Sep 302015

Parenthood is full of demands on our time and working hard to meet our kids' wants and needs. Here are 3 solid reasons that taking time for yourself in the midst is so very important. I promise you'll laugh at the first one!We are at the height of 4 yr. old ridiculousness around these parts. Most of our days end in an unabashed show of dramatic tears–mother and daughter alike. As my husband walks through the door in the evenings, I shove her his way, shouting, “She’s yours!”, then flee to a more relaxing expenditure of time, such as folding laundry. Or fighting through my son’s 1st grade homework with him. Or beating my head against a brick wall. In comparison to spending another minute with Princess Insanity, it’s all blissful.

Inner zen in this delightful stage seems a laughable goal, yet what I bemoan, while indeed highlighted by the particularly beastliness of this age, is something I’ve found to be true of so many phases of parenting: Mommy is disappearing. Yup, I’m gone. Have pretty much left the building. The orbits of our day-to-day are busily circling wants and needs, just not my wants or needs.

Largely, I believe this is the way it should be. Parenting is a tremendous journey of self-sacrifice. That’s cool; I signed up for this.

But…but sometimes. Just sometimes, it would be nice to…be me.

One day recently, I was cruising in my Swagger Wagon, and REO Speedwagon‘s “Can’t Fight This Feeling” came on the radio. As all true REO fans know, when you hear this song, you simply can’t fight the feeling. You’ve gotta crank it up and belt it out with all of the 80s-passion latent within your soul.

So there I was, rocking my tune, when I heard the piercing cry, “Mommy, stop singing!” Obviously, I first ignored my daughter. But then her whiny plea continued, “DON’T sing this song!”.

Why?“, I was baffled.

“Because I HATE it!”, she wailed.

Utterly ridiculous. But I mean, really, who was I to judge? We all have musical tastes, and maybe my jam wasn’t her jam. I could honor this, I supposed. I mean, it was just one song. And I don’t follow the news. Perhaps there was some sort of clinical REO Speedwagon aversion running rampant through the preschool set of which I was unaware. I begrudingly flipped the dial to the next station.

In a most magical radio moment, the vibes of “Sweet Home Alabama” filled the minivan. Score! I turned the volume up even higher and started grooving. My drive-dancing was on!

Until it was again rudely interrupted by my precious buzz-kill, “Moooooom! Don’t sing! Turn this off!”

“WHY?!”, I pled. What was the possible logic?

“Because it makes me SO MAD!”

I’ll let you envision the curse words streaming through my head at this point. After the mental expletives passed, I paused.


Parenthood is full of demands on our time and working hard to meet our kids' wants and needs. Here are 3 solid reasons that taking time for yourself in the midst is so very important. I promise you'll laugh at the first one!

This was a super time to get real. Very real. I asked myself three questions. Three questions that have become an excellent measure in this messy progression of parenthood of whether I sacrifice vestiges of myself for the well-being of my children:

  1. Would my choice in any way bring harm to her? Lynyrd Skynyrd has done many things, but to my knowledge, they have never brought ill-fate to a 4 year old with the sound of their voices. So, to answer this question, NO. Getting my Alabama groove on would not harm my daughter.
  2. Would agreeing to her request encourage behavior I don’t want to foster in my child? If I indulged her request, I’d be saying “okay” to demanding, rude, unnecessarily controlling dominance of the environment around her. Do I want my child to be a bully? Nope. So by permitting her request I would be working to high-five bratty behavior I never want to tolerate.
  3. Would the benefit of pursuing my desire outweigh her discomfort with the situation? Yes. She throws a tantrum every two seconds. I slice out time to unwind and have fun…never. She could suffer out her delusional discontent while I took a much-needed 4 minutes and 45 seconds to enjoy something. Miss Stinky-Pants would survive.

The answers to these three questions in this situation were clear and easy. They will not always be. While, as parents, this age and stage of raising young children is a time when the things that make us us often lie dormant, I believe there is a tremendous value to embracing a few things for ourselves.

This might be in the form of making chicken stir-fry for dinner because YOU like it, putting the kids to bed a half-hour early so you can finally watch the last episode of Peaky Blinders, taking time to exercise to protect your health, actually finishing a conversation with your spouse despite the kids’ attempts to interrupt, or forcing them to use their least-favorite bath towel because you simply were too tired last night to finish the laundry and wash the preferred towels. However you choose to pause and respect yourself, it matters.

Let's face it: our preschoolers are a bit off their rockers. Parenthood is full of demands on our time and working hard to meet our kids' wants and needs. Here are 3 solid reasons that taking time for yourself in the midst is so very important. I promise you'll laugh at the first one!

The thing is, while we love and cherish our children, they do not run the show. In the midst of tantrums, cries and pleas, never permit yourself the confusion: you are in charge, not them. If knowing this is the only self-care you offer yourself in the fury of these child-rearing years, well done. Well done, as this is the best and most important way we can honor the adults we have spent a lifetime growing into and becoming.

As for me, I yanked the volume dial as high as it goes and loved on “Sweet Home Alabama” as I never had before. Partially to drown out the wails of my daughter, but mostly because I really, really like the song.


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Sep 282015

Feel like you are totally losing it over busy days and ever-changing schedules? So overwhelming, I know! I was panicking until I found this one perspective that put a spin on it all and truly saved my sanity! Check it out and start breathing easier, I promise.Whoosh. Whoosh. Whoosh.

What’s that? Oh, just the white flag of surrender I’m waving to September. It won.

