get the word out about my services, since I think there are a lot of mamas out there who could use an empowering partner in their camp.

Without further ado, I’m excited to share my Mama Bliss Coaching Packages.

I’m also thrilled to share my very first podcast interview with my beloved Mama Bliss Muse, Ms Kathy Stowell from Bliss Beyond Naptime. Truthfully, I actually thought our appointment was a regular coaching call, so I was all ready to talk about how to ramp up my practice, but I was happy to switch gears. While we’ve never met in person, we are like kindred spirits and I love Kathy’s playfulness.

Lastly, if you’re not looking for coaching but are curious about becoming a Mama Bliss Coach yourself, just get in touch and I’d be happy to share my experience. Like I say in my interview, there is no competition in the Mama Bliss world, each coach brings their own life experience and unique set of gifts, and I know that mamas everywhere could use a little more bliss.

Enjoy this blissful autumn sunshine!

Darcy

Creating a Family Values Crest

Cronin Family Crest

Cronin Family Crest

One of the things that has drawn me to coaching is my desire to find and express our unique family values, and now to share that process with other mamas. Every family has values, whether they are conscious of them or not. But families who are aware of their values and actively find ways to to express them through work and play are the families who are going to just survive, but truly thrive.

That’s why I LOVE that Values is the “third pillar” of Mama Bliss Coaching.

Values are light a beacon in the fog. They get you through the sibling squabbles, going the wrong way down a one-way street, or somehow missing a new child on your tax return (all of which happened for us yesterday, thankfully our accountant was still able to make the fix and the policemen was busy pulling over a cab!). Values help steer you back on course and remind you of what really matters.

One way to symbolize your family values is by creating a family crest, as I did for my website banner. Aside from paying homage to our Irish/Welsh/Scottish/British ancestry, our self-created coat of arms gives a visual representation our family values.

  • The blossoms on the top left hand show how we are all blooming in our own time. Sometimes its hard to keep in mind that we each have our own stages of growth. Teagan is just learning to crawl, while I am discovering what it takes to be a successful work-at-home mom. Our family’s job is to create the right conditions to help us each grow and develop. I.e. it’s time to baby proof!

  • The waves with sun and moon are symbolic of both our love of the ocean and the need to remain flexible as we ebb and flow toward our higher goals and values. Going with the flow is the most efficient path. Plus, we are real water lovers!

  • The five outstretched hands was my best way representing teamwork. Like all families, we are learning to be a team. We need to work together in order to play together.

  • The tree with shovel reminds me of our desire to give back to our community through volunteer service. Giving back is really important to Kevin and I, and one of the values that brought us together. Kevin served two terms as in Americorps and I’m an active Rotary International member. The kids often attend Portland Pearl Rotary meetings with me, and know way more about local/international causes than your average 8 and 5 year old (I just stopped taking Teagan with me, but she had near perfect attendance for the past eight months!). We did a Village Building Convergence street painting in our neighborhood last year, and are planning for one again next month. They love learning about causes and connecting as a community in the process.

The nice thing about a basic family crest is that it’s simple by design. I’m learning some great coaching methods to find your family values, but the gist is to whittle what you care about down to just four areas and find a way to symbolize each area. You could do it in a crayon drawing, crafty collage or even a purple pen like I did for my first design (My talented friend and former co-worker is due full credit for my lovely and playfully designed family crest…thanks Sarah!). Ideally it would be great to get your partner and kids involved in the process, but in my case I ended up doing it solo. Hubby and I may be aligned in values, but he finds my creative side far too left-brained. Plus, I was a little afraid that it might include lipgloss and Legos if I included the kids in the process. 😉

Have you created a family crest?

I’d love to see more examples on my new Pinterest Board on Creating Family Crests

Darcy

@DarcysUtopia – Coaching to create your ideal family life.

Creativity & Coaching

Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties. – Erich Fromm

As I’m going through my Mama Bliss Coaching School, I had my own coaching session with my own business/life coach, Lou Radja (It’s truly hard to not feel fired up after having a session with him…I highly recommend him for entrepreneurs who want to benefit the world, his motto is: Be More. Give More).

I explained technical concepts “Mama Bliss” and how they are completely in line with my mission and the services I want to provide. But as I listed off the four pillars: Self-Care, Creativity, Values and Simplicity. He stopped me short at Creativity with a perplexed look. He understood the rest of them, but couldn’t quite put his head around why Moms should focus on creativity. I did my best to continue to explain why creativity could/should be important to all Mamas.

