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6 things I do to feel more present with my kids

Dear parents,
In this Tuesday Tune-In (coming out a little later than normal becuase I had a show this morning,) we are tackling why it’s so hard to be PRESENT with our kids – or with anything for that matter – and what you can do to get in the moment.

These days we are inundated with information: podcasts, articles, emails, texts, social posts. I don’t know about you but I definitely see a difference in my ability to stay focused on a task. I find myself glancing at my phone habitually. In addition, for those of us with babies, lack of sleep makes it almost IMPOSSIBLE to keep our presence on one thing.

Sometimes it’s also hard to align with our kids because, the truth is, they inhabit a different reality than ours.

Grown-ups: Think about the past, present and future at the same time.
Kids: Think about right now.

We can be at the playground watching our kid with hawkeyes climbing the slide, while thinking about what we will make for dinner, when a second ago we thought about what an ass we were at yesterday’s meeting.

Meanwhile what are they thinking about? Climbing the slide.

It can feel so exhilarating to be with them with that amount of presence. Our kids are naturally fully present in everything they do. The younger they are, the more present they are. It’s instinctual for them.

And it can also feel exhausting. Which is why we sometimes crave conversation with other adults who share our experience of being in the world for a while.

But with practice, we can drop into our kids’ world that is completely mindful and present. And then what happens? We truly enjoy our time together. We notice how precious every little bit is – the way they pick up a marker, the way their nose moves while they speak, the way they look at us with adoration.

6 things I do to feel more present with my kids

1. Tell them ahead of time that we will be spending time together.
I find this works both for them and for me. If I tell them in the morning that we will have some time later – or even if I tell them on the way back from school that we will have an hour to play together – it helps me prepare and holds me accountable. The problem I run into if I don’t do this is trying to do three things at once, including being present with them.

2. Put my phone in the other room.
For me, this one is essential. I’m an addict like the rest of us – always feeling the pull to glance at my phone. Putting the phone in the other room helps me realize I don’t need it and makes it physically difficult for me to get to it. Laziness is good for something.

3. Make my day as productive as possible so that I can release it.
The days I feel most present with my kids are the ones in which I manage to be very productive. For me, that means keeping to my to-do list and not getting distracted by social media or even email. If I’ve had four hours of focused productivity, I’m usually in a pretty good mood once I get to the kids. So, I consider building my productivity skills to be essential to how I mother.

4. Put on music.
Usually, after we get home from school there is an hour of acclimation. Snacking, changing clothes, running around, fighting with siblings. But eventually we calm down. At that moment, especially if my intention is to feel present with them, I like to put on some music that will calm me, first of all, and them as well. That can mean anything from vocal jazz to Motown to 80s pop or classical. (What music do you put on in that pre-dinner making hour? I would love to hear in the comments)

5. Sit where they are sitting.
This one might sound silly but for me it makes a big difference. When we’re playing together, I can either say, “Come sit with me at the table” (because most often that’s where I am). Or I can finish what I’m doing and go sit where they are sitting – on the carpet, in their room or sometimes even in the hallway. When I do that, I immediately feel the shift. They are aware that I’m putting aside the time to be with them and I’m meeting them where they are.

6. Take a moment to notice that nothing else is more important.
I know we know this but sometimes it takes reminding ourselves a few times a day – or even a few times an hour. At that moment, when we want to extract ourselves from playing with them – talking to them, sitting on the floor, playing hide and seek or whatever it is – we need to ask ourselves: What is actually more important?

For me, the answer is almost always: nothing.

I hope you enjoyed reading the 6 things I do to feel more present with my kids.

What would your kids say you do to be present with them? COMMENT below and let me know.
Sometimes thinking about it from our kids point of view helps us see what’s working and what’s not. What comes to mind for you?

Know more mindful parents? Share this Tuesday Tune-In.
They’ll love the tip about sitting where they are sitting – and hopefully the other five, too. Forward this email their way as a way of saying you’re proud of their intentional work..

