Aug 312015
 

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

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

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

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

It was going well last week.

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

What was happening?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aug 262015
 

Feeling overwhelmed by all the tasks on your to-do list? I totally get it. And when I figured out this trick for tackling my day-to-day, the pressure faded in an instant! Whew!I’m an extremely goal-oriented person. This would be a win, if I ever actually reached my goals. I do not. No, rather, I spend my days longing achingly to slash satisfying lines through items on my to-do list, but mostly, I muddle about in the mire of bum-wiping requests and bribing children with treats at the grocery store. It’s a fancy life, friends. A very fancy life.

While I spend endless days and energies working to make peace with the fact that this isn’t meant to be a season of ginormous crossing-out of lines, the truth is my soul is restless.

My husband and I spent this past Saturday in the way that spurs parents to permanent birth control measures–if we hadn’t previously secured sterilization against procreation of children we are in no way fit to handle. From 9am to 5pm solid, we gutted our kids’ closets of outgrown clothes, shoved our son and daughter into new-to-them hand-me-downs to check fit, and then threw the exhausting efforts of our labor into the washing machine.

As I write this, This Great Closet Overhaul was two days ago and I’ve only now summoned the courage to venture down to the basement and greet the mountains of laundry ominously awaiting me. At this rate, I solidly expect to get their new duds to be folded and hung by Christmas. It’s going well.

But in the midst of all this Saturday fun, I had a strange experience on trek #336 through the dining room on my path from the kids’ bedrooms to the garage where I was piling up bags of outgrown goodies to pass onto friends. A super strange experience.

You see, I looked up.

Yup, for one second, I pulled my self out of my stress-casing exhaustion and looked at my surroundings. Miraculous, I know.

What I saw was the dining room. The room that was sweet and airy, but had been sorely in need of a paint job for years upon years. A few weekends ago, my husband and I snagged a very rare day sans kids and we gloriously spent it finally wielding a paint brush on the long-neglected walls.

It was, to put it succinctly, bliss.

The end result was that the dining room looked insanely boss. Crisp, if you will. I used my stashed up Wayfair cash to treat us to a new fake-flower arrangement on the corner table, and basically, amazement happened.

What is this dining room? It is ONE room. One room in a house of many more rooms haphazardly painted and sans adorable faux arrangements. It’s loveliness can never negate the genuine terror of the junk drawer. But…

But…it’s DONE. There is a room of my house, of my home, that is finished. The way I want it to be. At least until I school the budget of Kim Kardashian and start mansioning-up and whatnot.

And I so I walked through the dining room. And I looked at it. And I thought. I thought in the way parents sometimes think when they can forget the weight of being parents and remember that they are people.

I thought, “This is one thing DONE”.

I thought, “The playroom is still hell, but this room is sweet.”

I thought, “We are a little bit closer…”

A little bit closer to our goal of an organized life. To our goal of a less chaotic home. To a life that doesn’t include 6 year-olds peeing in distinct circles around the toilet, but not actually in the toilet.

And I thought. And I grew into an older, wiser person with my thoughts.

Feeling overwhelmed by all the tasks on your to-do list? I totally get it. And when I figured out this trick for tackling my day-to-day, the pressure faded immediately. The peace of resting assured that the life I'm creating for my kids and family is beautiful (in it's own way)? Priceless.

I realized that such teensy forward movement will likely always be the case; that my adorably goal-oriented list may never actually be achieved. That the great work of our lives might just be the act of moving a little bit closer to our goals.

That the purpose of lists is perhaps not to actually finish them, but to use them to spur us onto forward progression. Because life isn’t really about an end point, it’s about growing and developing as we go, making room for what happens along the way. We tick a few things off the list to make room for a few more. We keep edging a little bit closer to where we’d like to be but will always, constantly remain works in progress.

For my husband and I, right now, this means painting one room and allowing ourselves to feel very fancy about it, while we staunchly ignore the exposed spackle smears and cracking tile in the bathroom. We’ll ignore those parts until we can make some room for them on the list–maybe after we finally get those 6 yr. old pee circles sorted??

I think life is not about finishing; it’s about getting a little bit closer to where we’d like to go. Happy forward movement, friends.

