2015 - Baby Steps in High Heels

Friday, December 18, 2015

Room Mom

2:00 PM 0
Room Mom
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times … I am NOT the crafty mom. I am not the teacher mom. I am not the play date mom or the Pinterest mom.

But, today I was … the Christmas Party Room Mom.

And I survived! Okay, okay, I had 2 other room moms who did most of the crafty-thinking. And there were several other parents who showed up to help with those crafts. And with lunch. But I did stuff too! And I was pretty good at it! Who knew?

I led 5 rounds of making reindeer food for 4 Kindergarteners at a time. I know most of you could do that with your eyes closed, but I’m pretty sure it was sheer luck that it all worked out for me. My daughter even said I was funny and that it was the best day ever.

I won’t lie … I’m exhausted. And so, so grateful for people in this world who have hearts (and minds) to be kindergarten teachers. But I am also making a mental note that I will definitely want to do this again next year. What a great day!

Now … let’s get this vacation started!

Big, BIG shout out to The Gray Matters for their always awesome Reindeer Food Classroom Treat printable!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

He wanted her

8:34 AM 1
He wanted her
I have been a fan of the it takes a village mantra for a very long time. In a sense, it might be the only way we survive as working moms. It’s not about outsourcing our parenting, but about rallying our troops, circling our wagons, and cashing in all of our chips. Every single day. In today’s society, there is just no way to hold a full time job and manage to be a super-parent at the same time.

Last week I was discussing potty-training with a follow working mom who was frustrated with the day care workers. They continued to ask how potty-training was going at home. How could they not understand that we literally have our kids for 1 potty time per day during the week? How can we effectively make a difference in this process when they have our children for the majority of their bathroom trips?

On the other hand, I have always fully credited our favorite and beloved teacher from my daughter’s two-year-old class for potty-training her. I am pretty sure I contributed to about 2% of the efforts, and day care did the rest. My village totally came through for me.

It’s always been a balancing act; sometimes it is more of a struggle than other times. I have never really been hurt or offended when my kids cry for their teachers or explain how they might do a certain task differently (or better). I take comfort in knowing that my kids have come to love the people they spend every day with, even if they occasionally prefer a teacher to me.

This all came to a head yesterday, though. I think it was inevitable, a perfect storm of contributing factors …I’m still in recovery mode and not feeling well, and I do not really have a ton of energy yet. My two-year-old is in a very stubborn phase in which he wants to do everything himself. Our hot, muggy, stormy weather made day care pick-up difficult to begin with, so when my son wanted to buckle his own car seat (a task he is not yet capable of completing without help), we butted heads. I didn’t have the patience to let him try. He didn’t have the ability to understand why I just needed to get it done and get home.

He yelled. I yelled. Then it happened …

“I don’t want to go home. I want to go back to school. I don’t want to go with you.”

His words were like daggers to my heart. I already felt like I had let everyone down while I was sick. I had intentionally distanced myself from the kids to keep them from getting the same bug I’d had. I was already missing them, missing their snuggles and the sweet moments we should have been sharing over the last week. I was already in a fragile state emotionally.

When those words came, I lost it. I cried the whole way home, right along with my toddler. He cried for the comfort of his teachers, and I cried because I couldn’t give him the comfort he needed. He didn’t want me. He wanted his teacher. He wanted her.

My daughter watched the whole thing unfold and so sweetly comforted both of us. I explained that I was just really tired, and that having the energy to cry probably meant that I’m finally getting better (silver lining!). Once we were inside the house, I was able to make peace with my son by helping him remove that last pesky sock that he couldn’t get himself. And, just like that, he needed me again. He wanted me again. We hugged and apologized and made up over reheated soup and milk in his favorite Mickey Mouse cup.

Logic tells me that this was just a perfect storm: two-year-old tantrum meets exhausted mom, but in that moment, my heart broke. In that moment, I questioned every decision I’ve ever made about my children and child care and working. I wanted to be the only one my kids thought of when they needed comfort. I wanted to be their soft place to land.

The moment passed, though, and I remembered that I am all of those things for my kids. They just also happen to have other options, and that’s okay. In fact, I actually like that they have lots of soft places to land. I know they won’t always turn to me, especially as they get older, and I am grateful for a strong and loving village that is here not only to support me, but to support and comfort and lift up my children. 

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

When a Working Mom Gets Sick

10:11 AM 3
When a Working Mom Gets Sick
A couple of weeks ago, the slipped disc in my neck started acting up again. This time, it was causing more than just headaches. It was pinching a nerve, which in turn caused a multitude of fun symptoms … shooting pain down my arm, numb fingers and face, and an overall inability to do anything with my left hand. When I’d finally had enough, I visited my doctor who prescribed a steroid pack to reduce inflammation.

This worked great for a couple of days. Then my luck ran out. The nerve was no longer pinched or causing pain, but my stomach did not react well to the steroid. In retrospect, my doctor thinks I also had a stomach bug on top of the bad reaction to the medicine. It did me in. I was out of commission for the better part of 10 straight days. I spent my birthday in the ER getting fluids and zofran.

I’m not sharing all of this in hopes of finding a little pity party. I am sharing to emphasize that I was truly sick … not a cold or allergies or something that would allow me to partially function. I was literally incapacitated for over a week. As a working mom, this was an interesting experience.

Okay, my husband would probably use other words to describe his experience {overwhelming, frustrating, exhausting} given that he was doing every single thing for the kids, for his job, and for his sick wife. And, honestly, I didn’t think it was terribly interesting at first. I just thought it was, well, terrible. It was definitely a throw-back to my hyperemesis pregnancy days, just without the promise of a cute little bundle of joy at the end.

Once I started to come out of the I-feel-like-death-all-the-time phase, though, I did realize that interesting might actually be an appropriate descriptor. I was starting to wrap my head around the sad fact that I had not had an hour, much less a day (or 10, as it was in this case), in years when I had not been required to be doing something.  Whether I have been working or mom-ing, or wife-ing, or just living, life never stops.

