Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Year, Old Me

Last week my sister visited.  I had already dropped the girls off at daycare, and she came in ready to conquer our mission of my last minute Christmas shopping.  On our rush out the door, I realized that I really didn't need to carry the huge J.J. Cole bag I claim to be my purse, but is actually a diaper bag. I pilfered through the mudroom closet and pulled out a black purse.  A cute small bag that hadn't seen the outside of my house since April 2011.  Inside there was only a hairbrush, a pair of over-sized sunglasses, a planner, and an appointment card.  The appointment card helped me pinpoint the last time I used the bag.  It was for a follow up appointment for my blood pressure check after Reagan had just been born. The planner hadn't been written in since March of the same year.  Nearly every day that month had neatly written plans.  Birth and baby classes at Women's Hospital, baby showers every weekend, report cards, staff meetings, parent/teacher conferences I was trying to squeeze in before I went on maternity leave were all penciled in.  The rest of the year was blank.  A baby really does change everything.

As we left the house that day I thought about how the last four years have really, really changed me.  I have a rat's nest of hair that hangs over half way to my waist.  I may keep a brush with me, but it's for pint sized beauty queens, not me. I have 1235080539438 pairs of sunglasses I never can find.  I keep dates in my smartphone, but kinda miss the fun that came with whipping out my day planner.  My sister has seen the chaos I live in.  The craziness I wouldn't wish on anyone, yet wouldn't take anything for.  That kid free day shopping; every little face I saw, every cry I heard across the mall, made me miss my rugrats.  Despite the fact the shopping day, the solo time was needed (and wanted), when my little ones aren't with me, I always feel like something is missing. The old me had no idea what I was getting into when that baby hiccuped in my tummy, but life raced on to a new normal.

People use this time of year to make resolutions and plans for changes in the new year.  As 2015 is just a couple hours away, I sit here pondering what changes do I need to make in my life? So many changes have already happened so quickly. My best friend welcomed her second baby recently and sent me a text yesterday asking me if all the cool girls drove gray Honda minivans. Well, I looked down... I may or may not have been wearing leggings as pants shopping with all three kids at the market looking less than cool, but for her sake, I said "sure!" But I did confess my current state, because she is my best friend, and really at this point, I have very little shame. In 2015 though, I want to remember before I was mommy: fixer of boo boos, queen of juggling dinner recipes and lesson plans, that I was a pretty okay gal too. I do want to eat better, make sure the girls always brush their teeth before bed, have a little more patience, spend less time worrying and more time praying. That should probably be my resolution every year.  Right now though, instead of rushing to change things about me, I'm just incredibly grateful for all the changes I didn't realize were going to happen.  But I'm REALLY going to try not to wear leggings as pants outside this house again...maybe.

Thursday, November 27, 2014


During this season, specifically this day of thankfulness, I'm humbled with all I have to be thankful for.  The obvious, my faith, my little girls, my husband & little boy, a home, food, and clothes.  Today though, as I put over 200 miles on my odometer, I am really thankful for the place I call home.

For over 20 years of my life, my home was a tiny community nestled in the corner of three counties, population of less than 2,000.  I attended high school in a neighboring town where the student body measured less than 500.  My senior year, my principal was new to our school and the area, commented several times that the people that called this home were the "salt of the earth."  I didn't realize how true his words were until my address was no longer on that rural route.

As I traveled today, part of the journey just me and the girls, I had lots of time to think and sing along with the radio.  Luckily, Anna and Reagan slept, but it made the trip a little lonely. As I flipped back and forth between the Prime Country and the Y2Kountry stations, I heard a lot of songs that reminded me of my little hometown.  Everybody really is famous in a small town.  If your name is Hussey, Garner, Powers, Kidd, Harper... I'm pretty certain my fifth grade teacher can trace your entire family tree for you; she may have in class a time or two.  If you skipped school to cut town and grab some fries at the Chicken Hut, someone would probably see you and tell you parents.  However, these same folks would take your picture in the Homecoming parade, congratulate you after you got baptized at church, and hug you at your saddest moments.

This small town life is something I can't quite explain to even my husband, who grew up a few years ahead of me in a town over twelve times as large.  He's still very much a country boy and despite his office job with big cherry desk and fancy nameplate, is much more at home in the woods with a Husqvarna chainsaw in his hands.  But even so, traveling a half hour to the grocery store is something he's certain he never wants to do.  I feel a little differently though.  At 20, all I could imagine was getting out, getting married, starting a family, having a white picket fence, & living in a neighborhood near a Target.  I have all that, and a not so small part of me wants to load it all up and move where the green grass grows.

That said, I love my home, I love this town, and I love the kids I get the opportunity to teach.  I've taught at 3 different schools now, none of which were in my home community.  My mom was also a teacher.  One with small feet, but very large shoes I knew I couldn't fill.  So, when I graduated college, my goal was to get a job at least two towns away.  Once I got married, I moved homes, moved jobs, became a stepmomma like BAM! It was the hardest few months of my life, but it was an adjustment that left me unafraid of change.  Last year when an opening at a school in the same district as my stepson's, I tossed my application in the hat and thought, if it's meant to be, it's meant to be.  It's certainly been meant to be, for the first time in about 5 years, I feel like I'm almost at home.  You know that feeling when you take your shoes off at the end of a long day, like you can let your hair down and completely be yourself, like when you've eaten too much at Thanksgiving dinner and you just unbutton your jeans...yeah, like that.

I guess what I'm saying is that I'm really thankful for my boondock upbringing.  It sheltered me from a whole lot, it made friends feel like family, and it completely shaped me into who I am as a momma, wife, sister, daughter, teacher, & friend.  But most of all as we traveled today, I started to realize as much as my heart craves to be back in the middle of nowhere, home isn't a place.  Home is a feeling.  It's the feeling I get when my family is under one roof, when laughter fills the air, when hugs and love abound.  That's something I'm rarely lacking, and for that I'm truly thankful.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

My Grown Up Christmas List

In September, my dear friend Monica got me to jump aboard her Jamberry bandwagon.  I really enjoy the product.  They are super awesome nail wraps that really live up to my crazy life, and with no dry time, I can actually have cute salon style nails at a fraction of the price while being able to keep up with my two very energetic little girls, their big brother, and 28 fourth graders.

