Jan 222016
 

If you've ever struggled with all the changing seasons of life and been overwhelmed with your role as mom, this one's for you. Growth and change with different ages and stages is a real thing we moms grapple with, and here's some real perspective that will help...or at least make you feel a teensy bit more normal. Especially with the 3rd to last item on the list!I’m tight with the bank drive-through. We’ve got a good thing going. It’s been there for me ever since those crazy little people in car seats first began cropping up in the back of my minivan and as a faithful visitor, I rarely fail to pop by for my weekly hello.

Yet yesterday, as happens in all long-term relationships, the drive-through and I hit a rough patch. I pulled up, intending to slickly withdraw some money and be on my way. Yet a teensy glitch with my Driver’s License left it missing the canister entirely and skidding dramatically across the pavement and under the minivan in such a way that I was required to backup my ride, get out, crawl under the vehicle, retrieve it, drive back up to the teller, and apologize shamefully for my incompetence. TRUE STORY.

After getting myself sorted. I then made an unusual request: for quarters. I know, who uses quarters any more and why on earth did I need them? It was at this point, the teller politely informed me that coins cannot be sent via the tube system. Modern science.

My mood was now totally soaring.

As it turns out, it was 10 degrees outside and I had both children with me. Super-great. There was lots and lots of, “But WHY, Mom? Why do we need to go IN the bank? It’s COLD.” As I madly herded my troops through the door promising obscene bribes as we tackled this foreign territory together, I had the thought, “I used to be able to visit the bank without being an emphatic circus show.”

Inside, things took a turn and went startlingly well. My daughter went full-on adorable, cutely flirting with the teller and garnering us complimentary coos. My dicey mood quickly melted into a beaming reassurance that I was indeed Mom of the Year. I was killing it, and so had my second “I used to…” thought of the day, “I used to never have cause to feel like such a rockstar in public before.”

Back in the van, I took a glance in the rearview mirror, and felt a punch of relief that my freshly washed hair hadn’t air-dried into a mysterious gravity-defying configuration. And the thought, “I used to check my appearance before leaving the house” unwittingly popped into my mind.

Huh. Okay, well played, God. This day was obviously meant to be a day of reflection. The floodgates opened and the thoughts rolled in…about what I used to be or not be, do or not do. Game on…

If you've ever struggled with all the changing seasons of life and been overwhelmed with your role as mom, this one's for you. Growth and change with different ages and stages is a real thing we moms grapple with, and here's some real perspective that will help...or at least make you feel a teensy bit more normal. Especially with the 3rd to last item on the list!

I used to not know all the names of the My Little Ponies and their corresponding cutie marks. I used to not know what a cutie mark was. I used to not know what a “brony” was. I used to think this was normal.

I used to not check the moon calendar as evidence the the level of psychosis in my home was definitively related to celestial activity. I used to not care about the moon calendar.

I used to not attempt to hide from my family members in the bathroom. But, I used to not have family members to hide from.

I used to not spend hours upon hours upon hours planning a Disney trip. I used to not be peeing myself in excitement over taking my kids there.

I used to never imagine I’d have cause to play a video game. Then I met this little guy.

I used to not be able to correlate the quality of my sleep to the number of death-defying temper tantrums I survived in one day.

I used to think parents whose kids had tantrums were deficient. I used to think parents whose kids required special help were maybe missing the mark too. Ouch..but true.

I used to wake up in the morning without anyone attacking me with violent hugs. I used to not understand how simultaneously boss/alarming violent hugs can be.

I used to be able to speak in complete sentences. Remember dates. Know where I kept the glue in my home.

I used to not burn spaghetti noodles when cooking dinner because that was something only insane-not-together people would do. I used to be semi-sane. Now I’m semi-not.

I used to not crave 7:30 (bedtime) with the passion of a thousand fiery suns.

I used to envy other women for the size of their thighs. I now envy other moms for the size of their thighs. Nothing changes, really.

I used to think I was tired. HaHA!

I used to not know who I was. Now I don’t know who I am, but I am too tired to care.

I used to be me. Now I’m still me, just more of me in a different way.

And that works. Mostly. Or not…but again, I’m too tired to care. Or, busy diving under a minivan in search of my personal identity cards. Either way, I’m just going to go with it.

To all the “I used to”s in your lives, friends, and to all the places you now are…Go get ’em!

 

First image credit: depositphotos.com, image ID:21562943, copyright:Ariwasabi

Second image credit: depositphotos.com, image ID:11252677, copyright:Angel_a

Jan 062016
 

The doubt and discouragement we face as moms and parents can be so overwhelming. Snag some needed hope here and learn the real, true, healthy perspective to parenting and healthy daily living that will give you hope and encouragement. Boot that lonely, defeated feeling with this truth!It happened yesterday. I was having a Tuesday. A Tuesday still shadowed by post-holiday slumpiness and house mess. A Tuesday in January, no less. Why on earth God found fit to throw this horrid month into the year, I’ll never understand.