Including creativity in the coaching process is brilliant for one simple reason: finding your creativity opens you up to the possibility and shows you that you can indeed do more than you ever thought possible. That’s the whole point of coaching, and creativity is a fun way to think outside your present reality.

Creativity is all about finding ways to express what you are deeply passionate about. It doesn’t have to mean that you’re crafty like Martha Stewart or suddenly become a blue-ribbon painter like my empty-nester sister-in-law. Maybe it’s music that lights you up or starting a book club or gourmet group, the possibilities are truly unlimited. Discovering your own unique creativity is personal, and can easily change with the seasons and over time.

My ideal client is just like me: One Busy Mama. But even when your life is very full, and maybe because it’s so packed, it’s all the more important to prioritize activities that bring you joy (beyond the essentials of self-care). Committing to your creativity doesn’t need to take a ton of time…you need to get creative. 😉

When I was working full time, my simple creative practice was growing flowers and picking bouquets regularly for myself, my co-workers and friends. I shouldn’t be surprised, but this spring Girly is simply overjoyed by all the flowers and bringing bouquets to her teachers and friends almost every day. I can see how my example is rubbing off, but the truth is that I got the bouquet bug from my own Mom. 🙂 Thankfully, we convinced her to save a few tulips for Easter.

Teacher Kathy provided a great coaching technique to help us brainstorm our creativity. I don’t want to give away our Mama Bliss trade secrets, but it was simple and powerful in helping reframe what types of creative projects you can dip into in ten minutes or dabble in for an hour or dive into for longer. It was very helpful for me, since just before doing the exercise I had already made a “wish list” of projects that I would love to create, but I was feeling so inspired (thanks to a great DIY magazine I picked up while traveling on spring break) that my list had gotten a bit carried away. So this quick session helped me feel like it’s possible to wander between projects as time and inspiration attracts me.

Since I’m home all the time now, it’s hard not to focus my creative energy on our home. While I’ve been focused on simplifying (or just maintaining status quo) for several years, I finally feel like I have some time to take on projects that I’ve always want to do, but just haven’t managed. One of my first bigger projects is going to the Rebuilding Center to make a headboard for Sweetie’s bedroom. A middle size project is making a mirror mosaic for the back porch (with my mom’s help who is really experienced). And in my smaller moments of time, I’ll continue to work in our vegetable garden and implementing our permaculture garden plan.

The exciting this about creativity is that everyone’s wish list will be different, and like Kathy reminded us, the more you use your creative muscle, the more creative you’ll become. There is such a tangible payoff in creating something that you just can’t find in other modes, replying to emails just doesn’t spark me the same way. Then, once you’ve made your creation in the world, it’s a physical reminder of that moment in your life. If you’re like me, you’ll remember how old (roughly) the kids were when such and such happened, and they’ll likely all sort of other personal stories wrapped up in your creation.

Although you may want your creativity to be impressive, it’s not really the point. Before we started the week’s lessons on coaching for creativity, Kathy asked us each to write a note to give ourselves permission to NOT be perfect for the sake of our own creativity. It was a simple, but powerful, reminder. At least for me, I have easily convinced myself not to work on a creative project because it wouldn’t turn out as nice as my Mom, who is a retired Home Ec teacher. I found it ironic that Kathy had a similar relationship to sewing because her mother is such a talented seamstress. I guess we Moms need to be careful about making creativity look too complex for our kids…this spring I’ve made a real effort to put whatever flowers/weeds Girly cheerfully brings me in a vase without moving a stem.

Well, I think my little reflection on what I’ve learned this week in coaching school is complete, but I’m very excited that my coaching career is just beginning. I am so looking forward to working with Mamas to bring out their creative passions and finding unique ways to bring them to life. I can only just imagine how beautiful and powerful this path will be.

Have a beautiful day!

Darcy

“Work in Progress” – Self Care

Lately I feel like I should have a sign posted: “Work in Progress”

I’m currently enrolled in Mama Bliss Coach School and am truly using the opportunity to go deeper with my own inner growth. I’m really excited about learning how to be an awesome Mama Bliss Coach, but I also know that the true work begins within. So, before I start helping other Mamas find their bliss, I’m working on growing my own inner well to tap into when parenting/life starts to drain me.

