I Am Not A Summertime Mom

Somewhere around mid-March, I start counting the days until school ends. I dream of the days when no one complains about math and I am not throwing dinner together before racing out the door for practices.

Sleeping in. The carefree schedule. Not having to do any school work. I anticipate summer with more excitement than my children.

And then like clockwork, about two weeks into summer, I remember what I forget every year:

I am not a great summer time mom.

The magical summer I dream of in March is mostly just a dream.

I love the idea of summer, but with four children, the reality of it is never quite like I imagine.

Blame it on Newton’s Third Law of Physics (which I had to google the name of because I stopped paying attention in science class around second grade):

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Sure, having children who are old enough to sleep in is the most magical thing on the planet (the action)…until I want to Netflix and chill with my man…and my children want to come in my room every 30 seconds because they aren’t tired (the opposite reaction).

And, even though my kids play all day long, our carefree schedule does not provide enough activity to tire them out.

Before you tell me that your kids play baseball or are on swim team, here is what you need to know about me:

Give me football in Fall, basketball in Winter, and soccer in Spring. But suggest that my kids play the slowest moving sport of all time which involves copious amounts of dirt, and tell me to sit outside in the blazing sun for a double header while corralling the children not currently playing…and I will seriously question our friendship.

And don’t even get me started on the insanely early hours swimmers like to keep.

Add in the amount of time I would spend applying sunscreen each day, and trust that if I am going to live my best life, it does not involve any aforementioned activities.

I take responsibility for my disdain towards the available summer sports, but I am who I am…and it only serves to prove my point that I am not a summertime mom.

As if my reference to Sir Isaac Newton and the use of physics in the middle of July wasn’t proof enough.

The reason I cautiously admit that summer is not my thing is because people like to post stuff on Facebook with titles like “You Only Have Eighteen Summers With Your Children So You Better Make The Most Of Your Time”. Which excludes but implies the subtext, “If you really love your kids, you will soak up every moment and spend every minute enjoying your precious offspring.”

But this also excludes my current reality: I am pregnant with my fifth child and literally so sick and tired. And my children have decided that summertime is the perfect time to fight all day, beg to play electronics every 39 seconds, and ask “what are we doing today” twelve times an hour.

I barely have time to soak up their preciousness because I am mostly refereeing while letting them know they are responsible for their own fun.

Which they have difficulty with in late July because we are currently living on the surface of the sun…all indoor activities have been exhausted…and I limit how much they play electronics.

Not because I want to. On the contrary, my pregnant self would love if electronics all day could be a thing. My house would stay clean, and they would barely break to eat (double win!). But ole Newton proves true again in that electronics make my kids crazy. Sure, they’re quiet while playing them, but I must face the wrath of who they become when I take them away. And it ain’t pretty. 

This is what I’ve concluded: for some people, the eighteen summers are an awesome time to create memories, cherish your children, and soak up the time. And maybe if I wasn’t miserably pregnant, I would feel this way. (Probably not.)

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in June, when I still had high hopes for summer 

Then there are other people, like me, who are grateful to know that I also have eighteen Falls and eighteen Winters and eighteen Springs to do the same.

And that’s my family’s jam. We all function better on full (but not too full) schedule, adequate sleep, and a consistent routine…when we don’t default to electronics to fill the endless hours…and everyone generally knows what to expect each day.

I don’t particularly like school. I am not even a type-A personality. And if this pregnancy sickness doesn’t subside soon, cooking good meals still won’t happen.

I’ve just hit that point in the summer where it’s a little too relaxed and way too hot. And I’m over it. Instead, I am looking forward to chatting with moms at cheer practice, spending Saturdays watching my favorite boys and my favorite Seminoles play football, and settling into a nice, predictable routine. As predictable as a pregnant mom and four kids can be.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I am off to buy school supplies. That same mid-March delusion is hitting where I convince myself that, if I buy all cute, new school supplies, my kids will actually enjoy school and not complain about math every single day.

A mom can dream. 

 

 

 

To Every Season, Change Change Change

Earlier this year, my husband and I decided to move our four kids halfway across the country…for reasons too numerous to list here. But mostly because we wanted to live near family.