I was stomping fabulously around the house, trying to watch a 4 yr. old, unpack a massive grocery run, tackle the dirty breakfast dishes still on the table and take a business call all at the same time. A day of a tight schedule, I was also eyeing the clock heavily, knowing I had to finish up by 11am if I was to have any hope of getting my workout in before the next school run.

I could do this, really.

I could not do this. Because I’m human. It didn’t happen.

Cognitively, I’m down with this whole being human business and the implied limitations. I requested my superhero cape years ago, but it has yet to materialize.

What I’m not so cool with is those paralyzing moments when you just don’t feel so okay about those limitations. When it feels scary and uncertain if you’ll make it through whatever it is you need to make it through.

It might be something like the surface of a Tuesday: will I ever be able to get this pit of a household in order and still make it to our next appointment?

It might be a Tuesday that resonates a little deeper: will there ever be a point in my life when I can shower like a normal person and not feel like a walking circus show? I am so, so tired of being a circus show…

It might be the stress and strain of having a child you don’t know how to best care for, despite all your good intentions and powerful love.

It might be the hurt and logistical chaos of having an ill or dying loved one.

It might be the endless confusion of planning a Disney vacation for the first time. Go ahead and laugh: I used to, now I’m actually doing it myself and end up quaking in fear with my planning books more nights than not.

It might be having a sick kid–for the umpteenth millionth day in row.

It might be other stymieing first-time events: potty-training, PTA meetings, attending a Bikram yoga class, going back to school, an aggressive plan to address the weight situation you’ve been ignoring for too long, or dating when you haven’t done it since you were a hot little young thing.

It might be a complicated battle with the cable company. Or panic over news that a new water heater is needed. Or the unfortunate realization that your neighborhood’s desperate electric service will not permit getting through winter’s worst sans the purchase of a powerfully terrific generator.

In my most neurotic of days, it might be adjusting to the use of a new, simpler paper planner system. Yes, I’m serious.

In my darker of days, it might be that impenetrable feeling of loneliness or missing someone who’s gone known only to those who’ve been in such shoes.

The doubt and discouragement we face as moms and parents can be so overwhelming. Snag some needed hope here and learn the real, true, healthy perspective to parenting and healthy daily living that will give you hope and encouragement. Boot that lonely, defeated feeling with this truth!

As I look at this list of what might rock and shake our worlds, I didn’t plan to link to so many previous posts about personal fires. Yet that’s a pretty cool testament to my mantra. You see, surviving storms has nothing to do with strength, but it has everything to do with the mantra that began continuously streaming through my mind since my first child was born, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13).

I repeat it when I battle to find time for that work-out or a shower. I repeat it when my daughter screams through her 16th temper tantrum of the day. I repeat it when I’m scared, when I’m confused, or so tired it takes me a long minute to remember where the washing machine is in my own house. True story.

I repeat it, and repeat it often. And it is always, never not, pervasively, wholly true. And it is my strength, and it carries me.

Yet on my most recent Tuesday, truth told, what I most wanted was someone to say to me was, “You’ve got this.”

I needed to hear those words. Those exact words.

The doubt and discouragement we face as moms and parents can be so overwhelming. Snag some needed hope here and learn the real, true, healthy perspective to parenting and healthy daily living that will give you hope and encouragement. Boot that lonely, defeated feeling with this truth!

And so, in turn, I’m saying them to you, my dear readers. In case you need to hear them. In case you need strength for your journey, whatever that journey is.

I don’t know what you are facing, what it is that you must go through, but I do know, in my heart of hearts, that you are sold-out trying and this life has a crazy ability to resolve itself, for good or for bad. And so I know that you’ve got this. You’ve so, so got this.

When this life feels scary or uncertain or insurmountable, you’ve got this. I say this as a fellow mom in the trenches, and I say it with all the love I could ever hope to pass on. In these moments, above all else running through your mind, know that YOU’VE GOT THIS.

Really. xo

 

Second image credit: depositphotos.com, image ID:23130764, copyright:DenysKuvaiev

Dec 302015
 

Feeling down and depressed? You aren't alone. Dark places are known by so many, even though we don't always discuss. Beating yourself over something stupid? Find light and hope here with this one simple realization.Lest you’ve ever felt things have ever been slightly out of control in 2015, this re-post’s for you…and here’s to fresh starts, friends!

I’d like to report that Monday, the three year anniversary of my mother’s death, ended up being a day of blessing, a day of reflective happiness spent with my children, niece and sister. Instead, I drove the minivan through the garage door.

You know that AllState commercial when the garage door is shattered by the foolish home owner? THAT WAS ME.

I’d love to share happy, gainful sentiments on how the death of one’s mother can be a beautiful self-growth experience. But I cannot. Because I was an idiot.

I could blame my daughter’s incessant 3-yr. oldness for my break with sane, rational precautions. Like opening the garage door before I drove through it. I could blame my continued destabilizing grief for not thinking clearly. I could blame preschool for the last-minute curve ball of needing to find the perfect solution for Dr. Seuss Hat Day.

The truth? It was all these things.

