The Skunk Outside

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I was volunteering in my daughter's preschool class the other day and they had a lock down drill. I don't know if you have ever been in a lock down drill or if you know what one is. Basically a lock down drill is when you practice what you would do if there was an intruder, a shooter, or some sort of criminal act. The drill is to go to a safe room and lock all doors and shut the windows tight as you darken the room. I didn't have these drills when I was a child in the 1980's. In Arkansas we had tornado drills and I am suspect that the folder I had to put over my head really would be helpful, but I digress.

We actually had to leave my daughter's classroom, because there are too many windows. The children are targets in this room. So as I walked into the dark room with my daughter and her class and one of the teachers in the "safe" room helped explain why we were there. She quieted her voice and told us to be silent...we didn't want the skunk outside to hear us. She gently told the children that there was a stinky skunk trying to get in and we didn't want him to know where we were so we had to be still and quiet. Some kids laughed, some kids cried, but mostly they were so very quiet. 

These are preschoolers.

A couple of days later there was another school shooting. Another one.

High school students and brave teachers and coaches are gone. They are dead. They went to school on VALENTINE'S DAY and were killed. 

There are no words...just action. I am amazed by the survivors who refuse to be quiet. They are children.  The survivors who will not back down about talking about change...it is not too soon for them...it is indeed too late. These survivors are already talking about gun control. These children are doing things that adults have been too afraid to do...these children have been victims of gun violence (this week mind you) and are currently undergoing a crazy traumatic event and they are already mobilizing and taking action. God bless them. 

No one should have guns that can kill that many people so quickly. No one. Yes, we do need gun control. And yes, we do need to focus on the heroes not the people who do these things. And yes, we do need to provide mental care for people who need it. And yes, we do need to build community. 

Personally, I have connected with my local chapter of Moms Demand Action. You don't need to be a mom to join the group and they don't want to take away your guns. They want common sense gun control. Sign me up! 

And for me, one of the most important things is for me to build community where ever I go. We are connected 24/7 and yet we don't have real connections in our neighborhoods or in our communities.

Honestly, I am just doing my damnedest to be more like Mr. Rogers every day. He had it right...he showed us why we should love our neighborhoods and how we are interconnected, he taught us to love one another, and he taught us that we were valuable...that we all had something to add to our community.  

Knowing that we can be loved exactly as we are gives us all the best opportunity for growing into the healthiest of people.
— Mr. Fred Rogers

So we have some radical love to share and some major changes in our current legislation that need to happen. Oh, and a bunch of other work. But we have to make a change. We can't send our babies to get an education and have them fear for their lives. And we have learned there is no place safe...not concerts, not malls, not churches, and not at schools. There are too many skunks getting away with too many horrible things. We have to make a change.

Love one another...you know, the really hard ones to love...them too. 

PHOTOGRAPH BY JOEL SARTORE, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

PHOTOGRAPH BY JOEL SARTORE, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

Oh, and I actaully love skunks...they are just serving as a metaphor today. 

Deck the Halls

Merry and Bright

Before I was a mother I HATED when people would play Christmas music or watch Christmas movies when it wasn't the designated Thanksgiving to Christmas Day time period. Then I had children, specifically I had children who LOVE Christmas all the time. This summer we definitely had the movie Elf on heavy rotation. And the truth is I am not even sad about it. I think we all need a little Christmas spirit.

I love the spirit of Christmas. Well, I love the spirit that Christmas is supposed to have. I love people being a little cheerier, I love giving gifts, I love the parties, I love watching the wonderment on children's faces when they meet Santa, I love being with family, and I love the ritual of it all religious and otherwise. 

Christmas is doing a little something extra for someone.
— Charles M. Schulz

For me, I celebrate Christmas because of my religion. But I don't care what holiday you celebrate or don't celebrate...I am with you wherever you are.  I love our differences and what we each bring to the table. Look, we can thank the pagans for a lot of Christmas rituals. Like that tree? Thank a pagan. What I really care about this time of the year is being there for one another and just doing a little extra. You know, the things we should be doing every day for each other. 