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The week after we moved into our new house (which happens to be my childhood home…an awesome story for a different day), the session of my Leadership Journey happened to be on understanding and embracing change. Sometimes I just love how life works out.

It literally could not have come at a more perfect time because I was neck-deep in major changes in my life.

I am a person who loves change. I like to rearrange my furniture. I like to dye my hair. I like to move. But this relocation was harder on me than any major change had ever been. And I am no stranger to change.

Of course, the main reason was the difficulty in leaving behind friends that I treasure. Relationships will always be the most important part of my life, and I hate moving away from friends who are family. I was also sad to leave the home where my family had so many memories.

Which is why I was so grateful to learn how to better embrace change…right in the middle of a huge change.

The thing that most helped me was to realize change is very similar to grief. This made total sense to me because I truly was grieving the loss of so much. Obviously, friends are only a phone call and plane ride away. No one actually died. And people are what makes a house a home.

And yet, I still felt grief. Our move happened pretty quickly and was quite unexpected. So it took me a bit to wrap my mind around the whole idea. I had to let go of my life in Florida and embrace my new life in Missouri…in a new house with new friends. And on a deeper level, a whole new life trajectory.

Raising my kids in the Midwest is much different than in South Florida. Plus, my kids are old enough to understand moving. Being around family is a [welcomed] change after having not lived by them in nearly two decades. And the path life would take me on is changed because of this one major life change.

So it helped me so much to understand that it takes time to process change. And it helped me even more to remember that even the biggest changes eventually become life as normal.

Sure enough, we’ve lived in Missouri for nearly three months. And we are settling in quite well. I still miss my friends dearly, of course. But life is good.

Change is a necessary part of life. Understanding and embracing change is helpful to making it a little more palpable.

I am curious to know how you feel about change. Do you love it? Hate it? Embrace it?

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A few weeks ago, I graduated from my PeopleTek Leadership Journey. This has been the best thing I’ve done in a long time. If you manage people in your career, I cannot recommend this course enough. I promise you will be a better manager, and you will better serve your team. I thought I had a pretty good understanding of myself before I took this course, but I learned so much more about myself (and other people) than I ever thought possible. Definitely let me know if you are interested, and I can get you in touch with the right person to start your Journey.

 

 

You May Call Me A Dream(kill)er…

I am married to a dreamer. My husband is an entrepreneur and is constantly thinking up new business ideas.

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I am a person who can’t think past today. But I do have a strong sense of a bad idea.

For years, I’ve called myself as a dream killer. Because every idea my husband has, I have a thousand reasons why it won’t work. And he would agree that most of the time I am right.

I don’t kill every idea. We started our second small business just this week. And I’ve moved halfway across the country three separate times to pursue a new adventure.

I am open to adventure. I embrace chaos. And I love change.

But I don’t dream the wild dreams. I mostly {happily} follow the dreamer and kill every idea that’s stupid.

Hence, the dream killer.

I never really understood how my husband could be thinking of something three years from now when I could barely figure out how to make it until bedtime. He could never understand why I just know when something is not right for our family because he doesn’t consider the necessary steps to accomplishing his ideas.

Which is why the PeopleTek Leadership Journey I’ve written so much about has been revolutionary for me. (And I would highly recommend to anyone in a leadership position…in your workplace, family, church, etc.)

I’ve never considered the different roles my husband and I play in our family and business pursuits…until one of the classes addressed this specifically. Because I like to be mysterious, I don’t want to spoil everything I’ve learned (in case you go through the Journey).

But the conclusion is that I am not a dream killer after all. I am simply not a dreamer, but the role I do play matters. Knowing when to pursue a good idea and knowing when not to are actually just as important.

And instead of feeling like a jerk every time I tell my husband his idea sucks, I embrace my role. Over the years, he has learned to trust me. Because he knows he can’t see what I see. And I’ve learned to say yes when there’s no real reason to say no.

In marriage and in business, so much of the frustrations and disagreements come from two people (or more, in a workplace) having to work together but functioning so differently.

Whether or not you take the Leadership Journey I have taken (you’d be so smart to do so), I highly recommend learning about human behavior. We all do what we do for a reason, and horrible character flaws notwithstanding, who we are is just who we are. And you and I will be most successful in life when we allow people to be who they are. And fully embrace who we are.