True story: my only (very minimal) hope of effectively functioning is with a schedule. Roll in a late preschool start, a bevvy of holidays switching up school schedules and the multi-leveled beast of Back to School adjustment, and basically, this Mom of the Year is rocking in a corner, praying hard for October days.

This week marks our first hope of having both children attend school as scheduled. Let’s not bitterly focus on the fact that yes, it is actually the beginning of October and this has yet to happen. Yup, this week I may actually grasp onto the hope of having both children out of my home for THREE WHOLE MORNINGS. Pure bliss!

In the midst of all this wild fantasy realization, I’d be remiss not to mention the sulking. My sulking. You see, while I make light of disrupted schedules, truth told: I am thrown. Calendars become a jumble of playdates, activities, and reminders, serving as a messy thin tether to any sense of control or order. I make empty promises to my poor little blog that I’ll give her more attention–just as soon as I get my crap together. I sigh at my pretty new kettlebell set, dreaming of time for a good workout–and then squeeze myself into my jeans, cursing out my muffin top.

No two ways about it: my natural bent towards routine and ticking things off my to-do list is GRUMPY.

I look at my husband and jealously covet simple things of his day. Like his lunch bag. That it is tidily packed and will be eaten at the same time every day–without children crawling on his head while he tries to read The Berenstain Bears. That he knows when he is leaving and when he will get home. That he does the same thing every day.

On the other hand, my days require a flexibility of character that would make ElasticGirl swoon. My hours are spent making up the difference. When school shuts down, a child is sick, someone needs help, a tantrum tornado touches down, or the bus is late…you get it, my plans fly through the window, laughing at my silly notions of order as they go.


Yet as I sit here, cozying into my poutiness, it dawns on me that perhaps this is my role. Sure, I am mom, I care for the kids and the house, I work from home. This is what I do. But maybe, just maybe, my purpose is to make up that difference. The difference between what is planned and what actually happens. The difference between the things that are necessary (dinner, picking up a child from school, etc.) and all the cards that we’re dealt that interrupt our progress.

And that is a very powerful role. Because in making up the difference, we can make the difference. 

Feel like you are totally losing it over busy days and ever-changing schedules? So overwhelming, I know! I was panicking until I found this one perspective that put a spin on it all and truly saved my sanity! Check it out and start breathing easier, I promise.

Our days may be filled with mess and chaos, but never mistake that they aren’t also filled with purpose. We have a very clear mission: to get our families from where we are to where we need to be. Somedays, this will be far harder than others. Somedays, we will do it far better than others. The point is that we do our best with whatever we’re given. That we do it because we love our families.

That we acknowledge that while we may glare at spotty school calendars and enviously swoon over neatly packed ziplock bags in our husbands’ lunches, going with the flow is what makes the difference in keeping things flowing. We remain firmly in the epicenter and then bend like crazy to fill in the gaps of needs and situations that come our way.

Who knows? Maybe we’re managing to get a pretty good workout in after all…


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Sep 172015

The school system is a tough place for kids that don't fit the mold, and trust me, I feel the pain of trying to navigate through it all as a parent who has BEEN THERE. Grab some peace and rest a little easier with this ideas about working through all the meetings and plans while still believing in your child. Being different in today's schools really IS the new norm.Once upon a time, long about a year ago, I looked at my son, and I thought he was perfect.

Full of flaws within in his perfection, of course. That annoying stubborness (he obviously gets from his father), his overcautious fear of the world, and the fact no matter what he eats he manages to get all over his shirt, but…he was perfect in that he was mine, and was exactly the way God created him to be.

And then I sent him off to school, the place I assumed to be full of positive growth and learning experiences. The place where he would figure out things like how salute the flag, remember to put his smock on before art class, and generally interact with his peers in the larger world.

Since we live in a lovely school district, with wonderful schools, and have encountered nothing but talented, smart, caring teachers and professionals, my assumption has largely proven true. School has been a positive experience for not only my son, who loves going each day, but for our whole family.

Except for one dark undercurrent that is symptomatic of our American schools system at large: the hard, painful part I wrote about this Spring–the part in which my son is presented as a problem to be fixed.

A few months later and the start of a new school year? This mama’s heart is still hearing the words, “He isn’t normal.” It still tears me, crushes me in a way I would never have understood before things like IEPs and “special needs” became not something other kids had, but something my kid had.

After my first phone call with his sweet teacher when she discussed “social concerns” she saw during recess, I hung up the phone and sobbed as my heart broke in a way it never before had, over yet another concern to add to the growing list. You see, last year, after much middle-of-the-night sleeplessness, the support of some incredibly boss friends, and the overwhelming response of readers to my first post about my son’s struggles (seriously, THANK YOU), I managed to wrap my head around the truths that he had serious attention issues and was woefully “behind” with his reading and writing skills. But still, hearing now that he was preferring to playing alone and avoiding the other children, rattled, shook, and shocked me just as much as the initial news that he was having difficulties in school.

Why did it shock me? Because I will always think he is “normal”. In regard to his social skills, I know he loves laughing and playing with other children. I know he is kind and shares toys. I know he has good friends and how they delight in often hanging out together. He is a socialized and social child. But even if I didn’t know these things, I’m never going to label my child “abnormal”.

Because I will always believe he is perfect as he is. Because that’s my job. God created my son. And he created me to be his mother. Believing in him is my job.

The school system is a tough place for kids that don't fit the mold, and trust me, I feel the pain of trying to navigate through it all as a parent who has BEEN THERE. Grab some peace and rest a little easier with this ideas about working through all the meetings and plans while still believing in your child. Being different in today's schools really IS the new norm.

