Category Archives: me and my thoughts

Maybe It’s Time.

At the end of my post about our anniversary trip to Siesta Key, I said something about writing about living in a bikini for a few days and what it taught me. I said I’d write about it if I was brave enough.

Well, I decided I wasn’t then. But I guess I am now. Maybe?

Yes. Yes I am. Deep breath. Girl talk time.

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>>>To start: this seems slightly off-topic, but I promise it’s not. It’s good time to interject that I read Brene Brown‘s Daring Greatly, a book about vulnerability and leadership and living wholeheartedly, late last fall. I loved it and swore she was stealing thoughts from my head several times. It’s very well-written, and totally thought-provoking, so you don’t just breeze through it, and it messed me up in a really good way. And perhaps gave me the confidence to write things like I am today. Truly a perspective-changing book if ever I’ve read one. If you haven’t heard her speak, I highly recommend starting with her TEDx talk, followed by her TED talk, followed by the book.<<<

So. At 37, it’s just time to get over some of these insecurities I’ve had for years. I’m not that young anymore, but I’m in the best shape of my entire life, so I’m declaring that 2015 is the year I let go of some of these stupid, warped-by-society issues I’m still carrying around primarily from my teenage years.

Especially because the things I don’t love and nitpick? They’re not even things that I can change. I mean, via surgical means, lots of things are possible, I guess, but I’m not going to those lengths :).

I’ve even blogged about both of my main hangups in the past: stretch marks and body shape. One stretch mark comes with a funny story. Here’s an edited excerpt from 2008:

I got stretch marks that were not run-of-the-mill when I was pregnant with Luke…The main one to which I’m referring is on my side, and it wasn’t all that noticeable until after he was born. When Luke was about 3 months old, I was putting his car seat in our car, and my shirt lifted at my waist a bit. Matt gasped audibly, and asked, “What happened to your side?” He apparently hadn’t noticed until then my gigantic, red stretch mark that was like 1/2 an inch wide and 2 inches long. I glared back and said, “Uh, I had your baby.” Priceless look on his face…like I’d somehow been stabbed without him knowing it or something.

My other issue is that despite two years of working out, eating healthy, losing 30 pounds, etc., and major changes to my body, my body shape remains the same. As in, I carry my weight in my lower body…I may be a few sizes smaller, but I’m still a curvy few-sizes-smaller.  And my sweet friend Heather, who’s a trainer as well as just smart and full of good sense, has talked me off the ledge several times with a simple reminder: this is how God made you. And that’s more than ok. And, you really can’t change this anyway, so tone it up as best you can and deal with it.

All of that brings me to the beach trip. I bought a small-ish bikini; with no one I knew besides my husband, who was unshockingly a fan of this decision, AND no offspring on this trip with us – oh my gosh, they would be so embarrassed to know that their mom even owned, let alone wore, this in public – I felt confident enough to do this.

Until that moment at the beach when I first took off my cover-up…momentary panic. What was I even thinking back in Missouri when I made this decision?

And then? This overwhelming feeling of WHO IN THE WORLD GIVES A RIP ABOUT THIS? I am on an amazing trip to one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen, and I’m going to worry about my imperfect, non-airbrushed, yet totally healthy and capable body? That’s just crazy talk. I literally decided in those first moments on the sand that I was done thinking about that…and I was for the rest of the trip. Totally at peace.

The thing about insecurities, though, is that they have a tendency to creep back up on you eventually…hence waiting a couple of months to actually write this out. Work in progress, people.

I wore that bikini 3 of the 4 days we spent on the beach (one day, my never-sees-the-sun-stomach needed a break from the rays or I would still be peeling). I walked miles of shoreline and laid for hours in a chair reading or sleeping in that suit. And it was incredibly freeing to be rid of all of those gremlins, as Brene calls them.

Also, all of this makes me think: I love and am gifted at being on vacation, and I want to go back as I sit in the frigid Midwest right now.