I will probably never be a dreamer. But I’ve learned that when I said yes to marrying my husband, I said yes to a life so unpredictable and awesome that it’s probably a good thing that I don’t ever even consider making a five-year plan.

Because as many times as I’ve killed a dream, I am so thankful for the many dreams that have ended up shaping our lives in a way my practical self would have never allowed.

Does this resonate with you? Are you married to a dreamer? Are you, yourself, a dreamer? I would love to know!

 

To The Mom Who Feels Unseen

It was one of those nights. One of those nights where I just could not mother for another moment. One of those nights where I completely lost it. And I was so done that I didn’t even care. You know what I am talking about: you emerge from your bedroom to find everyone quietly and diligently doing the chores they always complain about. Because they just know. Mama has reached rock bottom.

Only this night, I wasn’t coming out of my room. I had had enough. I was doner than done.

I try so hard to raise my kids well and all they do is complain, fight, whine, and make messes…so the conversation in my head went.

My sweet husband, against his better judgement, walked in and asked, “Are you okay?”

And my exact words were:

“At Caleb’s football game tonight, one of your children pooped on me. Actually diarrheaed on me.

And YOU KNOW WHAT getting constantly crapped upon is a metaphor for my life.”

You may use your discretion as to if crap was the actual word I used.

I am the first to admit that I have no problem being dramatic to prove a point.

But, in this instance, I truly meant what I was saying.

 

The whining, the complaining, the fighting. Those are all part of raising kids. Siblings are going to disagree. About everything. No one is ever going to celebrate doing chores. And, because they haven’t learned that it’s ridiculously annoying socially unacceptable, children are going to whine. And whine and whine.

So while those things were driving me to my wit’s end, I knew they weren’t actually the root of the problem.

The real issue is that I feel unseen.
I do loads (and loads and loads) of laundry. And someone is unhappy one pair of pants isn’t washed yet.
I spend way too much time preparing a nourishing meal and get to spend the entire dinner hearing how awful it is. Even though they liked it last week.
I invest my life into my family. I give my all to raising my children. I think about them constantly and work hard to make sure our home is a great place to grow up.

But most days, no one really seems to notice. 

They are masters are noticing what I don’t do.
But not so much at what I always do.

And the hardest part is that my kids are really awesome kids. They are grateful when they receive an unexpected gift or get to go out for ice cream. They are helpful around the house. They do their chores, even if they complain about them. They are fun and make me laugh. They give great hugs and talk to me about their lives.

It’s not like they’re spoiled brats who treat me like a servant.

And yet I lay in my bed bawling because no one seems to see how hard I work.

Which, when I am in a good mood and feeling great about my life, doesn’t make total sense. Because they do thank me (sometimes) and they do help me and they are so sweet (when they aren’t being jackos).

But, on those long days when nothing seems to go right and I feel like giving up and I get literally crapped on and it all feels like too much, I really struggle with how much of motherhood is unseen.

Emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually…so much of raising children is not seen. And no one ever really knows how hard I work.

And you know what? I’ve decided that’s okay.

Because when I dry my tears and pull myself out of bed (and enjoy the clean house that resulted from my adult temper tantrum), I realize that I am not cooking a meal merely to satisfy their hunger today. I am not listening to a twenty minute dissertation on why I should buy them fidget toys because fidget toys matter.

I do it all because that’s what love does. And a well loved child changes the world.

When I think of the adults my children will hopefully become, it makes the daily tasks of raising them much more bearable.

Who cares if I get any recognition today if it means that my children leave home with the confidence of knowing I believe in them and trusting that they can chase their dreams. Because should when they fail, they know they have a safe place to land.

Because home has always been a safe place. Where nourishing meals were cooked and clothes were clean and long conversations took place.

The little things that feel so very small and so very unseen collectively become the big things that send children out into the great, big world as well loved, confident, contributing members of society.

When they succeed at whatever their life path becomes, I somehow think that the moments of feeling unseen, and the frustrations that come with it, will feel so small in comparison to the joy of knowing that every sacrifice was worth it.

And the great paradox of life is that, even though it doesn’t feel like it, our children see us much more than we think.

