Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Good bye, 2013!

Hard to believe another year has passed us by. People are always telling me the older you get the faster time goes. That is seriously no joke. As much as I'm always looking ahead with anxiety or excitement or planning for this or that, time could seriously slow down. I sometimes dread the long haul of winter after the holidays because it feels like the long drag of the school year, it dark and cold outside, and sometimes I think I have that seasonal depression disorder because it s just too slow and boring for me. For those that know me well know I don't do boring or even relaxing very well. I am a go go, how busy can I be person. But I'm also realizing the busier we are the faster time seems to go so I ve decided I'm okay with this winter taking her sweet time. So 2014 might start out kind of boring over here at Time with A & N. I'm sure it can only be so boring with my two kiddos though.

2013 was a stressful but good year. We finally made the move we had been hoping for for three years. Nate completed his coursework and passed his test for his masters degree and Adm certification. We started our ninth year of teaching in Maryland, year 10 for me total. We each found our way back to the hobbies that have been our passions forever but had abandoned the last few years by each starting our own websites. Mine of course is this one and his is his photography site at Point Click Capture Photography. We both earned a little extra money with them and hope to see that continue in 2014.

The girls are of course our biggest pride & joy of 2013. Who knew you could love someone so much that can still drive you so absolutely crazy!? Averi has become quite the big girl and she is such a HUGE help with her little sister. Kenzi adores her and looks up to her so much. They both love the outdoors, coloring, going to the library, dolls and barbies and everything girlie. Averi has really started to improve a lot with her gymnastics this year and will get o move up a class in 2014 and Kenzi will be starting as well in the next month or so. They keep us busy and on our toes but I wouldn't have it any other way.

We're looking forward to 2014 as I see it being another big year for us with Nate hopefully getting a new promoted job, Averi starting kindergarten, and Kenzi making that transition from toddler to little girl (insert sad momma face here) as I expect her to conquer potty training, sleeping in a big girl bed, and becoming more of a talker as she works her way towards three, and maybe starting the planning for the last and final Glenn baby. I don't look for it to make an appearance in 2014 but maybe more of a decision on if and when. Overall, it's been a great year for us here and we have much to be thankful for as we close this year and move towards a new one.

So as we wind down the 2013 school year, I thought I would take a moment to not just reflect but reshare the Time with A & N's Top 20 posts of 2013. Here are the first 10. I will share the Top 10 later.

#20 is  Did you Shave Your Legs for This? This was a post inspired by husbands and those things they just say that maybe they shouldn't.

#19 is Wife vs Mother A look at the battle of maintaining the role of wife when taking on motherhood.

#18 is Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus Comparison A comical look at how we really are SOOOO different.

#17 is Mother to Mother As mothers we are our harshest critics.

#16 is Maybe not one of My Finer Parenting Moments Just one of many mom fail moments over here.

#15 is I love my kids but you know you think about it too!!! Just another day of chaos in the Glenn house but you know I'm not alone!

#14 is The Journey to Loving Two Different Children a serious look at loving multiple children the same.

#13 is Hey, Coach, you Missed the Call a post about sweet dear old dad.

#12 is 5 Rules to Enforce after Cleaning the House. I think all moms should print this one out and hang it on their fridge. HAHA

#11 is The College Expense Debate Everyone loves a good argument. Is this one in your household?

The Top 10 Post will have a year in review of pictures. But here they are playing dress up.


Sunday, December 29, 2013

Roots and Wings

Have you ever wanted two wanted two things at the same time that was impossible to have because you could only have one or the other? This is where I ve found myself lately. I love Maryland and how Nate and I have made it our home. I love that we take our girls camping in the mountains and to the beach every summer because it s less than three hours away. I love our friends out there. Our career lives have been built out there. We ve built a life out there.

But the shadow of doubt that hangs too close reminds me how they only get to see their grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins two to three times if they re lucky a year. I think of all the ball games and kids events my parents will miss seeing. I think about how they re missing the opportunity to grow up with the kids of my closest childhood friends. I think how I wouldn't have to pick and choose which big life events I can make it back for.

I keep thinking as the kids get older it will be easier to say good bye. I don't remember it being this hard when I was out there for four years with no kids.

The anticipation of going home is always like reliving the anticipation of Christmas morning as a little kid. Being far from home I feel has given me such an appreciation for time and making it count. I always worry if I'm telling someone good bye for the last time, particularly my aging grandparents and I see my mother going through this now with her own mother that lives about 1000 miles away. But as much as some think just move back it s never that simple; just as it wasn't to leave in the first place. I ve always believed we choose the paths we choose for a reason so we shall see.

It is a tug of war of emotions that only those that are always say goodbye as they go from one family home to the next can understand. I read a quote recently by Hodding Carter that said "There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One is roots and the other is wings." But because one is so deep I will always question how far and for how long should I  go.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Thankful for Great Grandparents

Over the past three weeks my girls have been fortunate enough to have their nana, my husband's grandmother, down visiting and helping. This is the fourth time she's come down for a month or so since our oldest daughter was born.

Each time she's here with us for a month or so, I am so thankful. Not just because an extra pair of hands is a HUGE help, but because my daughters have had the opportunity to spend time and get to know their great grandmother so well. I know they have created lasting memories with her, especially my oldest daughter.  My younger daughter will hopefully have lasting memories too as she gets old enough to maintain more memories.

Grandparents are great at spoiling our children but there is so much more our children get from having a chance to know and spend time with their grandparents. As fortunate as some of us hopefully are to know our grandparents, some of us are even more fortunate to have the opportunity to know our great grandparents. I was very fortunate to have 20 years with my dad's grandmother, my Great Grandma C. To this day I still remember spending summer afternoons at her house helping her out with her yard work and cleaning, and then she would of course give us money to walk to the town ice cream shop to treat ourselves. I can still picture her silver hair and weathered hands and feel the softness of her cheeks from all the times we'd kiss her goodbye. Whenever Touched by an Angel comes or whenever a coworker would refer to my oldest daughter as MacGyver (a story in itself) I think of as I always remember these playing on her TV. I remember even at a  young age admiring her internal strength as she was not dealt the easiest cards in life. She lived through the death of all three of her children, two husbands, and one grandchild, but I remember her as positive and hopeful, always interested in hearing about our latest accomplishments and softball wins. She looked forward to seeing us and now even though there may have been a few days I didn't feel like going over there to help out or stopping by because I was a teen that thought I had more important things to do, I am so glad now that I spent so much time with her and have these lasting memories now.

My husband's grandmother reminds me a lot of my own great grandmother, and even though I felt I had a good relationship with my great grandmother, I feel that my girls have an even closer one with theirs even though we're five hours apart. As much as I think she's a great role model and inspiration to my girls, she is probably more so one to me than them at the moment. She raised three kids on her own in a time when single motherhood was pretty much unheard of. She was farther away from family than the 18 hours I am. At times she held down two jobs and provided for them on her own. She is almost 80 years old but an active woman set on her independence. I've always had an admiration for independent women and when I think of the women I admire and look up to in this age of the independent, determined woman of motherhood, she is and will always be one of the faces I see.

I think as women, and more so as mothers, as much as we want to be our own woman and each generation's journey is different, it is important to find the things we admire in the generations ahead of us. I think even recognizing the women and mothers we look up to is an important part of our own motherhood journeys.

