Friday, October 31, 2014

Seven Minutes Left

I have to finish this month of blogging strong.
I have seven minutes until the day is over.

It's been a really fun day.

My dad had an eye surgery today in Miami (they're a renowned eye surgeon place, so he flew down here for it), so I met my mom in Fort Lauderdale for the day to shop and hang out.

Since I am in a minimizing mode, I didn't get as much as usual (I am sure my mom's credit card was thankful, haha)....and having all four kids doesn't make for fun shopping (though they did great).

Caleb asked for something, and I said no.  My mom said, "Caleb, I will get it for you."
To which he replied, "Mimi always saves me."

Aren't grandparents the best?????
Both Brett's parents and my parents are just the greatest.  My kids are so fortunate to have two awesome set of grandparents (and two sets of great grandparents, on Brett's side).  Our parents have been married 35 and 39 years.  I can't even explain how grateful I am to come from such strong familial units.
Having parents who have stuck together through thick and thin shows that a good marriage is attainable.

They're just so awesome.  And I am very thankful.
I will write more about them in the future.  But, for now, I am too amped up to concentrate.

Florida State just won a huge comeback game football game tonight, so I am SOOO excited!!!  It did not look like we would win.

At the beginning of the second half, they showed a clip of Brett playing Louisville in 2002.  After the clip, FSU outscored Louisville 42-10.


We were pretty down about how poorly FSU was playing and were preparing for a defeat.  

They showed this clip.....and it was a super fun moment to share with our kids....and it totally changed our attitudes.  Our phones blew up with friends texting and tweeting.  SUPER FUN!!  Then, FSU totally turned up the heat and ran the table on Louisville to WIN!!!!!  

24-0, baby!!!!!!  


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Closing Time

The 31 Day blogging challenge ends in two days.
The next two days are particularly busy for me.  So, while I will still post (I am determined to complete this challenge), it might be quick.

This challenge has been very different than I imagined.
I've never written for 31 straight days.  My previous record was probably more like 2 days, so it was much more challenging than I anticipated.
I originally planned to write mostly informational posts (like the ones about homeschooling, traditions, etc.).  When I first started reading blogs, I was a newlywed and then shortly thereafter, pregnant with my first child.  I really had no idea how to keep a home or raise children.  I gleaned SO MUCH wisdom and ideas from blogs....without them, I think my life would be really different.  The writers of those blogs fueled the passion I had for creating a home I love.

I married young and had children quick, so a lot of my friends are just starting their families.  I planned to use these 31 days to share tools that have helped me along my journey.  I did some of that.  Those posts are easy for me to write.  It's who I am, and I find it easy to write what I know.

What I did not expect was to delve into areas that I am passionate about but am still floundering through.  I did not expect to be so vulnerable.  I said this before I started the challenge, but I am actually a very private person.  I overshare on Facebook, so it gives the illusion I divulge a lot.  But, if you take a closer look, I actually never say anything personal.

I don't know if it's a personality trait, being a middle child and independent, or pride....but I just don't like to talk about areas of failure.  I am WELL aware of them, believe me, but I would prefer just to deal with them alone.

So it was realllllly hard for me to write openly about my failures on a public forum.

Added to that.....I do not like to sit still.  Even when I am doing something mindless like watching TV, I always do it while doing a chore (usually folding laundry).  So sitting still long enough to write a blog for 31 days afforded me the opportunity to articulate ideas swirling around in my head.  These ideas are actually not new to me.  I've been thinking through them for quite some time.

Even so, I would not have expected it to be so hard to share my heart.  I am very thankful to have received a lot of kind comments and encouragement.  And I am very thankful no one criticized me (at least to my face).

But it was still really hard.
And it took me in a direction I could have never planned.

Being honest on my blog has opened the door for me to be more honest in real life.
I can't decide if I like this or not.
I love feeling liberated and even more love allowing others to feel normal and free.
But the cost it comes at is a lot (for me).  Putting myself out there is not my comfort zone.  I don't love attention.  I don't love people knowing my shortcomings.

Yet I know freedom is worth it.

So that's where I land at the end of this 31 days.  I feel like I've found my voice in my little corner of the world.  By now we've established my dramatic side, but I honestly feel different than I did when I started.  To the outside world, it's only words on the internet.  But the process it's taken me through is much more profound.

I don't know where this will take me (possibly nowhere) or what will come of this challenge to blog (possibly nothing), but it has been a really hard but cool journey for me to realize that I am passionate about seeing people free to be who they're made to be.....and not feel guilty for where they fall short....and not apologize for areas where they succeed.

