Still my favorite

Yesterday, my Facebook memories reminded me of this post, from five years ago as we were approaching our fifth wedding anniversary.

marriage

I wrote a blog post about it then, but I just came across an article about marriage in the New York Times, where Dan Cole of the Gottman Institute said, “40 years of research on couples has taught us the difference between the ones who make it and the ones who don’t. There is an emotional connection that occurs when couples like, admire and respect each other. They talk to each other. They laugh together. When they speak to others about their partner they tend to brag about how great they are.”

Nearing our 10-year wedding anniversary, while I still think Chase is the right person for me, I now realize it’s because after all this time, we still have that emotional connection. There is no one I’d rather spend time with.

Full disclosure: like every married couple, we have our issues. I tell him what to do. He tells me (often in frustration) to leave him alone. He gets sleepy when he drinks. I try to wake him. Sometimes that works, sometimes he spends the night on the couch – and I’m secretly relieved. We aren’t always on the same page about which parenting issues are worth a battle and which ones aren’t. We don’t always agree on how to spend our money. We annoy each other and disagree, but…

There is no one I like more.

We spend every night talking in bed, like it’s the first time. We regularly stay up too late chatting and laughing, like we did when we first met 13 years ago – but back then it was on the phone. Last night we had a last minute dinner with friends, then came home and drank beer and talked for hours on the couch.

We have no secrets. And lots of mutual respect. We can agree to disagree. And clearly, I’m okay bragging about him. (I should probably apologize now for the razzing he will get from his friends for this post.)

I remember a quote from my matron-of-honor’s speech, who wished us the best on our wedding night and said it would be the night, “we loved each other the least,” which at the time I thought was odd. I get it now. I’ve never loved him more than I do now. Life changes – for the good and for the bad. People do too.

He’s still my favorite.

 

The last day of kindergarten – ever

IMG_5743Tomorrow I’m sending my baby off to the last day of kindergarten, and I’m surprisingly emotional about it. In the early (and exhausting) years of parenting, you just hope you and your children will make it to kindergarten without a trip to the ER or the psych ward. That the Goldfish crackers smashed into the floor and the shitty diapers will magically disappear. And they do. Well, the diapers anyway. And when they hit five, your little prince or princess gets dressed and heads out the door for the place that will change them forever.

They learn to read and write, and add and subtract. They learn the same stuff we learned 30+ years ago and have since forgotten. It’s both amazing and humbling, to learn “new” things from a kindergartner.

They make new friends. Pack their backpacks themselves. Make good choices. Stand up for their friends. They get excited when they see an older sibling or neighbor in the cafeteria. Find new passions. They run to you when you pick them up at the end of the day, jumping into your arms, while they’re still small enough to do so.

I’m relieved our school does not label the completion of kindergarten as a “graduation.” Mostly because I don’t think it’s a huge accomplishment – they all should finish kindergarten. Don’t get me wrong, kindergarteners look adorable in mini caps and gowns, much cuter than they will at 18, but kids are rewarded for every little thing these days, so I think it’s a bit much. I’m also glad that Avery won’t be wearing that regalia because I’m not sure I could handle the finality of it.

My baby is done with kindergarten. She’s off to first grade, where she’ll probably learn to drive and get a tattoo. Kidding, of course, but working with high school parents, they tell me all the time how fast the time goes. Before I know it she’ll be wearing the real cap and gown, be taller than me, and drive her tattooed self to the ceremony.

In the meantime, we’ll celebrate the end of the school year the way my family always did – dinner out at a restaurant of their choice. And I’m going to remind myself to just slow down. Enjoy the hell out of summer, spending time with these little people who each year learn and grow so much. It’s our last day of kindergarten, ever, but the start of so much more.

 

Eight is great

Today, my firstborn turns eight. I read recently that eight is the age that’s right in between early childhood and older childhood, and that scared the hell out of me. When kids are young, it’s so easy to wish time away, but you don’t realize how quickly that crazy, exhausting time goes by. When your kids make the transition from early childhood to older childhood, you may actually miss the early days, as messy and as tiring as they were.