But I was still an idiot.

I very cautiously guarded who I could share my mess with. Because it was so very real, so very desperate, and so very, very messy. With that one horrific crunch of metal crashing upon metal, everything quickly fell into a rather dark state.

I wasn’t just mad and sad, I was hurt. I was ashamed. I felt alone in my stupidity and lack of ability to get it together. And truth told, I might have bottled up my circus show and privately berated myself for the pain of my mess, except…

My sweet sister. She visited shortly after the savage garage door attack. As I expressed my disillusion with my life with her through broken sobs, she very sagely, kindly, cautiously suggested that I am not the only one in this world who does stupid things.

Huh. I still refused to believe that anyone could be as big as a fool as me, but wondering if there might be truth to her bold insight, I ventured to tell a few others of the colossal disaster my day had become.

Accidents and stupid mistakes happen--to ALL of us, really. Feeling down and depressed? You aren't alone. Dark places are known by so many, even though we don't always discuss. Beating yourself over something stupid? Find light and hope here with this one simple realization.

And you know what? Almost everyone else had a story of some bone-headed move they’d rocked with their own vehicles. Tales of walls side-scraped, parking meters nailed, even getting stuck teetering on top of a median. My sister was right; I am not the only one who has done something fantastically stupid with their car.

I am not the only who has cost my family 1500 unavailable dollars by doing something really dumb.

I’ll be vulnerably honest, readers, I am still in that dark place, still furious with myself and genuinely doubting whether I will ever competently function on this earth.

But I will accept this: I will accept that I am not the only one who has been in this crappy place.

And lest you are in this place too, my only prayer is that you will confidently know you aren’t alone either. Supposedly there is a flip side. Supposedly someday we will laugh about tossing money at maintaining our homes after we’ve attacked them in our fits of foolishness.

In the meantime, cozy up here for a hug. I love you; God loves you. And there is a really fabulous circus show going by that we are privvy to watch.

 

First image credit: depositphotos.com, image ID:11093496, copyright:HASLOO

Second image credit: depositphotos.com, image ID:10629308, copyright:ersler

 

Dec 192015
 

I’m so glad I get to tell you about the funny new movie Daddy’s Home on my blog – it’s a perfect match for me and my family. You see, Daddy’s Home is about two dads working hard to wow their kids, but fantastically blundering it up as they go. And as far as parenting fails, I like to think I corner the market a bit (it IS part of my shtick you know, “earning my [Mom of the Year] title one parenting fail at a time”). Needless to say, I can empathize with the guys in this film.

This new movie is the every parent's movie. Full of hysterical fun, and too-relatable parenting fails, you will LOVE THIS! Go get the inside scoop on heart behind it and catch the release day details you need!

Daddy’s Home hits the big screen Christmas Day and follows a mild-mannered radio executive (Will Ferrell–love him!) who strives to become the best step dad to his wife’s two children, but complications ensue when their freewheeling and freeloading real father (Mark Wahlberg–eye candy AND funny guy? Double score!) arrives, forcing him to compete for the affection of the kids.

Check out the official trailer:

You want to watch now, right? I know, it looks hilarious! And the the thing is, it’s just so darn relatable, no?

True things that have happened while I was trying to do something cool for with my kids:

This past summer my daughter asked me to “fly the stroller down the hill”. While she was in it. The part I miscalculated? I was supposed to hold on to the stroller and run with it. As she went perilously sailing free-form down the hill into a grove of trees (NO HARM CAME TO MY CHILD AS A RESULT OF MY STUPIDITY, rest assured), my son stood at the top of the hill with me, shaking his head, saying, “I don’t think this was such a good idea, Mom.” He’s six.

Last year I decided to “spruce up our Christmas tree a bit” while my husband was at work. This happened:

Trying hard this holiday season and flubbing it up a bit? That's the name of the game with parenthood--we keep giving it our all, and then pressing on, even when when we get it wrong. Downed Christmas trees included! Catch the parenting fun here!

When my son was eight months old, I decided to take him out for a night of shopping and dinner. I’ll spare you the long tale, but it ended with him locked in the car, me hysterically calling 911 and the entire local Amish fire departmenttrue story–racing into the parking lot on NOT ONE, BUT TWO FIRE TRUCKS–to free my child from his Honda Civic cage. The entire time? My son looked out the window at me and giggled.

Trying hard this holiday season and flubbing it up a bit? That’s the name of the game with parenthood–we keep giving it our all, and then pressing on, even when when we get it wrong. Screaming first visits to Santa included!

Trying hard this holiday season and flubbing it up a bit? That's the name of the game with parenthood--we keep giving it our all, and then pressing on, even when when we get it wrong. Screaming first visits to Santa included! Catch the parenting fun here!

And I’m not the only screw-up in our household. My husband tried hard to help my daughter fancy up one morning in a pretty dress-up outfit. Again, I’ll spare you the details, but after about 20 minutes into a good effort gone horribly awry when both of their stubborn personalities were “shining”, my son looked across the breakfast table at me, and whispered, “Mom, you and I will just stay here and be the normal ones…”

The kids somehow always know, don’t they?