Brilliant Ms. Kathy has a lovely little acronym to help us remember all the essential elements of self-care:

  • Sleep
  • H2O
  • Organic Living
  • Exercise
  • Stillness

Sleep

With a seven month old my sleep has been less than optimal for about that long. But somehow I manage to function well on less sleep and catch up when I really need it. As a third time Mama, I’ve come up with two strategies that work really well for me. First, I have a co-sleeper with a bed set up instead of a crib. This allows me to nurse while half asleep, and makes sure that Hubby gets his sleep. I know some like to trade off with a partner, but with breast feeding I never saw the benefit (I couldn’t sleep with my breasts full anyway). Plus, with Hubby rested, he’s available if I really need a nap during the day. Usually I try to get one nap in on the weekend, and that catches me up for the week or go to bed early one evening if I’m lagging. Yet, this time around I truly am amazed at how well I’ve felt on less than perfect sleep. My second secret is waking up with a positive attitude and taking a shower first thing. Even when I’ve only gotten a few hours of sleep, I make sure to get a shower. On some mornings when I felt really sleep deprived, I came up with a little mantra: I’m rested and ready for the day. I’m revived and ready for the day. I’m refreshed and ready for the day.  Somehow this really helps me get past any sleep deficit.

H2O

Since I worked for the Portland Water Bureau for six years, no one needs to remind about the importance of water. Plus, our water here is truly delicious and satisfying. My strategy for drinking lots of water is to have a pint glass at the bathroom and kitchen sink, and I make sure to chug a glass first thing in the morning, before I go to bed and many times in between. I also carry a water bottle with me and have another in the car for back-up in case I forget it. Drinking water is the first think I do if I start to feel fuzzy or lacking energy.

Organic Living 

There’s so much that entails “organic living,” but it’s foremost eating well and being mindful of my lifestyle choices. Yes, maybe once a month or so we get soda with pizza, but sugary empty calories is more the exception than the rule for us. As a Mama, it’s about showing my kids healthy habits by living them. Gardening and getting outside are also important to me, and even though they require an effort, they truly do replenish me.

Exercise

To me exercise is all about getting your blood flowing…no need to jump on the treadmill. I enjoy all sorts of ways to be active: yoga, dancing, bicycling, hiking… The key to find a way to be consistent and make your body/well-being a priority in your life. It’s all connected…the better I feel, the better I look, the better I feel… Lately, I’ve been turned on to a really awesome routine. It’s linked to something called Minimum Effective Dose, which basically says that you don’t have to work out for long periods of time to get great results. The 30×30 Total Transformation combines a 10 minute high intensity workout that alternates between different body goals (foundation/core/cardio/power…), and a yoga like cool-down. Plus there’s an inspirational five minute video before a 15 minute meditation session. So, you get to combine the last two elements of self-care in just 30 minutes a day. Having recently finished my first round of 30×30, I can say that I really love the workout routines. I had done an intense “bootcamp” to get myself in shape after first daughter, and the workouts involve many of those same moves without pushing yourself to the point of utter exhaustion. Plus, I know I can continue them as I get more and more in shape, and they will continue to strengthen and support me to meet the rest of my life goals.

Stillness

This one is really key, and sometimes easy to skip as a busy Mama. While I had been intrigued by the idea of meditation since college, I first started a daily practice about a year and a half ago, when I broke my ankle. I happened upon Dr. Chopra’s 21-day Meditation Challenge, and fell in love with the inner peace and knowing that it helped grow inside of me. I’ve always been pretty reflective, but actually meditating gave me the permission to really daydream about my life and follow my intuition. I highly recommend his meditation challenges, and I can hardly wait for the next challenge starting just next week: Finding Your Flow. I also really love The Envisioning Method by Mindvalley‘s Vishen Lakhiani…all the elements for personal transformation and beyond.

And yes, sometimes my family interrupts me mediating, but they know that it’s my sacred “me” time and for the most part they’ve learned to respect it.

This reflecting is really mostly for me, as part of my Mama Bliss Coaching homework, but I hope I’ve inspired you to continue your progress to true self-care.

Have a beautiful day!

Darcy

 

Mama Bliss Coaching School & L.O.V.E.