This month in hopes of raising my sales (meeting my second fast start and being promoted to advanced consultant was motivating and exciting for the overachiever in me) and with the encouragement of our team leaders, I ran a promotion that one of our managers was running without much success.  The teacher in me likes to think outside of the box, and the little kid in me was already listening to Christmas music.  This combined caused me to decide to revamp the promotion.  I had been humming the tune to "These Are a Few of My Favorite Things" all day.  If you know me very well, you know I do love my weekly visits to Target, so I decided to offer a Target gift card with any qualifying Jamberry purchase.  This was a hit.  I felt like it was a more genuine incentive, because it was truly mine and I decided all month, when I did run a flash incentive for my little Jamberry business it would be something to do with my favorite things.

There's no doubt that I love Christmas.  As a child, I would run into my parents' room at an insanely early hour in hopes that everyone would sleepily crawl out of bed ready to see if that red suited father of Christmas had been down our chimney.  Apparently two o'clock is too early to open gifts, but by four, it was perfectly acceptable.  I did this until *looking down sheepishly* I was at least 20.  My Memaw had this same childlike spirit when it came to the holiday, and she often wanted to open gifts on Christmas BEFORE lunch which wasn't really okay being that family trickled in during the meal. Memaw was an incredible person, and after watching a funny round woman at staff development yesterday, I couldn't help of think of my Grandmother who may not be here in body, but her spirit is certainly alive in me.  Every time I hold a coin, I check the date; my grandmother saved all the coins made the years we were born.  She saved a "mile of pennies" along with the other members of our church congregation to be donated one Christmas to the North Carolina Baptist Children's Home (a cause very close to her heart).

When Kelly Clarkson started singing on my minivan radio speakers yesterday, I teared up a bit thinking about my Memaw and my very own grown up Christmas list. My oldest is starting to understand that anticipation that comes with Christmas and has started her list which right now has "everything" on it.  But as a grown up, I don't run and jump out of bed to see what's under my tree.  Truthfully, all I could ever want is usually right next to me in our king sized bed.  This holiday season, I want that sense of contentment and love to be felt by others.  So, starting today through this weekend, I'm donating my Jamberry commission to North Carolina Baptist Children's Home in memory of my wonderful grandmother.  I realize this incentive isn't giving you something as a customer, but in the true spirit of Christmas, when God gave us His perfect son to be our Savior, it is only fitting that we pay this love forward with a giving heart.

Friday, October 31, 2014

There's a country song for that...

Growing up with clogging shoes and banjo riffs, my country roots are strong.  Throughout my life, I have always heard a country song playing the soundtrack playing in the background. I swear for every memorable moment there's a country song for that.

I called my sister yesterday and before I even said hello, I belted the lyrics to the Travis Tritt song "I'm a Member of a Country Club." Ironically, I didn't mean just my love for my country music, but my husband's love for golf has actually made us country club members.  I'm not convinced we're country club material, but this summer I will be taking advantage of it by sitting poolside, I'm sure.

When I hear the first notes of "It Won't Be Like This for Long," I tear up and secretly curse Darius Rucker for singing such harsh realities into what is my daily life.  I honestly can't remember the dirty diapers pilling up, the staying up all night with my refluxing baby, or hushing the screams of a colicky infant.  I'm still peeling off a clingy toddler at preschool, but it's true, it really won't be like this for long.  I've already seen how true those words are.

My ringtone when David calls is "God Gave Me You" and while I first heard the song on KLove, it's Blake Shelton serenading me when my husband rings.  Our marriage has been a crazy roller coaster ride the past 5 years, and having two babies within the first 3 years was life changing.  I'm forever thankful that God sent me a mate that compliments me so well and that I have someone that brings out the best in me, makes me laugh, believes in me, stands up to my stubbornness, and makes this journey so much more worthwhile.  

I can sing Mel McDaniel when the babies are wearing their blue jeans, or Taylor Swift when they're acting all "Mean."  Truly, there's always been a country song for whatever moment, silly or serious, happy or sad, that life brings.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Training Wheels

We've been talking about getting our three year old her first bike for Christmas.  It's probably time; she's big enough, her brother had one at this age. Still, I hesitate a bit. Partly because if we buy one little princess something, we either have to buy 2 OR expect them to share... And well, both of those prospects make me want to pull my hair or gouge my eyes out. Watching the two play on the concrete cul de sac we call their play space grates my nerves and requires extra large glasses of wine in the evening to relax.

I still remember when my daddy took of my bike's training wheels.  I was just a couple years older than Reagan and Anna, and I had a huge grassy backyard to crash into. I wobbled, and held my foot on the break so I didn't coast too fast, and I very much wanted to look back and see how far my dad's safe hands were.  As the girls grow bigger, I'm learning to let go and watch them explore.  It's hard.  I don't want to see their skinned up knees or bruises I think I could prevent.  But you know, most of the time, they are more than okay, and exceed my expectations for what they're truly capable of.

A few weeks ago, Anna counted to 15 by herself.  I didn't even know she could count to five alone.  Her sister manipulates nearly all conversations we have, and Anna rarely has the opportunity to share what she knows. Without the safety net of her sister's constant chatter, Anna proved that she, in her own right, has a lot going on and to say herself.  Reagan swears by the time she's four she will sleep alone in her big bed, but for now until then, she will happily stretch her lanky self between her daddy and I.  Luckily we have a king sized bed, because a lot of nights three sets of little feet pitter patter into our room.