Part of me feels like it was just yesterday that Clay was a baby. But a quick glance at him reminds me that’s not the case. That tiny, premature baby is now one of the biggest kids in class. He comes up to my shoulders, and I’m not short. He eats more than me. He does his homework without my help. He tries new foods. He walks his sister to her classroom. When he disappears, I often find him in his room reading (or playing video games, he is eight after all). He rinses his own dishes. 2016-03-05 08.51.33He’s officially old/big enough to not have a booster seat in the car, but he humors me and explains to his friends, “My mom is sort of obsessed with car safety.” He’s a good friend. He is compassionate. He loves sports. He is fiercely loyal to and protective of his family.

Working in a school, I’m always watching the older kids, wondering what my own kids will be like as teenagers. I think at just eight, Clay has given us a strong glimpse into the future. And I like what I see. He’s confident and funny. He has an incredible memory. He comes home and shares stories of his teacher and his friends. He’s a good teammate, and even though I was embarrassed when argued with a baseball umpire – and I get annoyed when he argues a point with me – I’m glad he’s comfortable standing up for himself, his friends and his family.

Clay has a very strong interest in going to college, which I find amusing for a child his age. Maybe it’s because Chase and I had such great college experiences, and we talk about them often. Or maybe it’s because the school where I work is so focused on college prep, and he asks me about the kids there a lot. He’s certain he’ll play baseball or football at a big name school. I see him at a big state school (FSU, maybe?) – as the student government president and the social chair of a fraternity, but we’ll see. Until then, it’s fun to talk about.

Just 10 short years from now, I will be getting ready to send my firstborn to college. I won’t be able to easily run my fingers through his hair, as he will tower over me. All four of us won’t be able to snuggle into the bed on a lazy Sunday morning as easily as we do now. The movies we watch on family movie night will change. Clay may not even want to do those things anymore.

But for now, he’s still eight. Straddling that line between younger child and older child. And eight is great.

 

You should be here

ry=400Though I have no artistic talent whatsoever, music was always a part of my life because it was my dad’s passion. Songs from my childhood can bring me back in just a few chords. So it’s no surprise that, six years ago tomorrow, the day my dad died, I found myself on my bed, nursing an infant and listening to Let It Be over and over again. These words, somehow comforted me in those moments, enough to make it through the toughest time in my life.

When I find myself in times of trouble
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be.
And in my hour of darkness
She is standing right in front of me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be.

After growing up with rock music, I started listening to country a few years ago. I’d lost my job and was trying to figure out my next career move and the lyrics in country songs just spoke to me.

So here we are, six years later, and I’m on my bed. This time with a fluffy dog and a quiet house. Instead of The Beatles, I keep listening to Cole Swindell’s “You should be here.” I alternate between smiling and crying.

It’s perfect outside it’s like God let me dial up the weather
It’s another perfect San Diego day, and I started the day on a run with my beautiful daughter.

Got the whole crew here, I ain’t seen some of them in forever.
I’ve been talking to some high school friends (who my dad loved) about having a reunion.

It’s one of those never forget it, better stop and take it in kinda scenes.
Several times lately, I’ve caught my kids greeting each other with a kiss or randomly saying “I love you.” It makes my heart feel like it’s going to explode.

Everything’s just right yeah except for one thing.
My dad isn’t here.

You should be here, standing with your arm around me here.
He loved nothing more than to stand with an arm around someone he cared about, a smile on his face.
Except maybe…

Cutting up, cracking a cold beer, saying cheers, hey y’all it’s sure been a good year.
It’s one of those moments, that’s got your name written all over it.
Like us, talking and laughing with friends, which we’ve been doing so often lately. We have so many good people in our lives. Maybe he’d even play beer pong with them, like he did with my mom and brother the last time I saw him. I laughed so hard that I cried that night.

And you know that if I had just one wish it’d be that you didn’t have to miss this
I have a pretty darn great life, but one thing is missing.

You should be here.
You’d be taking way too many pictures on your phone.
You always wanted to take pictures. It was annoying as a child and now I do it to my kids. Maybe that’s why. You’d be amazed with the capability of smart phone cameras now. You would have loved to see the kids grow up on Facebook and Instagram, since you lived so far away.