See, we’re parents and we’re human, so we’re going to mess up. But we love them so we’re also going to keep trying our best. And that is the good effort.

And that’s what the dads in Daddy’s Home, in their own unique ways, do for their kids in the movie. Go applaud their attempts, laugh at their gaffes, and feel the touch of sweet heart behind it. This fab film will be in theaters nationwide on Christmas Day, so celebrate the day, then go catch the family-friendly flick at your local theater with the whole gang. With the star-studded cast including Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg and Linda Cardellini, Daddy’s Home is sure to be a hit!

Follow along with the film on its social channels and official website for updates and to get in on the excitement. Daddy’s Home is on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. You can also check in with the hashtag #DaddysHome to get in on the fun.

This new movie is the every parent's movie. Full of hysterical fun, and too-relatable parenting fails, you will LOVE THIS! Go get the inside scoop on heart behind it and catch the release day details you need!

This movie is the “every parent’s” movie. It knows the messiness of families and all the fantastic ways we miss the mark daily. It celebrates the hysterical moments along the way and cheers on our good effort to keep loving those kids as best as we can. Full of hysterical fun, and too-relatable parenting fails, you will LOVE THIS! Go get the inside scoop and catch the release day details you need!

It helps us know we aren’t the only ones royally botching it all up. Go catch Daddy’s Home, friends!

****This blog post is part of a paid SocialMoms and Daddy’s Home blogging program. The opinions and ideas expressed here are my own.****

Post a comment below about your hilarious holiday “disaster” for a chance to win $50!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Oct 262015
 

Who knew?! Every day with kids is a constant stream of surprises--and apparently you're the magic maker, mom! Grab a few laughs--and the one sweet reminder that will warm your heart in the midst of all the crazy morning routines!At my very ripe old age of 36, I feel like there’s not much about my day-to-day that could surprise me. The laundry/dish-washing/yearning for ginormous quantities of coffee to power me through my day is a routine set pretty solidly in stone. Even the more exciting events, like driving the minivan into the garage door and crapping my pants in the church foyer, have become rather par for the course around these parts.

Yup, the element of awe and wonder has relatively managed to eke its way out of my days. This, however, is not the case for my children.

I’m not talking about taking time to behold small miracles, like a butterfly-chasing or finding the perfect shiny stone in the preschool parking lot. That kind of stuff is always cool and special and should be supported (despite the fact that it will make us even five minutes later than we already are for wherever we’re going). I’m talking about the genuine surprise my children experience on a frequent basis regarding the basic elements of their day.

When Tina Fey said in Date Night, “Every night! Every night it’s a big surprise to everybody every night that they have to wear pajamas…”, I understood then that she was my soul sister.

And cheers to her because she had already made it the whole way to the evening. We’re so busy being shocked and stymied by the morning we can’t even make it past 8:30am…

It begins before the sun is up:

“But WHY? It’s already 4:30am! Why can’t we get up and start playing now?!” Of course! Let’s all go full-on nocturnal. Why not?!

It happens when we actually get up:

“But Mommy! I want to eat a lollipop for breakfast! Why can’t I?!” This is a harsh reality to embrace, given that for all other days of their lives I’ve obviously plopped the candy jar in front of them first thing in the morning and allowed them to have at it.

Who knew?! Every day with kids is a constant stream of surprises--and apparently you're the magic maker, mom! Grab a few laughs--and the one sweet reminder that will warm your heart in the midst of all the crazy morning routines!

Teeth-brushing never disappoints:

My “calm suggestions” (feel free to interpret this as creatively as you’d like) that we not emphatically dance jigs while I attempt to shove the toothbrush in their mouth, someone gets poked in the eye with a toothbrush (it’s always, always the eye) the wails of “Mommy! YOU HURT ME!” are most assuredly heard by the child abuse authorities ten counties over. This event is charming in its consistency.

Who knew?! Every day with kids is a constant stream of surprises--and apparently you're the magic maker, mom! Grab a few laughs--and the one sweet reminder that will warm your heart in the midst of all the crazy morning routines!

 

My favorite is the ritual of getting dressed:

“WHAT?! WHY MUST WE WEAR PANTS?!?!” Pants are apparently a very alarming experience for children.

It is then announced that we must walk to the bus stop:

“But I wanted more time to play! Mom! You’re not being fair!!” Because I alone organize and set the school calendar and bussing schedule for the entire district.

Upon the determination that (surpise!) we must (again) wear shoes to leave the house:

“Ooops! I forgot!” Every day. EVERY DAY.

Upon the further determination that to wear the shoes we must actually put them on our feet:

Commence Mommy hollering, “The other foot! The other foot!”, “Sit down! I can’t put your shoes on when you stand!” and “Stop grabbing my hair!” I’m almost positive the hair-pulling is retaliation for the fact that I’ve just poked them in the eye with the toothbrush. MY BAD.

