Friday, June 13, 2014

Finding my uniqueness

You never know who will cross your path and actually, I think that is one of the most exciting things about life.

And I am so thankful that so far in my 40 years, I have crossed paths with so many people who have enriched my life in so many ways, and that includes someone who crossed my path recently at our storytelling event last month.

That was when I met Amber, she was one of the six brave ones to sign up as a storyteller. And what a fascinating story she told, I will never, ever forget her story.

But that was just the beginning because after the event I got to a talkin' to Amber, who is a life coach, and she invited me to a workshop she was giving the following week. The workshop was called "Finding Your Uniqueness" to help build your confidence and change your behavior. And I need a lot of both, so I signed up!

The next week I attended Amber's workshop and to be honest I had no expectations. I was open for anything, ready to learn. Especially since I began to realize that my behavior strongly effects the way my daughter sees herself.

This realization scared the H-E-L-L out of me. Of course, I am more confident now than ever, but I was still a long way from where I thought I needed to be. And not to mention, I was struggling with ways to help my daughter build and maintain her confidence. She is a tough cookie now, but I know there are things out there in the world that can make even the toughest cookies crumble.

So I walked into this workshop with four complete strangers and walked out connected to four very special people and feeling confident about myself. I can not put into words how it happened but we were guided safely through very simple behavior changes leaning heavily on our intuition to guide us. Amber created such a safe environment for us and calmed our fears. Because depending on only your intuition can be a very scary thing. I can tell you, it was hard at first, but now I have enough confidence in myself to trust it. I was right every time that I used it in group exercise lead by Amber.

But that wasn't all, I learned one of my hardest lessons in life, one that will benefit my daughter greatly: I learned how to take a compliment. You see, where I come from (and I actually heard in a lot of cultures around the world), women are quick to demean themselves when they are complimented. For example, if someone tells me I am a good mother, instead of saying "Thanks" I say "No way, I make a lot of mistakes."

To be honest, I felt very uncomfortable when people gave me a compliment. It meant I had to think fast to try to find someway to put myself back down again. Crazy, isn't it?

Through a simple group exercise,  I learned how to accept the unique qualities about myself.  I allowed myself to own them. I was proud of myself. And if I am proud of myself, my daughter will learn how to be proud of herself. And when I receive a compliment now, I can simply say "Thank-you" and feel good that someone else has recognized something unique about me.

Better yet, I learned how to trust my intuition and recognize all the positive qualities in my daughter and help her see them in herself. This is a gift I can give to her everyday and hope that she can use later when she soars from underneath my protective wing.

I guess you could say I found more than my uniqueness, I found a way to accept it and to own it. And to tell that self-depreciating-annoying-little-voice to go away, and let me shine! Most importantly let my daughter see me shine, so she can embrace her uniqueness too!

For more information on the Finding Your Uniqueness  workshop, you can contact Amber at amber.rahim@yahoo.com. or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/events/1429052980700151/


Friday, May 23, 2014

Because I said SO!

My friend Donna came up with this amazing idea and asked me to help her with the organizing. She wanted to host a storytelling night for parents who are writers. Her idea was to have a place for parents to come together and share their experiences through stories. It was a fabulous night, I will write a post later about the experience including the details for the next one. We called the event "The Witching Hour" and the theme was "Because I said So." Each storyteller had ten minutes to share a true story and this is how I filled my ten minutes.

There are so many things my mom didn’t tell me about being a parent. Like, she didn’t tell me that after you have kids most days you either forget to brush your hair or put on clean underwear. 

And why would YOU put on clean underwear, when you only shower once every couple of days? 

She Ab-so-lutely forgot to tell me how you can never sneeze again after giving birth without peeing in your pants. And obviously, she never warned me that the more kids you have, the more sleep deprived you are. 

And why didn’t she at least give me a hint about how honest kids can be, especially when your muffin top is hanging out. 

Most importantly why didn’t she tell me that some days you just feel like running away. And there is no where to go, except maybe to the toilet, the only room in the house with a lock.

I could go on forever. But honestly, I understand why she didn’t tell me these things. I think if she had told me even a few of these things there would be a VERY big chance I would be the 40 year-old CEO of Google right now, wearing Vivienne Westwood on my 20 year-old hot body and attending galas all over the world with my husband who thinks I am the bees knees.

Instead, she didn’t tell me, and I have two kids, my career is on hold, I barely fit into yoga pants on a good day and I rank at a close number 4 on my Baby Daddy’s love list, just behind my kids and a cold beer.

Yep, she actually knew what she was doing when she held back all this info from me. 

