Being Thankful (That I Didn't Puke)

It is November and a lot of people do the "Month of Thankfulness." They list something they are thankful for every day. I admire that...I wish I could do that, but I am not that disciplined. BUT today I want to take a stab at it...and not because I am particularly thankful...more because I have to find things I am thankful for because it has been a shitty morning (pun intended).

My husband is out of town. He has been for a little while. And it has been pretty smooth sailing. We miss him, but the home is clean and running great. Until this morning.

My son saw it first. He yelled "Mom, the dogs pooped all over the living room." I was just waking up and not really comprehending what he was saying. And I was a little confused because out of our two dogs, the one that would do such a thing slept in my room all night.

Then I realized it was Duke.

Duke

Duke

Duke never does anything like this. He must of been sick or is just a complete asshole. Hard to tell.

Duke is a 150 pound German Shepherd. Take a second to think about how much poop could be in a 150 pound dog. Got it?

Well, that is actually not the worst of it. Most of our house doesn't have carpet, but the hallway and the front room does.  It has brown carpet. Some might even say poop brown carpet. Yep, that is where he pooped on the brown carpet so I can't see the poop that well since it is camouflaged. 

I can't adequately describe this blind poop hide and seek game. It was horrifying to say the least. And I have a keen sense of smell and a quick gag reflex...it was a recipe for disaster. 

However, I made it through...the first round of cleaning. And I am thankful. 

So Let's make a Thankful List

The Awesome Son

The Awesome Son

1. I am thankful for a son that is able to help out. He fed himself breakfast, he got himself ready, and he made lunch for both himself and his sister. Thank you Bubba...I appreciate you. 

Yep, that is poop water.

Yep, that is poop water.

2. I am thankful that we have a shampooer. Seriously things would be dark and horrible right now if I didn't have this to deep clean the carpet. Shit be real around here.

So yummy smelling!

So yummy smelling!

3. You know how a smell just sticks with you? Well, I am thankful for cleaners and lots of smelly candles. I just bought a new candle that smells AH-MAZING! The  Cedar Magnolia - Hearth & Hand™ with Magnolia... your know the Target Chip and Joanna Gaines line? I am basic. I am okay with it. That candle is helping me get past the poop smell. 

Me, and my basic self, enjoying coffee.

Me, and my basic self, enjoying coffee.

4. I am thankful for places with drive thru coffee and breakfast sandwiches so I can have energy to keep defunking my home. 

And last, but certainly not least...

So thankful.

So thankful.

5. I am thankful that I have a dog that we love even when he explosively poops all over the house and for the other dog (who actually eats poop, but that is a different story.) I am thankful for my kiddos, I don't know how I got so lucky to have such kind, helpful, funny, and amazing kids. I am thankful for my husband and will be even more grateful when he returns. I am thankful for a home that shelters us...it may not be perfect, but it is ours (well, it is the banks, but we pay for it). And I am thankful I didn't puke this morning. That is not another thing I would like on my list to clean today. 

There is always, always, always something to be thankful for.
— Anonymous

So what are you thankful for?

Over the next couple of weeks we will talk about being more thankful and explore some crafts for kids to get their own gratitude flowing. In the meantime, here are some suggestions to get you started.

Thankful Actions

  • Keep a gratitude journal.
  • Be in the present.
  • Think bigger than yourself.
  • Say "thank you."
  • Start focusing outward not inwards. 

Okay since I am getting over the trauma of the poop-apocalypse, I will get serious about my own thankful actions. 

Look for the good! See you soon!

Be Our Guest

We are about to host a foreign exchange student. All four of us are so excited!

I mean, obviously a little nervous too. When people stay with you they get to see the real you. Eek!

He is a young man, 11 years old. He will only be with us for a week and a half. It is the perfect baby step for us for hosting foreign exchange students. Which I think is something we want to do as the kids get older. 

Have you ever been a foreign exchange student?

Have you hosted any students yourselves? 

Well, since we are new to this we really want to do it right. 

So we will be using Google Translate hard and we made him a Welcome Basket to start on the right note. Who doesn't love a good gift basket? 

I fell in love with gift baskets in the 1980's. My grandparents used to get so many gift baskets...you know the kind Hillshire Farms and the like. I loved them. 

Gift Basket.jpg

How do you make a good gift basket? Well, let's see if we can do Edna's Edibles proud (Fact's of Life reference).

Gift Basket 101

Pick a Theme- How you live life without picking themes is beyond me. This theme was just a little Welcome Basket so I tried to choose things that he would either need or that would make him happy.

Choose Things for the Recipient-This is easier said than done. You have to pick things that reflect the one receiving this gift...not particularly things you like. You can share things you like, but it isn't about you. I don't know this kid so I tried to get things that I know 11 year olds like...like a Whoopie Cushion and fake mustaches.  

Stuff It-You don't have to spend a lot of money, but you need to fill up the basket. Make it worth it.  Make it fun to go through. With this particular gift basket, I filled it with notebooks, toys, games, etc. If you are doing a spa basket, fill with extra soaps, oils, etc. Have one or two major things and fill the rest with either supporting materials or small items. 

 

Gift Basket Close Up.jpg

Well, I need to finish cleaning the house so this child doesn't get scared about our dirty home. I have to fake that I am a put together, clean mother. He can find out the truth during the week. 

See you soon!

Setting Priorities

I would do anything for my kids.  Move heaven and earth for them. I have stayed up all night perfecting presents, I have held vigil in their beds when they are sick, I have cleaned up so many horrible things that came out of their bodies, and daily I make sure they are clothed, fed, healthy, and happy. I do it all because I love them. I make them a priority. I, like you, make a lot of things a priority...but not usually myself. Sound familiar? 

You're Number One

You're Number One

I stay up late at night to steal moments to myself, but turns out that isn't really taking care of myself or setting myself as a priority. I know I am not alone. Just check out  here or here or here.

Parents...and maybe moms in particular need a moment...a moment to ourselves. I love it when it is quiet late at night and I can read or watch something that is inappropriate for younger eyes or I can blog.

I never put myself first. I bet you don't either. 

Part of my neglect of myself is to let things I care about go first...

  • Too busy this morning to eat or have a cup of hot coffee? I will grab some kid snack later or I will slurp down that cold coffee. 
  • No time to workout? Oh, I can do that later. When? Who knows!
  • Can't carve out a little bit of time for me to get my hair done, or to get myself something, or to have a moment.
  • And sadly I let Posing as Parents go all the time. I care about this blog, but if I run short on time, energy, or even patience this is the first to go. 

Why? I would be so mad at my kids if they treated themselves the way I treat myself. 

I would love to make a sweeping statement about how the buck stops here...things are going to change from now on...etc. But that isn't sustainable is it? So instead I am going to make a pledge of sorts to myself to help me focus on what is important.

A Focus for Me (and you, yes you)

  • Making Myself a Priority-You KNOW it is important and it is what you would want for any one you love. You got to love yourself yo and make you a big deal. What do want? What do you love? What brings you joy? What feeds your soul?

And if you want some more explicit tips check here, here, and here

You are going to fail, that is okay. Keep trying. 

You are #1, baby!

 

 

Detour

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So there was no Fall Craft on Tuesday. I just couldn't. 

Monday morning we woke up to the news that 58 people were dead and 489 more were injured in a shooting in Las Vegas. 

Later in the day we found out that our beloved Tom Petty died. 

A Fall Craft seemed trite after all of that. 

Monday morning my son woke up to the radio that told the story of what happened in Las Vegas. My nine year old then gave me the details. I just cried. I cried because over 500 peoples lives will never be the same. I cried because I can't protect my son from knowing about the evils of the world. I cried because this is not okay. 

