Sunday, September 21, 2014

failing as a mother

it was such an immense honor to be asked to read this post at the "we still blog" awards at this year's type a conference. the afternoon was filled with beautifully written and emotion filled posts. the tears and the kleenexes were abundant and the afternoon was, as it has been in years past, my favorite part of the weekend. what a gift it is to be surrounded by so many strong women and men with voices worth hearing and the bravery to share their stories fearlessly. this post is just one in a long list of posts that are worth reading. the links to all of the nominated posts are listed below. take the time to read them all. i cannot think of a better way to spend your time. in honor of all the beautiful writing we heard this weekend, i'm reposting this post, for amazing mothers and fathers everywhere who need to be reminded that they are not finished yet and they are parenting masterpieces.

"i feel like i have failed as a mother." these were the words i cried to my husband one night this week. after the battle was over. after the kids were asleep. after all the hurtful words. after the dust had settled. "i must have done something wrong. it's not supposed to be this way." i was grasping for something, anything to help me understand why parenting is sometimes so, so very hard.

earlier that night, my ten year old had run away from home for the first time. there had been a battle over everything that afternoon...homework, chores, being kind to his siblings. everything was work. i would love to say that i had the time or the patience to pause and get to the core reasons for his behavior but with five kids needing attention at once, the best i could do was to remind him to "think before you speak" and "examine your response." as i was preparing dinner, i asked him to help his younger brother empty the dishwasher while i cooked the meal. he looked at me and his hands formed into fists and said the devastating words, "i hate my life! why do you always do this to me?"

as i was stirring the pot of what would eventually be our dinner, i reminded myself to keep breathing. i picked my heart up off the floor and turned to stare at this stranger otherwise known as my ten year old. my other children were staring at the train wreck that was our dysfunctional kitchen interaction. somehow, by the grace of God, i held myself together and offered my son an out. "you are welcome to go look for another family that you think would treat you better but if you are a part of this family, you will do your chores." 

he slammed his fist into his sides and with an angry turn and a "fine, i will," he was out the front door. he was gone for two hours...and i died a little bit with each minute he was gone.

what in the world had happened? this is my first born son. 

born while we were living in South America, he and i were an isolated duo. 
there were no grandparents nearby. there was no FaceTime or skype. there were no friends with other children his age. it was him and me. we danced the crazy mother-son dance all on our own, without advice, without help, completely on our own...and that was just fine.
we would sing ourselves to sleep in the hammock.
we would splash in the Caribbean.

we would cover the walls with our artwork.
we would find joy in the simplest of pleasures.
we were a team and he was my joy, my first born.
my days were filled with him.
he had the very best i had to offer, uninterrupted, unshared, completely devoted.
when he needed more interaction, he got it. he got me 100%. he had it made.
somewhere, that baby, that precious boy who filled my days, disappeared and the tween i look at each day has morphed into someone else. he's hard to recognize.

i used to buy into the notion that, if you do the work when your children are really little, it will get easier and easier as the years go by. there are parts of that idea that ring true. there are other parts that are delusional. i have come to understand that parenting is work, no matter the age, no matter the child. there will always be another area of their character that can be refined. there will always be lessons to learn. there will always be a heart that can be molded, 

to be more kind, 

more compassionate, 

more patient, 

more grateful, 

more loving. 

those are lessons that don't end when a child is grown. those are lessons that we will keep teaching as parents long after our children leave the house. those are lessons my own parents are still teaching me.

still, in this instance, with tears in my eyes, i looked at my husband and asked, "what have i done wrong? how can someone i love so much be so intentionally hurtful? surely, it is not supposed to be this way. it is not supposed to be so hard."

my husband's response was simple and somehow cut through the weight of what i had felt that day. "he's not done. we're not done. it is like looking at a painting that is only half finished and being critical. the idea of that would be ridiculous. you can't judge a painting until it is complete. our son isn't finished yet. when he becomes an adult, when we see the man he will become, then we can look back at all the parts of his life that made up the light and the shadows and see each piece for what it was." my sweet man did everything in his power to remind me that i'm a good mother. 

