Toddlers are a yoga practice

If you didn’t know, yoga is a BIG part of my life.  What began as a simple idea of, “I should try every exercise class on this schedule,” at the Walla Walla YMCA turned into an obsession and eventually a way of life.  I didn’t know it then but I do now, yoga gave me a framework to relate to the world, a paradigm that I finally felt connected to with all my heart and soul.  I’m not sure if I found yoga or if it found me but either way, it saved me (physically, mentally, spiritually) and has continued to be the biggest teacher in my life.  Until I had kids.

Trace is now 3.  Izzy is 2.  [eyes bulging out of my head]  No, we did not “plan” on having two toddlers but clearly I needed this in my life for some reason.  Izzy, right on queue, began having tantrums (the reeeeeal ones) two days before her second birthday.  For a moment, I had forgotten about tantrums because Trace is now old enough and smart enough to just get angry and scream bloody murder rather than be two-year-old-irrational-crazy.  I hate tantrums (said every parent ever).  In my mind it is an ice pick cracking my soul in half, my brain in two, and every foul word out of my mouth before I can catch it.  No, I don’t swear at my children (not yet) but the things that come to my mind are not pretty.  I hate tantrums.  They suck my soul right out of me and leave a skeleton of hate cooking a meal (because for some reason tantrums happen when I’m trying to prepare a meal…or maybe I’m just in the kitchen a lot. So cliche.  I know.  But true.)

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Being 2 is hard.

Since my yoga practice has been more focused on the meditation practices rather than the asana (postures) recently, I decided to “meditate” through some of Izzy’s tantrums over the past few days.  I didn’t sit in lotus pose, close my eyes, and “oooommmmm” it away, I simply took a few deep breaths when they began and really listened to what she was saying, how she was saying it, and how I was responding.  In doing this, I realized my response to her tantrums (typically irreverent, eye rolling, patience that quickly turns to yelling, or laughing) is just as much a “tantrum” as hers.  #TruthHurts

I knew I needed to flip a switch before I flipped-out-of-my-mind. Yoga reminds us to look within ourselves when external things are triggering, upsetting, emotional, reoccurring, hurtful, etc. One of these self-inquiry practices is to ask, “How is this [in this case Izzy’s tantrums] a reflection of my own life?”  While sitting with this question over the past 24 hours, as I watch and listen to Izzy maneuver through her world with mommia’s and daddia’s rules and expectations, I have begun to think that my toddlers (including their tantrums) are meant to be a direct reflection of the relationship I have with Universe and God—deeply loving, comforting, give me-give me-give me, no No NO, lots of unnecessary crying, and yet utterly devotional.

Before I go on you have to know that I am not a Bible-type and I am also not a religious person.  I didn’t grow up in a “church” and in fact, probably have entered a church more times for weddings than for a sermon—but I am deeply spiritual and have a very deep connection with God…thanks to Yoga.  This is probably worth a whole blog on to itself.  What I’m getting at is this: I know the word “God” can be off-putting to some. I was that person once.  I invite you to replace the G-word with something like “Love” and see if that resonates with your own life.  Back to my point about toddlers, tantrums, and God…

What really gets my blood boiling is when Izzy asks for help and then when I help she SCREAMS at me for helping her, “I do it!!!  I do it!!! I do it!!!!”  It makes me want to throw her out a window.  Of course, I won’t but her vacillating is the hardest on a daily basis.  When I stop to reflect I realize this is how I use to feel when adults would ask for help and guidance and then when I offered a solution or course of treatment they would tell me, “no thank youbut continue to complain about said challenge in their life. Either take the steps to fix it or shut-up would be my internal monologue. It used to drive me craaaaaazy. I eventually grew to understand that sometimes asking for guidance or help is part of the journey.  The actual work, treatments, or solutions are just another level of response, self-responsibility, and commitment that is difficult in our bandaid-make-it-go-away-now culture.

The other big trigger is when Izzy asks for something and then when she gets it flails into a storm of irrational hatred and disappointment, a.k.a a tantrum. So with my new attempt at looking at tantrums as a reflection of my own life, I pondered…do I ask for help (ehem, pray for things) and then when I am offered help, guidance, signs, direct outcomes do I pout about it? Scream about it?  Push it away?  Yikes, [swallow of truth] I think I do.  Maybe I don’t scream bloody murder and yell, “I’ll do it!!!” or throw it on the ground and stomp all over it but in more subtle adult ways I talk myself out of the signs, or tell others who are offering their support or advice “thank you, no thank you,” or even feel down in the dumps that my life isn’t the way I planned or the way I asked God to make it look like.  Again, [sigh] humbling.