And if I’m going to do this job well, I’m going to have to get a bit smarter about it. My growth in better addressing the situation since the Spring has been twofold:

1) I have learned, and learned well that in today’s school system any difference in a child from the prescribed standard mold is not only noticed, it is understood to be something that must be addressed.

For example, when I was in school, if your handwriting was messy or you couldn’t complete each assignment within 10 minutes, at worst, you got a bad grade. Today, you get a team of specialists and an individualized learning plan. Not calling for better or worse on the extra attention, just understanding that it’s a different world, one in which deviations get A LOT of attention.

So my child’s in good company with a whole bunch of deviants who aren’t ideally living the “norm”. The non-A list crowd is growing in numbers daily. Give it up for the new popular crowd.

The school system is a tough place for kids that don't fit the mold, and trust me, I feel the pain of trying to navigate through it all as a parent who has BEEN THERE. Grab some peace and rest a little easier with this ideas about working through all the meetings and plans while still believing in your child. Being different in today's schools really IS the new norm.

2) I have the power to handle the situation as I see fit.

  • The are other schooling options. They are far from our current radar, but if our discomfort with the situation escalates, it’s nice to know we have available choices.
  • There will be a team of people around that initial IEP meeting next week, and I will be one of them. And it’s darn sure I’m going to make my voice heard.
  • I can choose to understand the situation. I can grasp that while my son is slow to read, he excels at math; I can know that he is a brilliant individual who is strong in some areas and not others. I can know that, like me, he needs alone time, and that in a jam-packed day, he is not displaying a permanent antisocial behavioral characteristic at recess by playing solo, he is using his sole 15 minute break to decompress before meeting a demanding afternoon.
  • I can make sure that he knows that above all, I love him just as he is. Wholly, passionately, and with pure joy in whom he has been created to be, whatever that might look like.

So a year ago, I looked at my son, and I thought he was perfect. Then a whole bunch of people told me a whole bunch of stuff. And now I still look at him and still think he is perfect.

And I’ll believe that forever and always.


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Sep 082015

Raising kids in today's world is NOT EASY. These books have become a touchstone for us in reminding my family of what really matters while reinforcing the values and self-esteem my kids need to know. Read them with your kids now!This summer was a flurry of affection. When we weren’t busy swooning over the boss Black Widow, the kids and I were cultivating another intense love affair, one with four bears. Yup, we fell hard for Brother Bear, Sister Bear, Mama Bear, and Papa Bear with a pretty reckless abandon. You see, our sweet Mother’s Helper had passed her collection of The Berenstain Bears books on to us last year. Come June, something clicked with my kids and The Berenstain Bears suddenly became the coolest bears on the block.

Having grown up adoring The Berenstain Bears myself, I was thrilled with their enthusiasm. These bear tales became the nightly request for a bedtime story. Ill-tempered afternoon grouchiness was quickly remedied with a Berenstain break. And we developed a fancy summertime tradition of having Mommy read us THREE Berenstain books every lunchtime (I shoveled bites in during the page turns–it was an ungainly assault on table manners).

The Berenstain Bears, in three short months, became our touch-stone of not only summer entertainment, but a solid reminder of some very important things that needed to be remembered. Things that are often out of vogue in today’s world, which means they need to be remembered more than ever.

These books champion the old-school values that I want my children to know, understand, and live out in their day-to-day:

1) Manners DO matter. I will remind my children not to interrupt and to say “please”, “thank you”, and “excuse me” until they don’t forget. As reinforced in The Berenstain Bears Forget Their Manners, a lack of manners not only make for an unpleasant household, it grates on the nerves of those around you. Taking the time to be polite is a way of saying “I respect you/your effort/the fact that you are in the room with me.” It encourages unselfish behaviors and awareness of others’ feelings.

2) Treat others the way you want to be treated. If I can instill this in my children before leaving this earth, I’ll consider it a job well done. As taught in The Berenstain Bears and the Golden Rule, “Do to others what you would have them do to you.” If you wouldn’t like being treated in a particular way, neither will someone else.

3) Take care of what you’re given on this earth. These books are aces at teaching this value. From seeing how the cubs get themselves into mess when they don’t clean their room in The Berenstain Bears and the Messy Room to learning our responsibility to care for the environment in The Berenstain Bears Don’t Pollute (Anymore), the trouble with not being good stewards of what we’re given is apparent. If something is under your care, take care of it.

4) Respect others. Such an uncommon message in today’s culture, but kids and adults are not jointly running the show. In The Berenstain Bears Show Some Respect, we’re reminded that children must respect their parents. The world doesn’t revolve around their wants and desires.

5) Take your education seriously. The academic and social lessons learned at school are important for successfully participating in this world, so it’s not a good idea to blow them off. Paying attention and doing your work earnestly is a wise choice, as Brother Bear learned the hard way in The Berenstain Bears’ Trouble at School. This concept also matches the value of caring for what we have; if you’ve been blessed with the opportunity for an education, use it!

6) Too many things isn’t a good thing. In our modern world of more, more, more, teaching kids to appreciate what they already have is a tough battle for us parents. The Berenstain Bears Get the Gimmies and The Berenstain Bears’ Mad, Mad, Mad Toy Craze shed light on the struggle with materialism while speaking kids’ language. These books are so relevant–two of my favorites!

Raising kids in today's world is NOT EASY. These books have become a touchstone for us in reminding my family of what really matters while reinforcing the values and self-esteem my kids need to know. Read them with your kids now!