Christmas will always be as long as we stand heart to heart and hand in hand.
— Dr. Seuss
Christmas Tree

I have been binge watching bad holiday films and my take away is that a lot of us are looking for that feeling that the holiday brings. The good feelings, not the mad rush of shopping, or spending too much money, or fighting with strangers over the perfect tree/gift/parking spot. 

These movies teach us lessons. Like the spirit of Christmas is something in our hearts (not in a box). Or that if we come together we can do anything (like save a town, a family business, or help a ghost in purgatory...I am telling you, I have watched A LOT of these movies...they are bonkers). Or lastly these movies show us to hang on tightly to the innocence, the wonder, and the delight of the season like a child.

Also, my take away is that we are willing to watch total crap as long as it is a Christmas movie. I know it isn't just me...Netlfix told me what is trending. 

Our family decorated the whole house with I think 9 Christmas trees of various sizes and not with the ornaments that I may have chose, but with what brought our kids joy. The lights are up. The mantel is all adorned. The nutcracker collection is on display. The Advent wreath and the nativity set are out. The Christmas mugs are in full rotation. We are seriously in the Christmas spirit as we deck the halls...and it isn't even December 1st.

I need this season and I am okay if it lingers. I hope you are able to have some holiday cheer as well. 

I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.
— Charles Dickens
Vintage Santa

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. 

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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. 

 

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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!

Living Your Story

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When I was little I used to get so upset when something would happen that I perceived as messing up my life story. (Turns out I might have been a weird kid. Like, why would I think about my life story? I don't know, but I did.)

There were plenty of things in my after school special life that I felt messed up my story. I grew up poor, my parents were divorced, I had domestic violence in my family, the list is long and sordid. And the truth is,  I made poor choices and other peoples poor choices that affected me greatly...they all led to my story whether I wanted them to or not. I would literally think "I don't want this to be in my life story." I also thought I was going to be like the youngest person to write a memoir. I was delusional about a lot of my life.

I was way too old to  realize that all of those experiences...the good and the bad...made me who I am. I couldn't just pick the things I felt were worthy of my story. It doesn't work like that. 

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Monday night I went to Together Live. Glennon Doyle and Abby Wambach and some other amazing ladies were there.  It is this motivational, women focused tour and the theme is "Living Our Love Stories."  It was really great and hearing glimpses of other people's stories helps bring context to your own. There are no perfect life stories. Real people have real issues. 

You are not supposed to be happy all the time. Life hurts and it’s hard. Not because you’re doing it wrong, but because it hurts for everybody. Don’t avoid the pain. You need it. It’s meant for you. Be still with it, let it come, let it go, let it leave you wtih the fuel you’ll burn to get your work done on this earth.
— Glennon Doyle
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I honestly was not a huge Glennon follower...I think I read some of her stuff, but really I became aware of her when she and Abby became a couple. Their love and happiness is infectious. But the real thing that got me hooked on Glennon was a quote I just happened to find this summer that is from one of her books.

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I love this quote so much. It is the perfect reminder for me. I am continuously feeling like I am missing out on something...that my boat is gone. I have become obsessed with the quote so much that I even put a little boat that The Boy made on our front porch...the perfect physical reminder. So I liked Glennon, but I wasn't planning on going to see the tour.

And then out of the blue a neighbor texted me and said she bought two tickets and wanted to take me. This is a neighbor that we have lived by for years, but maybe have had 10 interactions with each other and she chose me. Isn't that the craziest? It was exactly what I needed and when I needed it. So sweet and It was nice to go with her and get to know her a little better. This unexpected gift of generosity is also a part of my story. 