Aug 192015
 

We all want our daughter to have powerful, strong female role models. Nothing against Barbie, but if you're looking for someone with a little more boss butt-kicking power, here's how to make it happen for your little girl. Balanced, realistic parenting perspective included.Thanks to Target, what’s hotter right now on a parents’ radar than buzz about girls vs. boys vs. gender-neutral toys? Discount the promise of soon being able to sneak out for a Pumpkin Spice Latte at Starbucks after dropping the kids at school, and there’s not much.

While I’m generally too caught up in my self-imposed Back to School panic to focus on much of anything beyond securing the proper pencils and markers for my 1st grader, a recent surprise delight has stolen my heart.

You see, I’ve spent these last few weeks of summer watching my daughter develop a passionate love affair. For the The Black Widow from the Avengers. And I couldn’t be more thrilled.

And watching her has got me thinking (quite a bit, actually) about what I believe to be true about my kids’ toys:

1) I’m probably going to always love Target. Regardless of whatever ill-executed marketing efforts they next roll out. The Pavlovian response of swooning over potential cheap cute finds every time I lay hands on a red cart can’t be denied. And the dollar aisle. The dollar aisle. Yup, Target‘s a win in my book.

2) Gender distinction isn’t a Target-specific concern. It’s a societal issue that reaches far beyond the Bulls-eye.

3) I myself undoubtedly contribute to the formation of gender identity. I am sure I unwittingly spoke in a different tone of voice to my son versus to that of to my daughter since birth, as I long ago learned in my psychology courses that parents so often instinctively do.

4) I am not positive that gender distinction is erroneous. I am not claiming to be right or wrong on this, but I enjoy embracing my gender. For example, I have always liked being a girl and doing girl things. Stereotypically, I’ve never enjoyed playing in dirt or blasting enemies in video games. I do, however, like painting my nails and watching Hallmark movies.

5) Our house is filled with “girl” toys and “boy” toys. Both my children happily play with both, often. When my son asks to play house, there are no gasps of shock. There are, however, a lot of “Praise God. Yes, please, go play with your sister and don’t set foot in my kitchen again” utterances.

6) Regardless of this, be it caused through nature or nurture, my son generally prefers to build battleships with his Legos while my daughter delights in bathing and dressing her princess dolls. Again, I not claiming this is right or wrong, just that it’s true.

7) This said, I don’t disagree with Target’s choice to create one ginormous androgynous toy section. I actually don’t care. My kids know what toys they want and will manage to find it and drain my wallet whatever shelf it’s stashed on.

8) Still, understanding all of the above, when my daughter – a previously sold-out, entirely dedicated My Little Pony-fan – asked me to turn on the TV so she could watch Avengers, I plotzed in joy. You see, she specifically wanted to watch “The Black Widow episode” because she “loves her”.

9) I love Black Widow too. When my daughter now asks nightly to read the Black Widow book from her brother’s early reader Avengers set, there is no arm-twisting involved. When we get to the page where the text literally reads, “Black Widow kicks butt”, my heart skips a beat. I have shared about how tough my daughter can be, and knowing that she has a boss role model to admire is a blessing to this mom’s heart. The way I see it, there will never be a shortage of princesses and flying ponies. If we can give our daughters something a tad more butt-kicking to swoon over, it’s a win.

10) When we go to the most fantastically fun Avengers party ever and my daughter asks the host for a Black Widow mask, which woefully isn’t included in the manufacturer’s selection of hero masks in the party pack, I am so, so proud. I am proud of her for expecting nothing less that her powerful gal belongs right there with all the rest of the heroes.

We all want our daughter to have powerful, strong female role models. Nothing against Barbie, but if you're looking for someone with a little more boss butt-kicking power, here's how to make it happen for your little girl. Balanced, realistic parenting perspective included.

Praise God my daughter recognizes an uber-boss female as her hero. Praise God that she values strength, savvy and wicked red hair that refuses to be defied. I feel grateful, I feel thankful. I feel very, “who the heck cares what Target or any other retailer is doing, my daughter knows what the real female game is on this earth and it’s a powerful thing.”

I don’t think it’s up to a store to define our kids’ strength and power and self-identity. I don’t think it’s dependent upon the placement of toys on certain shelves or which heroes are featured at birthday parties. I think it’s up to us parents to love on our kids, accept them, and give them enough balance to make healthy choices in all situations. And it’s up to us to celebrate when they make really good decisions, like falling in love with the butt-kicking Black Widow. 