7) Say your prayers. I believe it’s a gift to teach our children that they can pause during their days to give thanks and seek guidance. We can’t always be there with them, but we can make sure they know God is always there to listen, as the cubs learn in The Berenstain Bears Say Their Prayers.

8) Make good choices with your friends. Peer pressure is a beast, and helping our kids learn how to stand up to it and make smart decisions is essential to their healthy self-esteem. The Berenstain Bears and the In-Crowd and The Berenstain Bears and the Bad Influence explore struggles the cubs have with good behavior–despite what their friends are doing.

9) Boys and girls CAN play together. While it’s natural for boys to want to hang with other boys and girls with other girls, mean exclusiveness based on gender isn’t tolerated in our home. Shutting people out in an unkind way makes them feel bad. The cubs explore this issue in The Berenstain Bears No Girls Allowed. And get a double bang for your buck with this book, which also tackles why bragging is another poor behavior choice.

10). You will always have to do work. No listen, I’m not bouncing out of bed on Saturday mornings at the prospect of cleaning toilets, but it’s part of this life. You find your sweet slices of time to relax and chill, but the day to day is about tasks, and getting them done, however unseemly. Welcome to the world. The Bear family quickly learns what happens when you ignore responsibilities in The Berenstain Bears and the Trouble With Chores. It’s not a pretty scene, trust me.

You see, I can’t guarantee who my children will grow up to be. But I’m going to do my darnedest to fill them up with the good stuff while I can. The old school values I learned while reading about a very cool set of bears years ago are perfect for my own kids’ story times today.

As for me and my house, we’re sticking with The Berenstain Bears.

(and for the record, Mama Bear is always right…)

Aug 312015

Sad feelings can be uncomfortable and too often, we don't know we know what to do with them. Here are some smart guidelines to handling your kids' emotions--and your own. Time to start feeling good--about EVERYTHING you're feeling!Last week was pretty crappy week, as weeks go. A perfect storm of a bunch of far-from-perfect situations, and let’s just say better times have rolled down in our home.

We were prepping for my son to start 1st Grade today. In addition to panic attacking while trying to sort a online account for his milk money and cursing out the grocery store for not selling the proper required folders, the whole scenario has been a bit of a crap show. As cool as I’d like to pretend I can play it, I can’t. I can’t play it cool at all. I sobbed a mess last year. Throwing in the added Mom-worries of him being there all day, his questionable ability to navigate the lunch line, and the weight managing even more homework, I anticipate a similarly tearful scene going down this year as the bus pulls away.

And then it was my birthday, which means it was my mother’s birthday too the day after, which means I became psychotic. I don’t entirely understand why, but I tend to do things like light my kitchen on fire and drive through our garage door whenever it’s her birthday or the anniversary of her death. Or Christmastime. Basically, I’m a basket-case year-round.

There was a no-good situation with a friend which to put it simply, stunk. Financial concerns weighed heavily. I was sure my scale hated me, despite endless mornings with Jillian, which lead to the depressing realization that my now late-30s metabolism had officially quit. And, without exaggerating the stench, I’m almost positive something died in the air vent of our minivan. I’m shopping for reasonably-priced gas masks for the kids and me on Amazon as we speak.

It was going well last week.

By Wednesday, I was caving. It felt like a pin had popped my bubble of effort and I wanted to give up. I felt weird. I felt strange. I couldn’t find my normal get-up-and-go, and even more alarming, I didn’t have the energy to even holler “Get out of my kitchen!” to my kids while fighting with dinner. When my daughter walked in and spilled her milk in front of the stove, a lump in my throat met welling in my eyes and I was silenced.

What was happening?

As my mind tripped over itself attempting to sort and understand and fix all of what was wrong, I felt a small, yet powerful, realization, “You can’t fix this.”

And it was right. I couldn’t fix it. My son would be going to school the next week, and it wasn’t going to be an easy thing. My dead mother’s birthday was staying on the calendar. I could keep working on the weight, praying about my friend, pinching pennies in the corners, and saturating the van with Febreeze, but…there were no magic wands I could wave to make it all better.

It just was what it was and in the time and season for everything, this was a season, or a week, of crap.

And suddenly, this realization brought another realization: I was sad.

Sad feelings can be uncomfortable and too often, we don't know we know what to do with them. Here are some smart guidelines to handling your kids' emotions--and your own. Time to start feeling good--about EVERYTHING you're feeling!

I’m not very good at sadness when I feel crummy, despite having been schooled by Inside Out. I do a lot better with the rants and raves of anger. Exhaustion can be friendly, as it allows me to let things slide while I muddle through the day until I can get the kids stashed in bed.

Sadness requires a presence, a state of being there and being aware of the bad without raising arms to attack it. When you’re sad, you must simply be sad. Feel the low feelings for what they are. It is a stillness.

I suck at being still. It was a long day.

That night, after my husband and I got into bed, I scootched over and rested my head on my husband’s shoulder. Cued into my mood by my uncharacteristic silence that evening, he asked, “Do you want to talk about it?”.

I thought about it for a minute, “No,” I said, “Because if I’ll talk, I’ll cry and then I’ll get angry and start to stress. Or worse, I’ll start to laugh and then I’ll feel better. And right now, I just want to be sad.

“Okay,” he paused, “Let’s just be sad.”

Because, friends, sadness is absolutely going to be part of some weeks. Obviously if it’s extreme or ongoing, seek help, but otherwise, we need not fear it. It won’t feel good, but it’s real. And allowing ourselves to be real is a gift. It lays us bare so the yuck inside can breathe and air out as we process, freeing us to genuinely experience anything sweeter that then comes our way. It’s part of the ebb and flow of this life, and it’s a pretty gorgeous thing.

