Tag Archives: mommyhood

Parenting Secret Number One: 7:30 bedtime…

I admit to not doing all that much in life all that well. I’m no adventurer, I don’t have any mechanical skills, and sometimes I burn toast. I’m not much of a homemaker, and I hate to clean up after anyone, including myself sometimes. As a wife, I’m all right, but I am sure I could be better. But I’d like to think that, aside from the stressball meltdowns that happen every now and then, parenting is something I manage quite decently, thankyouverymuch. And I have managed to file away some secrets from time to time, but I think we should talk more about these secrets. Sharing is caring, after all. Tonight, I present one of my life hacks, parenting secrets, that has improved my life since its inception.

My kiddos are notorious for keeping us on our sleep toes, and I am always looking for new ways to maximize the shut eye. I use white noise machines, essential oils, massage, routine, the whole nine. Nothing is too out there for me to try. They used to go to bed between 8 and 8:30, but they’d sleep poorly, fight us about going down, and act generally like little maniacs. I needed to figure out how to fix this; it was obvious they were overtired. So, imagine my shock when I came up with the idea of putting them to bed around 7:30 every single night, and it worked! At first, I was nervous because I figured they’d be up at, like, 4 if they went to bed at 7:30. But, amazingly, it’s been great. I don’t think I can go back to another bedtime. I started this about a month ago, took a week off for vacation, and resumed it upon coming home. And it is amazing.

The girls go to bed, they sleep (Ellery has been sucking again at this, but the sleeping bag on the floor has helped us out immensely), and they DO not get up at 4! They sleep until 6/6:30, and they wake up refreshed and happy. This does not include the nights that my oldest has test anxiety, but that is another post for another night. Fights are minimal, mornings don’t suck as per usual, and everyone is usually a nice big ball of sunshine (except me since I am a glutton and stay up far too late reading and have a general disdain for mornings to begin with). And let’s be real, earlier bedtime means more mommy time without kiddos, which translates into more internet surfing, novel writing, general putzing around for me. None of these things can be wrong. And if they are, I don’t want to be right. Ever.

So. That is my big secret of parenthood. Well, one of them. But as a true badass mommy and ninja of all trades, I cannot reveal all of my secrets at once, now, can I?

What’s your secret? Something we should know to make parenting easier? Tell us all; let’s chat!

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This is how my girls seem to feel every morning…

In one short month…

As I was enjoying dinner with my girls tonight, I looked over at our wipe off calendar at the date. I look at this calendar about seventy-five times a day, but for some reason, this glance this evening took my breath away. July 25. I couldn’t believe it. And, I have to admit, my heart sank a bit. See, in one short month, everything will change.

In one short month, I will walk away from my girls and into the classroom. I will implement lessons I have never taught to students I have never met. I will have put together a course that, for the first time, will use a book and movie as its content. I will start fresh, with new material and new students, and it will be sink or swim. I will meet the anxious glances and nervous giggles of two different classrooms of  different first-year students. I will have to turn away from the, “I will miss you SO much, Mommy” eyes at home and into the, “Please don’t make this suck” eyes of my students. I will have to hang up my Mommy hat for hours on end, donning the Associate Lecturer/Mentor/Tutor hat that my work demands I wear. My roles will change.

In one short month, my kids will have to fight for my attention with my students. My kids will beg me to play while the papers sit on my desk, glaring at me with their judgy eyes, nagging to be graded. I will be torn between having fun and being Mommy and doing what needs to be done to keep my students progressing and growing as writers. Emails will blink at me from my phone, beckoning me to put out fires that exist beyond the walls of my house. “I hate to bother you, but can you look at this?” will be a line I read over and over, while my kids play in front of me, knowing Mommy’s students need Mommy right now. They will smile at me, asking me to watch them play, while I type a quick response back to the student, praying my grammar was correct in the email so as to lead by rushed example. My attention will be divided by what I want to do and what I should do. My priorities will change.

In one short month, my husband will, as per usual, become third or fourth on my list. Between quick, “How was your day”s, to, “You’ll never guess what this student said today”s, he will feel the strain. He will smile and sigh when I once again need to grade papers instead of watching TV with him on the couch after bedtime. He will sit by me, laughing with Friends while I scratch my head, bite my purple pen, and try to figure out what I can do better to get my students to understand their own voices. Weekends will be full of, “Will you please entertain them so I can get this done?” instead of, “Oh, let’s go do that fun thing right now!” My friends who don’t get it will, inevitably, not get the attention they deserve. Our communication will be reduced to text messages; promises of, “Once this is over, we will get together” will likely ring hollow. I will become that person who only contacts someone when she needs something for a while. My relationships will change.

In one short month, I will continue my own education and go back to the classroom on the other side of the podium. I will have papers to write, things to read, assignments to do. My online class from this summer will be a distant memory as I sit in the classroom to giggle my own nervous giggles with first day jitters. I will have new responsibilities, be graded for my work and efforts, and attempt to do what needs to be done to hold my own academically. I will be evaluated for my performance on both sides of the classroom. My focus will change.

