Ellery 4 YEAR letter

To our kind and considerate Ellery Wynn,

Four going on fourteen.  You’ve started saying things like “seriously mom,” I’m not exactly sure where you got that phrase or the sassy tone to go with it.  For the most part you are super considerate.  If I’m busy preparing for something you’ll come up to me and ask, “mom, what can I do to be helpful right now?”  I find this so incredibly endearing and it’s a habit that I absolutely adore, I also have no idea where you picked this up.  You will even think about what Vaughn might miss while she is napping and save television shows for later because you think Vaughn might want to watch it.  You’re laugh right now is hysterical and you have a great sense of humor.  Your favorite hobby is taking pictures which I have to frequently delete from my phone so I actually have storage space left.  You are an avid reader, and I don’t just mean you look at books.  You are a READER, like at least second grade level, which both blows me away and terrifies me, because WHAT WILL YOU DO IN KINDERGARTEN?!?!  This is truly no credit to your dad or me, you just were genuinely interested in reading and essentially taught yourself with a few videos and paying attention to words while we read to you.  One day you were playing with a friend and said, ” That’s actually called a dromedary, not a camel, because that one only has one hump.”  Later I asked how you knew that and you immediately recalled that it was from a book that you read in your bed at night sometimes, wowzas!  This year sleep has been one of our biggest issues, I would say 5/7 nights per week you have woken up screaming and begged us to come to our bed, and basically we let you every single time.  I used to have a very strict rule about no kids in the bed and then I realized you’ll outgrow this phase so I better enjoy it while it lasts.  It is starting to sink in that this is my last long summer with you ever, which basically has me wanting to homeschool you so I don’t have to come to terms with sending you to school in mid-August every year from here on out. Since turning four you have become incredibly brave, one example of this is tubing.  You went tubing with Hudson and me last weekend on the lake and I was so proud of how long you stayed on and enjoyed it.  Your Dad is SO sarcastic, which is completely lost on four year olds.  He is probably going to give you an anxiety disorder before the age of five, but you are STARTING to sense when maybe he’s not being total serious and you’ll incessantly ask, “dad are you just kidding????” until he finally answers “yes, or course I’m just kidding.”  He has also convinced you that Yittle Baby (instead of little baby) is actually a term that means big girl and you make sure to tell everyone that is what it means.  I love spending time with you, especially one on one, and I’m committing to being more intentional about our time together this year while you still want to be around me!  You are sweet and enraging, funny and challenging, considerate and selfish, basically you have become a whole human being this year and I just love having you in our lives.

Love you forever,

Mama

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8

To Andrew on our 8th anniversary,

Today we have been wed for 8 years. 2,992 days of me and you doing this life together committed to one another on the good days and bad ones too.  There have been a lot of highs and lows in that time, but when I look back on THIS particular year I will look back with fondness.  Moving across the country with you, yet again, has definitely been an adventure, it really show us what we’re made of when we have to start over, make new friends, fit in to a new culture, and do hard things that we don’t want to do (there have been plenty of those).  You have been supportive, kind, loving, encouraging, sacrificial and calm through all of it.  And then in the midst of our crazy life and trying to settle in I came to you and said I felt like I was really supposed to start a coaching business and you have been nothing, but supportive and excited for me.  Helping me brainstorm ideas, talking about the business way more than someone would want to, and celebrating every little victory I have had with this thing.  We committed on our honeymoon to get away for the weekend every year for our anniversary and let’s just say we had no CLUE how impossible that would actually be once kids came into the picture.  Between births and nursing, kids have pretty much disrupted this idea every year for the past 4 years, and last year was the double whammy of nursing AND moving the next day.  Someday, my love, we will sit on a beach reading and relaxing and honestly probably talking about our kids and how funny they are and how we are so glad we have each other and them.  That day is coming, but today we woke up with a warm body between us because she can’t bear to spend an entire night in her own bed.  We groggily stumbled down the stairs and worked out in our own corners, I blended shakes for breakfast and remarked about how different life looks 8 years later.  And then I kissed you goodbye and sent you out the door for you to work hard for us all day so that we can have the life we have, and I can raise our babies at home.  It’s not the beach, but man, I’m one lucky lady that I get this life with you.  Better days are coming (and worse ones too) and I will live them all with you.

Love you forever,

Laura

I looked through my phone and this is the only somewhat recent one of just the two of us, yikes we need to take a photo together soon!

I looked through my phone and this is the only somewhat recent one of just the two of us, yikes we need to take a photo together soon!