But you know what, she may not have told me, but she definitely taught me a few things. For one, she taught me how to recognize when my babies need a mommy hug or how to love life even when it doesn’t seem to love you back. 

Come to think of it, I could go also on forever listing the things she taught me. I will spare you the sappy stories of how much I appreciate my mom finally after 40 years. But I will share with you the most valuable tool she gave me for motherhood: the Parental Power Phrase.

I think all you parents out there know what I am talking about. Those really cliché phrases our parents used to say. So cliché it made your skin crawl everytime you heard it. 

However, in most cases, it’s the most powerful phrase that comes out of a parents mouth. It can potentially end battles, disputes and stand-offs that probably even the big man upstairs couldn’t resolve. 

And what I learned from my mom wasn’t really what she said, but how she said it. 

My mother’s parental power phrase was Don’t make me stop this car. Oh my goodness to this day, the mere thought of these words makes me shiver. 

You see most of time my two brothers and I got along, but there was something about the car. 

Every time we got into the car it was like Saturday Night Smackdown was taking place and the backseat was the cage match. My brothers would hit, slap, argue, you name it, once the seat-belts were clicked and my mom was backing out of the driveway. It was ON!

And the first time I remember her using the parental power phrase, wow that was something.

We were all three buckled into the backseat of our Pontiac station wagon. Me, being the oldest and 

the only girl, I was ALWAYS commanded to sit in between my two brothers to keep them from fighting. Yeah…that worked well.

My middle brother was the one leaning over first, instigating the fight by pinching my little brother. They were arguing back and forth. I had tried to stop the fighting by grabbing their arms, I was almost three years older and much stronger. This only made it worse and I remember hearing from the front seat, “Cut it out kids”. 

But this time it was intense, they just wouldn’t stop. I could feel the car rocking from side to side each time they attacked. 

My mother, gently turned off the 8 track and said in a firm voice “Don’t make me stop this car.”

Then it happened. The ultimate sin when riding in the car: My middle brother accidentally in his fighting frenzy kicked the back of my mom’s seat. 

Before we knew what happened (must have been from the whiplash) my mom had pulled the car over on the side of the road. 

On the way out of the car she somehow turned into this Wonder Woman like figure. She had superpowers that I couldn’t understand. I believe all three of us were thinking the same thing: Who was this woman? You could feel her frustration and anger radiating into the back seat.

My middle brother made it worse. He tried to hold the door shut when she went to open his door. 

She used her superhuman strength and pried the door open. In a flash of light, she grasped my brothers face in one hand and held herself up with the other as she towered over him. 

Her face was glowing red and her eyes were bulging from the sockets. She was twice her normal size, you could see the veins on the side of her head pulsing so rapidly. I thought her head would explode into a million pieces.

She held his face for a few seconds, but to us it felt like an eternity. I think we didn’t know what she was gonna do at this point. My sweet little ole mama had turned to the dark side. 

After a deep breath, she asked probably the most important question in my brothers life at the time. 

“Are YOU gonna make me stop this car again?”

My smallest brother and I were looking at my middle brother, pleading with him through our thoughts, just say no, just say no, just say no.

My brother immediately started crying and apologizing over and over like a broken record. 

“Good,”my mother said. She gently shut his door and on her way back to the drivers seat she had morphed back into my sweet, calm mommy, who wouldn’t hurt a fly.

I couldn’t believe what I had just witnessed. For the first time, I looked at my mom and thought, wow this woman is BAD ASS. And from then on every time my brothers would even THINK about fighting in the car, my mom would simply say “Don’t make me stop this car.”

Of course, as we grew older, the phrase changed with our phases until we grew up and the Parental Power Phrase was no longer needed.

So this brings me to the part of my story when I tell you about how I first tried to use my very own Parental Power Phrase. 

It was back about a year ago during the Penis vs Vagina war in our house. My son had somehow become obsessed with the fact he had a penis. I don’t know, maybe it’s a genetic thing with men, but he loved to talk about how he had a penis. 

One night it was pajama time and my son was getting undressed. Once he was in his "nakkie" he started taunting my daughter, "You don't have a penis! You don't have a penis! You will NEVER have one! HaHaHa!"

This was the worst thing you could say to my daughter at this point in her life. Just before the Penis War had begun, she realized she was different from her best friend, her brother. For 3 years she thought she was just like him and when reality began to set in, she really had a hard time accepting it. 

Anyway, my daughter was (and still is) one tough cookie and immediately fought back, " I don't have a penis, I have a...what is it called Mama?" she said.

I said "Sweetie, it's called a vagina and we love our vagina's. It doesn't matter if we don't have a penis, a penis and vagina are equal, they just look different."