In one short month, so many aspects of my life will change. Back to school season allows for a multitude of transformations, but the good news is, none of them are permanent. Everything eventually will even out, water will find its level, and my world shall step away from the brink of chaos. My life, all of it, will finally find a rhythm. My kids will get the attention they need. My husband and I eventually shall find time for each other again, and my friends and I will hang out (even just once counts). My students shall find their pace and voice, and they will go beyond my expectations time and again. I will feel whole, not pulled apart a million ways to Sunday. Everything has a season. And, as my world spins out of control and then back again, pulled together by the gravity of reality and the need for serenity in the face of spastic motion, I will remember that all of it is worth it. My life may seem absolutely crazy in one short month, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

It will get overwhelming, insane, and it will test my patience and sanity…

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But it will never be enough to make me quit.
It’s all too important to give up on.

My body is a wonderland…

How’s your body? I pretty much love mine. But, I haven’t always loved it. Oh no. Not by a long shot. As far as I am concerned, I never loved my body – truly loved it – until I was pregnant. I loved getting bigger, rounder, and filling out. I actually had boobs (a welcome surprise). I had power. I was making people!! My body was a factory of people! I loved it. I got soft and round and had reason to eat whatever. Now, my body is what it is. I’ve given birth, gained weight, lost weight, been back and forth. And it fluctuates all the time. Hormones, exercise, and the occasional snack right before bed all shape my figure in different ways. Exercise is fun, but who has time for it all the time? And I did well with running until it started to kill my knees. But that’s ok. I’m still decently active with the kids, and I do what I can. And that’s enough for me.

My body has never been model “perfect”. I’ve never had the flat tummy, the curves in all the right places, etc. I’m more Reubenesque – my tummy is rounded, I have hips, a short torso, long and lean legs, and absolutely zero in the chest department. Even after four pregnancies, one of which tore my abdominal walls from side to side and all down the front, so that flat tummy will really never be, I have never really had the frame for which fashion designers like to design. I have always dealt with it, never really was super excited about it, but now, I have three girls…

And those three girls need healthy body image role models. They don’t need to hear any negative body talk from anybody, especially me. They need to know that no matter what their bodies look like, no matter how big or small, lean or round, thin or thick, they are beautiful. And they need to know that I am beautiful – and I need to show them this. Everyday.

I need summer clothes like plants need water, and I found some excellent deals on clothes. So, the other day, I ordered clothes online. Who has time to try on clothes with kids? I had the thought that I would order them in the size I wear, and if they were hideous or tight, I would send them back. No problem. I was ready for whatever happened…

They came today, and I was so anxious to see if my choice of size (medium) was a good call or one I would regret. As I opened the packages and pulled out the clothes, putting them on and examining myself in the mirror, I realized that, yes, my body may be softer in some places than I would ideally like, but it’s powerful. And it’s beautiful. And damnit, I deserve to wear clothes that show it off. With each piece (a tshirt material dress, some tshirts, some tanks), I felt better and better about my choices. My rounded belly doesn’t look as rounded in the mirror as it does in my head. My hips don’t look so hippy to the world as they do to my own eyes. And, damnit, I am proud of my body and what it has achieved. I need my girls to see that Mommy is beautiful – and can wear whatever she chooses (within reason, of course, spandex never works for anyone) – and that their bodies are beautiful, too.

I love my curves, my soft belly, and my legs-for-days. Sure, I eat right (most of the time) and exercise when I can. I would love to drop a few pounds like anyone else. I also love food as fuel, and food as fun. I watch what I eat and try not to overindulge (often). My frame does not define me, but how I embrace it does. I may never rock a bikini (I said within reason, folks), but I will never shy away from wearing a bathing suit or a shirt that may be just a bit too tight. You won’t see me on a catwalk, but you will see me having fun with my family, laughing and enjoying myself, and not sucking one little bit of my body in. I’m having far too much fun enjoying my life and belly laughs to worry about one insignificant belly roll.

My body has been with me for 32 years and counting…
It deserves to be loved and cared for…
It may fluctuate with time…
But, I only get one.

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Dear Caelan, Ellery, and Finola:
You. Are. Beautiful.
Know it.

Oh, that girl

I have become THAT GIRL. And I kind of love it. I have gone from chuckling to myself about all of THOSE GIRLS I knew who ran. For fun. I would shake my head, reading status update after status update about running, run times, distances, shoes, shorts, etc and etc, ad nauseum. And I would laugh. I will never, ever run for fun, I vowed. Who has time to run for fun? Not me. I was too busy sitting. I liked sitting. It is comfy. And warm. And Lord knows I like to be warm. Running was not for me. No sir.

Until I realized something. That baby weight? It was gone. But the baby body? I still had that somehow. I still looked a bit like I had either just given birth in the last 72 hours, or I had had a large lunch consisting of carbs and lard. I wasn’t happy. I had zero energy. And then it hit me; I had to get moving!! Now. But how? Due to schedules, I had no way to plan gym time into my everyday life. I needed something I could do myself, without a class. And my friends who ran all looked…amazing. Maybe there was something to this running thing. I wasn’t comfortable heading outside and looking like a moron flailing about the neighborhood, as I was sure I would flail. A lot. Then, I remembered that I could run. At home. Flail-free!!

