Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Keepin' It Real

"It was just so...depressing!," my girlfriend's social post stated as she reminisced on last night's
season finale of "This is Us." And while many of her gaggle of pals agreed with her, all I could thinking while watching it was:

Thanks for keeping' it real.

Because let's face it - marriage isn't all rainbows and sunshine. It's not always stolen kisses after the kids are asleep or slow dancing in the living room. Thoughtfulness in the deepest moments of fatigue. Shared eye contact. Meaningful conversations. Creating life plans together. Following your dreams. Sacrificing with grace. Calmly managing conflict while your children play quietly nearby. A wife who always wakes up looking like a super model and her husband the same (sorry - had to throw that one in there. I mean, they never show either of them working out...)

Marriage can be feeling like a ghost. Tears in your car before you pull all the way into the drive. Nights on the couch. Vices and addictions you either find a way to fight through together, apart or simply tuck under the rug. Temptation and questioning of this lifelong commitment you made. Figuring out how to take turns in your careers, passion and raising children. Forgetting why you fell in love in the first place. And struggling to create that list when the other person asks.

So when Rebecca and Jack take a departure from all of their warm smiles, kindness in the face of adversity, etc. - I breathe a sigh of relief. I watch this TV show and know that's why millions of us tune in. So that we too can say:

That's me.

Though no one is certain what will happen next, it's highly likely they will reconnect and show the world their great love that inspires us to keep coming back week after week. And in these stories, the good, the bad, the ugly - may the writing move you to reflect and find little pieces of your life along the way.

Because that, my friends, is great TV. And who doesn't need a bit of that when your spouse is making you crazy?

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Still Hot for Mamas

"Hm, I just read the gorgeous, smart, fabulous Melanie's post about Evereve, and it's right up the street. Pretty please can I pop in for a sec? I can meet you at JCrew?!" I begged the husband, another portion of date night stolen by shiny objects vs. connecting over cans of beers and darts. That is before the meal we'll spend entirely too much on but thoroughly enjoy (without children.)

"Sure, sure - pop in. I'll catch up on some emails."

So plopped he did, right next to their tank of gold fish crackers and dangling necklaces, while I immediately clicked with a super friendly sales gal. What started as a "man, that tank is cute!" ended with a purchase of these two dynamite items:
The back of this is cut out and draped, adding the
perfect flair. And it's sooooo soft. 

Finally, a cold shoulder that has a bit of structure,
enough thickness to hide the mom pooch and a kick of
flair to balance out curvier hips.

And I could've kept going.

While I was there, I asked about the TrendSend deal they have (thanks again, Melanie!) and went home and quickly committed via PC. For no styling fee, Evereve will send you five items on your schedule and only charge you a dollar to return the package of whatever you did not prefer. Sounds pretty good to me. I can't wait to share my first box with you!

Catching the Style Scout's post came at the perfect time - winter is wrapping up, I've packed on the pounds and not enough self-tanner in the world can make me feel even mildly attractive. Evereve has the an excellent solution - some on-trend, but uber comfortable and totally mom-appropriate for nearly any occasion. Prices range to fit almost anyone's budget and the styles too to meet even a pear-shaped gal's requirements. Plus the store smells amazing, everyone is over-the top kind, they don't work on commission and you can say things like "saggy boobs" and "c-section skin" and the gal knows exactly what you mean and can style around it.

I'll take it.

Next time you're on the Plaza or near Leawood - pop in. They're just as fabulous as "Hot Mama" ever was and there is someone just waiting for you to feel like the hot mama you are. Enjoy!


Saturday, March 11, 2017

"Spring Break"

"SNOW and -2 degrees?! We gotta call it," my husband said, tossing his work bag across the wood floor, his body language indicating he'd clearly had enough for the week.

Round three of a stomach virus had hit our home, Mommy took a hard fall down the stairs, the house was a wreck and both of our works required the best of this week. In other words, we were not winning.

So just like that, we cancelled our trip to Minnesota, our hearts sinking in our chests with disappointment on not seeing our loved ones and visiting a new city when we needed it most. And while visiting MN in March is always a risk (super northern, yah?), we were nearly out the door and now had to make the transition to try and appreciate our very own town.

Breaking out some paper, I quickly went to work, asking the boys what they'd like to do and madly scheduling, like many women do when they've lost all control. Our list started shaping up pretty well, with things like:

  • Lawrence
  • Indoor swimming
  • Zoo
  • New Dave and Busters
  • Date night with mom; another with Dad
  • Beauty and the Beast movie 
  • Parents vs. kids basketball game
  • Kids' cooking night
  • Auto show
Snowing on our first day of spring break?!
We'll bring the fun inside! 
Ok, and a shopping day meant just for Mommy. Oh - and we're surprising them on Monday with a giant trampoline that will now live in our backyard.  That should get us to winning. 

As a Pisces and a planner, I was extremely attached to our plan, idealizing snuggles with my boys, lots of laughter and a neighborhood a bit quieter that made time for just the four of us.

