Monday, April 20, 2015

five ways to survive your son's tween years

i don't know how it happened, but i became the parent of a tween. my sweet first born has morphed into someone too cool to hug and kiss me in front of his friends. even if i cheer him on at sporting events, he is reserved and cool towards me. i am watching as his relationships with his friends flourish and i have to fight to keep our relationship alive. i have entered the middle school years and it is already rough. i'm not sure how i'm going to make it through two more years of this, let alone high school. 

i certainly don't think i have it all together. my son and i don't see eye to eye much these days. still, over the last several months i have had talks with other amazing moms of tween boys. i have watched what has worked for them and what hasn't. trust me, i'm no expert. i do, however, have amazingly honest friends and people who have survived it all championing the way. i have gleaned every bit of knowledge from them all and have come up with five simple things you can do today to help not just survive the tween years, but also enjoy them. here are the amazing tips they have given to me.

five ways to survive your son's tween years

1) keep your son busy. 

this may seem ridiculously simple but it is much more difficult than it seems. this is the first time in my son's life when idle time is truly the devil's playground. it is work to keep him off of electronic devices all day long. bored tweens and teens will find some way to get into trouble or to try things that they otherwise would not. i have had to encourage him to join a sport, play an instrument, join a club or get more involved in our church youth group. keeping my son busy solves more problems than i ever thought it would.

2) find activities that you both enjoy. 

my son may be horrible at expressing it, but he needs me in his life. he probably needs me more now than he did as an young child. he needs me to be interested in his life and to find time to spend with him, preferably time that is enjoyable for both of us. my son likes to read so i've introduced him to some books that we can read simultaneously. we read, we get in some short conversations and we go about our days. it's not much but it is a connection between the two of us. he also loves all of the t.v. shows involving comic book characters. i know more about the arrow and flash than i ever thought i would. they are shows that definitely are only suitable for my oldest son in our house so watching those shows has become something we do without the interruption of everyone else in the house. one on one time has become priceless with him and it communicates my love for him more now than it ever has before. 

3) be aware of who they are with, what they watch, and what they say.

i know that my son is trying to assert his independence more and more but he is only eleven. he is not in college yet. while i still have some control over the matter, i'm going to watch what he sees on television. i'm going to keep the computers in a location where i can see what is being searched. i'm going to look up search histories. i'm going to meet his friends and know who he spends time with. if that means that i have a stocked fridge and a place for them to come, then so be it. i'm going to check his phone and look at his texts. i'm going to know what is going on. he may get frustrated with my involvement in these things but while i still can, i'm taking it on as a very real part of my job in raising him. 

4) lavish them with praise and affection (even when they say they don't want it).

i noticed around the middle of this school year, my son stopped coming up and giving me a hug when he got home from school. it took me a couple of days to notice it and then i decided i'd have none of it. i make him get and give a hug to and from me everyday. my son needs affection. he may not think he does, but he really needs it. i'm going to keep on hugging him. i'll kiss him goodnight. i'll still rub his back when i walk past him. he needs to have affection from me so he is not starving for it and looking for it elsewhere. he also needs my compliments. there is already a shift in middle school where there is a very real struggle to fit in and to be cool. there is an overabundance of insecure kids looking for affirmation. i need to be a real source of that affirmation at home. this is really hard for me. i find myself irritated at my son more than i'm happy with him but i have to make a conscious effort to overcompensate with praise. again, my son is desperate for it. i want to pour into him so he does not feel quite the need to search for his affirmation elsewhere.

5) be consistent with discipline. 

my friend today reminded me that we are not supposed to be our kid's best friend. that may come later but right now, they still need us to parent. that means doing the really hard discipline. it is very difficult to be the disciplinarian to a tween...because you can see the anger on their faces and the temporary walls that go up when discipline is given. still, it is necessary. my son purchased some in-app purchases on his iphone without asking and we got an unpleasant iTunes bill. every app was wiped from his phone and he is paying us back with manual labor every weekend until every cent is accounted for. i have one friend whose son has to run a mile when he needs to be removed from the house. he has to run to a pre-determined half mile marker, take a picture of it and run home. i love this for so many reasons. they now, more than ever, need to understand that there are consequences for their behavior, both good and bad. i would rather my son get mad at me for making him detail my car than have him get fired from a job for being disrespectful to an employer. i'm counting on him thanking me one day.