Even in our rest times, rest the task at hand:
-this is my one hour to watch a recorded show, or
-this is my one night out with friends, or
-these are the six hours I have to sleep tonight, or
-this is our vacation, dang it. Enjoy it! Enjoy it all! This is your only chance to do so.

I had not been still or quiet or disengaged in so long, that my body needed to literally shut down in order to be capable of such a foreign state. Everything was such a blur for several days. And, when I started to come back to reality, I didn’t have the energy to concern myself with what I was doing right or wrong. I was still in survival mode. I was just not capable of stressing over details.  

And, do you want to know what happened while I was out of commission? Not much. Nothing fell apart. The kids were still fed, read to, and put to bed on time. Everyone was bathed and loved, and nothing fell through the cracks. Nothing.

(Except my birthday, which I think devastated my daughter a little as she recently informed me of the following: “Mom, I don’t think you’re 29. I think you said that last time. Maybe you’re closer to 100, which means a big party.” The girl does love any reason to party.)

I did miss a night out with friends, a morning walk to school, and a PTA meeting. I took a few days off of work. And, I haven’t had coffee or wine in 2 weeks … but, none of these things, or the sum of them, has thrown my life off course at all. Not one single bit.  

I didn’t just say no to one thing. I said no to everything. For almost two weeks. And nothing has changed. So maybe we can slow down, turn down, and let down from time to time. Maybe the world will keep turning even if we miss the occasional meeting. Maybe we don’t need to overextend ourselves just for the sake of doing so.

And, because I’d like to take something from my little illness {other my 8-pound weight loss that I’m not really too upset about}, I am going to take some peace of mind that I can choose my own priorities … that I am not less of a mother or wife or employee if I don’t take on that extra task every time. In her recent book, For the Love, Jen Hatmaker calls this taking things off the beam. I’m not sure what specific things I will take off the beam, but I do know that it’s time to start thinking about it more seriously.

If I could eventually find a way back to that peace and quiet state of being (minus the sickness), that wouldn’t be so bad either …

Friday, October 23, 2015

Working Mom Guilt

9:17 AM 2
Working Mom Guilt
There is an awesome group called Working Moms Against Guilt. I love their mission, but I am afraid that I’m not very good at fighting the working mom guilt myself … especially at this late point in my sales season. I’ve had overnight business trips, lunch time conference calls, and a ton of daily meetings and appointments, all of which have taken me away from precious family time in some capacity or another.

I can usually rationalize my circumstances, but I tend to come a little undone toward the end of a long sales season. And, I’m pretty sure my {teeny, tiny, innocent} children can smell my guilt from a mile away.

“Don’t “weave” me, Mommy!” cries the two-year-old.

“But, Mom! Aaaaalllll the other moms come have lunch with their children. Because they love their children,” insists the Kindergartener.

And, y’all, at this point, I am tired. I do feel guilty. And, I buy into every single word.

This should be the point where the wheels fall off of the cart when it comes to being organized and meal prepping, and alltheother crap I try to start the season off with in order to maintain some sanity. This should be the point where we slow down and I am happy just to remember to throw an applesauce into their lunchboxes before we run out the door. This should be the point when I start to relax.

But, no. Instead, this is the point where the guilt has finally overtaken my rational mind and turned me into Stepford-like crazy person.

“No, honey, you don’t have to go to daycare after school. I would be happy to take 45 minutes out of my day to sit in the ridiculous pick-up line and get you myself. Then, I’ll bring you home so you can watch Netflix and ask me a million questions while I “work” this afternoon.”

“Hey, why don’t we walk to school today? I totally have time for that!”

“It’s still nighttime, buddy, but of course I will hold you until the alarm rings. Or, better yet, let’s just get up at 5:00 a.m. on a Saturday so we can spend some quality time together.”

May I just say that aaaaaalllll the other moms are actually not eating lunch with their kids at school every day. I know this because I fell for that one, too.

Do you have mommy guilt? How do you overcome it? Please share your wisdom …

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Better Beauty with Beautycounter

11:26 AM 2
Better Beauty with Beautycounter
I promise this blog will not turn into a Beautycounter marketplace, and posts about skin care will not take over my social media platforms …. But I do want to tell you why I have chosen to sign up as a consultant with Beautycounter. It’s important.

Over the last few years, I have had an increasing number of personal friends diagnosed with cancer or autoimmune disorders. The numbers are high … about a half dozen of each (cancer & autoimmune) in just the last three or four years. We are talking about young, active, otherwise healthy women in their 30s. We are talking about moms with young kids. We are talking about my friends.

At first, the news was shocking. Gradually, it has sadly become a little more commonplace, and I am not really happy about that fact. I am not ready to sit back and accept these kinds of diagnoses. Before I move further, I want to say that I absolutely believe that these things can and do occur naturally. I also happen to believe that our environment can be a contributing factor.

If you’ve ever looked at my bio, it says that I’m ‘into clean eating’ … but the truth is that I want to be into clean eating. It’s a much more difficult (and expensive) task to accomplish, though, than I’d like to admit. Every time I turn around, some food item that I had deemed safe would be discredited (seriously, there’s no longer any legitimacy to that ‘an apple a day’ mantra). What we put into our bodies is a great responsibility, and it’s one I struggle with daily.

It took me a long time to realize that what we put on our bodies is just as big of a responsibility. When I did take that leap, I dramatically threw a ton of perfectly full bottles of shampoo, soap, and lotion right into the trash. I immediately ordered a variety of organic, natural, safe products to try out. Most of them kind of sucked. There were a few that I really loved at first, but then did weird things like leave behind interesting smells or build-up in my hair. Others simply didn’t work. (Um, have you ever tried ‘natural’ deodorant?) I quickly ruled almost every single one out.