I actually wrote out this conversation I had with Izzy the other day as part of this process. It was EYE OPENING, to say the least.

Mommia: What would you like Izzy?
Izzy: I want a cookie.
Mommia: No cookie right now. [Izzy starts crying the second I say this.] Maybe later. What about a banana? Would you like a banana?
Izzy: [trying to stop crying] Yes, ba-ba-banana.
Mommia: Here you go. Would you like your water too?
Izzy: [Begins crying and screaming] I don’t want a banana. No banana. [Throws it on the ground.]
Mommia: {note, internal monologue is screaming ‘wtf do you want then?’} OK, no banana then. [I pick up the banana and put it on the counter, potentially for later]
Izzy: I want the baaaa-naaa-naaa! [crying and screaming] I want the baaaa-naaa-naaa!
Mommia: Izzy, when you stop crying and use your big girl words and tone of voice you can ask for your banana.
Izzy: [begins to stop crying] ooooh—oooooh kay. Baa-banana please.
Mommia: Here you go. [Eyes rolling behind a loooong blink] Thank you Izzy for using your big girl words and tone of voice. —-End Scene—–

I then decided to flip-the-script with my new insights. Mommia is now “Universe” or “God” and Izzy is now me, Haunani. [Note: in no way am I insinuating that I am equal to Universe or God, it is merely an exercise of reflection. Keep reading.] Cookie and banana are now name your desire: a car, husband, soul mate, new career, patience, health, freedom, abundance, etc. For the sake of this script, I’m going to use car for cookie and lasting relationship for banana.

Universe: What would you like Haunani?
Haunani: I want a ­car.
Universe: No car right now. [Haunani starts crying the minute Universe says this.] Maybe later. What about a lasting relationship? Would you like a lasting relationship?
Haunani: [trying to stop crying] Yes, lasting reeee-reeeelationshiiiii-shiiiip.
Universe: Here you go. Would you like Love in that relationship too?
Haunani: [Begins crying and screaming] I don’t want a lasting relationship. No lasting relationship. [Throws it on the ground.]
Universe: {note, internal monologue is screaming ‘wtf do you want then?’} OK, no lasting relationship then. [Universe picks up the lasting relationship and puts it on the counter, potentially for later]
Haunani: I want the laaaaa-laaasting re-re-relationship! [crying and screaming] I want the relationship!
Universe: Haunani, when you stop crying and use your big girl words and tone of voice you can ask for your lasting relationship.
Haunani: [begins to stop crying] ooooh—oooooh kay. La-lasting relationship please.
Universe: Here you go. [Eyes rolling] Thank you Haunani for using your big girl words and tone of voice. ——-End Scene——

This exercise rocked my Mommia world. I was immediately humbled. It’s become so obvious to me that my kids are reflecting my true expectations and relationship with Universe and God that I began to change how I relate to the laws of karma, God, and Universe overnight.

Not that I respond to life all the time like the above scenario, but neither does Izzy. She’s just being a two year old with no books, no guidance, figuring out a new language, figuring out everything—being a two year old is hard. What’s my excuse? OK, so I don’t have a book on being a mom but at least I know my language, know how to listen, understand responsibility, have some emotional awareness, know and use logic, etc. I have no excuse. Being so humbled by this newfound awareness, I then made a list of the other things Izzy does that make me “lose it” rather quickly.

  • Only use the word “please” if reminded to.
  • Only use the word “thank you” if reminded to.
  • Quickly scream and writhe when realizing you’re not going to get what you wanted.
  • Quickly scream and writhe when realizing you ARE getting what you asked for.
  • Purposefully do things after being told not to.
  • Purposefully doing the same thing after falling, getting hurt, or watching others (her brother) get hurt or in trouble.

Now I feel like a do a little better on some of these than Izzy and other adults I’ve encountered but woah, apparently, my expectations of God and life are a little unfair, imbalanced, and greedy.  And now having this realization, I now see I react to Izzy’s two-year-old nature because I feel she is being unfair, imbalanced, and greedy.  Clearly, my expectations are too high.  How is she suppose to know?  [My heart softens and I take a long slow sigh]. I’m not proud of this realization but acknowledgment and acceptance is the first step in choosing to make a change or not.

