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.



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.”


“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.


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

Jul 182015

New to the neighborhood? Looking to make friends with a family who just moved in? Or maybe just be good neighbors and be friendly with the family next-door. Here are 7 easy, practical tips to be welcoming and friendly to your neighbors! Time to say hello!Did you just move into a new home and are now excited to meet your neighbors? Or, did someone new just move in next door to you and you want to make them feel welcome? In either case, be the kind of neighbor that people like and want to get to know, especially if you live in a tight-knit community or cul-de-sac. Take a nod from the late, great Mister Rogers and be as kind and neighborly as he was.

In today’s technology-ruled world, it’s hard for many of us to even look up from our phones, let alone stop and take time to get to know those around us. Don’t let that deter you from being a good neighbor and presenting yourself in a positive manner and friendly light. It could mean the forming of a new friendship, but at the very least, it’ll help you enjoy and appreciate those you live by.

So, exactly what does it mean to be a good neighbor? For starters, be inviting and say hello. This warm gesture goes a long way and can be just enough for people who might be initially shy or have more introverted personalities. You most likely won’t see your neighbor that often, but when you do, a wave and a smile is worth it to the one on the receiving end. Plus, it doesn’t take any extra time or effort to just be nice.

If you have a dog, be courteous to your neighbors and keep them in mind before you let your pet loose. Pick up after your dog and keep him on a leash or within the confinements of your own yard. If you have a barking dog, make sure you alleviate the situation if it continues for a long time and don’t allow him to sit outside whining or yelping for an entire afternoon or evening.

Keep your kids under control as well. Although good neighbors help look out for each other in nearly all aspects, don’t make it your neighborhood’s responsibility to babysit your children. Discuss rules with your kids before allowing them to play outside. Instruct them to remain in your own yard and don’t leave their bikes or toys on the sidewalk where someone could trip on them. Kids will be kids, so shrieks and giggles will be common, but let them know that yelling is disruptive to everyone and might cause an adult to think something is wrong.

Keep your lawn clean and well-maintained. Don’t allow branches or debris to cross over to your neighbor’s lawn. Also, while it’s completely fine to have campaign signs in your yard, don’t go overboard with too many and make sure they are all within your own perimeter. By putting your belongings away every evening, you keep your yard looking good, not just for your neighbors, but for better curb appeal, too.

When a new neighbor moves in, wait a week or two to allow them time to settle in and then take them a casserole or a plate of cookies and introduce yourself. Another idea is to host a backyard BBQ and invite a few families in your neighborhood, including your newest neighbor, to get to know everyone in a casual atmosphere. If you both have kids around the same age, set up a playdate in the park and allow them to get to know each other as well.

Once you get to know your neighbors, you can offer to get the mail for them, water their plants, or take care of their pets when they’re away. It’s nice to know they have someone to rely on when they’re out of town to keep an eye on their home.

Lastly, hopefully, there are never any problems between neighbors, but if there are, address them right away and in a way that invites open communication from your neighbor. Depending on what type of issue you’re facing, it may be something your neighbor might not even realize is a problem. Use your best judgment and use language that doesn’t put your neighbor on the defensive. Remember to use kindness in your tone.

Good neighbors are involved without being nosy. They are friendly and welcoming without being intrusive. Respect your neighbors’ boundaries and in turn, you can expect them to respect yours. Being a good neighbor can turn your whole neighborhood into a peaceful and friendly place, which in the end, means better quality living for you.


Image credit: depositphotos.com, vector ID:55669355, copyright:RetroClipArt


Jul 062015

The beach with kids? Can be a total nightmare. Forget blissful relaxation, but here's how you can snag a teensy bit of zen and relaxation amist the sandcastles and wave-jumping. Really, I promise!My version of beach bliss includes a good book, a comfy lawn chair, and lots of peaceful listening to the waves lap the sand by my toes. It does not include lots of overly-excited children who want me to pertpetually jump waves and build sand castles with them. (This is why I am Mom of the Year) The one sticky wicket with my fantasy vacation? I have children–children who really like wave-jumping and sand castle-building.

While I hover, mourning the suspension of my dream beach-going for the foreseeable future, I am here to tell you that we just got back from a week-long beach trip and survived. Every single day was gorgeous, so we spent hours upon hours on the sand, and you know what? True story: we not only survived, but I actually enjoyed it too.

I know, I know. How is this possible?

Listen, there are few tricks of the trade to acing out the beach–real mom style. You know, not the way moms who study Pinterest for months pre-beach trip do it. The way we moms who are just happy to remember swimsuits for the whole family do it.

1) Get a beach box. Dude, I blew this one off for years in the interest of saving money. Then we started renting a place that included one. I will never go back. Ever. My 35 yr. old arms and sanity will no longer allow me to haul a gajillion beach chairs while screaming at children to not run out in traffic and kill themselves as we make the daily trek to the beach. Get a beach box; just do it.