Truth be told, the first night I had to make the damn Hamburger Helper myself (gross - 7 yo picked it) and ended up locked in our master with a glass of wine. Outside the door were two little toddler feet kicking it violently, demanding I retreat, with a husband and an older child looking dumbfounded on what exactly was going on. 

But today's a new day! And while I psychotically demanded some taking back of the house occur, then promptly went to Cycle Bar to release some mom rage, I returned to a house full of boys clad in trunks ready to cross swimming off our list. At the pool we did do the laughing, the dunking, the smiling, the connecting. May there be much more of this to come.

Do you do this? Do you get attached to an idea of "I took three days off work so we better love unconditionally and hang out with no fights, dammit."?

Some days I find myself so stressed by how quickly they are changing and how we're constantly chasing time, that I can barely breathe. So I plan. I create romantic, ideal visions of a family of four in my head. And then I latch on. And then everything that was living in my little brain goes completely opposite of how I daydreamed it. Then all the grumpiness happens. 

Until the third day when they've woken us by 5:15 a.m. and I have to return to work the next day. Then I weep in my car after I drop them back at school, missing our messy, better-without-any-expectations life.

Happy spring break my friends. May it include beaches, connecting or a whole lot of nothing that brings you utter joy.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

It's not just today...

It's everyday I'm thankful for the ladies in my life.

To those that have gone before me, to create more opportunity than I can even imagine.

To my Mom who I talk to every single day and understands furniture needs rearranging on Sundays.

To my mentors, who lead by design and tell me nothing is too far out of my reach.

To my tribes, who love so unconditionally they can be called nothing but family.

To mothers, who take on the impossible job of loving their children so fiercely, while also letting them find their own way.

To leaders, who inspire us all to be better and do the things people used to ask permission for.

To my colleagues and friends, who leave little notes on my trail when a day was a little less sunny.

To providers, who spend a little more time asking you about your symptoms, fluffing your towel or holding your anxious child's hand as he enters new territory.

To strangers, who make conversation on a crowded train, because you know, we're women.

Today was interesting as one of the initiatives being pushed forward was for others to experience "a day without women." But in my experience, all my days have been better because all of these women?

They show up.

And for that, I'm eternally grateful.

The world is a better place, with you, woman.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

From Sportswear to Almost Sport Coats

"Yes, buddy - they are as comfortable as I can find them. And at 9 p.m. you can lose the bow tie," I assured our seven-year old, who was throwing a pre-pubescent tantrum over having to dress for wedding.

If your boys are anything like mine (and perhaps some girls too!), their closet is full of Under Armour , Nike and Adidas with hardly a hint of denim or chino in sight. And forget anything with buttons, tags or a touch of structure or polish. Which  makes dressing for things like school pictures, programs, fancier dinners or weddings a challenge.

Learning from my past mistakes, I started the hunt a bit earlier, particularly since the holidays had passed and nicer clothes were all on sale. The big one could be conned into a button down and nicer pants with hardly a fight, where the bow tie would take some major convincing. But hey, it was easier than bringing up the word "layering" or "putting product in your hair."

The little one is sensitive to clothing (buttons, zippers, tags, anything that sags - you name it), so this one called for bribery on top of thoughtful purchases of his top and bottom. And the shoes? Forget it. There's only one particular pair of New Balance in his life.

Here's where we landed:
Big one: comfortable bow tie from Dillards with a no-iron white shirt and chinos from Gap. Couple that with a pair of new Converse and he was set. We didn't require a belt or nicer socks. Verdict: he felt mostly comfortable, shirt was out halfway through and the bowtie made it almost thought he entire evening. Success.
Little one: we'd been working the shirt angle for nearly a month, pulling it out of the closet and bribing away, letting him feel the buttons and choose how he'd wear the sleeves. Surprisingly enough it went right on sans undershirt and wasn't a problem the entire night. The pants were an awesome find: UnderArmour toddler golf pants from Dillards. He didn't even notice they weren't his regular basketball pants as they were super soft and easy to slide around in. Adjustable with a forgiving button, these were amazing. And with a shirt over the top of it, they looked almost identical to dress pants. The toddler Converse were a challenge, but the width, two velcro and color worked great once he got over the stress of it. Success.

Mom borrowed a dress from her boss that was classic and comfortable for carrying 35 pounds around on the dance floor, while Daddy splurged on a new tie and pocket square. Also success.
If your boys are anywhere as tricky to go from sportswear to sport coat, here's some tips to try:

1. Start talking about it early: people like to know what's expected of them. For the anxious ones, assure them others will be dressed the same, so their spiffiness will not be noticed.
2. Use bribes: late bed time, extra books, more time with friends or a sucker.
3. Choose your battles: build you foundation around what they must wear - a nicer shirt and pants - vs. going full hog on adding the belt, coat, slick shoes, etc.
4. Try a spiffier version of their usual: if your kiddo lives in tennis shoes, try just a new pair or doing Converse. If it's basketball pants they live in, choose a fancier sport pant that looks more presentable, but feels just as comfortable.
5. As the party loosens up, so can the clothing: during the reception, near the end of a dinner, let that shirt untuck and the bow tie come off. They'll have more fun and feel more like themselves. By then the women have ditched their heels and men their coats anyway.
6. Invest less or borrow: it won't be often your boy will have to dress this way and by the next round, he'll probably have outgrown it. Shop the sales or borrow from his friends for the event. And if he wears the same button down to every "fancy" event, so be it.
7. Sing their praises: after the event, let them know how much you appreciate them looking nice and ask them how they felt in the clothes. Just because it's expected, doesn't always make it easy for kiddos who have "thoughts" on clothes.