After multiple panicked sprints back to the house to secure forgotten coats and backpacks, while Mommy grabs onto the counter for a split second to catch her breath:

“Moooooom! Hurry up, you’re going to make us late!” (another chance to be creative, readers! Insert expletives of your choice here!)

At the bus stop where we wait every morning:

“It’s the bus! The bus is here!” Who would have guessed?!

And then…”I love you, Mom,” replete with a sloppy kiss.

Oh.

Oh.

Maybe sometimes I do get a bit surprised by my day…

For a fun, 100% accurate look at how our mornings really go down, check out this VProud.tv video!

 

First image credit: depositphotos.com, image ID:4026862, copyright:marylooo

Second image credit: depositophotos.com, image ID:8767134, copyright:ia__64

Third image credit: depositphotos.com, image ID:2572328, copyright:Cherry-Merry

Oct 152015
 

What's a busy mom to do when trying to make sense of her day-to-day and how to spend her time? Strive for, but don't stress over, these ten basic organizational principles that don't cost you extra time, but ultimately will give you more time in your day. #6 will leave you giggling!When I picture myself, I envision a wake of chaos flailing behind me as I stumble and fumble from one daily task to the next, usually a decent ten minutes late–for everything. You know how in Peanuts Pig-Pen was always followed by a cloud of dirt? That’s me. Except my cloud involves stupidly popped tires, lots of screaming at the kids to “Hurry up!” and piles of laundry covering the couch and mocking me. Maybe someday I’ll actually be able to use my couch as a seat.

I do not have my crap together.

Let me reinforce this: I do not have my crap together.

That said, I am an Organizer. A solid, sold-out Organizer. Recovering in different degrees depending on our life stage.

You see, my intrinsic bent is to have everything wholly in order. My pre-kid years matched up with this love for tidiness like a match made in heaven. We had a sweet thing going and then…it turns out kids require time and attention. A lot of it, to be exact. Suddenly caring for those around me and maintaining a shred of sanity became more important that making up my Christmas gift list in July (I know. Really, trust me, I know). Some days, breathing was a challenge; making neat notes in my planner was a fanciful thing of lives past.

This is why I note that I’m a Recovering Organizer. Sure, my fingers will always itch for sharp pencil points and blank note paper to sort All The Things, but the School of Young Kids has taught me that organization is a luxury, not a necessity. When I have capacity for it, it’s game on. When life is too crazy, it is possible, though not ideal, to exist within my chaotic Pig-Pen-esque cloud. It’s a careful balance of when organization will help preserve my sanity and when the sheer act of it will stress me out.

So what’s a Mom of the Year to do when trying to make sense of her day-to-day and how to spend her time? Strive for, but don’t stress over, these ten basic organizational principles that don’t cost you extra time (score! Who has extra time?), but ultimately will give you more time in your day.

What's a busy mom to do when trying to make sense of her day-to-day and how to spend her time? Strive for, but don't stress over, these ten basic organizational principles that don't cost you extra time, but ultimately will give you more time in your day. #6 will leave you giggling!

The Ten Organizational Principles of the Mom of the Year:

  1. Write it down. My mind is a sieve. Out of all these organizational principles, this is the one I am most dedicated to. Why? Because it stresses me out more attempting to hold a thought in my mind versus putting it on paper. Once it’s on paper, I can let go of it.
  2. Don’t be afraid to go small with your notations. I’ve noticed the fuller my days get, the fuller my planner gets. Not just because there are more things to do, but because I write everything down versus trying to stash it in my over-full mind. In the midst of horridly stressful semester of college, I made daily notes to myself to refill my Britta water pitcher. True that the only water source was down a long hallway and I’d often forget to do it, but still…this was insane. Yet, it was what I needed to do at the time to maintain my mental health, so it worked. Today, I make notes like “pack lunch” in my planner. It’s a teeny tiny thing, but noting it helps organize my mornings and being able to cross something off always feels boss.
  3. Keep different lists. I have a daily, a weekly, and a “dream” list. The daily is stuff I must do to keep our lives functioning–preschool drop-off and feeding the dog. The weekly list is still pretty time pressing–filling out forms for school, meeting work deadlines, etc. The dream list? Ideally I’d hit one of these items–cleaning a closet, sorting my address book, etc.–per week, but if it doesn’t happen, it’s not going to trip up our overall functioning as a family.
  4. Note it in bulk. There are many things that I do on a rinse and repeat cycle. If I know that every Tuesday I must write my shopping list and hit the grocery store? I go ahead and write it in my planner for the next few weeks at a time.
  5. Do it NOW. With the random tasks that crop up on a day-to-day basis, don’t bother saving them for later. For example, when I get an invite in the mail, I typically RSVP right away. Rather than add another paper to my pile, I go ahead and make the call as soon as I get the invite. This saves writing yourself a reminder and having to follow up on it later.
  6. Start with the most important. Many mornings I get up and would love to dig into a blog task, but feeding my kids and getting them off to school takes precedence. This is prioritizing. Yup, many times this means the day will end without the laundry being folded, but at least what’s most important has happened, so I can rest peacefully at night.
  7. Group the like. Have a zillion errands to run? Block a morning off and knock them out. If I have a bunch of social media shares I’ve promised, I make a list, then take an hour and get them done. Keeping like tasks together helps me keep my focus and get into a zone of efficiency.
  8. Take the shortcuts. I’ve shared this a zillion times, but I’m a HUGE fan of online shopping. It saves me loads of time and money. Similarly, simple things like doubling recipes and freezing half for another meal, snagging the kids’ underwear in the next size whenever you see it on sale, or whipping clothes fresh out of the dryer to avoid ironing can seriously cut time spent on household tasks.
  9. Save the social stuff. I know, I just got done telling you to cross stuff off as soon as it presents, but social connections are a scary vortex of time suck. The pressure to respond to all the texts, emails and social media interactions can be overwhelming. I’ve started making a list of social follow-ups I need to make and then tackling the list when I get a chance to sit down with it. This makes me feel less scattered and offers a my kids a much fairer shot at getting quality attention throughout the day versus having a mom who is constantly pulled away by the ping of her phone.
  10. Know the difference between pen and pencil. Be flexible and realize things will change. For the stuff that can’t change (calling a friend to wish them happy birthday, a meeting at school, etc.), go ahead and use the pen. If it’s something that won’t shatter the earth if it happens Thursday instead of Wednesday, note it in pencil–and then give yourself the grace to shift it around as need be. Kids will get sick, appointments will run over, or some days, you’ll just be too tired to get to the things on your list. That’s okay. Really.

