Should I go back to work?

Typical Mommy during a day at home.
I have stayed at home almost exclusively for the last 13 years. I love my girls, love my husband and have gotten a lot of joy out of being here for them. But, I do feel a little lost at times. A little unsure of who I am outside of the "mom" role. I started to think about what I'd like to do last year when I was home alone during the days for the first time.

2004 - very focused SAHM
Last year I volunteered teaching English, at the kid's school as much as they'd let me, went to PTO meetings and even briefly volunteered to lead the middle school PTO this year. That was before I realized that was crazy and would totally overwhelm me.

While those things were good, this year I felt I was ready to get back to work and focus more on a career. After trying out teaching last year, I knew that was not the direction for this introvert to head. Did you know that kid's talk to their teachers? Like, ALL DAY? And then the grown ups talk to each other and the parents talk to the teachers.... And then I come home to 3 talkers and then Matt gets home and would like to talk. I love talking - really. Just not all day long. I need some quiet, some "no one is talking to me" time. Anyways, I decided to pursue an accounting focused job and then decide if perhaps adding some accounting classes to my resume would be a good plan.

I found a great position about 20 minutes from home.  Full time with not much flex in the schedule but lots of learning potential and some great people to work with. I interviewed on the phone and then in person twice. I figured that I was either a shoe-in or there was someone more qualified that didn't care about making much money (it didn't pay that well).

Got my "interview" self all ready!
The kids were a little excited for me actually. The youngest was super excited about going to after school daycare and anxiously asked me each day if I had heard about the job. My middle schooler was incensed. Seriously, I was going to make her walk home? And I really didn't like the idea of her home alone each day for the afternoon. She hasn't ever done that so it would be pretty radical.

And me? I was excited and terrified and my self-confidence issues all came racing to the surface of my everyday life while I waited to hear back. The questions of "Can I do this?", "Am I good enough?", "Can I work and still be a Mom?", "What will have to give?" and more.

I emailed the company and found out that I hadn't gotten the position. Queue the relief. Honestly, it would be such a huge change and there would be so many sacrifices - it just didn't feel like the right time. But, I still felt this sort of - What Now? Who am I then? Is being a Mom going to be enough? What else is there to me?

I think a lot of Moms struggle with those questions - if not the first few years, perhaps after about 10 years of staying at home. (So, if you don't think it yet, you just might in a few more years.) I honestly didn't struggle with it nearly as much when I had toddler hugs every few minutes, or a mountain of baby related tasks to conquer just so my kids didn't die. I felt important and definitely needed. I didn't want anyone else to do that job.

Now, it's harder. I don't always feel like doing all those jobs that make me useful to this family. I don't really want to clean the floors again, load the dishwasher, make dinner, wash clothes or make those lovely after school treats.

So - here I should end with some kind of happy, I figured out the solution, moment. Hmmm....

I can say - I volunteered at my girls' school yesterday and I felt better than I have in weeks. I felt useful. The tasks were easy but rewarding. Being in the school lifts my spirits. The kids are happy, the teachers are friendly, the school is awesome. And knowing that my girls can still count on me to bring forgotten tennis shoes to school, take them to Dr's appointments, pick them up for lunch on special days, pray for them throughout the day, pick them up from school, talk to them after school, take them to piano lessons, have playdates at our house and not be too busy for them makes it worth it. This is still my job. It's not time to split my attentions. They still need me and are still learning who they are.

I am choosing to be thankful for the time to devote to them. And acknowledging that some days it is a choice and some days it is the deepest feeling in my soul.

 I'm thankful for the days at home to capture memories like these:

Sisters being silly together.

My sweet Belle.

My bumble bee.


The Water Park Birthday Party

This party was a HUGE hit!  It was a wonderful hot day and our yard was filled with fun water-based activities.

My plan of action for themed parties is to get a couple good ideas, scale them back and then throw in a few original thoughts of my own.

I tried to use Pinterest to help me get started...  I think I am the only 30-something suburban Mom who dislikes Pinterest.  It makes me see what I could do - if only I had a whole lot more skill, time and creativity.  It makes me feel bad, just bad.  Sorry, but that is the truth.  I did use one idea from my Water Party board - I tried the tie-dye shirt (with a bandana).  Let me just say, it didn't look like the picture.  At all.

