Embracing the Change

I’m sitting on my new living room couch on a lazy, Sunday afternoon that is – surprise, surprise – raining. (I heard on the weather channel that we’ve had something like 19 days of rain and 4 of sunshine). It does feel as though we’ve missed half our summer thanks to the weather; but I do have to say that I’m kind of embracing the overcast skies and cool, air temps today. I have a fall candle lit, a mug of coffee beside me, and I’m actually enjoying my furniture for the first time.

It feels good to just sit.

I can’t remember the last time I did this. I tend to feel guilty when I’m not “doing” or running around like a chicken without a head. I think a part of me refuses to rest when I know there are needs that I can meet.

Needs of my family… but also needs of anyone in my little world.

Sooooo, you want to know a little secret?

Sometimes I feel like I need to meet the needs of others, even if it’s at the sacrifice of my own family’s needs. It’s never my intent. To be honest, for a long time, I didn’t realize it was happening. But it’s been a strangely easy pit for me to fall into.

I quit my full-time job, because I was compelled to stay home with my kiddos while they were little. But did you know that you can be a stay-at-home mom and still not choose your family first? Yeah, it’s possible. Trust me, I know.

I have a heart for others, and it’s important to me that my children grow up in a home that gives… even sacrifically. It’s important to me that when there’s a struggling, sick, or hurting family around us, they see me and Nate pray… but ALSO take action. And for me, taking action – and showing love – oftentimes centers around the kitchen.

I love cooking for people. If there’s a sick family, I cook. If there’s a hurting family, I cook. If there’s a death, or a birth, a celebration, or a loss. I cook, I deliver, and I pray. For me, a delicious homecooked meal left on someone’s porch (or delivered to their kitchen if they’re up for a quick hug) is how I show love.

That’s how I’ve done it for years.

But I’ve been conflicted over the past year or so, especially now that I run an outreach of my own. The meal trains sometimes get hectic. Finding time to prepare a delicious meal with two littles in the house has been adding to my mommy guilt as I tell my children, “Sorry, Mommy is busy right now cooking for so- and so…” The cooking, the running errands, the delivery, the volunteering for events… It adds up. And each time I choose something that takes up so much of my time, I’m choosing to not have that time to spend with my kiddos.

Just this past week, I had three meals to cook for three seperate families. Three.

I don’t say that to pat myself on the back!! I say that to admit that – while my heart was in the right place – I made choices that left my kids feeling a little neglected. My actions came from a place of love, but seeing the hurt on my children’s faces when I couldn’t spend quality time with them on the one sunny day of the week? It truly cut my heart and made me realize that as in most things in life, there has to be balance.

And I had lost the balance.

Once upon a time, this kind of routine was doable for me. It was a lot, but it was rewarding. And I thrived on it. But remember how I wrote about now being in a phase of life during which I need to choose the simple – but precious – jar of fireflies in my hand? That has to spill over into the ways I fill up my time. I need to choose my husband and children first right now, and I need to find other ways to show my heart and love for others.

I don’t want to stop helping. It just has to look a little different for the time being.

But like not dramatically different… because I’m bubbly, bouncy, and coffee-lovin’ forever. 🙂

And it’s okay. It’s okay if some areas in my life are changing along with the different phases of life I’m in. Change can be exciting and good. To be honest, it’s freeing. It’s freeing to realize that what once worked – but is now causing stress – can be released and replaced with something that is meant for now.

I might not be able to deliver the four course meal with homemade bread, salad, a casserole, and a from-scratch pie. BUT I love sending letters or cards, and that’s something I haven’t utilized in a very long time. (Let me tell you what, when I get an encouraging note in the mail or a message online from a friend, it makes my day!!). I can pick up a quick coffee for a tired mama or order a family pizza.

Even if I don’t have the free time I once did to commit to taking action, I can still take whatever action I can… in a healthy, balanced way.

Right now, I need to make sure I have time free for my own children. If I’m feeling stressed because I need to somehow entertain them while I cook or if I’m impatient with them because we need to run out the door to deliver a meal… that’s not okay.