Of course I try to stay out of their battles most of the time, but all I could see was my son in 30 years: woman-less  desperate, lonely. And my daughter in less years than that: A woman always feeling inferior to men. A little dramatic, well maybe, but I wasn’t taking any chances.

I was shocked at how aggressive my son was and I could see it in his eyes that he really thought everyone should have a penis because they are the most awesome things to have, next to maybe Legos or a T-rex.

Then he started chiming, "MAMA doesn't have a penis, MAMA doesn't have a penis."

Ok, so much for me being the Switzerland of the house, I felt like I had to set him straight. Not only for his future self, but also for his future girlfriends.

"Honey, a penis is the same as a vagina, they are just shaped different. Just like a T-Rex and a Velociraptor. They don't look the same but they do the same thing, eat meat. A penis and a vagina do the same thing, they both pee-pee." (I know not totally representative but I was hoping to save that convo for a few years later.)

It was like I had not said a word. He kept on dancing around, wiggling his little willy in the air and now, not only taunting my daughter, but he was taunting his very own mother.

"You don’t have a penis, you don’t have a penis.”

I'm not sure what happened to me, I guess it was my time to feel the superhuman power of being a parent. 

At that same moment the tears began to roll down my daughter’s face and she said in almost a whisper “Mommy why cant I be a boy.”

And then it happened, the words popped out of my mouth like a piece of toast from a toaster: “Well Luca if there were no vaginas, then you would have never been born.”

Oh my god, I thought to myself. Did I really just say that to my five year old? What the F? Did I really go there? What kind of parent was I? Yes I did and I had to get myself out. Oh god I wasn’t ready for the whole where babies come from convo.

“Mama, babies come from vaginas?” My son asked with his eyes twinkling with curiosity.

Here we go I thought. Where is my “How babies are made book.”? Oh yeah, they are five, I was gonna buy it when they were like 16. Me and my big mouth.

“Yes Luca, babies grow in a mommies belly and then when they are big enough, they come out through the mommies vagina.”

I know not the best explanation, but remember it was on the fly.

And then the questions came from both of them, why this and why that and how did they baby get in the belly? 

“Can a man have a baby?”

“No, Luca men cant have babies.”

“Why mama?”

“Like I said Luca the baby comes out of the vagina.”

“Why does it have to come out of the vagina? It can come out of the penis too Mama. It has a hole on the tip.”

And that’s when it came…my very first time using a parental power phrase.

“Luca because I said so!”

I had had enough. I was exhausted. I was defeated. And I needed out. Yes mama you taught me well.

Not sure if I had the force my mom had when she used the phrase, didn’t really matter as long as it was effective.

He shut up. The debate ended. Case closed. 

However, I looked over at my daughter and could see the twinkle in her eye. I would like to think 

for those few seconds she was proud to have a vagina. 

And, wow, how those four words had actually done the almost impossible. I had the power and it didn’t stop there.

“Mama, why do I have to clean my room. Because I said so.”

“Mama, can I take my light saber to school. No, Because I said so.

“Mama, can…..NO BECAUSE I SAID SO.

I was on fire!

I know, I know, it won’t last very long. It wont take long for them to catch on. One of them will figure it out and will tell the other one and then my super powers will vanish.

But until then, I will rule the world, well at least my 85 square meters of it! 

You might be wondering am I out of control? Yes, I am out of control.

Does it bother me? No I am loving this power. 

And you know why? BECAUSE I SAID SO!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Not-perfect Mother

Mother's Day is extra special day for me every year. No, not because my kids "honor and appreciate" me the one day out of the year designated to do so for your mom. You know the lady who pushed your big watermelon sized head out of her body after almost two days of labor. 

Who was the smartass who came up with celebrating mom one day out of the year? Everyone gets a day, even freaking secretaries (nothing against secretaries).

Ok, I am getting off my intended subject for this post, but seriously, what a jerk because we should be appreciated every day!

Back to the subject, so I was saying why Mother's Day is special to me and that is because I was told I would never be a mother. And through some miracle I am a mother, a mother who looks at her two miracles every day and thinks how lucky she is to be their mother. They take me on so many adventures and show me a world I would have never experienced had I not been their mother.

Sure, they are weird and not the most well-mannered kids in the world. They are far from perfect, just like their mother. 

Which brings me to how my son gave me the best Mother's Day gift ever.

Last night we were talking about my daughter spilling the same drink two times and I said, "Don't worry, no one is perfect."

And that is when my son said, "Yeah mama you are not-perfect either, but you are the perfect mother for me."