Now if I could only get that stench to air out of the minivan, we’d be all set…

Aug 052015

The one blessing the comes from getting older? Knowing yourself! Trust me, it's a sweet gift. The pros that you've never considered--all here!Friends, I’m getting old. My left knee crackles when I stand up and I’ve caught myself saying, “Mommy has to move slowly, kids. Her hip is out again” more than I’d like. I can’t even tell you the horror I felt upon learning our local fireworks didn’t start until 9:45pm. How could I ever stay up that late? And I fully delight in my new pair of cushion-comfort slip-ons.

Yup, at this rate, I fully expect to be checking myself into the nursing home long about next week, and I’m okay with that.

You see, while I’ve a tad to go before cashing in on retirement, I’m not 20 any more. I’ve gotten to the age where I know myself a bit better, I’ve figured out my husband a little more, generally gotten better at this life gig, and finally found a face cream that works for me.

So I am really liking this kind of old. In fact, I love it.

1) I’ve gotten to be so old that I now know it doesn’t matter which card I buy for my husband on our anniversary; it will end up in the trash. What matters is that we spent another year together and are still in it to win it. We will still spend 15 minutes that we don’t have in the morning arguing about where he puts his lunch bag on the the kitchen counter. We are idiots. But at the end of the day, we kiss good night, and then we wake up in the morning and do it all again.

What makes a marriage carry on from year to year? These truths might surprise you--it's not the hearts and flowers you think. And this is the REAL scoop on the ins and outs--trust me!

2) Yesterday, I realized someone was probably mad at me. And I didn’t care. Whoa! This one is so freeing I don’t have words. But I think I’m finally at the point where pleasing everyone else isn’t the most important thing. Especially at the cost of self-detriment. Let’s hear three cheers for growing up in this very, very healthy way.

3) I know what I like and what I don’t like. I could pass easily on travelling with kids, loud noises, video games, and not enough alone time. Yet, on my hit list: flattering dresses, getting the mail, word games, putting my phone on silent, the Sunday paper, naps, real people, tons of supplements, the color seafoam, dark nail polishes, sweet wine, a tidy house, library books, and falling obsessively in love with particular TV shows. It’s fun to know what makes you happy and focus on that.

4) In the same vein, I have discovered what works for me. Everyone is different. Embracing what best fits your life is a wonderful thing. Knowing truths about my myself, like that I need a Mother’s Helper to not lose my crap, certain products will work for my fine hair, and that I must eat high amounts of protein to feel well has made a tremendous difference in my quality of life. Get smart about yourself.

5) Spend your time as you see fit. When my husband and I finally snagged a too-precious kid-free weekend and spent it gutting and remodeling our bathroom? Let the naysayers naysay. Someday we may delight in hearts and flowers. Today, it was more romantic for both of us to sweat it up together and have toilet that isn’t stained a decided brown hue. Every time I take a pee for the foreseeable future, I will think of him and his handyman skills and swoon a bit. I promise.

6) You laugh. So no, it still isn’t totally funny that my kids got me so riled up that I drove our minivan through the garage door. But…it sort of is. Any someday it will be totally. And truth told? It doesn’t matter. None of this really does in the grand scheme of it, so you might as well treat yourself to a giggle along the way. Bonus? Laughing does wonders for those ab muscles.

The one blessing the comes from getting older? Knowing yourself! Trust me, it's a sweet gift. The pros that you've never considered--all here!

7) You must love your body. On my list of old-age wisdom, this is far and away the fuzziest. While you can’t beat yourself up for your body shape or size and the value of a good cronut should never be underestimated, you only get one body. Take care of it. Vitamin it up, eat the greens, skip the late-late nights, and drive on by that drive-through–at least until you can’t take your kids’ whining any more.

8) Speaking of kids, throw yourself into them with abandon. Believe me, no one is happy-dancing more that my husband and me that both are kids have solidly moved up to booster seats and we can kiss those convertible car seats adios. We aren’t the type to mourn moving-out-of-baby stage. But we’re not stupid. We’ve only got one life. And we’ve only got the two of them. So you’d better believe we’re giving them our all. Collapsing on the couch after they’re in bed included.

9) You believe in yourself. My number one cheerleader, my mother, took an early exit from this earth. While others love and support me, I fully believe the best gift we can give ourselves in this life is to believe in what we can do and where we’re going. The Mom of the Year, something that matters very much to me, wouldn’t exist if I didn’t stubbornly hold onto a belief in myself.

10) It’s always better to love. Recently, my daughter ran toward me for a hug so hard that she unfortunately crashed into my face as I was bent over to tie my shoes. Still, I’d far rather rock my black-and-blue facial mark than never have been the recipient of her love. When you care for people, it might get messy, but listen, from someone who has loved and lost A LOT in her 35 years, it’s always better to pour out than to hold it in. If you care for someone, let them know.

Really, friends, the crux of getting old is choosing to love on what and who is important to you as you learn who you are on this earth. It’s simple. It’s a blessing. Go grab the walker and let’s get old together.


First image credit:, image ID:33204977, copyright:Devon

Third image credit:, image ID:10308853, copyright:Erdosain



Jul 202015

The one moment when things nare clear and feel do-able as a parent. It DOES happen, really. Though, admittedly, it's elusive. Here's how to find it and why it's important to hang on until it comes--you can do this, really!I’ve never been one for excessive optimism regarding my capacity to handle my kids. I wish I was. I wish I was the type to bound out of bed in the morning with a big “Let’s do this!” fist pump in the air. Instead my first thought tends to be more of the “If I bury my head deeply under the covers, maybe they won’t be able to find me?” variety.