We’ve got an incredible position, parents; let’s use it.

Aug 122015
 

Crazy days with the kids getting away from you? Need control over the chaos? This solution saved our sanity and helped us get the most from our days. An easy-peasy win, mom!Long about 3 months ago, I took stock of the coming summer months and realized I was crap-screwed. School was ending, and with it, the delicate tether to schedule and order that keeps me from piddling away time online while the kids play Angry Birds and we all pitifully hang out in our pajamas until 4pm.

We had this glorious gift of TIME upon us. Gorgeous days of sunshine and childhood that were made to be spent well and not wasted fruitlessly. I wanted to have fun with them this summer. I wanted to play and do things we would remember.

I’ve learned that with my personality, I can’t ever really relax and enjoy things until I feel like some responsibilities are addressed. It’s such a carefree lifestyle, I know. This means, to have a “good” day in my book, I need to cross a few things off the list so I feel freed to truly delight in play. Otherwise, I spend my evenings grouching over having fussy, dull days of nothingness.

Not to mention, there were things that actually needed to happen this summer. I am nervous upon nervous for my son’s entry into 1st grade, and when the school “strongly suggests” he bone up on his reading skills, you’d better believe this mama is going to do everything she can to make that happen.

 

Homework beating you up? It doesn't have to, really! Make it an easy-peasy part of your day with this simple trick!

Also, I think there’s something solid to be said for brushing teeth every day, no matter how bohemian-relaxed you are in all other regards of cleanliness. And I’m not exaggerating when I say this teeth cleaning wouldn’t happen unless I checked myself. I must make it an intentional point to rock some of these tasks or it’s not going to happen.

So, it was time to get organized. Time to find a solution. I thought, I pondered, I Pinterest-ed. And suddenly those chore charts that I spent the early years of my kids’ lives eschewing didn’t seem so very crazy. In fact, they seemed incredibly smart.

To be clear: this is NOT a sponsored post. I don’t have any dedicated belief that one chore chart over another is better. And I know that far craftier gals create brilliant homemade versions. I went with the Melissa and Doug version for the sole reason that Melissa and Doug has never failed me and that I will never be a crafty girl.

Crazy days with the kids getting away from you? Need control over the chaos? This solution saved our sanity and helped us get the most from our days. An easy-peasy win in 6 simple steps, mom!And this is the very real-life account of how the chore chart saved our summer:

1) I ordered two of this chart. Two because I have two kids, and it seemed far easier and clearer for them to each have their own.

2) I made it seem like Christmas morning when the charts arrived. I talked them up to be better than sliced bread and got the kids really excited.

3) I filled in slots with things I knew needed to happen this summer: Reading Eggs (an online reading program my kids love that teaches skills), homework (I am not totally insane: I made my son do only one sheet/day of the ginormous packet his teacher sent home for the summer), practicing piano (again, not insane: I will take 5-10 minutes/day), brushing teeth and getting dressed.

4) I filled in the rest with things we are shooting for: keeping hands to ourselves, not whining (Please God), putting toys away, etc. Note that most of these are small tasks and often intangible: this is summer, a time of kicking back–not huge demands.

5) I threw the kids in the minivan and trekked us to Target. I set them loose in the dollar aisle (Have I mentioned I love the Target dollar aisle? LOVE IT) I told them to choose prizes they’d like to get throughout the summer. I spent less than $30 and came home and threw all the loot in a bag.

6) Every week, if they marked off enough boxes on their chore charts, they got to grab one of their prizes out of the bag. Let’s be honest, it’s summer, as long as they have a sizeable number of checks on their charts, they’re getting a prize. Read: they will get a prize every week for motivation’s sake, but they don’t know this.

Final story: yes, there are days we forget about the chore charts altogether (I think this is a healthy thing), but there are many more days they inspire us to get a few important things done and then go play the rest of our summer days away. The kids think it’s really cool to see a tangible reward for their efforts–things like setting the table and doing a sheet of homework feel like a huge effort to them in the summer months. The charts motivate them to keep going and teach them basic principles of time management.

Crazy days with the kids getting away from you? Need control over the chaos? This solution saved our sanity and helped us get the most from our days. An easy-peasy win in 6 simple steps, mom!

