Surrendering to the Insanity: A To Do List Confession

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I am a To Do List Junkie….there I said it!  I have grown to have a serious love/hate relationship with my list making.  In the last year I have taken this action to new and almost obsessive lengths – I can’t stop the madness and I think I LOVE it!!

On Sunday mornings my craze begins.  I sit at our dining room table before church with my notebook, or occasionally three different notebooks, and make my lists for the upcoming week, as well as a menu plan, grocery list and family activity calendar that I am now reducing to to a Word document and posting in the kitchen so not a single member of my family can say, “You didn’t tell me I had  to __________.”  I am even color coding the family calendar!! time-management-3

I proceed to make a list of everything that needs completed for work, my basketball team, our family, this blog and personal appointments, not to mention the ever illusive home improvement list.  I occasionally divide said lists by topic, re-copy them into one big list or make daily lists with the most important tasks listed first – its madness I tell you, madness!  I know that you are reading this saying “Isn’t there an app for that?”  The answer is yes! And I use it too, just in case I do not have my trusty notebooks with me at the grocery store or in case I leave it in my office!  I really like the Any Do app with Google Play.  I use the free version and it works great for dividing my list making into topics and is super useful when things pop into my head in the middle of the night or as soon as I lay my weary head on the pillow.  I simply roll over and add whatever bright idea came to mind at 11:30 p.m. to my Any Do app!

15087618731823599681841763978666.jpgWhile some may argue that this incessant action is a sign of emerging mental illness, I point to that fact that for a large family with multiple commitments, it is the only way I have found to survive and get to all the places we need to be and accomplish all the tasks required in a week!  Occasionally, I feel a little like Edgar Allan Poe, giving in to the voices in my head and embracing the madness.  While I am far from hearing my beloved lists beckoning me from the floorboards and quoting “Nevermore” from the bedroom windows, I do try to view this list-making hysteria as a tool for relaxation and stress-relief rather than a burden.  Getting my thoughts and nagging reminders out of my head and onto an app or notebook is a huge relief for my sanity!

Happy list making to all of busy people out there!

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Strawberry Hotdogs…Yes, They Are Amazing!

So here’s a quick yet fabulous idea for “gourmet” hotdogs, or at least hotdogs the kids and adults alike are guaranteed to devour like state fair eating contest champs!

Strawberry Hotdogs! Yes,  it sounds nasty when it rolls off the tongue, but one bite and I guarantee your entire family will be hooked. The mix of sweet and savory makes this easy dish an instant success!

Here’s what you need: 

All beef hotdog weiners, split top buns (preferred), strawberry jam, Swiss cheese, butter, and thick sliced maple bacon (optional, but also amazing)!

In these few simple steps your crew will be licking the jam from their plates and asking for seconds or maybe thirds! Our oldest daughter has been known to eat as many as five! 

First, fire up the grill and get those weiners cooking.  We experimented today with wrapping the beef weiners in thick sliced maple bacon, needless to say, it was a success! Next, while the meat is grilling,  lightly butter the outside of the split top buns and either toast them in the oven or add them to the grill until the outside of the bun is golden! Once toasted, add strawberry jam to the inside of the bun; it doesn’t require alot of jam otherwise they will become drippy and difficult to eat!  Once the hotdogs are done on the grill add them to the toasted and jammed bun and top with Swiss cheese!

The only thing left to do now is enjoy!

The Summer Recap

     I picked up my phone yesterday and for the first time in months looked at my blog!  I can’t believe I let it go this long; my last post was Memorial Day Weekend – a kick off to summer, and now here we are at Labor Day Weekend, the kids are back in school, the weather is getting cooler and all good summer things are coming to a slow end.

