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Balancing Life

21 Mar

 When my youngest is at gymnastics I sit on a cold metal folding chair and I watch her on the balance beam.  I can see the determination in her face and see her arms out as she wobbles a bit, then catches herself a step in and refocuses.  Now and then she slips.  But most of the time, she catches herself off-balance and continues on.  Her teacher follows a step behind when she is on the high beam, allowing her to find her own strength and balance, but there in case she were to freeze or fall.  

I balance all the time.  I wobble more than she does when I walk.  I haven’t worn heels since I fell in them and cracked my elbow.  I’m still not sure why it’s called the funny bone.  I balance in my running shoes now.  Between keeping my house clean and spending my much-needed free time exercising and writing.  Staying in to watch another episode of Caillou with a five year old on my lap or going to a Yelp Event with a friend.  Going out on a date with my husband, or catching up on the sleep I miss throughout the week.  Between researching more services we need and just going to Culver’s and eating ice cream.

Some days I balance better than others.  Some days I can smile, I can laugh, I can make those phone calls and doctor appointments easily.  Some days all I can picture is a potential hospital visit for a child and my “fight or flight” response kicks in.  I freeze.  I stare at the neon Post It list of “stuff” I need to accomplish and push my chair away from my desk.  I find my blue running shoes and go pound the path with the steady rythym of my steps. Or I put in headphones and go hunting for my favorite feel-good songs and crumple into the feels of those songs.  Or I open the pages of a book and immerse myself in someone else’s life for awhile.  I feel the clinking of my bracelets reminding me of everything.


But then I refocus and I make those phone calls, I schedule visits with specialists, I ask for help and spend six hours in my van to steal a night away with my husband where I can dress up and feel like the fifteen year old girl he asked out years ago.  I can wear a fiery red dress and heels and feel my legs ache from the hill I walked a few hours before.  I can fill my tub with hot water and turn on the jets, closing my eyes for a few minutes just listening to the pounding of the water.  

I might not be graceful always on my walk.  I might sometimes close my own eyes and repeat the Serenity Prayer or look at my bracelets for inspiration.  I might text someone close to me for just a single boost.  But I continue.  And I make it.  I wobble, I catch myself.  I feel my family and friends a step behind, ready to hold their arms up if I need them.  

But just like she does I continue.  Because that’s what I do.  I breathe.  And repeat.

Love Yourself First

14 Feb

Today is Valentine’s Day.  An expensive Hallmark holiday that requires significant others buying trivial gifts of flowers or jewelry, kids exchanging sugar and cartoon character greetings, and then you have the people who are single who are doing their best to just get through the day.

Why do we make ourselves crazy crafting the perfect gift, posting flowers (I’m so guilty of this by the way too, but flowers from my husband are few and far between.  We laughed that the last time he gave me Gerber daisies was when we found out I was pregnant with the youngest.  Thankfully, this was NOT a celebratory gift).

The most important person to love.

Is YOU.

We spend our lives trying to please others, comparing ourselves on social media and looking at our own lives thinking it’s not enough, we should do more.

Now that I agree with. Do more.  Do more self-love and self-care.  I challenge each and every single one of you to do one thing a day for you.  Not for your family, not for your coworkers or your boss, or your parents, for your partner, just for you.

It’s called self-care.  And self-care is a vital tool for creating inner peace and happiness.  For years I chased happiness too, thinking that others would make me happy, that I needed to compete with the PTO moms out there that seem to have every single thing perfect in their lives.  I sometimes feel like the only mom who forgets their kid’s shoes for school or runs out of pull-ups because I haven’t made it to the store.  Or who makes toast for breakfast because I just don’t have the energy to do something better before coffee.

But I’m learning this self-love thing. Yesterday I bought new shoes for myself to wear as the average of twenty flights of stairs a day had my feet sore and swollen by the end of the day.  So I bought new ones to support my feet better.  And slip-on, because who wants to re-lace shoes during the day?  I felt incredibly guilty spending more on my shoes than I spent on shoes and clothes for my daughters.  But my health and well-being is also important.

I went for a walk even though I didn’t want to, because exercise makes me feel good.