Just the other day, I baked a homemade blueberry pie; and Brady eyed it with wide eyes and said, “Who gets to eat that pie?” And I realized that a lot of my baking does tend to get delivered to someone else’s family. It broke my heart, and I proceeded to serve him the world’s biggest slice topped with a scoop of vanilla icecream.

(The Joy of Cooking blueberry pie is EXCELLENT! It’s my new favorite, go-to pie)!

I want to find joy in mom life and being pulled in too many directions outside of my home has tried to steal that, even if my heart was in the right place. I can’t juggle it all. And I refuse to drop the ball anymore when it comes to my family.

I want to wake up some mornings and have absolutely nothing planned for our day, so that we can make homemade pancakes on a whim before washing away all the sticky syrup and deciding on a spontaneous adventure. And if the adventure is to stay home and to pull off all the sheets and blankets from our beds so that we can turn them into cozy forts perfect for flashlights and puzzles? I want to be able to do that!

I want these days to be treasured and valued. I want my kids to know that while I have a heart to serve others, they will always come first in my life. And I want my kids to know that it’s not selfish to make sure you yourself are healthy and taken care of too.

I’m a work in progress. So I’m sitting on my couch… sipping on coffee… and feeling content to – for the first time in a long time – just be. And I’m kind of excited to see how everything will fall into place this year now that I’m choosing to accept healthy change in my life once again.

We’re Taking Our FireFlies to Disney!

I was twenty-something the first time I stepped foot onto the soil that is Disney World. My best friend was a music teacher and had been awarded a spectacular deal, and she shared the love by bringing me and her parents along for the ride. In fact, other than my insisting on buying them icecream sometimes for a treat, they wouldn’t take a cent from me. A basically free, one-week trip to Disney with one of my best friends was a fantastic trip and still holds such incredible memories!

The second time I went to Disney was for one day during a cruise that Nate and I were on in our early thirties. Nate was trying to be all manly, saying things like, “Well, I guess I’ll humor you and stop at Disney since you really want to go.”

Then, literally five minutes in, I caught him on his phone as he gushed, “Guess where I am, Mom?!? I’m at Disney!!!”

What can I say? Disney brings out the kid in all of us!

Pretty much from that day on, we’ve dreamed of bringing our kids to Disney for a family vacation. In fact, when my lamaze instructor told me to bring an object to focus on while breathing during labor, I decided that I wanted to bring a small stuffed Mickey Mouse as a reminder that one day – long after the pain had left – we’d bring our baby to Disney. Of course, pregnancy brain and just being busy found me in labor without said object, so I instead focused on a T-Rex shaped stain on the hospital wall. Ha, ha!

But even then, I remember trying to think about all the fun we’d have as a family, traveling and making memories.

Travel was very important to Nate and I before kids, but we haven’t gone on any big vacations since Brady arrived. Part of that was due to the fact that our wiggly, energetic little boy wasn’t ready for an airplane anyway. That and we were broke. Ha, ha! So we’ve spent the past 7 years doing affordable, local trips so that we could save up for our first big family vacation – a trip to Disney.

And Nate broke the news to me last week that not only are our two littles at an age where travel is SO much easier (ages 6 and 4), BUT we’ve reached the point where we can actually afford to go visit Mickey Mouse. It almost feels surreal, we’ve been saving for so many years. (And yes, now that we’ve reached our goal, we’re already saving for the next family vacation after Disney; because – like I said – travel is important to us). 🙂

We just can’t wait to share our love of travel with our children. To make memories together. To try new activities, taste new foods, and experience beautiful locations that don’t look anything like the New England town we love. Being a parent up to this point has been a fun adventure, but something tells me that we’re now stepping onto an exhilarating ride that is just going to be fantastic!

Am I allowed to freeze the kids at this age, so that they slow down a bit? No?

We’re currently on phase 1 of the process of making this happen, which is Nate watching countless Youtube videos (many by Tim Tracker who just shares ALL the ins and outs of planning a Disney vacay). My husband loves researching, and my mom brain has kind of been a bit overwhelmed as of late. So I’m letting him have at it! Just hearing the videos play in the background makes me feel all giddy! At this point, he’s already narrowed it down to which hotel we’ll stay at, which month we plan to go, and how long we’ll stay. I’ll share more about that in upcoming posts! 🙂

(For security reasons, I won’t be posting exactly when we’ll be going. BUT I will be sharing all our excitement and planning along the way)! 🙂

The Day My Weight Loss Journey Ended!