slowly, i started to believe it again myself. i'm not perfect. i'm full of flaws. i have to pray for grace and patience everyday, but i'm a good mother. as i hold my one year old son and look over at his ten year old brother, i marvel at how much nine years has changed things. my heart breaks a little bit at how fast the time has gone and at how, with each outburst, with each stance of his will, my first born pulls farther and farther toward his independence. i want to hold back the clock and bring back the sweetness that once was. still, as i watch him become the adolescent he will be and see him change before my eyes i'm reminded that everything i have done for him has been a piece to his puzzle, a brush stroke on the painting that is his life. even on my worst days, when it feels like my heart may not recover, i can remember that i am a good mother...and i'm parenting an unfinished masterpiece.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

the third boob: the story that started it all


there are some stories that never get old. each time we meet new people, we are asked for the story of our blog's name. for those of you who may not have heard the story that began this crazy journey, this is for you.

the first pregnancy is the most exciting. that's not to say that other pregnancies aren't full of wonder but the first one is full of all things new. every change is a new experience and the unknown helps to add to the thrill of it all. i was like a lot of first time pregnant moms. i enjoyed that first pregnancy...until i noticed a kiwi sized lump growing in my armpit. the worst of scenarios raced through my mind. did i have cancer? was this a tumor? when the doctor ordered an ultrasound of the lump, i was thinking the worst. 

sitting in the office of the ultrasound technician, i stared at the monitor trying to figure out what she was seeing on that little screen. "what is it?" "all i can see is breast tissue. i'll send the results to your doctor." i felt a sense of relief. no tumor, just breast tissue...in my armpit. i had no idea why that would be and my ob-gyn was actually of very little help in that department. i was told it was just breast tissue. breasts swell during pregnancy and that it should go back to normal after giving birth. this was a great theory but, after looking around, no other pregnant women seemed to be walking around with a kiwi in one pit.

finally a lactation consultant friend of mine told me it could be an extra mammary gland. this was confirmed in the hospital after i gave birth to my first son. a second lactation consultant came in to check on the nursing situation and i blurted out, "i think i have a third boob." to this, in the tradition of lactation consultants getting all up in your boob business, she peeled back my hospital gown to examine the said appendage. here's where it gets good. this lady had all the good information. apparently, your milk lines run from your armpit all the way down your abdomen (think a cat or a dog with a litter of puppies). you can be born with extra mammary glands or extra nipples anywhere along your milk line and, unless you have a visible nipple, you may not know it's even there until your breasts swell during pregnancy. the consultant then proceeded to tell me that there was a woman in the hospital the day before with eight boobs. (i can hear the collective gasps through the computer.) i all of a sudden felt pretty happy just to have the one. she then continued by saying that it would go away after nursing and that, because there was no visible nipple, it would dry up and shrink back to its former undetectable size.

here is where she got it wrong. my milk finally came in for my first born and while i was nursing him, i asked my husband if he'd turn up the air conditioning because i felt like i was sweating profusely. i then looked down to see that no, i wasn't sweating. what i thought had been the tiniest of brown freckles was instead a nipple that was currently dripping milk down into a puddle on my shirt. yep...sign me up for the circus people. not only do i have a third boob but it lactates. lac. tates. 

i had to nurse with a towel in my armpit and while most nursing moms got to walk around with just absorbent breast pads in their nursing bras, i got to do that and wear a huge band-aid on my armpit. just so we're all aware here, my son was born in june...tank top weather. fabulous.

so, there you have it. i think the third boob can give everyone a brighter outlook on life and on their after-baby bodies. your stomach may look like a venetian blind from the stretch marks you earned or you may have skin that now somehow resembles an elephant's trunk. still, looking in the mirror at yourself you can always say, "at least it doesn't lactate." so, here's to you, third boob. thanks for making most of the world feel a little bit better about themselves...and for giving us a great story to tell. cheers!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

monthly must haves: laundry room favorites


i spend a ridiculous amount of time in my laundry room. seriously. it occupies more quality time with me than anyone or anything else in my life. sad but true. as a part of our "monthly must haves," we couldn't neglect our favorite items to keep our laundry room happy.



1. laundry folding table: my dad and i bond over projects. on one of his trips to visit me, we made this amazing laundry table to fit perfectly in my laundry room. (we also made custom rolling drawers to house dirty laundry...amazing). it has become my favorite part of my laundry room. i can divide up clothes for seven people into their own piles and then carry them upstairs organized. i truly don't know how i lived without it.