We had an elliptical in our basement that was had gotten from my husband’s cousin right before the Great Basement Flood of 2013. It’s not the best elliptical. It’s not the top of the line, but it was a gift that we had received and I had wanted with the best of intentions. And it had been sitting there, too. And it didn’t look like it was having any fun either. I walked by it everyday when I did laundry. I’d glance over, shamefully averting my eyes because I didn’t want it to feel ignored. Neglected. Unwanted. Until one day. I decided enough was enough. I walked over to it, unsure of what to expect, with absolutely no goal in mind except “don’t die”. I took a big breath and plugged it in. And I got on it. And…

It hurt. My knees, already bad from foot and ankle issues, hurt like no one’s business. But, it didn’t hurt the whole time. And the more I got into it, the easier it got. And I cleared 15 minutes in one night, a goal I surely wouldn’t have imagined I’d ever hit. I know it’s not some large distance, it’s not a 5k for goodness sakes, but it was something. My knees didn’t hurt after, and the cracking and popping had lessened. Is it possible running can be good for my knees?? I didn’t care, I just loved the feeling and wanted more of it. More, More. More!

My body felt renewed after a few days of running regularly, and I felt so good. Blood pumped through my veins, my muscles cried out, and my brain exploded with happy energy. Immediately, I understood. I got it. My friends ran because it was freeing. It was…fun! And when I would run, I cleared my mind, left it all on the elliptical, and I was hooked. It’s true what they say, “running is better and cheaper than therapy.” I bought a fitbit a few days later and started tracking my steps, distances, calories. I bought some real running shoes. And a resistance band. I started changing my thoughts, my diet, and my motivations. After just a few days, pounds starting falling off. Real weight loss. Where had that been all my life? I wanted to keep at it, because duh, weight loss and more energy! Sign me up! And I needed a plan. I have set goals, activity goals, weight loss goals, but more importantly, health goals. I want to be able to run a 5k. Not tomorrow. Not next month. But sometime. And then? 10k. Half marathon? Who knows.

Because for me, the hardest thing was starting. But now that I have, I can’t see myself stopping. My clothes fit better. I have super energy. And focus. And I wear myself out in a good way. But, it’s not all fun and games. I have an addictive personality when it comes to a lot of things, and working out is no exception, and I have to mind my own mind when it comes to overdoing it. Once I get started, I can go for a long, long time without stopping, so I have to keep myself in check. I took a few weeks off when my husband was working mega overtime and I had to be there for the girls all the time, but I realized that they were only sleeping while I got back into the sitting thing. I had to shake out of it, and get back on the proverbial horse. I knew I would get started again, and I am so glad that I did. My whole body feels better when I run; I feel myself getting stronger, and my knees don’t hurt as much now that I am more active and getting into better shape. I think it may be true! Running may actually help my crazy knees after all! 

Sure, I am concerned about my knees and feet, and I plan to make an appointment to talk to my doctor about possible physical therapy if running does start to make them hurt. I want to get some braces for my knees for basic support and possibly some custom running shoes for my Barney Rubble feet. I find myself talking about running, making playlists for running, reading running tips, discussing how good it feels to do it, and thinking of myself as a runner. Sure, I haven’t tried running outside, aside from around the yard and on the road with my kids. But it’s also a mental game, and I have to see it before I can be it. And I may never be able to run like I want to because of my knees and feet, but again, I just might. Who knows? I know I have a runner inside of me. I just need to let her do her thing, no matter where she does it.

So, I have become THAT GIRL. But let me tell you, I will take being that girl who runs and feels good about her body over that girl who sits any single day of the week. That girl who runs has a healthier outlook, a clearer mind, a stronger body, and a greater impact on her daughters to make healthy and active choices. Everything I do, I have to take them into consideration. And I have to admit, running alongside them, or even them waiting for me at the end of some finish line, are part of my goals and motivations. I want them to see a mommy who can truly do anything she sets her mind to because then, they will know that the same is true for them.

Now, it is my turn to be THAT GIRL. Because I may be raising THOSE GIRLS.
And, boy, what adventures we can all have together. All we have to do is start…

running

What will you have the courage to start?

I gave up Facebook and I gained ….

On Ash Wednesday, March 5, 2014, I deactivated my Facebook account. I wanted to pick a vice that would potentially be hard to give up, something I felt I needed to really make a sacrifice. I kind of laugh at the ridiculousness of that now. But let me tell you, I did not imagine how good it would feel, how freeing it would be, and how small a sacrifice it really was.

I felt free from the moment I clicked that button to let it all go. I liken my Facebook addiction to having a job that you absolutely hate, but you can’t bear to hassle with quitting on your own. So you find a reason, ANY reason, to get fired. I just needed a reason to leave – to cut the  tie, even temporarily – and Lent was that perfect reason.

My Facebook addiction was strong. I spent so much time on it; my friends’ lives seemed so much more compelling than my own, even though my life freaking rocks. I found friends from the past to reconnect with, found more commonalities with friends in real life, and had great conversations with awesome people on the daily. I looked at pictures, shared memes and stories, overshared status updates ad nauseum, checked in places like anyone cared where I was, and posted a ton of pictures of my life, kids, self, and world for others to “like”.  What started as a way to show off my kids to family and friends out of state became a seemingly necessary lifeline to the world. I was getting on my own nerves, but I could not seem to stop the madness myself. I felt compelled, like a drug addict going in for the hit, to scroll, post, share…it had to end. Now.