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A couple of friends of mine and I have claimed 2015 as our year. We have big dreams and big goals and we’re going to make them happen. I’m not ready to write about what it all means just yet; it will likely come out in bits and pieces as the year goes on and as I actually know something.

I know I’m not the only girl (yep. Still going with girl instead of woman) carrying around nonsense like what I wrote about today. Maybe it’s time for you to be ok with something you’ve long disliked about your body, too? Join me. Be brave.

I’m Back! And, a Note about Gratitude.

Ohhhkay. So it’s been a while. I’ve taken breaks before, but never of this magnitude. I wish I could say that I planned it, and it was a sabbatical filled with lots of important thinking and stuff, but that’s not entirely true. So to the 4 of you that have clicked over here to read, I thank you.

Quick and dirty of the past 8 weeks:

>I got a tattoo. Managed to blog about that. I’m still obsessed with looking my own wrist, and have plans for a second tattoo. No regrets. Love it.

>I had heel surgery, wore an aircast for 2 weeks, was incredibly impatient about the whole thing, and I still am. I can’t do any high-impact exercise for another several weeks, and it’s killing me. And, my heel is still mildly sore all the time, sometimes more painful depending on my shoe choices and how much I’m up and around. So really, y’all can thank me for NOT blogging during the earlier part of this whole ordeal, because I was crabby (tiny violins are playing everywhere right now, I know).

>So this is bad, but Luke had a birthday and I didn’t write a post (I have a moderate amount of guilt I’m dealing with over this). Thankfully, this blog has been around for a sweet forever at this point, and I’ve documented his birthday nicely from age 5-11, so I think this is forgivable. Plus, in my head, he’s still this tiny adorable guy, and sometimes I like to pretend he’s not 12:

>I have listened to a million hours of my current favorite songs on repeat. I can listen to a song over and over and not tire of it for longer than you can imagine. It’s a special gift.
My family does not share this gift.

>Christmas: fabulous celebrations with just the 5 of us and our extended families.

So. There ya go. Caught up.

Onto the second half of the title of this post: for the past 2 years, our family has been writing a gratitude journal. And the new year is the perfect time to start something like this, so I thought I’d share.

I got this notebook, used the Silhouette to cut out some stickers for the cover, and boom: our Family Gratitude Journal was born.

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The idea is really simple, and I’m sure I read it on a blog somewhere years ago, but I don’t remember where (sorry, random person with this great idea). It starts with one family member writing down the date and something for which they’re thankful, and signing their name. Then, they leave the notebook at the bedside of another family member. That’s it.

For me, the goal is this: not every day has a huge, oh-my-goodness-this-is-amazing moment. If it does, then it certainly should be documented. But every day, there is so much to be thankful for, and I think kids (and adults, too, really) need to be taught to look for blessings in their lives.

My boys never have to worry about having a roof over their head, or enough food to eat, or if they’re safe and cared for at school. They have medical care and reliable transportation (well, as reliable as their mother’s memory, at least). Naturally, then, it’s easy to take these things for granted, but that’s not how I want them to be raised. One way we work to be aware of these gifts is by sponsoring kids through Compassion International – you know how much I love this organization, and our communication over the years with Jeremy and Joangel has opened the boys’ eyes to so much.

So our journal has become another tool in teaching gratitude. Obviously, I can’t say for sure whether it’s working or not, because as with all things parenting, we don’t get to know how this works out until we’re finished. Which is crap, but that’s just the way it goes, and it’s why we try these things, right? I’ll be so happy if the boys, when they’re grown, remember this practice. And even happier if it’s impacted them enough to really, truly live a life of thankfulness and compassion.

Logistics: it started out going to someone new each night. Over the 2 years, it’s not gotten passed around quite so frequently, so we’re working on that again. But I LOVE this family artifact we’re building, complete with little kid handwriting. Mercy…Jack Henry’s earliest entries are so stinkin’ adorable.