Between January and April of this year, I lost 7 pounds; so I’m now exactly 15 pounds away from my pre-pregnancy weight. For years now, lack of sleep and just mommy exhaustion discouraged me from even attempting to lose the pounds. Let’s face it, during the toddler years, you’re having a good day if you can get five hours of sleep in at night and not lose more than two mugs of coffee somewhere in the house the next morning. But I finally felt motivated and energetic enough to start moving and make healthier food choices.

The biggest changes that contributed to my weight loss were starting to drink 8 cups of water a day, cutting down to one cup of coffee a day, trying not to snack after dinner each night during the week, exercising 4 times a week, upping my veggie intake, and not reaching for beverages with calories as often. Honestly, those 7 pounds came off painlessly. Yes, it was a slow process, but it was consistent. And I haven’t put that weight back on.

And let’s be real here… Seven pounds is seven pounds. We tend to shrug that off as though it’s not a big deal, but I’d get tired of holding up a 7 pound bag of sugar throughout the day. So yeah, that’s 7 pounds off my body that I didn’t need; and I’m celebrating that!

I definitely celebrated every single pound lost… and then it stopped. I plateaud. April came and went, and I haven’t dropped one more pound. I kind of let the past few months go by, wondering if anything would change and it hasn’t. So I’m at the point where – to lose more – I’d need to make additional changes.

Since I’m already waking up at 5:30 am to run 2 miles before the kids wake up AND my knee really can’t take more than that, additional working out just isn’t practical for me.

Sooooo I thought about intermittant fasting or really buckling down and doing My Fitness Pal (calorie counting) to drop additional weight. I did My Fitness Pal for two days and was miserable. Food suddenly becomes math; and for a home cook like me, it’s just punishment. And intermittent fasting was no better. The concept of not being allowed to eat until I reach a specific window in time is just not sustainable for me… Like it’s torture.

I’m a busy mama. I’m hungry. And I get hangry when I get hungry. Life is too short to live like that.

Then something happened…

While on vacation in the mountains a few weeks ago, I let go. I looked at myself in the mirror, and I saw a beautiful, curvy mama. And I liked what I saw. Like I felt confident and gorgeous in my curves. And while body confidence is something I’ve celebrated for a long time now, it just kind of exploded. I really came to realize that my desire to lose weight was based solely on what I think I ‘should’ weigh (based on what I used to weigh before kiddos). And maybe even based on what I thought other people thought I should weigh.

I had that thought again – like I have in the past – where I asked myself if I’d try to lose weight if I was stuck on an island alone with my family. And the answer was “no”. I do feel healthy and strong. I was letting outside forces convince me that I should be skinnier, when – in reality – I actually prefer the curvy version of myself.

Can I hop onto a bit of a rabbit trail here and just say how amazing it is to see social media changing and embracing ALL body types? Times are changing, and I LOVE it!

I realized with a sense of awe… My weight loss journey has ended. I’ve arrived. I’m 15 pounds heavier than I used to be, but – man – I’m even more confident right now than I was 5 years ago when I was lighter. How is this possible? I honestly think it’s because confidence and being happy with yourself is a muscle that you have to flex and exercise. I’ve been practicing for years now, and my body confidence has only gotten stronger and stronger with time.

Life… is…too…short.. not to eat real food. To spend your days hungry and focused on when you’re allowed to eat the next meal. It’s too short to step onto a beach and to think that the strangers there are judging your body when you’re wearing a bathing suit. It’s way too short to stress about fitting a certain mold, when your body is gorgeous right now! You are YOU and that’s perfect.

You deserve to enjoy food. You deserve to enjoy exercise. And you deserve to have a life that’s not revolved around those two things.”

(read this on a Pinterest meme, and I just absolutely LOVE the quote!!)