     As for the summer though, it was wonderful; so much so that I was unable to take a few moments to share in our adventures! So, here it goes…the summer recap!  The beginning of June ushered in the re-birth of basketball season.  Team camps, summer league games and individual camps as well as team activities kept my family and G- Girls running from gym to gym solidifying teammate relationships and my undying compassion for this group of amazing young women!  We had highs and lows but as we completed our last team activity on the weekend before school started I am literally counting the days until November arrives and they can show our little community the hard work they have put in over the summer.  Our youngest daughter, Elle, also put in a ton of work individually this summer.  She and a couple of her teammates attended Point Guard College individual camp again.  This is the most amazing camp I have EVER witnessed; the basketball lessons and skills training sessions are fantastic but it is the intentional focus this organization puts on leadership training and creating a positive and energized atmosphere that would turn any coach green with envy and keeps my family coming back for more!

     (Oh, and did I mention there were a couple of volleyball camps too)!

   We had plenty of family fun activities to keep us going all summer as well.  We hiked, tubed and relaxed on the beach like never before, soaking up every moment of summer we could.  John and I actually did a section hike on the Appalachian Trail that we have been talking about for years!  It was a beautiful experience that left me exhausted, in need of better hiking shoes but so grateful for the opportunity to experience nature in that way and spend some uninterrupted time with my precious husband (especially before I asked him to go tent camping with 16 teenage girls!)  Our most memorable hike of the season though was not nearly as planned but equally interesting: as John, Hayden and I decided to take a quick hike in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park while Elle was at basketball camp. During our 7 mile hike we encountered not one, but TWO black bears, in different locations, within 20 yards from us, in the middle of the trail!  We live in the mountains and occasionally see bears but for my family this was our first encounter with a bear on the trail and so close to us!  Luckily,  in preparation for our section hike John and I had been studying up on what to do when you encounter a bear — believe it or not we survived without screaming like little girls or running for the car; encountering a poisonous snake on the other hand, was a whole other story!

 

The Staycation…Falling In Love With Our Backyard Again

It  is Memorial Day Weekend, time for fun in the sun and a long weekend getaway right? Wrong, with temperatures in the 50’s and RAIN predicted all weekend we decided our annual tent camping/hiking trip might not be as relaxing as last year if we spent all our time drenched and cold. So we are officially staycationing!

We have vowed to spend our holiday weekend, albeit wet and soggy, doing the activities we had intended to do while camping in the Smokies…hiking and spending time as a family!  My husband, John, and I kicked off the weekend on Thrusday afternoon with a 4.2 mile hike along Chestnut Ridge section of the Appalachian Trail.  It only took us about 2 hours and we were home by the time the kids got home from school (their last day). While the weather didn’t permit much of a view at the top, the highest peak on this section of the AT, the fog in the fields was majestic anyway.

We are blessed to live in the mountains, although we often do not take advantage of the fantastic hiking options in our backyard.  The Appalachian Trail runs all through the Appalachian Mountains in which we live, making staycationing for a hiking family an easy fix! We are also taking a step back and looking at our hometown with “vacation eyes.”  While on vacation, every little local establishment is “cute” and serves “amazing” dishes.  My theory is that most of those places would be run-of-the-mill if you lived in that town.  So we are hitting up local restaurants and events as if we don’t eat there twice a week for lunch!

Friday, we  headed back to Burkes Garden, Virginia to hike another section of the Appalachian Trial from Virginia Route 623, hiking south to explore some fossilized arthoplycus embedded in the rocks along the trail.

Saturday brought porch-sitting on our friends’ farm in beautiful Bland County while reconnecting and resting our weary legs.  We enjoyed the first signs of summer as the kids chased lightning bugs in the yard!

After an incident with an evil bug and swollen foot, we were unable to hike in Damascus, Virginia on Monday as anticipated, so we opted for a tram ride into the Bluestone Canyon at Pipestem State Park near Athens, West Virginia.  The Bluestone River runs through that part of the park, making it perfect for skipping rocks and wading.  A blanket and picnic supplies made for the perfect day!

What type of adventures can you find in your backyard?