2) Lie. Profusely. My moral code discourages dishonesty; that being clear, LIE ANYWAY. The man that checks beach tags? Didn’t you know he’s actually the police searching for whiny children to take to jail? The fact that a shark just nabbed someone the next beach over a week prior? Tell your children that sharks have never existed in this area if you ever want to have any hope of getting them in the water. Lying? A parent’s saving grace.

3) Dark sunglasses. Two benefits: you can pretend snooze when you’re actually not so you shirk the next sand castle-building duty to your husband, and also, this allows you to conspicuously and vigorously people-watch to your heart’s content.

4) Pack the book. No, you probably won’t actually get the chance to pick it up and read it, but stashing it in the bottom of the beach bag may perpetuate the fantasy that you will actually get a chance to relax. This is a good thing.

5) Remind yourself that salt water has healing properties and that sand is the most perfect natural pedicure. Also, digging ginormous holes in the sand is fab exercise. For real–remembering these bonus plusses helps stifle the under-the-breath curses.

The beach with kids? Can be a total nightmare. Forget blissful relaxation, but here's how you can snag a teensy bit of zen and relaxation amist the sandcastles and wave-jumping. Really, I promise!

6) Don’t take your phone. I know, your modern-day self is roiling over the preposterous of this idea. But listen, it will only get wet, sand-covered and your aging eyes won’t allow you to properly view the screen anyway. Above all, it might actually increase the chance that you give your children some dedicated, quality attention. The texts will be there when you get back, really.

7) Be comfortable. Let’s be honest: there’s little to zero chance I’m going to rock the perfect body in this lifetime. I could squeeze into a trendy ill-fitting suit or I could comfortably hang out in duds that allow me to toss my kids in that endless stream of waves. I bought this adorable Columbia skirt to cover up the unsightly bits and felt uber-comfortable treking back-and-forth to the beach for the first time in years. Wear what works for you–not InStyle magazine.

8) Make a date for a post-beach break. Plan on pouring yourself a bev, snagging a teeny nap or extra-long shower as soon as you scrub the sand off your kiddos. Knowing you have a few minutes of sanity on the horizon can get you through the frenzy of many sun-kissed hysterics. I promise.

9) Pack all the things. I know, you’ll never read this in Parents magazine. But trust me, hell has no fury like a preschooler whose sandwich has been snatched by a band of aggressive seagullls when Mommy has no back-up snacks. Also, have you ever heard a parent sob over having too many wipes? Far better to pack up and slug out a heavy load than rue the day.

10) Go with it. I am the least zen creature on this earth, but when I allow myself to just be and accept all the imperfection that comes with the salt-water territory, I am far, far happier. Channel your inner “roll with it” and let it go–pitiful attempts at building sand-castles included. The kids will only remember that you tried, not that you aced it.

The beach? Totally yours for the taking, friends. And I’ll meet you on the flipside of this parenting gig–with a whole totebag full of chill novels ready to roll.

First image credit: depositphotos.com, image ID:52386597, copyright:shalamov

Second image credit: depositphotos.com, image ID:2211387, copyright:worytko_pawel


May 112015

Finding a way and a time to take a break with your husband when you have young kids in the house is a beast. But not only can it be done, it NEEDS to be done. Here's the easiest, no-cost way to date your spouse tonight!Once upon a time, there was a Mommy and a Daddy. They were happy, but they were very, very tired. You see, their 3 yr. old and 5 yr. old were the adorable lights of their lives, but these children required a rather sizable expenditure of energy. To feed them. To make sure backpacks were properly packed for letter Q Show-n-Share day. To repeatedly holler during their soccer games for them to stop staring at the clouds. And to endlessly explain that there are no monsters hiding in closets. And to generally try to keep them alive–that too.

Mommy and Daddy loved each other very much, but their love had taken on a quiet, persevering character, the way love does when time and busy days full of wiping little bums press on. They had heard of and believed in fantastical things like date nights and trips, but that darn needing-a-sitter jazz kept edging its way in.

So they wintered down, in more ways than one. Cozying up at night and settling in on the victory of surviving another day in suburbia while delighting in the small things–like a child who didn’t patter down the stairs in search of water more than three times and the rare, shocking evenings when Mommy didn’t pass out from exhaustion before 8pm.

It was, despite the echoes of dull ordinariness, a sweet life, a very sweet life.

Except, Mommy missed Daddy. And she knew he missed her. And she was pretty sulky that three of their favorite television shows had taken leave of the airwaves around the same time. Life would not be the same without Parenthood, Parks and Rec, and Mad Men. The cold was making her grouchy too. The winter had been long, and some serious Vitamin D with a side of fresh air was very needed.

It was time for something to give.

And it did.

Spring came.

This means many, many things: sports, school ending, parties, flowers, lawn mowing and maintenance, digging summer clothes out of boxes, scowling at ginormous thighs in the mirror, etc. But for this Mommy and Daddy, it meant one thing more important than all the rest: the deck was open.

Finding a way and a time to take a break with your husband when you have young kids in the house is a beast. But not only can it be done, it NEEDS to be done. Here's the easiest, no-cost way to date your spouse tonight!