Moreover, these chore charts serve as a semblance of order and purpose to days which could so easily be otherwise lost. For us they are a total win. A saving grace of sanity in the otherwise mess of this child-rearing gig. Count me in!

Aug 052015
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

First image credit: depositphotos.com, image ID:33204977, copyright:Devon

Third image credit: depositphotos.com, image ID:10308853, copyright:Erdosain

 

 

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 272015
 

I learned so much from reading and watching The Astronaut Wives Club! These ladies of the original Mercury 7 had a gift--a gift for recognizing what mattered on this earth and embracing it. So proud to learn from their example!As I write this, I am currently up-to-date with my On Demand corners-of-child-rearing viewing of Astronaut Wives Club (I know, I KNOW. Mom victory!) and 3/4 of the way through the true-story book that inspired the show.

I first ingratiated myself in astro-culture when my sister said, “You have to watch this show. Seriously.” She said “seriously”, so I tabled my go-to excuses of having no time and I’m-so-tired-I’m-passing-out-as-soon-as-I-get-the-kids-in-bed and got on board. And I’m so glad I did.

As I started watching and loving the show, I knew I must read the book too–this was a fascinating piece of American history to explore! So I snatched a copy up from the library and dug in.

And I am wowed. Wowed as this era of history becomes vibrantly real to me in way that my 7th grade social studies books were unable to deliver.

As I excitedly delve into the world of the wives of the first astronauts and their families, Rene, Trudy, Betty, Jo, Louise, Marge, and Annie have become my new heroes.

In days marked by tremendous change and great uncertainty, their incredible class and grace under fire is astoundingly inspiring. Of course they weren’t perfect, but they got so much so darn right–in a time when it mattered so darn much.

1) They valued friendship. They had young kids and were jealously, constantly competing for their own husband’s flight status. They decided to be friends and commit to supporting each other anyway. How boss.

2) They got up every morning and got dressed. Listen, I’ll never stop being a fan of yoga pants, I promise, but I also know when I get up in the morning and pull myself together, the tone for the day is be far more positively set. Dressing for success is a real thing.

3) They supported their husbands. Regardless of whatever era or movement we’re in, standing up for what your partner believes in and encouraging them along the way will never go out of style.

4) They didn’t give up on their own dreams. Trudy’s passion for flying and Rene’s refusal to let go of her own voice? Inspiring.

5) They lived their lives regardless of their children. I know, I struggle with this one too. But the truth is, there was a time and place in history when children were not the central force around which all adults orbited. Moms cooked, cleaned, and made time to chat with friends while the kids entertained themselves. And they still turned out okay.

6) In the big moments, they were together. Regardless of what was going on in their own lives, when someone’s husband was launched into space in a rocket, they made sure they were together. When the American president was shot, they came together to mournThe commitment to remain beside someone is a valuable gift.

I learned so much from reading and watching The Astronaut Wives Club! These ladies of the original Mercury 7 had a gift--a gift for recognizing what mattered on this earth and embracing it. So proud to learn from their example!

 

7) The “little things” mattered. Granted, to a 1960s Texas housewife, air-conditioning was not a “small thing”, but they didn’t take for granted the conveniences as we so often do in modern-day. They knew a running washing machine was (and it still is) a blessing.

8) They knew that, at the end of the day, things were beyond their control. Watching your husband launch into space in a small vessel had a way of reinforcing that regardless of endless planning and prepping, you had no control over what happened. This life can change in a blink of an eye. Time to start praying indeed.

9) Privacy mattered. The Astrowives were in the media, but they maintained boundaries within their Life magazine contract. While it was important to share their stories with the world, what was private family stuff appropriately remained private family stuff.

10) They kept putting one foot in front of the other. The idea of Betty Grissom mowing her lawn in her curlers while her husband prepared to shoot into space gorgeously highlights the value of getting up every day and doing what’s before us, regardless of how big and daunting life may be. To me, this is true heroism.

So, Astrowives, here’s my Standing O to all of your classy coolness. Well done. Well done. The world may long remember your husbands, but to me, you’ll always be the superstars who rocked the Space Age.

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

Jul 132015
 

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

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

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

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

And then I pray that she never, ever changes.

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

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

What I never want to change about her:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy birthday to my hero.

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

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

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