For now I want to say I am so thankful for not only her role in my husband's life or even mine but that my children will have all these wonderful memories of this wonderful woman.

Averi and Kenzi with their Nana
Averi's name Averiella Lorenza is after her Nana whose first name is Lorenza even though she goes by Lorrie.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Childhood Things I Will Miss

There are some days I look forward to the days in the future  when my children will be more independent and self sufficient because this constant demand for mommy stage is exhausting. If it's not "Mommy, I need milk", it's "Mommy, come wipe my butt." It's "Mommy, read me another story. Mommy, she hit me. Mommy, write this for me. Mommy, I'm hungry. Mommy, I want this now. Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy." And on and on the list of demands goes. But as anxious as I am for them to wipe their own butts; feed themselves; tie their own shoes; be left in the car so I don't have to drag two kids out of their car seats just to run into a store for less than two minutes to get a galloon of milk; and to be able to go into a store with them without wondering is this going to be the moment they have an absolute meltdown in the store because I said no, there's an even bigger part of me that will miss so much more about these early years.

I am not a huge baby/infant fan. Most of the time I mention how if our third kid could come out at about age two that would be great. Infants and babies are cute and cuddly and it's nice that they don't move or get into things, but I love when they start to have their own individual personalities. Don't get me wrong I loved my daughters as babies but they were just like these little chubby logs with human features that cried and pooped a lot.

But as they move from infancy into their early childhood years, these are the things I will miss about these years that exhausted and stressed me out and pushed me to new limits.

I will miss my daughter telling her dad he is her prince.

I will miss them wrapping and gifting me their toys on my real and pretend birthday.

I will miss having a play doh meal served to me.

I will miss being their client while they put all 50 of their hair bows in my hair.

I will miss playing hide and seek and listening for their giggles to find them.

I will miss them happily eating leftovers while we eat carry out.

I will miss being able to make up lies and stories to get them to do something and they just believe them and obey.

I will miss them painting my toe nails and usually my toes too.

I will miss them wanting to hold my hand.

I will miss their random singing and dancing.

I will miss swinging on the swings with them.

I will miss rocking them to sleep.

I will miss them telling me they love me as much a big cow or whatever other grand object they can imagine in their little minds.

I will miss their innocence, the way only a child sees the beauty in the world.

I will miss the hilarious things that they miss pronounce like "Daddy, there's a deer. You can shoot it with your boner (bow)!)

I will miss the mischief they get into like covering their head in diaper cream like Daddy does with shaving cream when he goes to shave his head or putting make up and lip gloss all over their faces and sometimes hair.

There's so much to look forward to and so much to miss as it passes us by. For now, I hope to enjoy all these little precious moments and grit my teeth and bear the butt wiping and "I need you to do this right NOW!"  moments. I always hear from moms of older children that there's something different to love about every age. I should try to remember to do a list like this with their teenage years, but for now I have no wish to rush time.

Posts you might have missed

Give a Child a Childhood Worth Remembering

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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Give a Childhood worth Remembering

As I was grading papers this past weekend something was sadly brought to my attention. If it wasn't for a decade now in the classroom, I think I would still be naïve to this as an actual problem. I look around at my friends now as parents, my coworkers who are balancing parenthood with me, and the moms I've met in this virtual world we now live in, and I see the love and enjoyment they have in their children. I delight in seeing their pictures and hearing their stories of the time they've spent with their children whether it's now or memories of the past. This is the world I grew up in; it's the only kind of world I know how to raise my own children in. I surround myself with people that only know the same thing. We see our children as gifts from God, as something to treasure and mold with our love. Our love and the childhoods we give them is what molds them into the adults they become.

But there's another world teaching has opened my eyes to. It's a world where a child grows up feeling unloved because they're different, unloved because their parents love material objects more, unloved because their parent has an addiction they love more than their own child. it's a world where a child feels unloved because their father abandoned their family for another woman and her children, they feel unloved because they remind their mother of the man that she despises. I'm beginning to think I've read it all. It breaks my heart. Teaching gives me a window into others' lives and stories in a way I never imagined possible. Unfortunately, I've encountered more that break my heart than fill it with wonder. Their heartache and disappointment is so raw and real on the paper in which they write their stories. I often wonder do their parents know? Do they care?

Childhood is what shapes our hope, our perception of the world, our own visions for family and happiness. Imagine robbing that hope and magic from your childhood.

Unfortunately, the parents that need to read or hear this don't read this blog or probably any parenting blog for that matter. If they did, here is what I would say to them. Play with your child. Build something with blocks with them, roll around in the grass or snow with them, bake together, color together, play catch and go for walks together, cuddle with them even when they're too old, play hide and seek, make dinner together. Just be there for them. Encourage them in the things they do. Love them for who they are. Love them when they upset you. Help them understand it's okay to make mistakes and that there's beauty in their imperfections. Parenting is hard and we all make mistakes but all that is okay if we give them our unconditional love and time. So to those parents, I would say give your child the gift of a childhood worth remembering.

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Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Glenn Family Christmas Tree

We had grand plans to kick off the first of only two weekends between the traveling for the Thanksgiving holiday and traveling again for the Christmas holiday. In typical Glenn fashion we were of course running behind/late on everything. The main goal for Saturday was to get our family Christmas tree. The last time we ventured to a Christmas tree farm to cut our own tree, the ripped us off with a $90 crooked tree! And then it fell off the traverse going down the interstate at that. This trip was a lot less stressful and adventurous. Since we've moved last February there are now dozens of Christmas tree farms within ten miles of our house so we went to one that charged $40 any tree. I didn't want any checkbook surprises this year. We had to hike clear to the back to get to the big frasier firs that my husband loves with our 79 year old grandma (she's a trooper though!) and my two year old. We always realize later that bringing their wagon for something like this would have been a good idea. By the time we carted the tree back to the car we were all a little tired. Grandma because that's a long way to walk, Averi because she's four and that's a long way to walk, me because I was the one stuck carrying a two year old sack of potatoes aka Kenz. I think Nate had the easiest job because we just had to push the tree cart. We get to the car first and I tell him I'm going to get grandma and Kenz in the car. It was confirmed earlier this week after I completely failed a hearing test that I have some kind of hearing problem that I need to go get checked out so anyway this is relevant because I guess Nate told me he would need my help getting the tree back to the car after he paid.

Well, twenty minutes later while I'm sitting nice and cozy in the warm car, munching on animal crackers with grandma and Kenz, I look out the window to see Nate just standing there glaring at me. I'm thinking he'd been standing there waiting on me to get out of the car to help him put it on top of the car and I'm just sitting there eating crackers. Nope, he then informs me that he would need me to help him carry the tree because they leave the tree carts at the cashier after they pay. So he, with the help of a four year old, carried it all the way back to the car by himself. Whoops, guess maybe I should get that hearing checked.

Finally at seven o clock we get it home and up in the front window. We go to check all the lights, all five strands of them from last year, and NONE of them work. So an hour trip later and 8:30 dinner time, we are finally able to decorate our family Christmas tree a little before ten o clock at night. Who needs a bedtime when it's Christmastime? Poor Kenzer was a trooper. It was the first Christmas she's really been into decorating the tree but at 10:30 the poor girl was rubbing her eyes, asking for bed.