I’ve been as skinny as a rale (back in my eating disorder days), and I was NOT happy. I’ve been overweight… and not happy. Feeling confident with your body oftentimes has nothing to do with your weight! It is a mental journey to realize that YOU are unique and beautiful, and that you don’t need to look like anyone else in order to be worthy. Skinny will not make you feel confident anymore than being a few pounds overweight will make it impossible.

It all comes down to taking care of your mind and your body’s health. (And as a Christian, I also believe that it comes down to first feeding your soul and spending time in prayer and the word). Healthy is beautiful. Feeling energetic and full of life is confidence. Being able to eat when you’re hungry (and to be able to eat real food that you’re actually craving) is living. The scale can’t touch that!

To wake up in the morning and to know that you can eat real food anytime you feel hungry? It’s FREEING!!!

Now that’s not to say that I don’t still have health goals to work on! I do plan to continue with those… I’ll be blogging about my journey to eat more mindfully, to increase my veggie intake, and to challenge myself on my workouts. BUT my goal to lose weight? Yeah, that ends right here. If I lose another few pounds along the way, I’m sure I’ll only feel that much healthier and confident, so great. But I can honestly say that I’ve lost desire to focus on that or to base my success on that.

This mama’s weight loss journey has ended. And it feels GOOD!!! Now I’m just gonna focus on living and embracing the life in front of me, moving because exercise makes me feel good, and focusing on foods that fuel me and help me feel my best. I’m going to focus on living and being the best mama and wife that I can be! 🙂

Home Happenings – New Couch!

I’m a perfectionist and a neat freak, sometimes to a fault; although – over the years – I’ve really learned to loosen my need for complete control. I suppose having children will do that to a person… Most days, trying to be in control as a parent is a lot like holding onto a dried dandelion during a wind-storm and thinking you can keep any seeds from taking flight.

Besides, I knew from the beginning that I didn’t want to be a “cried over spilt milk” type of mom. Or a cried over spilt coffee… or cried over permanent marker drawings on the wall… or cried over destroyed televisions (which almost broke Nate)…

Or cried over guacomole painting on our rugs and furniture…

That one did almost break me, to be honest; because it was a little horrifying. The Great Guacomole Incident of 2020 – as we like to call it – required us to deep clean our carpets and to toss our now-destroyed, living room couch. In her defense, Kaitlyn was a few months away from turning 3 and had just entered her creative stage. It was March 2020, just as the entire world was shutting down from the pandemic… It was a really cold, raw, rainy day; and I made the mistake of fixing the kids a snack before hopping onto the telephone with an out-of-state friend. Just a few minutes later, I rounded the corner; and my daughter, rug, and couch were smeared with garlic-smelling, green goo.

I remember she had this proud look on her face as though she was Picasso, just the nacho version apparently.

“I painting,” she said sweetly.

It was purely Jesus Who kept me calm… and from blacking out. Oh man, what a mess to clean up… Truth be told, on the particularly humid days, my living room carpet still smells a little; reminding me that children humble us, teach us to value what really matters, and never should be left alone for even a second.

(For real though, does anyone know how to remove stubborn oders from a carpet? We actually purchased a deep carpet cleaner, and that did help a little. But it’s not perfect, and I don’t know what else to do. I read that you can sprinkle baking soda on the carpet overnight, before vacuuming it up the next morning. I might give that a try next. Stay tuned for the exciting updates on that one… Ha, ha)!

We didn’t have money to replace the couch right away, so we actually didn’t order a new one until this past March. But there is such a delay in receiving pretty much anything these days, so we were really lucky that it came in yesterday. (I know people who ordered furniture back in January and are still waiting)!

We’ve always gone with brown couches, and I love the splash of color that a blue couch brings! Next, I’ll be shopping for curtains and wall hangings. 🙂

And no, there is no eating allowed – especially guacomole – in that room!! 🙂

My Little Jar of Fireflies

Growing up, when all of my little friends would snuggle their dollies and pretend to feed them little cakes and tall glasses of cold milk, I’d ride my bike around in circles, pretending to be on my way to work in the big city. I wasn’t sure what job I’d do once I got there, but I did know that it would be exciting. And obviously, my clothes were stylish, my shoes were fancy, and my little apartment in the city was smart.