I guess in life there are lots of "training wheels."  I think back on my mentor teacher, Mrs. Hall, who taught third grade forever and did her best to guide me through my student teaching experience.  While she had experience and knowledge, student teaching did not do the best job of preparing me for the real world of teaching.  I never wanted to quit student teaching.  I'm pretty sure I wanted to quit every other day my first year.  I'm thankful to Kerry for trusting me to nanny her two little girls for several years. And while I love them and always spoiled them, it probably could never prepare me for how much I would love my own little ones & how 24/7 motherhood was even more exhausting than summers with Jordyn and Chrissy. I guess Reagan is probably ready for her big girl bike.  Because after all, her stabilizers (Peppa Pig talk for training wheels), aren't the real thing.  It's her dad's and my job to do our best to prepare her for the reality of life without training wheels, who knows, when the day comes, maybe we will do it in my childhood grassy backyard.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Staying home?

Two months a year I get to pretend I'm a stay at home mom, and during the past three summers I've discovered one thing for certain.  I hate staying home.  It's not that I don't love being with my girls, but I find being home harder than being elsewhere. They bicker and argue, I get distracted by organizing their closet or cleaning out the garage, and we don't make any fun memories like those I've pinned on Pinterest.  So, before summer even began, I drafted a calendar of something to do most of the 5 weekdays.  It's not a strict schedule, but when in doubt, we consult my calendar and we know what kind of fun is out there today.

For Anna's birthday I bought Summer Passes to the Children's Museum of Winston-Salem.  It's been the best $60 I've ever spent.  The museum has different activities every day from concerts to stories and crafts, even my 9 year old has fun.  Having passes has allowed us to go for just a couple hours at a time without me feeling like we need to try to get everything in.  When it's hot and humid or cloudy and rainy, it's so nice to have the option to stay inside somewhere!

Another fun spot is the Sprayground at Keeley Park.  It's a little far out for us, but for a special trip every couple weeks that's free other than the gas to get there, it's completely worth it!  The girls love the "splash splash" and I love being able to get them outside.  We pack our lunch, get there early, and enjoy the sunshine.  Another perk for me: after enjoying the water for a few hours, a joint naptime is likely to ensue.

Reagan has a huge fear of most animals, but especially four legged ones.  I blame our neighbor's dog, but I don't really know where the fear came from.  However, it is real and it is fierce.  She's even scared of our other neighbor's tiny furball dog.  So, I wanted to take the girls somewhere they could get up close and personal with some animals.  Naturally this would occur on the hottest day of the summer, but I took all three littles to tour Homeland Creamery in Julian.  They all loved the hayride and especially the ice cream afterwards.  We learned a lot about dairy cows & farm life.  It made me miss calling the middle of nowhere home.  When it cools off we may go do it again, just to get a better look at the cows, who seem to dislike the summer heat as much as me!

We also do storytime at the library, playdates with friends at the park, shopping at the farmer's market, and going to visit daddy at work.  The robots there are super cool!   Honestly I'm up for anything to stay busy and occasionally finding some adults to interact with during the day.  We are really enjoying our summer full of "field trips" as Brent told the dentist the other day.  I absolutely love being home with my kiddos, even when we're not at home.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

MILF {Moms I'd like to Friend}

I have a great group of mommy friends that I met through an online birth board/forum when I was home on maternity leave with Anna.  If it weren't for this group of ladies, I'm pretty sure I would have felt completely isolated.  Being home with a 1 year old and a newborn was hard work.  Unlike anything I could have ever prepared myself for.  I had a lot of anxiety after Reagan was born and didn't know it wasn't supposed to be like that, until I brought Anna home and I didn't have any of those feelings.  I'm pretty sure my "virtual" friends kept me sane.

I've been thinking about how my children make friends.  We have been home on summer break for a couple weeks, and I've watched my girls interact with other kids at the park, at the children's museum, and at storytime at the library.  I've taken a step back from their sides (I have a whole other post for another day about being a "lazy mom"), and allowed them the freedom to make choices without my hand in theirs.  I, sometimes, tend to hover, and it turns out, they don't need me to!  I know, my jaw dropped too.  The thing with children is, they don't know strangers when it comes to people their own size.  If they want to make donuts at the the pretend doughnut factory, then they jump right beside the next kid, put on a hat and start playing.  If they want to compliment someone on how high they swing, they do it.  If they need to borrow the glue stick from the little boy in the chair beside them, they take it.... So, their communication skills could be tweaked, but when a kid sees and opportunity they take it.

I'm not sure when this ends.  When it stops being socially acceptable to befriend someone you just met.  Perhaps its because we live in a society where you don't know who's a total psycho or not.  Maybe we're too busy to even notice potential friends.  But when thinking about thy type of mom (or anyone for that matter), I would like to friend.  I think about my virtual mommies, who are probably some of the best ladies I know, and I do consider some of my closest friends.  Who else would I complain about how the daycare fed the kids corn all week and now I'm up to my elbows in poopy diapers or celebrate with when my child successfully put herself to sleep for her nap?

In real life though, it's more complicated.  We were buying Reagan lots of big girl panties at Target the other day. She hasn't had an accident in a week and is COMPLETELY done with pullups!  It's weird just having one child in diapers.  A mom stopped me with plastic pants and wanted to know if I had tried them.  After explaining the clean up process (they can't be dried, they're just plastic on the inside, cotton on the outside-- ICK), I told her we just did, big girl panties with a pullup over it.  It did the same thing, but easier clean up. She laughed at my description of my laziness and dealing with messes, if anything, I'm just a lay it all out there kinda girl, and agreed messes weren't her thing either.  She was going to try my panty + pullup method.  I liked her a lot.  First and foremost, she talked to me out of nowhere, and she really wanted to listen.  But that was that.  A lot like my kids' meetings with "friends."  However, Target mom, you're a mommy I could totally be friends with.