When I posted on my Facebook page for suggestions, my friend from The Gray Matters immediately suggested Beautycounter. I think I fell in love with the company before I even tried the products. The founder wrote about wanting to create products that were better regulated, that didn’t contain known carcinogens, and that were generally better and safer for the women using them. I loved this idea, but I was definitely still skeptical given my recent experience with these kinds of products. Luckily, Beautycounter has sample sets that allow you to try some of their products before purchase … and I did just that! I was so excited when I realized that I not only liked this company’s model and purpose, but that I also liked their products.

“I’ll just sign up for the personal discount,” is what I said. It’s what I told myself and my consultant. And, I really meant it. For about a minute. The thing is, y’all, now that I have these products in hand, and now that I see how well they work, it’s hard to keep it all to myself. It’s even harder to watch friends and family continue to use products that contain ingredients that have literally been outlawed in other countries. The U.S. has incredibly poor regulations on skin care and cosmetic products and has only banned about 11 ingredients compared to almost 1400 ingredients banned in Europe.

I promised that I wouldn’t turn this blog into a daily sales pitch, but I did want to share this story and offer my help. If you want to learn more about products that are safer for you, safer for your family, and still work really well, please let me know! I would love to help.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

I talk about my kids when I am at work ...

1:44 PM 6
I talk about my kids when I am at work ...
As mothers, balancing work and family is a constant juggling act. Some days it feels more like a struggle. Some days I feel like a damn super hero.

On the days when I struggle, I am plagued with the feeling that I am never exactly where I am supposed to be. When I am at work, I feel as though I should be with my kids, and vice versa.

On the days when I channel Wonder Woman, I often look up around 10:00 a.m. and marvel at everything I have already accomplished. {Then, I realize that I have been awake for 5 hours and promptly feel a little more human.}

I definitely struggle when I need to bring work home with me, which is often given the seasonal nature of my job. And, ‘bringing work home’ can actually look like several different things in my life. It can simply be opening my laptop after the kids are in bed, or it can mean long-distance phone calls and hotel stays and the very obvious absence of mommy.

In those moments, I question everything. Is the time away worth it? Am I really where I am supposed to be? Will they know that this is hard on me too? Or will they only remember that mommy was gone a lot?

A fellow working mommy recently lamented that her daughter wants to be “a busy, busy, busy woman” when she grows up, an obvious emulation of her mother. I commiserated that my own daughter has shared that she wants to be a “girl who goes to lots of meetings and has her own computer” when she grows up (as a side job to her Pop Star gig, of course).

It can be hard to reconcile the demands of a career with the heartstrings of a mother. One of the ways that I attempt to maintain balance is in keeping my family at the forefront of my mind, even at work. In fact, I do this especially when I am at work.

Modern women often feel discouraged from overlapping business with family life, and I do make every effort to separate the truly personal aspects. But I talk about my kids when I am at work. A lot. I never shy away from mentioning their names or from sharing funny stories. I am not afraid to explain that I am tired today because the baby was up all night or that I need to leave early for a pediatrician appointment.

This is my life, and my life doesn’t prevent me from doing my job or from doing it well. In fact, I think I am more productive now, with kids, than ever before. I will not exclude them or separate them or shy away from a family reference if I think it has relevance.  

I have actually built up great rapport with customers and co-workers over topics like child care and potty training and the terrible twos. And, for now, the reason I know why I really am where I am supposed to be is simple: when I talk about my kids at work, people listen. They reply. They share their own stories and experiences. We’re all in this together, and we do better when we can be open and honest about real life. 

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

It's in the bag.

3:02 PM 0
It's in the bag.
It’s in the bag.

This is a modern colloquialism that roughly translates to “I’ve got this.”

The problem is … I don’t have anything. At least not in this bag, the bag that I have with me right now. Where is it? It’s in my other bag, I’m sure, the bag that I used last time.

(Pictured: Really big work bag, diaper bag, weekend purse, the laptop bag I usually use, and a cute clutch down in front. Also, the boy's backpack hanging on the hook above that we occasionally use when we don't want to lug the big diaper bag. I've used all of these in the last two weeks. Plus, not pictured, my luggage.)

It’s in the diaper bag. Or my laptop bag. Or my purse. Or my luggage.

Or, maybe it’s in the console of my car.

Who really knows?

I change bags so many times during a given week that I’m surprised I don’t lose track of more things. It’s usually just something simple like my sunglasses. Occasionally, though, it’s my wallet … which really stinks when I get all the way to the grocery store or airport without any money or form of ID.

On the other hand, I almost always have goldfish crumbs in my laptop bag and my work phone in whatever bag I have with me on the weekend. I just never seem to remember to transfer over the important items … like my favorite lip gloss.

Is it just me? Or is this a common problem in the world of working moms? Or moms in general? {Tell me I’m not alone!} Between work, dropping kids off at school or extracurricular activities, running errands, and the occasional night out, I literally cycle through at least 3 bags each week, more if I have a business trip and need to pack luggage.

Is there a better way to stay organized? If you know it, please share it! 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Lessons I learned in the first 26 hours of Kindergarten ...

3:53 PM 4
Lessons I learned in the first 26 hours of Kindergarten ...
We did it! All of the anticipation and planning and school-supply-buying is over, and we survived the first day of Kindergarten. What a day. I’m sure Miss Mighty learned a ton, but so did I … some lessons were easier learned than others. 

These are just a few things I learned in the first 26 hours of Kindergarten.

- It's important to dress for success. No matter how many times you discuss the ‘first day’ outfit in advance, it will change once the actual first day arrives. The pink will not be pink enough {“MOM! It’s NOT even magenta!”} or a tag will itch or a mind will simply change. If the new choice is within dress code, let it be.

- Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I prepared enough food to feed the entire class of children and my child only wanted 3 mini-waffles from a box. So much for starting the day on a full belly, but at least the trash can wasn’t hungry any more.