So, I saw Lent as the chance to end it. With one click, I let go of the little blue box on my home screen that had taken over, and I said goodbye to the “friends” I would miss. I emailed a few people that I don’t talk to regularly in the weeks before Lent to tell them my intentions, and to ask them if they would keep in touch with me during my sabbatical. And then, at midnight on March 5, I clicked the button. Boop. Done. “Do you want to deactivate?” Yes. “Are you sure?” Absolutely.

The days to follow were the best. Immediately, I had no regrets. I realized that my life was my own business, and no one else’s life was my concern. I was free to live without feeling like sharing, without taking pictures to show off my kids and life in all its glory, without wondering how I would phrase something into a clever status update. My words, my experiences, and my life was my own. It felt so stupid that I had to quit something as inane as a social media site to remember that my life was precious and meaningful, but it had to happen that way. It wouldn’t have been such a transformative experience if I hadn’t acknowledged these things as I did.

I’m working on becoming Hands Free as much as possible, as often as I can. As a family, we made up rules for screen time. I go screen free often. I am incorporating a lot of Rachel Stafford’s (Hands Free Mama) experiences and advice into my life. I am reading her book now and taking diligent life notes. It all makes sense – unplug and see the beautiful life that is in front of me. Life happens and is too fleeting and precious to miss. And my life is awesome, without “likes” or “shares.”

In quitting Facebook, I gained a life’s worth of lessons. I unplug. I spend time with people in front of me – not through a screen. I value how things are happening, and my words, thoughts belong to me – I am no longer concerned with how they would sound to someone else to garnish as many “likes” as possible. I am free of the drama, mess, and I realized something huge: friends are the ones who make time to reach out, through whatever means they can, spend time with me, converse with me, keep up with me, or just say, “hi.” Once again, my definitions of “friend” and “friendship” have changed yet again. I have a new appreciation for the friends I hold dear, the ones I talk to once in a while or everyday. It doesn’t matter how it happens; we connect, and that is the key. Real people. Real life. Real experiences. Those things matter. They ask me how my sabbatical is going, and they are shocked when I tell them it is great. They never thought I’d make it, that I couldn’t be without it. I can’t be happier to prove them all wrong.

Armed with this knowledge and all I have gained, I will never be the same. My outlook will never be the same as it was before. I have no intentions to go back to Facebook, and if I do one day, it will be totally different. I will be quiet, an observer. I won’t feel the need to enter every conversation I am invited to enter. I will be small, reserved. Right now, rejoining that world is the absolute furthest thing from my mind. I am too busy enjoying life without it. Facebook is just one more thing. And the last thing I need in my life is another thing. Like an addict, I had to quit cold turkey, rip off the bandage in one pull. And also like an addict, I need to maintain distance in between myself and my distracting, consuming habit. I need to do this to remain clear and free of it. Free of distraction, of consumption, and free to enjoy what matters. I’ve put miles in between myself and Facebook and a beautiful, clear, and fruitful life is springing up in the expanse – growing stronger and more beautiful without unnecessary distractions and nonsense everyday. 

Quitting is one of the best things I have done for myself and for my family. 

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It wasn’t that hard… one click was all it took. 
And I will never be the same. 

Tonight, my child ate bubbles…

After a great day off and a fun evening of giggles, I made a delicious dinner, and the girls had bath time. If my husband is home, bath is his thing. He does it well, and I let him. I encourage it even. But, he is on afternoons, so it came to me. I stripped down all three ladies, added some bubbles, and let the water flow. Apparently, and I didn’t know this before, this was Finola’s first bubble bath with big bubbles in it. So, she started exploring. She put bubbles in her hands, on her face and head, and on her chest. She discovered tonight more than the power of suds in water; she discovered the power of laughter.

She began putting bubbles to her mouth, leading them to go in her mouth (which is where everything goes at 8 months old), and Caelan laughed so hard. Finola realized this was funny, and she laughed along while shoving another fingerful of bubbles in her mouth. Then she had all of us ladies laughing, including herself. She discovered that her sister would laugh harder if she put bubbles on her nose while eating them, leading her to experiment more with new bubble placement. She was covered in bubbles by the time it was all said and done. And she had an absolute blast. It was a riot. At one point we all were laughing so hard that Finola threw herself back, lying on her sister’s legs, and that made her laugh even harder. It was so awesome. I am so glad that I was there to witness it, as I often feel like I miss the good stuff.