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FYI: Waffle is his little stuffed dog.

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What do you do with your kids to teach an attitude of thankfulness? Help a mama out.

New Hair Day

Today was new hair color/trim day, which is a day of happiness, obviously. It’s just slightly darker for winter, nothing drastic.

In case you don’t live in a house full of boys, and wonder what it’s like to come home with different hair, here are their reactions:

Luke (hours after being around me, I asked, “Did you notice that I got my hair done today?”): Nope.

Bennett (asked if he noticed): Yeah. (No further comment.)

Jack Henry (asked if he noticed): Yeah. Did you get your bangs cut, too? Because they’ve been in your eyes for a long time and I don’t like it.

Finally. I Did It!

If you ask my older kids what popular saying I hate most, I’d say there’s a good chance they’d answer “YOLO” (You Only Live Once if you aren’t in the know). I hate it. I hate that young people generally use it as an excuse to do dumb stuff and somehow justify it.

However, there’s obviously loads of truth in that stupid phrase. You really only do get once. And there’s certainly something to be said for not having regrets about the way you’ve spent your time. I’ve lately spent a lot of time thinking about how short life really is, particularly in the context of my mom. More on that in another post…that’s another topic for another day.

What this meant yesterday is that I was googling tattoos (again, it’s a hobby) and came across an identical tattoo to one I’d drawn out several weeks ago. “Drawn out” makes it sound like it’s complicated, so you’ll laugh when you see that it’s really just >>>. However, seeing it on this girl’s arm, and knowing it was exactly what I’d been thinking of, somehow made me decide it was time. Like now. Before I lose my nerve.

I texted a picture of it to several friends and my sister, and my friend Robin jokingly responded that she’d take me now (it was early afternoon – she has a tattoo and has said for years that she wanted to go with me, plus she’s the one who mentioned to me that if I did ok with the cortisone shot I recently got, this was no big deal!). I started a text exchange with Matt, making sure that he was 100% on board with this*, and told him I was going to see if Robin really could take me that night. Because I was finally ready.

We worked out our evening schedule, and Robin picked me up, and we headed to Iron Age. Envision lots of giggly girl screaming on the 25 minute ride, with both of us repeatedly saying we couldn’t believe this was really happening.

[Funny story to interject here: I told the boys about the tattoo in the afternoon. I told them that it represented the three of them, and Jack Henry’s immediate reaction was that I should instead get three stick figures tattooed on my arm. #whykidsdontmakethesedecisions]

We walked right in, met a super nice tattoo artist who didn’t act at all like this was the dumbest little tattoo he’s ever done, and got started. He was so professional, and talked me through the whole process, making sure I was happy with placement, etc., and that I wasn’t going to freak out. I was happy to hear him say that I seemed relaxed about it; I was (I mean, I have no idea how people usually act, but I was glad that I didn’t seem like I may hyperventilate).

Robin documented the whole thing with pictures, and gave me lots of encouraging smiles and held my hand for the first few seconds of it, but it really wasn’t that bad. First of all, it’s six tiny lines, with no shading. It was literally about 2 1/2 minutes of tattooing. Don’t get me wrong, it didn’t feel good, but it was fine. Plus, there’s the added benefit of feeling like you have superpowers when it’s over. Plus? I’ve been wanting to do this for years, and I FINALLY DID IT!

So here it is! For real!

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I love it!! I’ve stared at it all day long, and it caught me by surprise at Walgreens today when I stuck my hand out for my change. I almost giggled when I saw it!

*He is. So supportive. Can’t believe I really did it, and I think a teeny tiny part of him is scared he’s married to someone he doesn’t know, but he’s being a champ about it all :)

Fifteen.

A couple of months ago, I was looking at Instagram, and a popular blogger that I follow on IG had posted a picture of her sweet family…they’d been travelling in an RV for a number of weeks together. She seems like a fun mom, and I love watching what she does with her kids through pictures. However, what caught my attention was the couple of comments that were visible under the picture.

