Summer Bucket List

This whole optimism thing is new to me.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a pessimist, I like to think of myself as a realist (and when I say, realist, I tend to look at the worst case scenario, but hope for the best!) Call it the anxiety, call it whatever you want. I like to be prepared. I’ve been really trying to make an effort lately to ‘look on the bright side.’ But when I lost my job recently, unforeseen to me, I needed a minute. Not because it was the perfect job, or I had been there for years, but because it was unexpected. Doesn’t everyone always want the choice to leave when they’re ready? I’m not a first-timer here. I was laid-off earlier in my career at a job I loved. I was there for 2 years and was devastated. This time around, the emotions were more about pride and shock (not the 1.5 hour commute!)

So, I allowed myself the weekend to grieve. Through tears, a couple of drinks and venting with family, I got over it. Shit happens. Then, I have to admit, part of me was relieved. Not because I hoped it would happen, but I thought about the time with my daughters. The perfect time really. August means one more month of summer. Parks, playgrounds and ice cream didn’t have to be so few and far between anymore. In fact, I could make them my priority.

Doesn’t everyone need a reason to get up in the morning? For me, it’s my family. I not only love them, I love spending time with them. I love being a mom. It’s my favorite job. Although it pays in hugs and kisses rather than dollars and cents, I’ll take it. I know, one day, I’ll be at work and my kids will be at school or at a friend’s house and I’ll remember the quality time I’ve had and I’ll smile (and probably cry happy tears too!)

In the meantime, I made a summer bucket list. All of our favorite places. None of them are expensive, they’re more sentimental. A playground or petting zoo or our local ice cream place. So, as I kick-start my job search while juggling an overtired toddler and picky kindergartener, I’m going to remember, this decision, really did happen for a reason. Time with my daughters is priceless.

 

A practical love letter to my husband

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Hubbie,

Thank you. Two words I don’t say to you enough.

Thank you for marrying me. I’m sure there are days when you kick yourself. I know I’m intense, demanding and difficult sometimes, but you allow me to be myself and love me for it. That’s pretty incredible.

Thank you for going to work day in and day out to provide for our family.

Thank you for walking in the door and taking care of the kids so I can get back to neutral for half an hour.

Thank you for being the man you are. For always pitching in with whatever needs to be done and trying to make my life easier.

Thanks for putting up with my nagging. We are such opposites and despite what you may think, I really don’t want you to change. I just have a hard time adjusting to your timetable for doing things.

Thank you for ALWAYS supporting my dreams. From my desire to be home with the girls while they’re little to starting this blog and everything in between. I know you do everything within your power to make me happy.

Thank you for being the best hands-on dad I could ever imagine for our daughters. It’s an extremely attractive quality to watch you inquire about their days and nurture who they’re becoming.

Thank you husband, I am sorry I take you for granted sometimes.
Happy Valentine’s Day now and forever.

Love,
Your grateful wife

Intelligent, Educated and Underemployed

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I’m seriously discouraged.

I’ve been looking for a job, let’s just say for a while. I’m not looking for pity. What I am looking for is apparently, very hard to come by. I want to get paid writing and I also want to be there for my children.  I want to work whenever I feel inspired. I hate the idea of a time clock to punch in/out.

In fact, that’s the idea. I want to work for myself. I want to figure out how to make money doing what I love. I know, not a unique idea, but I feel like I’m on the verge of making it happen. I love writing. I embrace social media. I enjoy identifying content of interest and producing it for my readers. I’m very curious and stay informed.

I’m also a mom of two young ladies. It’s important to me that I’m there for them. So, I want a flexible schedule.  I’ve never been a 9-5’er. I used to work weekends, holidays, second shift, you name it. But, I’ve never worked a so-called ‘day job’ in my life. However, I’m open to it!