Thank you to all who have walked this journey with me.  Your kindness and affirmation was much needed and appreciated.  I know this has only been a month of blogging, and I act like I am retiring from a lifelong career....LOLOLOL....it is my gift to err on the side of dramatic :).  But I am just so thankful that people actually read what I have to say.  My blog readership is significantly smaller than most blogs, but I never desire to be known or go viral.  I care about one person at a time finding hope and affirmation as they journey through life.

The last thing I did not expect to discover on this is that I don't think I am cut out to be a writer. I really enjoy blogging, but I've realized I only enjoy it when I have something to say.  Discipling myself to write each day was a good practice, but it's not one that I think I can continue.  I don't know.  Maybe part of that is because it was a VERY busy month....but I don't expect my life to get less busy anytime soon.

Anyway, I am really glad I participated in this!  It was long and hard but so, so good.


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

You Are More Than Enough and Not Too Much

Your son asked to play Legos with you, but you were too tired and watched an episode of Modern Family instead.

You said that you would get back to exercising this week.  But you obviously haven't.  Just ask your love handles.

You bought tons of fruits and vegetables this week, but you made mac n cheese for dinner instead.  Have you read the research on processed foods?

You keep meaning to call the babysitter to schedule a date with your husband, but the weeks keep slipping by.  When is the last time you had a quality conversation?

You are not enough.  

You hogged the conversation at the playdate today.  You didn't give anyone else a chance to talk.

You laughed too loudly at an inappropriate time.  Everyone noticed.

You are too much.

I can't be the only woman with this dialogue playing on loop in my head.
Over and over and over and over.

Being a woman in 2014 is not easy.
We are too much.  We are not enough.
We need to lose weight.  But still be happy with our weight.
We need to work.  But accept making less money than men.
We need to keep our homes perfect.  But not take time away from our children to do so.
We spend our days investing into our children.  Only to read an article about how we're doing it all wrong.
We try to make the best decisions for our family.  Only for strangers to question our values.
We finally make a healthy meal.  Only for our children to gag and refuse to eat.

I am not sure if this struggle is new or if it's been plaguing women since the beginning.
All I know is that it's hard.  And I'm tired of it.

Because, you know what??

Women, we are enough.  We are more than enough.  And we aren't too much.
We are just as we should be.  Not perfect.  Because perfection is an unattainable goal (that I imagine to be quite boring).
Our personality quirks are what make us unique and what make the world fun.
The size on your clothing does not reflect the size of your heart. Your kind, selfless heart that gives to your husband, children, friends, and co-workers when there is nothing else left to give.
The size of your house doesn't reflect the warmth and peace found in your home.  Your home that is safe and welcoming in the midst of piles of laundry and sticky floors and screaming toddlers.
Whether you're a CEO commanding boardrooms, a faithful employee in a cubicle or behind a counter, or a mom at home changing diapers, what you're doing matters.

And you, my friend, are powerful.  Your life counts.  You are playing a significant role in this story.  And you're irreplaceable.

The media spends billions of dollars to tell us who we aren't and who we should be. This assault has made us forget who we are and try to be something we're not.

We are fierce.
We are smart.
We are strong.
We are influential.
We are persuasive.
We are capable.
We love well.
We forgive quickly.
We work hard.
We are gifted.
We are passionate.
We are a force to be reckoned with.

And when we start believing the reality who we are....and stop listening to the lies that tell us we aren't good enough and remind us of all the ways we don't measure up.....watch out....we will be unstoppable.

Let's do this, women.

You are more than enough.  And you're not too much.  




Monday, October 27, 2014

Grieving

My best friend's very close friend lost her battle to cancer today. She is healed and in the sweet presence of Jesus. But she leaves behind her husband and four precious little boys.  It makes no sense.

My close friend's best friend lost her 2-year old baby girl to leukemia today.  Her sweet red headed baby girl.  A pain too deep to comprehend.

The world is unfair. My heart hurts so badly. I cannot process such profound loss. There are more questions than answers.

I cannot fathom the grief of those closest to them.

This I know: God is still good. He is faithful.

And life is just really hard sometimes.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Friendships

Friends keep me sane.
On this incredibly challenging  and crazy fun journey of life, friends are just the best.