I’m paraphrasing, but the gist was this, from 2 different moms: “We do EVERYTHING with our kids. We have never ever gotten a babysitter, even to go out for dinner, because we never want to be without them. Why would we want to go on an adventure and not include them?”

I almost choked on my tea.

Because, you see, I love my kids. So much. My only serious childhood ambition was to be a mom someday (and a cashier and an Avon lady. Which hasn’t happened yet, really. Who knows what the future holds though, right?), and I am one. I love travelling with them and seeing new things for the first time with them.

But are you even kidding me? Never getting a babysitter? Never doing anything without them? I’m sorry, but to me, that’s just not healthy for you as an adult human, or for your marriage. I’ve blogged before about how I think couples have to be careful not to lose sight of each other while they’re in the messy throes of raising kids (12 in ’12 was all about this for us), because before you know it, those kids are on their own, and you’re married to a stranger. No one wants that, right?

So, all that to justify say: Matt and I ran away to the beach last week for 5 days to celebrate our 15th anniversary, and it was truly, truly one of the highlights of my life. And we have Matt’s parents to majorly thank for totally stepping in and taking over the household for us while we were gone…they even left me with a clean house and garage, and the laundry done. Doesn’t get much better than that!!

We joked that we didn’t even know if we would be good at going on a sit-your-butt-on-the-beach vacation, since we’re usually go-do-a-ton-of-stuff vacationers (Nashville, Nashville again, Boston – though one of my Boston highlights was our drive to the Cape Cod seashore…). However, as it turns out, we killed it at laying in beach chairs. Literally for 4 full days, our only responsibility was making sure that we reapplied sunscreen regularly. We read books (you guys, my non-reader husband read TWO WHOLE BOOKS while we were gone), listened to music and the ocean, walked the beach and collected shells, and made getting back to the beach (or, just staying there all day) for sunset our job. Oh, and plenty of eating, and drinking Lime-a-Ritas like they were nutritious.

I can’t go back to do-something vacations after this. I’m afraid it ruined me in the best way possible.

It’s not that I ever would’ve shunned a vacation at the beach. I mean, hello, parenting babies and toddlers is incredibly exhausting, too. But as we reflected on the trip, and the time of year that we took it, it made sense why this felt like perfect timing. For the past couple of years, and the foreseeable future, our March-September is c-r-a-z-y with baseball. And you all know we wouldn’t have it any other way! The rest of the year feels so much more regular-busy-family manageable.

October is the perfect time to go to the beach. I’m polishing up my persuasive speech skills to talk Matt into this again. :)

I didn’t even mention where we went, did I? Siesta Key, Florida, right outside Sarasota. We visited a few neighboring beaches, too, to compare, and none of them even came close. I’d choose Siesta Key again in a heartbeat.

Sigh. So that’s it. Here are a few pictures, to make you want to go, too.

Next week, if I’m brave enough, I’ll blog about body image and what living in a bikini for a few days taught me. We’ll see.

Simplicity.

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**Major disclaimer: please read this knowing it is my opinion and parenting approach, and not a rip on the way other people choose to approach this as parents. There’s plenty of that elsewhere in other blogs. I just thought that there might be some other moms out there, maybe younger moms especially, who could use some insight and encouragement in this area. That’s it.**

I know I’ve mentioned on the blog before that I’m not much of a birthday party mom. I generally find it stressful, and overwhelming, and not fun. And yes, I know it’s not about me, but when I am all of the above, it doesn’t make for a happy household. That doesn’t mean that we don’t celebrate birthdays, or skip parties with friends. It just means that I like to keep things simple.

Part of my issue is how huge, in both numbers of kids invited and expenses, birthday parties have become. I’m simply not interested in keeping up with the Joneses. The potential expense completely overwhelms me, and the excessive amount of planning time to make everything creative and perfect makes me break out in hives. And I’m a creative person. Who adores Pinterest. I think part of my aversion is that all of this effort is put into something that lasts 2 hours.