2. beadboard drying rack: this is an item i purchased a few years ago and it was worth every penny. when not in use it sits flush against the wall and occupies no space at all. when you have things to dry, they are drying in an organized, out-of-the-way fashion. i love it. 


3. downy wrinkle releaser: this product has cut my ironing time to almost nothing. i don't know about you but i hate ironing kids clothes. they play so hard and get wrinkled so fast that i don't feel like it is worth my while. i also don't like my kids to look like they just rolled out of bed. this is the perfect solution. if something is wrinkled, i can spray, hang, and it is good to go. ironing problem solved.


4. homemade laundry detergent: i do so much laundry. so, so very much. i was spending a fortune in laundry detergent but have since started making my own. i love it. it smells fantastic, is much more affordable and my clothes are getting clean. i'm one happy mama!


5. lost coin jar: growing up my mom had a rule. if money was left in a pocket to be washed, the laundry fairies got to keep it. that rule has become the rule at my own home too and i have more loose change than i know what to do with. a friend of mine gave me a decorated tin a few years ago and it has become the perfect catch-all for all things left in the washing machine...safety pins, coins, buttons, dollars. i'm going to use the cash one day to buy myself a present.


6. mismatched sock basket: an old rudolph-the-red-nosed-raindeer movie talked about the island of misfit toys where lost and unwanted toys go to live. this basket is my island of misfit socks. it is where they go to die. every once in a while i will magically find a match. many times, however, the basket remains fairly full. on the rare (miraculous even) occasions when i have managed to wash every item of clothing in the house, i will throw away those socks that have not found a match. otherwise they sit in there and have their other mis-matched friends for company. at least i know where to find them.



7. hanger bar: i was searching for a place to keep hangers in my laundry room and didn't like any of the options i found. my dad suggested using a towel bar upside-down underneath my laundry room cabinets as a place to store hangers. it was genius. they are out of the way but are there when i have something important to hang. 


8. in-room entertainment: i know. this looks particularly trashy. still, it does the trick. i was spending so much time in my laundry room that i started to pull out my iPhone to watch netflix and hulu while i worked. it was fantastic but i couldn't hear the sound of the phone over the rumble of the washer and dryer. an old set of computer speakers worked perfectly to amplify the sound so i can watch and fold to my heart's content. my next dream is to purchase a t.v. for my laundry room so i can happily watch shows on a larger screen. for now, this will have to do. if you have the room for it, add something to your laundry room to make it a more enjoyable experience. you deserve to have some happiness in the midst of the chores. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

grief, loss, acceptance and love.

i spent two weeks on vacation this summer with my two little men. me. a single mama, thought it would be a good idea to embark on an ambitious itinerary that involved multiple states, plane flights, stays at friends and families houses, long car rides, and a hotel stay. did i mention i have 4 & 6 year old boys? yep. crazy town. on top of that, it was an emotionally charged trip in so many ways. one of the legs of the trip was to see my friends megan's family.  

a little over two years ago, i lost my childhood friend to cancer. we grew up the best of buddies and although, as we grew older, our lives took us in different directions and locations, we stayed close. it's funny how friends that have been a part of your life for so long transition, without you even realizing into family. that was my megs. a common love of theater is what brought us together as kids, and even though we both changed and grew in so many different ways, we loved one another the way sisters would and loved each other through the best and the worst of times. 




at the same time my friend was losing her battle with melanoma, i had lost my marriage. it was an unbearable time of life for me. the loss of it all was, at times, suffocating. i remember the calls from her husband and mom the day we lost her like a movie that you have watched so many times, you can recite it word-for-word. just thinking of that night causes me to catch my breath. it plays, at times, in my head on a loop....as if it will somehow all feel real at some point. she is gone. 

the trip was an opportunity for me to fulfill my promise to my friend that our children would know each other as they grew, but also a quest for me to find some closure and peace in her passing..... it had all happened so suddenly and in the midst of my own grief and processing of my own marriage failing. although I flew to be there for the funeral, I never had been back in their home. i went to the funeral and then tucked away that grief in a corner of my mind for a day when I was ready. when I could give it the attention and respect that it deserved. 



it has been said that the difference between what you want or need and what you fear is sometimes the width of an eyelash. i wanted to go back to her home. i wanted to spend time with her wonderful legacy of a family she had left....but it was scary. it was real. 