I had all three littles at the library and the park last week, and we met a sweet couple with their grandkids.  We made the same rounds.  The park and the library are next door, and I guess it was a good idea to combine both into the same morning.  The grandmother was really sweet and talked to me a really long time about fun things to do, about the girls, and about her granddaughters.  I love grandmothers.  They don't usually have a smartphone in their hands, they genuinely want to engage with actual people.  I've learned to put my phone away more and enjoy the moment.  I do love catching a snapshot of our day and my camera on my phone is the easiest way to do it, but I only have two hands, and I have two small girls who seem to run in different directions.  ALL of me is needed to keep up with them. Being unplugged is liberating.  We have more fun when I'm not scrolling Facebook and Instagram.  Not saying I don't do it, but I make the effort when we are out together or the girls are awake and playing, to put the phone down.  Sweet grandmother at the park, thanks for the reminder you didn't even know you were giving me.

I've watched other moms.  The ones with perfect hair and manicured nails dropping their kids off at daycare.  The ones at gymnastics that cheer their kid on like they're an Olympian.  The ones that drive the carpool to the soccer games.  The ones at restaurants with the beautiful toddlers completely smocked out perfectly eating in the highchair.  I'm not sure I could be friends with them.  I'm certainly not on their level.  There are days when I want to scream.  Nothing goes right.  I can't compete with the supermoms.  I'm a mom living in chaos.  I don't pretend it's all unicorns and rainbows.  It's fingerpaint on the walls and cheerios all over the floor.  If you don't know what I'm talking about, this is exactly what I'm talking about.

In a town where I didn't grow up, where I moved and worked two counties away, it was easy to not branch out of my shell.  But once I did "settle" in, I somehow had two babies and now it feels downright impossible. I'm thankful for wonderful neighbors, great coworkers, and my peeps from college and home that I call my friends, but a little jealous that my toddlers have it all figured out.  They can make friends anywhere!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014


So I read a teacher blog about how to keep your self occupied while actively monitoring a standardized test and reposted it jokingly on my Facebook page over the weekend.  My fourth graders took their EOG (end of grade) tests this week and walking around the room left me with lots of time to think.  I did think of a couple compelling "Would you rather..." questions.  You know, like would you rather have no teeth or no toes?  Would you rather give birth to a buffalo or have all your food taste like cooked cabbage?  Would you rather proctor a standardized test or go to the gynecologist?

In all seriousness, I have sat where my students sat before.  Since I was in the third grade, I too took the EOGs.  I had flashbacks of the pilot test I took as a nine year old.  It obviously didn't take off, because people still look at me like I'm crazy when I mention that we had a math, science, reading, and social studies test that year with open ended responses.  I remember in sixth grade, I wore a brand new outfit.  It was purple plaid shorts with a purple shirt with a flower printed on it in the same hideous plaid print.  Go ahead, think I'm weird for remembering it.  I remember the purple was the exact same shade of purple of my test booklet, and my teacher said she was sure it meant I was going to do well.  I insisted my mom find me something in the same shade to wear the next day too.  Doing my best wasn't good enough, I wanted to do the best.  It's something about about a tiny school, when you've known ALL your 30 classmates since kindergarten, and you're already crazy competitive anyway.  My parents didn't push me to be like that, I just was born that way.  Luckily somewhere between high school, college, teaching underprivileged kids, and parenthood I chilled out a lot.

This week, for the first time in four years, I was a test administrator to a classroom full of children I have been responsible for for the entire school year.  I watched some rush, I watched some work every single digit, I watched them go back find the answer, number paragraphs, scribble out bubbles, break pencil lead, and pull their layered clothes back on.  I watched their faces show relief when they turned in their books and I announced the end of the testing session.  I honestly have no idea if they did great or not, and fortunately I don't see this test as a competition.  I hope to goodness my babies did their best, but no matter their scores, this one test does not define their fourth grade year nor does it say everything there is to say about me as a teacher.

My little man took his first EOGs this week as well.  I am a little anxious as I await his arrival home (his schedule puts him at our house on Tuesdays and Wednesdays during the week) to see how he feels about this experience.  I already have a pang of nervousness for my little bitty girls who one day will be set the task of bubbling in the best answers.  I thought after MClass and Dibles training last year that that was stressful (I went home and tried to teach Reagan, who at two thought I was nuts, all the sounds she heard in the word man "m-a-n" what sound do you hear at the beginning of man?).  And don't even mention kindergarten screening. We will be working on writing our name this summer!  Poor teachers' kids never get a break.  I've been there too.  However, my free spirited girls one of whom is currently only wearing a tutu over a pull up and a princess crown are not worried in the least.  What they know for a test or a screening or an assessment does not encompass them as a whole.  They are completely multifaceted human beings even at only two and three.

I have seen testing from all sides.  I've seen it as a student.  Thankfully, one that tests pretty well.  I've seen it as a teacher.  One with students who could barely read, who didn't know where their next meal would be from, whose first language was not English and on the flip side from students who come from loving, supportive homes.  I'm slowly starting to see it from a mommy perspective as well.  I do see it as a necessary evil, not even evil, but as something we don't love but we have to do, like paying taxes and going to the dentist.  Seeing data on my school babies is incredibly important, and it is helpful knowing what I need to teach more thoroughly.  There's no room for growth without some kind of baseline. It has just been a long couple days.  Talking is kind of one of my favorite hobbies and not being able to interact with my students normally, especially when they seemed worried or stressed was tough!  We are counting down until summer; just 8 more days left!  My school babies and my own are very excited.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Best of Everything

I'm so tired.  I'm pretty sure I fell asleep before my head reached my pillow last night.  David swears I was mean to Reagan.  She was begging me to cuddle with her, and in my tired stupor, he said I just kept saying, "Don't touch me.  Leave me alone."  Hey, sometimes I just need some personal space!

Today was Anna's second birthday.  Twenty four months of pure craziness and exhaustion.  When I went back to work when Anna was just 3 months old, I had no idea how tired I would be. Having one baby was tough, transitioning to two was something I was not really prepared for.  Hats off to people who do it more than that! Two babies within 13.5 months of one another cured my baby fever.  Fovever.