And one where we don't look like lunatics :)

And one where we don’t look like lunatics 🙂

A Surprising Day

This past weekend wasn’t BAD, coming off of a fabulous long weekend it was a little lack luster, but not bad. But it FELT bad, mostly because my attitude was bad.  I snapped at my kids way more than usual, I was negative about pretty much everything and I was a real blast to live with (dripping with sarcasm).  At one point on Sunday Andrew nicely told me I needed to go somewhere, so I found myself at the grocery store…. yeah I really know how to have fun.  So I went to bed Sunday night with a huge amount of dread for Monday.  I did not know how I was going to get through an entire week with the kids, and then Monday came and it was one of the best days I’ve had with my kids in awhile (besides our long weekend as a whole family).

Here are some of the highlights:  Ellery had her first swim lesson.  She loved it and did AMAZING. It blew my mind because she won’t leave the steps for us most of the time and when we left the lesson she said about the teacher, “she didn’t even let go of me so I could swim.”  I also met a mom there that lives really close to us and has girls close to our kids ages!

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When we got home the girls wanted to have a picnic lunch while watching a show.  While they did that I did a quick facebook check and found someone giving away a rug for free.  It has a few stains on it, but I was looking for something for under my dining table (so it’s going to get stained anyway) and it happened to MATCH my room.  The thing to know about this facebook page is if you don’t see something in the first 3 minutes you likely will not be getting it, after I commented that I wanted it 10 people commented that they wanted it if I didn’t take it.  This person happened to live super close so I threw the girls in the van and I went to pick it up.  I mean a FREE rug that matches like this (felt like a God thing to me)…..

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Then the day continued to be great.  I checked my e-mail and had a referral from a friend in one of my challenge groups and so I have a new beachbody client that I get to coach and help them in their health and fitness journey, that was an exciting surprise for the day!  Speaking of healthy I had an avocado sitting on my kitchen counter and when I cut it open it was GORGEOUS, that pretty much never happens for me.  So I whipped up some avocado chicken salad.

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The girls got along quite well and I was able to get my work done for the day (I’ve had some major work issues due to a very messed up computer).  The girls played nicely, had two picnics and sweetly worked together to “do Andrew’s hair” (check out Ellery’s hat).

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We ended the night trying out the new ice cream place in town.  The appeal for me at this place is they have coconut milk ice cream (I can’t stomach dairy ice cream anymore).  They make it fresh right in front of you, and it’s a fun experience, we’ll go there pretty sparingly at $6 a scoop, but for a once in a while treat it’s great!

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It was a surprisingly good day.  Somehow I kicked the funk I was in over the weekend and we are determined to have a great week.  I have been listening to some audios and one of them said to be motivated by gratitude.  I HAVE to start being more in tune with what I’m grateful for and less focused on what isn’t going my way!!

A Girl Can Dream

A Girl

Andrew was off 4 days this past week, well actually 4.5 days.  His company gave them 1/2 day Friday and then TWO whole days off for the 4th of July and for the first time IN MY MEMORY he was not sick for his time off….but that’s another story for another post.  We had all this time off as a family and we made the most of it.  Boating, bowling, house projects, the town parade, party with friends, dinner with friends, running errands as a family, taking turns spending alone time with each kid and then taking our littles on a chik-fil-a date to end our long weekend.  It was one of our best weekends we’ve had as a family of 4.  It was the right amount of activity balanced with the right amount of down time.  And it had me dreaming hard about what it would look like to have a stay at home family.  Andrew would NEVER go for it, but a girl can dream right?

Some of you already know, but for people who just read my blog and are not on social media with me otherwise I recently became a beachbody coach so I could share the amazing programs and nutrition that helped me transform my body, health and fitness.  I have been doing a lot of professional development and many of the top coaches retired their husbands within the first 3 years of their business.  I would love to say this is going to happen for me, but honestly I would have to change quite a few things I’m doing currently and I’m not sure I’m ready to make those changes, we’ll see.  Do I think it’s possible to be making 6 figures in 3 years as a coach?  Absolutely.  Will I be super bummed if that doesn’t happen for me? No.  I actually started coaching because my goal is helping people transform their lives through health and fitness.  If I made enough money that Andrew COULD quit his job if he wanted to that would just be a big bonus (he would not quit working no matter how much money I make….he was made to work).

But this coaching thing has gotten me to start dreaming.  I have never been a dreamer.  I’ve been a hard core realist and honestly kinda a dream crusher.  I have taken it as my personal job to make sure people are aware of the reality of a situation instead of looking at something with hopeful eyes.  I don’t really know where I got this.  Maybe somewhere in my past something didn’t come to be that I had big hopes for and I just decided it was safer to work towards goals that were really safe and that had a clear marked path.