- What’s that saying about idle hands?? This may have been my least productive day at work. Ever. Had I been one of those high schoolers who daydreamed and doodled ‘Mrs. Brad Pitt’ on my notebooks, I would have accomplished more than I did yesterday. I spent nearly the entire morning wondering if she was okay, if she was being bullied, if she was making friends or having fun or learning. Longest 120 minutes of my life, and it wasn’t even lunch yet. Yes, I counted the minutes.

- A mother’s work {worry} is never done. Did she eat her lunch? Did she like it? She asked for something I didn’t expect her to really want. What if she’s starving?! Maybe I should pop up there and check? Just for a second. No … no. Probably not. Well? Maybe …

- Absence makes the heart grow fonder. The long anticipated end-of-the-day reunion will be utterly anti-climactic. I won’t point fingers, but some moms (not me, of course) miiight watch the clock, nervously waiting for an appropriate time to rush go up to school and embrace retrieve their child. Said child might greet the mother with a lackluster, “go get brother first, please” remark while snacking on a granola bar.

- Flip flops are not allowed at school. You will learn more about your child’s day based on how they describe it, rather than the words they use. I took away three key pieces from Mighty’s retelling of her first day: 1) there is an invisible TV in her class room (the projector screen, I assume); 2) flip flops are not allowed; and 3) Kindergarten is magic. I really wanted to press for more details, but I decided to just agree that that seemed to add up to a pretty awesome day.

- Mother/daughter drama begins well before the teenage years. However awesome the day, a decompression phase will always follow. Imagine my surprise when I simply asked my child if she was hungry for dinner yet (remember the aforementioned granola bar she had just finished only an hour earlier? Anyway … ), and she responds with a full-on turbo-nuclear meltdown: “MOM! It was my FIRST DAY of KINDERGARTEN! And you just ruined it!!!” Oh, the tears! I had interrupted the first chance she’d had all day to play.

- Kindergarten is exhausting. Not only was my big girl, fast asleep by 7:08 p.m., but I don’t think she moved a muscle until the wee hours of the morning. She did jump out of bed, happy and ready to go back to school this morning, which was a good sign until …

Enough sleep is not always enough sleep. Eleven hours in bed last night was simply not enough to abate first-day exhaustion, but five-year-olds don’t understand that. So, instead of just telling you they’re still tired, they say things like: “This bacon is disgusting. This dress itches. I don’t know how to brush my teeth.” Apparently complaining about their favorite foods, the clothes they picked out themselves, and completing simple chores they’ve been doing for years is the most appropriate way to behave when your mom announces that we need to leave the house in 7 minutes, people, get it together.

Despite the angst, and the fits, and the bumps in the road (for both mother and child), the most consistent word Mighty used to describe her day was: magic. I hope she always feels that way about school. How did school start for your kids this year? How about for mom?

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Before school starts ...

3:27 PM 0
Before school starts ...
As a parent, making peace with day care has been an uphill battle. We tried three different places before we landed where we are today. My first hesitations were a mix of new-mom apprehensions and the location of the center, which was across town from our house. We loved, and I mean loved, a few of the teachers at the second day care, but the overall atmosphere was not ideal. And, we didn’t love our child’s current teacher when we decided to move again.

Finally, we ended up at a smaller preschool located about half a mile from our home. It was housed in a church and offered a Christian curriculum. I continued to struggle with my own mom issues when things weren’t done exactly as I would have liked. Actually, I still struggle with a few things here and there – like, is there a reason my son still has lunch remnants on his face when I pick him up at 5:00? But, aside from a few minor things, we have been truly blessed with the teachers and staff at our current school.

The most significant problem is that, unfortunately, we have outlived most of the truly great teachers. The first amazing teacher, the one who loved, nurtured, and potty trained my daughter moved away to be closer to family. The second amazing teacher, the one who was there when the preschool-atmosphere really picked up for my oldest, is actually still working at our day care. However, she is so good at what she does that she has taken on more of an administrative role, and I worry that she will no longer be in the classroom by the time my son gets to that class level.

Miss Mighty’s final teacher this last year has been a Godsend. It’s not often that a day care employs a teacher with an actual teaching degree. Miss Abby has really brought out the very best in my daughter, and I teared up this week as we talked during pick-up. Not only are we starting Kindergarten, but Abby is leaving for a new teaching job with a local school district. We talked about her work with my child, how much love there is between the two of them, and how both will be starting new adventures in the coming days. These are new and exciting changes for all of us, but change is still difficult. 

Although I have checked all the boxes on the Kinder Prep checklist (school supplies, clothes within dress code, join the PTA …. Yes, yes I did), I have been intentionally avoiding the emotional side of our transition to Kindergarten. This requires more than just facing the simple fact that my baby is growing up and will be taking her first steps into the real world. It’s a big transition in our proverbial village as well. There will be a new teacher, principal, friends, and friends’ parents … all brand new relationships to cultivate. Who will we trust? Who will give us pause? How long until we feel comfortable enough to relax our guard?

We will also transition our schedules and activities, our priorities (did somebody say homework?!), and our lives. Okay, okay, maybe a five-year-old going to Kindergarten won’t really turn our lives upside down, but it will be an adjustment. Just today, I realized that this will be the last Wednesday evening before school starts that we can push bedtimes, meet friends for dinner and live music, and not worry if the kids sleep a few minutes late in the morning.

What are you thinking about before school starts? Will your village be changing this year? How are you holding up? 

Monday, August 3, 2015

The Best and Worst Things About Working at Home

7:59 AM 1
The Best and Worst Things About Working at Home
Happy August. It’s back to reality for me … my Mommy GuiltVacation was great, but it is definitely time to get back into a normal routine.

{And, apparently mommy guilt vacation also equaled a blog vacation. Sorry about that!}

This week, I will spend some time preparing for my upcoming travel season. I like to try to do a little meal prep for those long weeks of travel and inconsistent schedules. Next week, I will be in Annapolis for my sales meeting. Then it’s just one more week until Miss Mighty begins Kindergarten and I hit the road for the upcoming sales season. It feels like August is already over!