My story (and yours) is constantly unfolding. The family I am creating with my husband is unfolding into chapters I couldn't imagine. We share our world with two amazing, riveting characters. I keep waiting for things to go wrong. But maybe not all stories need to be the inspiration for a made for tv movie. I can deal with us just being like a reality show. Who knows what will happen next. All I know is that I am in the middle of living my own love story. 

The only meaningful thing we can offer one another is love. Not advice, not questions about our choices, not suggestions for the future, just love.
— Glennon Doyle
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Love your people! See you Thursday!

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!

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. 

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

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!

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. 

Hippity Hoppity

Easter is this weekend. Easter is a holiday that we celebrate in our family and one that means a lot to me. But I never even got our decorations out from the attic! I don't have any excuse, Easter isn't even early this year.

Luckily we have been gifted a couple of Easter related decorations and we did make that fun Pom Pom Tree, plus I transitioned the house into spring colors a few weeks ago...so we do have some Easter spirit. But still I am a little off my game. That is okay. Some days we are on...some days we aren't...I guess the same goes for holidays/months/years. 

Easter is a holiday that our family has some legit traditions that we do try to honor. My husband's family typically has a lamb made of butter. My mother-in-law used to make the butter lamb for us each year. But this past Easter, she gave all the families their own wood mold for the lamb. It is pretty fun we can now make it ourselves for years to come. 

Butter Lamb

Butter Lamb

In my family we make a bunny cake. We decorate it various ways. It is cake with coconut flakes and the face is made with candy or fruit. The example below is from the year when my son decorated the bunny with marshmallow eggs. Here is the problem...my son and my husband (and sometimes even myself) have birthdays close to Easter. So that can be a LOT of cake in a short period of time. Last year I felt pretty proud of myself when I thought to make a smaller cake and then I decorated it with mainly fruit. I will admit though, the smaller bunny cake was not as cute. 

I think my husband and I care about these traditions because we don't think we have a lot of traditions. I don't know that we have a lot of traditions as a culture any longer. For us, creating things we do (or don't do) helps give us some meaning in our holidays and our lives.

You may do things a certain way in your family of origin. Then you grow up and perhaps you fall in love and make a family with someone else. And this person did things a certain way in THEIR family of origin. Well, then you two have to decide on how YOUR family does things. It can be hard to balance for sure. I mean, we are cool on the butter lamb and the bunny cake...but after 15 years of being together, 11 years of marriage, and almost 9 years of being parents...I feel like we still negotiate a lot what we do as a family. It is funny as we go along, our kids tell us what our traditions are. They pick out the things we repeat or that we drop and help us define what our traditions actually may be. Fine by me!

(Look at our "babies" first Easters! The Boy is freaking adorable/looks like a mini version of my dad. And Little Miss...why did we think it was a good idea to put her in this basket? Poor baby!)

One thing that is kind of becoming a tradition for the KUs, is that we try to stay away from giving candy. It seems like everyone else in their world gives them their fill of candy, so we don't need to add to that. It isn't because we don't love candy...we do. But everyone in our immediate family, besides the Boy has self control issues. Our daughter definitely has a sugar addiction. Soooo to help her (and my husband and I) from going nuts on the sugar we just ask the Easter Bunny to not bring candy. (For reals, I have a little pile of candy wrappers right next to me as I type. Ugh...it is a problem.)

Easter Egg Hunt at the Neighbors...for Candy.

Easter Egg Hunt at the Neighbors...for Candy.

Last year the Easter Bunny filled the baskets with all sorts of cooking supplies and new aprons and chef hats. This year the word on the street is that the Easter Bunny is bringing Disneyland trip supplies. I can't be sure since it isn't Easter yet. I will have to post pictures once the Easter Bunny comes to our house. 

If you are still wondering what you can do to help the Easter Bunny this year. Here is a list of non-candy items that would be great for Easter baskets...