Cleaning Out Part 2: The Dog House

In our house its called The Dog House, a dormer in our attic bedroom that is cram-packed full of STUFF!  Linens, seasonal clothing, the kids’ childhood trinkets and baby clothes I can’t bear to part with….you name it; it’s found in the Dog House.  Every home has one, unless you are a total minimalist and then you have no idea what I’ve been posting about anyway!

I have learned in this process that control is the key word.  Getting organized makes me feel less chaotic and  more in control of our house and also our free time.  I am far from a neat freak but these unorganized and out of control areas in our home linger on my mind and burden the scared free time I have with my family.

I will admit that this one has taken me a few days, make that weeks, to complete.   I needed some organizational tools (i.e. plastic bins and drawers) to help wrangle this mess and this task required several trips to our local donation center and landfill.

When we first remodeled our bedroom 6 years ago I had great intentions of my husband building storage benches down the sides of the walls for a neat and clean look…never happened and may not in the future.  That doesn’t mean that I can’t take control of this catastrophe!

The questions I had to ask myself when tackling this endeavor included:  “Have I used this in the last year?”  “Do I really  need to keep this forever” and “How many ratty old sweatshirts does a girl really need?  I did give in and kept an entire plastic tote of “craft” supplies and bits of scrap fabric….you never know, I may find myself becoming a Pinterest or Etsy crafter one day!  Or at least sew some stuff together to give out as lame Christmas gifts!

The result:  An organized space that still functions to house our storage and junk but with much less stress!  And an actual “dog house” space in our bedroom for Polly to lounge in front of the window!

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Boy Bracelets and Other Fashion Choices

It’s a beautiful spring Saturday in early May and we are venturing out to the Bud Break Festival in Mt. Airy, NC! Before we can leave the house Hayden has to add finishing touches to his outfit…both wrists loaded with silly bands he snatched from his sisters’ room and a Jurassic Park toboggan.  While my husband was questioning his decision to raid Elle’s room for accessories I simply laughed.

The truth is that I miss those little moments of fashion choice independence I cherished with his sisters. Boys are pretty easy to dress.  Hayden will almost always simply put on whatever I lay out for him and go on about his way; he is much like his daddy in that respect! The girls though first started showing glimpses of their developing personalities through their fashion choices!

Christina,  our oldest,  loved to wear dresses and much to my dismay,  little shoes with heels! I still recall the countless discussions we would have about how it probably was not a good idea to wear said heels to school as they are not recess or P.E. friendly. Many of these discussions ending in tears, mine and hers alike! That battle ended though when she fell off the playground equipment one day while climbing in her heels. I’m not sure she ever asked to wear them again! Pick your battles my friends! Her taste in shoes has grown, I often find myself purusing her closet for the perfect pair of shoes to complete almost any outfit! 

Elle on the other hand,  had no interest in heels, or dresses for that matter.  She did develop a taste for tu-tus though! You may be envisioning a little ballerina in powder pink tulle and you would be dead wrong.  Elle did posses a tu-tu in every color of the rainbow,  which she wore over black leggings or skinny jeans with black knee-high Chuck Taylor tennis shoes and a black tee shirt with a sassy saying or rock band on it. In her defense, she has red hair and looks impeccable in black! I loved that phase,  she embraced being unique and a little eclectic. While she wouldn’t think of donning a tu-tu now and that sweet phase was followed by a terrible sweatpants phase, she has grown into a beautiful pre-teen with style that is still more relaxed but all her own. Thank God for tu-tus! 

So for Hayden, I don’t mind his show of fashion independence…. go ahead and rock those bracelets lil man!

Haydenisms…Cuss Words

It appears lately that Hayden has developed some curiosities with profane language!  Unfortunately, this is not his first run-in with off-limit words but now that he is learning to read, the latest incidents are particularly amusing!