I love my children. Excessively. But I’ve made no secret about the fact that I feel entirely overwhelmed by them–almost always. And the older I get and the more I know myself, I become exceedingly convinced that my personality type doesn’t fit with having young children. What?? I know, this sounds a bit contrived. But here’s my logic: if my natural bent is to find renewal and energy in time spent alone, our current frenzy of group bathroom trips and the need for Mommy to help with Every Single Thing allows for very few of these restorative solitary moments. When they are in school a bit more or able to pour their own cereal, my sanity might have a better shot at existing. For now, it’s dicey.

It’s dicey, and I spend 95% of my days counteracting the stream of “I can’t do this” thinking. I fantasize a lot about naps, wish desperately for an available friend who wouldn’t think me crazy, mantra “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” and call my husband at work in defeated panicky tears during the moments when things like trying to get both children in their car seats and leave the house on time gets to be too much. Somehow we get through and today becomes a yesterday and we move on.

And somehow my kids seem to being doing okay. Better than okay, actually. They’re pretty happy, which I think might be the biggest win in this life. God knows how this happens, because to me, our days feel like a full-on circus show of chaos. But somehow it’s happening.

I will never forget one day, when my son was just over a year old when I was lamenting to a friend, “I have no idea how I’m going to do this.” “But Mer,” she said, “You already ARE doing this.” I’ll never forget her words because I’d never before considered that maybe life is what happens when we aren’t paying attention.

Maybe succeeding at something isn’t some grand finale line we cross or finish, it’s just waking up every day and doing what’s in front of us. Whether we feel like stuffing our head under the covers or not.

Maybe doing something is what happens when we are trying to figure out how to do it.

And maybe, just maybe, I was already doing it.

I was taking care of the children I had no idea how to take care of. Huh.

In the good moments, you know the non 4pm-I’m-going-to-beat-my-head-against-the-wall-if-one-more-little-person-whines-for-one-more-little-thing moments, this positive thinking started to take root. And then, as if God knew I needed I little confirmation to seal the deal on my belief that I might actually be able to handle my children, He gave me my Firework Moment on July 4th.

The one moment when things nare clear and feel do-able as a parent. It DOES happen, really. Though, admittedly, it's elusive. Here's how to find it and why it's important to hang on until it comes--you can do this, really!

You see, we’d always avoided Fireworks like the plague. We are very early-to-bed, early-to-rise people and the thought of dragging fussy kids out late and getting stuck in hours of traffic never seemed appealing. And then this year, our son asked to go. So we did some ill-informed brainstorming about where best to park, packed up the lawn chairs and drove off in the truck.

And you know what? It was awesome. Setting up the chairs in the truck bed in the back of the parking lot gave a us a sweet height vantage point (and made us feel very redneck boss). We were able to throw everyone in their car seats quickly and peal out early to avoid long exit lines. But that wasn’t the victory.

The victory was the moment when, holding my son on my lap as the fireworks boomed overhead, I looked over to my husband, holding our daughter on his lap, both of them captivated by the show. And I thought, “We did this. Wow, we did this!” We had done the very grown up thing of taking our kids out to fireworks. And we were going to wake up at home the next morning and feed them breakfast and keep them safe and happy. We were going to keep taking care of them. We were taking care of them.


My Firework Moment. The moment I got it; I was taking care of my kids and I could do it.

I don’t know that we will ever really feel like we’ve got this, friends, but the thing is, we do. I’m here to tell you in all those lonely days of doubting yourself, you don’t need to. You don’t need to doubt you can do it, because you’re already doing it. You’ve got this. Really.

***This post dedicated to my dad, who listened to me whine all day on July 4th about having to take my children out so late. He told me to buck up, and that I’d probably get a blog post out of it. He was right. As always.***

First image credit:, image ID:9399579, copyright:anterovium

Jul 132015

Kids are often WAY smarter than we are about stuff. Here are 6 solid reasons why we should trust their wisdom and here's how to do it. I love my daughter's savvy and never want to change it!Today, my little gal turns the big 4. Mind-blowing when you consider the many days I doubted we would ever make it to 4 o’clock, much less 4 years.

Elyse amazes me. She amazes me in the way that sometimes I look at her and wonder, “Is this creature real?” This astoundment might happen after she does something fantastically sweet, like inviting a child playing alone at the park to join her on the swings. It might be when she does something horridly bratty, like throwing a tantrum so epic I’m certain the surrounding neighborhood will have our house officially declared as a war zone.

A solid 90-some percent of what she does makes no sense to me. Why she refused to eat baby food after 6 months. That she had no time for crawling or walking–just started straight in with jumping and tearing through the house and has never stopped since. There is her staunch requirement that all her dresses must have at least one shade of pink in them and that her Rainbow Dash My Little Pony must be placed on the left side of her nightstand. She takes out her pigtails when anywhere near the vicinity of water and prefers to wear rain boots. Everywhere. I have no idea where she got the notion that it was her necessary responsibility to bathe brother’s stuffed Angry Birds nightly, and moreover, I have no idea why he lets her do it.

But that’s the thing about Elyse. She’s such an insane force, you find yourself accepting her for who she is–and falling in love with her along the way. As her mother, I am wiped before I am first plastered with her endless kisses in the morning, but my prayers aren’t for my own strength, they are for her future spouse–not that she makes the right match, but that he might have the stamina to reckon with her Elyse-ness for the rest of his life.