I added a few chocolate chips to my steel cut oats with flaxseed that I’m trying to learn to love.  Because I don’t love the oatmeal yet, but I do love chocolate.  Instead of a bag, a few works too.


Self-care for me is taking time to read my book for Book Club.  Writing this blog as well as my “work” pieces.  And remembering to write purely for fun.

So today, on this holiday of love, remember who you should love the most.  Yourself.  Give yourself a gift.  Take time for you.

The Secret to HappinessĀ 

25 Jan

is simple.


Actually in winter that is the secret.  Yesterday our sidewalks were clear and so were the roads.  My dog and I set out on an adventure through town to refill the Little Free Library.  I rummaged through our home library, sifted out some books (trust me, we aren’t lacking in this house) and filled my bag.  If you’re lucky you get the free bookmark and note of kindness I stuffed in one.  

Then we came home and I wrote in the recliner.  And he napped on the couch.  With the fireplace on.  Because, well, because we have one.  And it makes us this cozy.  


I needed to do errands, but I chose the fireplace and my laptop. And my peace and quiet lasted longer.  It meant sacrificing a solo Target run.  

Was the Target run with the Caroline’s Cart full of a 65 pound 9 year old and her bear diving after chips, soda and Inside Out underwear worth it?  (I skipped the soda, but the others made it in the cart).  It was worth it.  Even when the five year old kicked me because she was angry she didn’t get to ride in the cart (again, sorry, but there’s maybe 3 double kid semi carts-they are always in use).  Still worth it when we did the self checkout because there was one poor cashier during shift change with 6 carts waiting ahead of us.  Still worth it when the youngest told me it was “so embarrassing” to wait for Mommy to scan our cart full of juice, Pull Ups, and the other necessities that somehow got placed in the cart.  

Definitely worth it.  

Today was a snow day, so I’m even more thankful I took that time to do only what I wanted in quiet.  As many inches of snow had my youngest asking at 7 am in her Anna voice “Do you wanna build a snowman?”  (No, coffee).

“Do you wanna build a snowman?” (No, I’m washing your sister’s bedding).

“Do you wanna build a snowman?” (No, I’m still trying to find that pair of pants you borrowed at school the other day.)

“Do you wanna build a snowman?” (Sighs.  Maybe it will be fun.) 

“Yes, let’s go build a snowman.”

So even though I hate winter.   Hate snow.  And hate cold, we went outside.  I bundled up in my warmest pants, hat and running gloves (thinking clearly I am not a winter outdoors woman), and fake Uggs because I have no idea where my real winter boots are in the house even though we’ve lived here for 3 months.

We built a snowman.  And laughed.  And searched the ground for rocks.  Discovered we only have baby carrots.  We hugged and took silly selfies.  

I didn’t want to.  But happiness is unexpected sometimes.  It’s found when you give to others.  In a book.  In the memory of building a snowman.  In the much needed and messy hot chocolate afterwards.  

But now that my toes, hands and especially my butt is cold I’m going to sit in front of the fireplace.  And look, the dog added to my happiness too;) 


I got extra kisses by the fireplace.  Happiness really is a warm butt.  And books.  And snowmen.  Especially snowmen.

Why I won’t make a New Year’s Resolution this year

3 Jan

My Facebook feed has been clogged with well-meaning souls who pledge to be healthier, lose weight, write daily, learn a new language, and (one of my favorites) to not yell at my kids so much.

Resolutions are made with excellent intentions.  New Year.  New start.  It’s your life and you can start new and fresh.  It’s very appealing.  I enjoy seeing all the fitness clothes or free weights on sale at stores.  Heck, I almost looked at them myself at Target until I saw the aisle was cluttered with women and I had the giant cart and 2/3 of my kids with.  The giant cart barely made it through the aisles to pick up the necessary paper towels and cat litter.  I maneuvered it through the kids section trying to replace the too-big furry Trolls vest.  Thank God, that kid settled for a Batgirl necklace instead.

So, no, I won’t make a resolution to lose weight this year (even though I have spare pounds). I won’t say I pledge to write daily (even though I like the thought of that).  I also won’t say I pledge to work out daily (even though I’m close to that on good weeks).