So, I actually found this link the most useful for an organized, but slightly creatively stunted person like myself.  It's just a long paragraph explaining how they planned their party.  Perfect!  I took a lot of their great ideas and made them work in our much smaller yard and party.

I first made signs for each of the "attractions" and labeled each area.  The Super Jump was our water balloon filled trampoline.  I had planned on 500 water balloons.  I'm not sure we made it to that many, but Matt and the girls worked on filling water balloons for most of the morning before the party.

The party included stations:  trampoline, slip n' slide, water slide, fishing pond, drinks, tattoos and bandana painting.  It was enough to keep the kids moving from one thing to the other and not bored.  We also had pizza and cake, plus popsicles to keep everyone cool.  It was a super fun party!

This photo doesn't capture her catapulting off the end of the slide and almost into the fence.  It was awesome!

I made these cute squirt bottles for the kids to play with at the party and then take home after.  I'll do a quick tutorial next week!  Easy peasy and they were used a ton.

And a few party pictures to show the whole thing in action.

Most of all it was the smile on my brand new 7 year old's face that made it worth it. She got a bit jilted last year since we were moving on her birthday and the years before that she didn't really have enough of her own friends to have a party.  Plus, her birthday is at the end of the summer and a lot of friends are forgotten, have moved or are traveling.  We were so thankful that almost all her closest friends were able to come.


Comparing yourself

Anyone else do this?  I thought comparing myself to others was bad but since I've had kids it has taken on a whole new flavor.

It's SUPER easy to compare your kids and your family to someone else.  Both positively and negatively.

I talk to other moms and I swear their kids do not fight like mine do.  They do not nod their head in agreement as I describe the level of cruelty I hear on a daily basis.

My strongest desire as a Mom is to see my kids get along.  And yet, I feel I have the worst kids in that regard.  I'm working hard to stop focusing so hard on it and start focusing on being kind to them myself.

Dang - finger points back at self...  I definitely struggle with kindness, patience and showing love in all situations.  And I am horrified when I see those same struggles in my kids.

So - here enters grace.  God's grace covers me for all those shortcomings and it also COMPLETELY covers my kids. And I must model grace to them.  So, I will step back, take a deep breath and calmly tell them to cut it out, love each other and then I will force them to hug.  Because I think that just might work.

Plus, pictures like this are good reminders that my girls really do love each other.


From Goodwill to the garage to her room - a desk REDO

Okay - so this desk is ugly.  Oh, so ugly.  But, the lines were cool and it was definitely the right price at $8.  Score!

Before purchasing this desk I took a look at how I might be able to update it.  My favorite blog, Young House Love, has been inspiring me for years but I have rarely acted on it.

The two shelves on the desk are easily removable and the top had a very distinct line, so I figured I could tape it off and paint it.

First, I took the shelves out and spray painted them with a glossy black.  Then I taped off the feet and top and sprayed the rest of the desk with a metallic silver spray paint.  I used the whole can of metallic paint doing 3 even coats on the desk frame and I didn't really feel it was great coverage.  But, it looks pretty good from a distance - just room for improvement if I decide to do this again.

I had planned to buy chalkboard contact paper online and cut it to fit the desktop but I ran out of time to order it.  So, I purchased a can of chalkboard spray paint and taped off the rest of the desk.  This was after leaving the rest of the paint to dry for a day.  The chalkboard paint took about 3 light, even coats.

It's so fun to see Anna adopt this desk as her own.  I gave her a chalkboard marker to use and she quickly covered the desk in some of her favorite Bible verses.  I think her only complaint is that she wishes the desktop was much larger!  But, it fits her room great.

I went back a few days later and grabbed the matching chair.  I had originally passed it up because I thought it might be too ugly and I wouldn't be able to redo it.  But, I looked more closely and realized that the 60's plastic seat and back could be recovered (I hope), so I'll be attempting that in a few days.  Stay tuned!!

Note:  See the entire room transformation here!


Tween Room Transformation

There are just 4 short months until my 12 year old turns 13.

Interestingly, when she started 6th grade we began to notice huge changes in her room.  She took everything she didn't care for anymore and placed it in her closet with a huge sign draped across that said "Pre-6th grade".  I didn't have permission to throw anything away so it all stayed there.

I avoided her room and I waited.  I waited the whole school year until the middle of the summer.