When Reagan was just a couple months old, I remember looking at her toothy grin and wanting to just be able to bottle that moment for another day.  Her little bald head, her coos that only an infant could make, and the exclusiveness of the relationship I had with her then (I had just found out we were expecting #2 and I was more than overwhelmed and feeling incredibly guilty).  

Since Anna's arrival, it's like my life has finally clicked.  Despite the chaos, it's like this is what I was meant to do.  I like the balancing act of motherhood and school, even though I haven't quite managed to have much of a personal or social life.  I realized recently that I haven't had a haircut since Spring Break...of last year.  Eeek!  

Having two small kids is expensive and that was our biggest concern when we were trying to figure out the big picture when those two little lines appeared.  I wish I could say we were instantly happy.  I instantly wanted to throw up, and I didn't have morning sickness with Anna at all.  I was terrified.  Somehow, God has provided for our family.  We don't have everything we'd like, but we certainly have everything we need.  When I look at my little girls, their adoring daddy, and their loving big brother, I'm fully content.  The fact that we have quality childcare, reliable transportation, & balanced meals on our table are something I don't take for granted and am truly grateful for.  

Last night, I slept better than I had in recent weeks.  I'll take that as a thanks from my newly turned two year old for being such an awesome momma.  At two, she still wakes up at least once a night and will not go back to sleep without some mommy snuggles.This evening after our romp in the backyard and devouring pizza & cookie cake, I plopped the girls in the tub, hopped in the shower and hoped to get us all in and out quickly.  Unfortunately, at least for my desire to shower in solitude, I saw Anna's leg over the side of the bathtub trying to escape.  So, with the shampoo still in my hair, I dashed out of the shower, and when I got back in, I had two pint sized guests. Instead of sighing heavily thinking about how I never get any time alone, I looked at my two blue eyed princesses and thought about those bottled moments.  This was another time I would love to keep again for another day.  Sweet little giggly girls who just want to hang out with their mommy.  That won't always be the case.  Reagan won't always want her "hair-do" to be a "mommy bun" and Anna won't always need me to soothe away the night time boogie man.  So, while it's exhausting, it's probably the most fun work I'll ever get to do.  

I was flipping through old pictures today, scanning this day in my social media history via Timehop and I found this quote I shared last year this time.  "The happiest people don't have the best of everything, they just make the best of everything."  I have always been an optimist, and certainly I don't really have many burdens in my life, but we definitely have had to make sacrifices the past few years.  I'm a little sentimental too, which rarely happens anymore, something about my second child has left me little time to get sappy. Often though, I see families whose lifestyles are much more lavish than ours.  I used to be a bit envious.  But once I started looking in and not out, I realized that my happy isn't found in stuff.  It's found in the moments I'd like to relive over and over again. 

Thursday, May 1, 2014

May Days

Usually by May my teacher self is screaming "Mayday! Mayday!"  I'm tired.  I'm kinda tired of my kids.  Don't get me wrong, I love my students.  But they are currently blossoming into the fifth graders, and you know, I'm not cut out to teach fifth grade.  When I taught K, I felt the same about my kinder-babies.  I had them reading and writing, and they weren't as little and tiny as they once were, they were ready for first grade, and I was ready for...well, let's be honest, SUMMER!

When I turned the calendar this morning in the kitchen, I was hit with something I wasn't quite prepared for.  You see, May is the month of my baby's birthday.  My BABY is going to be two.  How the heck did that happen?  I still see her as a little baby.  I saw the pictures of her first birthday plastered across the page and instantly I felt a little pang in my heart.  It's hard to believe my youngest is going to be two.  Somehow, I'm getting old.

Which brings me back to May.  Historically, in my 29 year history at least, May has been an eventful month.  It's the month I graduated high school & college, the month I accepted my first job, the month David & I pretty much made all the important decisions about our nuptials.  In 2003, it was one of the most up and down months of my entire life.  I had hurt my knee playing soccer and my parents had decided to schedule my surgery right in the middle of senior week, so I'd be laid up with my leg in a cast while my friends celebrated post-graduation by tanning and partying.  I'd come to terms with this, as most of my friends were boys, and doubtfully my parents would let me spend a night, let alone a week, with my closet friends of the opposite sex away from home.  The night of our baccalaureate service, May 18, I was limping around getting my cap and gown together.  I had to speak at the service briefly as I represented my peers as class president.  The phone rang.  I answered it, curling iron in hand.  On the other end was my boyfriend and one of my closest friends in general.  Just for reference, we didn't have caller id on the line I answered, it was a rotary phone in fact.  I'm not sure why it matters, but I had no idea who was on the other end of the phone when I answered it.  I just heard breathing.  Finally, he said kinda all in one breath, "Therewasacaraccident.  Devin and Alisha didn't make it."  I was lost.  My circle of friends who shared a lunch table, Chris, Travis, Devin, Shandy, Glenn and me, one didn't make it?  My chest is still tight just thinking about that conversation, that night in general.  The other details are blurred, but those next two weeks as we prepared for graduation were so hard.

My mom had left for a multi-night field trip with her fourth grade class, my sister was around, but I vaguely remember.  My dad held my hand as we attended Devin and her sister's visitation, her funeral, and the Board of Education meeting where I was being recognized for something (I honestly don't remember what, he just said I had to go).  My high school English teacher hugged me at that meeting as we prayed for my friend's parents, who in one instant, lost their entire family.  I still remember that warm hug (that sense of comfort is one I try to pass on to my students when they feel lost, hurt or sad too). So, this morning when I turned my calendar to the month of May, I thought of my friend, I thought of her mom and dad, I saw the faces of my little girls and cannot imagine the hole in their hearts.  I still remember May 23 when I sat on the stage and looked at my classmates, saw the chair skipped with the green gown draped over the backrest limply, my friend should have been right there, proudly wearing her gown.  I miss my lunch bunch friends, we are scattered about with busy lives. I have what might of been questions from time to time, but more so in May.