at first it was hard. everything seemed just as she had left it. it was as if she was going to walk in the door at any moment and the whole thing was just one awful bad dream. but it was was so real. she was gone. she wasn't coming back. i sought out ways to help. i wanted to support my friend by being there for her husband and kids. despite my own intense grief, i tried to be present for each moment. it was hard being there, occupying my dead best friends life. experiencing things that she should be there experiencing. i was surprised by the guilt I felt. that I was alive and she was not to be able to experience all of these moments. there were so many wonderful memories that i will treasure forever: experiences like going to the pool together, introducing the kids to movies her and i had watched together as kids, water fights, lip syncing with her sweet daughter, building forts, painting nails, painting rocks to bring to her gravesite and her sweet little girl picking out matching outfits for us to wear.



i left that trip with a sense of calm. these unbelievably amazing little kiddos are such a perfect reflection of her and although megs is gone, she is living on through them in so many ways. the people that love them and her are keeping her alive through stories and pictures and memory-making moments, like the few i was able to share with them. i know that even though megan isn't able to be psysically able to be there, she has an amazing front row seat to all the action from heaven. i look forward to many more memory-making moments ahead.



in a two week vacation with the littles, i learned a lot. i grew as a person. i accepted realities and have moved through them. i bit off a lot when i decided to take on a trip of this magnitude solo....but i pushed past my fear and i did it! was it perfect? nope. were there some bumps in the road? certainly. but we did it. and *that* is a huge accomplishment....a major turning point, in my book of life. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

mmmmm, southwest quinoa


quinoa is my favorite grain. i love trying new ways to enjoy it. this recipe takes no more than 30 minutes and is a crowd pleaser for the whole family. done!

southwest quinoa

1 cup quinoa

1 1/2 cups beef stock

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 can southwest style corn, drained

1 green bell pepper, diced

1 red bell pepper, diced

1 cup chopped onion

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

3-4 small sirloin steaks

steak seasoning


rinse quinoa well with water. (fyi...if the quinoa is not rinsed, it will have a bitter taste.) combine the rinsed quinoa and beef broth in a saucepan. bring to a boil. reduce heat, cover and simmer for 12-15 minutes until the broth is absorbed. remove from the heat and allow to sit for five minutes.

while the quinoa is cooking, prepare the steaks. i like to use wild tree products and one of my favorites is rancher's steak rub. it is perfect to shake on steaks and then grill. grill the steaks to your liking and set aside.

in a large skillet, sauté the bell peppers and onions in the olive oil for about 5-10 minutes until the onions are translucent. corn, beans, cumin, garlic powder and chili powder and mix well. heat until corn and beans are heated through.

add the vegetables and beans to the finished quinoa and mix well. top with the sliced steaks.

enjoy!


Friday, September 5, 2014

ahhhh...weekends


this is a sponsored post for nutrish cat food. they are responsible for how handsome my cats are as they are providing samples of their amazing cat food for the kitties to eat. all opinions and stories, good or bad, are mine alone. for more information on nutrish for cats, please click here

ahhhh...weekends. time to relax, sit poolside, sip a frothy beverage. time to sleep in, catch up on some novels, enjoy a meal out.  that is what life used to look like. my weekends before children involved my husband and i sleeping in (seriously, until noon some days), walking to a mexican restaurant, ordering breakfast burritos and then walking home to sit in the pool all day while our dogs swam and slept next to us. seriously. every weekend. it was as amazing as it sounds and we had absolutely no idea how wonderful it was.

life with kids is different. without scaring all the non-parents out there, weekends do not look anything like the pre-kid weekends we had before. first of all, there is no sleeping in. ever. there is just early and earlier. i'm waiting for the teenage years when i have to pry my kids out of bed. i've heard rumors that maybe then i'll be able to sleep past 7:00 on a saturday. it remains to be seen. once awake, the weekends don't look that much different than a weekday. school days are replaced with sports days. instead of packing lunches in the mornings, you are making them at noon. breakfast dishes need washed. lunch dishes. dinner dishes. if you choose to avoid laundry, it will just be a bigger pile on monday. lawns need mowing, kids need attention, litter boxes need emptying. motherhood is kind of like that movie "groundhog day." if you haven't seen it, go find it and watch it. it's the story of a man who wakes up each morning to find he is repeating the same day, over and over again. motherhood is kind of like that. each day continues on much like the last. weekends might look a little different than weekdays but it is much the same. parents manage to keep on doing what needs to be done and caring for kids, pets, homes. one groundhog day turns into another and then ten years have passed and you wonder where the time went. that's just how parenthood is.