Why? Because it’s rare that resolutions are fulfilled.  I have days that I’m pretty dang happy if I do a few loads of laundry or put on clothes other than yoga pants (that I don’t do yoga in). 

I will not say I need to write thirty minutes a day or 100 words a day.  

Why?  Because of failure.  I will not allow myself to consider missing a workout, leaving my laptop shut, or eating pizza for dinner is failure.

Most people can move on and say “no big deal, I’ll catch up tomorrow.” If a crap day happens I find myself curled up on top of my sea blue striped quilt bed staring at the beach pictures on my wall.  Some days are just really hard and I can’t add one more thing to the pile.

I will do my best to be healthier, be kinder to myself and others, but I will not make a resolution to declare that.  If I declared 2017 the year I do _______, I might lose myself in that process.  Being me and being happier is more important to me than what I can check off a list.  I’d rather live my days one moment at a time.  If it’s a workout day-awesome!  I’ll feel great that night.  If it’s a cleaning day, the house will smell of lemons and there will be less pet fur on the couch.  If it’s a writing day I will have cramped hands and I’ll have to hoist myself out of my office chair like an old woman.  Compression socks only help the blood flow to a point after all.

But if I have a day where the kids and I have been changed, fed and medicated-that’s a win.  Even if the rest of it is spent eating popcorn, drinking water (or my vice- Diet Mountain Dew!) and watching Netflix while scratching the dog.  

We don’t need a New Year’s Resolution to add stress to our lives.  At least I don’t.  I don’t want to add one more thing to the to-do list.  In fact, I might just toss that to-do list in the garbage.  Tomorrow the recycling truck can add it to the Christmas gift blowup that became my garage (the drawback of hosting).

This year I vow nothing.  But I’m aiming for love.  And I’m starting with myself.

The Gift of Friendship

15 Dec

My older daughter never had play dates unless it was for her sister (or me).  Birthday parties were family and family friends.  Only once did we get one from school and that was from her school bestie in the special education room with her.  It was wonderful to be there, but it saddens me that she never really had friends.  

I was reminded of this as my youngest came home with a birthday party invitation.  Every day she asks “when do we go there?  We are going to the party, right?”  While I say, of course, and I’m grateful for the friends she has made at her new school.  At the same time I’m wondering how her sister will feel at home while we go to a party without her.  Trust me, I know she will enjoy her time.  She’ll probably be watching movies on her Kindle, throwing things at the fireplace or rearranging.

  And I wonder if her sister has friends at school.  I know she enjoys lunch with classmates daily.  The kids volunteer to eat lunch with her in her classroom.  And her teacher writes that sometimes Nyssa gets silly or just enjoys her peers.  That sounds like her. She loves laughing especially if there is physical comedy involved.

But I wasn’t sure that was friendship.  Until I opened a large mannila envelope from her third grade teacher today.  I didn’t think twice.  As a special needs parent I get IEPs, test results, and the like.  I know her new staff is testing new communication devices with her and expected some kind of paperwork to fill out.

Instead out poured notes of love from Nyssa’s classmates.

I sobbed at the sight of child-like drawings and the sweet spelling of these words.  One friend drew some of their favorite things: biking (even though she can’t bike yet), McDonald’s, dressing up, swimming, and the swings.

In fact, most of them mentioned the swings, the place she loves the most when she’s outside.


She makes them laugh.  They enjoy being with her.  They hope she loves them too. 


Friendship means love and laughter.  It means kindness and the ability to love someone for their strengths and their weaknesses.  My girl might not tell me about her day.  Or all about her friends at school.  She might not tell me who she was playing with on the playground or who she had lunch with, but she has friends.  

And for that I am grateful.

Love is not just Marshmallows

2 Dec

Today my five year old told me about her friend at school.  And her friend’s sister.  Her friend’s sister talks with her, plays Barbie Dolls with her, they practice writing letters and words.

And in her tone was a very sad girl bursting with confusion in a pink tutu skirt.  Because her older sister does none of that.  At that moment her sister, who has Down Syndrome and some autistic behaviors, was sitting in front of the fireplace rolling small plastic hoops onto the stone of the fireplace and giggling.  It’s her favorite game even though we remind her endlessly not to sit by the fireplace.  “It’s hot” we say and sign.  She bellers a “no” and continues.  She’s incredibly stubborn, but that’s the beauty we have grown to love about her.