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A surprising way to soothe your baby

Hello, tuned-in parents,

Today we’re going to talk about a technique that is used in music therapy called Vocal Holding. I think you’ll find that it is a nice alternative to purely consoling our babies with speech. And you might even find that it works better.

I had to use it just the other day.

We had received a new peeler in the mail and my daughter was excited to open the package as usual. Before I knew what was happening she got a surface cut on her finger. The site of blood and the surprise of the cut set her off and she started crying inconsolably.

I held her and – instead of empathizing with her through speech – I matched her sobs with the sound “ah.” I made my sound fit in the same phrase/length as hers and took in breaths at the same time.

Slowly, her cries tapered and we sat together silently. It was my way of acknowledging her pain and being available to her in a purely emotional – not intellectual – way.

Vocal holding is a technique developed by Dr. Diane Austin, who uses it to relieve adult trauma. It is an effective way to do psychotherapy that can be more emotional and less analytical than talk therapy.

The idea behind it is that the therapist uses her voice as a way to hold and support the client. In talk therapy, a patient might share something that is troubling at home. The therapist might reflect back to him what she said using other words or sometimes even the same words exactly.

The therapist might ask an open-ended question like, “How did that make you feel? Or in another instance the therapist might provide an intervention or an interpretation of what the patient is saying and feeling in order to help him advance and break out of old patterns.

Vocal holding does these things but with the voice.

When our children are upset about something they need us first of all to empathize and understand what they’re feeling. We can do this by telling them that we see they are upset, that we understand what happened, that we know it is hard to feel sad/ hurt / frustrated /etc.

But sometimes saying it is not enough. And when the crying continues it is often because our children need to continue to express their feelings. Our job is to allow space for that to happen.

In order for us to do that we need to feel okay with an expression of emotions. We need to not be scared of it rather welcome it.

In these situations vocal holding can be a great way to hold that space for our children. As you know, singing bypasses the intellect and comes from an emotional place.

How to try Vocal Holding:

  1. Match your child’s tone. If your child is upset, sing along in their exact melody and take breaths where they do.
  2. Take turns. If your child is not upset, this alternating method can feel like a vocal conversation with improvised sounds.
  3. Harmonize. If your baby is singing a repetitive melody, accompany them on an instrument with one or two simple chords.
  4. Sing in a lower tone. If your child is calm or upset, improvise using a resonant sound as if you are providing the foundation on which your baby can emote.

Next time your baby cries you might want to experiment with using this surprising way to soothe your baby to help her feel heard and understood.

Has your baby responded to musical soothing before? Did your upset baby love your humming or toddler want to hear a calming song?
Comment here so we can figure this out together.

Who in your life is open to new techniques?
Forward this to them so they can try vocal holding.

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Yes! Please send me more of the Tuesday Tune-In!

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2 steps to feeling closer to your partner

Hello dear In Tune Parents,

This week’s Tuesday Tune In is all about finding balance in our marriage. Is it possible? I would love to hear your thoughts. Here are some of my toughts about our relationship with our parnter post baby:

Every couple of years I take on a big project. During the year that it takes, I usually feel extremely creative, productive and motivated. The problem is that the more absorbed I get into creation, the more distant I feel from my kids and, especially, my husband.

Here’s what I’ve learned in 10 years of marriage:
When my plate is overflowing, my partnership is the first to suffer.

Okay. It’s true that he accepts my ebbs and flows. Maybe he’s even proud of me during those times. But I know that he also feels neglected. I start to see the signs: our conversations become all about household business, he stays up late watching TV, we don’t get in bed at the same time and we are a bit shorter with each other. I’ll even see negative effects trickle down to the household. The kids become shorter with each other and compete for attention. That’s a pretty convincing case that I need to shift my focus.

How do I make this shift? No need to immediately jump to sex. When there’s a rift in the relationship that can feel way too threatening. Instead, here are the 2 steps I’ve found work best. …

How to Intimately Reconnect with your Partner:

1. Find a moment to be fully present – physically and emotionally
Empty the to-do list and truly feel that the night is open ended.