most importantly, parents, remember you are not alone. 

i see moms of tween and teen boys who look about to break but they don't share what they are feeling with other moms. trust me, you are not alone in your struggles. i'm trying to be honest with my friends who are other moms of boys. i want to hear their stories and i want to see what has worked. most importantly, i want the camaraderie of motherhood to help me to laugh through this time. i love my oldest to pieces but some days are hard. i have a handful of friends who will stand by me and walk with me right through the darkest moments. that vulnerability forges lifelong friendships for me and perspective for me as a mother. i need both of those desperately. i will make it through these days and you will too. we just have to stick together.

xo- genelle

Friday, April 17, 2015

are all family traditions worth keeping?

family traditions have always been something i valued and wanted to create and share with my own little family. we have "pancake saturdays" as well as "friday pizza and movie nights". wednesday night, I was in my own self-inflicted sweatshop hell because of one of these traditions. 

in what feels like a lifetime ago, i was a stay-at-home mama with a flare for perfectionism. when my first born turned one, i made him the cutest "1" appliqué t-shirt and it was a hit. so, clearly i started a tradition and have made a #2 shirt and so on.... and so on.... as the years have flown by. when my second one came along, i continued the tradition and then (like a crazy-person) upped the anty and decided that a number shirt alone wouldn't suffice. nope. why not add a hoodie to the tradition? And why stop at just one number placement?! who would do that?! let's put one number on the front and yet another on the back?! crazy town. 

the past few months have been amazingly crazy. lots of fun, big changes in our family as a whole and for my life individually. early wednesday morning, my youngest came into my room and curled up with me in bed. (let's stop here for a moment to take that wonderfulness in. the snuggles. the older the boys get, the more I am holding onto these moments). the little man was going to be turning 5 the next day, so with his upcoming birthday on his mind the conversation went something like this....

little man: "mooommy, i know what you're getting me for my birthday...." (in a sing-songy voice). 

me:  "you do?" (thinking....*crap* please say that i ordered the right thing on amazon....).

little man: "yep. a #5 t-shirt and sweatshirt, silly. i can't wait!"

me: "you are one smart cookie".  

in my head I was panicking. i had not made a #5 anything. and now, with his birthday the following day there was no time to order one.....that's why i am 2 *in the morning*.....sewing away in my own personal sweatshop. i want to make my little ones dreams come true and to carry on a tradition that i am currently cursing and kicking myself for even starting. at what point are they going to stop caring about traditions?! are we thinking double digits?! (please, 

what traditions did you start that you sort of wish you hadn't? please, tell me I'm not alone in this.......please?!

xo- heather

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

caring for my poor, poor pets

my poor pets

my life is crazy. most days with five kids, i feel like i'm barely treading water, let alone setting any speed records. a few years ago....i somehow (through a moment of weakness) decided we needed to add pets to our already crazy equation. a friend of ours was fostering some of the cutest little hair ball kittens you ever have seen. one look at those little puffs of fur with eyes and i was a goner. the miracle really occurred when my husband actually agreed to take on the fur babies. he's pretty hard hearted when it comes to adding more responsibility to our already insane lives so our cats have no idea how fortunate they are that they are a part of our family.

these little furry creatures are, happily, a part of our lives. i am probably the luckiest pet owner on the planet because they are two of the easiest animals ever. they love cuddling with my kids, they get their drinking water from the faucet and they eat out of one enormous dog food bowl that we keep perpetually stocked with an over abundance of cat food. honestly, if they were any easier, i think i wouldn't even know they were here. i have to do very little to look after them ( husband has kitty litter duty so he might have a slightly different story.) other than the happy job of petting them when they are nearby and vacuum up their ridiculous amounts of fur (yes, hair ball kittens make hair ball cats...just fyi), i do very little to take care of my cats. let's face it, my fifth born child has to pretty much fend for himself. he gets his own snacks, pees on occasion in the backyard, and has to tell me when he is tired. if he has to do all of that, then these poor kitties have had to learn really early on that they were essentially the sixth and seventh born in this family. they have to make their needs known to me. even then, i squeeze in most of the cat attention when i'm in bed for the night and can finally sit still for a few minutes. i feel bad that i cannot devote more time to my fur babies but there is only so much of me to go around.