What kind of world is this? We are numb to the stories. It seems like each mass shooting is the "worst in US history"...the keep happening and they keep getting worse. Well, I guess that is a matter of opinion. It was pretty freaking horrible when children were gunned down at school. But nothing has changed...people worked for change and congress did nothing. 

Look, it doesn't matter if you are a Democrat or a Republican...or neither. It doesn't matter if you are a gun owner or not. I really feel like we should all agree that is not okay and something has to change. 

I have struggled this week trying to find the good because I am mad. I am mad that our government is beyond messed up. I am mad that we are so divisive as a country. I am mad that more and more people have to bury their loved ones because of something so senseless. 

And the truth is, I am mad because I have to ask my children questions like "what do you do if there is an active shooter." And I am devastated that they both said the right answer. You run. 

This is not okay. This is not normal.

And I can mark things with the angry or the sad icon on Facebook, but that changes zero. 

I don't know what makes someone (mainly white men) want to take down as many people as they can before they end their own life. I don't know what would change their minds so this shit doesn't happen over and over and over. 

All I know to do is I have to take action...the most immediate change I can do is the following:

  • Work to make sure my state has good gun laws. I don't want to take away your guns...we are a family of hunters. But it makes sense that we have good gun laws. 
  • Work to elect people who don't cater to the gun lobbies. Period...I don't want the NRA directing our politicians...we didn't vote for them to run our country. 
  • Work to create community...it sounds silly, but  you may not shoot your neighbor, the people in your community, etc if you are connected to those people. 
  • Work to do more good. I can't control the bad in this world. I can't change the fact that my babies know what to do if there is a gun event. What I can control is the good things I expose them to. This world is scary and can be dark. Be the light. Your kids need that from you. 

If you will notice, this all requires us to work. I know we are all busy and tired, but it is important. This is all we have...this one life so we have to do what is right, we have to do what we can to make this place better, and we have to love. 

Speaking of love, I haven't even been able to talk about Tom Petty yet. He was the music of my youth...every stage of my life. He was there when I was a baby, through my parents divorce, through high school, through my indecisive twenties and thirties, he was always singing the song track for my life.  It is one thing my dad and I share...our love for Tom Petty. His songs play through my mind all the time. I will always love him. 

Well, hopefully next week won't be such a bummer and we can do something fun together. Enjoy your Fall weekend. Love your people...and your neighbor. 

Welcome Back

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Welcome back! I'm back and your back...it is the best. 

Summer break has come to an end...we get out late and go back late here in the PNW. Holy moly what a summer break it was! Road trips, camping, adventures...it was the summer of "yes." My husband and I talked about it and we really feel like we really seized the summer and have no regrets. 

Since school and sports have started. I do have some regrets about the amount of activities we have signed up for. We have a bonkers schedule. The boy has school, Fall Ball (with two games a week), soccer (with two practices and one game a week). Little Miss has school, gymnastics, Speech Class, and soccer (one practice and one game a week). I feel a little overwhelmed.

But honestly I am also glad to have the comfort of a routine. I already miss having the kids with me, but am thankful we all get to have a little space. I just wish I didn't make it quite so complicated.

Clearly I have not mastered my schedule yet and here are the ways I am acting out, screwing up, and/or acting a fool. 

  • For preschool Meet and Greet I had a dried blob of yogurt on my cheek the entire time. I just chatted away and no one said a word...that is until I got to the car. Then my daughter, who kissed me with yogurt lips that morning informed me I had some crusted to my face.
  • That same week, I went to pick up the daughter at preschool and had a label stuck to my skirt...luckily a nice grandmother told me.
  • This weekend, I went to a birthday party and got a stick stuck in my pony tail. My husband half heartedly helped me, but parts of the stick were still in my hair when I got home...hours later. 
  • Unfortunately, I forgot about an appointment with my son's brand new teacher and his learning team. I was at Target when they called me. I was 25 minutes late for the appointment so the teacher had to return to class. 
  • Turns out we have a foreign exchange student coming to stay with us and I don't 100% remember signing up. It seems kind of familiar and I am super happy...I just didn't have a clue.
  • My texts and emails have been atrocious lately...I am typing too fast and not proofreading like I should. It is embarrassing, because I am a writer and it is frustrating when your errors take away from the message. You can't tell how very funny I am if there are typos. 
  • Today I let my  son walk to school because we had a scheduling conflict. I didn't see him when I drove by so I texted other parents and then finally called the school to ease my worries. Those poor school administrators...they are freaking angels.
  • And for my big finish tonight, I was talking to a soccer mom about a child who I thought was this one kid's sibling and turns out I was wrong about everything around the situation. I made it a big weird thing with this mom. The worst part is the child I was mixing up and the child who was really on the team are the children of one of my favorite neighbors and when I was texting her about the whole mess I was calling one of her children the wrong name. I have known these kids since they were babies. Ugh. Adding insult to injury over here, people.  

I am a hot mess. I know this helps you feel better about your own parenting paths. I get it. I am never going to be a cool mom who does everything right. I am never going to have it all together. Competent mom? Sure! Fun mom? Probably. Crazy mom? Definitely. I am doing my best...or my best on a very little amount of sleep and a whole lot of kooky.

And I am sure you are doing your best too. Let's celebrate the crap out of that. I even may make a damn cake (and I will probably forget some key ingredient...like how I forgot to add baking powder to my biscuits a couple of weeks ago...stupid flat biscuits). Celebrate what you can and forgive your mistakes...learn and move on people. 

Life is too short to not laugh at ourselves and we might as well pack it all in while we can. Yes, there a moments that we need to take time to slow down and take time to soak it all in. But there are other times that we just need to embrace the full calendar and experience as much as we can. Life is all about the ying and the yang. No balance...just back and forth...too much and too little. Aim for the middle, for balance, but enjoy the ride.

I know her name, most days.

I know her name, most days.

his too, sometimes.

his too, sometimes.

Now that we are back on schedule. Let's try our Tuesday and Thursday schedule and go from there. Have a wonderful weekend!

Teach Your Children

If all you can do is judge a person by their appearance, because you don’t have the spirit to judge someone from within, you’re in trouble.
— Dick Gregory

Since the last time we met Charlottesville happened.

Nazis took to the streets in Charlottesville, Virginia to unleash their hate. Call them white nationalists, alt-right, the KKK, or white supremacists. Call them whatever you want...they are not who we are as a country or as humanity. We are better than this disgusting racist behavior. And we have to stand up for what is right. 

Heather Heyer died while protesting the rally of these Nazis in Charlottesville. She literally stood up for what she believed in and died for her beliefs of equality and of love for her brothers and sisters. Heather's family said that she knew that one person could make a difference. Even after her death, she is making a difference. We all can.

Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.
— Robert F. Kennedy

Charlottesville can sadly happen anywhere and at any time. How do we stop it? We start at home.

As a parent one of the most important things I feel I can do is to raise my kids to be good people...and to be kind people to all people. I, of course, want my children to be happy, but for me that is not the most important thing. There are plenty of happy assholes. There is research out there that shows that kids think we want them to be happy more than we want them to be kind. That is not great.

The Future is Bright

The Future is Bright

It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.
— Maya Angelou

Good news is that we are aware that our parenting may have taken some unintended detours. In fact, Harvard created a program called The Making Caring Common Project. You really should check it out. It has so many great resources about cultivating empathy, building caring schools, research, and parenting guides. A really amazing tool that this program has is this infograph...