It’s hard being a two year old.  It’s also hard being the mom of a two-year-old. Many days I wish I worked full-time just to escape the irrational tendencies. I didn’t like it with Trace and I definitely do not like it with Izzy.  And herein lies the teachings.  Izzy is my major teacher right now. Like all good teachers I’ve discovered she’s shining right back at me like a pure reflection.   I am humbled, embarrassed, and at the same time completely motivated to make a shift TODAY both in how I respond to Izzy and my relationship with life, the world around me, and God.

Note to reader:  Overall, Izzy is an incredible child and I know this.  I am not complaining in this blog but merely attempting to share my process of coming to terms with tantrums through a mindful and humbling approach.

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Cut and paste stories of Bahrain

Clearly, we’ve “settled” into our routine of living in Bahrain. I say that because I don’t feel as motivated to write, a direct reflection of feeling comfortable and not having the need to share or think anything is worth sharing.  Then again, my parents were just here for five weeks and spending time with them was a priority.  I bet if I asked them what I should write about, they’d say “driving in Bahrain.”  So I’ll begin working on that one.  In the meantime…

In doing some computer and smartphone cleaning, I found some pieces I had begun to write when we first moved here.  Rather than try to weave them into one long story as if they actually represented now, I figured I’d literally cut and paste.  It may not read as cohesively but I do want to “archive” them in some way as family memories.  Enjoy

5th Anniversary
Immediately upon arriving Tad and I had our 5th wedding anniversary. “Had” being the most appropriate word, not celebrated and definitely not toasted. Honestly, we almost forgot. Oops. In the short to-do list of moving our whole life across the globe, we both forgot about our anniversary. This is what I love about us. We did both mentioned, in passing at one of the six airport terminals we got the pleasure of sitting in, that the other should not expect anything for our anniversary. But to actually go until about 2pm before remembering…ooops.  Clearly, we are a good match for each other with very low expectations.  When we did finally remember, we figured out that still being married after three moves, two deployments, two amazing kids back-to-back, and not having killed our kids or each other was probably the best gift we could give each other. We then also did the geographic math and discovered we have been in a different state or country for each of our anniversaries: 1st Hawaii. 2nd California. 3rd Florida. 4th Virginia. 5th Bahrain. Not totally outrageous places often sought out for anniversaries but a cool record nonetheless, one that may actually hold up for a few more years. So Happy Anniversary to us.

Moving with Toddlers
Trace and Izzy have been the real rock stars of this move. Yes, kids are adaptable blah blah blah. Aaaaaand no they are not! If you are a parent of a toddler you know as well as anyone that all the psychologist and toddler books say, “routine is everything.” Let me paraphrase the rest for all my friends and family who forget the toddler stage, a.k.a tantrum stage: your child depends on predictability and routine. If you want to mess up your child up and deal with tantrums, break their routine. Whatever you do, don’t move across the globe to new sounds, smells, tastes, temperatures, and sights. This will destroy their sense of reality and you will be the one to pay.  Like the awesome and amazing parents we are, we moved across the globe. Why follow the rules?

 

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Izzy’s first tantrum.  The hotel elevator, a convenient place to share how you really feel.

Call it luck, timing, or fateful backlash to moving across the globe, Izzy discovered her voice and opinions about three days after landing in Bahrain. Thank goodness we have TWO toddlers now. Oh, joy. Yippee. I was just starting to think this whole parenting thing was getting too easy and boring (said no mom of a two-year-old. Ever.). I now look forward to the unpredictable nature of wine o’clock. No, not whine o’clock, that’s predictable. That will happen all day long. Wine o’clock is the time I decide to have my first glass of wine. It might be 10am or 2pm.  That’s what makes it so fun. Every day is different. Like a choose your own adventure but every ending I’m the winner. Wine o’ clock is definitely proportional to the psychopathic irrational tendencies of the two toddlers in my life. No shame. The real choose your own adventure horror plot twist is when the wine supply is low at home and your only source of wine is on Base (a full hour outing there and back).  Makes wine o’clock more interesting now, eh?

In all seriousness, Trace and Izzy are doing really well for moving across the globe into 120-degree weather.  Yes, it keeps getting hotter.  The hotel is our saving grace still.  It is hilarious and so sweet to watch Trace and Izzy jet out of the hotel elevator and race to the lobby so they can begin their pageantry of waves, “good morning’s” and “hi’s.” It’s so sweet. The breakfast staff adores the kids too. The commotion of “hello’s”, giggles, and waves that accompany walking into breakfast every morning, or just into the lobby, makes me feel almost like a celebrity. The hotel staff has been so sweet to us.  Tad and I are trying to figure out how to stay in touch. The staff here is truly amazing.  They will be missed.