I’ve been savoring my new role as a mother-at-home (still working out a title that fits…I certainly don’t stay home and often work from coffee shops). Even though my “work” days are all too short, and blessedly interrupted with diaper duty and newborn nursing, I am still satisfied and motivated by the work I do manage to accomplish. Creating a start-up has a true learning curve, but it excites me.

I’m very excited to share that I’ve decided to take the parenting coach aspect of my business to the next level. Initially I was only ever planning to host Simplicity Parenting workshops, but recently I’ve felt called to delve into the coaching role. On top of the personal satisfaction I get from writing/reflecting, I love connecting with people one-on-one, and savor the community/work relationships I’ve created in my past work. I love the feeling of helping others and connecting deeply.

So, I’ve enrolled in Mama Bliss Coaching School!!!

I was turned on to Kathy’s Bliss Beyond Naptime blog from a college friend when I told her how interested I was/am in Simplicity Parenting. Kathy has taken the same training that I have, and her parenting/mama values are very much in line with mine. Yet, she’s already managed to create a successful coaching practice and is ready to share her wisdom. While it’s a big investment at a time when I was honestly hoping to start breaking even on some of my start-up sweat equity, I’m really excited about becoming certified in Mama Bliss Coaching. Who wouldn’t be?!…it just sounds delicious. In fact it’s also very practical, the four pillars are: Self-care, Creativity, Values and Simplicity.

Without going too far afield, I also want to share another person I’ve felt inspired by lately. I found Veronica Krestow when searching for a video about coaching, and have quickly fallen in love with her abundant wisdom and love for life. Today’s “Treasure Tuesday” video feels like exactly what I want to share with Mamas who are ready to explore/expand.

Here are my own notes on Veronica’s lovely L.O.V.E acronym:

  • LLean Back – This is such an important message for Mamas. Being a Mama is a busy job, no matter what your self-imposed workload is like. We need to take more time to rest and reflect. It really will give you more stamina in the end, and likely send you on an easier path.
  • OOpen Up – I couldn’t agree with Veronica more, reflecting and meditating helps keep my heart open. When I worked downtown each time I sipped from a Benson Bubbler, I did a little prayer: May my heart be open. May my voice be clear. May the light shine bright. Whatever little reminder works for you, just make sure stress doesn’t suck you down.
  • VValue You – Be patient and kind with yourself, as you would a dear friend. Celebrate your uniqueness. I love her advice to set a date with yourself…I’m looking forward to the one on my calendar.
  • EEnjoy! – Take time to laugh and play, especially with our kids. Even if you’re not quite “there” yet, take moments to celebrate the small successes. With joy comes ease.

I feel like I could write a parallel for parenting, but in reality we need to practice loving ourselves first.

How do you L.O.V.E. yourself?

Have you ever tried coaching?

Darcy

@Darcy’s Utopia – Creating Utopia Together

An Ode to Hubby

Big Island Bliss...sans kids, except Teagan in my tummy.

Big Island Bliss…sans kids, except Teagan in my tummy.

I’ve never written at length about my Hubby, but he truly deserves more credit than being mentioned in passing. It’s mostly to respect his sense of privacy. Yet, tonight I feel compelled to reflect and share.

First, I’ll share our “how we met story”… I was in my last year of college, and he was in graduate school at the U of O. I had volunteered for the Sustainable Business Symposium, and was charged with being the Volunteer Coordinator…he was one of the volunteers. We connected at the volunteer appreciation event, held at Cosmic Pizza. After seeing me swing dance with another guy, he came up with one of the best pick up lines I had ever heard, asking me if I gave dance lessons. I was a bit perplexed since the night before I had registered for ballroom dance lessons, but it only took me a moment to realize that he was hitting on me.

Despite our approaching finals, we both suddenly found time in our otherwise busy lives. In six months we were moving in together in a tiny three-bay garage unit on Ladd’s Addition Circle in SE Portland. Our place was so small that I figured we could live anywhere if we could thrive there. Looking back, we were indeed a carefree couple. Sure there were new jobs and responsibilities, but we spent some Sundays just reading the paper, biking and playing Frisbee. Hubby-to-be played his cards well, wooing me with his domestic partnership skills (we were diligent about alternating dinner/dish duties).