decreasing the pet-owner guilt

when rachael ray introduced the new zero grain whitefish dry cat food, i thought, "well, at least i can feed them well." we have been big nutrish cat food lovers for over a year now. my cats are happy and healthy and they run when they hear a new bag being opened. 

i don't know if my cats noticed the difference between their previous nutrish cat food and the new zero grain cat food but i felt good knowing that they were getting the best in quality ingredients in their food. zero grain cat food has no grains, glutens or's like the gluten free diet for your pets. i am very fortunate that my cats are tolerant of grains in their food but i know of many other pet owners who have to adhere to a strict diet where their pets are concerned and this cat food is exactly what their cats have needed. while we may not medically need zero grain cat food, we know that it is a healthy option for our cats, even without dietary restrictions.  

i also love looking at the ingredient listed in the nutrish zero grain cat food and knowing that my cats are getting whole, pure ingredients that i would enjoy eating myself.  real whitefish is the #1 ingredient. whitefish is a tasty and highly digestible protein that helps to maintain strong muscles and helps minimize litter box odors. now, i've already mentioned that i don't do the littler box...that's my husband's domain. (i frankly have dealt with enough of my kid's poop to last more than one husband can have the kitty poop!) still, i don't want to live in a house with a stinky litter box so "all hail the whitefish!" it also has zero meat or poultry by-product meal and zero artificial preservatives, colors or flavors. i can feel good about that!

i'm going to be honest. there is not enough of me to go around and i often feel guilty that i'm not able to spread myself around more to my children. when i add my little cats to the mix, i just heap on pet owner guilt on top of it all. all i can do is my best and trust that everyone, including my cats, will turn out all right. the fur babies seem very happy and i like knowing that, while i may not be able to dote on them as much as i would like to, i can give them the best food i can find and the most attention i am able to give. the great thing is that they don't seem to mind my shortcomings and their love is unconditional. that alone brings me joy and encourages me to keep giving in whatever ways i can because it is always worthwhile.

why we love nutrish:

in 2007, with help from pet nutrition experts, rachael ray created *nutrish* ultra-premium food and treats for dogs. in 2014, they grew the brand into the world of cat food. whether intended for dogs or cats, nutrish recipes are made with simple natural ingredients and do not contain meat or poultry by-product meal or fillers. real meat is the #1 ingredient in their cat food and all recipes were inspired by rachael’s kitchen. beyond just the amazing ingredients in nutrish, we love that rachael's personal proceeds go to *rachael’s rescue*, created to help shelter pets. as of today, over $9 million has gone toward food, medical supplies and treatments for animals in need. my own sweet cats are rescue cats so this project holds a special place in our hearts. their products are also extremely easy to find in stores like target, walmart and amazon. i frequent those stores several times a week, truly, so this makes shopping for my cat's needs that much more simple. 

if you haven't tried nutrish for your pet, consider making the switch today. you won't regret it. also, please take a moment to follow rachael ray's nutrish on each of these social media outlets to hear all of the newest developments with the pet food line and *rachael's rescue*. 

Saturday, April 4, 2015

5 ways to avoid spring cleaning

i hate spring cleaning. i hate it so much, i have decided to boycott it all together. i'm not sure who came up with the concept, but i'm fairly certain there was something wrong with them. when the sun finally comes out after a cold, dark winter full of sickness passed from one child to another, all i want to do is be outside. i want the sun on my back, dirt under my nails and fresh air in my lungs. in spite of the pollen, i want my windows wide upon and stagnant air blown away. i want my kids running around outside so much that they can barely keep their eyes open at night from worn out exhaustion. i want kids with dirty faces, skinned knees, and bumps and bruises from playing as hard as they can. i want to enjoy the perfect weather of springtime. cleaning will just have to wait. 

still, i don't want my house to be completely out of control when i walk back through the doors. so, here are my ways to cheat spring cleaning and postpone it for another day.