Non-Candy Easter Basket Fillers

  • Books
  • Games-Jacks, Deck of Cards, Dice, Board Games, Rubik's Cube, Yo-Yo
  • Toys-Bubbles, Bouncy Balls, Kites, Marbles, Legos, Stuffed Animals, Slinky
  • Personal Items-Temporary Tattoos, Sunglasses, Hats, Chapstick
  • Art Stuff- Play-Doh/Clay, Stickers, Stamps, Coloring Books, Crayons, Markers, Watercolors, Paint Brushes
  • Hair Stuff-Hair Ties/Bows, Products, Hair Brush
  • Teeth Stuff-Electric Toothbrushes, Mouthwash, Toothpaste
  • Bath Stuff-Fun Soaps, Shampoos, Bubblebath, Bath Toys
  • Cooking Items-Measuring Spoons/Cups, Spoons, Apron, Cookbooks

You know I understand that not everyone celebrates this holiday. But hopefully a couple of stories about tradition and some non-candy gift ideas can still be relatable. Have a wonderful weekend and I will post some pictures once that darn Easter Bunny gets here! Hippity Hoppity Easter is on its way!

Looking for a Sign

The cosmos is within us. We are made of star-stuff. We are a way for the universe to know itself.
— Carl Sagan

There are some people who are always looking for signs...signs for clarity, signs for direction for what they should do in their relationships/jobs/life, signs that love is still there...and some people find those signs.

I have a friend that went to Hawaii (well, I am fairly sure it was Hawaii, but I can't really remember that detail...I am 100% sure it was somewhere tropical). Wherever she was, she was pregnant with one of her children and she was trying to decide whether or not to quit her job and be a stay at home mom or if she wanted to continue working outside of the home. She was sitting on the beach and she was looking for a sign. She gave the universe an ultimatum...if she had a sign, she would quit her job...and right as she was about give up and go back inside a pod of dolphins came swimming by. A pod of them! I mean, she was looking for a sign...that seems like a big ol' sign!

There is so much of this world that we don't know about...so much that we don't understand. I love Carl Sagan (the amazing "astronomer, cosmologist, astrophysicist, astrobiologist, author, science popularizer, and science communicator in astronomy and other natural sciences"...for reals that is the Wikipedia "job title" for him). I love that he said we are all star-stuff...so not only are we are a part of this universe....we are the universe. It is no wonder we see signs...we are all looking for meaning, for direction, for connectedness...it is written in the univerese.

She was half human...half universe
— A.R. Lucas

Well, we can find signs in all things...especially when we are looking. Right? The magical ones happen when we aren't looking. I have been thinking about the signs I have had in my life and then I started looking around at the actual signs we have in our home. Those signs are a lot less interesting and they aren't very magical, but I think they help us get some clarity and direction.

The first "sign" you see when you walk into our home is whatever is written or illustrated on a GIANT chalkboard wall in our front room. It is huge...my husband painted the wall with chalkboard paint and he framed it with also using magnetic paint on the border of the chalkboard. He did this when our son was just a toddler and at the time we loved how the boy could color on the wall, but now I usually draw out a giant schedule for the week so we all can look up and know what we need to do for the week. (BTW: Dip your chalk in water to make the chalk brighter.)  It is soooooo helpful to see our week largely written out...it helps MAMA keep on track. Sure kids still draw on the chalkboard all the time and any time we have a birthday or big holiday the kids usually make a special mural, but it is a helpful tool for our family...it provides a clear sign for messages and things to remember (It  also clearly shows all the chalk dust on the baseboards. Oops!)

This week's schedule looks intense

This week's schedule looks intense

The other sign we have in our house that is a "permanent fixture" is this mini cinema light box.  Oh my goodness...isn't it the cutest?

A sign that I like Birds and Flowers

A sign that I like Birds and Flowers

I will be honest that this one is actually a little smaller than the ones I had been eyeing over on Amazon. But I got a craft store gift certificate for my birthday and I found this little beauty for 1/3 the cost of the other ones...that was good enough for me!  I am quite frugal (so cheap it hurts!). 