the thought of relaxing doesn't usually cross my mind most weekends. still, i have little moments of escape throughout my days when i can sneak away and find a brief calm from the storm. believe it or not, my laundry room is my safe haven. let's face it, with five kids, there is an endless supply of laundry. i think i saw the bottom of a laundry bin a few years ago around christmas time and i attributed it to a christmas miracle. i haven't seen the bottom of one since then so there is no other logical explanation. 

the laundry room has become this lovely hiding place for me. the kids don't want to come in for fear they will be asked for fold towels or match socks. the hum of the washer and dryer drown out the noise from the rest of the house. i spend so much time in the room that i brought in a set of old computer speakers that now broadcast whatever show my cell phone is playing. thanks to hulu, netflix and amazon prime, the watching possibilities are endless. i literally spend hours in there, washing, drying, folding, sorting. it is the most peaceful time of my weekend. 



adding to the peace and quite are two of the smartest cats in the world. no matter what time i go into my laundry bliss, the cats come in to find me. they are smart enough to try to avoid the little hands around the house like the plague. nothing good can come from a two year old carrying you. normally, just as the dryer is starting to hum, the two of them will join the party. they'll find a warm spot to sleep and the three of us will pass an afternoon in relative peace. it is a quiet sanctuary for us and for hours on end, we escape the world together. we rescued our cats from an animal shelter a few years ago so the kids could have some pets to love but they have attached themselves to me and have become my littlest buddies and companions...even in the midst of the crazy.


and there is joy in those moments. my weekends may not be what they used to be when i was childless but my perspective has changed and i find joy in the routine. there is joy in the company of two little cats who sneak away to be by my side. there is joy in saturday morning pancakes and soccer games. there is joy in life with five kids and two cats...and i wouldn't trade it for the world.


this post is sponsored by nutrish for cats. we are so honored to partner with rachael ray as she promotes her new cat food line and her initiative to help get sheltered cats find their forever homes. our family's two cats were rescue kitties and there are millions more like them. 
millions of cats enter shelters every year, where they're often quickly put into cages. they're scared, confused and sometimes even dirty. a photo is snapped and then quickly shared, to be seen by people looking to adopt. unfortunately, these photos don't always capture the full beauty and personality of the cats. that's why rachael ray nutrish is proud to partner with greatergood.org® and one picture saves a life. together, they'll travel across the country taking photos worthy of these loving cats who are simply looking for a second chance.




rachael ray nutrish  cat food is made from real meat like chicken or fish as the #1 ingredient in these delicious recipes. there's never any junk like meat poultry by product, artificial preservatives or flavors. plus, rachael's proceeds help animals in need in shelters around the country through "rachael's rescue."

try out nutrish cat food today by clicking through this link for more information and to find a store near you. 



Wednesday, September 3, 2014

eleven years





today is the first day of preschool for my two year old. yes, you read that right, my two year old is heading to school twice a week. if sending your little one off to school is not your thing, that is fine. i get it. but i'm still sending mine off. no judgement.


this day also marks the first time in eleven years that i will have a morning to myself. e - l - e - v - e - n years. eleven years of chasing toddlers, changing diapers, dragging unhappy kids through target, planning playdates, avoiding kid-unfriendly environments. eleven years of planning my days around nap times and hungry times. eleven years of carrying a diaper and wipes with me everywhere i go. eleven years. 

when i decided to be a stay-at-home mom with my first born, i really didn't know what i was signing up for. i never dreamed we would have five kids. sometimes it's a good thing that we can't see the future. eleven years is a big pill to swallow when you take it all at once. thankfully i only had to handle one day at a time and i made it. i made it through eleven years. 

now for the first time in my mommy life, i will have two mornings to myself. i have had so many people make comments to me regarding this time that i feel like some blanket responses may be in order. these may sound hostile or snippy but that is not my intent. it is merely the truth for me. take it or leave it.