2. Start small
A hand on a shoulder. A hug. Maybe it ends there for that night. Or maybe it goes further. Part of what feels stressful sometimes is the pressure of going ‘all the way’. But in those moments when it feels like there is a small glacier between us, sometimes just leaning on each other while watching TV feels like a big melting step.

This sounds so easy but its not. For me, right now in the busy work-mode that I am in, I almost need to schedule it in my calendar. It’s nice when it naturally rises to the top of my list. That’s when we effortlessly fall into each other. But during these moments that I’m talking about, and I know you’ve had them too, it feels effortFULL. It almost feels like laundry.

When each kid was an infant it felt the same way. My husband and I put everything we had into staying aflot above a sea of diapers, nightime wake ups, and a constant to-do list. During those years, raising a baby was the project.

I’m going to give you a happy ending on this one because I want to inspire you.

True story –  this morning my husband and I woke up feeling re-connected to each other. The kids immediately seemed a bit more chipper, and I’ve been feeling pretty damn productive all day.  You can imagine how last night went 🙂

So that’s the big lesson here. The one that I need to relearn again and again. Being productive does not necessarily mean “working.” It means balance.

And how do we learn what balance means for us? We keep asking ourselves – “What amazing things happened today?” Eventually, we get it. And then we forget it, and then we get it again.

Schedule time to just be present together. It might just bring new energy to all of your other endeavors too.

Has your career blomed while your marriage wilted? Comment below and let me know.
It can’t just be me, right? What work opportunities have you seized and how have you maintained your love connection? I would love to hear your comments below.

Know someone else who needs two ways to feel closer? Share this Tuesday Tune-In. Relationship advice is best when it comes from a good friend. Forward this email their way!

AND – if you are on Instagram please follow me! I do IG lives every Wednesday.
If you are on Facebook – please follow me! I do FB lives every Wednesday too 🙂

All for now,
Love Vered

Do you want to know everything there is to know about lullabies? <a href=”http://www.babyintune.com/lullabykit”>Click here</a> to download my new <strong><span style=”color: #800080;”><a style=”color: #800080;” href=”http://www.babyintune.com/lullabykit”>Easy Bedtime Lullaby Kit</a></span></strong> complete with a songwriting template, a playlist, and a gameplan to make your evenings easier for one and all.

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3 ways to get your baby drumming

Friends – It’s Tuesday Tune-In time.

Before we get started, some housekeeping. If you aren’t already, I highly suggest following me on Instagram at @babyintune, and on Facebook @baby in tune. I’ve been doing live posts with some good tips, have been sharing new songs, and find it a great way to connect with you all on a more regular basis.

Ok. Here we go.

This week, I let you in on a musical-bonding tool that’s not vocal. Spoiler: It’s drumming. More specifically, drumming together. It creates magic in a room.

Try it for yourself. You don’t need to be a musician to lead a drum circle. You don’t need special drums. Break out the pots and Tupperware – or just use the floor – and start banging. Believe me: Baby will follow your lead.

There’s a reason for this: It feels good to drum with someone else. It’s similar to the feeling we have when we dance with other people. Humans enjoy synchronizing to the rhythm of music, especially with others.

And that starts very early on – even little babies prefer synchronization and can modify their movements to the sound of music. (Have you been wondering if your baby is actually kicking to the beat? The answer is yes!)

Not sure where to start? Here are some techniques to create magic by drumming together.

(My favorite is the last one, so if you can, read till the end.  To me that one is really a metaphor for life. Maybe they all are?)

THREE WAYS TO START A FAMILY DRUM CIRCLE

1. Hold down a simple beat.
The easiest and most common rhythm in Western culture is a four count. So drum out your beat while counting: 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4. You can add eighth notes (1 and 2 and 3 and 4), and you can syncopate it, which means taking out some beats and putting the stress on beats that might have otherwise been softer. (e.g. 1 2 and _ 4).

Since you are holding down the beat, your baby is free to drum within that. Your job is to stay steady and be the backbone like a drummer in a band. Your baby gets to be the soloist.