We spent 2 weeks this month sorting through all those MANY items.  We sorted into keep, throw away, put away and give to my younger sisters.

Then she left for camp and the real work began.  I worked on the painting and accessory purchasing for several days and then called in my good friend Kayla to help me arrange the furniture and hang things on the wall.  This is the friend whom my daughter has asked to call Aunt Kayla because she loves her so much - so her helping was very touching for my girl.

Here is her room before the big changes but after some decluttering.  She decorated the wall and I think she did a great job, it just needed some updating and sophistication.  In this room, the color was very dark (we didn't choose it) and the bed was impossibly big for her smallish room.

And here is the before of the closet side of the room.  Cluttered, full of things she wants but can't really get to.

And TADA!  This room now truly represents her and allows her creative freedom as well.  She wanted a black and white themed room so I did my best, while still leaving room for her to add colors here and there. 

 We added a desk (thrift store before and after - more photos coming soon on that) and got rid of that huge bed. Many of the other things were found at Goodwill or Ross. The matching chair will require a bit more work, so I'll just say - the fabric is chosen and purchased and sitting on the chair in the garage.

Did I mention I only had 4 days to get this room done?  I visited Goodwill several days in a row - plus about 3 other thrift stores in town. My budget was VERY small.

Here is a closeup of the front of her desk.  The two vases and small pitcher were from Goodwill. The mirrored tray with jewelry was also from there. The mirror on the wall I already had.  The lamp was white, I taped off a couple stripes and painted it glossy black.

The desk was originally really ugly, so I updated it.  I spray painted the top with chalkboard paint so she can write all over it.  When I asked her what her favorite part of the room was, she said the desk! I'll share next week about how I did it. 

The framed photos came out so awesome.  She loves shoes and has been wearing women's sizes for a few years now.  So these are just a great fit with her personality. Of course, I won't actually be buying her any of these shoes. I found the photos online and framed them with some thrift store frames.

I even worked on her closet in the last 30 minutes before she came home. Organizing is my gift so I figured I'd better use it! I was able to hang a special shelf from her Grandma and put several other special or necessary items that just didn't work in her room now.

We are currently using her bookshelf for her clothes.  Perhaps someday we'll find her a dresser that works, but for now this is just easier.

And one last photo - here is the difference between one coat of Valspar High Hiding Primer (on the right) and Kilz2 Primer (on the left). It took me an extra few hours to double coat 2 walls with the Kilz since I had run out of the Valspar.  I was pretty surprised at the big difference.  But, using primer was worth it - I only had to put one coat of paint in the room.

Notes:  Curtains are from Lowes - with light blocking panels behind.  Paint color is also from Lowes - Valspar. I found the exact color referenced in a Q&A about black and white rooms so I just bought it without even testing it.  It's a very mature color and has quite a bit of blue in it.  The duvet cover was found at Amazon.  I wanted a cover that would work with the room, be comfortable and not cost a fortune.


A predictable child becomes a bit unpredictable

We have three daughters.

Two are crazy and one is not.  Well, wasn't.

Enter hormones, body changes, getting older.  Enter 10 1/2 years old.

Our sweet nearly 5th grader has always been so gentle, kindhearted and consistent.  She still wants to say "Don't let the bed bugs bite" and blow us a kiss every night.  But, at the end of 4th grade we started to see some major changes.  And this summer it has blown up much bigger.

She sometimes just breaks out bawling at the dinner table and runs to her room.  We all look around bewildered.  She will start yelling at her younger sister seemingly out of nowhere.  Outbursts, crying, confusion and more. And she does NOT back down from her older sister anymore.  (I'm kindof proud of her on that one.)

I have comforted her many times by re-assuring her that it is not really all her fault.  She is still that sweet girl inside, her brain and personality is just being strongly affected by all the physiological changes.  I can say this calmly because her older sister was way more Crazy (with a capital C).  All things seem easier the second time around.

Hang in there sweetheart and your patience and humility will be back pretty soon (we hope!).

Generally a very happy girl.


Whoa - my daughter is going GOTH!

Okay - that was me just a few months ago.

I'm not sure the difference between Goth & Emo but we were treading some lines here with our oldest daughter.

First day of 6th grade
She was very into beauty, princesses, fairies and dress-up during her elementary years.  We know she is creative and we have always encouraged her to express it.