But then I watched a friend transform her body with beachbody and she looked so healthy and appeared to have freedom from unhealthy choices and I thought to myself, why not me?  Instead of looking at her and thinking, why her, why does SHE get to look like that (which was my former attitude), I instead looked at her, got inspired and adopted this “why NOT me” attitude.  And that has carried over to other areas of my life, especially coaching.  When I see the top coaches doing their thing, helping people transform their lives through health and fitness I have that same attitude, why NOT me?  I can do that too, and I REALLY want to do that, so I’m just going to.  Whether I’m helping ONE person or one THOUSAND people I get to have an impact and I’m going to do that.  And I believe fully that YOU too can make changes in your life to accomplish your goals!

And because my goal is impacting lives and not making tons of money (although obviously I wouldn’t turn that away), I give away a lot of free advice over on my youtube channel.  I also have a FREE 7 day challenge for new customers I’ll be doing monthly (my pilot group launches this week and was invite only, but after that anyone can join, e-mail me at size12to2@gmail.com if you are interested in joining one of those) and I always have 30 day groups running if you are ready to get serious about your health and fitness and need the extra accountability (this was absolutely my secret to success).

I lost 30 pounds this past year, but I’ve gained so much more: confidence, self love, goals, health, a new hobby, an extra income for my family, etc.  I could write a book about my gains, but maybe the biggest gain was the ability to dream.

 

Trade Offs

The first time we lived in Austin I dreamed about how much I wanted to raise our kids in the midwest.  It’s what I knew and I had a really great childhood with wonderful memories and the backdrop was mostly central Illinois.  I wanted my kids to know what it was like to wake up in the morning to the thrill of a snow day, to have white Christmases and go sledding.  I wanted them to breathe the crisp autumn air and stare in wonder at the leaves changing colors.  Hot summer days and cool summer nights, small towns with festivals in the summer and bonfires, lots of bonfires. I wanted a lot of things, I had a lot of dreams about what things would look like, and had NO intention of raising my kids in the Texas heat with cockroaches the size of your thumb and the threat of rattlesnakes daily…..

But here we are.  And it’s also good. It’s different, but it’s good in it’s own way, there are trade offs.  My kids are growing up with a very different childhood and I’m embracing it and it’s a pretty sweet life. Yesterday my brother called me out of the blue and asked what time we could be at the boat.  We spent the next 6 hours on the water.  For my kids boating is really normal.  Swimming in the lake, wind in their hair and sun kissed cheeks is just part of our week, many weeks.  The park we picnic at down the street is on the water, and the views of the hill country are very much different than the flatlands I grew up in.  As my kids get older I’m sure we will begin to take advantage of all Austin has to offer, festivals, live music, etc…. the list will be long!  My kids will have a very different backdrop for their childhood memories and I think that’s a good thing.  I don’t need to give them my childhood, that ones already been lived, now they get to have their own and I get to make wonderful memories right where we’re at.  I’m done wishing things to be different and instead I’m embracing that there are trade offs and both places are good.

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What If We Gave Up Jealousy?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately.  What would happen if we gave up jealousy?  I’ve been there, hundreds of times or more, and it’s not a great feeling.  I honestly HATE feeling jealous because to me that’s admitting I’m not content and that is a very unsettling thing for me.  Every day I strive for contentment, and jealousy says “come on. don’t you wish you…..”  I don’t know if it’s even POSSIBLE to give up jealousy, but I do think it’s possible to trade it for a different feeling.  What if we stopped being jealous and started being INSPIRED?

Now I want you to stop for a second and think about someone you are jealous of?  Do you have that person in mind?  Ok, now what is it about them that you wish you had?  Is it their figure, their wardrobe, their job, their home, their marriage, their kids, their talent, their eternally positive attitude, their vacations, their car, their FILL IN THE BLANK?  Do you have that figured out, pinpoint it, write it down, and now let’s get to work.