I have a bachelors degree. I’ve not only held down several jobs in the past 15+ years, I’ve been good at them. Most, except for one, (I was laid-off when the TV station stopped producing news) I chose to leave in pursuit of other opportunities. I have had a fantastic career. When my husband and I decided we wanted to have children, I had no intention of staying home full time with them (at times, I had hoped, but we knew we couldn’t afford to) and we agreed I would go back. I instead, worked an earlier shift so I could, A. still earn my paycheck B. spend more time with my daughter. It worked, for a little while, until I got pregnant again. The hours, combined with the desire to spend more time with my toddler and excel at my job, starting eating away at me. At that point, I realized, my heart was at home. That’s where I wanted to be. I remember simply thinking, I’m great at my job, but I don’t love it. I also had a really hard time not seeing my daughter when she woke up in the morning. Being a TV News Producer requires you to be on your game every second, of every day. It’s an intense position that I took very seriously. I thrived on meeting tight deadlines, making last minute decisions and communicating all my last minute changes to my team of co-workers. It was a rush. I wanted, however, to be that good at everything, and I felt like something had to give. I always want to be passionate about what I’m doing. I don’t ever half-ass anything and even though I was unsure of my future in TV News, I never let my work suffer. While on maternity leave, I thought about what would make me happy and what would work for our family. My husband and I had countless conversations on the matter while struggling to get some sleep. We tried to come up with a compromise, but we couldn’t. I was staying home. At the time, I remember feeling a mix of relief and “Oh shit!”. Because, I felt very strongly about wanting to be home with my kids, while knowing it was probably the stupidest financial decision we’ve ever made.

Fast forward to the present day. I am in a position so many parents find themselves in eventually. My children are a little bit older. They are no longer babies who need me every second. I no longer need to be with them every second. I don’t ball my eyes out anymore when I leave them for a couple hours. In fact, I look forward to it. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with admitting that both their needs and mine have changed. I find myself needing and wanting more adult conversation. More challenging ways to stimulate my brain. For the life of me, I can’t understand the debate between working parents and stay at home parents. Aren’t we all in this together? Shouldn’t we be supporting whatever decision makes our family happy? And, then, why can’t we change our minds?

I have some steady freelance writing work that I’ve been doing since my youngest was a few months old. Besides earning grocery money, it keeps me in the game. I enjoy it. I get to do it from home. It satisfies me. But I want more. I want to write more, to get out of the house more, to allow someone I trust to watch my daughters when they, gulp, both, go to school in the fall. So, why is it so hard for parents to find flexible work schedules? We’re intelligent, hard-working, smart and masters of multi-tasking. So, employers, I implore you, consider the resumes that have ‘gaps’ in them. We’re better qualified now.

Eating: Now vs Before Kids

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“Would you like an egg? Mommy’s making one.”  “No” she says. I call B.S.!

I don’t know how many times it took for me to learn, my children are liars! (not malicious ones, but liars nonetheless) What happened between the time I asked and the time I go to eat? “Can I have a bite?” she says. Liar! I knew it was coming.  My husband said he was famous for doing that to his mom when he was little, so I’ll blame him. He said it always looked more appetizing on someone elses plate. Lesson learned, I now cook the extra egg she didn’t want. I just make sure I put it on my plate. #winning!

Getting between me and my food when I’m hungry is like stepping between a mama bear and her cub. Until kids that is. I used to be terrible at sharing food. At restaurants, I would order what I wanted and hated when groups would want to order a bunch of plates and share.  Truth. I wanted to order a meal and eat it all! I didn’t expect a bite of anyone elses either, I just wanted what I ordered.  However, as any parent knows, that shit doesn’t fly anymore, that was then, this is now!

Plan to give up at least half your meal because they’ll hate what you ordered/made for them once it arrives. It could be the wrong color, or it had “yucky sauce on it” or, my personal favorite, “I don’t want that anymore.” They change their mind. It’s the only constant.

Eating is a luxury. If you finish your entire meal without your children hounding you for a bite or needing something “right now”, having to take a trip to the potty or refereeing some toy-sharing crisis, you are my hero.  Please share your secret. If you’re like the rest of us, you’re probably always a little hungry. As soon as the kids sense you’re about to eat, they sniff it out. Like they have an internal food detector that goes off.