As I get closer to my fall travels, week in and week out of half-packed luggage and “I have no idea where I am supposed to be tomorrow,” I have been reflecting on the time I spent working from home this summer. So, for a little lighthearted “back to reality” special today, I give you:

The 5 Best and 5 Worst Things About Working at Home

The Worst ….

Robo-calls. These seriously annoy me. I actually think I get more now that I’ve signed up for the Do Not Call registry. It’s insanity.

Soliciting Sales people. No, I don’t want to buy your cleaning supplies or pest control or Jesus. I have my own Jesus, thankyouverymuch. Anyway, I’m on a conference call right now.  

Refilling my Brita pitcher 8 times a day gets really old, really fast. And lunch dishes. I hate doing lunch dishes.

It’s not terribly inspiring at home. (Have you notice how quiet the blog has been this last month?)

Even though my couch is right there, I still can’t seem to find time to squeeze in a nap.

The Best …

Watching reruns of Gilmore Girls on the lunch hour. (I could probably just stop there, right?)

Flexible Schedules are nice. Despite feeling like I need to multi-task work/home duties all day, it is really nice to be on my own time.

Messy Hair, don’t care. Seriously. And pajamas until noon (or 4 o’clock. Whatever.)

I don’t have to hit the gym at the same time as all the others scurrying to fit it in before heading to the office. I go when it’s quiet.

Sometimes, I work from a pedicure chair. That’s what laptops, cell phones, and wifi were made for, right? 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

5 Things {Some} Working Moms Think About on Monday Mornings

7:30 AM 10
5 Things {Some} Working Moms Think About on Monday Mornings

We working moms cherish our weekends with our family because we know Monday morning will roll around all too soon, and it will be back to the grind – work for us, child care for our kiddos, and lots of schedules, routines, and hurrying. Those relaxed moments over the weekend are so precious.

Before I had kids, Monday mornings were rough. Back to the grind meant waking up early and not being on my own time for the next five days straight. After kids, I couldn’t even really tell you what my own time means anymore, so that factor is relatively inconsequential.

And, let’s face it, what is early? Really, if I can sleep until 6 a.m., I feel like I’ve won the lottery.

So, yes, we love our children {obviously} and we appreciate the way weekends slow our pace, but there are also a few things we appreciate about Monday mornings …

I will drink my entire cup of coffee while it is still hot. Okay, maybe not my first cup, because one small person or another will inevitably need something before my third sip. This is okay, though, because there will come a time and a place for a second cup. That time and place will be at the quiet of my desk after everyone has gone to school. And my coffee will be hot down to the last drop.

Mommy guilt, be gone. The schedule is the schedule. I don’t know about you, but my kids always ask for outlandish activities or outings. Ice cream for breakfast, a quick trip to Hawaii, joining the circus this week. “Please, Mommy, please?! You never let us do anything fun.” I know these are silly requests, but I often feel the guilt of constantly being the reason for the no. When Monday morning rolls around, no is not my fault. We have work and school, and that’s just the way life works.

I don’t have to find an excuse for not being crafty for the next five days. I am terrible at kid-type projects. Chalk and paint and art supplies in general leave me overwhelmed and thinking about all the messes we will make. I can read stories and build towers any time, but I tend to shy away from anything that has ever found its way to Pinterest. So, unless a holiday is looming, I tend to take the pressure off of myself during the work week. The kids do at least a half dozen art project at school, and I’m glad for the help.

Aaahhh, lunch break. Whether it is a lunch break with adult conversation or jamming your own music during your commute or just a five minute pause in the day to check email or social media or call to check in on family or friends … it is quiet. I am very aware that a lot of moms do not have breaks like these, so I am always grateful for the quiet moments that I can sneak into my work week.

I can actually hear myself think. Tell me it’s not just me. Those tiny little people have sucked your brain dry, too, right? Yesterday, while trying to explain something to Husband that should have taken 60 seconds, I explained ‘when is Thursday’ in roughly a dozen different ways to both my preschooler and toddler. Then I promptly forgot what I was trying to tell Husband. On Monday morning, not only can I hear myself think, but I can actually remember most of my thoughts. The novelty!

What are you thinking when Monday morning rolls around? 

Monday, July 6, 2015

Cold sandwiches

6:51 AM 1
Cold sandwiches
Husband and I were kid free for a couple of days over the weekend. We had very grand plans to “do all of those things we never have time to do when the kids are home” …

We did none of those things.

We took two hour naps.

I read two books. Two entire books. And started a third.

I did not meet my step-goal on the fitbit. Not one single day. Oops.

Sunday rolled around, and I proclaimed that I might like to cook dinner. You know, actually cook dinner. Not throw something in the crock pot. Not reheat leftovers. But actually cook. I do love to cook {when I have time} …

The idea sounded so lovely. I would pour a glass of wine. Then, I would leisurely chop and slice and prepare fresh ingredients for a delicious meal we would enjoy together. Just the two of us.

The idea sounded so nice. When I mentioned it at noon.

By the time the evening rolled around, I casually asked, “Husband, do you know what I love about cold turkey sandwiches?”

“That I make them?” he responded.

YES. Absolutely. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Mommy {Guilt} Vacation

2:13 PM 4
Mommy {Guilt} Vacation
Many jobs offer a couple of weeks of paid vacation each year. Mine does. I usually take those days during the holidays, kids’ school vacation, and the occasional family trip or getaway with Husband. I enjoy those vacation days. I have earned those vacation days.

This week it dawned on me that I have also put in enough time to qualify for a couple of weeks of vacation each year from the ever-present mommy guilt. You know what I’m talking about. That little voice that calls you a failure if your kids are picky eaters or throw a tantrum or still don’t seem to tight-rope walk on command. Sometimes I call that voice Pinterest, but when I’m being honest, I know it’s really just me. This little voice, my voice, is ever present in my own head.

But not this week. Actually, not for the next TWO WEEKS.