Showing them off to everybody that you know back home.
And even some you don’t yeah
You told everyone about us. Your poor coworkers. You talked so much to anyone and everyone. That’s why you’d take hours to just go to Target or Costco. You were probably telling the cashier about my new job or Michael’s business or Clay finally crawling.

They say now you’re in a better place
And I would be too if I could see your face.
Every time I think of you, it’s your smile I can picture so clearly in my head. The twinkle in your eyes. Michael has it. So do Clay and Avery. I stare at them sometimes because they all remind me of you. Especially Michael. With that beard. Wow.

You’d be loving this, you’d be freaking out, you’d be smiling, yeah
I know you’d be all about what’s going on right here right now.
My kids have become such interesting little people. You thought Clay was so great when he was not even two. He could talk, but the kids they’ve become, I know you could have spent endless hours with them. Even if they were annoying. Because you were patient and kind and LOVED to talk. Just like them. That smile on your face would be permanent. Because nothing made you happier than your family.

God I wish somehow you could be here.
Oh you should be here.

I miss and love you, Dad. Today and every day.

 

She leaves a little sparkle…

sparkleA few weeks ago, I was shopping for decor for Avery’s room, and I came across a sign that said, “She leaves a little sparkle wherever she goes.” I smiled, knowing it was perfect for her.

When Avery was a toddler, we joked that her expressions reminded us of a cartoon character. Every year, I “threaten” to take her to Hollywood and make her get a job (and might really do it this summer). Avery is all sparkle, all the time.

I love the sparkle of my sweet girl, who turns six today. She is everyone’s friend, cheerleader or nurse. Whatever anyone needs to feel better, she has it. She draws in boy moms, grandmas, babies and puppies with that sparkle. It’s like magic fairy dust. I wish I could bottle it because the world would be a better place with more people like her.

Last weekend we were on our traditional Sunday morning walk in our neighborhood, and she looked up at me and said, “Mommy, do you know what I do every day when I wake up?” When I asked her the answer, her reply was simple. “I get up happy.” How’s that for sparkle?

Happy sixth birthday to my Avery Gracie. If her day sparkles half as much as she does, it will be a success!

 

 

A little something on the side

designedWell, that title sounds a little more provocative than I intended. I guess that’s what happens when I write late at night.

For years, my husband has teased me about my inability to sit still. I multitask ALL the time. When we’re watching TV, I’m reading a magazine, making a grocery list and folding laundry at the same time. My dad did it too, and so does my brother, so maybe it’s genetic. True to my personality, it’s been years since I had just one “job.” Doing PR/writing/editing only requires a laptop and an Internet connection, so for most of my career, I’ve always done contract work on top of my day job. I guess you could say I had a “side gig” before side gigs were cool.

After having kids, I took on fewer projects, mostly because the idea of writing web content after working all day and putting a toddler and infant to bed sounded like torture. Then, in late 2013, a new opportunity came my way. I had never considered direct sales before, probably due to my mom’s unsucessful stint as an Avon lady in the 1980s. Although I loved that she had 400 miniature lipsticks in our basement, I don’t have room to store products. I’m too busy with my day job and kids’ activities to deliver products or host parties, but direct sales has changed a lot since the 80s. Products are ordered online and delivered to customers’ doors. It’s less “sales” and more networking. Social commerce is what The Today Show called it, and I couldn’t agree more.

A friend recently asked me to send her the link to my blog post on my side gig, and I realized I’ve never written about it. How is that possible? It’s such an important part of my life, and I would be remiss to write a blog about time and money and not post about the huge opportunity that social commerce offers for anyone seeking more of both. Obviously I feel strongly about my particular company, Rodan + Fields, but there are other great opportunities out there – jewelry, workout videos, essential oils and more!