Throughout all of the different places I've lived and in all my different seasons of life, I've been fortunate to have so many great friends.
One of the perks of getting older is that most of my closest friends I've known for over a decade.  And there is just nothing greater than those who know the real you.....the good, bad, and ugly.  Any friend that endured through my four pregnancies deserves all of the treasures because those were some rough years ifyouknowwhatimean.  Let's just say I don't do pregnancy well.

There are so many friends I could write about....
- my precious childhood friends, who made growing up the best
- my best friends from college, with whom I spent countless hours dreaming about our futures and boys
- my friends from Kanakuk, who are some of my most treasured peeps (and where I met my mentor and one of my most favorite friends)
- my wonderful friends in Kansas, who were there during the toughest years of my life and taught me how to be a friend and mom
- my sweet Boca friends who are the village raising my children (including our awesome gym friends)
- my teenage friends that make me feel much younger than I am (including Rosa who I couldn't do life without)
- my two BFF's that I pour out my heart and soul to on a regular basis

I have the greatest friends in the world, and I am so undeserving.  Being a good friend isn't something that comes naturally to me, but good friends are so important to me....so I've tried to learn to be the friend that my friends are to me.

One group of friends that is so special to me is who I refer to as my "Ft. Lauderdale friends".  I've known these sweet girls for four years....Nicole and Mallika were two of the first people I met when I moved to Florida.  We sat at the same table at MOPS and became instant friends.  That year, none of us had kids in school, so we hung out all of the time.  Mallika and Teresa have known each other for years, but Nicole and I met Teresa a few months after meeting each other.

I don't even know how it started (maybe for Mallika's birthday?), but two years ago, we went out for dinner together, the four of us.  By that time, Mallika was in Miami, I was in Boca, Nicole was in Plantation, and Teresa was in Ft. Lauderdale (which means nothing to those outside of South Florida....but basically, we live really far apart).
We talked at dinner how we wished we saw each other more often and didn't live so far apart.  Somehow we came up with the idea to meet once a month.  I think we threw around the idea of including kids but that was quickly dismissed because we are such great moms.

Moms are busy, so coordinating a monthly dinner with four moms whose husbands ALL work weird hours (seriously, none of them have a 9-5 job) would be no small feat.
I honestly thought it would probably fizzle out quickly, as most things do with moms (it's just part of this season of life).

But it hasn't.  For two years, we've met every month.  We might have missed one month at some point, but we've all made it a priority.  Which is saying a lot because during the two years, two of us delivered babies and all four of us had a nursing infant, at some point.

Our time together is so life giving.  We eat dinner and talk about everything.

The cool part is that we get along so well, even though we do life differently.  There is a sweet harmony that I am so grateful for.
Two of us had home births.  Two of us scheduled c-sections.
Two of us vaccinate.  Two of us don't.
Two of us homeschool.  Two of us do traditional school.
Two of us are native Floridians.  Two of us aren't.
Two of us have 3 kids.  Two of us have 4 kids.

These differences unite us, rather than divide us.  And I think that's really special.  We support each other and laugh together.  We share our trials and our joys.  What I am saying is that they're just the best.

But our time together as a group of 4 is coming to an end.  Our sweet Mallika is moving away this week.  While I am very excited for her, it is just a huge bummer for us.  I know we will continue on (and joke that we are taking applications for her position), but we will miss her precious spirit and kind heart.  Though I've had a lot of great friends in my life, I have found that no one is ever replaceable.  New friends add to my life in awesome ways, but it's never quite the same (especially in a group dynamic).  That's the tension and beauty of life.  Seasons change.  (I am walking down an emotional trail that I am not prepared to handle, so I will rein it back in).  

Mallika and I
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In the two year we've met, we've taken pictures only twice....once about a year ago (I don't think the picture turned out) and then last night at our farewell (for now) dinner.

A group of 30-somethings taking a selfie had to be the funniest experience I've had in a long time.

We actually had one that turned out.
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Awww....aren't my friends so beautiful??  

But the process to get there was hilariously entertaining.

Oh no, where did Teresa go??  
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And, of course, I had to start talking in the middle of the pic
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Mallika is realllly close to the camera LOLOL  
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Mallika, we will miss you so very much.  But this isn't goodbye.  Just see you next year :).

Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Law of Diminishing Returns.....and other ideas to streamline your home

You know how when something comes naturally to you, you think everyone is good at it??

Or is that just me??

I have been organized since I was born, I am pretty sure.

I cannot remember a time when I didn't love order, tidiness, and cute organizers.

I've literally owned (and actually used) a day planner since elementary school.