How Burning Man prepped me for living in Bahrain

Never, and really I mean never, did I ever think my Burning Man adventure would follow me to Bahrain.  Thank God I went to Burning Man to learn how to walk my way through a sandstorm.  Today, the day we are moving into our Villa it is so dusty and so windy I can barely see the high rise hotels that are less than 200 meters away from our hotel.  Our beautiful view that I have come to love and admire at every hour of the day…just gone.  Gone behind a wall of dust and sand.  My lungs are already crying and scratchy just looking out over the dust.  This should make for a really interesting move today.

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The view of Manama from our hotel living room.

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The view of Manama from our hotel living room the day we moved out of the hotel.

and the last cut and paste story…

What will go next?…

Our dryer machine was taken away…again; the second time in ten days.  Honestly, it wouldn’t be such a big deal but the temperatures have dropped enough that it now takes a full day and a half to air dry/line dry most of the clothes, instead of 30 minutes that it took in the summer.  Insert your sad face emoji here.  As I drive around the neighborhood or look out our windows to the balconies nearby, I realize I’m whining.  I am.

Life in Bahrain, life in “the sandbox” as some of the other Americans call it, as I have mentioned before is same, same but different.  When it comes to the house, this is NO exception.  Our house has every amenity (minus a sink disposal) that a suburban house in the US would have.  Heck, we even have a bidet in every bathroom.  So what lies in the “different” category?  While amazingly beautiful and serene on the outside is in a constant state of work or repair.  Something is always breaking.

Just in the last 10 days of the dryer deciding it doesn’t want to spin and the electricians telling me they fixed it (they did for one load before it broke again), we also had an electrical short in our downstairs.  After a full day of no electricity in the kitchen, and being told an electrician came by and fixed it (he didn’t), Tad somehow figured out how to trick the circuit breaker to stay on.  In that same time period, the OSN (cable) decided to short out too.  It’s been three days and I don’t anticipate it being fixed within the week.   Oh yes, and the pool pump has taken on a life of its own.  Despite a major language barrier between the pool guy and myself, he tells me, “It’s okay madam.  Automatic timer is okay madam.  It’s okay.”  But it isn’t.

While it seems excessive the constant house repairs and electrical fixes, when I think back on our first few months in the house, this is the norm: blocked sinks, broken upstairs door that needed complete re-welding, air conditioning units needing repair every 7-14 days, broken oven, broken microwave, broken shower heads, broken water pipe, and broken water heaters…insert defeated sad emoji face here.  Each break takes a minimum of two days to coordinate and fix, but I’d say the average is 5-10 days to fix.  Just when everything seems like it’s in good working order around the house give it 10 days and something will go.  Thank goodness I’m not working outside the house doing a typical 8-5.  My domestication value (yes, I made that up just now) is very high right now since I need to be around the house nearly half the month for someone to come fix something.  And if you’ve read previous blogs, the repairman never, NEVER, comes when he says, so I become housebound for days at a time awaiting his arrival.

All this “house stuff” keeps me humble though.  I keep thinking, if this is what our house is like, I can’t imagine what others who have fewer resources and money are going through to keep their place in working order.  Even our housemaid Anjala laughs at me when I get upset or frustrated when the next thing breaks.  She tells me, “This is normal madam.  All Bahrain is like this.  No need to get upset.”  Whether she’s saying this because she’s figured me out and doesn’t want me to stress, or it’s the truth, she’s like a zen teacher watching over me.  So this, the house, has become a new yoga practice…not allowing all the little things to add up and ruin my day.  The silver lining is that it forces me to stay home with the kiddos and we get to play a lot.  Watching these two transform week after week is pulling at my heartstrings in a major way.  I want it to hurry up because I hate toddlers AND at the same time, I never want them to stop saying, “more snuggles mommia.”

I think everyone right now could use more snuggles and fewer headaches.

Cheers!  To more snuggles and fewer headaches.

Aloha & Namaste

 

The nanny conundrum

When moving to Bahrain, one of the very first things you are made aware of by others who have lived here is that it is very easy, affordable, and highly recommended to get a housemaid or nanny.  “OMG, really?!  Yessssss please,” is how I reacted.  Since moving here, I’ve been a part of many discussions regarding hiring a nanny or housemaid.  The questions and discussions are philosophical, ethical, and mostly about logistics.  While I have those same questions, I’m also experiencing a nanny conundrum different from many of the other American military spouses–I’m being perceived AS the nanny.