1) keep the laundry going.

(clearly, i need to take my own advice. this is what happens when you don't keep up with the laundry...)

with five kids, one day skipping laundry can alter the equilibrium of the household. i have to keep the laundry going even if i don't have the time to fold the clothes right away. i bought some of the collapsible laundry baskets used by college students the world over and i fill them with clean laundry as the day goes on. in the evening when the sun has set, i can sit and fold laundry while i'm watching a t.v. show. the clothes might be wrinkled but at least they are clean. my thought is that my kids would probably prefer wrinkled, clean underwear to no underwear at all.

2) keep the sink full of soapy water.

my sink is perpetually full of soapy water. as a dish gets dirty, i drop it in (or have the kids do the dropping). at the end of the day, either myself, my husband or one of the kids can take ten minutes and load the dishwasher full of all the dishes from the day. i can run the washer overnight and empty it first thing in the morning. it may not be pretty, but it keeps the dirty dishes from overtaking the kitchen counter.

3) put the minions to work.

this one only works once your kids get to a certain age. still, my three and five year olds can get some jobs done along with my older three. my kids dust, vacuum, clean bathrooms, sort laundry, empty the dishwasher, and generally do the work that i would have to. they know that the weekends involve a list of chores before they can go outside and play. with a little help from them while i'm switching over the laundry or doing some dishes, the house can stay manageable until a rainy spring day comes and we are all forced inside. i also try to clean one room each day. if i can dust and vacuum even one room a day, by the end of the week, everything looks manageable.

4) take advantage of rainy days.

there are plenty of rainy days during springtime. on those rainy moments, it is time to bust into hyper cleaning mode. the kids don't have anywhere to be when it rains either so it is a house wide cleaning frenzy. this is when bit projects can be tackled: closets can be cleaned, windows washed, drawers organized. sometimes these days are few and far between. i've decided that rain is a sign that the big jobs need to wait another day.

5) find some scented candles and air fresheners that scream "spring"

my house is not going to be spotless in the springtime. it's just not. kids are running in and out all day, pollen is coming in through the windows, dirt is coming in from shoes. it's just life with five active kids. i want it that way. still, i don't want my house smelling of stale clothes or sweaty shoes. i have found a ton of inexpensive, lovely smelling candles and air fresheners that make my house smell fresh and inviting all spring long. i have even been able to find the products in the air care aisle of my favorite super stores. they do not break the bank and they are an enticing way to make my house smell clean and fresh, even when spring cleaning is not on the top of my priority list. do you know that smell you recognize when you walk into someone's freshly cleaned house? these scents remind me of that smell...only without the cleaning. that is a definite win in my book. i can enjoy my time outdoors and return to a house that welcomes me in with the smells of springtime.

do you spring clean at your house? how do you manage to keep things clean when the outdoors beckons? for me? the 80 degree weather is calling my name and plants are calling to be put in the ground so thoughts of cleaning will have to wait for a rainy day.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

everything i needed to know i learned from audrey hepburn

audrey hepburn is my girl crush. she was a classy, timeless, beautiful, charitable woman and she had such grace and wisdom. i love her and these words of truth that have helped to inspire and guide me over the years.  xo- heather

“for beautiful eyes, look for the good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone.”

"make up can only help you look pretty on the outside...."

“…i believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong. i believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls. i believe that tomorrow is another day and i believe in miracles.”

“people, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. “

“i have to be alone very often. i’d be quite happy if i spent from saturday night until monday morning alone in my apartment. that’s how I refuel.“

“pick the day. enjoy it - to the hilt. the day as it comes. people as they come… the past, i think, has helped me appreciate the present - and i don’t want to spoil any of it by fretting about the future. “

“i heard a definition once: happiness is health and a short memory! i wish i’d invented it, because it is very true.“

“i love people who make me laugh. i honestly think it’s the thing I like most, to laugh. it cures a multitude of ills. it’s probably the most important thing in a person. “

“the most important thing is to enjoy your life - to be happy - it’s all that matters.“