And then I pray that she never, ever changes.

You see, Elyse is boss. She is my girl, my love, and while with clear eyes I see all the changes and growth that need to happen in her life, I never want her to change. Her spirit, her heart, her energythank you, God. Thank you for making her her.

Kids are often WAY smarter than we are about stuff. Here are 6 solid reasons why we should trust their wisdom and here's how to do it. I love my daughter's savvy and never want to change it!

What I never want to change about her:

1) Her temper can be abominable, but may she never learn to stop standing up for herself. Obviously, the kicks and hits won’t fly and many time outs will be suffered as we discipline her inappropriate choices into acceptable expressions of her feelings. Yet, I am so grateful to have a daughter who recognizes what she doesn’t like and isn’t afraid to fight against it. This life is brutal; taking it lying down is never a win.

2) She gets that being a girl is fun and loves it. I get so confused about what side of feminism enjoying painting my nails puts me on. But I love it. And so does my gal. Princesses, bows, tutus, and sparkles are all pretty, and the more of them we can incorporate into our day-to-day sounds like a win to me. It’s okay to delight in pretty things, it really is. When she spent an entire winter refusing to take off a tutu? Rock your fabulousness, babe.

3) She has no concept of limits. How cool. Fear isn’t part of Elyse’s world, and I’ll be honest, I’m jealous. I wish I could so wholly throw myself into life. And there is no such thing as taking time to save up energy so she doesn’t get tired later. She runs from the minute she gets up until she finally crashes at night. Listen, by the time she’s a mom herself with young ones who exhaust her, I highly doubt she’ll still be interested in running mad circles in her room for an hour post-bedtime. (If she is, more power to her; her Fitbit step count will love her.) In the meantime, if she wants to spend her days racing up and down the stairs, squealing in delight chasing butterflies, fearlessly launching herself into pools and off swings, and NEVER EVER SITTING STILL, good for her.

Elyse places no limits on what she can or can’t do–she just does it all. Go for it in this life, sister! Mommy will just steal naps on the couch as often as she can.

4) Almost all her friends at her princess birthday party were boys, and it was perfect. Elyse has always run with the boys and couldn’t care less. I love how she skips the whole gender quotient when finding her friends. She just hangs with whoever is there and rolls with it. Moreover, I love that she isn’t afraid to assert herself regardless of the crowd. If she’s the only one in a tiara? Who cares. She’s serving the pretty pink cupcakes anyway–and they like them.

Little girls love their princesses and here are some solid reasons to celebrate this! Enjoying the fancy is a blessing in this life and here's why.

5) She doesn’t know how to curtsy. I have no idea where she learned her dramatic dance moves. Her twirls and emphatic leg lifts are impressive, albeit totally sans any real talent. But it makes her happy, so it’s all good. However, after performing a rather involved routine with a friend during a playdate, Elyse was dismayed to learn she didn’t know how to curtsy like her partner. I say, screw it. She ends her dances with entusiastic giggles and claps for herself. In my book, this is better than any curtsy any day of the week. Keep dancing (and finale-ing) to your own beat, love. It’s gorgeous.

6) Her enthusiastic expression of love is overwhelming. Sure, I duck away from her vigorous flying hugs at times (too many unguarded wallops to my boobs), but what a blessing. Love can be in short form in this world. Someone who freely expresses it with abandon? A gift. Bring on the hugs and kisses–always.

Go on, be your fabulous self! Self-expression MATTERS in this world and is too often overlooked. Kids are often WAY smarter than we are about stuff. Here are 6 solid reasons why we should trust their wisdom and here's how to do it. I love my daughter's savvy and never want to change it!

I’m proud of my girl, I’m proud of who she is. Sure, her father and I have our work cut out to guide and temper her spirit–but we’re guiding and tempering it, not changing it. Never changing it, because she already rocks, just as she is. And I’m already in awe of who she will become.

Happy birthday to my hero.

Little girls love their princesses and here are some solid reasons to celebrate this! Enjoying the fancy is a blessing in this life and here's why.

Thanks for making her day extra special with this fancy Cinderella party dress, Costume Express! Love that she was too nervous to put on the matching gloves because they were SO gorgeous ;)

Jun 292015

Sometimes it feels like, as adults, our lives can stagnant. Here's why that is isn't true. Look for the growth in your life with this insight and FIND IT. It's there, trust me ;)I know New Year’s is when you’re supposed to do it. I know that’s the time to look back on the past year of your life and check out all that you’ve done and fantasize about where you yet want to go.

But last week, as we were prepping to leave for the beach, it hit me suddenly: an entire year has passed since I last did this. An entire year since I last dug for sand buckets and broke a sweat trying to jam all the sandals I own into a suitcase. Because I don’t know how to pack.

Crap. Everything was the same. And what had I done?

You see, the kids did pretty much everything. Started preschool. Started Kindergarten. Learned to ride a bike. Pooped in the toilet. Related, learned to wipe their own butts. Tried soccer for the first time. Made new friends. Began reading. Began writing. Grew about 5,000 inches. Figured out how to pull a chair over and pull open the security lock on all the doors. Fantastic.

Their lives, every second that they breathe in and out, they change and grow, experiencing newness of life at every turn.

As for me? I’m still crawling out of bed every morning, blindly smacking the power button on the same old tired coffee machine. Nothing has really happened.


Unless I’m wrong and lots of things have happened.

I mean, I basically look the same. Sure, my hair is blue now, but I’m still cozying up with the same 15 extra lbs., and you know I haven’t given up my go-to shorts. Our house is the same and my husband still runs himself in circles pursuing infinite hobbies. Our dog is still a grouchy old man who hasn’t forgiven us for having human children.