So our tree is up and decorated but we never got to our family Christmas movie marathon night so guess we'll do that next Saturday. Here's some pics of our family Christmas day.

                                               Dancing to Christmas songs as we decorate
                                                      Family time is complete with our Bettis.
                                                  Kenzi helping decorate the tree.

                                                       Our family Christmas tree complete.

Other Holiday Posts

Damn Elf on the Shelf

Why I Choose to Say Happy Holidays

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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Why I Choose to Say Happy Holidays

I heard something recently where someone was rather aggressive about emphasizing that it is Merry Christmas and not Happy Holidays. To me it is Happy Holidays but let me explain why.

First, this time of the year is for a lot of reflection and gratitude. It starts with Thanksgiving where we are all suppose to take time to reflect on all the things we have been blessed with in our lives. Some look forward to Christmas or Hanukkah to spead time with family and share their appreciation for family and friends with gifts. We all end the season with the ringing of the New Year, reflecting on the good and bad of the past year and looking forward to the next with new goals and ambition for change. That's a celebration of three holidays, within about five weeks,  that are all closely related with the idea of gratitude, appreciation, reflection, and family.

Second, I am somewhat sensitive to religious issues. As I stated before in my My Letter to God, I am often torn on my feelings towards religion. I am a very spirtual person who without a doubt believes in God. I feel that religion is rather a conceived idea by mankind to use the fear of God s power  to control the masses in which they wish to control; therefore, I doubt the truth of religous teachings. I don't mean anything towards those that believe otherwise, but we are all entitled our own beliefs, which is why I feel that Happy Holidays is more fitting for the wish for everyone, no matter their religious beliefs, to have all the wonderful wishes of the holiday season.

Third, this time of the year is for celebrating the joy in life and giving thanks to whomever we feel we owe that thanks to whether it be God, Jesus, or the family and friends the powers that be have blessed us with. Just because my friends or coworkers aren't Christian doesn't mean I don't wish them peace, joy, and love and all those other holiday well wishes this time of the year.

So no matter your religious preference, I wish you ALL a Happy Holiday Season!

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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Outgrowing Motherhood?!?

I've come to a couple conclusions lately about motherhood in the later years. This is not the result of my own short five years of mothering either.

First of all, as much as we all may want to escape our mothers' nagging, hovering, or any other annoying little thing that mothers do while we're growing up, that doesn't completely disappear because we grew up and moved out of the house or in my case halfway across the country. They still worry, they still stress about what we're doing and how we're doing. My parents have never been hoverers or helicopter parents at all, but they express their worry and concern here and there about things. 

Second of all, after you get married you go from one mother to two mothers. Now you have your own mother and your spouse's mother doing all that worrying and mothering stuff :)

Third, even as much as we may try to push them away during those trying, adolescent years, you're never too old to need your mama. As an adult, it has always surprised me all the times the best medicine would just be talking to my mama. Even though it may seem like a child never needs their mama as much as they did in those early years, I think the runner up for the next stage in life when we need our mamas the most is when we begin our own parenthood journey.

So I guess my final conclusion is as mothers we never outgrow motherhood and as children we never outgrow the need for our own mothers.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Thankful Post Round 2

So I'm awful. I've been working on this post for about a week which is why it's the 21st day of the month and I am now a full 7 days behind on my thankfuls. So here we go with round 2 of my thankfuls.

Thankful #8: Our dog, Bettis. He is nine years old today. Nate got him for our first Christmas so he has pretty much been with Nate and I since the beginning. His health has not been the greatest for about the last six months so I'm hoping this isn't our last celebrated birthday with him :( .

Thankful #9: I realized tonight I only have three more classes with my college freshmen class. Even though I took on teaching the class for some Christmas money and resume building, I have really truly LOVED teaching the class. It was such an awesome reminder of what I enjoy about teaching. So even though it definitely helped with the Christmas funds the enjoyment it gave back to me for a profession I was worried I was losing my passion for was really probably the biggest reward of taking on the extra hours and commitment these past three months.

Thankful #10: Home. I can't even begin to express how excited I am about going home in just four weeks. I haven't been home in almost a year, and the homesickness I've experienced in the last year really surprised me. It's crazy how you're in such a hurry to grow up and move on, but then you hit points later down the road where you really just want to go home to the people that  truly know and understand you and love you for all your good and crazy. Sometimes even though we're independent, grown people there's just something about the comfort of home that no other place can replace. So four weeks and I'm coming home!!!

Thankful #11: Modern day medicine and medical technologies.  I recently wrote about my aunt facing breast cancer. She had surgery on Monday for it and today her pathology reports came back negative, meaning they did not find anymore cancer!!! They caught it early and now it's just the road to recovery. Again, thanks to everyone for their thoughts and prayers.

Thankful #12: Health and wellbeing:  This is something I truly thank God for everyday. There are lots of stresses in life, but I can't imagine anything being more stressful than the worry and stress of your own and someone you love's health. The few times I've dealt with health scares with family, I know how the anxiety can just make you sick to your stomach, you can't sleep, the worry is consuming. A healthy and safe family is definitely something to thank God for everyday.

Thankful #13: My job and the people I work with.  As we all know in this tough economy they're not as easy to come by as they use to be. Last year was the worse year I ever had. I reached a point where I was just absolutely sick of being treated like scum on the bottom of someone's shoe. I told a co worker I felt like what it was doing to me mentally was probably similar to the beating one's self esteem and confidence takes when in a toxic relationship (I don't have much experience with that so who knows). I've always enjoyed working, but last year's experience was a red flag to me. This year is going better so for that too I am incredibly grateful for that because I wouldn't have handled a second year like that well at all.

Thankful #14: Time to get started on the people. The first people are going to be our friends, Dave and Jess. We've made some great friends out here but these two truly are like family. We, especially Averi, adores their little boy, Benjamin, and we can't wait to meet their little girl later this spring. They are seriously some of the most caring, generous people we know.

My First 7 Days of Thanks

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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

I Didn't Think You Loved Me Anymore

As many of you know we had quite the traumatic experience (insert sarcasm) here when my oldest daughter decided to cut her little sister's hair. The two the most traumatized were me and my oldest daughter. The poor child that had to go around with a butchered mullet for over a month was too young to realize how awful of a haircut her sister really gave her so she escaped the experience with little trauma. I was traumatized because every time I saw Kenz's butchered hair I wanted to cry for those precious curls that were now gone. Averi however did cry for a good half an hour. She knew I was upset and horrified at what she had done. She still refers to it as the moment I didn't love her anymore.

I still remember the first time she told me this. It made me want to cry. Then tonight when I picked her up from school, I got the first bad report this school year form her teacher. The teacher reassured me that it wasn't enough for her to move off of green. (For those non elementary parents, the green, yellow, red color code system is a behavior reward chart to keep them all in line.) The teacher informed me though that she was surprised that Averi was not listening, had to be told to do things more than once, and had to be told  to settle down. When you're a teacher and you deal with everyone else's rowdy, sometimes quite rude and misbehaved children, you have little tolerance for your own child being anything but a polite, little obedient student. I told the teacher any problems tomorrow take her off green. She'll be sad, maybe even cry, but if she's not listening don't hesitate to show her that behavior is unacceptable.