A few days after my embarrassing meltdown, I was looking through a notebook where I keep notes for my job. I came across this note:

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It was the sweetest reminder that the things I do that feel so very unseen really do matter.

And getting constantly crapped on is not actually a metaphor for my life after all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Husband Is Not My Everything

About five years into marriage, my husband and I were driving down the street together. Our three kids in the backseat (yes, we already had three kids)(because we are nothing if not crazy), I ignored the incessant crying/questions/whining to tell him the story of my friend’s recent engagement.

I gave every last detail. From how her now fiancé set up the proposal to her facial expression when he asked the question.

As I finished the very long, very detailed story, I thought my heart might burst with joy, as I remembered the day my sweet husband proposed to me. (Trust me: it will be very important to remember the adjective “sweet” I just used to describe him.)

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The day my now husband proposed to me. Also known as before I had a muffin top.  

“You know, I probably only listen to about 25% of the words you say,” was the reply my now dead to me husband gave in response to my lovely story.

“YOU WHAT?” I asked. Or yelled. I can’t really be sure.

Cool as a cucumber, he went on to tell me that he is a man. And that pesky Y chromosome makes it impossible for him to listen to every word I say because I just give so many details. And he doesn’t do details. And blah blah blah.

I probably should have been more upset. But really all I could think of was, “You know what? This is why I have girlfriends. They love knowing every last detail.”

Because, you see, I adore my husband. He is funny. He is fun. He is so awesome. But he is not my everything.

It would be unfair to ask any one person to be your everything. As much as Hollywood would like us to believe that a spouse completes us, the truth is no person can complete you. A spouse can complement you. A spouse can enrich you. But a spouse cannot make you whole.

Becoming a whole person is a different post for a different day.
But realizing your spouse cannot be your everything is a lesson that can never be learned too early.

Much like the stock market, there is tremendous value in diversifying your relationships.

My husband will never listen to a story that is twenty-seven minutes long.
But my BFF will hang on to every detail, offering important feedback and opinions.
Because that is what best friends do. And what husbands never will.
(Unless you have the rare husband who loves long conversations. But I certainly do not.)

And yet, not to undervalue my husband, he knows me a in way that no friend ever will. He supports my late night emotional spiraling when the world feels very dark and hard…and then makes breakfast as usual in the morning, having given me the grace to properly emote and then wake up to a fresh start. No questions asked. No judgements passed.

Relationships are the cornerstone of life. They’re the very best part of life and, sometimes, the very hardest part. And one of the greatest gifts we can give to our spouses and children and friends is to have reasonable expectations of who they can be to us. And who they never will. 

My opening story had a full circle moment when I realized recently that there are actually several ways people listen, and it is true that my husband listens best when given a broad overview of a story. His brain is wired in such a way that truly cannot follow irrelevant details. Irrelevant to him. Not me, of course.

I know I have written a lot about the leadership class I am taking, but it’s because it has given me a much better understanding of how different we all are…and the value in allowing people to be who they’re made to be. Which proves my original point in that there is much importance in having a variety of relationships.

When a woman says, “My husband is my everything,” I know that ultimately translates to unrealistic expectations that will more often than not go unmet. While it’s a sweet sentiment that sounds romantic, I’ve found that a marriage is healthiest when your husband is not your everything.

Your spouse is definitely your most important relationship. And should be treated as such. But I cannot overstate how relieved he will be when you allow your husband to be who he is. And allow your girlfriends to fill in the blanks. And not expect much from your children because those people are too honest and blunt. I kid, I kid.

Friends on the world wide web, would you agree? Do you think it’s possible for your spouse to be your everything? Or have you experienced the value in a variety of relationships?

 

 

Beauty Is Often Found In The Ordinary

I left my hometown nearly twenty years ago when I went away to college. I loved the town I grew up in, but until last month, life circumstances had never brought me back. Through a series of circumstances that is too long to recount in this space, my husband and I decided to relocate halfway across the country to my hometown.

I’ve moved quite a bit in my adult life, so moving itself is not all together that new to me. However, moving becomes harder and harder the older I get. Because friendships have deepened and the home I’ve created matters to me. But moving has a way of recalibrating life. It pushes the reset button and every single part of life becomes up for debate. Debate on whether or not I want to take that thing into the next season of life. Both physically and metaphorically.