what those mornings are not:
  • they are not a long amount of time. by the time i allow for drop off and pick up, we are talking about three hours twice a week. i totally appreciate the break and how nice those six hours will be but, come on, its not like i've just been handed a lifetime trip to the bahamas. it's six hours, people. let's keep it in perspective. i'm hoping to get to use the bathroom without someone asking me if i need help wiping. 
  • they are not a reason to look for an added job. no, i'm not going to go find another workplace. no, i will not be itching to re-enter the 9-5 corporate workforce. i work plenty. besides the mommy gig, i already have enough jobs. maybe, just maybe i'll be able to write a blog post without someone pulling on my leg or climbing on my lap while striking random keys on the computer. i think i work plenty. these six hours can count for the 11 years of lunch breaks that i never took.
  • they are not anything that requires a report...to anyone. i have had so many people ask me what i am going to do with all my free time. all six hours of it? i have no idea. seriously, i've waited eleven years to have some time to myself. I don't know what i'm going to do for those hours. maybe i'll read a book. maybe i'll take a shower. frankly, i may sit in my pajamas and stare at the wall in silence. i may go back to sleep. i may watch reality tv. i may go exercise. i may go to the grocery store alone. who knows? i've waited eleven years to get to pick my own activities based on what i want to do, on my own schedule, on my own time, for six hours a week. the fact is that i really don't owe anyone an explanation of how i spend that precious time. i think i may have earned the right to decide without question.
  • they are not something i will feel guilty about. i have worked my butt off for eleven years. i will still be working my butt off for another 16 years...at least. the fact that i will have six hours a week to myself does not mean that i will be working any less than i was before. it does mean, however, that for the first time in over a decade, i will get a little break. i will get to remember what it is like to think about myself on occasion. i will get to remember what things i love to do, and actually get a chance to do them. i will have a chance to rediscover what makes me happy, and what makes me thrive. don't get me wrong. i adore my kids, but so much of my life involves serving other people that i often take a back seat. it is a privilege to be the mom of five great kids but i am not going to feel guilty about having a few brief hours each week to take care of me. it is, quite frankly, about time.
  • they are not a chance for me to do what you want me to do. i have had people tell me, "well, once school starts you can volunteer in the classroom." or "once school starts you'll have plenty of time to get to that email response i've been waiting for." no. just...no. i have not been waiting for eleven years to spend my time doing something extra for someone else. i have not been waiting eleven years to fill up those few hours with more activities to serve others. until i get adjusted to my new normal and have plenty of time to enjoy some quality "me" time, my answer is just going to be "no." without guilt, absolutely not.
  • they are not a time to work feverishly on chores. don't get me wrong. i will get things done. it may just have to wait, however, for a few weeks to pass by before i sacrifice some of my time to clean house. let's face it...house cleaning can be done while the kids are home. showering alone and shaving both legs on the same day...not so much. i plan on relishing every moment without children home to do everything i have not been able to do for eleven years. once i'm tired of partying alone, i may decide to clean a bathroom. we shall see. i wouldn't expect that to happen for a while. 
what those mornings are:
  • mine. that's it. they are mine. there are very few things in my life that belong solely to me. my home is shared with six other wonderful people. my time is stretched to the breaking point to try to meet the needs of five kids and a husband. our money is spent meeting the needs of others. my bed is shared with my husband and (let's be real) with kids who sneak in to cuddle or watch tv. my life is full of people and i wouldn't have it any other way. i love my kids and my husband. i love my life. still, it has not been without sacrifice. love involves sacrifice. it doesn't work without it. still, when it comes down to it, i could use a break. i thrive during alone time. i get recharged. i love having a moment when, instead of thinking of the needs of others, i get to ask myself, "what would you like to do?" as mothers, how often does that really happen? it's a rare thing indeed. so i am going to relish my six hours a week. i'm going to squander that time and enjoy every spare moment of it. i'm going to enjoy spending moments with just me. maybe i'm selfish. maybe i'm wise. regardless, the choices for those six hours are mine. i'm going to enjoy some solitude...and i'm going to be a better friend, wife and mommy for it. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

it's time for fall y'all


i've lived in the south for six and a half years. that's right. this former nomad has lived in one location for that many years. with the exception of my childhood home, i have never lived this long anywhere. ever. 