And, forget it if you want your own ‘special treat’ that day. I used to ask my sister why she’d hide in the corner of her kitchen to have a snack. It all makes perfect sense now. She just wanted to eat something, anything, in peace, alone. She sacrificed sitting down at the table just to take a bite of joy! If nothing else, hiding just prevents one of those endless battles where you have to explain why they can’t have something, they don’t care, and now they’re crying or whining and ruining that ‘special treat’ moment for you!

So, here’s my advice. Have dinner as a family as often as you can. My oldest will say out loud every time it happens, “we’re eating all together as a family!” She loves it. And, in all sincerity, I do too. We make an effort and I understand, for most families, work and school schedules make it impossible all the time. So when you can, do it and leave your phone in the other room. (Don’t spend the entire time getting up to deliver their second helping before you’ve sat down for your first bite either!)

Secondly, make plans to have a meal with an adult. Your spouse, roommate, friend, family member, someone, whose company you enjoy. Someone who will let you finish a sentence. Someone who will let you eat your meal at a leisurely pace and doesn’t need anything from you. Meal times should be enjoyable, but often times they’re rushed or someone is tired. So, every now and then, treat yourself to some “me” time.

The best part? You don’t have to do the dishes!

Someday…

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Someday, she won’t run towards me when I pick her up from school… and it will silently break my heart.

Someday, she won’t fall asleep on me anymore because she desperately needs a nap but refuses to rest in her bed and I will think about all the unimportant stuff I need to be doing and decide to hold her just a little longer.

Someday, every thought that crosses her mind won’t come out of her mouth and I’ll constantly wonder/worry what she’s thinking about and if she’s okay.

Someday, she won’t ask me to dance with her while I’m trying to make dinner and I’ll be happy that she taught me to seize the moment.

Someday, I’ll miss the fact that she is crying and whining and I won’t be able to solve her problem just by picking her up.

Someday, I’ll miss my messy house. (well, maybe not)

Someday, I’ll miss being their everything… getting them dressed, making their meals, helping them go potty, putting them in their car seat, crossing the street.

I know there will come a day when my daughters won’t need me so much and it makes me sad. Although the days are exhausting and often times by the end of the week, I’m sometimes ready to ask my tiny bosses for a vacation, I know I am so blessed. I just went to order pictures and realized how much has already happened/changed in just a few short years. My babies are gone and in their place are two incredible young ladies I’m so incredibly proud to call my daughters. They’re smart and sassy, and so different (like their dad and me), but compliment each other so well.

So, in the moment, when I’m frustrated and I feel like I have nothing left to give, no more creative ways to entertain them, I will miss being their everything. I already do. So this is my reminder to take a step back from my own life and realize, everything I need is right here.  In the meantime, my family, friends, the gym and a great babysitter are a godsend!

Let’s be honest…

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Let’s be honest… shall we?

Parenting is HARD! I don’t know why we all are so compelled to share only the good stuff on social media. You know what I’m talking about… that time both of your children smiled for the camera rather than fighting over the same damn Barbie… maybe the one date night you’ve had in the last couple of months, the time your hair looked GREAT because you just got it cut and the gray dyed!

What about all the other stuff that doesn’t make the highlight reel?

The whining, the resistance to naps and ‘witching hour’ that later ensues. Perhaps the times they run away from you giggling in the grocery store because they think it’s a fun game of ‘chase me’.  Don’t even get me started when the phone rings, because that’s their cue to start chanting for something they need “RIGHT NOW MOM!”

If we all feel so comfortable sharing the good stuff, maybe we should share the not-so- good stuff too? I’m not suggesting we stop posting the positive or become a “Debbie Downer”, but what about posting a more realistic peak at our lives? Not everyday is fun, or easy, it’s hard. Life is challenging! Are we all in some unspoken competition with each other that we feel like we can’t crumble sometimes because it’s a sign of weakness?

I know I won’t be the first to admit that sometimes I want to run away screaming or cry with them.  Just to have a moment of peace. A time where no one needs you, no one is hanging on you or you can finish just one thought.  A place of quiet for a half hour, where I could let my mind wander (or, ok, watch Bravo!)