While I miss my friends more than I could ever articulate in words, change is good for my soul. I like change. I like configuring my furniture in my new home (that is, the furniture my husband didn’t make me give away before moving. Not that I am bitter.) I like driving a new route. And I like taking the time to evaluate how I am spending my days (and therefore, my life).

Moving back to the place where I spent my childhood is particularly interesting because so many things trigger memories of experiences I had when I was my kids’ ages. And replaying the life montage in my mind has majorly put my own life into perspective.

For one, it feels like I just left home a week ago to nervously move away to college…except it’s been almost two decades and I am returning with five amazing people, four of whom did not even exist back in that time. Which means I will blink and my first born will be nervously moving out for his first time.

I have cried too many tears this year to move you to tears about young children going to college tomorrow when “tomorrow” is many, many days away, so I will not camp out in that devastating reality. (I am not at all dramatic.)

But I will say that this recalibration has given me the vision of what I want my life to look like for the next 2,700 approximate days I have until my first born leaves for college. I spent a lot of time packing and driving, so you will have to forgive me for the time I had to calculate his departure.

Sure, I want to take fun vacations. And enjoy magical Christmases. And eat decadent meals.

But, mostly, I want to remind myself that the most magical parts of life are found in the most ordinary moments.

Returning home means I get to spend more time with family, and recently, my brothers and I were laughing about this psychologically torturous game we used to play called Run Down. The game was torture because my two older brothers, unbeknownst to me, would constantly change the rules as to never let me win. Which my stupidly competitive self never realized until adulthood.

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We laughed until we cried (well, I cried) about how many hours we played this game. And how mad I would get that I could never seem to win.

During those years of playing Run Down, we also vacationed to some really cool places and got some really cool presents. And while those are fond memories, they can’t compare to the hilarity of Run Down. Or the times we lowered our brother down the laundry chute in a bed sheet. Or when my sister and I would use every ingredient we could find to bake a cake (because we did not understand the importance of a little thing called a “recipe”).

As parents today, we get so obsessed with trying to live some huge epic life and creating mountaintop moments that it’s easy to forget to kids are super easy to please. And 100% of the time, they would prefer a mom who is less stressed over a life of constant entertainment (or a life of constant guilt for not providing entertainment).

Teaching your kids how to make your family’s favorite chocolate chip cookies…letting them be bored enough to make up a fun game…making your boys clean the toilets (because you want your future daughter-in-laws to love you)…showing your daughter how to wear make-up (but not well enough to spare her from the fugly middle school years that are a necessary rite of passage for every adolescent girl)…putting away laundry instead of playing a game (because adulthood)…playing the game and forgoing dishes (because life is too short and adulthood is overrated)…

It’s these ordinary moments that actually matter. 

I confess that over the past year or four, I had become quite annoyed with my ordinary life. The cleaning never ends. And my kids don’t seem to appreciate my value as their mom. I have dreamed of a glamorous life where compliments flow freely and someone cleans up the messes and the calories in cupcakes don’t count.

But as I return to the place where I lived the most ordinary days of my life, I am reminded in the beauty and perfection of the every day. The very daily moments of life actually culminated into the most amazing childhood.

It is true that life is but a blink. And I do not want to waste a moment wishing it could be anything different than what it is. Because when I stop trying to make it oh so amazing, I remember it’s been amazing all along. In the most ordinary ways.

When I was in bed sick last week, my daughter brought my favorite snack to my room with a note that said, “I love you.” The compassion in her heart and being truly known by the girl who matters most to me proved that an ordinary life paradoxically creates the most extraordinary children.

The Formula To Making Your Life Matter

If you have read much of my writing, you know a common theme is to stop trying to be who you aren’t. It is my strongly held opinion that many frustrations in raising children could be avoided if we stopped holding ourselves to impossible standards.

You know by now what I am against, but you know less of what I am for. This is intentional, for the most part. Every family differs in their values/faith/dreams, and the last thing I would ever want to do is to burden you with one more thing. 

Which is why writing (or Facebook posts or Instagram photos) only tells a fraction of the story.