I melted and told him he was so right and I loved him. What a relief, he wasn't putting me up on some pedistal that one day I would eventually fall from. He accepts me for who I am. Wheww!

Then I thought maybe he heard this in a movie and was just repeating back what he had heard.

But of course at bedtime we were all getting our PJ's on together (we are camping so there is only one room) and my son asks why do I have to wear a bra. I say stupidly to hold them up because they are so heavy. 

So they want me to put them on a scale to see how many kilos they weigh. Then they tell me that one is bigger than the other, therefore, it has to be really heavy like "10 kilos". I told you they are weirdos.

I just laughed and agreed because yes I'm the Not-perfect mother and I love it lopsided boobs and all. Happy Mother's Day to all the Not-perfect mothers!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

What I learned when my baby girl was bullied

How could anyone bully this sweet girl?
How in the world can a 12 year old girl bully a 4 year old little girl?

I asked myself this question a few weeks ago when my daughter came running home from the playground in tears.

She said the girl said she was "stout" and she was a "boerin" (farmer) and she came from a family of farmers. In The Netherlands, this seems to be a real put-down.

The thing that bothered me the most was that my daughter didn't even understand what being called a farmer meant, but she knew by the way the girl apparently teased her that it was not good.

So she came running to her mama, which is something she never does. There is one thing that everyone who has ever met Charly knows and that is Charly is a bad-ass chick. Nothing bothers Charly...unless its an older girl who Charly looked up to and wanted to be liked by.

Yes, I was fuming. I wanted to go straight to the playground and go redneck mama on the girl. But of course, instead  I decided to talk to Charly about it a bit more.

I explained how people often say mean things to other people because they are different. These people don't know how to react so sometimes they say mean things. Or sometimes they are in bad mood, but that it didn't matter, it wasn't Charly's problem. I asked her if she was naughty? She said "No". I then asked her if we lived on a farm. She said "no" we live in the city.

Then of course we got into the believe in yourself and sticks-and-stones-might-break-my bones-but-names-will-never-hurt conversation. I tried to remember what I read on the internet about bullying.

But to be honest, I have no idea what else to say to my daughter other than try to empower her how to handle the bullying. Because I know it won't be the last time. And that breaks my heart. I am feeling quite helpless now but I know I can't shelter my babies forever. It is my job to help them learn how to cope in this big, nasty world and only focus on the positive things it has to offer.

So I didn't march down there. But later in the day I did get the chance to speak to the girl.

The kids and I walked to the barn that houses the sandbox my kids desperately wanted to play in, and guess who was standing at the door blocking it so they couldn't get inside. Bully girl!

In English I asked Charly if this was the girl and she confirmed. I asked both Charly and Luca if they wanted to stay here and play and they both had terrified looks on their faces.

I couldn't not say something. I channeled a Dutch mother and thought about how she would react in this situation. And my Dutch Mother Spirit Guide took over.

I turned to the girl, looked her in her eyes and said very confidently and very authoritative and in DUTCH, "We moeten lieve tegen elkaar zijn", translated loosely, "We should all be nice to another and get along."

The girl  replied back, "Of course I am nice"  with a smile. Liar, liar pants on fire I wanted to say.

I said "Goedso" which means basically good job.

I nodded and my Dutch Mother Spirit Guide made me walk away with my head held high in confidence.

The kids  followed me like little ducklings. And it wasn't 5 seconds later that her mom pulled up to tell her to go home to eat. I was pooping golden bricks at that point thinking oh my goodness what if she tells her mother I was mean to her or bullying her, which of course I wasn't. I could see her mom running me over and yelling at me for reprimanding her daughter. It's not my culture and I am very insecure about adhering to the rules.

But of course, her mom pulled away and went on her merry way. And I laughed at what a silly thought it was to even have, I was in The Netherlands where mothers did this sort of thing all the time. The land where it takes an entire culture of mothers to raise a kid.

So I survived, and most importantly Charly survived. I hope she learned a little something to use the next time she is bullied. I know I did.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Join us! The Witching Hour: a storytelling night for parents



Are you a writer and a parent living in Amsterdam? Then come tell us a story or listen to other local writers tell theirs. 

It's gonna be a chance not only for writers to meet and support another but also there will be food, drinks and music...GRATIS!  

So you wanna know the details? It's happening on 17 May from 7 - 9 pm at The English Bookshop. So sign up here and we will see you there!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Dear celiac disease, Please go away...