See, that is the good stuff. Sure, the bubbles weren’t organic and probably not super fit for consumption. It’s not like she drank the whole bottle. She was learning and experimenting, seeing what would happen. She was working on cause and effect and led us to have a memory to last a long time. It’s not always about big things: trips, presents, experiences out of the ordinary. No. It is about these little moments – bubbles, eating big girl food together, laughing as sisters, clapping and singing and dancing along with Frozen, being sisters who love each other every single day- that will matter the most to the girls as they grow up. It’s about being together, having fun, everyone in a good mood, and enjoying each other’s company. The night went so well that I pushed my own limits and made up a game for them to play called Tiny Tornadoes, where they would clean up the living room for points, and who ever had the most points would get two snacks before beds. They loved it, and they both (miraculously enough) cleaned up so well that we also tackled their bedroom and everyone got double snacks. I was the Best Mom Ever once again, the girls’ room got organized a bit better than it was before, and my living room no longer looks like a daycare exploded inside it. Everyone wins. Sigh. If only every night could be like this…

I have this exact print on my wall inside my front door…
And it is the best reminder I need everyday.Enjoy-The-Little-Things-In-Life-Motivational-Love-QuotesCherish the little things,
They do get bigger.

Dear Ellery…

Oh my dear, sweet, snuggle bug Ellery Jean. I can’t believe it. You turn three tomorrow. And what an amazing whirlwind of joy these last three years have been. This past year, in particular, has been your best. You became a big sister, and you are the best damn big sister you can be. You dote upon Finola like she is yours, and you even call her “mine only” because none of us can possibly love her like you do. You have discovered your sense of humor and make us laugh everyday. Your vocabulary rivals that of any second grader, at least, and you’re three. Your little body makes me smile, with its pudgy little belly and bubble butt. You love pink, all things girlie, and the Disney Princesses are your personal friends. You know your mind, your heart, and you won’t give in to anything that doesn’t please either.

You’re a pretty good little sister to Caelan, and you’re testing the waters of sharing and learning from her. To see both of you play together, it becomes obvious you were made for each other, to be each others’ anchor and light, to be that hand to hold and smile to share, to be the one to pick each other up and have each others’ backs. You two are truly more than sisters; you’re best friends, and no one can divide you. Three years ago, Caelan became a big sister, and her life was changed forever, in an amazingly awesome way.

Finola is getting in there, trying to be a big kid, and I am so proud she has you to look up to. With Caelan being in school, you and Finola spend a lot of time together without her, and it has strengthened your love and bond as sisters. Finola looks at you like she looks at no one else; the love is tangible. You make her laugh and squeal like no one else does, and I am so proud of you for being such an excellent example for her. She adores you. It’s so obvious.

You’re not always pleasant. Or quiet. Or friendly. Or nice, even, if we are being honest. You’re loud, pushy, demanding at times, and sometimes you can be downright mean. But you know what? ALL of those things make you who you are, and they differentiate you from your sisters and peers. You will start preschool soon, you will have friends and learn the ropes of being with kids your own age, and life will change for you in the social aspect. You will bring home lessons that you can only learn from being around other three year olds, and you will begin to see life through the eyes of a little lady who is comfortable enough to leave her mommy and daddy for a bit to start doing her own thing. And you know what? You’re ready. I am 100% sure of this. I don’t know that the world is, but you are, for sure.

You are so beautiful, it hurts to look at you sometimes. My heart gets really big in my chest, and I feel very warm inside, and then you get in my lap to snuggle me, and I melt. You have become quite the Mommy’s Girl this last year, and I am so, so happy about it. You reach for me when you are hurt, not feeling well, crying, sad, happy, snuggly…whatever. You just want me to be around. You greet me at the door if I have to leave with a, “MOMMY!!!” as soon as I get home. And you run to me, hugging my legs, and in that moment, I forget what the day has brought me, and I am with you 100%. We have quite the bond, you and I, and it will only grow from here. We’ve spent a lot of time together since I don’t work full time, and we have become quite the pair of pals. You ask me not to go to work, to stay home and have tea parties, and Babygirl, you have no idea how much I want to….

Which leads me to this. As happy as I am that tomorrow is such a big day for you, I am so, so very sad about tomorrow. See, Mommy’s semester starts tomorrow. That means I have to go teach the “big kids” at “big kid college”. And I have been so in love with being home with you the last month. My heart aches in my chest, feeling like it’s going to drop out, and I have a lump in my throat the size of Manhattan. I have to go back to work tomorrow, and while part of me will be so happy to be back in the classroom and with students, a larger part of me wants to be home in jammies, giggling and playing princess and tea party with you until we can’t play anymore. I only work part time away from you because my full time job is being Mommy to you and your sisters. The good thing about my job is that it is 16 weeks at a time (you don’t know what that means, but it’s not a long time, really, though it feels like it sometimes) . I love my job, my students, my life outside these four walls. But I love my life inside of them even more, and nothing will ever change that. I have to work for myself, for our family, and for you. See, I want you to know that a woman’s place is wherever she wants to be, and there is no limit to our potential, even when that woman has a family. I want you to have the courage to leave your children behind someday, to work for as long as you need to, to be able to do what makes your soul happy, feeds your family and your soul. Because it does take courage to be a mommy who works outside the house. Being a mommy isn’t easy, no matter what, but for me, it’s harder to leave you and know I am doing good works outside of the house, than it is to stay home and be with you. I have to be brave. For you. For your sisters, your daddy. And for me.