Do as many of these as you can, as best as you can. If your kid craps through his 4th diaper of the day and you end up having to sleep beside the laundry machine in hopes of getting through the dirty mounds of duds? Forget the organization. Just survive. Always remember that organization is a plus, but we real moms get it–and we’ve been there. Whatever level of organized chaos you’re rocking, we’re cheering you on!

 

First image credit: image ID:4175668, copyright:gemenacom

Second image credit: Image ID:8809436, copyright:marisha5

 

 

Aug 032015
 

Summertime is full of busy, busy days and lots, and lots of love. If you've ever felt alone in reflections of your day, here are 99 thoughts about why you are completely normal. Go on, momma! You've got this!From Memorial Day to Labor Day there are 99 days. 99 days of summer, to put it simply.

Yet check in with any parent who’s been there, and they’ll tell you. These 99 days are our stage–our stage to shine, to crash, and to fall into endless heaps of exhaustion at the end of long days. They shape childhoods, memory-make to the hilt and dizzyingly carry us from year to year. This, these 99 days, are days that count.

And there are so, so many things we could say about these days, during these days. There are shouts, cries, laughs, and reflections. There are whines and woes and wishes. There are dreams and blessings. And there is everything in between.

Here are 99 of the things we might say:

“Can someone let the dog in??”

“You will like your sister because!”

The thought of Back to School shopping makes me want to cry.

“Do not lick your toes. Ever.”

Wet swimsuits are a curse sent from the devil himself.

I love my deck.

Who said there was anything wrong with watching the same My Little Pony episode 16 times in a row?

Mommy might lose her temper.

“Can you not??”

There is toothpaste smeared on the hallway wall. This does not surprise me.

“Please get your head out of my bum.”

Praise God for the mail truck. It brings hope of contact with outside world.

There is a peace in online bargain shopping.

I have worn something other than this pair of yoga capri pants. Once.

“Where is your father?”

We are leaving the house. Really.

Mommy is going out to the mailbox. She may or may not come back.

“This is supposed to be fun!”

“Santa Claus called me last night to check on how you were doing with swim lessons.”

Summertime is full of busy, busy days and lots, and lots of love. If you've ever felt alone in reflections of your day, here are 99 thoughts about why you are completely normal. Go on, momma! You've got this!“I cry with jealousy over your father. He gets to leave.”

Thank God the Wine & Spirits shop is so close. Thank God.

“I need to run to the grocery store for hamburger buns.”

“We’re out of ketchup. Again.”

Mommy needs a private minute.

Vacation redefined: locked bathroom door with fan on.

“I WILL cut your nails!”

“Please find a hobby.”

Please.

“Let me do the sunscreen!”

“Go outside and play nicely.”

“Do not ride on the dog.”

One ice pop a day. ONE.

Sometimes Mommy fakes phone calls so she can scream that everyone must be quiet. Sometimes.

A shower doesn’t exist without a solid 3 tantrums going down in the midst.

“Of course you can have a sleepover again.”

“Mommy loves you too.”

Don’t ever lose the 4 yr. old’s butterfly catcher net. Just don’t.

“At least we don’t have a kid’s birthday party to throw this weekend.”

“We’re having a pool party playdate.”

Yes, a nice pool swim counts as a shower.

“Wash your hands after you pee!”

“If all these Angry Birds aren’t picked up within 2 minutes, I’m throwing them out.”

We’re using paper plates tonight.

“Your father can deal with this when he gets home.”

“I never want summer to end either.”

Please tell me we can watch more Game of Thrones tonight.