Dear celiac disease,

I hate you. I'm so angry that you have not only caused me to suffer so much not only in the last month but most of my life. I am so pissed off that you have like a hundred or more symptoms and are never consist from person to person, making it very difficult to diagnose. It took 40 years and countless doctors to finally figure out what was causing my tiredness, crazy hormones, upset stomach and pain, anemia, on and off lactose intolerance, sucky immune system and well lots of other little things not worth mentioning.

I can't believe you are robbing me of the enjoyment of some of most favorite foods. And the fear you have inflicted on me, I am scared to death to eat anything besides bananas and rice. The fear I have of being "gluttened" again and all the pain and long nights in the bathroom it brings. It hurts like hell and then I become weak because I'm getting dehydrated from all the diaherra. It takes days or a week to recover. Thanks!

And thanks for ruining what social life I have left! The one thing I enjoy (ed) doing was going out to dinner. Now, this becomes a game of russian roulette: which dish will poison my body and destroy my small intestines?

That's right, you destroy my intestines. You make eating gluten free a must if I want to live a long healthy life. And thanks for being so closely related to a gluten allergy. Now when I tell people I can't eat gluten, they say oh well just a little won't hurt or they look at me like yeah right. Or the best one, don't believe everything you read on the internet. Little do they know you are an auto-immune disease that is serious business.

And why don't some doctors take you seriously? My doctor tells me over the phone I am stuck with you and just says well eat gluten free. HELLO, that is the worst thing to tell someone just diagnosed. I had to endure several nights of pain and countless toilet trips to learn gluten free products are not gluten free. I had to learn after days of bloatedness that celiacs often become lactose intolerant until their intestines
 heal.

Celiac disease, you have robbed me of so much, I hate that I have to live in fear of food and social events. I hate that I have to watch everyone enjoy birthday cake at parties while my mouth waters. And I won't even talk about my emotional  eating. It's just not the same eating a carrot during PMS.

Well, I am off to bed now celiac disease because I am so sick with a cold virus, I can hardly take care of myself much less my family, all thanks to you weaking my immune system. You asshole!

Maybe one day we can live with one another and I can accept you for who you are, but not now. Now I hate you and mourn the loss of my old cake, chocolate, pasta, bread eating life!

I wish you would go away,
a celiac 

 


Sunday, April 6, 2014

Bye, bye Amsterdam

Our new weekend home
Should we stay or should we go? This was a question Baby Daddy and I have discussed since the day our first child was born.

Did we wanna raise our children in Amsterdam, in the city?  Or did we want to move out to the burbs where there was not only more space but also more nature for the kids?

Baby Daddy, being a true Amsterdammer, would have rather cut off his right arm than move out of his beloved, precious city. I think most Amsterdammers are like this, Amsterdam is a part of them and they grow some kind of magical root to the city that won't let them go.

Me, on the other hand, I could easily move out to the pastures, or polders as they have here in The Netherlands. Of course, going more green goes back to my roots. I had the most enchanted childhood full of adventures in the woods and encounters with nature.

So what were we to do? We both wanted our kids to grow up in two different environments. 

After six years of these discussions, Baby Daddy came up with a brilliant idea: we should buy a "stacaravan" somewhere out of Amsterdam. Ok, for those of you who don't know what this is, think either ancient camper now permanently placed or an old trailer laid to rest at a campground grave. 

So we did it! We bought a 40 year old hunk-of-junk trailer in a small family campground in Olst, along the Ijssel, just outside of Deventer! 

For a mere €700 we have a new weekend home. We will drive just over an hour every Friday night and holidays to our "new" home-away-from-home.

This is our second weekend here and its amazing! We wake up to birds chirping and the smell of country air. The kids get lost for hours in the campground with new friends and meanwhile we work on our fixer-upper or mow the grass! Yes we have grass people! And an electric mower! This piece-of-poo trailer came with everything except linens! Even a vacuum cleaner!

But the best thing about the camping is the people. We are in the biggest redneck, anything goes campground. You wouldn't believe the contraptions people build on their trailers. I swear I feel like I'm back in South Carolina.

And the people are so sweet even our neighbor who thinks we are Gods because we live in the land of Ajax. The self-admitted ex- Ajax hooligan has already offered to help us if we need anything. This has never happened to me in the 12 years I have lived in Amsterdam. We have real neighbors people! Finally!

And the kids are learning another culture too.  Luca is still traumatized after a little redneck kid half his size beat him with a branch. And Charly was assaulted by handfuls of sand by another kid. It's good for them. And of course, there are mostly sweet kids here that will teach our kids alot too.

It's a different life here, almost surreal. I love it! And every Sunday evening we get back in our space ship and travel back to Planet Amsterdam! Two of the most fascinating worlds and i'm so lucky my kids can experience both!