I wish my semester didn’t start on your birthday. That is the hardest part for me. But I will be home in the afternoon, as soon as Caelan gets off the bus, and we will do fun things. We can play princesses, tea party, matching, Yahtzee, dance party, watch movies, and laugh…being together. This will be your best birthday gift: time together, to do anything you want, after a long day apart. I love you, Ellery Jean JellyBean. You make me happy when skies are grey. You truly are my sunshine. And I can’t believe, in my heart of hearts, that you are three. I can’t wait to see the changes, the lessons, the laughter, and the liveliness that three can bring to you. Three was a great year for Caelan, and I am sure it will be for you as well. You are one of the best things I have ever done. You are my little lady. And you’re one of my greatest inspirations to be the best mommy I can be for you and your sisters.

Your laughter. Your light. Your smile. Your eyes. And your voice. All of these things drive me on. I can’t believe I have only been your mommy for three years. It feels like I have known you, and loved you, my whole entire life.
I think I have…

WERKThis face. These eyes. This little girl…
She is one of my reasons.
Happy Birthday, Ellery Jean.
Three is going to be amazing…

Tomorrow is Princess Day around here…

So, this Christmas break, I have really enjoyed not doing anything. I have eased my way into a life of leisure, and it’s something to behold. I have never been one to kick back and relax, but honestly, I can’t tell you the last time I felt so good doing nothing at all. I would stay in my jammies every single day if I didn’t have to go anywhere. And I also don’t go anywhere if I don’t have to. Gone are the days of running around, jackassing about town. There are many reasons for this:

a. It’s cold outside. Really, really cold.

b. I have three kids to tote around with me, as it is illegal to leave them home alone.

c. It is cold. Did I mention?

Many days the girls and I find reasons to not get dressed. Or to get dressed in clean jammies. It’s still dressed if it is clean jammies, right? Many days I have just showered to throw on new jammies or comfy lounge clothes. Getting dressed is so.much.work. I am going to be so sad when the semester starts back up and I have to *GASP!* put on real people clothes, business casual real people clothes at that! The horror!! Truly, I am enjoying my time at home more than I ever thought I would. Having a third child has changed everything, as I have said, and I really just dig being a mom. I like spending time with these little ladies. I will miss them when I do go back to work, as I always do, but this break has been special. They have all gotten along (for the most part), I haven’t lost my shit, and we are just a happy little bunch of folks over here at the Manor. My husband is working a lot of overtime because he can, and there are perks to it ($$$$$!), so the girls and I have had lots of bonding time. We haven’t even wanted to kill each other yet! Now, I know we have four days left until Caelan goes back, but I foresee a strong ending to this break. I am hoping. Do you hear that, Universe?! *insert finger pointing and slight glare*

So, tomorrow, to celebrate Finola turning six months old (!!!!!!! WHAT?! !!!!!!!!), we are having a princess day. The oldest two will dress in their princess dresses from Christmas, I will find something frilly and fun to put the baby in, and I may just try to shimmy into my old bridesmaid dress (totally kidding, totally…that won’t be happening, though I know it does fit still, but I won’t tell you how I know that…). We will watch Disney Princess movies all day, and I may just have an old fashioned tea party. I am trying to find creative ways to celebrate life’s little moments with my girls, and to keep us in comfy clothes all winter long, so we can continue to make happy memories of life of domestic bliss in the new year. It’s all about capturing those moments, and putting them in a jar, to remember and reflect on when life hands us some crap sandwiches (actually, I did make one of those Year of Blessings Jars about an hour ago to record little daily moments each day to read on NYE this year and remember how awesome 2014 was, so I will literally put tomorrow in a jar, potentially…). We all need to remember these fun times of little blessings and silly moments together because not long from now, they won’t even want to be in the same room as I am. So, I might as well make every moment count that we do get to spend together.

Princess Day. One more way to make my girls feel special, to show them how special they are to me, and to remember how special and precious these times are for all of us.

How do you spend these little moments with your young ones?

Pajama Day? Princess Day? Pirate Day?

keep-calm-and-happy-princess-day^THIS EXISTED ONLINE! I didn’t even need to make it. I love it when Google and the Internet cooperate with me. 🙂

2014 = grace, patience, love, zen.

I don’t make resolutions. I always break them; I never lose the weight I say I want to lose, and I stop swearing for about three days before my vocabulary becomes colorful again. I just suck at them. But I do want to accomplish a few things in 2014, and I like to think of these as measurable goals to strive for, with plans for my success. I like goals. I like lists. And I like crossing things off of lists, including plans for success and steps for achievement.

2014 will be the year I…

1. MMOB. Mind my own business. I am generally a nosey person because I like to know things, and I have an insatiable urge to know all the things. I find myself having to know what people are doing, who they are doing it with, and why they are doing it. This is to blame on a few things, including the fact that I am still jealous a bit of my friends who have either no children or seemingly limitless funds (or both) and can do whatever they feel like doing, whenever they feel like doing it. Part of me still wants to live the life I lived before I had kids (with more money). And I think that’s natural. I wouldn’t give up my kids, ever, but my memory is strong of the days before them. I am able to see these people’s endless adventures on Facebook, mainly. And then I get all “oh it must be nice” and judgey douchebaggery ensues. And that’s not ok. As much as I overshare on FB (and I am getting to that), I don’t want others judging me, and I am sure they do. So, I am going to implement the good ole Golden Rule, and do unto others. I will have the grace to remember that my path is my path, and they may be just as envious of my adventures in mommyhood. Grace is something I have to start walking with. I am too old to be living without it. I will share less, turn more inward, and concern myself with that which truly concerns me.