I know that I am so incredibly blessed to have this sweet chaos in my life. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I waited a long time to become a mom and although it’s only been 4+ years, I can’t remember life before my children and wouldn’t want to. Unconditional love. It’s amazing.  That doesn’t mean I don’t need some damn space sometimes. However, being a good parent means you don’t get that sometimes, even when you desperately need it.  Ask for help and accept it when it’s offered. Tap into your family, friends or support system. It really does take a village.

 

 

Exercise is Therapy…

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I remember this feeling…

It’s euphoria… it’s the happy, calming rush of endorphins I so desperately missed.

It comes at the price of a gym membership for my family and I. We didn’t really have the money in our budget, but it felt like a basic necessity at one point (and it includes 2 free hours of childcare so I was sold!)

I sometimes felt like I was drowning and needed an outlet. I needed something for me. I needed to feel good doing something that was healthy for my body. I work from home a couple of times a week and take care of my two young daughters. There’s no place I’d rather be. Being a mama gives me the most unexpected joy. I feel young when I’m chasing them around. I giggle with them and am so proud of how smart they are.  I love watching them playing together. It warms my heart so see sisters bonding and coming up with the silliest make-believe games.

That being said, as parents know, it’s also hard as hell. There’s no given break. There are no guaranteed nap times or bathroom breaks or meal times. It’s a 24/7 job.  It’s the best, most blessed job in the world, however, it’s all-consuming.  And it’s ok to admit you need a break sometimes!!!

The anxiety also sneaks up on me. I’ll feel like crap one night, for some reason, feeling the weight of the world on my chest. It started in my 20’s and is more manageable now after I saw a therapist. She taught me how to cope with the big stuff. And while I don’t see her anymore, I still worry, about anything and everything sometimes. Mostly my girls. If they’re sick, that’s all I can think about. If a family member or friend is going through something challenging, I empathize and try to think of a way to help. It’s just who I am.

My mind doesn’t stop… except when I run. I’m the girl who told people how much I hated it and that my body just doesn’t like it. And then I started again about two months ago. I figured out a way to beat that awful side stitch (bananas for me). I started slow and was patient with myself. It took some time, but I can run three miles today. It feels amazing. For me, it’s not about losing weight (in fact, I’m gaining since I’m eating more), it’s about feeling good and healthy and that I accomplished a goal… just for me. I’ve always wanted to run a 5K and now I can.

 

 

Unsolicited Advice

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From the moment you tell someone, anyone, you’re pregnant, it seems to open the door for unsolicited advice.

The “oh I had morning sickness” or “watch how your feet swell” or “don’t dye your hair” “use a pacifier” “never use a pacifier”, “you’re going to breastfeed, right?”

I’m not against the sisterhood.  In fact, I embrace the mommy community. I have questions and want answers and am comforted when another mom or dad makes a suggestion that helps my kids or I through a rough patch. That being said, “if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

I just got back from a family vacation. My husband and I took our young daughters across the country to see his aunts. I spent the good part of the week before packing and planning, mostly for the plane ride. I have a hard time sitting still, so how can I expect my two young daughters to?  My husband downloaded their favorite movies and brought our old phones with their favorite games on them. I packed their favorite barbies, books and snacks to keep them occupied. I thought, well, I got this. They’re kids and we’re doing our best. We scooped them out of their beds at 4:30 in the morning, put them in the car and went to the airport. They were so excited for their adventure, mumbling a sleepy, “are we going on the plane today?” They didn’t even fall back to sleep in the car! Carrying all the luggage and getting through security was fine, we cut it a little close, but made it on time for our flight. The girls giggled in their seats, staring out the window and asking “are we moving yet?”

Up in the sky, they were excited mommy was letting them indulge in so much movie watching and game playing. (usually I’m a stickler for not too much screen time, but, hey, whatever is going to keep them happy while they’re cooped up in the cabin!) They did GREAT! I was pleasantly surprised at how great. I was so proud of them and told them so.