Top Five Reasons to Find a Side Gig

  1. Extra income – While we don’t “need” the money to pay our bills, with me working in education and Chase for a non-profit our salaries are limited. With my side business, there is no limit. Some people on our team make $100/month, while others make $100,000/month. San Diego is ridiculously expensive, so unless we want to change industries (which we don’t) this is our chance to have more of the “good things” in life.
  2. Flexibility – This is the biggest selling point to me. I love the idea of designing the life I love. Maybe you know my story. Once upon a time (in 2013) I had a job I hated. It paid me a lot of money, so I felt stuck. Every Sunday night I’d have a pit in my stomach knowing I had to wake up and leave my kids to go to a job that I did not enjoy. I was let go in May of that year (on Clay’s fifth birthday) and while I was initially scared to death, wondering how we were going to pay our mortgage, I quickly realized it was a blessing in disguise. I vowed then to never stay in a job I didn’t like just for money. Fast forward a few months to when I was offered my current job – making 25 percent less than I had in the past. Thanks to my side gig, I could take this job. I had the extra money coming in, and more importantly, if the new job hadn’t been the right fit, I had income to hold us over until I found something else. I’m in a different – and far better – place now. I love my day job, but I’d be lying if I said it’s always easy being a mom with a 30+ minute commute. I’m seven years into this working mom, “having it all” lifestyle. So far, so good. But if it ever becomes too much, I have a plan B.
  3. A newfound passion – I didn’t start this business passionate about skin care. I was, however, turning 35 and noticing dark circles and lines around my eyes. Within weeks of using the products, they looked better. Sun spots disappeared and breakouts became less common. My passion grew, out of products that did what they said they would. I didn’t get to VIP status at Sephora by accident. I spent more money than I care to admit, on products that would end up in the bottom of my drawer because they smelled good or felt nice on my skin, but didn’t do anything to change it. It’s very easy to share something with your friends that you know truly works. I feel the same passion about the business itself. I’ve watched it change people’s lives – quitting jobs they don’t like, paying off student loan debt, adopting children and more. It’s incredible, and I’m proud to be a part of it.
  4. Amazing friendships – This one was the biggest surprise to me. “I have lots of friends. I don’t need more,” I thought. How could I have been so wrong? I talk to girls on my team daily, some of whom I’d never met in real life until I went to our convention in September. They’ve become part of my life – I celebrate business success with them, as well as kids’ birthdays, anniversaries and more. I’ve also gotten back in touch with childhood friends, thanks to this business. It’s the one thing I didn’t know I was looking for, that I’m thankful for every day.
  5. Products that make you look and feel better – I have problem skin. It’s acne prone, I’ve spent most of my life in sunny Florida or Calfornia and I’m closer to 40 than 30. Being a consultant has given me access to amazing products, at a huge discount, and if you look good, you feel good. So whether, it’s skincare or makeup or jewelry or a nutrition shake that helps you look and feel your best, go out and get it from your friends. I know they’ll appreciate your support!

 

 

 

Choosing gratitude

thankfulDuring the holiday season, there is a lot of talk about gratitude. Before Thanksgiving, I read a great column in the New York Times about research that shows choosing to be grateful makes you happier. Even though we know it’s true, “For many people, gratitude is difficult, because life is difficult.”

It sure is – a lot of the time. It’s so easy to find things to complain about. I know, I do it too! Fortunately, I’m happy more often than not, but when negative thoughts pop in my head, I’m trying something new. Forced gratitude works, science says so!

It’s a shift in mindset, and for me, a work in progress. So here are my grateful thoughts for this week:

“I have a job that I love” instead of, “I’m so tired from my busy work week.”

“I have people I care about to buy gifts for and the money to do it” instead of, “I am going crazy rushing around to do my Christmas shopping.”

“I have a healthy body that allows me to work out” instead of, “I feel gross, I have no time to exercise.”

“We go to a great school with teachers who care about our children’s learning” instead of, “I hate doing homework with the kids.”

“I have the time and money to go see family that I love” instead of, “Traveling at the holidays is such a pain.”

“I’m lucky to have a husband who cares what happened in my day” instead of, “Chase, we need to stop talking, it’s time to go to sleep.”

“I get to see a beautiful sunrise and drive to work with no traffic” instead of, “I’m sick of leaving for work so early.”

“I have a fridge full of food,” instead of “I hate cooking dinner.” (Full disclosure: this one will be the hardest because I do, in fact, hate cooking dinner.)

I’ll take it one day at a time, but just writing this made me feel happier already!

 

Just say no

Nearly 30 years ago I won a writing contest for an essay with the same title as this post, but in third grade – and writing for the DARE program – I was writing about a very different topic. In recent months, “just say no” has become my mantra, and it has nothing to do with drugs.