In college, I cleaned out and washed my car every week.  It didn't even need it, but I just love(d) a clean car.

My dad joked about this recently when he saw my car and said, "wow, you've really let yourself go."  Because he knows who I once was.

Four kids has relaxed me a ton.  My house definitely isn't as tidy as I would prefer.  If you came over in the middle of the day, you would never guess I love a clean home.  I actually don't mind my kids and their friends destroying my house.  Messy is more fun, but I still get annoyed when it's too unkempt for too long.

Even though my house is often in disarray, I still keep it mostly organized.  My love language is organization.  There is SO much more to life than a clean home, but I find that I enjoy life way more when my house is put together.

However, I know this is not everyone's personality.  
The time I spend rearranging my kitchen to make it more efficient is time others spend creating art, reading, inventing, dreaming, cooking, knitting, talking with a friend.....you know, things that actually add value to life.  

Even still, based on the number of TV shows, books, and blogs on the subject, our culture seems obsessed with organization.  

{On a sidenote: Part of me cringes that we live in such a way that it takes more stuff to organize the stuff we already have.  It seems excessive, yet I am as guilty as anyone.  Even as I've pared down our belongings, I find I still have a lot of stuff.  And that stuff requires attention.
If I've painted the picture that I am some sort of minimalist, I definitely am not.  We have a lot of possessions.  I just don't keep anything unnecessary.}  


My whole point is to say that even though we're a culture obsessed with organization, I think it's important to own who you are and not apologize for it.

If you love to keep an organized home, go for it.
But if that isn't important to you, stop buying plastic bins and a label maker.....it's just not you.

So the most important step in organizing your home is to evaluate your personality.  You will only keep up with what suits your style.  A system is only effective if utilized.  Which is why I am not really a fan of systems.  I like easy, so if something doesn't make my life easier, I won't use it.
No matter how many cute chore charts I create, my chore system ends up being, "I said clean your room, so do it.  And, no, you don't get paid to do a job that is expected as a member of our family."  It's just what works.

Because of my obsession with organization, my friends and family are sometimes victims of my ridiculousness.  Which is my original, original point: I've learned that not everyone loves to organize as much as me.  When helping other people bring order to their spaces, I tend to give the same guidance over and over.

One day I would love to turn this into a profitable business, but for now, I offer my advice to you for free :).

Consider the law of diminishing returns.  I don't even know if I am using the term accurately, but it's my favorite so I will overuse it anyway.  Getting rid of your stuff is the easiest way to organize.  If there's less stuff, there's less mess.  However, people really don't like giving their stuff away.
The biggest obstacle people face in this is the value of the item.  This is the thing: the money has already been spent.  No matter if you hold onto the item for ten more years or give it away today, the money is gone.  You will never recoup your loss, but now you're spending more money (or energy) to keep the item.  Just because an item is valuable doesn't mean it has value to you....and it could be costing you something important (time with your kids, freedom from stress of a constant mess, etc.)


When deciding what stays and what goes, I ask "Which do you need more: the real estate or the item?"  
In my sister's NYC apartment, the answer would almost always be real estate.
In my parents' enormous house, probably the item would win.
When we lived in a bigger house, I was inclined to keep more.  Now that we have no basement and little storage, everything unnecessary goes.
No matter the size of your house, I would still argue donating unused items is always the best choice.  If you can't find an item when you need it, it does no good to own it.  
The place I find this applies most is to kitchens, closets, and bathrooms.
Those spaces usually have the most finite space with the most amount of [mostly] necessary stuff.

While I always err on the side of parting with an item, if you're not as ridiculous as me, consider which you need more: the item or the real estate.


Stop buying plastic bins.  When organizing a home, the temptation is to buy lots of cute little organizers.  Believe me: in the aisles of Target, the call my name.  I understand.  But just stop.  Save your money and start using what you already have.  I find it gratifying to find a new use for an item I already have (because, as it has been established, I have issues).
While I am fine to buy an item that functions exactly as I need it to, resist the temptation to buy lots of baskets and bins for storage.

Some examples to get you thinking:
- you probably already have an assortment of bins and baskets from previous attempts to organize.  Find those and empty some out....you probably haven't used what's in there anyway :).
- my pens and pencils are in little tins that I bought for my kids' school supplies but they didn't function well for their stuff
- a lot of my kids' books are in beverage tins.  If I need them for a party, I can easily empty them out.
- I use decorative bowls and plates as decor, in my living room (once again, if I need them for a party, they're easy to grab).  It's a double bonus that I gain the storage space they would normally take up.  It is my belief that anything beautiful should be displayed, even if it's out of the ordinary.....which brings me to my next point......