As w20160410_172711e were going over his homework last week and Hayden was rattling off his site words he paused when we came to the word some.  “Momma, that is a bad word” he told me plainly.  “What do you mean some is a bad word, it is a site word, of course its not a bad word” I assured him.  Hayden proceeded to inform me that it is, in fact a cuss word, “Some-A-Bitch”.  No son, that’s not exactly it! (I could hear our middle daughter in her bedroom down the hall, rolling in the floor laughing)

 Later on that week his sister and I were sitting on the couch with him watching television when he blurts out “Momma, is asshole a bad word?”  After shooting Elle a threatening look, daring her not to laugh, at least out loud, I replied “Yes Hayden, that is a bad word, let’s not say it again.”  He responded with “can I say ass?”  “No Hayden, that is also a bad word, please do not say that again.”  I could tell this conversation was not over though because the little gears in his brain were clearly still turning.  Finally, he looked me with a serious look, “Can I say hole?”  “Yes son, hole is the only bad word you can say!”

I Can’t Stand This Mess Anymore…Cleaning Out and Finding Some Peace in the Process 

 Our home has been feeling a little heavy.  I know, it’s a house, it holds the material collections of our lives as well as protects us and provides a location for family and friends to gather; but I can’t help but feel that it has become a black hole,  every nook and cranny is stuffed with junk and I am way beyond organizing that mess so it’s time to unload! 

Project  1: Mommas Closet 

 I hate getting rid of clothes! What if I gain weight…better not throw out my fat pants! And the skinny pants need to stay as motivation right??? Nope, not this time,  if it doesn’t fit correctly it doesn’t stay!

I’ve enlisted the assistance of my 12 year old daughter to help me battle the urge to keep clothes I haven’t worn in ages and will not be donning anytime soon! There is no other type of honesty as that of a budding teenage girl when the topic is old clothes.  

We began by dividing clothes into four piles: Keep, Donate, Mend and Sell. (The thought of earning a little circus money for selling some of my designer or un-worn clothing provides motivation I must admit!) There are a ton of websites out there now dedicated to selling your stuff…take advantage of them! Also,  a little advice with the donate pile,  get it out of the house asap or it will end up back in your closet!

I followed the same process with my shoes and handbags as well as chest of drawers and various baskets and containers that hold the multitude of clothes in our room.  I have realized that I own WAY more clothes than I could ever dream of wearing! I should never complain that I have nothing to wear!!

Be patient with the mess.  I have been saying since New Years that I was going to clean out the closet but kept putting it off until I could do it all in one day… never gonna happen! So I finally jumped in one evening after work,  accomplished about half and had to step over the piles of clothes in my room for a few days until I had time to finish.  But, its oh so worth it! I think I actually like my clothes better now!

Our next endeavor…The Dog House!

Advice From a Newly-Realized Old Mom

Its happened…somewhere between pony tails, studying for spelling tests and basketball practices I became an “old mom”!!!  We have three children and always refer to them as “the kids” but the fact is that our oldest received her drivers’ license today, the lil man has almost completed kindergarten, and our middle daughter is taller than I am now!  I am not sure when these atrocities occurred, overnight maybe!

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It seemed like forever that my husband and I were always the ones at gatherings with friends and family that brought “the kids.”  Now, we are the older couple sitting back sipping a cold beverage while everyone else is running after toddlers! It is kind of refreshing actually!!

A couple weeks ago I had the pleasure of embarking on a first road trip with a fellow bridesmaid and her 4 month old to go dress shopping with the bride-to-be.  He is the cutest little guy, and for a first road trip he and his mom did wonderfully.  We talked during the ride about the baby, the things he is eating and progress he is making and I suddenly realized that I hardly remembered ANY of my children’s first road trips!!  However, all weekend I was the go-to for any questions regarding all things baby.  A compliment in many ways, but also a realization that the “new mom, raising baby” part of my life is over!  It was bittersweet to say the least.