2. I am grateful for everything I have because I lived the other life of someone who never felt like there was enough due to the layoff for a while this last year. I take nothing for granted, and thank everyone profusely for anything they do for me or my family. But I want to do more for others. I want to pay it forward more. I want to do RAKs, like, everyday. And I want to be anonymous. Gone are the days of needing credit for everything. Now, I want to remain anonymous, do good things for others, and just have that peace in my heart of knowing that I did something for others. I want to donate more time, talents, and treasures to others who need them. I have a lot to offer others that will not cost much or cost anything at all. And I can do that. Karma has been good to me, and it’s always good to continue to do good works to keep karma going in the right direction.

3. I will explore my creative side. I need to write more. I crave it. NEED it. I need to create. I remembered how to knit, I got a sewing machine, and I will be setting aside time for these activities. Maybe not everyday, but often. I will be creating. Without creative activities, I am half the person I am and use half of my life potential. That’s no good for anyone.

4. I will be more patient with everything: my kids, my husband, myself, others. I will meditate, pray, and remember grace, and I will walk with lighter steps in my patience for the world. Zen.

5. I will practice forgiveness. I have been forgiven by my Father in Heaven for all of my garbage, and I will forgive others for theirs. I have done a lot of that this year, and it shall just continue. Forgiveness is good for the soul, and that karma thing. Put in what I seek to get back. Golden Rule.

6. I will set boundaries for myself and for my kids. I will enforce those boundaries and pay no mind to those who seek to tear down those boundaries. I will guard my heart, my spirit, and my serenity and grant limited access to myself, my children, and our time to others. I have been very free with these things, and I am seeing the results of this. I seek to surround myself with positive people, and I can’t do that if I allow negativity and negative people or influences to infiltrate my walls. 2014 is all about positivity and light. Zen. Peace.

7. Focus on hearth and home. Work less, laugh more. Stress less, live more. Fret less, love more. Spend less, save more. Run around less, dance more. Be here for my girls. Be present for them. Motherhood first. Everything else comes after. Period.

8. Focus on my marriage. With three kids, life gets kind of…less than romantic. And I vow to focus more on my husband and our relationship, both as parents and as spouses. Again. More grace. More patience. More love. That shall be my mantra all around: grace, patience, love, zen.

How about you? Goals? Resolutions? Promises?

EmilyLey_StandardOfGracePromise. 🙂 You have my word.

What have you learned?

As my birthday approached last month, a good friend of mine asked me a question she asks herself every year on her birthday. She asked me, “What did you learn the last 365 days?” That blew me back a bit. I would have to say, with all honesty, that my thirty-first year on this planet we call home was the most educational year of my life thus far. It started out with a whimper and ended with an angelic chorus, with every single emotion/gesture/moment you can imagine in between.

On October 25, 2012, my husband came home at 8:28 in the morning with the worst news we had received to date. He was being laid off. We knew it was a possibility, but no one believed it would happen as it hadn’t up to that point. That was the very first day of my thirty-first year. This was not the way I had imagined my birthday starting, but that’s what I got. Lesson learned: be ready for anything as nothing is ever promised to last.

That evening, we were carving pumpkins; my mind had been reeling all day trying to figure out how we were going to make it for an unknown amount of time before he got his job back. My oldest was excited to put the pumpkins outside, and the then-youngest went outside with her. Unfortunately, the big one let the door shut on the little one, and a big toenail was ripped off. Screaming and bleeding ensued, and a trip to Statcare was in order. This was, yet again, not how I imagined my birthday ending, but it was another lesson learned: be present when the children use doors.

Not long after that, I found out we were pregnant with our third; she was the only one we had planned. I was overcome; not only had my husband lost his job, but our efforts to conceive had actually worked, and I had another thing to think about on top of all of the other garbage we had to deal with. I never would have imagined it would have worked the very first time, but the Universe being the Universe, of course it did. Lesson learned: the Universe will never give me more than I can handle, and She obviously thinks I am a rockstar.

Along with the pregnancy and stress that came with the layoff, we weren’t able to get any assistance because we had done everything the way we were supposed to. People were turning us down for help because we had never missed payments, had never paid anything late, and we were model citizens. We were to suck it up and figure it out, regardless of the fact that we had no idea what means we had to use to figure things out. Things looked bleak. Lesson learned: Never assume people “have” to help you because unless you have “messed up” along the way, no one will.

I hit Pinterest and the internet hard looking for ideas on how to survive on love and a few dollars a month. I found Dave Ramsey, meal planning, no spend months, emergency funds, debt snowballs, and making my own products at home. I was so foreign to Dave Ramsey, and his whole barrage of teachings, and I frankly had never taken him seriously before. Until I needed him. And he saved us. I swear to you, without his common sense approach to money and saving, I never would have made it as we did. Lesson learned: never write anyone off; you never know when you may need him/her.

