Category Archives: me and my thoughts

What’s Next.

Almost every Saturday morning of my childhood was spent in a dance studio. For the past several years, many, many Saturdays are consumed by the boys’ practices or games. For me, Saturday usually equals busyness and fun. Not quiet and time to reflect.

So it was really weird last Saturday to find our calendar empty (which ended up being a great thing, because Matt’s parents were able to come over for a quick visit later in the day!). Matt decided earlier in the week that he’d like to do something fun with the boys: take each of them out for a meal by themselves at a place of the boys’ choosing. Just some one-on-one time with each boy to hang out.

And in the semi-quiet of our house, something that I’ve been thinking about abstractly for the past several months came into better focus. I’ll try to put it into words as succinctly as possible.

We’re at a transitional stage of parenting where Matt needs to play a bigger role. I think this is particularly true because we’re raising all boys (not that girls don’t need their dads, clearly). Clarifications:
1) This is not because he’s been checked out to this point…on the contrary, he’s a great dad and has always been involved.
1b) This does not mean that I am checking out. I know I’m still very much needed. For at the very least rides, food, and help with homework ;)
2) THIS IS NOT A COMPLAINT FROM ME. The early years of parenting are hard, particularly on the primary caregiver. Which obviously was me, especially the last 8 years since I’ve been home. And we’re through those years, mostly unscathed, praise God.

ahem. yes. we so totally were.

However, can you see where this is going? It’s not even sadness, really, that I’m feeling. It’s simply that so much of me and my purpose (and the reason I quit my job) were enveloped in a stage that’s over. And I didn’t think much past this stage (because let’s face it; when you’re in the thick of those years, the light at the end of the tunnel seems very, very dim). PLUS, even though those infant/toddler/preschooler years are ridiculous and difficult and challenging and often gross, they’re my favorite. Parenting littles was so totally in my wheelhouse.

i had no idea what i was in for, even this many years into parenting.

2 Augusts ago, when Jack Henry went to full-day school, I felt none of this. There was just happiness over my newfound freedom. But starting last fall, I’ve been feeling like I’m ready for a new something. So I’ve spent a lot of time thinking. And the truth is, I’m still not at all clear what the next stage looks like for me and my family. I have lots of ideas…I am a fantastic daydreamer. Also, I am an excellent song-lyrics-memorizer, so if you can think of a way to parlay that skill into a perfect part-time job for me, feel free to let me know.

Truly, while I’m a terribly impatient person and the idea of waiting for the timing to be right for whatever is next does not thrill me, I’m excited. I’m excited to think about doing something I’m passionate about, and being challenged beyond what I’m doing right now.

And this is the second kinda vulnerable post I’ve written in the new year. I need to go back to easy fluff writing.

Dear Cashiers of America,

I know. Your job isn’t glamorous (and yet, it was my first childhood dream job). It’s repetitive, and you often have to deal with ridiculous people on their phones/with bad attitudes/who are in a hurry. Because I know so many of the afore-mentioned people exist, I promise you that I’m always trying my hardest to be polite and engaged when I come through your line.

Sidenote: if I were you, I would love seeing the strange combinations of things that people buy, especially in the express lane, when it’s obvious your customer has just run in to grab exactly what they needed. If my purchases are particularly odd, I usually just comment on it. Like last week when I bought a bouquet of flowers and a single tomato at Trader Joe’s…flowers for a friend, tomato for supper that I’d forgotten to pick up the day before. But I digress.

The real reason I’m writing to you today is to talk to you about carding people. And by people, I mean me, and presumably, also my girlfriends of a similar age. And by age, I mean well past the minimum 21 but not yet old enough to look like we shouldn’t be carded (which I think is 40, right?).

Yes. I may look pretty close to 40, and my bottle of wine combined with a cart-full of grown-up looking grocery choices doesn’t beg for me to be carded. Yes, it will slow your line down by 30 seconds. But it will make my day, knowing that when you glanced at me, you thought that there was a chance I was under 40. I will never be frustrated about having to pull out my ID. I may even text friends when I leave the store about what a great day it is when this happens.

You had no idea you had so much power, did you?

Whatever you do, please don’t grab the alcohol to scan it, INTENTLY STUDY MY FACE, and decide not to card me. That’s just rude. You’re going to have to be a little less obvious, lady-who-did-this-to-me-right-before-Christmas.

Love,
your 37-year-old customer

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.

—–

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.