“I loved the beach house too.”

Yay! We caught another sand crab!

“Mommy! Find more cada-skeletons (cicada shells)”

“Can we go to the park?”

“I accidentally turned on the hose.”

“I’m too tired to practice piano.”

“Mom! Can I have another juice box?”

“I love you too.”

Someday I’d like to date my husband.

“I can’t believe I’ll be in 1st grade!”

“Can we pick out something yummy at the grocery store?”

“Do NOT touch your brother.”

Before I die, I hope to have all the laundry folded.

“Put your bowl in the sink!”

“Yes, lightning is serious.”

What’s the weather tomorrow?

For love of God, where’s the iPad?

Tomorrow. Tomorrow is the Hersheypark trip.

“I love you. Thanks for letting me call you during the insanity so I don’t lose my crap.”

“I don’t know. Go ask your father.”

Thank God for my Mother’s Helper.

“I don’t think I can do this.”

“How (again) do I start the grill?”

“This is why I had two of you.”

I love smores.

Where is my knitting?

Someday I’ll miss this.

“Think about what you want for Christmas.”

I want to be an Astronaut Wife.

“Do not touch things that aren’t yours!”

“Go watch for Daddy to get home.”

“Clean your room. And the playroom. Don’t whine until it’s done.”

“Yes, we can read these books.”

“When did you last clean your ears?!”

Only 10 months until we go back to the beach.

I need to get my Fitbit steps in.

Yay! Aunt A and Grandpa are coming to visit!

I need to lose weight.

“Don’t let the dog eat your food!”

“Put on your Crocs.”

“Try to act normal.”

Movie night!

“We can look for more pool noodles at Target.”

“Mark off your chore chart.”

Mommy needs to work.

I need more coffee. A lot more coffee.

“Catching lightning bugs with Daddy was so fun!”

“Remember that time a long time ago (4 wks. ago) we went to see the fireworks? They were loud.”

“Hold hands when we walk! This is a busy parking lot!”

“Let me help stir the macaroni!”

“I miss Grandma”

I want to sleep in.

When will this summer end? Does it ever have to end?

Really, friends, I know you are warrioring on, through it all. And I’m here cheering you on. Keep on keeping on–all 99 days of the fun.

This post goes out to Dr. J and our 14 years of marriage as of 8.4.15. Here’s to making the most of all our days–summer and otherwise. xo.

Second image credit: depositphotos.com, image ID:57509067, copyright:d.travnikov

Jul 312015
 

Making a visit to Amish country? Looking for a kid-friendly day trip? Here are all the ins and outs of how to make a visit to Dutch Wonderland the best vacation your family has taken!

We all know that vacations with kids aren’t relaxing breaks, but rather just changes of scenery. But true story: our recent family visit to the delightful Dutch Wonderland in Lancaster County, PA came pretty darn to being a non-stressful experience. No, really.

About 99% of this is due to the uber young kid-friendly nature of Dutch Wonderland itself–from teeny toilets for the little ones to stroller parking at every turn and loads and loads of rides that cater to the shorter crowd, this is must-see stop for any family visiting Amish country.

(Pssst…! Looking to save money on tickets? The earlier you buy them online, the more you save!)

But I’ll credit the other 1% of our successful, relatively (let’s be honest, we still had bags of spilled snacks and fights over who’s turn it was to pick the next ride) peaceful visit to my husband’s and my savvy. We’ve been hitting the amusement park circuit for several years now and have learned a few tricks of the trade.

Headed to the amusement with kids? It can seem daunting, but with these 5 savvy tips from parents who have done it tons of times over, you can have a great, (semi) non-stressful day! Study up and get then get the fun on!

What helped us ace out the day?

1) Pack minimally. Trust me, this is a hard one for me. Seriously, my husband suffers near heart-attacks every time I start trip packing. Even though I’m of the “go big or go home” philosophy, I’ve been semi-converted when it comes to packing for a day at an amusement park. It is very unlikely that I will need over half the things I think to pack. If I do, that’s why the park has a first aid station and sells sundries. There are very few things I will regret not packing, and very, very many steps across the park I will rue taking with a heavy backpack slung across my shoulders. Go light.

2) Take your own lunch. I know, packing it up can be a total pain. While taking the time to pause the fun and leave the park to eat in the back of your minivan or at a picnic area is inconvenient, it’s a smart move. Not only does packing lunch save a bunch of cash, taking this time out in the middle of the day is also a much-needed break. Stepping away from the bustle of activity helps us reset and energize for the rest of what the park has in store for us.  So pack up that cooler–it’s worth it.

3) Go in your swimsuit. Not sure about you, but trying to change kids (or myself) in those teeny stalls makes me cringe. Save yourself the hassle of one change if you plan to hit the water park. Boys are good to go in their shorts and a rash guard. Throw an easy dress over a swimsuit on girls, and then you only have to change once, when you’re done with the water park. This may sounds like a small thing, but it makes a difference. Similarly, if you are visiting from close by, slather on the sunscreen before hitting the park. Any small time-savers that can take annoying steps out of your day when you’re at the park are worth it.