(You see what I mean by all this being a metaphor for life and parenting?)

2. Pick an area of the world you’d like to visit with your drumming.
Good options are: Africa, Cuba, Middle East, the Caribbean, India or others. Somewhere pique your interest?

Now, look up “African drumming.” Once you find a song that inspires you, you and your baby can drum along to that song. It’s pretty fun to jam along with music that you’re listening to. Especially drumming.

Recently in my classes we traveled into Asia through Japan and China. Taiko drumming, from Japan, is often accompanied by choreographed dance. And Chinese drumming can sometimes be lyrical and tell a story.

Although our classes are comprised of babies and parents who often don’t consider themselves musical, after we listen to music from a particular culture there is a distinct feeling to each drum circle that is clearly inspired by the music we just heard.

3. Listen very closely to the sounds people around you are making.
This reminds me of a game my kids play where they see how high a number they can count to. Each person says one number spontaneously, without designating an order.

If you’ve ever done this, then you know that the exercise sharpens your focus on being in the moment. It makes you stand in a group and look around with anticipation, wondering when the others will say a number and when there will be space for you to call one out. Most of all, it perks up your ears.

The best kinds of drum circles are like that. When each person listens very closely to the music and the sounds that others are making. The idea is to really be on the edge of your seat anticipating and excited by where your sound will fit into the sound of the group. It can feel pretty profound.

This drum circle may sound different than what you are used to. It may not have a steady beat, rather it may have a loose more spontaneous feel to it, like a conversation.

As way to truly converse through music, try mirroring your baby’s beats and vocalizations with your beats and voice as well.

If for just a few minutes a day we can take a moment to listen closely to the sounds around us – the sounds our baby is making, and our response to those sounds – we may just tell a story with our music.

(Feeling like a metaphor for life and parenting again?)

Just remember: The more you get into it, the more you will enjoy it. So let go of inhibitions. And know that, in order to do that, you need to play for much longer than you would think.  So start and don’t stop until the story you’re telling comes to a close.

What have your drumming experiences been like? I’d love to hear about it in the COMMENTS section.

Did you drop in to a drum circle in college, on a trip or in a recent baby/me class? I want to know. Write a comment!

Who else needs baby/me activity inspo? Share this Tuesday Tune-In. I know the days can be long. Share this fun and emotionally connecting activity with a friend by clicking Forward!

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A quick way to feel present with your baby

Good, good morning to you – moms, dads, grandparents, and caregivers.

It’s time for The Tuesday Tune In. This week, I’m telling you one super-quick, super-easy way to be present with your children.

You know that moment when our babies or kids ask us to do something “one more time”? I know you do.

We all love their desire for more Together Time – but in that moment we can pass on the opportunity. Often it’s because it’s nearing the end of the day and we’re too worn out. Or we see that little bit more as just TOO MUCH right then.

Or – if you’re like me – you’re just so ready for the fast-approaching Me Time.

So, you’ve probably already guessed what I’m going to tell you to try this week:

Push yourself to do that thing ONE MORE TIME.

For my kids, it’s an extra hug after bedtime kisses.

Have you ever seen a horse nearing the stable after a long walk? That’s when the horse’s walking turns into a trot because they know they’re almost home.

At 7:55pm, I feel me-time becoming a reality and I start to gallop home. And it’s right when I reach the stable when the kids each ask for one more hug.

For your child it might be asking for you to rock them one more time, to walk the curb like a balance beam one more time or to sing a chorus one more time.

I say, for the next week, Let’s see what happens when we push ourselves to give in for those two extra minutes – whether it’s the extra hug, the detour or the added rocking.

One of my biggest struggles as a parent is to do all of the things I do every day (career, errands, tasks, social life) and also find a way to be fully present with my kids.

I’ve found that this is one simple shift in my behavior that changes everything.

One day recently I went back and lied down with my daughter in her bed for a moment and I gave her a long, delicious hug. I let my tasks go. The emails would wait. The mess would still be there. And I gave in to two minutes of being fully present with her.