We made it! It got tight. Really, really tight. Tighter than I had ever known before, and ever care to know again. But we never needed to borrow money while he was laid off.  Our kids still got Christmas gifts, they never went without, and they never went hungry. We never needed a hand out (good, since we didn’t get any). We also did not incur any extra debt; we never touched a credit card. And we never, ever missed a payment. We did everything we needed to do to make it work. We got our emergency fund and started working on the debt snowball, and we did it one step at a time. Lesson learned: we can live on way less than I ever thought we could. Ever.

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My husband had to work an awful job for over five months that involved him being gone a lot. We had no idea where or when he would be gone, nor for how long he would be out of town. He was gone a lot, and that took its toll on everyone. He didn’t want to be gone, but we didn’t have a choice. He was forced to take a job that was not a good fit, and no one had a say in the whole thing. I was stressed beyond belief, and I was not loving pregnancy. Nights were long, and days lasted forever. Times in between him being home lasted from three days to three and a half weeks. I cried many nights, praying to God to bring life back to normal because I just couldn’t take it anymore. I didn’t know it at the time, but I know God was using this situation to really drive it home to never take anyone or anything for granted. Lesson learned: cherish my husband, children, and loved ones as much as I can, as time with them is guaranteed to no one.

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July 2, 2013, I gave birth to the baby who anchored my soul. She has changed my life in ways innumerable. Her birth was a whirlwind. Waiting to have her taught me patience, the importance of breathing, and how far I can be pushed before I break. She is the most amazing, smiley, loving baby I have ever met; she makes me want to be around her and never let her go. Lesson learned: never think that motherhood means one thing; the definition can change as your life and children do.

In July, I celebrated a birth, a birthday, and an unexpected loss, all within 18 days of each other. I am still reeling from the loss, and it is one that I never expected would hurt me as much as it has. I think of my cousin every day, and I wish he were here for his kids every hour. I have been working on mending fences with his ex-wife over issues I had with her years before he died, and I have been praying for every member of my family who is touched by his passing. I find myself talking aloud to him, and I know he hears me. I want nothing more than 1 more hour with him, and I hate it that I won’t have the chance to until I am with him again. I miss him every single day, and his loss will be with me forever. Lesson learned: never forget to tell everyone I love them, mend fences while there is time to mend them, and be the best mother I can be because I never know when it will be my time, and my children and family need to know they come first.

In August, I celebrated the call back that brought our world back into focus. This phone call brought normalcy and celebration. My school year started, and I have learned more from my students I have ever considered possible. I have learned to let go, I know my limits now, and I can’t believe that I have the honor and privilege to reach out and touch so many students’ lives, present, past, and future. I am busier than I have ever been, more torn apart than I have ever been, but I know I will be stronger than I have ever been when winter break comes upon us. My husband is back to work, in a better situation than he left, and he is more stable there than he was before. And that knowledge makes all the difference. Life is back to normal, better than normal, and I have a greater appreciation for all of the lessons of the year. Lesson learned: never stop learning; life will change before I know it, be it for the better or worse, any given day. Never have an expectation of what “normal” is. It will change.  

I have learned so much. I learn every day. I learned who will be there for me, and who won’t. I have learned what a true friend is, and I have learned that friends I thought were true were really not so. These things happen when shit hits the fan: some people stay to comfort me, some people come in and out to compete with me, and some people don’t give a shit because they are too busy in their own lives to be concerned about what is happening in mine. Everyone reacts to these situations differently, and I don’t begrudge anyone their reactions, but I feel like I knew who I could talk to about it all and who I couldn’t talk to. I have learned who will cry with me, laugh with me, celebrate and commiserate with me. I have redefined the word friend, the action of being a friend has new meaning, and I hope to show my friends everyday how much I love them and appreciate their presence in my life. My friends that have stayed know I honor them and need them every day of my life, and I hope they need me in theirs as well.Family has a new meaning to me, and my family has shown us compassion and love beyond measure. Lesson learned: as I age, the definition of what is a friend should change, as it has, and it will until I am no longer on the planet. Everyone has a season, and a reason, in my life, and I know now how that can be defined and shifted, as it should.

I know when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em. I know how strong I am, I know how much I can handle, and I know that I can do any damn thing I set my mind to. There is nothing in this world I cannot survive, and every situation is temporary. Age thirty-one taught me more than I ever could have expected, from day one. And I am so thankful, grateful, and proud of myself and my family that we made it through that time. I have redefined my life, my life’s goals, and my plans for my family’s future due to the lessons of the last year. And I am sure something will happen again down the road that will make me reexamine things. We are due a life we can navigate now with confidence, one that can ultimately be easier and better in the end. Without those lessons, without that last year, I don’t think I would understand this. I didn’t know how good we had it until it was all gone, for almost an entire year. It takes those moments, those times of trial, to show us how lucky we are. And I am one lucky, fortunate, and ever grateful lady. I am ready for anything, and I know now that I can handle so much more than I ever imagined I could. Lesson learned: Life can really throw curveballs; you just have to know what to do with it once it leaves the Pitcher’s hand…

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