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messy messy joy joy

Dearest Clara and Nutcracker,

In just a few hours our annual party begins. And when our guests arrive they’ll marvel at the sight. (Over the past nine years we’ve learned how to throw a seriously great party).

But what they won’t see is what is happening right now—as we are prepping and struggling and stumbling.

They will see the joy, but not the mess.

They will see only half of what is true. Like looking with only one eye open, they will not have depth perception. They will not perceive the effort, the sweat. They will not see the moments when we worried we couldn’t pull it off, when things were half done and seemed impossible to do.

Later in the night our guests will see it all. While the party begins beautifully, there comes the time when the nutcracker is broken. A mess that changes everything. Without it? The night would quickly end. Without the mess there would be no dream, no second act.

Messiness isn’t a mistake. It is the space for the creation of joy. So often we worry that the mess makes a moment less. That the mess means we are less. The opposite is true. It is the messy that makes life more. Nothing is just joy.

The full story is that joy and messiness are necessary companions.

So look for the moments of messy in your life—a role you didn’t wish for, a partner you don’t want, an injury that sets you back. Trust in them. Know that they point the way to great joy.

Because the joy will be there. It’s waiting for you. It’s real. It isn’t just in dreams.

 

With all my love,

Mama Stahlbaum

Love this Nutcracker Love Note? You can pin it.

This is the ninth year I have performed in The Nutcracker. It is my eighth year as Clara’s mother, the seventh time I have written a letter to the dancers  Here are the links to the letters for the past six years: stage fright, the balance pointe, home for the holidays, blizzards of truth, life in ¾ time, in a nutshell.

 

 

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Right Here With You

The ear of my daughter’s favorite stuffed elephant was bright red with blood.

She was learning to walk and just as she approached the stairs she lost her balance, tumbled straight into them, banged her mouth, and cut her lip.

I scooped her up, grabbed the elephant, rocked and soothed her. “Mama’s right here with you.”

Toddlers. They are a lot of great things. But they are not great yet at physical coordination. It’s why we call them toddlers—they toddle. And then they fall. Their developmental work is to work out physical tasks. But in the beginning? The kind way to say it is that they are physically clumsy. (The more accurate way might be to comment on their resemblance to a miniature drunken sailor.)

But over time they figure it out and as they head towards the preschool years they are running and hopping and…

…falling apart emotionally.

A broken plastic plane? 20 minutes of meltdown.

A “no” to their request for the shiny object that caught their attention in the toy aisle? Public tantrum.

A “it’s time to leave the park and go home for lunch”? They look at us, look at the car, look back at us, then turn and sprint in the other direction.

Welcome to emotionally clumsy. A phase of life that begins after physically clumsy (and lasts….well, when was the last time your middler school fell apart? Or your high schooler lost it?)

These are the years when a child is physically able to do a task, but not yet emotionally prepared for it. It is a hard time as a parent, because all we can think is “Are you kidding me?” or “We’re doing this again?” or “You need to follow my directions. NOW.” And it’s hard because the emotional fall is internal–we don’t see it coming, all we see is the aftermath. And it’s hard because instead of hitting the ground, our little munchkins often hit us.

So what do we do? How can we help them? And how can we help ourselves?

By choosing to be on their team.

When a toddler falls over, we offer support, love, a kiss, sometimes even a band-aid. We are with them in their distress.

But when a physical fall turns into an emotional one? We often turn away from them. Instead of being with them, we want to win. “Stop crying, now.” or “Listen to me this instant!” Or “Do what I am telling you to.”

What would it look like if during these years we flipped it? What if our parenting mantra became: not win, but with.

Broken plane? “Oh, sweetie. You are so sad the plane broke—I can see it on your face.”

No toy? “I know it was super fancy. I can see what you loved about it and understand your frustration at not getting it.”

No more park? “It’s disappointing to leave when we’re having a great time. Transitions can be tough.”

In other words: Mama’s right here with you.

We aren’t caving or capitulating or giving in. We’re simply acknowledging their truth.

And what comes next? “Let’s”. Let us. Let’s do _____. Let’s go _____. Let’s be _____. ‘Let us’ says: I am on your team. I’m here with you. We do hard things together. You can count on me.

It shows a child (no matter their age) that in their distress, they are not alone. We see them, hear them, value them, help them.

We may think the plane was junk, the toy ridiculous, the park overrated. It doesn’t matter. We’re don’t have to agree with their emotions, we need to empathize with them. That’s what it looks like to join their team. And doing that reduces the number of tantrums, minimizes the length of meltdowns, increases the times they follow directions.

Being with a child when they are emotionally clumsy, from preschool through high school, keeps us connected. No matter how far they fly away when they leave the nest, being on their team means we are with them. Always.