However, I think it will be awhile before she forgets to listen and act out of line. As soon as I got her in the car, I didn't yell at her, but she knew from the tone of my voice and my disappointment that I was not happy with the report from school. She did not say a single word on the drive home and silently cried in the backseat. Then later she asked me if I was happy again and still loved her :( .

When I flipped out about the hair I maybe got a little exciteably loud. But I did not yell at all today, and as I told her teacher, she is such an easy child to discipline and correct because she wants so much to please. She has always been a child that's received lots of positive attention so when she sees you're not happy with her she tends to take it pretty seriously. However, I don't want her to think our disappointment means we don't love her. I told her each time she told me that we always love her, even when she doesn't act the way we expect her to. I never connected a  parent's disappointment to them not loving a child anymore but more they're disappointed because they love their child so much. Disappointment, rather than anger, has always been the thing to impact my behaviors the most. When met with someone's anger I just get defensive and want to retaliate, but when faced with someone's disappointment it's always lead to me actually think about my behavior and the result of it. I want her to understand when we're disappointed with her but I don't want her to think that means we don't love her. However, she's only four so how do I get her to understand?

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Sunday, November 17, 2013

Prayers for the STRONG

As I head off to work in the morning, it will be with my heart in a different place. For the third time, we are here in our home in Maryland, while our hearts are back with our families in our first homes. The first time was when Nate's uncle suffered what could have been life threatening injuries from an accident at work, the second was when my dad underwent a procedure just in time to prevent a massive heart attack, and now in the morning my family will all be heading to the hospital to fight cancer once again.

Growing up, my cousin and I went to school together, graduated together, played ball together, were even nominated for the same Homecoming Court together as seniors. We even majored in the same thing with education. I don't think either of us was ever really following the other. We were definitely close but at times we were probably the other's biggest competitor. We both carried that Williams strong willed, competitive nature even when we maybe sometimes used it against each other but we were also the first ones in line to have the other's back.

Sometimes our fiercest competitor is also usually the one we have the greatest admiration for too though. We were just kids when cancer struck our family the first time. Her dad, my dad's brother, fought it longer than I ever saw anybody fight that awful disease. We were eleven when he died, and it will be twenty years this April. Now with what I see as a teacher and looking back on the last twenty years, her strength to mentally survive and overcome, hold onto her hope, and be the amazing woman and mother she is today deserves the admiration I had no hope of recognizing as a kid. She is without a doubt one of the strongest people I know.

But unfortunately after losing her father twenty years ago, she now has to go through fighting this nasty disease again with her mother. And this becomes one of those things I just don't understand. How does one child face cancer with both of their parents? It's one of those unfair things. My cousin comes by her inner strength honestly because not only from her father but her mother, my aunt, would also definitely make it into that one of the strongest people I know categories. They are without a doubt some of the strongest women I know.

But as my mother in law recently told me, even the strongest of us need back up. That waiting room during my aunt's surgery tomorrow will be filled with family.  That's what family does. We're there for the good, the bad, and the ugly and when the going gets tough, we all just get a little tougher. I won't be there with them in person, but I will definitely be there in heart. I know this is going to be a tough road at times, and we all know how strong (and stubborn) you are, but let the rest of us stand behind you, beside you, hold your hand, offer you our comfort, our help, our words and hope. Let us back you up and be there for you. Again I wish I could be there for you so for now I offer the only thing I've ever been able to offer in tough times. My support, my listening ear, and the words that show I care and that I'm here for you. It's time like this that there really never seems to be the right words to say so just know I love you all and will be praying and thinking of you.

For my praying people, I hope you'll keep my aunt in your prayers tomorrow as she undergoes surgery to remove breast cancer. Also, pray for her two children, my cousin I grew up with and her older brother.

Check out Holiday Gift Ideas and Deals

I am super psyched about the holidays this year. First, it's our first Christmas in our new house. I don't think we'll get to decorate the outside as much as we would like, but I did have room to set up a little table for my Christmas village. Because we are traveling for both Thanksgiving and Christmas, I told my daughter we would set up our indoor Christmas stuff before Thanksgiving. That leaves us one of the only two weekends between traveling for the two to get our tree and do our Christmas tree decorating. We are going to attempt for the second time to get a real Christmas tree from a local farm. We usually get ours at Lowes and we tried this once before. The search for the family Christmas tree ended up a Griswold Christmas family adventure. I'd share the story here but it's been accepted for publication in the Mused Literary Review for their Dec 21 Issue so just in time for the holidays.

The other reason I am so excited for Christmas is because we're going home for Christmas! Ever since we've been married we have rotated Christmas with our families; however, due to my sister's January wedding last year we spent two years in a row with my husbands' family (and I love our holidays with them too) but because of that we have only had one Christmas with my family since our first daughter was born almost five years ago. We will get to spend Christmas Eve with my extended family with my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. There's about 50 of us when we all make it. I LOVE the huge family gathering.

My family of five that I grew up with (my parents and us three girls) are now a family of 12 and this will be our first Christmas as a family of 12. We spend the whole Christmas day together.  My mom puts her big, beautiful tree in our basement because with 12 of us now the presents would overtake her whole living room. We will eat a big homemade family breakfast hopefully before opening presents but with four little kids who knows how that plan will go. My mom then makes her annual homemade lasagna dinner Christmas night.

I am as excited about spending Christmas with my family as a little kid is about Santa Claus delivering a bunch of presents.

Aside from starting to decorate for Christmas I've also begun my Christmas shopping. I am a photo gift giving queen. I love personalized gifts. I've come across a wide variety of things on Shutterfly and Tiny Prints. We've done personalized calendars in the past, but there are mugs, blankets, frames, shirts, and many more photo gift ideas on the website. I also create my Christmas cards through Shutterfly.

I am affiliated with Shutterfly and Tiny Prints so I do make a commission off of any purchases (doesn't have to be any of the particular deals advertised) you make so if you're thinking of using them, I hope you can click on the links here on my website to place your orders.  You can click on the links in my side bar to the right or click on them below.

Tiny Prints Photo Gifts

Shutterfly Gift Deals

Holiday Cards

Here's a sneak peak at our family holiday card this year. We wish you all a Merry Holiday Season!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Working vs Stay at Home Mom Debate

I read something today about how the biggest debate and criticism between mothers is the choice to stay home or work.  By this point many of you have come to expect the truth from me and even though I have my views anyone is welcome to argue against me. In fact I would welcome hearing some different opinions and take on what has become a generational debate of our time in motherhood. As women, we are so critical of any choice different than our own. Some are guilty of defending their personal choices so much that they put others' opposite choices down, belitting their mothering abilities, or even their capabilities as a modern day woman.

On my random days and two months a year that I get to be a stay at home mom I am busy. Being a stay at home mom is not sitting on the couch, watching soap operas all day, or even lunch and playdates. I am a busy body. I do not like to just sit and I am not a big TV watcher either so my days are usually filled with feeding, hygiene care (they can be dirty little creatures), playing and engaging them in activities, but also with housekeeping and errands. The more I'm home the more messes I'm cleaning up throughout the day so sometimes I feel that it's a daily cycle of picking up, preparing meals, washing dishes, and folding laundry. It's usually a full day but what's nice is I feel that I've kept up with the kids, the house, the errands and everything needed to keep our household functioning. Some days my time at home is more exhausting and harder work than my actual work day.