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

mmmmm: arroz cubano

the south american back story:

my husband and i lived in south america for five years. we had our three oldest kids while we were living abroad and there were many, many things we loved about our time there. it is a treasured time in our lives. 

while there, we had a housekeeper that came and helped us each day. before you pictures scenes from "the help," it is actually very much a part of the culture where we lived and it is seen as disrespectful *not* to hire someone when you are able to employ a person and help them financially. it was from one of these amazing domesticas that we learned the recipe below. it's full of butter, butter and more butter but that is what makes it absolutely delicious. it's a one dish meal and it makes everyone in my family happy around the table. we serve it with a salad and call it done for the night. it is, ironically, called arroz cubano (cuban rice) though it was made by a colombian woman to a fun loving group of americans. it manages to bring back delicious memories of a time gone by. 

arroz cubano (cuban rice):


1/2 cup butter
2 red bell peppers, seeded and sliced thinly
1 large white onion, sliced (or one bag of chopped frozen onions)
1 cup sliced mushrooms

4 large boneless/skinless chicken breasts
5 cups chicken stock (or 5 cups of water with 5 chicken bouillon cubes)
3 cloves minced garlic
2 tablespoons worcestershire sauce

2 cups rice
1 cup raisins
1 cup butter

2 cups parmesan cheese


place the chicken breasts, chicken stock or water with bouillon, garlic and worcestershire sauce in a large pot and bring to a boil. boil over medium heat for about 10-15 minutes. remove from heat. 

while the chicken is cooking, place the raisins and 1 cup of butter in a large sauce pan. sauté on medium-low heat until the raisins plump up and the butter turns a nice golden brown. do not attempt to cook the raisins on high heat as they will develop a very bitter flavor. add the rice to this mixture and continue to cook until the rice is golden brown as well. 

after the rice has browned, add four cups of the chicken stock/seasoned water to the rice mixture. there will be garlic pieces mixed in with the water and that is perfect. stir in the rice mixture and reduce the heat to low. cook uncovered until all the liquid is absorbed.

remove the chicken from the remaining water mixture but do not discard the water/stock. place the chicken on a cutting board and shred or chop the chicken into bite sized pieces.

in a deep skillet, sauté the bell peppers, onions and mushrooms in 1/2 cup butter over medium heat. cook until the onions are translucent and all the vegetables are tender. remove from heat and add the chicken to the vegetable mixture and mix well.

spray an extra large casserole dish with non-stick spray. layer half of the rice, half of the chicken and vegetables mixture, and half of the cheese in the bottom of the dish. repeat the layers and top with the remaining cheese. bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.


Friday, February 27, 2015

taking deep breaths

its has been a rough end to december through the new year for heather and i. my grandmother passed away. my brother and sister were both diagnosed with new illnesses. heather has had some major wonderful ups and crappy downs. one thing after another, the hits kept coming. our phone calls to one another were full of heavy sighs and heavy talking sessions. if #thisis40, then we might want a refund. the good news is that we are still standing. we are still taking one step after another in 2015 and we are expecting things to look up from here. and the best part...we don't have to go it alone. we have each other and an army of other people walking this road with us. 

still, we've had to recalibrate these past couple of months. we have learned over the last 40 years that it is okay to put things on hold. it is okay to say "no" and emails can indeed wait another day. we understand that even something as important as the blog is to us is not more important than our well being. so, we are good, wise even, to put it in its proper place and take care of ourselves if we need to. we are take deep breaths, to be kind to ourselves, to give as much grace to ourselves as we would give to others. it's not easy but we are learning.

and here we are. we are still adjusting, still grieving, still trying to wrap our heads around everything but we are taking our time about it. can we just say one thing? whatever you may be going through, whether big or small, you have permission to take care of yourself. there may be very few people who are cheering for you to take care of yourself, but we certainly are. whatever you sit alone at a coffee shop, to read a good book, to skip chores or work for a day to just "be"...whatever that looks like, we are cheering you on to take it. we are hoping for you that you take time to make yourself a priority on occasion and even spoil yourself. we have done some of that these past months and there is nothing like it. 

and we are able to come back and rejoin our blogging world so much better for it. thanks for your patience and for giving us the grace that you may not have even realized you were giving. we appreciate you. xo