In the past few years, I have spent considerable time intentionally creating the life I want for my family. I have cut many things out and added some things back. My no is strong, but my yes is always without regret. 

I am not sure specifically where I got this idea to mindfully develop my family’s goals and live accordingly, as it’s a common theme today, but my manager at work shared with my team and me that this is one of the most important decisions a company (or family) makes.

Knowing who you are and why you do what you do is crucial for success. 

While I happened upon this way of living haphazardly, there is actually a formula for success that I highly recommend:

Vision + Mission + Goals + Measures = Behaviors (VMGM = B)

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I don’t know about you, but I love a good formula. And this one works. I will share specifically how it works for families, but it also applies to your job, creative ventures, and more.

  1. Create a vision for your family. In my leadership journey, I learned an easy way to remember this is by thinking of a telescope. This is what feels very far off…your dreams, aspirations, hopes for the future, etc. These are personal but are somewhat broad and can almost feel unattainable if no action steps are taken.An example from my family:
    “I want my kids to come home for Christmas,” is a mantra that I have etched in my mind. It’s a cheeky way of saying I want a relationship with my children that is so strong that even when they’re adults, they can’t wait to come visit home. Christmas is not literal, in this situation, but it’s an easy way for me to remember my long-term vision for my family when the days get long and gritty.
  2.  Determine a mission. Think of this as binoculars, if you’re a visual person. This is the strategy for what you’re going to do and how you’re going to do it. It makes the vision applicable to everyday life.To continue my example:
    If I want my kids to visit home when they’re grown, I have to create a home they love now. My strategy for this is to do my best to make my home feel safe, welcoming, and fun. It goes without saying that I do not do this well all of the time, but having a mission allows me to get back on track easily when I’ve derailed.

    My hope is that my children feel safe in my home. I listen to their sweet conversations, I value their opinions, and I remain calm when they tell me hard things. It may feel insignificant and silly when they’re little, but it creates a healthy foundation for when it’s very important.

    While I do not believe in a home where the world revolves around the children, I do believe in creating a home where kids can live loudly. Nothing is sacred in my home. My daughter can play in my make-up. My boys can wrestle in the living room. (Please remember, this is MY mission. If you are not the same, that is healthy and good.)

    I do not feel the need to constantly entertain my children, but I do want a home that is fun to live in. We laugh at mistakes and try not to take life too seriously.

  3. Set goals. Like eyeglasses, goals give clarity to your vision and mission. Goals should be realistic, time bound, and measurable. They bring the potentially overwhelming feeling of the vision into manageable ways to carry it out.For me:
    Maintaining a strong relationship with my children can feel overwhelming when my pre-teen son tests every ounce of patience I have. Instead of beating myself up for this season of life where it feels like I fail more often than I succeed in dealing with his testiness, I set realistic goals. When he asks to ride with me somewhere I would rather go alone, I say yes when possible. I take those moments to enjoy the conversation with him. He is such an awesome kid, and it’s much easier for me to see that when his sibs (as he affectionately calls them) aren’t around to bother him.

    I make bedtime tuck-in’s a priority. Every night I am home, I lay with each of my kids individually. This is my way of assuring that, no matter how the day went, I end well with each child. I have four children, but I do not worry if they’re getting enough attention…because I know I will have this touch point with each kid every day.

    I cannot stress enough how these are merely examples to get you thinking. These are not hard and fast rules for every family. It is what works for me to achieve the vision I have for my family, but it is not necessarily what will work for you.

  4. Measure the above often. You know by now that raising kids is much easier said than done. You will derail from the vision and mission you have for your family. That is expected. The benefit of writing it all out is that you can recalibrate quickly when you realize you’re off course. Take the time every couple of months to evaluate what is working and what is not…and make changes accordingly.
  5. Your Vision, Mission, Goals, and Measures will always determine your Behaviors. By being purposeful in creating the family you want, your daily life will show it. You will live your life on purpose and with intention.

I would encourage you to carve out time to consider your VMGM = B, both personally and professionally. Rather than let life happen at you, you can take control and live in a way that aligns with what you value most.

You only get once chance at life. Make it count. Make it yours.   

 

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