Ok, let me first say I’m aware you can’t make just ANYTHING you want happen with the snap of a finger.  You can’t always have what someone else has.  If I wanted a million dollars I can tell you right now I can’t make that money by tomorrow.  What I can do though, right now, is change my attitude about it, and it doesn’t cost me one single cent.  Jealous of someone’s wardrobe?  Look at how they put outfits together, be inspired and go through your closet and put together some outfits that you feel great in.  Their home?  Look at how they’ve created a space that you love and be inspired.  Spend some time tidying up your own space, rearranging furniture, deep cleaning it for a fresh feel, organizing your stuff and creating a space that you love to be in.  Their vacations?  This one has been a big struggle for me over the years, the funds have just never been their for us to do this, so I’m inspired by people being able to save and vacation and we figured out a way to take our family of 4 to Florida this summer for a few days.  Instead of dwelling on the fact that they get to do something that I don’t I decided to be inspired by them and take steps to get to where we wanted to go.  I encourage you to brainstorm ideas about how you can go from jealous to inspired and make a positive change in your life from looking at other people’s accomplishments!

The one I struggled with for THE LONGEST time was other women’s figures.  I spent so much time looking at other people and being SO JEALOUS of how they looked.  A good friend of mine posted the other day about her weight loss journey of dropping 50 pounds, getting healthy and working out.  Do you know how people responded to that post?  “I’m so jealous.”  I then just felt sad, one because I used to be there, and two because I want them to BE INSPIRED by her efforts and believe in themselves enough to know they can do it to.

What an uplifting life we could live if we started taking people’s accomplishments and being inspired by them instead of the secret jealousy that eats at you when someone has something you don’t.

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The Beauty in Differences

This past week we went to visit Andrew’s family and I was struck by how different his parents are than my parents and how much I LOVE that for my kids.  Some of the best advice we received when we were getting married was find your own normal.  I’m sure every couple deals with their family norms clashing, but for us it seemed even more exaggerated than some of our friends because we grew up in pretty different cultures.

One place we have found major differences was how our families took vacations. Our vacations were filled with activities: going to museums, seeing broadway shows, being total tourists and hitting all the must see spots and the must eat restaurants.  Andrew grew up with a much more laid back approach to vacations.  Renting a cottage, laying low and relaxing.  I think I used to try really hard to make trips out to his family’s house like my family vacations growing up and I think that I was trying hard to make my kids have a busy week full of “fun” stuff too.  And then I asked Ellery what her favorite part of her trip was.  Her response?  “Riding with Nana on her bike” and that’s when I realized how great the differences are!

My kids loved just playing around the house in the backyard, feeding their chickens, playing with cousins and seeing family they only see twice a year.  We did activities this past week: went to Plymouth (saw the rock), went to the sweetest little zoo, went out to eat, church and a surprise party, and went to her cousin’s softball games.  But the backyard on Nana’s lap, that was the best part.

I adore watching my kids with my in-laws and my parents and am so glad they get different experiences with each of them.  Lucky for them both of their experiences are positive ones, and I’m so fortunate to have learned to embrace differences in our families early on!

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The Encouraging and Devastating Truth….

I have been trying to put my current feelings about motherhood into words, and the best description of my feelings would be conflicted.  Here is the encouraging and devastating truth about each phase of childhood.  It doesn’t last forever.

Sometimes in the midst of a long day when the girls are particularly difficult, they’ve been fighting with each other, or we are cleaning poop out of the bath tub yet again I remind myself, this doesn’t last forever.

But then when we are all snuggled in our bed with our freshly bathed babies and we are reading books and singing Teddy Bear Picnic in unison at the top of our lungs, “at 6 o’clock their mommies and daddies will take them home to bed because they’re tired little teddy BEEEEAAAAARRRRSSSS.” it hits me, this doesn’t last forever.

So each day I feel relief AND sadness when I’m with my little girls.  And I actually don’t know what to do with those feelings.  I just keep thinking, what if all of those older ladies at the store or on the airplane are right?  What if I’m really going to miss this as bad as everyone says I will?  Am I soaking all of this up like I’m supposed to be?  Do I appreciate being a stay at home mom as much as society says I should?

There are so many things I want to remember that I know I’ll forget.  Things like how my kids smell.  I actually often deeply smell their hair and tell myself that I won’t forget it, and in 10 years I’ll be walking in a store or caring for someone’s kid and I’ll smell that exact smell and I’ll remember what it felt like to be caring for these sweet little innocent lives day in and day out and I’ll feel so grateful for the time I spent with them when they were home with me all day.  I want to remember how it feels to be told by my oldest several times a week that, “she has so much fun with me” as I tuck her in to bed at night.  I want to always remember what it feels like to hold a sleeping kid in your arms and just stare at them and be in awe that this child has been entrusted to your care for their lifetime.

I just have this sense that these are the sweetest ages and this will be one of my favorite phases ever.  And maybe it’s not.  Maybe it’s just the start of a good rhythm we are falling into.  Maybe this is just a glimpse into what our future will look like and, if that’s the case, I’m really excited.