As you can see, it gives you some strategies to help your children be caring individuals and if you explore the site you will see some really specific tips. I don't know about you, but I am always looking for some tips to help me...parenting, or otherwise. 

While trying to raise caring children, we will also start the ease into transitioning back into school in the next couple of weeks. Then I am back on track for a regular schedule. 

In the meantime, be kind...you are modeling behavior for your kids and your community. 

 

 

No Excuses

Here we are again. And this past week was pretty medical emergency free, well minus that urgent care trip for Little Miss because she shoved some old homemade playdough up her nose. We thought she may have it stuck in her sinuses so we had to get a professional to give it a looksy-loo. Besides that just a busy weekend and a busy week full of summer fun. 

I, of course, have a litany of excuses why I am failing miserably at my summer blog schedule. Swim lessons, the garden, trips, errands, chores, kids, the works...you get it. Life, man. But you know what? I am done with excuses. It is just what it is. Life is busy and there is always something to take our time. No excuses are necessary.  Why make excuses? Just live your life.

We spent the weekend camping (ish), crabbing, clamming, and just hanging out. While we were at the beach we had so much fun...I mean, we got hella burnt too, but just so relaxing and rewarding to sit and to just be. 

Beach Rules: Soak up the sun. Ride the waves. Breathe the salty air. Feel the breeze. Build sandcastles. Rest, relax, reflect. Collect seashells. Bare-feet required.
— Anonymous

We are lucky to be about an hour to the coast. But you can't always be at the beach. Maybe you don't live near an ocean or perhaps you don't have the time. 

Here are a few ways to bring beach life to you...

  • Find some water. It doesn't HAVE to be the ocean. Get a kiddie pool, go into the bathtub, find a stream...get around some water. Dip your toes in. 
  • Take it slow. Get on beach time. Being around the sea helps you wind down...replicate that. Just  enjoy the moment. 
  • Have a tropical drink. The Pacific Northwest isn't known for its tropical climate, but come on...a fun tropical cocktail or mocktail makes us all feel beachy. 
  • Seashells, sand, and sun. Get some seashells or some sand...put them in your decor. Add some blues and greens to your palette. Bring the beach to you. Sit in the sun (put on some sunscreen of course) and soak it in.
  • Go barefoot. Kick off those shoes and connect with this world. 

Summer, I love you and I am going to enjoy every last drop of you. 

Enjoy your weekend. 

A Very Special Episode of Posing as Parents

If you grew up (or were alive) during the 1980's you may remember there were lots of "very special" episodes on your favorite tv shows. Those "special" episodes were to have commentary on some social issue or heavy topic. 

Well, I haven't posted on my regular schedule this week and I had a litany of excuses...summer...the littles are only little once...etc, etc, etc. And that is true. All of it. Summer is kicking my booty. I love being with the kids all the time, but we need a schedule AND we are kind of getting on each other's nerves. It happens...even to the best of us. The bottom line is I am knee deep in summer mayhem, bad attitudes, and sleep deprivation. 

Looking up in our front yard.

Looking up in our front yard.

Then the other night we got a call from our neighbor a little after 10pm. I won't share her name to protect the innocent (like the do on Law and Order). And if you know me and know the neighbor just keep it to yourself please.

So this neighbor and our family have been through a lot together. My husband was there (and performed CPR) when her husband died and we have experienced many medical related issues together...hers and ours...and we share all sorts of happy times too.  She is family. And she actually was very sick at the first of the year and we were quite worried, but she is better and her health has been amazing so we were surprised to get a phone call from her for help. 

My husband grabbed the first aid kit and ran next door. 

Then husband texted me to bring rubber gloves.

I walked in our neighbor's door and I cannot describe to you what I saw. It was like a scene out of Dexter. I am 100% not exaggerating. As I walked closer to my husband and our neighbor it got worse.  

She had a cut on her foot and she is on blood thinners and there was blood everywhere. My husband told me to apply pressure to her foot and he left to get the truck to take her to the hospital. She wasn't in any pain and we just chatted until my husband came back.

When he got back he checked her foot and there was no bleeding. Mind you the house looked like a crime scene, but she was no longer bleeding and was doing well.

The problem was that she was giving herself a pedicure and had knicked her foot...when she got up and walked around she bled...that combined with the blood thinners it brought it to the next level of gruesome. 

I made my husband call my mom who is a nurse and they all agreed that the neighbor didn't need to go to the hospital. She had stopped bleeding, there was nothing to stitch up, and she felt fine. She laid on the couch while my husband and I got to work.

Let me tell you a few things about me...I am not good in an immediate crisis...I cry, I freak out, etc. I am really good after something has happened...I can clean, I can bring food, and take care of you...those are my strengths. My husband is the EXACT opposite. He handled the first of this situation and now it was my turn. 

The blood was EVERYWHERE. In the utility room, the kitchen, the living room, and the foyer. It was all over walls, floors, everything. It was a stream so things were covered in blood splatters. My husband and I are not really suited for this kind of scene. We were both pretty woozy, but we couldn't just be like..."Oh you good? Peace out!" We had to clean up for her.

I went home and loaded up on cleaners. My husband went home and got the shampooer. If you would have seen us going back and forth in the night it would have looked quite suspicious. 

Well, we worked HARD cleaning. It was in every nook and cranny in all of those rooms. We had to use a variety of products trying to remove it all. We cleaned for two hours straight. We looked like the team they call in after a murder to clean up. I was soooooo sweaty. My husband looked at me at one point and said, "I have never seen you so sweaty and I saw you after you did a boxing class." It was serious cleaning.

However, we were all laughing so hard. It was so funny the absurdity of it all. We laughing because at first it looked like a murder scene and no one could figure out was happening so each of us had made up different stories...a crime, a poltergeist, a wild animal...I mean the possibilities were endless. 

At the end of the night, she was fine...her house was mostly clean (we aren't professionals) and we had been through something together. I felt like we had been through a war or at least I felt like we were living a part of Reservoir Dogs. 

So why tell you all of this (other than I have to share this, because I am in shock still)? Well, I have to solid takeaways from this ordeal.

  • Be a good neighbor. Being neighbors with someone can be hard. You don't get to choose who you are spending your property lines and basically your life with. But it can also be awesome. I have amazing neighbors and we have been through a lot together. Don't be a good neighbor because of what people might do for you, BUT it doesn't hurt. You never know when you may need an extra hand or a cleaning crew.
  • Don't kill anyone. Seriously there is no way you are getting away with it. Blood splatters everywhere and you can't possibly clean it all. I mean, for moral and legal reasons, also don't kill. But seriously, you won't get away with it.
  • Blood is hard to clean.  If there is blood on something try to clean it immediately, when it dries...you are in trouble. When you spray (or pour) cleaner on the blood it may turn black and make the scene even grosser. Forget sponges and magic erasers...rags are the way to go. 
  • Laugh when it is hard. Holy hell life is freaking hard and relentless and sometimes ugly. Laughter is the best thing you can do to help find the beauty in the situation and sometimes in humanity. Don't think something is funny? Find the funny. It is there. 
  • Have an emergency plan. We thought we had our kids sorted out if something happened, but turns out not all the way. I left my phone for my son, but my husband brought it back to me...there was a lot of confusion on what to do and what was happening. We are looking into getting an old school land line so we can ensure there is always a way to call and get help. Our kids were ready to go to our across the street neighbors. Also, I realized we haven't told our  neighbors our plans that our kids are to go their house...so they can be prepared if two kiddies show up at their doorstep they know why. Oh, make sure your first aid kit has a lot of rubber gloves...lots of them.
  • Be easy on yourself. Our neighbor was embarrassed about what happened? Why? For being human? We are gross and vulnerable creatures. FYI, my mom had to clean up amniotic fluid from our first kid...gross. I have had to clean up after lots of humans...we will make messes and we need to be okay with that. And don't feel bad if you need help. We all do. Be thankful you have someone to call upon. 