Last year on the 18th, we celebrated Anna's birthday.  It was so nice for me, 10 years later, to have something happy to associate that day with.    As much as I'm looking forward to summer, to spending time with my girls, and just having some time off to breathe, I'm grateful for the here and now, there's no guarantees for tomorrow.  This month serves as a big reminder of that to me.  So as my patience grows shorter, my prayers grow longer, and I do my best to remember my sweet friend and live this life to the fullest.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Please pass (on) the cake...

A couple weeks ago a friend mentioned in a Facebook group she was embarking on a Whole30.  I was curious as to what exactly this was, so I googled it and thought, "hum... I think I could, and probably should try that."  As I was reading over the "rules" to David, he laughed at me and said, "honey, I have been trying to get to give up your soft drink habit, I seriously doubt you could do that."  I heard that as a challenge. Challenge accepted.

Since I was a middle schooler, sitting down to eat hasn't been my thing.  I still remember eating a Fudge Round and drinking a chocolate milk for lunch every single day.  I didn't improve too much by high school.  I'd drink a gatorade and have a granola bar and call it a meal.  Having two toddlers hasn't helped my eating habits, but I'm a lot hungrier.  I used to blame it on nursing, now I'm just guessing I probably need to eat more than a prepackaged bar at mealtime.  I still call a couple granola bars dinner and some Little Debbie snack cakes dessert, all the while I drink pop like water.  I really want to do better and set positive example for my little princesses, and this seemed like a perfect opportunity--While I have a few buddies going through the same things and holding me accountable.

So what is a Whole30?  Basically 30 days of eating nothing but "real" food.  No processed foods, no grains, no legumes, no sugar.  Ah!  That sounds terrible, right?  Since I eat so much crap, eating other things in its place, didn't seem so bad actually. The website says, "Think of it as a short-term nutritional reset, designed to help you put an end to unhealthy cravings and habits, restore a healthy metabolism, heal your digestive tract, and balance your immune system."

All of this seemed doable and worth my while.  I really just wanted to kick my pop habit, but I don't snack on junk so much any more, and I don't really miss anything (this is Day 13).  I say that, then the past 2 weekends I have been daunted by yummy birthday cakes, both from Costco, with that amazing layer of icing in the center.  Both times, I've fed the girls their pieces, without even licking my fingers. I am tired of cooking and preparing food all the darn time, and my teacher lunch box is probably the hardest thing to plan ahead.  However, I already don't feel the need for my morning and midday Mt. Dews, and let me just say, the need was real.  I do miss a glass of wine in the evening, and on Day 31, that's the first "rule" I'm looking forward to breaking.  It is nice to do something that will make me a better me though, because if I'm a better "me" then I'm going to be a better mommy, wife, and teacher.  Plus, I've got to prove my husband wrong.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Keeping It Real

I attended this huge women's fellowship luncheon with my mom yesterday at church.  I was anxious to say the least, not because my dad was watching the girls, but because I was not watching them.  Monday through Friday they are happy little "school-goers," but this week had been different.  They hadn't quite been well, and I was worried they would eat something that would either hurt their tummies or they'd be allergic to.  Both very real realities in our world.

Anyway, I was glad to get away to eat some real food, to see familiar faces, and to hopefully hear some encouraging words.  I make no jokes about it, for the most part, I don't really enjoy time with many women. I had one best friend through school and the rest of my friends were boys.  Today, I feel like I have NO time between work and my kids, and I don't have any friends who are in that same place.  Being a working mommy is different than staying home (both equally hard in their own rights), and having more than one child is whole other ballgame.  Add that that my husband and I are not close in age, his friends and my friends are different, because we relate to them because of our ages.  I've slowly started to try to make a little time for myself, but it's an effort.

When the speaker walked up to the stage, I kinda sighed.  I am sure this isn't for me.  In her floor length skirt, her perfectly painted nails, not a hair out of place, the stay at home wife to a pastor certainly can't tell me anything. "I have a passion for women's ministries.  Women need to get together, to talk about emotions, to share those feelings." GAG ME.  The next words are the ones I took home though, "women need to keep it real."  She went on to talk about carving time out for God, something I don't do near enough of, and the ways, as women, we can let our light shine in the world.  But it all goes back to keeping it real, and being open and honest with ourselves and God.  Something I am not always good at; I'm too busy trying to be perfect or making other people at least think I am.

I got two really sweet Facebook messages this week.  One from a friend expecting her second bundle of joy and wanted a little affirmation on how to manage two sweet ones close in age, another from a college classmate wanting a little advice on incorporating literacy in her toddler's day to day schedule.  While I loved sharing, and I'm long-winded anyway, I thought Saturday about these messages, and I wondered, "What kind of message does 'facebook Rachel' send out? Does she keep it real?"  So, while my Pinterest boards are full of fun literacy ideas, great toddler meal plans, and my girls love doing art projects and reading books, our house is not always running flawlessly.

I have a pack n play full of clean laundry.  I don't know if I ever really intend on folding it, I grab whatever I'm going to wear out of it, fluff in the dryer and it's good to go.  No one has slept in there in forever, maybe because they hated "baby jail" or maybe because their mommy was too lazy to fold those clothes up anyway. My goal for spring break is to get the laundry put away and either cosign the thing or turn it into a toy box or reading corner for the girls.

I shower while my kids are in the bathtub.  Before you gasp at the dangers of this, I put just a little bit of water, the garden tub and the shower are side by side, and thank goodness for the builder's grade mirrored glass behind the sinks (the kind they shudder at on House Hunters), it gives me a clear view of the girls.  It's really the only way I've figured out how to get a shower.

We have an ant problem in our house.  I don't know what to do about other than vacuuming and sweeping all the darn time. I've tried to make everyone eat at the table, and Daddy still sneaks all the kids snacks away from their respected chairs, and we will have 1 crumb in the playroom and 100 ants.  I'm scared to put out poison for the ants, because as much as I want them dead, I don't want my kids dead. So, I squish and clean, and while it's not infested, and more of a bother than anything, it exists.  I hate it.