“I hate my sister.  I wish I had a sister like A’s.” And my heart cracked.  This wasn’t a typical outburst, it wasn’t a tantrum.  This was a five year old who has realized her sister is not “normal.”

I paused with tears in my eyes, trying not to sob for the big sister playing with her rings as if this conversation wasn’t happening.  “Well, I love her” I said, “I love her for who she is, just like I love you for who you are.”

Because a five year old is on a mission to win every argument they start, she continued.  “But she won’t listen.  She won’t play with me.  When I try to talk to her she ignores me.”

And I cannot deny all of these discoveries are true.  Her sister usually prefers to play solo, to swing on the swingset or watch her Kindle, read books, play house.  But she often plays alone.  I have the hunch it’s because she’s hit her wall of interaction after school and the littlest is an extrovert who always wants to be noticed.

I remind my daughter of the many good qualities that we have with her sister.  She laughs often, always wants to dance, is great at peek a boo, and they can teeter totter together as they are nearly the same size with four years between them.  “I love her for being her.  I love you for being you.  Even when we are angry, we still love.”

She may have wanted to keep fighting that fight, but I couldn’t.  I was reminded of the grief process and how I was sad and angry the day we discovered our daughter had Down Syndrome.  Until that became less and less a priority and I just learned to love her as her.  

In time I think she will realize how lucky she is to have her sister and brother.  She will realize her sister is full of unconditional love.  I certainly see it every day.

As I wrote this I managed to leave the two of them in a different floor in our house than I was in.  I came back down to the entire pan of Rice Crispy bars on the living room floor and two girls gnawing at each side.

Apparently we love our sister anyways.  At least enough to share the marshmallowy goodness of the treat Mom said not to eat more of until after dinner.

I am Loved

17 Nov

A friend asked today what forgiveness means.

After all, how many times have you heard it?  “Forgive me, but I forgot to turn the lights off.” or “Forgive me for stepping in your way.”

Yet rarely will you hear the honest apology to what hurts you the most.  So how do you forgive?  And what really is forgiveness?

There is a song by country music artist LeAnn Times “What I Cannot Change” that supports my theory in forgiveness.  Forgiveness is fluid.  Forgiveness doesn’t mean you forget.  Forgiveness is part of love.  She sings “I will learn to let go what I cannot change and I will change whatever I can.”

The past stick us in a crack in the sidewalk unable to move on.  I can’t change what I’ve done.  I certainly cannot change what others have done.  But I can change myself.

I recently painted some wall decor for my girls.  Simply put they say “You are Brave.  You are Kind. You are Loved. You are Blessed.”  I am quick in pointing out the beauty in others.  I can list off a million and one characteristics of others I admire.  When I get to myself.  I stop.  I freeze and try to think of the good in me.  And it is really hard to pull that out some days.  But I don’t want that to happen to my children.  I want them to know how loved they are.  How wonderful and perfect they are even when they make mistakes.  I want them to feel that hug around them.  After all, they give that to me.

Thanks to the love of my family, my friends, even my blog readers.  Your replies on my blog mean the world to me.  I feel my heart tug each time something I write touches you or helps you.  Thanks to all of you I can see the good in myself as well.  I can see that I am able, beautiful, creative, dream-filled, engaging, feisty, grateful, happy, intelligent, joyful, kind, loving, mindful, nostalgic, open, persistant, quick, real, sassy, touched, unpredictable, vulnerable, weathered, (e)xtraordinary, yellowed, zany.

We cannot change others.  I do not think we can forget, but we can change ourselves.  It’s okay to distance yourself from pain.  It’s okay to feel the hurt, the anger, the love, the jealousy, all of that is okay.  To live is to feel.  But we need to build our own strength.

Surround yourself with people that love you.  People that build you up.  And help build up others.  It’s my job as a mother to let my children know they are loved.  That they might make mistakes.  And might be hurt by others mistakes.  But in order for them to love themselves I not only have to model that I love myself.  But believe it.  

So forgive me if I drift in and out in life, but I’m learning to love a really important person.  That’s me.  And she’s just as important as you are.