Let's look out for one another. Have a great weekend and I will see you back here on Tuesday. 

 

Okay, I Got Distracted

I didn't have the blog up when I usually do AND I am not going to write about organization when you are traveling with children like I said I would do. I am just not feeling it. I will write about it next week, but not today. Today I am just rolling with the day.

At Home Entertainment

At Home Entertainment

Since we got home I have been cleaning, cleaning, and cleaning and buying a lot of groceries. Yep, that is pretty much the extent of it and keeping two kids, two dogs, a fish, and a hubby alive and relatively happy. There have been friends, some sports, swim lessons, etc. But I am in slomo when I can be. 

I think that after a trip it takes me a bit to get my bearings.  We all crave to be in our place with our stuff.  And with nothing to do. The last part seems to be harder to achieve.

Hanging with Handsome

Hanging with Handsome

This summer I am acutely aware of how fleeting the moments are...the good ones and bad ones. This is the only summer with my boy being 9 and my girl being 4. That is almost double digits and Kindergarten kind of summer. I have spoken about it before, but is a hard balance trying to let them grow and wanting these moments to hold onto forever. Each time my boy grabs my hand my heart smiles and aches at the same time. And my girl is sooooooo wound up I try to remember that this time is also precious and I want to honor that spirit and help it grow while keeping my sanity. This is the Summer of Strength I just didn't anticipate the strength would also be with my mama's heart. 

Eat Yo Veggies

Eat Yo Veggies

Well, besides working on not being an emotional nut job mom, I have more to do. Right now we are having a family "reboot" since the trip. Here is what we are trying to focus on...maybe it would work for you as well. 

  • Sleep- Sleep is magic. Our sleep has been jacked, so we are trying to go to bed early (I mean besides me) and we have been sleeping in (besides dad). 
  • Eat Fresh-Eat yo veggies. Our food choices weren't always ideal on the road so we are trying to eat more veggies, more fruit, and less meat. Our garden is going bonkers so that helps. I will admit that our son has been deep in on the box mac and cheese...that is new, but it is also fine...we will make up for it in other ways. 
  • Move Your Body-The kids have activities that get their body moving and they naturally want to play. BUT for mom, I have to work on it. I have started a new work out program that is very slow, but it is a start! I will have to incorporate more movement to have this really be the Summer of Strength. 
  • Read-We are all reading. Taking time to sit and dive into a book. The kids got a ton of screen time on the road and I think they are craving more than electronics right now. 
  • Play/Art/Etc-Be creative. The kids are playing and doing art. My husband and I have been working in the garden and in the yard...just taking time to be. Use your mind in another way. 

Have a great weekend...slow down and enjoy the moments. See you Tuesday where I WILL tell you about best tips for traveling with kiddos. I mean, I probably will. 

Road Trippin'

We are about to embark on an epic road trip. We will be going  through 11 states (that is including our own...Oregon). Embarrassingly, at first I thought we were going through 6 states. I have no idea why. Bad at geography? Bad at math? Maybe both. 

Regardless, we are going to a ton states in whirlwind trip. What a fun way to celebrate the 4th of July, by exploring this country! I told my son that this trip would be the life altering...it will simultaneously be the worst and the best. The worst because 3700 miles in a car is challenging, but the best because of all the things he and his sister are going to see and experience. Trips like these are etched in your mind, your heart, and your spirit and they live on in your memories for a lifetime.

A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.
— Oliver Wendell Holmes

I have been searching through Pinterest and everything else I can get my hands on planning for this trip. My husband and I have done similar trips to this one more than a few times. It was a time before iPhones and I didn't have a DVD player in the car. Plus I can sleep for days if someone will just let me, so in the past on road trips, I would just sleep. But with the kids it is a different ballgame. 

Our kids have all sorts of devices to help numb the boredom. I know for a fact we will be breaking our normal screen time allotments by a lot, but the kids are going to want to do something more than just watch it and movies for days. So here is my plan to get us through at least Stage 1 of the trip...getting to Kansas City. 

Pan or Lap Tray?

Pan or Lap Tray?

Road Trip Tips

There are a ton travel tips online. There are plenty tips that I will be trying out on the trip. The baking sheet above is an example of one such tip and it is being transformed into an activity lap tray for the kids.

Here are some other tips...

So many IKEA bags

So many IKEA bags

Storage-The first thing I have been fretting over and considering is storage space. I have a minivan so there is a lot of room, but I am trying to be mindful of how we pack. One thing I did was purchase a ton-o-bags to make sure everything has a home for this crazy trip. IKEA is my best friend this week...so many bags. 

Homemade Jerky

Homemade Jerky

Snacks-I have been trying to load up on healthier treats for the trip so we won't make as many stops along the way. But there are some foods that  just scream "road trip!" Jerky is one of them, so I made a lot a jerky for the trip. Now if we can make it until we hit the road...the jerky supply seems to be quickly dwindling. 

Clean it up supplies

Clean it up supplies

Supplies- I am a mama and we are about to travel accross the USA with kids. I needed some supplies to keep us clean. Putting this stuff together helps the whole family have easy access in case something needs cleaned up. Praying for a puke free trip.

Games and More

Games and More

Surprises-This is the portion of the trip that is best unleashed in small doses. When the kids start going over the deep end I intend to give the angels a new little something to new to work on or play with...the kids don't know I have all of these goodies. For example, these foam flyers are something they can put together in the car and when we stop for a potty break or for a bit of exercise then the kids can have flyer races. 

Let's get building and flying.

Let's get building and flying.

The best things in life are the people you love, the places you go, and the memories you make.
— Unknown Author
Let's roll!

Let's roll!

So we are finishing packing up and getting ready to roll. See you from the road next week!

The Summer of Strength

Running into summer full force.

Running into summer full force.

I know I have said that I love a good theme...for birthdays, for parties, for interior design, whatever it is it is better with a theme. 

This summer has a theme and it is the Summer of Strength. 

Listen, I am strong...I had a hard knock life like the kind Lifetime movies are about, I also carried and gave birth to a 10 pound 12 ounce 23 inch long baby, and I lived with giant tumors forever and was shoveling snow the week before surgery. I am hella strong. BUT I have room to grow.  We all do. 

Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.
— A. A. Milne

I want to be stronger. I want a stronger body. I want a stronger mind. I want stronger relationships/friendships/communities.

I want strength. 

I want strength not just for myself, but because I am a mama...it is imperative for me to model a strong body, a kind heart, and the ability to make healthy choices...these are imperative to demonstrate a strong mama to my kiddos.

And there are things that we are helping identify with our children that we want them to work on being stronger. 

We want to help them be stronger readers, stronger writers, strong swimmers...there are things that we want to improve upon, to strengthen, as a family. 

The trick is when you are building your strength or anything really you have to remember that it is more than just building one dimension of yourself. A more holistic view is needed and you need an alignment of the body, mind, and soul. 

Our intention creates our reality.
— Wayne Dyer

How do you do that? 

  • Set your intention...an intention is a purpose or an aim.
  • Be clear and specific about what you want and put it in the world. 

  • Be good to your body...eat healthy, move your body, and get some sleep.

  • Practice gratitude...look at the good and spread that thankfulness.

  • Let it go. Practice like Elsa and "let it go"...put what you want in the world and release it.

Being yourself is strong and beautiful.