There is not a parent in America who isn’t busy. There are lunches to pack and homework to manage. These things aren’t optional, kids need to eat and math worksheets are mandatory. Fortunately, a lot of the other things that caused me added stress in the past, are not required. And I’m learning, slowly but surely, to just say no.

I have some guidelines in place. If it doesn’t improve the quality of life for our family, I don’t feel compelled to do it. If I don’t enjoy it, I don’t do it. If I’m tired and need some down time, I say no.

In certain communities (including ours), the pressure to do everything is there. Volunteer at school, have your kids in three sports (at once) plus music lessons and the list goes on. And if that makes you (and your kids) happy, that’s great. If it makes you feel like a crazy person, like it does for me, it’s okay to just say no.

I hated art class as a kid, so will I volunteer for art corps lessons at school? That would be a “hell no.” I don’t enjoy baking, so will I make something for the cake walk fundraiser? Absolutely not, but I’ll gladly buy something and drop it off. Can I join the PTA? No, because they meet during the day, but I’m happy to join the foundation because I want to help the school, the meetings are at night, and Chase and I can make a date night out of it.

I make time for the things I enjoy (exercise, my side business, time with friends), but my priority is my family. And they like me much better when I’m sane. So please forgive me when I just say no. And know that when you do the same, I’ll completely understand.

Baby girl goes to kindergarten

IMG_3120I still laugh when I think of the day that Avery and I dropped Clay off for his first day of preschool. We got into the car, and she said to me, “Okay, mommy, I’m ready to go to kindergarten now.” She was 28 months old and newly potty trained, and in her mind, she was ready for real school. Instead she went off to daycare, but tomorrow is the big day – Avery Grace will be a kindergartener!

I love scrolling through Facebook this time of year. My newsfeed is filled with first day of school photos, and the kindergarten ones are my favorite. They’re small and sweet, with backpacks bigger than they are. Lunches packed, hair braided, kisses given and then they’re off.

Many parents, especially moms, feel emotional when their kids start kindergarten. For some they’re nervous because it’s their first child – for others, they’re sad because it’s their last.

Every time I think of Avery’s first day, all I feel is excitement. Not just because the days of paying for full-time child care are coming to an end (although that will be great after seven LONG years). Starting school is a big milestone. I can’t wait to see how much she’ll learn this year. I think of the friends she’ll make. I wonder what subjects she’ll enjoy. How excited she’ll be when she sees her brother in the cafeteria. The times that she’ll run and fall on the playground and get right back up, because that’s who she is. How often the teacher will ask her to stop singing or talking or twirling.

We had back-to-school night last night and were asked to describe our child in three words. (I think) I chose outgoing, funny and dramatic, but describing Avery in three words is nearly impossible. I could have said strong, independent, creative, loving, compassionate and so much more. She’s a special girl, and I think that’s why I’m so excited for her to go to school. It’s the beginning of a lifetime of learning and discovery.

I’m looking forward to seeing her blonde ponytail running toward me when I pick her up tomorrow – telling me who is in her class from preschool, who she played with at recess and what she learned. She’ll likely talk my ear off, and I’ll just listen and smile. I’m excited for my big girl. Three years ago, I wasn’t ready for her to go to kindergarten, but today I am. And so is she.

 

For better, for worse

ry=480Nine years ago today, as part of our wedding vows, Chase and I said those four words, “for better, for worse,” not fully comprehending at 27 and 34 what they could really mean.

Nine years in, we know. We’ve seen so much of the “better,” but also some of the “worse.”

We’ve had two beautiful, healthy children. Bought our first home. Watched people we love get married. Taken wonderful family vacations. Seen our nieces grow up to be wonderful girls. Gotten two kids potty trained (quickly!). Earned promotions at work. Started new businesses. Built friendships that will last for a lifetime.

There have also been times when life was tougher than we’d imagined it could be. Lost jobs. Anxiety. Sick parents. Divorce between people who meant a lot to us. Raising children without enough sleep. Friendships that faded. Feeling the pressure to “have it all.” Losing my dad and all of Chase’s living grandparents.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – life is not easy, but for me, marriage is. Because I know that in the “for worse” parts, Chase will make it better. And together we will make it through. Til death do us part.