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Parenting Seminars, Workshops, and Group Coaching sessions with Emily Mcmason. Parenting Bravely. Parent Coach. Sleep Consultant. Wisdom Curator!

Have you every wondered whether or not it was worth hiring a sleep coach? Here’s an article that address this very question (and yes, they might have asked me a few questions in it!) and if it sounds like the right fit for you? here’s the link to my sleep page!

Sleep Tight!

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Lakefair

Growing up, there was a local summer fair that I couldn’t wait to go to. As an adult, I just might drive very circuitous routes around town during the week of Lakefair to avoid my kids seeing the unmistakable silhouette of the Ferris Wheel. But tonight? The very last night of the fair? (shhhhhh…don’t tell the kids), I created a cocktail in its honor. I sent a picture of the drink to a friend, along with its name. She replied “fascinating and overwhelming, right?” exactly. So, here’s the Lakefair.

  • 1.5 oz vodka
  • 1 mini package of Nerds
  • tonic water

To mix the drink:

Pour nerds into the bottom of the glass. Drop a handful of ice cubes into your cocktail shaker. Pour vodka over the ice. Lid on. Shake away. Pour into your glass. Top with tonic. Slowly swirl you glass, watching the nerds yellow color spread throughout. When it looks done? Drink. Laugh. Remember your youth (well, once you were 21).

Would you like to check out other cocktail options? Here’s the link to the entire list!

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lavender fields forever

A cocktail name sure to make my husband and our niece cringe…for opposite reasons. But for the rest of us? Pure deliciousness. Pure summer.

  • 1 oz. botanical gin (esme, bloom, etc) or vodka
  • o.5 oz  lavender simple syrup (see below)
  • juice of 1/4 lime
  • top with lavender dry soda (chez Target carries this…)

 

To make the lavender simple syrup:

Bring 2 cups of water to a boil, add 2 cups sugar, stirring until dissolved. Add in the tops? (is there a correct term for this?) of 5-8 lavender stalks, depending on how strong you’d like the lavender. Let cool with the flowers in for 15-30 minutes. Strain out the lavender.

To mix the drink:

Drop a handful of ice cubes into your cocktail shaker. Pour all ingredients (but not the fizzy one!) over the ice. Lid on. Shake away. Pour into your glass. Top with lavender soda water. Enjoy!

Would you like to check out other cocktail options? Here’s the link to the entire list!

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the push and the pause

This Love Note is written to a young woman, Katharine Cowan, whom I’ve shared the stage with in The Nutcracker, Cinderella, Peter Pan, and now the ballet Giselle. Today’s performances are the final times I get to play her mother on stage. Each year I write a letter, and this is my last to her.

 

My dearest Giselle,

Here you are. You are here, on the cusp of change.

In the ballet you begin as a young village girl, and you die a young woman with a broken heart. In your life you are near the end of high school, and about to move far away to begin your next adventure.

Which means this is my final letter to you.

There is so much to say about this ballet. To look at the power of each emotion–Joy. Love. Deception. Death. Redemption.

But in this last letter, I want to write about the push and the pause.

Near the end of act I, you push me. Shove, really. Really hard. And that’s your job in life right now, too. It is a teenager’s work to push against what is familiar. Trusted. Safe.

And it’s okay to push away. It’s more than that—it is important and necessary.

We have to push away to create the space to go. We have to push against in order to create the space to grow.

 

The second part of the ballet that matters isn’t in the ballet at all.

Intermission.

The. Big. Pause.

The time between acts I and II when the audience isn’t necessarily sure what comes next. They may have a sense of the storyline, but the details won’t be known until the curtain rises. And the same is true for you. With graduation right around the corner, you are fast approaching your intermission. A few weeks of space before the curtain goes up at the Joffery.

Often we get impatient for intermission to be over. We want to rush it, or skip it altogether. But intermission is about breathing. About being still. Quietly gathering our energy so we have the strength to leap into what’s next.

The push and the pause. Take them with you. Each is vital to a career beautifully danced, and to a life well lived.

All my love, now and always.

Mama Berthe

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Monday April 17th, 6:30-8:00 pm

Night #3 of our 2016-2017 Parenting Series at Griffin! This evening’s talk will focus on student success and the surprising research that shows us the best ways to help children.

There will be time for Q & A afterwards about discipline and any other parenting topics!

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MARCH 11th

At the Expanding Your Horizons STEM conference for middle school girls on the SPSCC campus, I’ll be speaking about Brains, Bodies & Behavior: how to help our daughters grow during middle school. As a total science geek, I’m thrilled to be a part of this day!

eyh

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Free Guide: 5 changes in 5 minutes to make parenting better, easier, right now!