Being yourself is strong and beautiful.

Going to work on setting some intentions and on being strong. What are you going to work on?

See you Thursday!

 

Another Chapter

This Face

This Face

Today is the last day of third grade. My son is so sad to see this school year come to a close because of his teacher. He LOVES his teacher...we all do.

Mr. A has been an amazing force of light, happiness, and learning for The Boy.  He made learning fun for our son and the whole class. His energy is infectious, his dedication to his students is awe-inspiring. He has the best ideas for the classroom and for at home so that the learning never stops. I asked him for some ideas to help prevent the summer slide specifically for our son and he gave me a ton of ideas. 

One of the most important traits for us has been his kindness and his open mindedness about all sorts of learners. Mr. A understands that there is not one type of solution for one type of child.

Our son has a learning difference. He is brilliant AND he thinks differently. It doesn't take away from him, it adds to him. The way my son sees the world blows my mind. He is an inventor, an engineer, an artist, a scientist...he is amazing. I tell my friends that I am confident that our boy will change how we look at the world...he will do great things. 

Strength lies in differences, not in similarities.
— Stephen Covey

In the meantime, it may be hard for him. School doesn't come easy. He has to work extra hard. Our boy is one of the kindest souls I know and one of the most sensitive. School isn't set up for how he learns...it is set up for the many. That can be hard. Luckily we have a great team of people who help him learn the way that works best for him. 

Recently there was a school activity that my husband and I had an issue with because it dealt with equity and accessibility. (Yep, we are those parents...I cannot keep my opinions to myself especially with issues that deal with exclusion of any type.) And the moment I expressed our concerns to Mr. A he was considerate, generous, and apologetic. It was a view he hadn't thought about. He is not afraid to learn along with the students and with us, the parents. He is a true partner. I know why my son is devastated to move on.  

A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.
— Henry Adams

I told my son that there are teachers in your life that change you, that move you, that forever alter who you are as a person...this teacher was one of those teachers. 

Mr. A-The Super Star

Mr. A-The Super Star

He brought food to our family when I had a health scare, he came over and worked in the shop on classroom furniture with my husband, and he adores our dog. My favorite story about Mr. A was that he came to our boy's birthday party (which is pretty awesome in of itself) and all of the children jumped and screamed like they had seen their favorite pop star. It was the best thing ever. 

Needless to say, we end this year with a full and thankful heart.

And "hello" summer! We are coming for you!

 

 

.

 


 

 

Cool it Now

Holy hell it is hot lately and this summer's forecast is set to be filled with record breaking highs. It certainly doesn't help that my internal thermometer is out of whack...that is a story for another day. Regardless it is hot.

It's how hot?

It's how hot?

I have been in Oregon a long time and it use be that it didn't really matter if you had air conditioning or not. It only got hot a few times a year. That is no longer the case.

We don't have air conditioning in our home. We usually put a window unit in our room and we have a downstairs that stays cool, but it is definitely something that is on the "to do" list.  

In the meantime we will take direction from New Edition and "Cool it Now." (I loved this song so much when I was my son's age.)

What are some ways you chill when the weather gets hot?

Here are some ways we cool down...other than black out curtains, ceiling fans, etc. 

  • Eat cool food-Put away that beef stroganoff, mom. Seriously my mom likes to make hot food on hot days...it has become a running joke in the family. But have a salad, cool spring rolls, lettuce tacos, smoothie, etc. Or have a snow cone or ice cream if that is more your style. 
  • Make a splash-Get in that water! Go to the pool, the river, or break out the kiddie pool. Or Super Soakers anyone?  Or you can do what my Mema did, which works so well it is disturbing, she always had a cool, damp washcloth on her neck. That is right, I am turning into my grandma!
  • The entertainer-You may or may not have air conditioning, but other places definitely do and you can go enjoy them...bowling alleys, movie theaters, the mall, restaurants, etc.
  • A change of scenery-Go to the river, the beach, the mountain, go wherever you can in your area. Any caves to explore? Is there a forest to look around? Move around to find a cooler place. 

Okay, trying to cool it now. I also accidentally fell down a rabbit's hole diving deep in on New Edition research...onto Bobby Brown next. 

See you Thursday!

 

 

Plans Change

Playing where we can

Playing where we can

Well, I usually post on Monday mornings. It is Monday night and I am just now sitting down to a computer. We had a crazy busy weekend. A dinner party for 21 people, had to buy a new dishwasher (that is right, the dishwasher broke BEFORE the dinner party...that is a lot of hand washing)  a 40th birthday party, a special baseball game, a whirlwind trip to Seattle to say goodbye to a dear friend, and to hug family. Some of those things we planned and some we didn't. That is life, right? 

The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.
— Robert Burns
Over it

Over it

This weekend may have kicked our booties, but it was the kind of weekend that fills your soul. Laughs with friends, conversations with family, and adventures. 

Summer has begun for most kids across the country...we are soooooo near the end, but alas we aren't there yet. In the Portland Metro area we start planning for summer in April...that is when you can register for the Parks and Recreation camps, swim lessons, etc. It kind of kicks off planning for the summer. By the time summer actually comes you probably have your summer planned (for months). The kids have swim, the boy has some sportsball camps and plans, and we didn't really have a vacation planned this summer since we went to Disneyland recently.

Well, plans changed. My husband has to go to Kansas City for work for 4th of July so we are going too. Since it is too much to fly to Kansas City for the family. You know it is one thing to drop a bit of money to fly to Hawaii...no offense, but it is a different thing to spend a bunch of cash to go to KC. In addition, we have been talking with my dad and my step-mom about meeting somewhere to get some family items that we don't want to ship so it made sense to drive. We will see grandparents and then on the way home aunts, uncles, and cousins.

Bottom line...ROAD TRIP!

I don't know about you, but some of my favorite memories/worse moments are from road trips. I definitely get crazy car sickness...I had to be drugged up on Dramamine most of my childhood. I am no stranger to a road trip. I have gone across country several times in my teen years and throughout adulthood. My husband jokes that I LOVE to sleep across the country. 

What I am most excited about it is giving our kids a road trip. I mean, I didn't have a dvd player or electronics to keep me occupied when I was a kid, but they will be making memories all the same. They will see our country in ways they wouldn't if they just read about the different states.

Because the greatest part of a road trip isn’t arriving at your destination. It’s all the wild stuff that happens along the way.
— Emma Chase

So I will be scouring the internet for road trip hints/hacks/help and I will share my findings. And if you have some road trip ideas I will take them! In the meantime, you don't have to drive across the country to have your own road trip.

Take Mini Road Trip

  • Find places near you to explore and plan your trip accordingly...or don't whatever floats your boat.
  • Plan to go 30 minutes to 2 hours away to make a fun day trip. If you live in Portland, a few places that would be great: McMinnville, Rockaway, Silver Falls State Park, Hagg Lake, Troutdale, or Kelso (Washington)...these aren't necessarily the big tourist places...there is more to Oregon than Multnomah Falls.
  • Pack some food...snacks or meals. You can do it to save some money, but even more importantly, it just helps you eat healthier...and it saves time.
  • Dress the part. I, for one, ALWAYS wear the wrong shoes. I never wear appropriate shoes and it is a problem. In the PNW, you need to always have a hoodie...no matter the time of the year. Other areas have different needs. And make sure you have sunscreen.
  • Have fun! It is about being together and exploring different places. Try to relax and go with the flow. 
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.
— Mark Twain
Onto the Next Adventure

Onto the Next Adventure

Take Me Home Country Roads

I am originally from the South...Arkansas specifically. I was born and raised there until I was a sophomore in high school. Later I went back to attend University of Arkansas for a year. Most of my family still lives there. And even though I love Portland and I have been here most of my life, part of my heart will always be in my home town.