The ten months a year I'm working, I am much busier though and it's much harder to keep up. Obviously between my husband, myself, and our sitter the feeding, hygiene, and basic caregiving of my daughters is taken care of but some of the daily stuff is taken care of by the sitter rather than myself, and even though I'm busy I think we do a pretty good job of still fitting in valuable time with our girls. However, I definitely struggle with mommy guilt because sometimes I'm tired and short tempered with them, but I also feel like that when I spend all day with them too. It's just when I'm home all day I don't feel as bad because we've spent all day having more positive interaction; whereas, during the work week I feel that all they see of me is the tired, cranky mom that I am at the end of the day. Even though I'm not picking up messes all day because we're not there for them to make them, I'm still spending the end of my day squeezing in all that housework with laundry, cleaning up, and errands that I can't get to during the day because I'm working. So just as stay at home moms are really working while they're at home because being a mom is work, a  working mom is doing that work too on top of  her part time to full time job.

I'm not trying to take anything away from the stay at home mom or the working mom. They both take sacrifice and deserve respect and as women I think we sometimes forget to recognize what contributes to each woman's choice. For me working is not just because we need the income,  but I need more than my role as a mother to fulfill me. Work also gives me purpose. Some may say that is selfish, and sometimes I think part of the guilt that comes with being a working mom is because something or someone tells us wanting to work for our own self fulfillment is selfish. There have been many times in the last five years I have wished to have the opportunity to be a stay at home mom, but I've always felt I would be giving up a part of myself by abandoning my career goals. I think the thing that reassures me my choice is the right choice for me is that I am confident I am still a good mom as a working mom. I can do both. Do I struggle some days?  Oh, my goodness, yes, but I think that's life and motherhood in general.  I can still do things for myself and be a good mother to my children. I see many women out there doing things for themselves and being good and great mothers to their children. Working isn't what defines their capabilities as a mother.

I've heard a variety of arguments from stay at home moms as well but I would definitely welcome some insight from the stay at home mom on this topic.  The sad thing I hear the most is somewhere along the way being a mom has supposedly become not enough in our society. The "oh, you're a stay at home mom" mentality implies they do very little all day and being a mom just isn't much. Many of them have given up their own career ambitions and personal fulfillment with a career to fulfill a larger role at home.

Different things work for different families and different women. I believe so much more goes into raising strong, well loved and globally prepared children than the result of this one choice. As women, we each make the choice that will fulfill us the most and works for our families and our goals.  Whether it's the right choice or not is not determined by the woman beside us, behind us, in front of us, or wherever the one casting judgment may be, but it's best determined by the woman looking back at us in the mirror. Is she satisfied and content with the choice we made?

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My First Seven Days of Thanks.

Just Another Weekend in Paradise (Insert Sarcasm)


Sunday, November 10, 2013

My First 7 Days of Thanks

Last year I did the 30 days of thanks in the end but this year I decided I would do it weekly; however, as you can see I am already about three days late on my first one. Either way I decided to save the best for last (parents, kids, husband, sisters, God) so I'm going to start with some of the more simple things I'm particularly thankful for recently.

Day 1: I'm thankful for the gorgeous destressing drive I now have on the way home from work. Between the stress of work and the chaos of children at home I NEED this peaceful beauty in the middle of my day. It is sooo much better than that drive on that crazy city beltway.

Day 2: Our house. It's been more of a financial adjustment than I was anticipating because we maybe jumped the gun a year early and it's created some extra stress between us, but we're making it happen. We're doing what we got to do to make it work. All the unplanned stress with the adjustment will all be worth it in the end.  I LOVE being out in the country. I LOVE the quiet and the peacefulness, the beautiful sunsets off the deck, watching my girls run and play in that huge yard. I love the small ltown feel. I love that Averi is going to preschool with kids she could possibly grow up with.

Day 3: Our renters. When we started talking about renting our house all people wanted to tell us was all these horror stories. We know this is a risk, but what was our other choice? Walk away from the house? Rely on our wonderful prospering economy to recover in time for us to not lose our asses on the house to sell it in time for Averi to start kindergarten. For now this is working and our renters are awesome! We're going to start begging them to stay here in the next month or so since their lease is up here in just three months or so. They haven't mentioned anything about wanting to move so hopefully their plan is to stay.

Day 4: Music. I have no musical talent at all. But I love music. It's so good for the soul and spirit. I like a variety of music but country music is my true love.

Day 5: Social Media. I know I sound like a teenager but social media has allowed me to stay connected to home and my past in a way my own mother who also lived so far from home couldn't.  I look at my cousin who I feel just as close to as ever even though we're half a country apart and it's because we stay in touch almost daily through social media. I feel that I have a good relationship with my mother in law again because I feel that social media allows her not only the opportunity to foster her relationship with me but stay connected with her granddaughters. There are so many friends from back home that I get to watch their kids grow up online and we share memories and "I miss yous" from throwback Thursdays. I feel that social media allows me the opportunity to hold onto the memories and people of my past and even maintain and build relationship that otherwise wouldn't have been possible at such a great distance. (Don't worry you are each on the saving the best for last list so my thanks for you is not limited to social media :) )

Day 6: First world problems. Most of the time my biggest problem/worry is money with making everything work so we're covered or stressing out when things like three floods in one week happen. Believe it or not though I have thanked God for this problem. I would take these problems-money and broken appliances and cars- over any health or other third world type problems. Unfortunately, some health worries and problems have come up in my family recently (I'll reflect on that more in a different post). Recently I have gained a new appreciation for things we all take for granted like running water, hot water, air conditioner. But as the holidays approach, even an appreciation for things like food on the table and clothes to wear because so many out there struggle for even this.

Day 7: Sleeping children. I'm saving my individual children for last but I don't know how this happened but my kids never wake up before 730 on the weekend. I'm always reading about kids getting up anywhere from 5 in the morning to 7 on the weekends. Even 730 is an early day for my kids. Sometimes they sleep until 830 or even 9. I have no idea how I made this happen with not one but two kids. Great parental ignorance is what I'm thinking. Either way it is such a small simple blessing. I need that extra sleep on the weekends. Both of my girls have always been great sleepers once you get them past the going to bed part so for that I am incredibly thankful.

For each of my thankful posts this month I'm going to include one of Nate's photos from his website, Point Click Capture Photography
Check out more of his photos on his website. You can order a variety of photo products.
This is one of his photos that I edited for my facebook banner.
Assateague Island, Maryland

Fourth of July in our Nation's Capital
Niagara Falls, Canada

It's just been another weekend in Paradise

Well the weekend didn't exactly go as planned. That's parenthood, right? Or better yet life. I'm a planner. I don't know why because most of the time things never go the way I plan so what's the point in planning it out. Luckily, I have a sense of humor and will usually have a good laugh at my own expense. It just sometimes that day is not today.

Friday night we were suppose to have a date night. We were going to go out to dinner without the kids, which is a huge luxury for us. Not only do we not have any family to call on to watch the girls so we maybe get three meals a year without the craziness of children in attendance but by the time we pay for a sitter it feels like there's not much money left to actually go out and do anything. But I planned it out with sitter money and dinner and movie money. Unfortunately, our sitter has a chronic illness and had a flare up that day so it was takeout and guitar playing in the basement.