Store stuff where it's functional, not necessarily where it is "supposed" to go.
We get so caught up in how we are supposed to use our spaces that we forget to consider what's actually best.
My little boys have two closets in their room.  Their clothes barely take up any space.  So, I store Brett's dress clothes (he rarely wears them) and our winter clothes (we barely need them) in their second closet.  This keeps our closet from getting overly full.
My kids' shoes are all in the garage (in a cute bin, I won't lie).  They only need them outside of the home, so while closets are typically where shoes go, the garage makes much more sense for my family.

Looking critically at each of your spaces is an important step.  If it's functioning well, leave it be.  If it just isn't working for you, identify what needs to change.....and change it, even if it's outside of the box.
If you live in a large house, keeping kids toothbrushes in the kitchen might make much more sense to streamline to your morning routine.  Hanging coats by the door might work better than in the coat closet.  When I lived in the cold, I used a (on-the-door) shoe holder for gloves and hats.
Little tweaks can make a huge difference to the efficiency of your day.  An efficient day makes for more time to snuggle your babies, read to your kids, hang out with your husband, or catch up on some trashy TV.  


This post is getting extremely long.  Since I love this so much, I could write forever about it, but I will stop now.  I truly love consulting with people to brainstorm ways to improve their spaces.  So if you want ideas about a specific area of your house, I would love to volunteer my time....whether in person or over e-mail.  I definitely don't have all of the answers, but I do love to help! Feel free to ask if you need inspiration.


What's your favorite trick to organizing your spaces??  


Friday, October 24, 2014

A Lesson From The Tonight Show

As I've continually bragged about, I went to see The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon last week.  I've been a fan since I was a kid (when it was Jay Leno), so seeing it live was beyond cool for me.  I liked Jay, but I loooooooove Jimmy.

At the risk of sounding dramatic (when do I not?), it was a really sacred moment for me.
The Tonight Show has been a part of my life for so long, and seeing it in real time was just awesome.

I loved it for a million reasons, but one of my favorite parts about it was there were absolutely no cell phones allowed.  This is for obvious reasons.  It would hugely interfere with taping.

While I enjoy what I can access from my phone, I also can easily live without it.  I keep it on silent most days and sometimes intentionally leave it at home when I go out with my kids.

Yet I find that I still feel the need to photograph every happening in my life.

Not being able to photograph or video any happenings of The Tonight Show enabled me to fully soak in the experience.  Rather than share it with my FB friends, I totally lived in the moment.  It was so much better.  And it's an experience I will continue.

In the last year or so, I actually have started cutting back on how many pictures I take.  Pictures of birthday parties and Christmas are never really that great.  Instead of missing the whole event as it happens, I take 5-6 pictures.....then put my camera down.

Having 5 pictures or 45 pictures is really not that much different.  I can easily capture the entire event in a small number of prints.  Pictures from parties are usually not frame-worthy, so besides having some to go into my kids' albums to chronicle the event, the quantity isn't that important.

The same goes for dinners out with friends.  Camera phone pictures from a server are rarely good.  Unless it's an important event (like a friend is moving away), I choose to keep my camera in my purse.

I love photographs, and I enjoy capturing moments to remember for a long time to come.  I confess to being ridiculous with photographs.  Without them, there would be many things I would have forgotten.  And as my kids grow, I love looking back on their early childhood.

So I will never stop taking pictures.

Yet I feel like over-photographing life is causing everyone to miss the moments that matter.

When friends post videos from a cool concert they're at, the video never captures the experience.  I could YouTube a higher quality video with the same set, yet it causes the person videoing to miss out on the incredible concert experience.

With my kids' performances, this is a struggle for me.  I feel like videoing it makes me miss the moment, but we all love to rewatch the videos for years to come.  So I am not saying don't photograph and video events.  I am just saying be mindful of what you're doing.

And I'm talking mostly to myself.

Living in the moment is so much richer than perusing through photo albums.

The memory may not stay with you forever, but what the experience does to you will.
I may not remember every craft my children made or every song they sang or every sporting event, but I know I will never forget the laughter, fun, wild times, and just overall awesomeness of their childhood.

Still take pictures.  Still film videos.

But be present in the now.  Put the camera down and soak in the moment.