You can never go home again, but the truth is you can never leave home, so it’s all right.
— Maya Angelou

When I get homesick, I miss the feelings of home and less an actual place. Also, when I get homesick I really listen to a LOT of country music. 

I have been thinking a lot about the South. We are having a Southern dinner party. So I have been knee deep in looking at recipes and reminiscing about meals from my childhood.

Also, I MAY have gotten an air fryer. Have you seen these things?

This is the GoWISE 4th Generation Electric Air Fryer. It basically makes food crispy without frying. I am going to try to "fry" okra and make "fried" pickle chips this weekend. I am way too excited about this. I told my husband it seems like the perfect appliance for the modern Southern woman and the little smarty pants responded, "Oh, do you know any?" 

The South is no longer in my mouth...maybe the drawl comes out a bit if I am hopping mad or had one or two too many cocktails. But it is still my roots. It is a culture that I share with my children. They drink tea and say funny sayings. I am trying to raise them right.

What culture do you identify with? What are your traditions? What is important to share with your children? Perhaps this weekend (or this summer if you need a little time)...start considering sharing your culture...your community that you grew up with...share with your family.

Here are some ways to share.

  • Start with the food.- Share your favorite recipes or meals from your childhood.
  • Tell a story.-Tell your children your story...what was your childhood like, what was your community like, and explore how it has changed.
  • Teach your traditions-What are the things you family did and why? Take a moment to do those traditions with your own family.
  • Research-Become an expert on your heritage. Research together so you all learn about what makes you...you!

I feel like a native Oregonian because I have been here since a teenager. However, part of me will be stuck in Arkansas circa 1975-1990 ish. Since I don't have a time machine, I will be enjoying my not-fried-fried food, hanging out with Johnny, Hank, and Willie, and I will be remembering my own country roads. I hope your travel your own roads.

Grow Your Own

Our first haul of 2017. 

Our first haul of 2017. 

When I was a little girl growing up in Fort Smith, Arkansas I spent a lot of time with my grandparents. I was with them every week during the school year, and all of summer, and I even lived with them a couple of times during my childhood. They definitely helped raise me. 

My grandparents had a giant vegetable garden. Once again, in hindsight, it might have not been giant...I was a child...I was 4 feet tall or shorter. Regardless, they had a vegetable garden. I would have to help in the garden and grab vegetables for meals. That was all fine and good until the time I was trapped in there by two large birds.

Now, I know you aren't appropriately picturing these birds. My grandparents had two Emus for a little bit. Yep, the birds that are like ostriches. They look like they may have been around since the age of dinosaurs. 

A  National Geographic  picture Of a Rhea

A National Geographic picture Of a Rhea

I am not 100% sure why my Nana and Papaw had rheas. I am guessing it is because they wanted to raise them for meat or eggs. They had a boy one and a girl one and they scared me. These birds can be around 5 1/2 feet tall! And the rheas that they had were not that nice.

One day my Nana asked me to get some tomatoes, as she finished making dinner. I ran out to the garden and I was a little irritated because I didn't want miss out on watching Wheel of Fortune (hey, I grew up with my grandparents...of course I watched Wheel of Fortune.) Well, I run out to the garden and I go to pick the tomatoes. The garden had long rows of veggies and I remember everything being so huge...so I must have been short. 

I get the tomatoes and I try to leave the garden to see what was happening on Wheel of Fortune and I can't leave. Why you ask? Those damn birds wouldn't let me leave. They came to the garden and started trying to peck at me. Now here is where things can get a little fuzzy...I am remembering something from a LOT of years ago. But for me, I felt like they were trying to attack me. 

I yelled and screamed and cried to get my grandparents attention to no avail. The garden wasn't super close to the house and there were fences obscuring the view. So I hid, for my life, in the tomato plants. My Papaw finally came looking for me after an amount of time that felt like forever.  And instead of rushing to my aid and scooping me up in love and compassion, he completely had zero ideas why I would be huddled and crying. Luckily my Nana had a lot more empathy for the situation and I was coddled appropriately. I am also pretty sure I was excused from helping in the garden for a long, long time. 

While traumatic at the time, it is one of my favorite memories. The garden was a source of food, of fun, and obviously of a little fear.  I can clearly remember the taste of the tomatoes, the sound of my Nana snapping the beans, and the smells of all the creations she would make. 

Remember that children, marriages, and flower gardens reflect the kind of care they get.
— H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Since my husband and I have been married we have grown herbs, fruit (trees, bushes, and vines), and vegetables. Our children have had a garden most years of their lives. While our garden pales in comparison to my Nana and Papaws. I love how it grows bigger each year and now we have some sort of harvest all over the property...every where you go there is something growing that we will provide for our family.  It is such an amazing thing to plant something, care for it, and watch it grow into something that can nourish your body, all the while nourishing your mind and soul as you tend to the garden. 

And the flowers in our yard are amazing...no filter needed on those blooms. We bought a house that had established landscaping, so we are just reaping the benefits of some else's love and vision (thanks Phyllis). Well, besides a few things like the roses...my husband is a rose fanatic. You would never know it looking at him, but he loves him some roses.

I love seeing what blossoms and when. In the last 7 1/2 years that we have been here some things come back every year, some things bloom once and we never see them again, and every year there are new things that pop up in the yard that I have never seen before. It is always so fun to see what is growing. We do a family tradition called "garden walks" where we walk around the garden to see what is growing and what needs tending to and what changes need to be made. 

You don't need your own piece of land to grow something or to reap the benefits of a garden. Here are some ways you can get your hands dirty...

  • Container garden.
  • Take a gardening class.
  • Walk around your local nurseries.
  • Join a community garden.
  • Help a neighbor with their garden.
  • Go to any of your local gardens...they don't need to provide food...any garden will be great. 
  • Walk your neighborhood to see what is growing.

The point is to be connected to your food, to the beauty of your community, and to get outside. There are probably not any giant birds out there waiting to get you...so what is stopping you?

A garden is a grand teacher. It teaches patience and careful watchfulness; it teaches industry and thrift; above all it teaches entire trust.
— Gertrude Jekyll
Our veggie garden.

Our veggie garden.

Smell You Later

Spring was off to a late start here in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, but it is here in full force now. The gorgeous flowers, the lush green plants, the pollen every where, and the scents. It smells amazing.

The act of smelling something, anything, is remarkably like the act of thinking. Immediately at the moment of perception, you can feel the mind going to work, sending the odor around from place to place, setting off complex repertories through the brain, polling one center after another for signs of recognition, for old memories and old connection.
— Lewis Thomas

I have a super sensitive nose. It is a blessing and a curse, because there some good smelling things out there in the world and there are some pretty putrid smells out there too...especially if you are a parent, pet owner, or someone else who deals with various bodily fluids and a ton o' garbage.  But today, let's mainly focus on the good smells and the good feels.

The BEST Smelling Blossoms.

The BEST Smelling Blossoms.

Right now we have a grapefruit tree bursting with blossoms. That tree smells heavenly. You know those smells that are so dreamy that they can't be replicated? Yes, the candle aisle at Target is yummy, that Method makes some wonderfully smelling cleaning products, and I love my Anthropologie perfume BUT we have nothing on Mother Nature. The lilacs in the breeze, honeysuckle on a hot afternoon, the smell of a crisp fall day, and the scent of snow in the air...that stuff is freaking amazing. 