Even better, try to "recover" with a jammie day the next day. They'll thank you.

Then, hang those clothes up they look so adorable in and think to yourself, "I deserve a glass of wine," and slip into your own version of comfy pants. It will be all kinds of happiness.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

What We're Reading

 "Ok buddy what would you like for your three books this evening?" I asked, tossing away his towel to reveal a set of warm, fresh jammies.

For the three-year old, it's always the same:

Spiderman vs. Doc Oc: packed full of adventure, borderline too-old concepts so he can be like his  brother, and superheroes. Perfection.

 Llama Llama Time to Share: the scene where two toddlers get into it over a lovey and the arm comes off?! The ideal amount of drama to make bedtime interesting.

Mickey's Halloween: a lift-the-flap book full of fun that keeps his favorite holiday alive all year long.

The older one likes to mix it up, choosing only chapter books these days, reaching a page goal, then diving into a new one. On his nightstand:
  1. Big Nate box set: a fun mix of conversation bubbles and boy talk, he shares little excerpts as he silently reads. 
  2. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: enjoying them because the older kids do, we take turns reading the pages and pairing the movies on the weekends. 
  3. The Thirteen-Story Treehouse: is goofy and fun, filled with boy humor and things you'd never really get away with at home or school. It reminds me of how much he loved several of his imaginative books when he was younger, all telling the story of building and living in elaborate structures. 
When it's after 11 p.m. and bed calls, it's rare the Mister and I can keep our eyes open to catch a few words, but when we do, we're usually hooked on something about personal growth or bestseller list. Right now I'm digging into:
  1. Carry On, Warrior: a series of the famous Glennon Doyle Melton of, filled with stories that encourage you to be brave, kind and imperfect. Most leave me with smiles, some with tears and almost all of them include something I can identify with on a daily basis.
  2. A Dog's Purpose: the cover of this one caught my eye in a bookstore jaunt recently after almost losing our girl. Couple that with the movie coming out and you have an emotional, heart-warming read that reminds you to cherish your pup and the day's memories.
  3. Radical Acceptance: with 2016 being a year full of surprises, this book calms my spirit and quiets the questions that sometimes resonate in my heart at the end of each day. It's not as light hearted, but just as moving and a strong reminder to be grateful. 
On the Mister's side, you'll find:
  1. Outliers: a book on what makes high achievers tick.
  2. Raising Men: because he's always striving to be the best father.
  3. Basic Economics: since his next financial exam is always right around the corner.
What pages are you turning these days?

Sunday, January 8, 2017

The Four-Pronged Approach to a New Year

"I don't know, the power of just one word isn't settling well with me," I said to my husband, looking only half-interested as I began the vicious cycle of self-improvement and purging in the New Year.

Hours earlier I sat, a gold-framed chalkboard cradled in my lap, as I tried to bribe the three boys surrounding me to share their wishes for 2017. Things like "for my little brother to cry less" and to "be the world's fastest Dorito eater" were wearing me thin, so I took matters into my own hands.

Shortly after midnight, the sound of fireworks popping outside our new doors and each boy snoozing sound in their place, I thought of what I would strive for in the new year. The previous one had been a jarring one, with world events weighing heavily on our hearts and such significant, surprising changes for our family, it had left us broken and frozen for months at a time. Not to mention the closing months mostly consisting of illness. There was plenty to be thankful for, but admittedly, we were all ready to turn the page.

2017: it's time to pick back up, strap on a smile and get after it. And get grateful.

To document this untapped potential of the new year, just 13 minutes in, I tried a four-prong approach to things:

1. Let go of
2. Priorities
3. Cherish
4. Self-care

The first category includes things like comparisons, FOMO, doing it all and being attached to chaos. The "priorities" list says things like connect, play, reduce spending. In 2017 I will cherish BoyMom moments, more time at home, simplicity and the journey our family is on. And self-care will include going to church more often, reducing emotional eating, more rest and meal planning.

The full list is tucked near my bedside, holding all the newness of the 365 days ahead. Two days in the zen-like state had already passed, but there hasn't been a day yet that I think of the teal ink and what it can mean if I actually do the things I set out to.

This year, may all of your wishes come true. May you find inspiration in the small moments of your everyday. And may some of the most unexpected things bring you joy.

Share your list if you'd like - you never know when you'll be the inspiration someone is looking for.

Cheers to 2017 and you, dear friends.