On the plus side because someone was coming over I thought, I had picked up all the clutter from the discarded clothes on the floor, the blanket forts in the living room, the pile of dirty dishes, and whatever other mess usually results throughout the week. My plan for Saturday was to do an hour of quick cleaning with just mopping the floors and cleaning the bathrooms, get my laundry folded and organized instead of on a pile on the couch, and get our errands done all by the time Nate would be home from class so we'd have the afternoon and the rest of the weekend for whatever. But after I cleaned the house and was ready to start on organizing the laundry, I realized I heard running water. Lots of running water. I headed towards our back storage room and before I even opened the door I knew it was bad because the carpet was starting to get wet as I approached the door. Sure enough, I opened it to about an inch of standing water and more just gushing out of the well pump. As the water was coming into the house from the well outside instead of going into our pipes it was just pouring all over our basement floor. This is aggravating enough but since this was our third-THIRD-flood in eleven days I was a little defeated. Long story short, the plummer told us he'd come out and replace the well pump today (Saturday) for $900. So goodbye Christmas right there. This would have been on top of the $300 Lowes wanted to charge us a few days before for replacing the hot water tank-flood number 2-so again we said we'd call back. My poor but awesome husband ended up fixing it on his own just like he did with the hot water tank and the busted pipe in the laundry room, as well as the air conditioner that he fixed in the dead heat of the summer. In what could have been a $1000-$2000 in house repairs this past week and half my husband spent about $250 and fixed everything himself. Thank God for handy men and that one of them is mine.

So because that was our Saturday we decided to make up for our lost dinner date by using that money to go out to dinner as a family. Luckily it was an awesome meal, especially since bringing the two girls added $20 to our bill! Now I remember why with kids our eat out nights are pizza and drive thru these days. Poor Nate ordered this awesome fish and Kenz kept wanting to eat his meal so I'm not even sure how much he got to eat, but I got myself a Maryland crab cake.

After two weekends of cleaning up flooded waters and spending a day making repairs, I am praying and crossing my fingers this is the last of our disasters for awhile. Has it all been a pain? Has it been stressful? Yes. We've both been so busy this past fall with me teaching the extra class and Nate finishing his grad courses that we were really looking forward to these last two weekends with no plans as a chance to catch our breath but as we have busy weekends picking up again next weekend, it looks like we'll be waiting for Dec now for that. With Christmas December isn't exactly a slow month. Guess there's always January. But there are always way worse problems in the world to have than this so really it was just another week in paradise with crying kids, barking dogs, self possessed car alarms going off repeatedly (that happened in the middle of my work day this week too) blanket forts covering the living room, overflowing water, broken appliances, dishes from nights ago is still covering the counter, laundry piles covering the furniture. Hope you had a great weekend :)

                               Even in the crazy, there are moments that make it all worth it.
                     I love this picture of my daughter and husband playing guitar and singing together.

                  This was our bed. So much for after date time. Haha!. Notice the life size baby doll.
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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The House Wins and I Blame my Mother

I don't know about you, but when I grew up a generation ago, my mother, as well as my aunt, and the majority of my friends' moms stayed home. My mother, my aunt, and my childhood best friend's mom kept immaculately clean houses. Not only were they tidied up by the end of the day, but they were scrubbed clean once a week, and gutted clean every spring. Even when they returned to the working world as we entered middle school, it always seemed like they somehow managed to keep the house so clean and tidy.

I love my mother dearly but sometimes I think the expectations I place on myself are a result of thinking I need to live up to this superwoman image I've created of her in my head. Because seriously once I hit the halfway point of the week, I'm convinced she must have had some real pixie dust, a fairy godmother, a magic wand, or something from fairy tale land to keep a house that didn't resemble a three ring circus with a confetti explosion of toys all over it.

When I was first married, I was all about keeping my house tidied during the week, scrubbed clean on Saturday morning, and even a yearly spring clean. I had a ton of pride in being a homeowner and in my mind women and mothers abided by the "cleanliness is next to godliness" policy. But as children have come into my life, I have slowly let chaos replace organization, and messes replace cleanliness.

In my world, between kids, husband, work, extra work on top of work, time for me, the necessary household tasks like laundry, bills, and dinner, and then housecleaning, something has to go at the bottom. So I am waving my white flag of surrender. With two kids, two pets, and a husband keeping this house tidied and clean is a full time job in itself. I am not the woman for that job. I feel like my choice at the end of the day is clean up my house or take some time for me and I choose me about every time. I live half a country away from my mother so maybe she'll never have to know the truth. I think she'll understand though.

Are you someone that has a hard time letting go of the fact that it's about near impossible to keep a house cleaned up with small children? Do you feel like you try to measure up to some false idea you got in your head about motherhood from your own mother?

                                  Welcome to the three ring circus with the confetti explosion of toys

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Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Confessional Mom Fails of the Nonpinterst Mom

I like to find the humor in my mom fails. I kind of think you have to in order to survive this gig known as motherhood. As wonderful as social media is it allows us to always know what others are doing and compare our lives to theirs. I recently read about how social media can be a place of showboating our mommy skills. I am guilty of this; however, as you know it's not because I craft, cook, or do little cutesy projects. I am guilty of showing off my kiddos and all the fun we crazy Glenns have (when I'm not sharing all that craziness that gets thrown in with that fun).

I hate thinking that we're all in competetion to see who can create the fanciest dinner, make the cutest craft, and create the most pinterest projects. I prefer to look at it as a mom that's excited about her latest adventure in crafting, sewing, and cooking and she just wanted to celebrate her accomplishment with other mommies for a moment.  Hell, sometimes I feel like if I'm doing anything more than surviving it calls for some kind of celebration and victory dance so I imagine if they found a chance to create or cook something spectacular they feel the need to celebrate too. All the power to them. You go, momma! I currently don't have a pinterest account because my skills in crafting and cooking are seriously lacking and can you benefit from pinterest without those necessary skills? If so, please share and I'll contemplate it.

So here's my first pinterest mom fail. While some kids went trick or treating in hand crafted costumes, mine went in a princess and tinkerbell costume pulled out of their playroom. That's right their costume is something they've had shoved in those toy bins for the last few years. I didn't even buy them a costume and claim I made it off of some pin on pinterest. Wal Mart (I think this is where the costumes originated) failed me once again because by the end of the night my Tinkerbell was more like Cinderella whose pixie dust expired at about eight o clock. She lost one of her butterfly glass (plastic) slippers, a strap on her dress broke off giving her the two year old bared sexy look or something, and one of her wings broke. Even as a non crafty person I think even I could have constructed something that stayed together better than that.

Are you ready for my next Pinterest confession? My daughter's birthday party was last weekend. First, I was so busy I kept forgetting to figure out what I was doing for a party so come the day before I realized it was too late to place an order for a cake so I bought $6 Halloween cupcakes from Walmart, stuck Happy Birthday candles in them and called it a day. I had no party decorations, just some pumpkins for them to paint and Halloween coloring books. I see others planning and hosting glamorous child parties with invitations and favors that rival weddings, and my kids are eating Walmart cupcakes. Go me!

My last confession is I'm a little jealous. There I said it. I still love all you pinteresty friends and if you still love me maybe next time you're crafting you can craft something for me or my kiddos I suppose : ) As I said with my Creative Expression post here, for many crafting and cooking is an outlet. Motherhood is STRESSFUL and Pinterest isn't really the enemy to motherhood but probably more an ally. I just don't have Pinterest skills, nor honestly the desire to get into all of that stuff.