However, I was surprised, shocked and speechless when a female flight attendant approached us as we landed at our final stop and said “you know, bringing a car seat, or their favorite toy is always comforting for kids.” I, who is never speechless, turned to my husband, who pipes up and says, “they did great.” She didn’t stop. She went on to explain to us, their parents, about what can help. At this point, I started to realize how angry I was getting. My kids behaved. They didn’t make a scene. They didn’t yell or have an accident on the seats. They weren’t spoiled little brats making demands. They were great. I am, by no means, under the impression that my kids behave all the time, because they don’t. But, this time, they did!

Ironically, not even two minutes later, another passenger who didn’t hear the exchange, said to us, “they did great”, referring to our kids.

So, now that I’m not as sleep deprived or desperate to get the hell off the plane and to our destination, I wanted to offer a bit of unsolicited advice to that flight attendant. The next time you think about approaching some parents about what YOU think is a good idea for THEIR kids, think again. I don’t appreciate you insinuating that they didn’t behave, or were too much trouble for you. Perhaps you are miserable and can’t find joy. That’s sad. But, please don’t spread your negativity to a family who is polite and kind, until treated otherwise. I pity the family who does have a rough trip on a flight when you’re working, I assume you will add to their misery.

I truly believe this was an isolated incident because we had very helpful and sweet flight attendants on the way home who went out of their way to joke around with our girls and give them extra snacks. They, honestly, even remarked at what a beautiful family we have.  So, thank you, to them, for their kindness in what can be a stressful experience.

Carefree as a Kid!

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It’s rare I would describe myself as carefree.
In fact, I’m quite the opposite. While I’ve mostly come to peace with the Type A, run around non-stop, worrier that is my personality, it would be nice to just slow it down sometimes.
I know how hard it is to put down your phone and not respond to that email, check facebook or respond to that text or a phone call immediately. It’s just the way life is these days. So, taking the temptation away, can feel both weird, but freeing.

vtblog1There is a place my family and I vacation where our cell phones have never worked. Thank God! It’s amazing to get off the exit and turn it off. There’s a house phone in case of emergency, but no voicemail, no computers, no cable, you get it. It’s amazing. We go for walks, we eat and drink, swim and go for boat rides in the summer.
Out of a 5 day stretch, we only got 1 boat day, but it was perfect. The sun was shining from sunrise to sunset. It was warm, and I was with family. Doesn’t get any better than that for me. My dad took the kids for a boat ride and then it was time for the adults to go tubing. Much like Christmas and Halloween, it’s one of my favorite activities I look forward to all year. I go first. I hopped on like a frog and waited in anticipation of how long I would last before I got dumped off! I love the adrenaline rush of hanging on for dear life as we turn and I try and not get sucked into the wake! I’m giggling and I feel like a kid again. In that moment, I’m not refereeing the latest battle between my girls or stressing about bills or thinking about a deadline, I’m just having fun, and it’s exhilarating. I’m happy, carefree and I feel so light! My sister and I jumped off the boat and swam back to shore. So much fun.
I want my kids to see me that happy more often. I want them to see their mom being silly more instead of yelling at them to clean up the playroom or stop pulling the dog’s tail. It’s so easy to get caught up in the everyday minutia. While taking care of my girls is the best job in the world, it doesn’t mean it’s not challenging. It’s hard being their everything sometimes. Sometimes mama needs a little something left for herself. So, here’s a challenge: find what makes you laugh and do it! What are you waiting for?