So, I have decided if I am going to have to be an “old mom” the least I can do is impart some wisdom…so here’s my list to surviving the early years:

  1.  You are the momma/daddy and you know best!  Always be polite when receiving advice from family members, co-workers or sometimes complete strangers but remember that God gave YOU this child, and your opinion is really all that matters.
  2. That being said, don’t be afraid to ask for help when you feel overwhelmed or need guidance.  We have all been there, its totally normal.
  3. Help your child develop some independence, even though it stinks to let go a little; you will be thankful for it when they are old enough to make judgment choices on their own.
  4. An occasional “adult weekend” or even “Mommy date” is good for you, your spouse and baby!  The truth is that the grandparents and/or aunts and uncles really don’t mind keeping baby for the weekend, they’ve been waiting to spoil that cutie without you around anyway.
  5. Let baby get dirty occasionally and don’t get too bent out of shape when they lick things they shouldn’t (like the handrails at Dollywood), consider it building up their immune systems!
  6.   It is more than okay for your child to see that sometimes life isn’t perfect, don’t try so hard to make it that way for them that you forget to let them have some reality checks. Sometimes you lose or don’t get picked for the team – its just a reason to try harder or work to make the situation better.
  7. Recognize that “momma guilt” is a real thing and that you will feel guilty for every possible thing they do and don’t do, even when they are adults.  Part of parenting is constantly doubting yourself!
  8.  Take lots of pictures, in just a short 6 months or a year you will be amazed at how much they have grown.
  9. Enjoy every phase of your child’s life (even the “terrible” stages), believe me it won’t last as long as you think!
  10. Pray often and out loud with your children as much as possible.  Let them see that you know and love God so that they will learn to as well.  Its the very best gift you can give them!

Wanting & Having It All

There is an old country song by Sawyer Brown that goes on about “wanting and having it all”  I can’t say that I remember the lyrics now or even the chorus but that one line rings true for most of us working mommies.

I had a long discussion with my younger sister recently, who is a new working mother and is dealing for the first time with the guilt and personal struggles all working mothers address at one time or another…..how do I support my family and still feel like the wife and mother I long to be???  It is all about wanting and having it all my dears and largely only about perception.

While many of us enjoy our careers, there are those thoughts that linger in our minds each day while we are away from home and our rug-rats.  Will I be finished with this meeting in time to pick up lil man before the school bus arrives at the daycare; did I remember to lay out something for dinner so we won’t be struggling to find food for five starving mouths at 6pm; are Elle’s basketball socks clean; oh wait, did I leave the iron on or forget to separate the dogs in the house so that they will have the opportunity to work together to completely tear up the living room before I get home???  And then there is the the GUILT.   You know you know it, every mother does, but even more so for working mothers.  My own mother recently confessed to me that she still feels guilt even though my sister and I who are both in our 30s, have professional degrees and families of our own…it is simply the plight of the working mother!

So, how do we cope with these feelings and guilt of being away from home?  First, we remember that our kids REALLY like to eat and have roofs over their heads.  Then we remind ourselves that inquiring eyes are watching our every move and we want our little darlings to grow up to have successful careers, therefore setting positive examples of work/life balance is beyond essential in how they will navigate their own lives and parent our grandchildren.  We are not afraid to share with them that Momma does wish that she didn’t have to miss “Muffins with Mom” at 8am on a Tuesday morning at school but explain that its very important that Momma be in court with her client, not only because the Judge requires it but because another person is counting on Momma to help them when they are in a tough spot.  Also, use the time you have wisely.  Clean houses are over-rated!!! Yes, I said it! Believe it!  When I get myself in a tizzy of how utterly nasty my house is at any given time, my mom is so kind to remind me that this is only a phase in our lives and before we know it there will not be toys to cover the living room and kitchen floors and the constant search for matching neon green socks will be over and I will long for this kind of nastiness!  So, for this Thursday night, we will make homemade slime in the kitchen and have monster truck races in the living room floor!

It is truly about “wanting and having it all” and my hard-working friends that is exactly what we have…it all!  We have careers we have worked diligently to build and maintain; we have families we adore and the means to sustain them; and finally, when we step back and recognize that it is not the end of the world if we miss a PTA meeting now and then, and that its more important to giggle and snuggle before bed time even though the laundry is wrinkling in the dryer, then we can clearly see that we do have IT ALL!!