Kevin also passed three other tests on his way to becoming Hubby. Before we met, after my first Danish Love, I made a commitment to myself that I needed three basic conditions before getting married:

  1. We had to live together for a year (we lived together for two years)
  2. We had to travel abroad together (we met in London and traveled to Wales and Ireland together)
  3. I had to be at least 25 (my birthday was two months before our wedding)

And I am so ever grateful that he “passed my tests.” After eleven years of marriage, it feels like we’ve moved past the growing pains of a new relationship, and have become stronger for it.

We’ve supported each other in pursuing our Master’s degrees, and in the commitments required of being public servant professionals (more night meetings than I care to count). Becoming parents together was another steep learning curve, with him following my lead almost entirely in the early months and gradually asserting himself as Dad with a capital D.

In case I haven’t made it very clear, Kevin is a stellar Daddy. While I don’t think parenting partners can ever truly be 50/50, he does more than his fair share (of everything but cloth diapers). We alternate bedtime duties religiously, and he makes one-on-one play time a priority. He folds laundry almost nightly, leads up family chores and deep cleaning, and cooks all day nearly every Sunday. He coaches baseball in the spring and soccer in the fall, and simply loves coaching kids. Even though he works long hours, he’s a very hands on Dad.

Lest I portray only his public image, Kevin does admittedly have challenges with his O.C.D. tendencies. He wants/needs the house to be nearly immaculate (not that it always is by any stretch, but it doesn’t take much to set him off, so we’ve all learned to make a valiant effort to clean up before Dad comes home to make for a more peaceful evening). Truly, our family needs simplicity in order to function positively. Partly linked to these triggers, patience is the skill that he’s most needed to learn as a parent. He also wrestles with the kids too rough/much for my liking. They love it though, and it’s somehow how they relate. But to his credit, he/we are learning to identify situations before they escalate and simply communicate more effectively. Plus, we know each other so well that we often anticipate each other needs before we see it for ourselves.

While he was initially reluctant about having a third child, he’s fallen madly in love with our Sweetie. Somehow by grace, bringing another child into the world has brought us closer together than I think either of us expected. In some ways it feels like practice makes perfect, and I do know that our experience and the nice age spread makes all the difference. I also know that my career shift has also benefited our marriage, even if we don’t have a budget for expensive date nights.

The truth is that making time as a couple is part of our success, that and being good business partners. One of the best things we’ve ever done was our anniversary trip to Hawai’i last winter for our 10 year anniversary. It was soooo relaxing to have time purely to ourselves. If I could wave a magic wand, I would plan a getaway from the kids for a week every year…need to find a cheaper alternative this year though.

I don’t think either of us have ever seriously considered the “d” word, although parenting in the early years test our ability to communicate compassionately (sadly, I think sleep deprivation must be a leading cause of divorce…so my one tip is to the sleep in different beds if that’s what it takes to get real sleep, but don’t go too long without snuggling). When Girly was a babe, I remember reading the tongue-in-cheek book, I’d Trade My Husband for a HousekeeperIt hit home on so many levels, as frustration simmered with our relationship put on the back burner. In case you happen to be going through a rough patch, these tips for being married with children completely resonate with me.

Thankfully, we’ve managed to get through the woods of our first decade of marriage unscathed. Our sex life may have been barely status quo at times, but somehow we kept a spark alive. Even when it felt like we could barely finish a conversation over a few days worth of interruptions, we grew together and eventually learned how to communicate with each other more effectively.

Yet, I know in my heart that there’s one reason I love Kevin the most: I love the family values we are creating together. We both care deeply about the environment and getting out in nature as much as possible…we eagerly plan our family camping trips and dream of the same National Park vacations. We both care about education, for ourselves and our children…never wanting to stop learning. We both get excited about the same local policy/politics issues, and want to be a part of making Portland an even better place. We both care about our friends and family and are loyal and generous.

I can honestly say that our relationship keeps getting just better and better. I feel sooooo exceptionally blessed to have such a life partner.

Thank You, Thank You, Thank You my Hubby!

Kevin, Darcy & Teagan

Photo by Deena Hofstad…click for family photo shoot

Family Screen Policy on urbanMamas

I meant to share this last week, a guest post on urbanMamas. There are some great comments so far, feel free to comment either here or there.:

Screen Time and Family Screen Policy 

After writing this post, I attended a free parenting lecture hosted by Legacy Emanuel at Kennedy School on Cultivating Kids’ Social Lives in Today’s Digital World with Dr. Kathy Masarie.