But don’t be fooled by this post filled with my mushy heart ramblings.  Most days, and I mean most days, it’s survival right now.  These ages are hard and exhausting.  After saying goodnight to our sweet little ladies they sometimes call us back in their rooms for the next hour.  It’s hard to get a moment to ourselves and even after they fall asleep usually at least one of them wakes up screaming at some point in the night and it’s in those moments that my head tells me “this doesn’t last forever” and my heart aches because therein also lies the reality that the sweet stuff like a warm little body crawling in bed to be comforted doesn’t last forever either.

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18 Month Letter

To Our Grumpy Girl Vaughn Emerson,

We call you grumplestitlskin.  They say there are 5 types of babies, one of them is categorized as grumpy and I would say most days you fit the bill.  We don’t really know what you are mad about a lot of the time, people say once you begin talking you will not be as frustrated, but I don’t know about that.  Despite your temper and general grumpy demeanor you are hilarious.  You make us laugh everyday and the faces you make are the best I’ve ever seen.  You are also so affectionate, reach for kisses all the time, and it’s just the sweetest thing.  You are becoming more of a snuggler and will sit and watch most of a movie with us.  I’m definitely looking forward to more family movie nights this summer.  We bribe you to sit with us by giving you one piece of popcorn at a time and that works for a long time!  I am so lucky that you adore your daddy and let him do a lot for you.  He does bedtime with you almost every single night.  You squeal with glee when he walks through the door after work every evening.  Speaking of adoration, you couldn’t love your sister more.  She can do no wrong in your eyes despite the fact that she pushes you and yells at you and snatches things from your hands constantly.  I think you two will be really good friends when you grow up and also complete rivals, I’m told this is a sister relationship so I will just try to prepare myself for the rollercoaster of raising girls.  I am so delighted that I get to be your mama, you are seriously such a joy and despite the tantrums and attitude I could still just eat you up!!!

Love you forever,

Mama

She may have faceplanted while I was out of town, hence the bruise on her forehead...

She may have faceplanted while I was out of town, hence the bruise on her forehead… and this face is the perfect example of her sass, she pitched a royal fit when we put her in church childcare.

The End of a Phase

IMG_6494I sold our infant car seat this week.  And then I had some strong emotions about the end of a phase of our lives.  I know that because I am writing this I will be pregnant next week, but I’m going to take my chances and write it anyway.  We MIGHT be done having kids.  I always said I would birth two babies and be done giving birth by the time I was 30 (I was married at 22 so this seemed reasonable).  Then I had a relatively pleasant 2nd pregnancy and a VBAC and I thought maybe I’m not really done.  In the beginning when you are high on “newborn perfume” and those nursing hormones have you feeling like you want to live in that forever I was definitely in the let’s just have ONE more mindset.  Then Vaughn became mobile and we moved across the country and we live in a house that’s too big to keep tidy and I took on 3 jobs and Ellery started preschool and I thought, oh my word I am not even a good mother of 2, how could I ever have MORE than two.  The thought just seemed completely laughable (and honestly still does).  So in my mind it’s like, yep, done, sell all the baby things, get rid of all those clothes you’ve been storing, savor every last kiss on those big baby cheeks that are living in your house right now because girlfriend your baby phase is coming to an end (I fight the tears just typing that).

And then Facebook, Oy Facebook.  So many of my friends on there are either posting their 3rd baby bumps or announcing their entry into parenthood and I think about the sheer JOY that comes with the birth of a baby, there is literally nothing I can compare it to.  It is at the same time insanely happy and terrifying.  I remember during my pregnancy with Vaughn I would literally lay in bed and bawl my eyes out at the thought of something happening to me in childbirth (they do a really great job of telling you that having a baby after a c-section is extremely dangerous and you might die or kill your baby, over and over again) and leaving Ellery without a mother.  So I would no doubt go through those intense emotions only multiplied at the thought of leaving Andrew to care for TWO little girls.

Then I hear stories about the THOUSANDS and thousands of children in the foster care system that would love to have a forever home and I think about our big house and our huge hearts with so much love to give and I think maybe that’s the path we are meant to take.  Whenever someone talks about foster care  I always have a tug on my heart and a pit in my stomach.  I’m also aware that now is not the right time for this phase of our lives and I honestly have no idea when it will feel like the right time.  With that being said I also never knew when the time was right to try to get pregnant, but God told me pretty clearly both times so no need to fret about this.