Making a visit to Amish country? Looking for a kid-friendly day trip? Here are all the ins and outs of how to make a visit to Dutch Wonderland the best vacation your family has taken!

4) If there is a ride or two you really want to hit, get to the park early and beeline for it. This does two things: makes sure you get it in before the day gets away from you and helps you avoid unseemly long lines, taking away the stress of trying to squeeze favorites in before you leave regardless of obnoxious wait times. By doing this, my family was able to walk right onto the Sunoco Turnpike ride (which during previous visits, we’ve stood in line for almost an hour to get in–ginormous patience-tester!), and the kids were thrilled!

In fact, always get to the park early. It’s less crowded at the start of the day, and often parks will let you through the gates a bit early. The rides might not be open yet, but it will give you time to walk around, orient, and figure out where you want to go.

5) Aside from prioritizing a handful of must-visit hot spots, don’t over-schedule your day. As much as possible, roll with it. At Dutch Wonderland, we knew we wanted to hang out in the fantastic water area, Duke’s Lagoon, visit the dinosaurs at Exploration Island and take a spin on the new Bon Voyage Balloon Chase Ride. Outside of this, we had no plan. When the kids fell in love with the Frog Hopper and there was no line? My husband and I snagged a bench seat and watched them repeatedly run through the ride queue and go on again and again. The kids were ecstatic; Mom and Dad got to relax. We ate lunch when we got hungry, passed on pictures by the Giant Pretzel because no one felt like it, and lingered by the Gingerbread House because the kids were captivated. When they got cranky, we skipped the Carousel and left. Let the day unfold as it does and appreciate the chance to spend time with your family, whatever you end up doing.

It might be a looong time before we parents will enjoy a kick-back, put-the-feet-up kind of vacation, but as long as we’re rocking the kid scene, we can at least cut ourselves a break by going somewhere tremendously kid-friendly, like Dutch Wonderland. And we can also make the most of these amusement park days by being smart about them–and planning on lots of early bedtimes when you finally get everyone home 😉

Headed to the amusement with kids? It can seem daunting, but with these 5 savvy tips from parents who have done it tons of times over, you can have a great, (semi) non-stressful day! Study up and get then get the fun on!

*****Thanks to Dutch Wonderland for inviting my family to visit for the day so I could share our experience with you in this post! We love Dutch Wonderland!***** 

Second graphic image credit: depositphotos.com, image ID:40836065, copyright:yobro10

 

Jul 242015
 

Now is the time to stock up on these products! Save big and score big for your school! If you buy the products this way, it's a win for education AND your family. Check it out here!It happened yesterday. I looked at my children and had the startling revelation that they grew. I know, I know. Shocking how they keep doing that.

Then I realized that, with their growth spurts, they would have no appropriate clothing for Back to School in the fall. And then I remembered they need backpacks too. And what about school supplies? What does a first-grader even need for class?

I started to panic, a bit, wondering how I was going to fit all this shopping in. I mean, I have trouble making it to the grocery score, and we’ve been running dangerously low on toilet paper for a few days now. Tackling all this long list of back to school needs was going to be no joke.

Before I worked myself into a total breathe-into-paper-bag tizzy, I had a flash of genius: Walmart! This one-stop shop would be my saving grace. I could hit up my grocery shopping, snag all our Back to School needs and address that threatening toilet paper situation all in one fell swoop. I’ve shopped around a lot, but hands-down, Walmart wins with the lowest prices on the brands my family uses, so this would be the smartest move for our budget too.

Now is the time to stock up on these products! Save big and score big for your school! If you buy the products this way, it's a win for education AND your family. Check it out here!

Even cooler, some of my favorite paper product brands are now offering double Box Tops to celebrate the start of school. Sweet! No time like now stock up on my beloved Viva Vantage Paper Towels, Scott Extra Soft Bath Tissue, Scott Towels and Kleenex.

Now is the time to stock up on these products! Save big and score big for your school! If you buy the products this way, it's a win for education AND your family. Check it out here!

It’s no secret that I don’t love taking my children out on long errand runs, so this was a win for all of us. That nasty Back to School list? Checked off. They were pretty tickled to pick out some new duds (seriously, Walmart has really cute stuff–have you seen it??). And I even sneaked in a little of my grocery shopping–all while saving a ton of money.

Now is the time to stock up on these products! Save big and score big for your school! If you buy the products this way, it's a win for education AND your family. Check it out here!

And being able to turn in all these bonus Box Tops feels like a win to all of us! Go hop in the #BTSlikeaboss fun by scoring your all your shopping at Walmart and then sharing your story HERE.

You aren’t alone in feeling like Back to School shopping is a beast, but with Walmart, you can do it like a boss. Trust me, friends, you’ve got this!

***Thank you to Kimberly Clark for sponsoring today’s post and the cool inspiration to #BTSlikeaboss!****

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.

Wow.

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: depositphotos.com, image ID:9399579, copyright:anterovium

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