Dr. Masarie is a dynamic and engaging speaker with decades of experience. She’s taken the same training as I have, and definitely focused her presentation Simplicity Parenting advice on screen time.

Another quick reminder that my Why Simplify? workshop will be held tomorrow evening at Milagro’s Boutique (NE 30th & Killingsworth) at 6:30.

Hope to see you there!

Darcy

@Darcy’s Utopia – Creating Utopia Together

 

 

 

 

My Top 3 Parenting Tips

In my new “career” as a so-called stay-at-home-mom and Simplicity Parenting Coach, a lot of people have asked me for my best parenting tips (including, The Oregonian’s OMamas). I’m always reluctant to answer. It’s not because I don’t have a wealth of personal experience after eight years of trial by fire. I just don’t think that the bulk of my “tips” apply to anyone but myself and how I manage my own unique family. Even my upcoming workshops are geared to be a community discussion and personal inquiry rather than me lecturing anyone.

That said, I want to reflect and share the 3 parenting tips that truly matter to me:

1) Be Present.

Whether you are savoring snuggles with a newborn or in the midst of a toddler tantrum, the key is being present. While I tried to practice mindfulness as often as possible before becoming a mother, being a mom catalyzed my need and desire for mindfulness. I’m reminded practically every moment of the higher purpose I’m here to serve…or the nose I need to wipe.

Being present has been my approach to helping my children learn how to sleep. Even when I’ve been exhausted and sleep deprived, focusing on my breath when put my babes/kiddos to bed has made all the difference. I start off our bedtime reading rhythm by taking several deep breaths to slow us down and transition from getting ready for bed to actually sleeping. It depends on the book, but I often try to take a long breath between each page, taking the time to articulate each word. And when I sing them to sleep, I take more long breaths between verses. The road to a full night’s sleep has been a long one (still ongoing with my newborn getting the swing of things), but I am certain that my presence and patience has given them the space to find the peace to rest.

On a side note, my nearly five-year old daughter fell asleep on her own for years, but since we transitioned to bunk beds two years ago, she has struggled on and off. She became used to sleeping with her brother and now that he wants his own top bunk on most nights, she’s become a high maintenance get-to-sleeper. For the last while I’ve been reading a book of my own with a flashlight next to her while she falls asleep snugged up next to me. It’s become my way of being present to what she needs in the moment…sometimes compromise is part of being present.

2) Be Yourself.

It may be obvious, but being yourself is the best thing you can do. Yet as apparent as this advice may be, it can be easier said than done, especially for new moms. It’s easy to get caught up in what other parents are doing or what your in-laws think, or even some idealized version of yourself as “super mom.”

You suddenly get a new identity as a mom…you’re ______’s Mom. Truly forming this new identity can take years. It’s fine to find new ways to play and express yourself, but not so fine  to get caught up in trying to be someone you are not. We don’t all bake bakery-beautiful cupcakes…I learned the hard way that mine are the reason sprinkles were invented. The good news is that as your confidence as a mother builds, so does your new knowing of who you truly are.

Most of all, don’t beat yourself up over doing things the best you know how in the moment (review tip #1 and #3).

3) Be Positive.

I’m a naturally positive person, but becoming a mom really made me more aware of my own negative self-talk. While first pregnant I really started to double-check my thoughts, questioning myself when I would project any type of negative outcome in the form of worrying. I would gently remind myself that I don’t know how things will turn out (who my yet-to-be-born child would become), so there is no benefit in speculating. Even simple things like assuming “if I lay down the baby, they’ll wake right up” or “I can’t leave for an hour or two to take care of myself…what if?” I remember needing to share my positive lens with those trying to “help us” learn how to be parents. And I still need to remind myself that phases pass quickly, and everything is a learning experience for all of us.

Now that our kids are getting older, I can see how my rose colored glasses are shaping their outlook too. They very rarely come to me with a genuine worry, although some selfish concerns still come with the territory of finding independence. Instead our conversations are often filled with gratitude for being able to create our future instead of just worry about what might happen that appears out of our control.

Discovering these “tips” for myself has brought me joy in motherhood, despite the unpredictable and demanding line of work.

For real life practical tips from fellow parents, Parent Hacks is my favorite resource.

What advice do you share with others and remind yourself of?

Darcy

@Darcy’s Utopia – Creating Utopia Together