A couple of days ago, I decided to give myself a two-week vacation from that little pesky voice. We will be on a real vacation for about 5 days during this time frame, but I decided that my guilt-free vacay should start immediately. I also decided that I should get to enjoy this time in the comfort of my own home, not just during some short stint in a rental (where real-life rules rarely apply anyway).

These are the tenants that will guide me through:

I will not fight with my kids about broccoli. If the only ‘fruit’ they eat for the next couple of weeks is applesauce and the occasional banana, so be it. I will take a break from this battle. To that end, if we only eat cereal for dinner, I’m good with that, too.

We will lie on the couch and snuggle and watch TV. We will not try to cram kinder-prep books or worksheets or activities into the very few, precious hours I have with my kids between the end of the work day and bedtime. We will snuggle and laugh and just relax. (And, before you suggest playing outside, just come visit us in our little rain-soaked, mosquito laden, 98% humidity piece of Texas.)

We will not hurry up for anything. We will slow down. If we are late, we are late. If we miss something, we miss something. I will not stress about the little things. That includes bedtimes and evening routines and all of our other daily struggles. If it happens, it happens. In the meantime, we will just be.

We might wear pajamas and/or swim suits in public. We {might} do this while on our actual vacation. We {might} do this when leaving from our own home. Who cares? I sure don’t.

I will respond to requests with a lot of mmm-kays and whatev’s… I am so, so tired of saying no all the damn time. Mmm-kay? Right now, I don’t care. If you’re not bleeding, choking, or in danger of those things happening, it’s all good. You want cookies for dinner? If you can get them for yourself, go for it!

I should be clear, that I will not use these tenants as excuses for a lapse in general parenting. My kids will be clothed, fed, cleaned, and loved daily. These are merely guidelines for my own brain to stop obsessing over all those little details that tend to drive me a little batty.  

Mommy needs a break, and the time is now. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

You don't have to color in the lines ...

7:35 AM 5
You don't have to color in the lines ...
Sunday night, Husband and I attended a benefit for a sweet 6-week-old baby who recently passed away after a hard-fought battle with cancer. This is only one of several heartbreaking stories in my small community right now. Shortly after this sweet baby gained her angel wings, another local family lost their days-old baby to an unexpected illness.

Because both of these girls are children of local musicians, the support that has surrounded their families has been from their parents’ peers – other musicians. I was surprised and awed when one of the fathers essentially hosted the benefit Sunday night. He sang a version of “Hallelujah” that had everyone in tears. The other father went back to work – on tour with his band – very quickly.

At first I thought that as a working parent, I could just not fathom going back to my job in the wake of such grief. To me, family and business have always been separate. But, as I read more posts on social media, press releases, and comments from their fellow musicians, I started to realize something bigger. Music isn’t just a job for these guys. It is who they are. It is their very being – how they feel, process, survive. It’s how they grieve and celebrate, live and endure.

I thought what a bittersweet blessing it must be for these parents to be able to “work” through these difficult days. The benefit  was arguably the saddest and yet, most awe inspiring thing I have ever witnessed.  A mix of little known singers with legends came together on stage and, very organically, used music to pour out their hearts – to express their grief and love and hope.

As I watched this unfold, I had a small realization about my own sweet girl. “This” was who she would be one day. Whether it will be through music or not remains to be seen. But watching those artists on stage literally live life in front of me, I realized that my daughter was also wired this way – she is so feeling and emotional, such a performer, and definitely a free spirit. This is all foreign to my own Type-A personality, but I am grateful for this small epiphany. It has opened my eyes and my ears, and especially my heart, to truly hear her beautiful wisdom these last few days …

“Mommy, it doesn’t matter to me if you color in the lines. It’s beautiful.”

I have tried to slow down, to listen more, to really hear and see her. She dances everywhere she goes. It takes us longer to get places because of it, but she is happiest when she is twirling. Sometimes she does color inside the lines. Sometimes she doesn’t. Sometimes she uses half a dozen colors on one single dress. It’s always beautiful.

I know that our two very different personalities will clash over the years. (I am willfully avoiding even thinking about the teenage years for now.) But I am also forever grateful for these two little lives, cut way too short, and for their brave parents’ authenticity. They have helped me to see my own child.

{Please keep these families in your prayers and they endure the unimaginable.}

Friday, June 12, 2015

My Tiny Assistant

9:15 AM 0
My Tiny Assistant
This week, my tiny assistant was back in the office with me. These are not the most productive days on my schedule, which is probably why they are a rare occurrence. They are, however, an adventure – full of enlightenment and so much fun.

This week,  Miss Mighty helped me implement several new {home} office policies.

Policy #1 – Silly Face Selfies are a must. Typically, I would not condone workplace selfies, but my tiny assistant insisted, and I made an exception.

Policy #2 – Ridiculous lunch options are sometimes the best. Jelly toast and lemonade? Why not? I was on professional duty, not mom duty, so this was not the time to go to battle over mealtime antics.

Policy #3 – Nap time is only awesome when you can do it in the middle of the work day. Does any child actually like to nap? Even if they need it, do they ever go down without a fight? Not in my house. Working mom nap time, though? It is pretty awesome.

Policy #4 – Strawberry Shortcake makes for the best elevator music. It’s sad but true. I wasn’t going to get anything accomplished without at least a little TV time for Mighty, so I did my afternoon work to the tune of Cherry Jam superstar.

Y'all, I have come to realize that tiny assistants are better than regular sized ones. Sometimes, this is because you can send them to timeout when they’re being obnoxious instead of worrying about some HR nonsense, but mostly it is because they give you the best reasons to smile.

Friday, June 5, 2015

School lunches are a year-round thing for working moms ...

9:46 AM 4
School lunches are a year-round thing for working moms ...
Moms of school-aged children everywhere are celebrating this week that they will have a much needed reprieve from making the dreaded school lunch five days a week. For working moms with kiddos still in day care or summer programs, we are not so lucky. School lunches are one of the most frustrating struggles I face with my kids.