i have to admit, the move to the south has taken some adjustment. i'm a born and raised california girl. i grew up in the amazing wine country of northern california and then moved to the picturesque san diego county. after a brief stint in the middle of the desert, i moved to the caribbean coast of south america and lived for five plus years in colombia and venezuela. is it any wonder that hitting the carolinas caused a bit of whiplash? the fall and winter weather alone are enough to throw me into a whirl. sweaters and boots? i literally didn't own any. seriously. my idea of winter wear was throwing on a hoodie paired with some flip flops.

after six years in the south, i'm finally learning to embrace my new southern home. i now recognize seasons and appreciate all of them, from our one day of snow each winter to the ridiculous humidity of the summer. i've come to appreciate mac & cheese, fried pickles and shrimp and grits. i say "yes, ma'am" more often than i ever dreamed i would. i wave to my neighbors whenever they drive by and provide casseroles for anyone who is sick. i have a deep love for southern bar-b-que and i sleep in a giant nascar t-shirt most nights. i'm officially becoming a southern girl.

until last week, there was one southern trademark i could not claim. i did not own a pair of cowgirl boots. last week, i crossed the final hurdle and am now the proud owner of an absolutely beautiful pair of cowboy boots. 


still, there was a huge dilemma in front of me. i have given birth five times. there are no daisy dukes in my future. i needed to find some outfits that i could wear that suit me...mom of five...almost 40...former california girl. i may never pair my boots with flannel or short shorts, but i'm pretty sure there are outfits that will suit me just fine. they just might be what i was missing to marry all the places i've lived into outfits that are comfortably me. 

here are the outfits i found for myself:







what are you waiting for? cowboy boots scared me for a long time. i couldn't imagine how i would wear them. now that i have them, i can't imagine how i lived so long without them, especially when paired with fall fashion. come and join me on the country side. maybe these crazy southerners have been right all along.

the boots shown are from www.countryoutfitters.com. they are the addie butterfly boot by 8 second angel. they retail for $179.95 with free shipping.

disclosure: this is a sponsored post with acornInfluence. country outfitter graciously sent me a pair of the most fabulous 8 second angel boots. the opinions are all my own.

tags: #countryoutfitter #fallyall #fallfashion @countryoutfittr 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

countdown to 40





40. wow. the idea of it takes my breath away a little bit. i actually vividly remember my dad's 40th birthday party when I was a kid. he was showered in gifts of geritol, walking canes, stool softeners and other old people stuff. black balloons filled the room where the party was and "over the hill" banners were everywhere......and now I am finding myself inching closer to 40 as every day goes by. the funny thing is....i don't feel old. 

at all. 

do i need a reality check? 

am i losing my mind? 

or, is the reality that, 40 really is the new 30? i don't know if that catch phrase is true for me. i don't really want to be 30 again, even though 30 seemed pretty  darn great. the reality for me is that 40, although scary on one hand, is also quite exciting on the other hand. 

i feel like, having gone through the weeds with my recent divorce, i am starting a whole new chapter of my life. one where i actually love the person i am for the for the first time in my adult life. i have earned the little lines that are starting to form in the creases where i smile from all the laughter and joy, and earned the lines in the corners of my eyes from every struggle. i have earned the snow white hairs that are starting to magically appear on my head....they come with the years. with all the joy......and all the struggle......and all the resolve....i am in a weird way a bit fond of them...(even though i will not give a second thought to making an appointment with a colorist, if they continue to be fruitful and multiply).   


genelle and i, as well as being the best of friends and running this blog together, also happen to be the same age and share birthdays in the same month. because our birthdays are in december, the start of a new year of life also means the upcoming start of a new calendar year. this means that new birthday wishes for ourselves often happen to go hand in hand with everyone else's new years resolutions. this past december, upon celebrating our joint 39th years of life, genelle and I also talked a lot about the "countdown to 40" and what that means to each of us. we made lists of wishes for ourselves in this 40th year of life....things that we could improve on or can take on, not just things to give up. here are the cliff notes of my "countdown to 40" list:


•i will start taking care of my skin. i haven't done anything other than wash it, when i remember to for my entire life. not smart. this changes now. i will go on the hunt for my favorite skin care products. 

•i will be gentle with myself and treat me with the same kindness and respect that i show to others. 

•i will start being more conscious of what i put into my body and make a more concerted effort to feed myself with things that are good for me. 

•water. i will drink more. lots more. 

•sun. i love the sun and a sun-kissed glow makes me simply feel better about myself....but it can come at a high price that i am not willing to risk. i have already lost so much to melanoma. i will get my spray-tan on and start hunting for the best self tanner.