Sometimes I wish I could cook or honestly even really cared enough to cook, but I married a man that was cooking amazing meals before pinterest even became a fad of today's motherhood world. A small-very small-part of me wishes I knew how to sew and craft. My mother is probably dying right now hearing that confession coming from my mouth. Now at 32 I want to learn how to be a girl. Sorry, Mom, late is better than never, right? But again, who am I kidding. Even if my mother jumped on this and tried to teach me some crafting and sewing skills, I know I'd probably lose interest before I made it to the second stitch.

There you have it. My confessions of my mom fails as a pinterest or lack of pinterest mom. However, I don't really think it defines me as a mother or any of us really. If you like it have at it. If you don't I think you and your kids will survive. Mine have, even if they do resemble the disheveled Cinderella.

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Sometimes we Don't have the Answers

                                                         The $6 Cupcakes! Oh, my, oh no!
                                                        Tinkerbell trying to fly
                                                        My tinker and princess


Friday, November 1, 2013

And We Remember It's a Beautiful Life


Parenthood is
Crying kids, fighting siblings, and shouts filling the house of “Mine!”
But then it’s seeing the sibling love, pride, and no one messes with a sibling of mine
And we remember it is a beautiful life
Parenthood is
Sleepless nights of infancy, temper tantrums of toddlerhood, and adolescent defiance and lies
But then it’s snuggles and hugs, “I love yous”, and those moments of gratitude in their eyes
And we remember it is a beautiful life
Parenthood is
Broken doors, leaking facets, and neverending expense of another repair
But then it’s looking at the house we made a home that shows how much we care
And we remember it is a beautiful life
Parenthood is
The pile of bills, extra hours worked, sacrifices made,
But then it’s memories, time together, and a life even with its difficulties we wouldn’t trade
And we remember it is a beautiful life

Parenthood is
Dirt, stains, holes, sweat and tears
But then it’s joy, love, and the desire to protect them from all their fears
And we remember it is a beautiful life

Parenthood is
Not always pretty, nor easy, and sometimes it seems like we’re always struggling
But it’s a love like no another, moments better than we dreamed, and gives our lives meaning
And we remember it is a beautiful life

Do you have your copy of my book,  Moms, Monsters, Media & Margaritas ? It examines the expectations and perceptions of motherhood in our modern day 21st century digital world. Check it out if you haven't. You can also read the latest review on it and follow the ebook links here.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Sometimes We Don't Have the Answers

I learned some tough news this weekend about someone I really care about and love. Again it was a reminder of how precious life really is, how some things in the grand scheme of things is really nothing. As always when you hear something you don’t want to hear, you’re left with the questions of why. Life is unfair. I look at my dear friend who has buried two siblings and a parent before 40, I look at another who is facing going through cancer again with her one remaining parent after she lost the first one to cancer. I watch as another friend spends countless days in hospitals at her young daughter’s bedside; I watched my sister in law battle an illness with her son for the first seven years of his life. I remember my grandmother who buried two husbands, three children, and a grandson all before she was called home. I know people who have buried their children.

Life is not fair. Bad things happen to good people. It saddens me when I hear of grown children not making the time to see their parents, parents not taking the time for their children no matter their age, siblings no longer talking, family members supposedly “disowned “ from the family.

 These things upset me because some are missing out on someone they valued and made time for while someone else takes their loved one for granted and easily dismisses them. I don’t know why these things happen. But the thing I do know is for those of us that do still have our parents, our siblings, all our children, remember that somewhere out there someone would give anything just to see their mother, father, brother, sister, son, or daughter one more time, talk to them one more time, tell them they love them one more time.

There are so many things we (myself included) like to think matter but really in the end it’s just the people we loved. So for the people that lost their mom, dad, brother, sister, son, or daughter, thank God for the time you have with yours, hug yours a little tighter, make sure you tell them you love them, and say a little prayer for everyone that s missing theirs.

Two!?! Already, how can that be?

My baby is not really a baby anymore. My little girl will be turning two in one week. I thought time went fast with the first baby but I'm convinced it goes even faster with the second. In some ways I don't feel like I savored every little baby moment as much the second time around like I did the first, but then I feel like I baby her so much more than her sister. She was not the easiest baby. I never really understood why people asked if a baby was a good or bad baby. Until I had her and then I understood. But I loved her even from that first night when her and I cried all night. Sometimes I think the more she fusses, the harder I hold her. Unsure most of the time why she's so upset or mad, I just hold on, hoping she knows no matter what I love her and even though it seems  that at times she is crying for no reason, I'm  there, probably smothering her with my mom desperation to make it all better.  Even though at times I have felt quite clueless on how to deal with her crying, screaming, and toddler fits, we've created quite a bond. She is a momma's girl. I know with her little excited face to see me at the end of every work day, her hugs and snuggles, and her want of mommy to just hold and rock her at the end of the night, that she loves her momma.

When  expecting your second child, we sometimes wonder how and can we love the second as much as we love the first. I definitely wondered this, but I quickly learned there was plenty of room to love a second child as much as the first. Even though I loved both of my girls when they were born, I feel it was so minimal compared to the love I feel for them now, as I've gotten to know them as the little people they are and am starting to see the bigger people they will be.

So here is my letter to my sweet soon to be two year girl old:

My Nakenzi Grace,

It is hard to believe it's been almost two years since we first met. I'd like to say it was love at first sight, but that love doesn't even seem to compare to the love I feel now for you as the little girl with a mind of her own that you've become. You are so full of spunk and fire and I love it. You know what you want and make sure it's known. Even though you're stubborn and insistent, you have such a sweet heart.

You always want to rub sissy's back if she's hurt or upset. Your "I sorry" is so cute that it totally makes up for any mishap. I love how you just want to sit on my lap and rock at the end of the night. It's become such a special you and me time that I look forward to at the end of every day. Even though you only let your sister boss you around to a certain point before you put your foot down, I love the trust you have in her. You even let her give you a full haircut so trustingly! She tells you to get in the push toy so she can shove you down the hill with no way to stop until you hit the fence and you happily oblige.  I'm watching you right now mimicking what she is doing. She doesn't realize that you're following her, but you do it because you look up to your big sister. And she adores you right back. She's so excited to see you at the end of every day; she loves having slumber parties with you on the weekends, and the two of you have so much fun playing together.

You've brought so much new joy to our lives the last two years. We love seeing the little person you're becoming. I'm looking forward to you being able to talk more this next year and hopefully communicate all your demands a little better and all the other wonderful years that are to come with you as our daughter and little sister. Happy Birthday, our sweet and sassy girl.


Mommy, Daddy, and big sis Averi

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Saturday, October 26, 2013

Swimming the Financial Ocean of Parenthood

Do you ever feel like you’re chasing your own tail, running in circles, not sure if you’re moving in the right direction? Even though some individual days as a mom can feel like that I’m actually thinking of the last five years put together. Five years ago at this time I had recently found out that we were expecting a baby girl, our now four year old daughter. She was a planned baby, and I remember people always telling us how if you wait until you’re financially ready you won’t ever feel ready.  I never really exactly understood that.