Now why even talk about smells? Oh, it is such an important sense! You don't think about your sense of smell until it is accosted by something horrible or your nose is stopped up, but really consider it's super powers. Smells can transport you through time. Certain smells evoke such strong memories. 

The sense of smell can be extraordinarily evocative, bringing back pictures as sharp as photographs of scenes that had left the conscious mind.
— Thalassa Cruso

Lots of smells stop me in my tracks...smells that remind me of my childhood, or different parts of my youth, or the smells that remind me of the life I have created with my family.  For me, the smells that bring the memories of people I love that have died...those are the hardest and yet the most meaningful memories. 

  • The smell of lipstick reminds me of my Nana...she was my idol. She was an Avon lady and had a ton of lipstick samples that I would play with...it may have started my love affair with make up. 
  • The smell of hot vinyl reminds me of my Mema's station wagon that my cousins in I would pile into and drive around. We rode in the very back of the wagon in that third road that faced the traffic behind us. That definitely didn't help my tendency for motion sickness. The smell of bacon and strong laundry detergent also reminds me of Mema and the time spent with her.
  • Our guest room that my father-in-law stayed in before he died smelled like him for a long time and once the smell faded it was like we lost something all over again. But the unexpected happened when we went to visit one of my father-in-law's friends just a few weeks ago...when we walked into the condo I could swear my father-in-law was there. It smelled JUST like him. 

 

Collecting her own memories.

Collecting her own memories.

I think about the smells that my children are collecting along the way. What memories will they evoke? What smells will bring them joy? What smells don't they like? What will remind them of home...of growing up?

What about you? What smells conjure up memories for you? Write those memories down..for real...you want to remember these things. Ask your kids about their favorite smells and why. Take a time to enjoy the different scents in your life.

Stop and smell the roses.

Stop and smell the roses.

You’re only here for a short visit. Don’t hurry, don’t worry. And be sure to smell the flowers along the way.
— Walter Hagen

If you want to geek out on why smells evoke different emotions? Check out these links...

Smells Ring Bells: How Smell Triggers Memories and Emotions

Why Can Smells Unlock Forgotten Memories?

Olfactory Memory

Have a great Memorial Day weekend! It isn't just another long weekend, it is a time to remember the men and women who died while serving this country. I am thankful for their service this weekend and always.

And I am thankful for you. Take care and see you Monday!

Listen Up

I am going to tell you the secret to parenting. That is right...just barely 9 years in and I have it all figured out. Are you ready? Listen to your kids. Shut your mouth and just listen. I know it is revolutionary. I have read parenting articles about listening before, and honestly I  thought I was doing just that. Heck, I have even taught college classes about listening and some specifically about listening to young children, and still this is a revelation for me. 

Listening is such a simple act. It requires us to be present, and that takes practice, but we don’t have to do anything else. We don’t have to advise, or coach, or sound wise. We just have to be willing to sit there and listen.
— Margaret J. Wheatley
What's Up?

What's Up?

Our son had a speech delay. We always joked that he was the strong silent type. He walked a little before 9 months old, he rode a bike at 18 months, but he didn't really talk that much. Clearly he was busy doing other things. He has been in Speech Therapy for years, he talks just fine now and honestly he talks quite a bit. When he was younger, I felt like I listened to him so intently and was so in tune to what he was thinking or feeling because he didn't use a lot of verbal communication at a young age. But in retrospect, I think that I wasn't always practicing active listening...I was listening for errors that I would correct, or listening for action items or things he or I needed to do, or filling in the gaps for him. (Active listening means focusing fully on the speaker and actively showing verbal and non-verbal signs of listening.)

One of my son's besties has always been a very verbal kid and has been able to read and write from an early age...things that didn't come easy for our boy. His friend just devours all details and is happy to share with any one that will listen. They aren't in the same class at school this year and I seriously was so bummed, because our boy tells us no information and his friend would tell me EVERYTHING that would happen that day. I love it. It also cracks me up that they found each other at such a young age...they have been friends since they were 3 years old...they definitely compliment each other.

Like I said, nowadays our son talks all the time and I have just realized if I am perfectly quiet and just be physically there he will start sharing with me. If I ask him about school or crushes or anything I get nothing, but deep dimples and his smiling face looking at me or the random stare into the abyss, but certainly no answers. But if I just sit there, or drive him somewhere, or hang out near him the real conversation starts to happen. It usually happens in a trickle, but boy is it lovely.

Our daughter is in Speech Therapy as well. She talks a lot, she has an amazing vocabulary, but people have had a hard time understanding her so she goes for articulation. It is so interesting to me because I didn't have early childhood or elementary intervention, but our children have and some day here we will talk about IEPs, Speech Therapy, and the like. It can be a hard and confusing road, but it can also be a total blessing too. 

Big Talker

Big Talker

Little Miss NEVER stops talking. She has ALWAYS been jibber jabbering.  And honestly it is hard to actively listen to it as well. When she was a little bit younger and would be talking nonstop I found myself just giving random active listening cues..."oh really," "I know," "yes," "mmmhmmm." You get the idea. I know it is horrible, but she has always had a LOT to say. But now she wants real feed back and that girl doesn't quit and she will talk over everyone to get her point across. The other day I was putting her to bed and she was talking and talking and talking. I told her it was time to be quiet, she in all seriousness said "Mommy, I NEED to talk." I believe it. I hear her, I honor her, but some times we have to be quiet. 

Listen earnestly to anything your children want to tell you, no matter what. If you don’t listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won’t tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them all of it has always been big stuff.
— Catherine M. Wallace

You know research shows that we remember only between about 25% to 50% of what we hear. Listening is hard work. It is. But it is sooooooo important. And I would venture to say it is probably even more important at this particular time in our country/history. It is easy to see the things we don't share in common...politics, opinions, beliefs and if we are busy talking about our perspective instead of listening to someone else we don't grow and we can't build empathy or understanding. So listening is not a skill we need just for our kiddos...it is a life skill. Life Skill 101...Listening.

Active Listener

Active Listener

So how do we become better listeners? Well, here are a few tips.

  • Be prepared to listen. This is so easy to overlook, but to be a good listener you have to be prepared to listen and honestly sometimes you aren't in a space to listen...whether that is a physical space or a mental space. In fact, I apparently tell my children "I can't listen right now" enough that my 4 year old asked me if she could talk to me when we got home about a baby doll she wants. Smart kid. 
  • Look the speaker in the eye. If you are listening to your children, then get at their level. You can't have a conversation with someone if you are looking up (or looking down) at them. You need to look in each other's eyes. Show the speaker that you’re listening to them. 
  • Turn on the nonverbal communication. So besides looking them in the eye, turn towards them, nod, SHOW them you are interested in what they are saying and that you are listening to them. Also, put down your phone. This is the quickest way to show someone you aren't engaged...even if you are really listening...it doesn't look like it or feel like it. 
  • Give some verbal feedback. You are listening for understanding so you aren't to "fix" anything or to share your story/opinion/two cents. Take the speakers lead on how to respond. For the most part just ask clarifying questions and summarize what you heard. 
The most precious gift we can offer anyone is our attention.
— Thich Nhat Hanh

It doesn't sound super hard, but a lot of us stink at being good listeners. And I don't know about you, but I would like my children to be good listeners so I better practice really hard so I can be a good model on Life Skill 101: Listening. Also, I REALLY want to know the 3rd grade crushes so I will be sitting here keeping quiet hoping someone will start talking. 

Have a great weekend and be sure to listen up!

 

 

Your Tribe

Mother's Day is this weekend. Maybe you are a mama, or perhaps you have a mama, or maybe you just have some kick ass ladies in your world. 