My Mom

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Growing up, the joke was, I was the favorite. As the oldest of four children, I had the most baby books. The albums capturing many of the “firsts” a mom experiences. The snapshots including my first camping trip, first day of school, graduations, birthday parties, you name it, my mom always had her camera. Of course, now as a mother of two, I know the number of pictures (and there are a tons between the four of us) is no reflection of being the favorite, but rather having the time to do it. (since this was back when you took a picture, got it developed and put it into an album. no computer, no downloading, no digital pics or email to share them!)
My mom’s love story is much different than mine. She fell in love with my dad in high school, went to nursing school, got married at 21 and had me by 22.
I have the fondest memories of my childhood, and it had a lot to do with my mother. She took some time off her nursing career to take care of me and eventually my sister before working her way back into the field when my youngest sister came along. But she always made time for us. She is silly and goofy, and loves to play dress up (even now as a Grandma), but wasn’t always hovering. She gave us space and needed some of her own. I remember more than once hearing, “go play outside!” And we did. I don’t know what she did, probably a mix of laundry, cooking or maybe enjoying one of those Pepperidge Farm cookies she loved so much in peace and quiet!!
When it came to the holidays, my mom made them really special, Christmas, Easter, Halloween, even Valentine’s Day, she really went all out for us. My mom is a very thoughtful gift giver. She basically shops all year (and loves every minute of it!) for trinkets one of us would like. But, it’s not the gifts I remember most. It’s the smell of the Village Candle burning at Christmas while the Carpenters or Johnny Mathis sings Christmas carols on their record player. It’s the ornaments that cover their humungous Christmas tree, half of which, my mom made herself when she was little. It’s the decorations we made in preschool that she saves and adores. They say home is where the heart is, and that couldn’t be more true for me. I grew up in the house my parents still live in. Every time I pull in the driveway, I smile.
At some point, mothers and daughters often struggle with their relationship, it’s a complicated one for sure. For many, it’s the teen years, the combination of all those hormones with the desire to, for me, talk on the phone non-stop with my friends and ignore my parents completely. I have to say, although my mom knew I made some poor choices along the way, she never made me feel bad about it. There were boyfriends that came and went, some she liked, others she didn’t. But, rather than tell me I couldn’t see them anymore, she let me figure it out myself. When it came to my friends, she was/is always a great supporter. She always asks how they’re doing , how their families are, and maybe will share a story or two about something silly or scary we did when we were little (like that “scratch” on the truck!) She really doesn’t forget a thing… ever!
When it came time for me to go to college, I got nervous as my parents were about to leave. I’ll never forget what my mom said, “this is like when you were in fourth grade, and your teacher kicked you out of class because you were talking too much, you’ll make plenty of friends!” She always knew how to give me that gentle nudge. Same thing when I got my first job offer right after graduation. It was in another state, I was extremely hesitant about going and moving a plane ride away at 21. But, my mom again, stepped in and gave me that encouragement I needed to get my career started on the right foot.
It was a good experience, and one I have to thank her for. She knew I could handle it and should take the job.
Years later, and at a job closer to home…I met my husband. I remember when my mom first met him. She liked him, I could tell, right off the bat. Thank God. My parents were hosting dinner at their house when she burped. She immediately burst out laughing while my husband stopped chewing and looked up shocked that such a beautiful, svelte woman had produced such a loud noise. “Oh!” I said, “that’s the first time you heard that!” The rest of us had already gotten used to it! She blames me for it, says she never burped like that until she was pregnant with me!
But, when I became a mother for the first time, that’s when I began to understand just how powerful a mother’s love is for her children. That unconditional love. That need to protect them from anything and do anything for them.
My mom, along with my sisters, was at the hospital when I was in labor, past visiting hours, waiting to see her third grandchild.
Seeing her snuggle her made my heart melt. (They also brought me a ham and cheese sandwich from the local deli which I was craving my entire pregnancy so that didn’t hurt!)
But seriously, knowing I had my mom there was extremely comforting to me. I knew there would be countless questions and concerns and no one better to answer them.
When I went into labor the second time, my mom shushed my concerns about having her drive to my house late at night and insisted she would come and watch my oldest daughter. Sometimes mother does know best!
So, mom, I don’t get to spend nearly enough time with you, even now that we live in the same state, but I treasure you, your love and your compassion. I know you always have my best interest at heart, even when, as a daughter sometimes, I don’t want to hear it. So thank you for being there… Always. I’m so blessed and hope to be half the mom to my children as you are to me. Happy Mother’s Day!

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