 I don't really ever sleep.  Anna still wakes at night, we cosleep much to my displeasure, and I can't remember the last time I slept all night.  I'm sure it was at 30-something weeks pregnant in 2010.  I get really ill when I'm tired.  I get weepy and cranky; worse than either one of my toddlers.  While usually, I'm not overly hormonal or sensitive, I am when I'm tired.  I feel like I'm on year 4 of PMS'ing sometimes.  I took a nap today.  So, today's a good day!

I don't get sad when I pack up baby clothes.  I don't really miss my babies being babies.  While I loved holding little squishy Anna & Reagan, I am really scared of tiny babies.  I still am not quite sure how they survived.  I had no idea what I was doing.

I sometimes loath my husband.  Not because of anything he does or doesn't do.  I am a bit jealous of his lifestyle.  Despite of all the changes I've had in my life, his life (his Sundays of golf, grabbing lunch with a friend, going on a boys' weekend) has not changed.  He can just go, and I guess I could put my foot down, but undoubtedly it wouldn't change anything.  I complain about it from time to time, and he "gets it" but he doesn't REALLY get it.  I love my littles and wouldn't change anything about the time I've invested into their childhood, but it's tough work!

I am sure I could go on, but the point is, I saw the lady's point.  We need to be real with ourselves, with each other.  I think sometimes the pressure to be perfect comes from comparing ourselves to other people we think are doing it the right way.  So while Anna and Reagan are wearing clothes out of the Pack 'n Play today, and I killed three ants in the kitchen, we're happy.  I've set aside time for me to spend in devotion and a little more time to do that with my girls.  If I can set the example of being honest and real with my girls, maybe they won't feel the pressure to be perfect, they won't fool themselves into thinking that these actions (of people pleasing) are what distinguishes their worth as women and Christians.

Monday, March 3, 2014


Little man finished up his Upward basketball season last weekend, and I'll be honest, even though it was nice not rushing from gymnastics to court side, I missed it!  Growing up playing rec basketball, a member of the middle school and high school teams, playing super competitive basketball, I was a bit hesitant of the Upward league.  They had some rules that bothered the competitor in me.  You HAD to play man to man, you couldn't switch even after a screen.  If a team outscored their opponents by more than 10, then the scoreboard didn't budge until they were back within range.  I wasn't sure if it was teaching the kids real skills.

However, I watched Brent grow so much over the eight week span.  His ball handling, his defense (his defense a lot---he learned that he wasn't a little Lebron, he had to work with his teammates), his ability to anticipate what was coming next, and his confidence.  Not to mention, Brent grew in Christ.  He asked me some pretty tough questions about heaven and hell and what happens after death.  He asked me about people who don't believe.  I am certain this questions were spurred by verses learned at their weekly practices and the devotions held during halftime and post games.  David's response to Brent's questions usually is "ask Rachel," no matter what it's about--from fractions to faith.  But this time, Brent turned to me first.  Having that responsibility is huge, but I guess knowing that I spent a lot of time teaching Sunday School and forcing him to read the Picture Book Bible in kindergarten, left me as the resident expert.

So, even if I disagreed with some of the ways the games were played, I can't disagree with the deeper message.  Even though I didn't love some of the rules skewed, I can't help but love my favorite little man wanting to be more like Christ.  Having a child look to you and want to know more about what it means to be a Christian kinda makes all the "rules" look much less important.  They didn't always win (his team finished 8-3, so they did have to lose gracefully), we haven't had awards day, so I'm not certain if they all are awarded trophies or not, but you know, it really doesn't matter.  I'm a huge fan of Upward sports because the life lessons it's taught my little man far outweigh his draft chances anyway.  In a day where bullies are driving kids to unthinkable acts, where families can't get along, where kids are left alone to be independent way too much, there needs to be some rays of sunshine. This league is certainly some sunshine in our community.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

YOLO {you're only little once}

It seems like in our house the changing of the calendar means birthdays.  Bub's birthday is in February, Reagan's is at the tail end of March, and Anna's falls right in the middle of May.  My birthday is in there too, but I'm at the point, I've really stopped aging anyway, so it's not too important.  That is, as long as David is sure to buy me a sappy card and cake. It is still my birthday after all.

In these days of super mommies, Pinterest, internet shopping, nailing the perfect party seems to come with a bit of pressure.  We've had Mario, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Minnie Mouse, and monkey themed parties.  Now, that my little biggest princess is nearly 3, she is very demanding.  I had pinned super cute cowgirl themed parties.  She got a really cute cowgirl costume for Christmas, I just knew that would be her theme this year....  Until, she demanded she was going to have a "Peter Pan birthday."  Wait, my girlie princess, wants a Peter Pan birthday?  This is not going to work with the pink cowgirl, land lover, over the top feminine party I had envisioned. And you know what, that's okay.  You're only little once.

I'm much too mature to be wearing trendy clothes and captioning my Instagram selfies with YOLO, but when I saw the catch phrase in my latest Parents magazine interpreted to fit my littles, I sighed a bit.  It already does go by fast.  Sometimes that's not always a bad thing.  It seems like once a month I'm cleaning up vomit.  One day they'll be able to hit the toilet.  That will be awesome.  When empty nesters tell you "you're gonna miss this," they were not talking about vomit, sleeping on the couch, being pooped on, kids screaming in the backseat of your car the entire hour long trip, or cleaning food up off the floor constantly.  