Enter Middle School.  The first few weeks were filled with trendy clothes, trying to fit in, requests for athletic shorts (all the kids wear them Mom!) and pleas to wear makeup.

Then a few weeks after that all color disappeared.  We were informed that she was in her "black stage" and all colored clothes were moved out of her drawers and into a storage tub she found in her closet. (Other items in that tub were relocated in a heap to the corner of her closet - Mom cringed.)
Double pierced ears
were a Christmas present.

Feeling this was a phase, we tried to ignore it.  I did more laundry since she only had a handful of all black clothing.  She started spending all her spare money on black clothing.  She went to stay with Grandma and came back with a bright red streak in her hair.  She invested in black lace gloves, black shoes, black jewelry and even adamantly demanded black underwear!

This continued for months and months and all the way to the end of the year. People started to notice. Of course she always looked polished and put together.  Most of her black clothing was x-small women's clothes.  Clothes you might wear to work.  It was like pulling teeth to get her to wear jeans and a t-shirt.

She also began to withdraw more and more - I don't have many pictures of her since she didn't join a lot of our family activities.  She wanted to be included but at the same time just wanted to be left alone. (Can't say we are out of the woods on that one yet.)

Then came summer.  School let out and she decided to take a break from it all.

Analysis:  At this point I really think the black was just an escape from the overwhelming task of deciding what to wear and how to fit in.  It was infinitely easier to choose from a single color palette. And I think it was very important for us to not make a big deal out of it.  It never became an issue for us.  I didn't understand why she was doing it but it seemed to be essential for her to cope with middle school. And now, I am beyond thrilled to see her colorful self again!

So - let your pre-teen express themselves, let them push those boundaries a bit even if it doesn't make sense to you.  Even if you've always picked out their clothes.  Even if they used to explain everything to you.  They  may not even know why they are making these choices.  They are just trying to cope with not knowing who they are yet AND the choices they are making at this age are not necessarily indicative of who they are going to be in the future.

So pretty, creative and ready for 7th grade


Don't give up - lessons from my workout

Some days workouts bring out all kinds of emotions. I pushed through Piyo Core, but not without a few tears. 
It's so tempting to give up, to call it a day when workouts, life or kids are challenging.

I get even more discouraged as I realize how trivial my "challenges" are, and why in the world can't I just choose JOY?  Right, it's just not that easy.  I drift further and further into my pity pond, and can't quite make good choices.  And it all happens so quickly it seems.  One week is super fantabulous, and then the next is horrendous.

Yesterday I completely crashed.  I got slammed in the face with my failures, insecurities and shortcomings and I wasn't prepared.  I succumbed.  I hid in my room and instructed the children to parent themselves for the afternoon.  (They responded surprisingly well to that suggestion.)

Strangely enough, it was watching an episode of What Not to Wear that lifted my spirits, combined with an hour by myself while Matt took the girls out for dinner.  I watched someone else be transformed from a frumpy assistant with no confidence into someone who saw the beauty in herself.  It encouraged me to do the same.  But, on the inside.

So, here's to a new day.  A workout completed.  A grocery list done.  A quiet house for a few more hours.  Dinner planned and an unscheduled rest of the week.  

Blessings abound!


Very Berry Wheat Muffins

Customized a recipe I found online and the reviews around here were rave! (You could make these with all white flour, just reduce the milk.)
Very Berry Wheat Muffins
1 1/2 cups white flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
½ cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
2/3 cup canola oil
2 eggs
1 cup strawberries, chopped
1 cup blueberries
1/2 cup milk
¼ cup buttermilk (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons sugar
Preheat oven to 400.
Mix flour, sugar, and baking powder in a large bowl. Add canola oil, 1/2 cup milk, buttermilk, vanilla, and eggs, and mix until combined. If your dough is very thick, add more milk. Fold in blueberries and strawberries. Top with a sprinkling of sugar.

Bake for 12-18 minutes or until golden brown.
Makes 24 muffins


Valentine's Day for the NON CRAFTY

All right.

This is practical stuff.  I could not wait to share if with you!

I am not an interior designer (shock I know).  I also am not a crafty, make my own stuff kind of person (more shock - I'll wait).

This is NO excuse to not decorate for the holidays!  Especially if you have kids.  They just love it!  I remember begging my parents to decorate for every holiday.  I mean, aren't there decorations for President's day??