Friday, January 30, 2015

5 tips for increasing your family's security in the new year

right before christmas, my brother had his car stolen. in it was his laptop and on it was all of his saved banking information, security information, and all pertinent facts regarding his life. over the past month, he has had to fight with countless banks, credit cards, passport offices and a bounty of other establishments in order to get his life back to normal and to get his identity back. he has been working exhaustedly for weeks now but the psychological effects of something like this taking place are taking its toll.

with a husband in law enforcement, my eyes have been opened to hidden dangers over the last 15 years. we sit at certain tables in restaurants so that we have a clear view of the door and the rest of the establishment. i notice exits everywhere we go. everything is password and security protected. we are, in two words, extremely careful.

when i first started dating my husband, i was surprised that one of his night time adventures out with his job involved picking up bags of trash on garbage day. once garbage is put on the curb, it is no longer your property and can be confiscated by whomever decides to pass by, including law enforcement personnel who are looking for evidence.

the same fact applies to anyone else wanting to find easy information on you or your family. in one bag of trash, someone can find my phone bill with my cell phone numbers clearly and easily readable, papers with my children's names on them including their approximate ages, insurance forms with some medical history, the list is really endless. when i think of the information someone could gather just from going through my trash, i am quickly sobered.

a new year is a great time to stop and evaluate some of the not-so-safe practices of the past and improve them for the future. here are some simple things you can do to keep your family safe.

1) password protect everything. 

this may be a hassle on your computer or your phone and, in reality, if someone is smart enough they can get around your passwords. still, having those safeguards in place may be just enough of a deterrent to discourage someone from taking your things.

2) shred everything. 

we recently were given a new amazing shredder from the lovely people at fellows. i love many things about it. first, i won't purchase a shredder unless it cuts in a crisscross shedding pattern which makes reconstructing what i have shredded virtually impossible. it has fantastic safety features. my absolutely favorite feature is the sensor which detects fingers that are near the entrance of the shredder the sensor or "safe sense" stops the shredding process and then if the fingers are not moved, shuts the machine off. it is such peace of mind knowing that the many little hands in my house cannot be damaged by a shredder. i am very careful of my little people but i cannot be everywhere at once and this shredder keeps an eye on my little people's hands when i cannot. 

the shredder is also powerful. it has the ability to shred a large number of papers at once making my shredding job less time consuming. i don't know about you but i'm less likely to do any job that takes me a long time. it also has a sensor that tells you how many sheets you have and what the limit is. if there are too many papers that you are trying to shred at once, it will stop and not let you proceed. that feature makes this shredder virtually jam-proof. it is the only shredder i will ever need.

i have come to understand the importance of shredding everything...every credit card invitation, every bill, everything with my personal information attached. i don't know what someone might be looking for but i can ensure they will not find it in my papers.

3) keep your children's names off of their personal belongings. 

i see the monogramed names on children's backpacks and i cringe. the same goes for lunch boxes and other items as well. when we put our children's names on their property, we are broadcasting to the world their names and giving potential predators all the information they might need to get an "in" with our children. anonymity to strangers is always an advantage.

4) watch what is on and in your cars. 

it doesn't matter how quickly you will be in and out of a place, never store valuables or even perceived valuables where they can be seen through a car window. if there are 100 cars in a parking lot, predators will chose the car with extra loot inside. keep everything out of sight and lock your doors. this may not keep everyone away but it can deter those who are actively looking.

along with watching what is in your cars, watch what you put on your cars. bumper stickers, window stickers, and magnets give away a ridiculous amount of information. little stick figures on your window tell how many children are in your car, what their approximate ages are, their hobbies, family pets. very few people would walk up to a stranger and tell them, "hey, i have three kids, two boys and a girl. the girl is the baby. we head to gymnastics a few times a week and they play soccer. if you follow me, i can show you where i live." we wouldn't do that to strangers and yet we happily put it on our cars for everyone to see. information in the hands of strangers is never a good idea.