However, the endearing sweet moments truly outweigh the bad.  Anna still lets me rock her to sleep, she's my last baby, I'm going to keep on rocking that sweet pea.  Reagan declares "Mommy, I like you, I really do!!!" at the top of her lungs at least 10 times a day.  How cute is that?!  She also likes wearing "a neighborHOOD" (hoodie), loves "kandas" (pandas), and helps teach sign language to her sister (we did it with her, I've been slack with Anna, Reagan picked up my slack).  The girls are constantly giving checkups with their doctor kits, after we thank them by singing "So Much Better" Doc McStuffens style, they both will say, "it was no biggie."  Brent will pick up the girls, carry them, give them sloppy kisses, and secretly delights in Anna calling him "bubba" even though he would never admit it in public. My heart has never been so mushy.  

I keep the girls in line, in fact I laugh when Anna is doing something she shouldn't, Reagan will firmly say, "No ma'am!" in her best mommy tone. But when it comes to the everyday little things, I really try to remember they are just toddlers.  So, it snowed tiny tidbits of tissues in my living room today.  We played in it for a while.  We threw it in the air, danced around, sang like Elsa and Anna in Frozen, and then we all three got our vacuum cleaners and cleaned it up.  Poor Anna's vacuum is actually a Fisher Price bubble lawn mower, but it works.  They are helpers. They have great imaginations.  They are little.  In the midst of wanting to pull my hair out, I remind myself this time is too short.  They will only be this little once.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

I Hate That Girl!

If you had asked me ten years ago how I anticipated my future, it would be absolutely nothing like it is at the present.  I was a bit self centered at 18, used to being the center of attention, the brightest (or pretty darn near it) crayon in the box, and I had everything figured out.  I was done with one semester of college and only part of that bubble had burst.  Maybe college level calculus wasn't for me, but in my circle of friends that managed to stay tight (perhaps because I dated one of them, and the rest were our mutual pals) despite the distance our separate universities put between us, I still got most of the limelight.  I was going to graduate, marry my high school sweetheart, wait a few years, adopt some Asian babies (babies get out how!?) and be a stay at home mom.  My kids would drink formula (because breastfeeding is weird, my mom bottle fed me, and I'm awesome), be potty trained by 18 months, go to church preschool a few days a week so I could train for and run half marathons.

Oh my gosh! I hate that girl! If you do those things, that is totally awesome, it was MY attitude I hate.  It was still all about me.  My first year teaching totally changed everything.  My high school sweetheart moved away to pursue his "over" graduate degree (he kept referring to his undergrad work as easy peasy, it ticked me off), we grew apart fast.  I threw myself into my work, and it really consumed me anyways.  I had a really tough group of third graders.  Nothing like the country club kids I student taught with. Nothing like the small K-8 school I attended and my mom taught at.  It was scary some days.  I had one student that I'm pretty sure was certifiably crazy and another that had such a bad home life, I didn't stand a chance at school.  By Christmas, I was convinced I had chosen the wrong profession and I really needed to go back to school and become a physical therapist.  I begged my parents to let me use the money I was saving by staying at home to help fund my new career, they insisted I had to teach the next four years thanks to my hefty "loan" of a Teaching Fellows Scholarship.

The biggest blessing I had was a really great group of gals to work with (my 'seur ladies, you will always hold a dear place in my heart).  We'd plan lessons, go out, share stories, couches, and good times.  It's thanks to one of them insisting I go out with her one Saturday night that I now know my husband.  But really, you need a support system when you have kids throwing desks at you (not an exaggeration).  So, I muddled through the year, survived EOGs, was informed I was moving up to fourth grade via mass email, and at this point would have settled for a new school instead of a new degree.  I couldn't imagine teaching the little monsters I had had this year again, luckily the principal  agreed with me, and made sure I had a little say in my class list the next year.  That year was better, and I loved fourth grade, ended up engaged, and had found confidence in my field.  I wasn't the best or perfect, but by making really close friends in my colleagues who had been in the profession for longer, I realized in teaching, there's probably no best or perfect.

I got married before the next school year, hated the commute from our home to my school and ended up taking a job nearby at an "easy school."  My life changed drastically in a short time.  I was adjusting to being in a new place as home, to suburban life, to a new school, new grade level, new life as a wife and a stepmomma.  Part of the reason I chose to leave my school  (other than travel time), was I knew we wanted to try to have a baby.  One night as I was working on lesson plans, my stepson slammed my computer shut.  With big, teary eyes he told me I could work on that when he was at his moms.  My attitude toward work was changing, and I knew the more we added to our family, the more I would have to balance.  After I accepted the job, we decided we'd let life happen, and 7 months later, I was taking pictures of digital pregnancy tests and sending them to David at work.  I thought life had changed a lot, I had no idea what the next three years would bring.

So, two babies later, that are mine biologically (they don't look Asian one bit), I'm not the girl I was 10 years all.  I actually like working, and sometimes need to work (okay, I always need to work for benefits and fiscal responsibilities) for my sanity. There's no training while the kids are at preschool, there's just staff development while they're catching who knows what at daycare.  I nursed Reagan until being pregnant totally wiped out my supply.  We are working on weaning now, but at 20 months, my toddler still nurses to sleep. My 18 year old self is appalled, but as I'm quickly approaching 29, I realize it's not really about me anymore.  Potty training is harder than college calculus! I still like buying new shoes, getting a hair cut (even if it's like once a year now), and a mani/pedi, but now, I love snuggles (even if they involve lots of drool), family mornings in bed just the five of us, and the occasional slow jog with the double stroller.  My Saturdays are consumed with gymnastics and Upward sports, my full night of sleep on my tummy is interrupted by teething, bad dreams, and cries for a binkie.  It's unlike anything I had planned.  It is so much better.  I wish I hadn't been so self centered when I was younger.  There are some really unkind things it caused me to do and say. I've had my share of dark days recently, especially when I found out I was pregnant when my baby was just six months old, and my husband, who is several years my senior, was ready to be done after our one.  But, if anything, we've both learned to put our little ones as a priority, trust God's plan and timing, and work together for the sake of our family.  The girl I was would have been too consumed with herself to ever be the wife, mommy, teacher, friend I am today.  She wasn't all bad, but I sure am glad she grew up, even if her side and big toe had to catch a desk along the way.