Career life just came naturally to me. Almost as if I were born for it. And that didn’t change for a very long time… We all grew up, fell in love with boys, and got married. One by one, my friends had babies; and I was that awkward person who would nervously pat the newborn on the head, smiling too big and freaking out on the inside that I’d be asked to hold it. I could manage million dollar accounts for a fire safety company, but babies? Those were scary.

To be completely honest, I wasn’t sure if I was even cut out to be a mom. If there was a magical gene that some women were born with that gave them this beautiful, mommy spark, then I was certain that mine was missing. I was created to organize, and manage, and be a working woman outside the home. I was sure of it. It’s really the only way I had seen myself.

Then after making a really big, kind-of-overwhelming decision with my husband Nate – and 9 months of planning later – a doctor handed me my very own baby boy. And at the very first sound of his cry, as his peach-skin-soft hair tickled my chin, I felt it. That spark. That beautiful explosion of love that can’t be explained. Tears running down my face, I began to cry and I whispered, “Don’t cry, baby boy. Don’t cry. Mommy is here. And I won’t ever let anything hurt you.”

Two and a half years later, we added a baby girl; and our little family of four was complete.

Six year old Brady is ever our adventerous, mischevious little boy who is curious to a fault but also as sweet as they come. And four year old Kaitlyn… She’s our beautiful, sassy princess who twirls around the house on tiptoes and giggles. Our house became a home the moment we brought them into it, and I can’t imagine life without them in it.

Mom life is always fast-paced, and exhausting, and sometimes I wonder if I’m doing any of it right. But then a little hand holds up a dandelion or pink lips plant a sloppy kiss on my cheeks. And I’m reminded that even if all of this is really hard, it’s also really rewarding, and it’s the greatest blessing given to me. Ever.

It’s hilarious, and beautiful, and precious. And it’s all going by way too fast.

But as powerfully strong as the mommy spark may be, there are forces that try to sew seeds of discontent. Sometimes it comes as a shadow in the shape of my life before children. Thoughts of the career I left behind or could have had dance in my dreams and taunt me with lies that what I do inside the walls of my home isn’t enough. Building blocks, washing dishes, folding laundry, dancing to nursery rhymes, putting together puzzles… it’s not enough… Is it?

And more often than not, these days, the tide that threatens to pull me away comes disguised as oppertunities to do good. I find myself cooking for a family in need. Organizing a fundraiser. Hopping onto a Zoom meeting to encourage someone in crisis. Volunteering for an event. Hosting a woman’s meet-up.

But when I commit to so many things that eat away at my time, I’m choosing to offer the leftovers to my children. And while it’s important for me that they grow up in a household that prioritizes caring for others, I also realize that it can very easily explode and become harmful. Too many times, I lose sight of balance. I try to juggle it all, forgetting that I’m already busy doing THE most important role of my life – being a mom.

Because yes, it does matter!

I have always been a busy bee and involved myself in numerous activities. But even if they shine and sparkle brightly as oppertunities to do good, I can hurt my family if I continue to busy myself to the point that I’m not giving 100% at home anymore. Right now, for this phase of life, I truly feel called to find the beauty here in my home. I feel called to find the joy in the simplicity of serving my family. I feel challenged to stop being so busy.

Maybe not forever… But for now…

Saying “no” is hard for me. Being busy and ‘doing’ is a part of my identity, and I don’t fully know who I am without it. (Please keep in mind that I’m talking about being busy to the point that it’s not healthy, and you’re starting to feel as though you’re drowning. I’m not talking normal, that’s-life level of busy). But I am committing that, moving forward, I will focus on one or two things at a time. And I will first prioritize my faith and my family. Everything else has to fall into place behind them.

There is SO much shine and sparkle in the world around me, trying to convince me that there is something brighter out there. Better suited for my skill set. More noble to be accomplishing.

But I choose my family. Because while to the world, it’s just a husband and two kids, to me they are the world. And while under a sky filled with dazzling stars, it might seem as though I’m merely clutching a little jar of fireflires; it’s my little jar of fireflies. And it’s enough.

(stock photo)