5) get to know your neighbors. 

one night in our neighborhood, a car with four men came into our neighborhood in order to try to break into cars that were unlocked. fortunately for us and unfortunately for them, our neighborhood is tight (and full of nursing mothers and late night workers who are constantly keeping a watch for suspicious characters.) within minutes of the car entering the 'hood, someone posted on our neighborhood page that shady people were in the neighborhood and the police had been called. there was literally a minute to minute update of where people were and what was happening, what car was being driven and where it had stopped the police were able to arrest those involved in the robberies and the stolen property was returned to the proper people. when a small child in our neighborhood wandered off, within minutes 20 people were out looking. knowing your neighbors is not just a good idea if you need to borrow an egg or a cup of sugar. knowing your neighbors is a smart idea for the safety of your family. we have an army of people looking out for our kids and our home. that is always a good idea.

whatever you do to increase the safety of your family this year, small steps truly matter. i don't want to be paranoid but i also don't want to miss an opportunity to protect those i love. what about you? what steps are you taking this year to help increase the security of those you love the most?

Monday, December 29, 2014

genelle: 40 things i learned in 40 years

this is the month. both heather and i jumped over into a new decade. i thought i'd be upset by this milestone but i'm surprisingly confident. i've learned a few things in my first four decades. here are my top 40.

1) 40 is young. really, truly young.

2) it's okay to say "no." it's also okay to say "no" without explaining your reasons.

3) jobs, chores, checklists will all still be there tomorrow. people need you to invest in them today. you can tell your priorities by how you choose to spend your time.

4) videos of your parents and grandparents as well as your kids as babies are among the things you will grab if there is ever a fire in your house. make sure you have them.

5) i will never regret getting an education, whether it be college or grad school, it's always worth while...even if just to shock all the people who think stay at home moms are stupid but telling them you have more education than they do.

6) "you can dance if you want to, you can leave this world behind" is just what you'll need to do some days. dancing it out is some of the best therapy you can find.

7) there is no modesty after childbirth. it's like a circus side show and everyone is invited.

8) you can actually choose to be joyful. feelings are followers. they will usually go where you tell them to go.

9) judgmental people are not worth your time. they are also some of the most insecure people you will ever meet. it's best to avoid them and their opinions of you and others. 

10) a dirty house can mean that you take time to spend with your kids. it can also mean that you sat around in your pajamas all day and watched tv. no one but your kids will know the difference.

11) God is real. 

12) you will never live up to all the expectations of others. you can choose to wear those expectations like a chain around your neck or you can shake those expectations off (thank you, taylor swift) and just be.

13) marriages require work. period. anyone who believes in the fairy tales and a simple "happily ever after" is setting themselves up for failure. a good marriage takes work.

14) a good marriage is worth the work.

15) nobody wants to go out to eat with someone who only eats a side salad. no one. order something delicious and say "mmmmm" with every bite. people will love going out to eat with you.

16) compliments make people's days. compliment strangers. compliment friends. compliment your spouse. compliment your kids. compliment yourself.

17) styles change. i don't care how cool you think you are right now, one day you will look back at pictures of yourself and cringe at your style choices while also saying, "dang...i was hot back then."

18) i don't feel much older than 25. my outsides look older but my insides feel young and free. it's the inside age that matters.

19) laundry will never be done. the house will never be completely clean. the to-do list will never be finished. embrace it. it's a beautiful mess.

20) surround yourself with people who make you laugh, really laugh. laughter is good for the soul.

21) there are some friendships that will grow apart as years go by but your siblings will be with you until you die. it's good to invest in those relationships too.

22) your spouse was never meant to meet all your emotional needs. 

23) perfection is unattainable. grace is not.

24) a good book is like escaping into another world. it is a way to disappear into something altogether different if only for a few moments. 

25) we are our own worst critics. we need to be more kind to ourselves, to be brave enough to get in the pictures with our kids, and have a tough enough skin to laugh at our mistakes.

26) smart phones and computers do not meet emotional needs. 

27) there is something special about those friends who have known you forever. they know your history and your story that would take years to retell. those friendships are worth keeping alive.

28) there is a wealth of wisdom in countless disney movies. "let it go" and "just keep swimming" are honestly profound words to live by.

29) learning how to manage the money you have is one of the greatest lessons you will ever learn. (the money that you have does not include your credit limit).