I’m not entirely sure what we do on the deck. There is usually crickets chirping and chill music in the background, margaritas on the weekends, a fired-up grill when we’re ambitious, sometimes games, sometimes friends, hopefully children asleep in their beds upstairs. Occasionally silence, but usually chatting.

Chatting about all the things–kids, work, house, friends, hobbies, hopes, prayers. It’s as if an edge comes off, an edge that corners in the rest of the time. It’s through our deck talks that we make plans and dream dreams. That I heal hurt about my mom. That we craft never-to-be-realized fantasies about bagging it all and moving off to some obscure corner of the world to keep bees.

The deck is our date. Our time. Our space. It’s when we shrug off our sluggish winter shackles and find ourselves again–find each other again.

Deck time matters. It matters so very much.

We might have kids who need a lot. We might not have a sitter or any elaborate plans. But we do have a deck, and we are most certainly rocking it this summer.

Here’s the same hope for you, readers: find some deck time. Whatever it looks like in your corner of the world, whether there is an actual deck or outdoors included or not. This life isn’t going to break for you, so take a break for yourself and what matters, however it works for you.

Taking a pause to breathe and connect? It’s pretty darn cool, trust me.


Second image credit: depositphotos.com, image ID:9435286, copyright:iofoto


Apr 292015

Having 3 days off feels fabulous! Not to mention the chance to welcome in summer and the warm weather! But having the money to go somewhere special or take a vacation can be overwhelming, as well as the hassle of planning and packing for a trip. No sweat! Check out these 9 greats tips to plan the best staycation ever--I would never have thought of #3!Vacations are a lot of fun, but of course they can also be a lot of work. If you and your family can’t agree on a vacation destination, or you’ve been to all of your nearest vacation spots, or you’re just not in the mood to pack a suitcase and pile into the car, then consider making this year’s Memorial Day weekend a staycation.

Staycations are a great way to have lots of fun over your holiday without spending a lot of time or money. Of course, if you don’t plan ahead, there’s a good chance you’ll end up frittering away your vacation doing nothing much in particular. Instead, consider some of these ideas to be prepared in advance.

Play Tourist at Home

Chances are there are lots of things to do right in your own town, but you may not even know they’re there. Search online for things to do in your area or events for the Memorial Day weekend. If you still can’t find anything, ask neighbors for suggestions or go to the local library or tourist welcome center to grab flyers for local sites. Destinations might include:

  • Local museums and historic sites
  • National or state parks
  • Locations for camping, hiking, biking, swimming, fishing, boating, etc.
  • Amusement parks, mini golf, laser tag, etc.
  • Catch a baseball game
  • Take a local tour

Plan a Night In

Whether you are having a staycation with your family or on your own, you can plan ahead for a fun night in. Invite over friends and order personalized wine bottles as a fun way to memorialize the event. Pick a theme and choose movies or games related to that theme. For example, you could have a Vegas themed party and invite friends over to play Poker and watch Oceans 11.

You could also consider hosting a party, a potluck, or a BBQ for neighbors or friends. If you have a pool, make it a pool party. If you’ve got a big yard, rent a moon bounce and make it a family party.

Think About Your Hobby

If you have a hobby you like to do with friends, plan an event around it:

  • Organize a pick-up soccer game
  • Go to the park with friends for frisbee
  • Have crafty friends over to work on crafts and projects together
  • Have a wine tasting

Catch Up on Reading

Find a nice, relaxing place and bring a big pile of books. Vacation time is a great time to catch up on all that reading you’ve been meaning to do! Head to the beach or the pool for some sunning and reading, or just settle in on the front porch.

Visit with Friends and Neighbors

Everyone has those friends and neighbors that they don’t get to see that often. Make your vacation an excuse to call them up to get together. Invite them to dinner or to the movies or just to hang out and catch up!

Spoil Yourself

Indulge yourself (and maybe your kids too) on your vacation. Go shopping, get your nails done, get a make-over, take a spa day, make a purchase you’ve been saving up for, spend hours at the comic book store. You could even end your indulgent day with a movie marathon. You won’t feel guilty because you have an extra day off!

Spoil the Kids

Let the kids plan out a whole day of the vacation. Of course, they may try to cram in as many fun activities as humanly possible so have them prioritize! Help them think of one big activity they’d like to do like a trip to an amusement park, one smaller thing to do like stop at a toy store, and a place to go for dinner or lunch.

Plan a Date Night

Plan a just-because special date night with your spouse or partner. Go out to dinner or make it an excuse to learn a new recipe together using a service like Plated. If you have kids, hire a babysitter and go dancing or go see a movie without the kids. You could even get a room at a local bed and breakfast to make it feel a bit more like a vacation.

Make Your Staycation All About You

The secret to having a really enjoyable staycation is to make yourself feel really spoiled and fulfilled. Find a combination of activities that are fun, fulfilling, and relaxing to get the most out of your staycation vacation.


Image credit: depositphotos.com, image ID:51577395, copyright:pressmaster


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