I love that I can make cute little messages...once again little, tiny, microscopic messages, but message all the same! And from a practical note, my husband came to the marriage with  two last names (Kennelly Ullman...I used to be a Cole yo) and finding the letters K and U are next to impossible for some strange reason so I can never get those adorable individual letters they have at every craft/home goods/department store...one is always missing... either the K or the U. Why no K and U's at the same time people? Now I will make my own dang letters!

The KUs mantel

The KUs mantel

The other thing about the signs is that it makes the mundane feel a little more special. Why not make something cuter like your schedule or your initials or some little message? Life is short, hard, and messy...bring on the cute and make someone feel special just for being here in this vast universe at the same time. After all, we are all made of star-stuff...let's make each other feel how precious we really are. And if you are looking for a sign, here it is...

Look for your own sign

Look for your own sign

Working on the Chain Gang

I hope you had a great weekend. Mine was just perfection...we celebrated our wedding anniversary and my birthday. That was wonderful, but for the people in the Pacific Northwest...the very best part was that we had sun for a whole day. We have had a wet, long winter so we really savor those sunny moments. Today is the first day of Spring so while it may not happen today or even this week...we can look forward to some more sunny days on their way. 

Paper chain gang

Paper chain gang

For today's Make it Monday we are going to make something so easy that can bring such joy...perfect for the season. We are making paper chains! Why do paper chains? These super simple decorations actually are quite deceptive. They canhelp teach some complex information. 

Paper chains can help make any room seem festive. When I was a kid I remember making them for the Christmas tree. Or you can do what these amazing people did in the pictures below. 

I never even thought of paper chains for a a backdrop, a garden party, or for a wedding. But just pick out your colors for you even and get to working. The more  you have the bigger statement you are making. 

But paper chains can also help teach math or help kids (or grown ups) learn about different concepts like kindness or about emotions. Paper chains are great ways to show how things are linked together. (Just a helpful tip: if you click on the pictures above it will take you to the source of the picture or if you click on any word that looks like this it will take. you to a link. You can then see examples of things we are talking about. I mean, you probably already knew that, but just a little reminder. I want to make sure you are getting the whole enchilada! Okay now back to the fine art of making paper chains.)

The reason why I love paper chains is not just because they are adorable, but because they are so helpful of marking time for children (and adults). They are a concrete physical representation of a pretty abstract concept. Tell your kid something is happening in a few months or show them how many days that is and what it looks like. We did this for our son when I was pregnant with our daughter...we made a long chain that he could take one paper chain off a day or if we forgot (which of course we did)  we would do several at a time. It is just such a great and simple way to build excitement and to show how time "looks."

We are going to Disneyland (thanks Nana for an awesome Christmas gift)! We don't take many "big" vacations...we are hard core staycationers...we are on one income so it isn't always feasible to do a large vacation and where we live it takes just a little time to get to the coast, the mountains, or a desert l location so we travel locally. So Disneyland is a pretty big deal for us and it will be the first time either of our kids have gone. So we are counting down the days. You can see lots of adorable Disney countdowns on Pinterest. Let's make some of our own!

Paper chain supplies

Paper chain supplies

First you need your supplies...

  • Paper-You could go old school and do construction paper, but for a more polished look and honestly for a little more durability a nice cardstock or some fancy scrapbooking paper (with card stock weight) would be great. 
  • Scissors or a Paper Cutter-You could do scissors or a paper cutter...I did a paper cutter, because I want the least amount of work...I am lazy.
  • Stapler and Staples-Do not use tape or glue...I mean, you can, but why would you do that? Just staple it...it is soooooo much easier and faster and once again it will be much more durable. 
  • Ribbon, Clips, etc. (optional)-You will want something to hold the chain up, unless you have it laying out somewhere. 