Now. If crafting up an amazing party is your thing, go for it, sister. If you can afford a fun location, go all out! I don’t think badly of you, and I’m happy you’ve chosen to celebrate your kiddo in that way. Those parties can be really fun!

But if you can’t afford it? Or don’t want to spend that kind of money or time on a party? It’s ok. It really, really is ok to go against the grain. I honestly don’t think it’s going to impact your kids negatively in the long run. In fact, it might even lead to some really great discussions from an early age about family priorities and making hard choices (i.e. you may give your kid the option of an expensive party in lieu of a gift from you if it’s that important to him to have a big party).

We’ve had several small parties at the house, and we’ve also done the pick-three-friends-to-go-to-the-movies route. Each boy has been given the option of one bowling party (or similar expense), but Bennett didn’t even want that, and instead chose to have friends over to the house because that seemed more fun to him. One of B’s friends’ parents take a few kids camping at a local campground for their son’s birthday…super fun, doesn’t break the bank. There are tons of ways to celebrate your kid and his big day without forking over the equivalent of a car payment.

Clearly my kids aren’t grown yet, and this whole topic of how lame their birthday parties were compared to their friends could still lead them to the therapist’s couch. I hope not, but I don’t know. So take what I say with a grain of salt ;)

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Yesterday was Jack Henry’s first friend birthday party (he will be 7 next week!). With a September birthday, he didn’t know enough kids at school last year for us to have one, and having attended two different preschools didn’t allow for a good group of friends to form by the time his birthday came around each year.

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my happy birthday boy!

He invited 6 kids, and 4 were able to come over for a 2-hour party with pizza, homemade Oreo truffle cupcakes, and ice cream. We decorated the kitchen with streamers and a fun banner that my friend Corrie printed for me for Bennett’s last party. A couple of balloons were tied to the mailbox and to JH’s chair at the kitchen table. The kids played with a giant whoopie cushion we have in our basement, played one relay game I’d planned (and weren’t that into it, so I let go of any ideas I had of more organized games), ate, opened gifts, and just played. Jack Henry said it was really fun. The other kids seemed to be having a good time.

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popcorn shoe relay race, found on spoonful.com

ice cream pinterest idea

excellent time-saving idea from pinterest…scoop ice cream into cupcake liners ahead of time, and pull out of the freezer when it’s time to serve dessert!

I’m sure it wasn’t the most earth-shattering day of any of their young lives. But it was a great celebration of my boy. He had fun. I didn’t put us in debt.

Win-win.

Minus One

Last weekend, for the first time ever, Luke went away for the weekend on a church retreat for sixth graders. I have to admit, it was really, really weird to not have him with us… I felt like I was forgetting something all weekend.

However, it was really cool to spend some time with just the two younger boys while Luke was doing all of the Big Kid Things. Because we did not have a crazy overscheduled weekend for once, we had plenty of time to just do what we wanted.

Friday night, after Matt and I took care of the yard work and finishing up our bathroom remodel, we decided to have a bonfire in the cul-de-sac and let the boys have s’mores before dinner. Might’ve been our best decision all weekend.

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Saturday: early breakfast at The Shack (I’m obsessed with their berry granola pancake), a long walk on Grant’s Trail,

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and took some time to hang out at Grant’s Farm.

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It was just so much fun for Matt and me to focus on these 2. And even better, by far, was how they got along with each other. I’ve loooong known that just removing any one of them from the mix for a while totally changes the dynamic, but it’s such a pleasant surprise to see these two getting along.

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By Sunday afternoon we couldn’t wait to have Luke back! He was, of course, exhausted, but full of fun stories. Growing up Catholic, I didn’t have these kinds of experiences, so I’m excited for him that he got to experience something like this with his youth group!

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Things are totally (eyeroll) back to normal now, with B and JH resuming their roles as oil and water. Oh well. It was sure fun while it lasted.