I am humbled. Embarrassed. Mad. Yes, even sad.

Before we moved to Bahrain I had a moment where I was crying to my husband because I heard the majority of the service industry, housemaids, and nannies in Bahrain are Filipina. I was crying because for an untrained eye (uhhemmm, Bahrainis) I can easily pass as a Filipina. I was upset because I didn’t want everyone to think I was Trace and Izzy’s nanny. Tad assured me I did NOT look anything like a Filipina and not to worry. His advice and insights are often a grounding dose of reality for me so I shook it off and didn’t think of it again.

Until…

Two weeks into our time in Bahrain my fear came to fruition. As I described in First 30 days in Bahrain, a Filipina nanny, two of them actually, thought I was a Filipina nanny taking care of Trace and Izzy. At the time, I laughed it off like no big deal. Inside, I crumbled. Internally, I was bawling again. Of course the first thing I did when we got back to the room was text Tad and let him know what happened. You know, the real mature, passive-aggressive “I was right” text. Secondly, I texted my girlfriends knowing I’d get their unconditional support. I was right, they sent me the perfect texts reminding me how awful that must feel and that I was sexier than a nanny. Haha, ok I may have read between their lines to make myself feel better but you all have those friends too. So you get it.

All you moms reading this, would you be bothered if someone called you your child’s “nanny”? Am I being way too sensitive?

Obviously, it still bothers me.  In the past, I might have pretended like it didn’t bother me. However, all my years of yoga have trained me to run straight into my discomfort and triggers.  I truly believe the things that trigger us most are our biggest teachers.  Now, I’m not one to just push it aside.  Why hold onto that stuff?  Better out than in, as I say.

So I’ve begun to reflect. Really try and figure out WHY does being called and perceived a nanny feel so hurtful? In a country where housemaids and nannies are in almost every household, maybe including ours when we find the right match, I feel like this is an important quandary to figure out so I can truly respect the cultural norms and nannies here and across the globe.  I also want to walk a little taller and spread the Aloha with my kiddos around Bahrain without this hanging over my head.  Heads up, this blog is not about Bahrain and more an inner monologue of my “nanny conundrum”. Please only read on if you have a sincere interest in helping me grow as a person.

So, why am I so triggered by being perceived as and called the nanny? This is what I’ve figured out so far…

Nanny is just a word and title, right?  “Who cares, let it go,” I tell myself. But I can’t.

Clearly, my ego feels belittled and my heart sad, angry, and hurt. In writing this, it is clear I believe those titles are somehow degrading and insulting.  Me, a housemaid?  Me, a nanny?  “I’m better than that,” my ego cries. But am I?

My ego is hurt just thinking about being called a “nanny” because 1. a nanny couldn’t love my children the way I do, 2. all that charm and brilliance Trace and Izzy display wouldn’t be given due credit to me (which I realize is an insult to all the wonderful people who have shaped my children’s lives) and 3. because I’m THEIR MOM. My vagina has the memory and scars to prove it. Forever.  For all those reasons, that’s why I don’t like being called their nanny.

I realize no harm is meant by other’s preconceived notions.  I mean I fit the image: short, Asian looking, English speaking (yes, most everyone in Bahrain speaks English), walking with or toting two toddlers (but obviously they look like me, as I’ve been told), and really cute. Haha, had to add that.  So yes, I see how I fit the image.  Aaaand, it still hurts.  I see this as an opportunity to grow, to become more patient, compassionate, and break through my own barriers of conditioning.  Hopefully, someone reading this has a clear perception of what’s really going on and can call me out or drop a great big wisdom bomb on me. Seriously, I’m open to your insights, thoughts, or reflections.  Please share them.

I laugh as I write because of all the things I’ve seen, witnessed, and learned so far in Bahrain, THIS is what’s been the most challenging for me.  I’ve traveled quite a bit in the past so a lot of the other stuff (the smells, the dirt, the driving, the stares, the physical reactions) doesn’t really phase me. Teachings come in the most unexpected ways.

Anyway, I promise more pictures of the kids and house soon.  We did move into a beautiful house in the heart and soul of Adliya and are starting to get settled.  Feels so good.  I only get to write when the kids are napping. So send good wishes for long restful naps. I love you all!  And don’t forget to drop a bomb of insight or reflection for me.  Thank you.

Aloha & Namaste