Why? You might ask: why? What is so difficult about packing a little lunch box? So very, very many things, I tell you. Some are real, true struggles. Others are silly little non-issues that I tend to obsess over. They all add up, and they add up every single day of the work week. Every. Day.

Picky eaters. Y’all. Never have I ever delighted so pathetically and yet genuinely as I did the day my daughter decided she would eat turkey sandwiches for lunch. She doesn’t eat peanut butter. She has basically never eaten anything that would easily pack well in a lunch box. Thank goodness for the lovely lady that works in her preschool’s kitchen who would warm up macaroni or quesadillas for her for the past 3 years. But, PRAISE the LORD, we can now pack a {simple} sandwich, which does require special bread and extra cheese … but it can be packed, stored, and eaten cold. Halleluiah! This child has been a picky eater since day one, so please forgive what may appear to be an excessive use of rejoicing prayers. I assure you: they are 100% heartfelt.

Little supervision and lots of waste. The teachers at school are wonderful, but let’s face it: there is just no way they can supervise what each and every child does or does not eat. Heck, I can’t even handle that task with my own two kids. Trying to strike a balance between healthy meals and still pack items they will actually eat is tough. I have no idea how teachers manage to get 18 preschoolers to stay in their seats much less eat the good food first and dessert last. So, whether or not my child eats the healthy items I packed or just the cheese crackers and two bites of the aforementioned turkey sandwich is always a crapshoot. This in turn leads to so much waste that it tends to drive me a bit crazy. Y’all, this is a year-round-never-ending struggle, and I am kinda tired of it.

Remembering to do it is such a chore. Never mind that two sentences ago I explained that this is a year-round-never-ending struggle, it somehow always seems to sneak up on me. I know I have to do it, but other tasks always seem to take priority leaving me scrambling to throw lunches together at 6 a.m. I mean, really. My coffee hasn’t even kicked in at that point, so of course I’m grumpy about assembling sandwiches and thermos containers and the carefully selected snack items that are juuuust the right balance of healthy and tasty so maybe {just maybe} they’ll be eaten instead of trashed. I have always been a decent enough morning person, but this level of decision-making prior to my second cup of coffee is just not fair. Never mind that it’s of my own doing. Really, I just whined that it’s not fair, so I think we are past the point of reason now …

Washing a million tiny containers stinks. This particular an effort to ‘save the earth’ is likely to push me over the edge one day. I don’t know if it’s that this task comes at the end of the work day or if it is because I have to clean each bowl/lid/cup and trash uneaten food that I had so enthusiastically prepared for my children a mere 10 hours earlier, but there are days that I would rather just put everything in disposable baggies and tell the kids to throw away anything that isn’t consumed by snack time. It might save us all a bit of sanity. I’m not there yet as it would be totally against my Type A-need to know what is actually making it into their little bellies during the day.

Do you love making your kid’s lunches? If so, PLEASE tell me why and how . And if you’re willing to come make my kids’ lunches, too.

Happy summer!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Even the tiniest ripple: how can we help?

10:31 AM 10
Even the tiniest ripple: how can we help?
What a month May has been in my little community. We’ve had lots of bad news topped off by devastating weather here in Texas these last few days.

It is so easy to become overwhelmed in times like these. It seems that there is no end in sight for the cancer warriors, loss mommies, and flood victims that we call neighbors and friends. Their battles are just beginning, and we want to help without really knowing how or when or where we are most needed.

These are the times when I find myself unsure of my place in it all. I want to help everyone, but I have no idea where to start. I have written about this before, and it is part of my slow-to-start initiative Even the Tiniest Ripple. Today, I’d like to see what we can to do make a few ripples in this sea of overwhelming devastation by discussing specific ways to provide assistance.

Pray. In talking with some of those affected, I can assure you that the most requested mode of help is PRAYER. In whatever way you can, simply lifting up those affected is most appreciated.

Donate. If you are looking for more tangible ways to help those in need, you can make monetary donations to legitimate organizations like the United Way, Red Cross, or local food banks and churches. Some individuals also have Go Fund Me accounts (or the like), but please donate with caution and always verify that the funds will be turned over to the appropriate parties.

Volunteer. There are also many opportunities to directly volunteer your time, resources and efforts. With the recent flooding in Texas, I have seen a wide variety of offers-- everything from bull dozers and chainsaws to glucose and syringes to stuffed animals. These donations are so very much appreciated, but also need to be properly organized. Check social media outlets and call individual City organizations to find out where your efforts can be most beneficial.

Love. Attend and help promote benefits for those affected. I love benefits, because I see them as a way that individual people put their own talents and resources to use – whether those include cooking, singing, organizing, rallying, or even just showing up. Better said, benefits are direct ways to show our love for those around us.  

Remember. It is easy to want to jump in and help when the news first breaks, but most of the people affected by illness or loss or weather devastation will endure these conditions for weeks or months or years to come. Mark your calendar for 6-weeks out, then 3 months, and longer if you would like. Check in as time passes and offer assistance, continued prayers, a friendly shoulder to lean on even as time goes by. These events change lives forever.

If you would like to become involved in helping with any of the recent tragic situations, you can find more information at the links below.

These links are to social media outlets that will connect you to many other area resources for each community. 

Monday, May 18, 2015

Preschool Graduation

9:16 AM 1
Preschool Graduation
It's hard to believe how big our little girl is getting.

Last week, we celebrated her preschool graduation, and I could not possibly have a bigger mix of emotions. It's bittersweet to watch your baby grow up, but we have such joy and hope for her future.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

In defense of the princess ...

9:29 AM 8
In defense of the princess ...
This week I read a post that made a plea for rough and tumble boyhood. This is what boys need to be true to themselves. I loved it. Today, I am making a plea for the princess-loving girly girls.