Later I realized that it was the best part of my day.

How did I realize the power of “one more time”?
I wrote the extra hug in my Five Minute Journal.

A couple weeks ago, I sent out an email about a practice called The Five Minute Journal by Tim Ferriss. (Read that full post here.)

I noticed that at the end of the day, when I was writing my list of amazing things that happened that day, I would consistently write about the extra hug. And then the next day when I was writing my list of what would make the day great I started to put down the extra hug. Because: Why wouldn’t I make my day amazing?

So try it. See if it makes your day amazing, too.

What’s your child’s “one more thing”? Comment and let me know.
One last dance-off? One last tickle fight? It’s different for every child. I want to know yours. Drop me a line here.

Glad you read this Tuesday Tune-In? Share it – one more time!
Quick. Now. Before you’re ready to move on to Me time! Forward to a friend, you good samaritan.

Do you have a friend with a baby who needs sleep asap? Send them the Easy-Bedtime Lullaby Kit.

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One trick to feeling good about your singing

Hi, tuned-in moms and dads,

This week in the Tuesday Tune In, I want to offer you a strategy for feeling good about your singing voice especially when singing with your baby.

You might be surprised to hear: Whenever I sit down at the microphone to record vocals for an album, I have a mini freak-out. I’ve never thought of myself as a great singer. What I really wanted since I was a kid was to be able to sing like Mariah Carey or Beyonce or other singers who seemed to have endless flexibility in their vocals. I hope you’re not reading this thinking – “Oh please. She has a beautiful voice.”

Because that’s my point:
Everyone feels insecure when they sing. (Even those who make a career out of it.)

If you haven’t grown up singing in your home or with your family or friends, then it probably feels even more uncomfortable and scary.

So, I’m going to give you a strategy.

Here’s a method that I use when I’m singing at the mic. I’m hoping it will help you when you are singing to your baby. Because here’s the thing: Your baby wants to hear you sing. More than Paul McCartney, more than Aretha. Your baby wants to hear YOU.

The trick to STOP JUDGING and START LOVING your singing voice:

1. Relax your voice by taking in a deep breath before each phrase.

This is important because if your body tenses, then your voice will immediately feel constricted. Once that happens, our brains recognize the discord and we judge ourselves from the get-go.

2. Hear your voice as if it is coming from outside of you.

As you are singing try to hear your voice as if someone else is singing to you. This is the hard part and the incredible part. You might need to close your eyes as you do this but if you manage to do it, even for a minute, you may feel soothed by your own voice. Instead of judging it, you may enjoy it. This is because we are much less judgemental of others than we are of ourselves.

This technique is a bit easier in a group when you can focus on everyone else’s voice instead of your own. We do this alot in our classes. When shifting our focus to the voices around us we notice that our own voice tends to be more in pitch, more relaxed, and seems to find its place among the other voices in an effortless way.

I learned this while recording my albums. My biggest task in the studio was to get out of my own head. If I didn’t, I could feel my inner dialogue getting the best of me just a few words in. My voice felt and sounded constricted and didn’t seem to flow. If someone could’ve record my thoughts during those few words, they would probably have seen a quick moving list of comments – “You sound terrible,” “You shouldn’t be singing this song,” “That note was off,” “Your jaws is not relaxed,” “Sara Bareilles sounds much better” or, “No one will want to hear this.”.

That voice can be SO loud. And while we all have a version of it, some hear it louder than others.

I know this from years of doing classes and singing with parents. Many don’t feel comfortable singing in a group or, if they do, they will be sure to sing under their breath so no one can hear.

There’s a good reason for that. Singing is not like talking. Speaking often comes from an intellectual place. But singing bypasses our intellect and comes directly from an emotional place. That feels vulnerable no matter who you are.

But that is what makes singing so powerful.

Tonight as you are singing a lullaby to your baby, try it. It’s a mindfulness exercise and it’s not simple but it’s worth it. Why not let you AND your baby be soothed by your voice?

How comfortable are you with your voice?
Have you overcome insecurities while singng? How?
I want to hear!! Email and let me know.