It’s all the same.

But that doesn’t mean that nothing has happened. Because it has. Countless times over, it has.

I believe there is a victory in the day to day getting up and caring for your family, doing the work set in front of you. This has happened, inarguably, this has happened. But there were new things, different things, things of pride, big things that rocked my own corner of the world in the past 365 days.

I got my blog trademarked. What does this mean? The United States Government has officially titled me Mom of the Year. I know.

Sometimes it feels like, as adults, our lives can stagnant. Here's why that is isn't true. Look for the growth in your life with this insight and FIND IT. It's there, trust me ;)

I was on a national television show for the first time ever. Boss.

Despite a total lack of familiarity with the public educational system, my husband and I navigated our way to our son’s IEP. If you’re not a parent of a grade-school child, this is far bigger than it sounds.

I became an aunt to the sweetest baby girl of all time.

I hung with a dear friend through the worst time in her life and was captured by the depth of our relationship.

I taught myself to create graphics on my blog. I’m not saying I’m good at it, but I DID IT.

I planned an uber-successful second year of BlogU with some of the smartest, coolest women I know and it was awesome.

My hair is blue. I didn’t mean to casually write this off above. It’s not casual. It’s blue.

The thing of it is, the kids look different than they did last year. And they have all these mile-markers they can tick off as evidence of their growth. All these tangible ways to measure their change.

When the adult years roll in, it doesn’t work this way. The surface remains the same. And no one else but you might know of the waves that crashed upon your shore while others weren’t looking. I mean sure, you could get a blog and endlessly pummel everyone with your updates, but really, how classless…;)

But it’s okay. Because while my yoga pants still strain over my thighs the same (albeit with a few more threadbare patches), I know that I’ve done different things.

I may not have changed, but that’s okay; I’ve still lived. I lived a year of my life, and lived it the best way I know how.

And as I continued jamming those sandals into the suitcase and grunting over the stubborn zipper, I reflected on the truth that while I’d tackled no major feats in the past year (such as that nifty learning-to-use-toilet-paper thing my kids were on) my life wasn’t really so stagnant after all. Not really at all…

First image credit:, image ID:3885753, copyright:alptraum


Jun 232015

Sending your kids to summer camp can be a VERY scary experience for parents! Use these insider tips and tricks to prepare the whole family--and then relax and enjoy the summer for all the sweetness it is!Now that summer is here, you might be preparing to send your kids off to camp. It’s not easy sending your child off to their first sleepaway. As the parent, you know that camp will give them great memories and will teach them important skills. But for your child, it can seem like a scary experience and cause anxiety that you may not have anticipated. As you begin to help your child get ready for camp, keep them involved in all of the planning. This will help them develop an understanding of what to expect, which will help them to be more excited than scared.

So how do you start to prepare?

Organization is Key

Of course, you’ll need all of your camp essentials. Make a list with your child of all the things they think they will need while camping. If the camp has sent a list of recommended supplies, start with that, but don’t be afraid to add things. This will be a good opportunity to help your child develop an understanding of how to plan for a long-term trip like this. Items to consider include:

  • A good quality sleeping bag, pillows, and blankets. Don’t skimp on a cheap sleeping bag as a bad night of sleep is a great way to compound existing stress for a kid.
  • Toiletries with containers. This should include a toothbrush holder with a cap, a soap dish with a cap, and a caddy to carry everything.
  • A strong backpack that will be good for carrying things while hiking. You should consider looking into personalized kids backpacks, as this will help your child keep track of their backpack so it won’t get mixed up with the other kids’ things. A cool backpack can also go a long way towards boosting self confidence.
  • Plenty of clothing for all weather types: pajamas, shorts, long pants and jeans, T-shirts, sweaters, jackets, a rain coat, rain boots, tennis shoes, sandals, bathing suits, and plenty of underwear and socks. Since clothes tend to get a lot of hard use at summer camp, you will probably want to stock up on some inexpensive items and extras.
  • Miscellaneous items: a few metal water bottles, some pre-packaged snack packs or other little treats to share or eat for some quick energy on the trail, extra Band-Aids, a flashlight, lots of sunscreen, and bug spray.

Have your child sit with you and go through catalogues or look online to find items they like. Go to stores and shop for items together. Let them be in charge of crossing items off the list. This will help them get excited for the trip. Be sure to label everything so it doesn’t get mixed up with your child’s fellow campers’ possessions. You can use a sharpie or even get a custom stamp and ink pad.

Make Sure You Are Listening to Your Child

It’s normal for your child to have some pre-camping anxiety, especially if they’ve never done this before. Have a good sense of what this particular camp will be like so that you can answer your child’s specific questions. They will feel better if they feel like they have a pretty firm sense of what to expect while on their trip. Be sure to go to any pre-trip planning or orientation events and bring your child along.

Also make sure you are giving your child room for self-expression. If your child isn’t getting a chance to tell you how anxious they are feeling, their fear and anxiety might build up without you even realizing it.

Trust the Camp and Your Child!

It’s hard to let go on the first time that your child will be away from home for an extended period of time. Be sure to respect the camp rules regarding cell-phone and Internet policies. Get them some camp stationery and postcards and pre-fill out envelopes for them so that they can send you letters. Also, send your child regular encouragement through nice notes and care packages, but other than that, try to let your child get some distance and have a good time! You’ll be amazed by how much they’ve grown and learned when they come home.

Image credit:, image ID:43250879, copyright:lightsource


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