Step 1:  Get your stuff

Step 1: Get your stuff

Step 1

Collect all your supplies. I chose "Disney" style paper. I mean, it wasn't in the 10 for a $1 pile that I wanted to shop from, but I don't think it was crazy for a $1 a sheet. Plus if you go to Jo-Ann's or Michaels you better be using your coupons on your phone (or from the paper if you get it)...if you aren't you are just throwing money away. Sorry, that sounds harsh, but I am only looking out for you. 

  Step 2:  Cut it out

 Step 2: Cut it out

Step 2

Cut your paper. You need it long enough to make a loop, staple it, and to put another piece a paper through. You can make the strips just a about 1 1/2 to 2 inches thick or make giant ones or really thin ones...any little changes you make will make totally different looks. 

Step 3:  Loop and staple

Step 3: Loop and staple

Step 3

Staple loops. Staple a circle...put a strip through...staple that into a circle...and repeat, and repeat, and repeat. Have your kids help. You probably made these as a kid. This is actually a fun project to do together. 

Step 4:  Hang it up

Step 4: Hang it up

Step 4

Hang it up! I tied a ribbon to the top and it made a long chain that hung straight down. I thought it looked better looped so I just used a clip to connect it to the top where the ribbon is. I wanted to be able to access the end easily so the kids could take one down each day without much hassle. 

That is it! So easy!!! Right?!

But what a great metaphor...those links are us, baby...we are all interlocked and connected...not with paper and with staples, but as individuals who are connected with our geography, our interactions, and with our love. So let's get back to the basics whether it is with crafts or our relationships. It seems so simple, but it means so much...see how you can connect today. And maybe make some pretty little chains to countdown things that you are looking forward to...a trip, seeing a loved one, a big moment at work, etc. Or just make some pretty spring themed paper chains to decorate.

Happy, happy spring! 

It Took Awhile

I have been working on this blog for about 8 1/2 years. By working, I really mean I made my husband buy the domain name, pay for hosting, and then I casually talked about it FOR YEARS. Turns out, life got busy and I put this idea on the back burner. However, some times your ideas have a way of worming into your brain until you finally have to do something about them. So here's my something. 

It all started when I was sitting at the hospital with my newborn baby boy (in 2008 mind you) and the nurse came in and asked for the proud parents of this child. I distinctly remember looking around and thinking "Yes, who is responsible for this baby?" then I quickly realized that would be my husband and I. Perhaps I was dazed from the week long marathon labor, or all the drugs pumped in me, or the emergency c-section, or the sleep deprivation...whatever it was I wasn't putting it together that now me and this man (that I loved and married) were PARENTS. It wasn't just about getting the baby to be born...our lives were about to forever altered in ways we couldn't imagine. Since that day we have been Posing as Parents. 

Isn't that what we all are doing? We are posing. It doesn't matter if you feel like you are posing as parents, you are posing in your job, or maybe posing in your life...some times you have to fake it until you make it. That is life. We are all figuring it out as we go along. Some of us are just better at hiding it or making it look easy. 

For my husband and I, we are figuring out this parenting thing as we go along. Still almost 9 years deep into it. That baby has grown into a boy that goes to elementary school and is able to verbalize all of our shortcomings. Every time we feel like we have it all figured out with this parenting thing then something new happens that we have to understand and navigate. On top of that we also have a four year old and who has been giving us a run for our money since the day she was born. Turns out she is a completely different person than her brother...which is awesome, but brings its own set of hurdles. And we are still posing. 

So if you are Posing as Parents too, or if you like to read about people messing up often in regards to childrearing and in life in general then this is the place for you. Also, I like to fast craft so if crafting is your thing then this may be a space that you would enjoy. And we will be planning some parties...who doesn't love a party? Well, if that is you...I can help you seem like a party planner with minimal work. Lastly, but most importantly (for me), this is a space for positive community building. We will explore ways to expand and enrich our communities. I truly believe that one thing we are missing is our interconnectedness with one another that being a part of a community brings so let's find ways to build our village together. So welcome. We are Posing as Parents.