Now, I understand a bit better.  The pressure to either make or buy amazing beautiful decorations is huge.  And it seems easier to do nothing than to try and fail.

So - now you've got it.  A tutorial on how to decorate for next to nothing and with no skills!  I bought a couple cute things a few years ago and then I just add $1-2 worth of cuteness a year.

First, we have my mantel decorations.  There are 2.  One is some kind of wiry heart encrusted garland.  It bends and twists and hearts fall off it every year.  I suppose I've got a couple years left with that one.  Then the other is this year's meager addition.  A small $1 garland I picked up at Target.  Cute and effective and I did NOT make it!

Next we have my table decorations.  Thanks to the hubby for beautiful flowers and then I just added some shiny plastic grape bundles - good colors and a bit of ribbon.  Oh - and some ducks.  More on those later.

Here is what we affectionally call "the black shelf".  I added some more wiry ribbon and a set of cute heart boxes and an amazing, elaborate, totally handmade valentine mailbox that my talented Mother in Law made for us several years ago.  It is truly amazing.  (I can take orders if you want one!)

And the most fun (and easy) tradition I started was our Valentine's ducks. Every year I get these out and hide them all over the house.  I have about 20 and I put some of them in plain sight and others go behind pictures, above door frames and all over the house.  It's fun to see the girls find them gradually and it is SO easy to do! 

Now - get some flowers, add a few valentine's hearts and I consider you to have mastered Normal Person's Decorating 101!

PS:  I also have plenty of room to add the kid's homemade decorations.  They inevitably come home with a few over the course of the week.


It's not about me

Ok - so still working on that good old fear of failure.

But, I'm seeing huge progress! I am being bold and finding a passion for what I'm doing.

I started working for Beachbody so that when someone decides they want to make changes in either their physical self or their nutrition, I have the tools and resources to help them.  I help them find the right exercise program (there are over 20 to choose from!), stick to a healthy eating plan and support them along the way.  I get a small commission off of any programs or supplements they buy, but that's it.  

I am challenged to really encourage others to take control of their life in a very tangible way and in turn help them focus on spiritual things with a more clear mind.  It is very hard to live your life with love and compassion when you don't even like yourself or what you see in the mirror every day.

I am loving seeing my current clients feel better, happier and more successful every day!

Yesterday my new client said - "had my shake, did my workout and feeling great!"  Day 1 of her new program and I'm so excited for her.

My other client has been working through her program for 1 month already.  She's so excited that she can feel herself getting stronger and sees improvement as she nails a workout she struggled with just a few weeks earlier.

Don't let your fear of failure stop you from trying something bold to change your life!

Commit to something small.  The brand new workout program from Beachbody is called "21 Day Fix".  This is a program that will give you results in just 3 weeks.  Try it out!  Or go for a more focused core workout to enhance your whole life.  You will find that it's not as hard as you think.  That you can find 30 minutes at least to devote to exercise.  

You are SO worth it!  

Comment below with "Tell me more!" if you want to join me!


Afraid of failure


It happened again.

I started to give up before I'd even started.

I have struggled as long as I can remember with giving up.  I have a list of about 2 things that I've ever stuck with, finished and become good at.  I need to focus on that tiny list and making it larger.  But, my own issues pull me down every time.

I just get started with something.  Let's see, crocheting, accounting, computer programming, piano and on and on and then - bam!  I find someone better than me.  Someone who has either succeeded easily and quickly or who worked hard and is seeing great results - and I give up.  Why bother?  They already did it.

Gets me every time.

I end up in a sad, sad place of disappointment, failure and self pity.

It's totally lame.  Do you ever end up there?

There truly is only one place I can find any relief and promise of true transformation in this area.   My savior.  He is the only one who offers me unconditional acceptance and the energy and power to change this in me.

I have several new things on my plate at the moment.  Things I'm oh so ready to give up and drop.  It would be so much easier, I tell myself.  My life would be so much calmer and I could revert to my introverted, solitary, safe place.  And I'd have….  not much.

So - today I am choosing faith.  We can rely on the power of Christ to keep going.  To persevere. To not give up until we absolutely CANNOT go on.  To pray for doors to close in our face to keep us from going.  I will go.

I will continue.

I will work hard and find success in the process.  Join me?