30) the world is so, so small. see as much of it as you possibly can. 

31) too many women complain about sex with their spouses. sex is awesome. orgasms are awesome. connecting with your spouse is awesome (and necessary). it's time wives give sex a better reputation.

32) i will always be glad i learned to type, speak a foreign language and play a musical instrument. those three things have opened entire worlds for me. 

33) your kids will both do what you do and say what you say. it's best to watch both.

34) hair dye is a gift from the heavens above.

35) a cup of tea and an hour of quiet can make you a better person.

36) i'm a good parent. i'm not a perfect parent...but i'm a good parent. learn to say that to yourself. 

37) girlfriends are an absolutely essential commodity. they are more precious than gold.

38) no one wants to be around a complainer.

39) you cannot put a price on experiences. put money in exploring and not in things. things break. experiences last a lifetime. 

40) you are uniquely created for this time and this place and your specific purpose. your life does not need to look like anyone else's. there is only one you. we are supposed to look and be different. embrace being different.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

heather: 40 things i've learned in 40 years

today is my 40th birthday. (how the heck am i 40 already?!). through all of the ups and downs, i wouldn't have changed a thing. every joy and sorrow has taught me so much. i feel so very thankful for every person that has come into my life and helped mold me into the person that i am truly happy to be today. 

here are 40 things that i have taken away from my life, thus far.

1. life is short. too short. appreciate it.

2. peanut butter and chocolate is a perfect duo.

3. show grace.

4. it's just as important to take time for yourself as it is to be there for everyone else. (remember: put the oxygen mask on yourself before helping others.)

5. be kind.....and when it's hardest to be kind....well, that is when it is most important.

6. change is the only constant in life.

7. there is only one person that you spend your whole life with, and that is yourself. learn to really love yourself.

8. don't drive around looking for a good parking spot. just park in the back and walk.

9. be humble.

10. life is so very subjective.

11. forgive. forgiveness truly is a gift that you give yourself.

12. happiness is not permanent. neither is unhappiness. so cherish the good times, and remember the bad times will nemo says, "just keep swimming".

13. learn how to see yourself in someone else's shoes. compassion and understanding are learned behaviors. practice.

14. talk less, listen more.

15. diamonds are most certainly not a girl's best friend.

16. "people won't remember exactly what you said, or what you did, but they will always remember how you made them feel."

17. the answer said with love in it is always the right one.

18. storms don't last forever.

19. christmas music played year-round makes me happier than just about anything.

20. everything seems so much clearer when you look back on it all. hindsight really is 20/20.

21. there is no such thing as being perfect. embrace the perfectly imperfect. "be yourself; everyone else is taken."

22. you are stronger and more capable of things then you think. take a chance. do something that scares you. you may be surprised at the outcome.

23. tell the truth. always.

24. trust your gut. stay true to yourself. people almost always show you who they really just have to be the one to accept it as truth.

25. the laundry will never be 100% done.....unless you are doing laundry naked.

26. to be happy in a relationship, you have to be happy with yourself first.

27. life really is like a choose your own adventure book. make the best choices you know how to....who knows how long the book will be, the adventures you will have or how it will end.....but, the choices? they are all yours to make.

28. karma is real.

29. never miss an opportunity to build someone may stay with them their entire life. never take the opportunity to tear someone may stay with them their entire life.

30. 40 is much, much younger then i once thought it was.

31. relationships are important and the really great ones take work.

32. even if you’ve fought to hold onto something......sometimes it’s just time to let it go.

33. travel.

34. learn to accept a complement. it's important. (i'm still really trying to work on this).

35. people are usually not the same at 18 as they are as an adult. go to your high school reunion with an open mind. you may be surprised.

36. be real. the more honest and open you are with the realities of your life, the more honest and open people will be with you.

37. most people deserve a second chance.

38. you have to let go of the bad, in order to make room for the good.

39. as elsa says..."let it go".....tomorrow truly is another day.....

40. your yesses and your nos, verbal or otherwise, teach people how to treat you.

40 years have been pretty darn good....but i can't wait to see what the next 40 hold. i'm thinking the best really is yet to come.