Not sure that I still do but now as I look back on the last five years and all the tail chasing we’ve done to try to get ourselves in the this is where we plan to raise our family stage, I maybe understand it a little better. We had our careers started and were living in our first home when our first daughter arrived. I was a little over halfway through graduate school. However, Nate wanted to switch school districts, and was offered a position that would help move him in the direction he wanted to go towards school leadership because  the new position was  with a school system that offered a great program through a local university to get his graduate degree.

The downside is he had to take an almost $5000 pay cut. The same time he found out he got this job he really wanted our car broke down three hours from home, left us stranded for days, was going to cost us almost $5000 to fix it when it was only worth $5000 and we still owed $12,000. I know it's just money and a car, but I cried. A lot. I saw this as a huge financial step back; I thought I was going to have to call my dad and ask for money for the first time in my life. And my pride just could not take that (super stubborn, remember)  so we got it to run for a $1000, took it back to the dealership, traded it in for a family vehicle we planned on getting in a few years anyway when we could afford it, but we had to get a certain priced vehicle in order to take on all the negative equity of the broken car. So for that upcoming year we were not only now taking a $5000 paycut but we also were going to be spending another $4000 throughout the upcoming year we hadn’t planned for on a new car. But instead of throwing $5000 into a car we didn’t plan on having much longer with a family, we at least now had a family SUV we could drive for the next 7-10 years. On top of this daycare is not a cheap expense so it felt like we were taking a couple steps back in order to go forward.

Shortly after getting the job, my husband also got into the leadership program. In order to meet our financial obligations, we both took up coaching. In the last five years of parenthood, I’ve coached two volleyball seasons while he’s coached two wrestling and three baseball seasons. Even though each season is only 2-3 months it’s a lot of late nights and sometimes Saturdays. This is where we came to value our summers off together so much. I made every dollar we brought into our house work for us to cover not only our monthly expenses but give us a little bit of our time back in the summer with our kids and our families we didn't get to see much during the school year.  At times it was a lot and at times it was really stressful.

Like most other American middle class family trying to make it we accumulated other unsecure debt. There’s lots of times we spent money on things we shouldn’t have. Sure, there’s times we could have been more responsible. But I didn’t want our life to be work and sit at home. We cut out a lot of stuff after we had kids. My husband who use to go to a Steelers game every season now has only been to one since our first daughter was born; I don't think we've been to a concert at all since we've had kids. We definitely don't go out for Happy Hour every Friday anymore or down to the Inner Harbor to party our Saturday nights away.  We rarely go out for expensive restaurant dinners anymore; dinner out has to be $30 or less. I don't make as many trips back home as I use to but I still made sure I had money for some.

 My father always has this saying about money that “you can’t take it with you when you die.” So our spending habits have not always been the wisest. The problem with sharing this is those that know me would say I shouldn't have spent money on this and that. Maybe they're right but it is what it is and it's too late to change it now. To me making trips back home, having a family vacation together, having family outings on the weekends was important. Is it to everyone? Maybe not, but it was to me. Did we spend money we didn't have sometimes; did we put stuff on credit cards? Yes. Would I do it differently? I honestly don't know at this point. I think I'll have a better answer later.

The first year of parenthood turned into the fourth and we were getting closer and closer to our oldest daughter starting kindergarten. We were starting to stress that because of the crashed housing market the townhome in the city we bought was never going to sell and we would be faced with paying for private school for our daughter or sending her to inner city schools.

Even though at times it maybe seemed like we were drowning rather than swimming, we soon learned in a new market that was harder to get credit than when we bought our first house, our credit and income allowed us an opportunity we had only dreamed about but didn’t think was possible. We could rent out our house and were approved to buy a home in our number 1 area of choice to raise our girls. When we bought that first house my husband always talked about renting it out later but I did not think it was something that would be possible. However, again, we would have to take two steps back in order to go forward. Because of the housing changes, we now needed $8000 for a downpayment. We maybe had really good credit, made decent money, but aside from a little less than half of that in an account that I couldn’t easily access, we didn’t even have a $1000 saved. Again we were back to two steps backwards in order to go forward. We had a nice truck that we had paid off the year before that was worth around $8000-9000. So we sold it. My husband loved that truck. It was the first thing that was truly ours that we fully owned. We finally had our $8000 to go put down on the house we knew had to be the one. It took us a month from the first time we saw it until we had the money to put down on it. Even though someone else put in an offer the same day as us, we still got it and moved into our new home last winter.

We were finally in a place we could raise our kids, but we jumped on it sooner than we should have. Technically, I didn’t have us budgeted for a higher mortgage until the coming September, we had to buy a piece of crap car to replace the truck, which only got us through seven months before we just went out and bought ourselves a newer car with a $300+ payment that again wasn’t really factored into the equation. So we were back to chasing our tails. Nate was in the heat of his graduate program so could no longer coach so I was the one that took on extra work last spring and this fall.

Money has been tight at times, we've definitely stressed, we asked ourselves multiple times did we do what’s right. We got our new house on an acre of land at $75,000 less the owners bought it for six years before and we moved in with 20K in equity, we have a phenomonly low interest rate , got in before every house is required to have PMI for the life of their loan, and now we have a rental property with great tenents so far that if we can hold on to will be paid off the same year we retire, leaving us an investment that is not in cash because as much as the housing market did crash, I feel that it’s a safer investment than the stocks and banks at the moment.

Were we too rushed? Were we young and stupid? I don’t know. I don’t think we’ll know until we look back on it and see how it all truly worked out, but faith as gotten us through these tight places so far, so I will continue to cling to that, that it will all work out in some way in the end. At times it seems like we’ve been running in circles. I think mostly because of money. Isn’t that the the middle class family lifestyle? Just swimming and swimming. You just keep going forward, keeping your head barely above water at times.

Some want to tell me what I should do to feel less stressed. This is my huge stress. Sure work stresses me out, sure balancing motherhood with work stresses me out, sure sometimes I have too much on my plate, but treading this ocean of financial obligations is the smoking gun. You nor I are going to snap any fingers or wave any wands to make it disappear. Why am I sharing this? Mostly to acknowledge truthfully to myself that this is the hugest stressor and it's not an easy fix. Isn't money the number 1 reason marriages fail? Mine is not failing; my point is though that I'm fairly confident we are not the only working parents raising a family, living on a prayer that we financially survive. But I'm also saying it because  maybe others need to understand that no matter what stressors they think I should eliminate it's not going to eliminate the main problem.

The other thing though is I think I see the light at the end of the tunnel. Nate started his LAST class this week, will write his last paper in December, takes his big test in November. He will have an internship that he does through work in the spring, but then he has his graduate degree.

We’ve been out here nine years at that point. Nine years, and we’ll both finally be done with our graduate degrees, we’re in a home and place we could raise our girls, and I'm hopeful our finances may finally be falling into a place where I  can have more flexibility with my time between work and home (the next six months will tell a lot) . Sure it's been a bumpy road at times; yes we have definitely fought at times but we're surviving. We're always swimming forward, we've always managed to keep our head above water. There's many times even in the worst situations like with the car and even this Fall while we're still trying to recover from a summer that lacked savings because it went to buying a house, I constantly reassure myself faith in ourselves and God has gotten us this far and just keep on living on a prayer. Just keep on swimming.