I have several women in my life that have helped shaped my world as a child and into adulthood...starting with my mother, my Nana (my grandmother), my Mema (my other grandmother), my stepmom, my aunts, church ladies, neighbors, friends, and various other family members. The truth is we are always being influenced and growing as we age...I learn things about being a better mom, wife, friend, and just being a better human every day from all sorts of people...especially some amazing women. 

Mother's Day (and Father's Day) can be hard for people because maybe they had some pretty crappy mothers (or fathers) or their mom (or dad) is dead or gone for some reason. I get it. I did not grow up in a world that it was all sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows. My mom is one of my besties...I talk to her all day every day on the phone...we live 8 minutes away from each other...she means the world to me. However, our life has been hard. It doesn't take away from how I feel about her or what a great mom she is, but when I get to see her with my kids without all the drama we had when I was young it makes my heart sing for them. 

Nana time. 

Nana time. 

Before my son was born I thought we were going to call my mom "Yogi" and my little sister "Boo Boo"...we thought it was funny. I even made my mom an embroidred bag with "Yogi" on it. Well, Boo Boo stuck and our boy decided to call my mom "Nana." I wasn't having it. I had a Nana that helped raise me and as far as I am concerned was one of the most perfect people to ever grace this world. My mom is great and all, but she is no Nana. Well, she is their Nana. And while I didn't want her to have the name, our boy knew what he was doing.

My Nana

My Nana

I think it is so interesting what we call people. In the South our grandparents are not "normal" names (mine are Nana, Papaw, Mema, and Popaw). For my husband's family everyone is just "Grandma" and "Grandpa." Also  in my husband's family I couldn't even tell who was "real" aunts and uncles and who were family friends...they were all named "Aunt" or "Uncle." But turns out we now do the same, all of my besties are my kids aunts and uncles and my kids don't bat an eye. Well, my daughter does refer to her godfather as "her other dad" so that can get confusing. The bottom line is all of these people are a part of our tribe. 

Let's talk a little about language and using the word "tribe." It is a word that is used a lot right now...especially in the parenting circles. But let's look at Merriam-Webster's definition of Tribe...

Definition of Tribe

a:  a social group comprising numerous families, clans, or generations together with slaves, dependents, or adopted strangers                                                                                                                                                                                        b:  a political division of the Roman people originally representing one of the three original tribes of ancient a group of persons having a common character, occupation, or interest

My Tribe

My Tribe

I think those definitions are pretty spot on. For me, my tribe is a mix...a mix of my family, friends, and neighbors...in that mix there are parents-some with young kids and some with kids that have grown and left the home; some have never had kids; there are men and women, old and young; gay and straight; conservative and liberal (but c'mon let's be honest...mainly liberal); married and single...they all are a part of our world.  Think about your own tribes. You need those tribes.

Why You Need Your Tribe

  • It takes us all. It a million percent takes a village to raise children.  I have eyes and ears on my kids from the people in my hood and I am doing the same for them. We pick up each other's kids from school or sports and when needed we pick each other up from the lows of parenthood.
  • You aren't alone. Your tribe reminds you that you are not solo in this world. If you are a parent, and especially if you are a stay-at-home parent you can feel very isolated. You have people. You aren't alone.
  • You learn from others. Listen, none of us have this mess figured out and if you think you have...you either are lying or are delusional...you are something...but it ain't perfect. I love to hear (and watch) what other people are doing with their kids. Why reinvent the wheel? And also there is so much I would never think about...you need a different perspective some times to help you out. 

How to Celebrate Your Tribe

  • Where your girls at? Give your tribe a call, a text, an email...whatever you can do to say that you are thinking of them. Even better if you can see them in person. 
  • Share the love. Once you have located them, make sure you tell them how much they mean to you. Sometimes we take that for granted...we don't say that we love our people. 
  • Do something nice. Your tribe loves you and chances are they have done something nice for you (probably time and time again). So this time practice some good ol' fashion random act of kindness for them. Check this out to get some ideas on how you can shower them with love unexpectedly. 

Love your tribe, tend to those relationships to help them flourish and grow, and celebrate each other...for Mother's Day and every day. 

Here are some examples of my Mother's Days of years past. My favorite? The year that my son said that I like to "eat poop and drink pee."  Hope your Mother's Day is beautiful just like that sentiment. Word to your mamas.

Remembering the Days

One last photo

One last photo

Monday marked the 4th anniversary of the death of my father-in-law, John.  

Four years ago, John (or Juan or Papa Grand or Grand...he had several names he used)  had spent an impromptu couple of days with us. I am certain I was annoyed that I didn't know he was going to stay with us. He hung out with the kids, he went fishing with the guys (my husband, my brother-in-law, and our son), he did yard work at the house my mom was about to move into...it was a full and fun couple of days. The morning he left he told my husband that he planned to be around more that summer. He wanted to spend time with the family and since he was a landscape architect he was going to help us design our yard. 

John went back to the beach. That night he went to bed, kissed his wife, and he died. It was shocking to say the least. I remember when I found out I couldn't stop saying "I don't understand" over and over and over again for hours...I was just in shock. All of the family was devastated to say the least. He was just with us and then he was gone. It didn't make sense. 

The Sketch

The Sketch

The morning John left he gave our boy a sketch and he gave a writing to Mark-o that John had wrote on our wedding day. It said...

Life is brief, continue to make it beautiful...pay more attention to who I have been.

Good Lord, that still makes me cry. 

I didn't remember it was the anniversary of his death until Monday morning and I felt so guilty about it.  It is so crazy because the first year someone dies every anniversary of what they are missing is so painful and then it is painful when you stop remembering all the little "milestones." It is all painful. 

The truth is as time has passed, John has become more than the things that he isn't here for, instead he is a part of daily life. Our children were 5 years old and 7 months old when he died. Our son remembers him, but he mixes the memories of his grandfather with the memories of our dear next door neighbor that died the following year. And our daughter has no memory of Papa Grand so she combines information about him with what she knows about my father since she has only seen him a couple of times. Our children are growing up learning about their grandfather instead of getting to be able to spend time with him and experience him in all his glory.

He was an eccentric man to say the least. He was bright and colorful, he was an artist and an innovator...he was a larger than life person. And you know what, he was human and he had flaws (like we all do). You don't need to make the people that are no longer with us Saints, but we also don't need to focus on what made them fallible...none of that matters...that all fades away. What doesn't fade away is the love. That is what keeps our loved ones with us.

One thing I will always be astonished by was his love. Every note, every text, every email that he gave/sent to my husband just poured out love. He ALWAYS talked about how proud he was of Mark-o, how great Mark-o is, and how much he loved him. It was incredible, especially given that those two had many heated debates...they were aggressive conversationalists. But he was prolific about his love. May we all learn those lessons...share your love with who you love. 

So in honor of John (and some of the things that he loved or held dear), here are some great ways to embrace life this week...

  • Watch a sunset.
  • Cut a fresh bouquet. 
  • Use yellow or neon green in your color choices...clothes, dishes, flowers, whatever. 
  • Enjoy something you find beautiful...just appreciate the beauty...nothing more, nothing less.
  • Eat some gummies.
  • Make art.
  • Drink wine or bubbly water. 
  • Use a real glass and a real napkin...no paper products.
  • Soak in the sun (if there is sun where you are).
  • Write a letter to someone you love. 
  • Smile. Seriously just smile. 

And take a moment to call your loved ones, hug them if you are near to them, tell them how much you love them, because tomorrow is never promised...you only have right now, baby. Live and love like it. 

See you Friday.