It is the sad truth that our culture has tried to turn dainty princesses into idols. Soft spoken damsels in distress have been made out to be the ultimate role models for young girls everywhere. It’s no wonder that modern women have turned up their noses at these antiquated ideals. We want our young girls to have strong, independent, self-sufficient women to admire. We want our young girls to aspire to greatness, not some demure, helpless thing in a pretty dress.

However, I just do not think that strong/independent/self-sufficient and pretty/sparkly/princess things need to be mutually exclusive.

I have watched my own daughter naturally, and against my own intentions, gravitate toward everything pink. When she was two, her favorite colors {in her own words} were: pink, purple, and sparkly. This is a girl who did NOT have a pink nursery. We did not buy her a lot of pink clothing, and she did not see a princess movie until almost age three. Yet, when she did, it was like she had found herself.

We thought she would outgrow the phase, but rather the princess obsession has only matured. Instead of role playing Cinderella, she now transforms into her own princess during playtime. Sometimes it is a combination of princesses she has watched in movies {and yes, we have gone through the obligatory and lengthy Princess Elsa phase}, but often she acts out her very own scenes.

She always wants to wear the longest ball gown she can find in her closet. Sometimes she layers dresses. Every piece of jewelry is carefully selected to complete her look, and sometimes she wears every single necklace, bracelet, and tiara she can find at the same time.

If, for some reason, she cannot play with her dress-up clothes, she turns towels into dresses, napkins into bracelets, rocks into rings, and books into tiaras. She channels her creativity and uses her imagination. And she is happy.

And when she is finally satisfied with her princess costume concoction du jour, she twirls.

And when she dances and twirls, all dressed up like a princess, the look of pure joy on her face cannot be ignored. She is in her element. She is her very own self. Being a princess-loving girl does not make her weak. It does not make her incapable. It does not mean she has less potential for greatness.

She is fierce. She is strong. She is independent. She never waits for a prince to rescue her. (Unless, of course, she is explaining to him how to do it.) Being true to herself and not being forced into somebody else’s conflicting ideal is what will propel her toward a lifetime of both joy and success. 

Friday, May 8, 2015

Rinse and Repeat

3:15 PM 0
Rinse and Repeat
Earlier this week, I wrote about the extraordinary amount ofsad news I have heard this week. Since that time, I have heard even more. Last night I wrote a list with the names of each person. There are EIGHT names on the list. Eight heartbreaking stories for people I know. Cancer. Hospitalization. Death. Loss. Grief. Sorrow. Infants. Children. Mothers. Fathers. I am praying for each of those names on the list, praying for their families, and for hope.

When I sat down to write today, I was determined to produce something lighthearted, something happy, to balance the melancholy. I have thought about my kids, about Mother’s Day, about the upcoming summer. There really is so much joy around me, and the most joyful part of my life is the infectious, innocent laughter of my children.

I wanted to write a humorous ode to mothers of young children about what we are not. We are many things, but we are not tissues or towels or chairs or pillows. I had actually stored this idea away in my head for a couple of weeks. It was going to be hilarious, or at least as hilarious as I can be.

But then, last night, my daughter used me as a towel. On purpose. Her cup leaked, and instead of reaching for the towel that was right next to her, she walked across the room and wiped it on my arm. 

She had that look on her face. She was trying to conceal her smile, trying in vain not to laugh. But, laugh she did. At first, only a tiny giggle escaped, and she watched me cautiously to see how I would react.

I couldn't help but grin back at her mischievousness, and just the start of my accepting smile was all it took to set her off. She erupted into laughter, the absolute best {from the bottom of your belly} kind of laughter. We laughed together. She ran to the bathroom sink to wet her hands again and returned for another round. She (literally) rinsed and repeated several times, without a single break in her hearty laughter.

It’s true that most days I do not want to be a tissue or towel. That’s what they make actual tissues and towels for, right? But sometimes that’s just the way it goes with small children. And sometimes it can be exactly what a mom’s heart needs … ridiculous, light hearted, innocent fun. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Where was the mother?

1:57 PM 7
Where was the mother?
This week has brought more sad news than I tend to hear at one time. I am so grateful that my nearest and dearest are all okay, but I am heartbroken for several families around me. One piece of sad news is more than enough, but this week, it has just kept coming.

I learned about a little boy in our community who was mauled to death by several dogs. While he played in a friend’s backyard. Can you imagine how scared must he have been? Immediately, the questions started spinning: where was the mother?

(She had been right inside with other adults. Nobody heard anything until it was too late.)

Then the news broke about a local school nurse, recently widowed and mother of two young boys, who has been diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer. They found it after examining her for worsening headaches. It had already metastasized to her brain.

Perhaps the question here is not, "where was the mother?" I know there are other questions that are racing through her mind relentlessly. How long will she have? Will she beat this? Will this take the only remaining parent away from two precious children who have already lost so much?

Then, yesterday I heard of the passing of a friend's two-year-old son. He’d had a heart condition, but it was well monitored and under control by all accounts and measures. He just stopped breathing.

Where was the mother?

She was holding him. Crying. Administering CPR until paramedics arrived, still holding him when they were officially unable to revive him, knowing that she would never hold him again.

These are not the stories you want to hear in the days leading up to Mother's Day. They are not the stories anyone ever wants to hear. And yet they are true, honest, real stories of motherhood.

Yet, even in the wake of these tragic events, I cannot shake the feeling of hope. Each of these mothers has gone out of her way to express her love, her faith, and her gratitude for the time she's had with her children. Each mother has asked for a celebration of life.

Even in her darkest hour, a mother never ceases to love. To fight. To mother. To carry on. Through unimaginable grief and loss, a mother never lets go of hope. Because sometimes hope is all there is. And sometimes I think that motherhood is the very definition of hope. Or vice versa, maybe?

She is clothed with strength and dignity … a proverb that suggests a future of rejoicing, even laughter.  

Where was the mother?

She was right there. She is right here. No time or space or loss or gain can move her. In the most complex and simplest of ways, she just is