•i will make fitness a lifestyle choice and start incorporating it into my life wholly.

•i will say "yes". i can talk myself out of almost anything with my self-doubt. when someone includes me in something i will try my hardest to say "yes". adventures await. 

although both of our lists are different, they both recognize that this is an important, point in our lives and it calls for change. we are looking forward to sharing with you our adventures in #countdownto40 which will culminate with us meeting in houston, texas in december to celebrate our birthdays together. looking forward to sharing the journey with you all!

how about you? did you do something special for your 40th? is that year more significant than others? 




Sunday, August 24, 2014

monthly must haves: heather's august picks


both genelle and myself love trying out new products. we have decided to start this monthly compilation of a few of our favorite must have items. this month i am taking the lead with my current obsessions i have already been telling all of my friends about and am excited to share with you.


i am a health and fitness gadget junkie and i *love* fitness trackers. if there is a fitness tracker made, i probably own it. the problem with most fitness trackers is that they look great when at the gym or running around town in your yoga pants, but are so unfashionable when you are not. one of the things i love most about my misfit shine is that the small, circular device can be worn a multitude of ways; this includes being able to pop it out and inserted it into a leather watch band (as seen above). the shine is functional and fashionable and can be worn in the water. i also love that it uses a watch battery so you don't have to remember to keep charging it every couple of days as you do with most fitness trackers. my favorite feature though is the free app that the shine syncs with on my phone----it includes a sleep tracker and it has been a major eye-opener to my sleep patterns. the misfit shine is awesome. if you end up getting one, let us know and we can link up to compete and encourage each other in our fitness goals.

i am a sucker for the splendid brand. i own way more of their clothing than i should admit....but my current obsession is the asymmetrical dress. i am not a person that wears dresses all the time and i now own this dress in every color. that is how wonderful it is. it is comfortable, fashionable and the fabric is such that i can wear it around town with flip flips and then add some jewelry and heels and it transitions seamlessly to night. it's perfection. 

i love jewelry and when you own a lot of it, like i do, it is hard to find a great box to store it in that is not only fashionable but also functional. glamboxes are truly swoon-worthy and now all of my jewelry is perfectly organized, stored and displayed in a beautiful, custom acrylic masterpiece. they make make-up boxes also that are on my wish list for sure!


i am not even sure how to begin describing this, because it is so unique and revolutionary that its really one of those things you have to see with your own eyes. loreal makeup genius is a *free* app that allows you to virtually try on make-up onto your own reflection in real-time. i've tried to explain it to countless people and it's impossible to do it justice---you just need to trust me and download it now and see with your own eyes. you can try on specific products as well as test out amazing looks that have already been put together by beauty experts. not only is this app completely changing the way that i shop for make-up, and a valuable tool for me......it is also a blast to use with my nieces and the neighborhood kids (okay, okay....i admit that i have now also have some hilarious photos and videos of my boys in make-up too.....can we say future wedding slide show?!). 

your iron is going to beg you not to try this product, because it will be out of a job when this comes home from the store with you. truth. i now even bring it with me when i travel, because it is quickly becoming something that i can't live without. downy wrinkle releaser is a simple spray that, when spritzed over fabric, magically releases all of the wrinkles. no joke. it even works on curtains, throw pillows, sheets...anything. as a busy, single mama this is a 100% must have.


now that i have found these, i am certain to be a devoted customer for years to come. packit is a freezable lunch bag that not only keeps my boys lunches cool for hours, but it is big enough to fit a good-sized lunch and a drink and it stays securely closed, even with the way my littles swing their bags around on the way to school. it's a must-have for school, summer camps and even as an adult for the office. 


are you tired? stressed? dark circles under your eyes? (sounds like me and just about every mommy i know). you need these. eyes are collagen gel pads that are packed with moisture, tons of vitamins and other good things that give you a mini-spa moment in the comfort of your own home. i tried them first after a workout (as you can see above) and, after 20 minutes i not only felt more relaxed and refreshed, but the area under my eyes was noticeably improved. i'm hooked. my current favorite is coconut, but they also carry green tea and ice water, which are fantastic, too.

disclaimer: although we received some products for free, many are purchased on our own dime and *all* are products that we love and the opinions are all our own.