So many parents in my groups feel insecure about singing. Your stories can help them overcome their anxiety.

Love this Tuesday Tune-In? Share it with a mom friend or dad friend. The ones who sang at your wedding and the ones who won’t even karaoke. Forward away.

Love Vered

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5 Minutes That Will Change Your Day

Dearst parents,
I recently came across a way to get all the energetic upside of a gratitude practice AND all of the actionable results of a goal-setting practice. When I noticed the feel-good wave it gave me day to day, I knew this would be the first thought in my new Tuesday Tune-In blog series that I’d share with you.

It’s called The 5 Minute Journal and it’s the brainchild of self-experimenter and bestselling author Tim Ferriss (“The Four-Hour Work Week”).

I’ve woven it into my life since December and appreciate how simple it is. And for parents who may be sleep deprived – and are certainly time deprived – this is a perfect way to journal daily and check in with yourself in literally five minutes. Honestly, I can make it three minutes, so you can, too.

Notice my kids in the pic waiting patiently for me in the morning. I’ve trained them that this is two minutes of mommy time 🙂 And if your baby is too young to wait for you to do this then just know it is in your future!

The Five Minute Journal
In the morning, you write 3 (or more) points for each of these:

I am grateful for…
What would make today great?
Daily affirmations: I am…

In the evening you write 3 (or more) points for these:
Amazing things that happened today
How could I have made today even better?

I can attest: These little questions do a lot.

The question that struck me most was: What would make today great?

I’ve been surprised by the things I write here. They are often much smaller moments than I expected. And I feel empowered that they’re small enough that I can go ahead and try to make them happen the next day.

I urge you to go into this with curiosity – what are those things that would make your day truly great?

The evening follow-up –  What amazing things happened today?, might surprise you as well. Again, they might be big but they might be small.

Remember, it’s a few minutes and it’s truly worth it.

As it turns out, journaling is one of the top habits of successful people. (Oprah talks about hers here.) And a gratitude practice has been shown in Positive Psychology to improve our well-being, both long and short term. Just look to the empirical research in Robert A. Emmons and Cheryl A. Crumpler ‘s 2000 article “Gratitude as a human strength: Appraising the evidence” for the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, which he talks about here.

I know you are all busy – feeding babies, putting kids down, waking up early with kids and more. You may have NO TIME WHATSOEVER to journal. I totally get that. But in case you have just five minutes to try it, it might make your day great. Or amazing.

Did you get through this in 2 minutes or less? Reply and let me know.
I want to make sure that each weekly thought is useful to you – and not just one more lengthy article that you put aside for later. My goal is to make it short enough for you to digest it on the go. This way, you can take the ideas into your life with your baby and feel that much more present and joyful. Drop me a line here.

Love this Tuesday Tune-In? Share it with a mom friend or dad friend.
We all need a little love. Forward away.

Do you want to know everything there is to know about lullabies? Click here to download my new Easy Bedtime Lullaby Kit complete with a songwriting template, a playlist, and a gameplan to make your evenings easier for one and all.

See you next Tuesday,
Love Vered

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Something Other Than a Mom

Some of my favorite classes to teach are dads groups. Usually they are organized by the moms who took my class, who want the dads to have the experience they did. And during those weeks I get to hear about it all through their eyes.

Much of the stuff they talk about is the same. The challenge of getting baby to sleep and not sleeping enough, not always understanding what baby needs and wants, and the absolute joy of watching their baby grow. But often they add the perspective that was missing when their partner took the class. While the mom on maternity leave may have complained about her husband not helping enough, the dad complains of not having enough time with the baby and not feeling confident enough to trouble-shoot because of that. While the mom complained about needing physical space from the husband and not feeling romantic, the husband says that he misses his wife, although understands the distance.

This article was written by my favorite dad blogger Jeff Bogle. He took my song to heart and wrote this beautiful piece perfectly illustrating this dads’ perspective.

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/i-remember-when-you-were-something-other-than-a-mom_b_7188930

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