Something to Read

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For as long as I can remember we have followed the 4 gift rule for Birthdays and Christmas. Something you want. Something you need. Something to wear. Something to read. It has kept my shopping very simple and helped us focus more on the event than the stuff that comes along with the event. It works well for us partly because the girls have aunts, uncles, grandparents and friends who are also giving them presents so they still have the excitement of opening packages without us having to give them tons of things.

Also since I was pregnant with Vaughn five years ago I’ve made it a point to get the Christmas shopping done as early as possible so we could enjoy all the fun that comes with the holiday season without the pressure of shopping. My goal is always to be finished with our shopping by December 1st when we start our advent calendar of activities. So when my friend K’Leigh asked if I’d host an Usborne party this summer my mind immediately thought…..something to read, CHECK that box in August!

If you haven’t see the Usborne books you are MISSING OUT. They are the best books on the market IMHO and we have gotten hours of enjoyment out of every one we own. Ellery is an avid reader and I’ve discovered that her reading level does not match well with appropriate fiction content so we have turned to a lot of non-fiction reading and Usborne has amazing, beautiful, interesting non-fiction books. My party was on Sunday, but I thought I’d do a highlight on here since I have several people who are still wanting to shop before I close the link. I will keep THE LINK live through 10 AM Saturday August 31st.

Here are some of our favorites:

Lift the Flap books. We want basically all of them. There are over 100 flaps per book and they are full of learning and facts. Ellery is entertained by these for hours and a chapter book will last 30 minutes tops. We have General Knowledge, Periodic Table, and Fractions and Decimals. There are so many on our wishlist I won’t list them all. Other topics in this series: Computer Coding, Multiplying and Dividing, Measuring Things, How Your Body works and MORE! These books are recommended for 6 years and up. I’m 33 and I enjoy them too!

Lift the Flap

For Vaughn’s Age we really enjoy Lift the Flap First Questions and Answers. We currently have How do I See?, What Makes it Rain? and How do Animals Talk? We have others on our wish list like Why do we Need Bees? and What are Feelings? These are great for 3+ and there is a series for even younger children called Lift the Flap VERY First Questions and Answers, so if you have even smaller kiddos definitely check out that series!

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Then there are TONS of activity books if you need something for your kiddos to do. We are getting some magic painting books this time around and some color pop up books. We currently have these wipe clean activities: Space, Vacation, and Never Bored Cards. These have been great for my non-school loving kiddo. Where she typically doesn’t want to do pencil and paper activities she will do the wipe clean books!

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There are literally hundreds (maybe thousands) more titles. Something for every reader in your home. If you need help choosing a book, shoot me a message and I can either help you or get you in touch with my book lady!

A few other series to check out: Peek Inside, 100 Things to Know, Big Book Of, Finger Print Activities, and the whole Activities tab! To shop my party CLICK HERE!

But I Won’t Do That

Growing up I was raised by a stay at home mom. Our family made a lot of sacrifices for her to stay home with us, but we were grateful for it, and I know she would tell you she would not have changed a thing. She always had a side hustle. When we were growing up it was piano lessons. We would get off the bus and she would teach until dinner. She was the room mom for our classes and as involved with our lives and school as she could be. I knew when I grew up, if I was lucky enough to have kids, I wanted to be a stay at home mom too. And then it happened, I got married, had a little girl, and my desire to be a stay at home mom was fulfilled. To be honest, I was one of those moms who really loved it. I didn’t feel like I was missing a career, or adult time, I didn’t need much of a break from my kids, I just LOVED it. It was probably the teacher in me that gave me the ability to enjoy it as much as I did. Everything about our day was planned and structured: naps, eating, playing, screen time, it all had it’s place and I treated my stay at home motherhood like my full time job because, well, it was. I worked part time from home during naps and traveled to my hometown with my kids every other week to work in the office, it was the perfect balance for me and I was really living out my dream. I remember saying, “I would do ANYTHING to be a stay at home mom, I would sacrifice everything to be with my kids when they are little.”

And then I came to a situation where I had to say, “but I won’t do that.” I found out in October of 2016 that I would be getting a divorce and I lived in a large house with a large yard and… you guessed it, large bills. I had to then make a decision. Do I sell my home and move my kids to a cheaper part of town away from my support system, or do I get a job? Ellery was starting kindergarten and Vaughn preschool in the fall of 2017 and God blessed Andrew with an incredible new job making a lot more money so he could financially keep me and the girls afloat until they started school. I knew in my heart keeping them in their home, at our church, and near our family and friends as we adjusted to our new normal was important and, to make that feasible, I would need to get a job.

I hadn’t even started looking yet when my brother called me one day to let me know he had found the perfect job for me and gave me the guy’s number. I called, set up my interview for the following week and a few weeks later I was an agency business consultant for Farmers Insurance. I had a flexible schedule since I was working in agencies, I could do work from home when needed, and my boss was a great balance of invested and believing I was capable to do my own thing. I loved what I was doing, but still had a lot of heartache that I couldn’t be there ALL the time. I wanted to be at the bus stop everyday and preschool pick up. I still wanted to be that full time stay at home mom that now had TEN HOURS a week to get my own house stuff done. I was about to be stepping into that sweet spot of stay at home motherhood where I had a handful of hours a week to clean the house and grocery shop and maybe occasionally grab lunch with a friend and suddenly all their school time was my work time and I will admit I really struggled with this. It’s a long story, so I will spare you, but I ended up having to switch to a different district that was an hour from my house and had agencies all over town, I was sometimes spending 4 hours a day in my car and, let me tell you, commute time makes a mama’s heart ache worse than work time. I had a lot of time to miss my kids while I was driving around and a little over a year into this position I knew I had to make a change.

My friend’s husband was looking for an assistant in his Wealth Management business and after a couple months of talking about it, I finally decided to quit my job and work 5 minutes from home. Also I now was able to do preschool drop off and pick up and only needed childcare on Wednesdays which freed my parents up to live more of a true retired life and made my work life balance actually BALANCED. When I need to come to the office outside of my typical schedule my kids can come with me and my boss believes that family comes first so I am at every school function and get to stay home when they are sick. I am gonna be honest with you, I still struggle with it. Legitimately the best working mom set up on the planet and I still struggle, do you know why?

Because it wasn’t what I wanted or planned. Sometimes I see my kids reactions when we change the plans or they don’t get what they want and I think, yeah kid, I get it, I feel that way sometimes too. Adults have just learned to put the feelings inside and deal with it. I have had a phrase I’ve used through this 3 year process as sometimes a moment will hit me when I say to myself, “this wasn’t what I planned.” I remind myself often that THIS IS GOOD TOO. Perhaps I’m working because my girls need to see their mom work. Maybe they will grow up and have a passion that they want to pursue at a time they are also moms and they feel they have to choose. Hopefully they look back on childhood and remember me being present while also working and they’ll believe that they too can be a working mom while still making their kids feel loved and important. Or maybe I’m just working for the purpose of there not being money stress in our home. I have realized how much pressure men must feel when their wives stay home (and vice versa). When it came down to JUST ME even with a fantastic child support check it was still a lot of pressure to make sure I was providing for my family. Working now that I’m married means we get to take the trip, do the swim lessons, go out to eat, see the concert, do the camps, and give without worry because I have an income.

I don’t know who needs to hear this, but I have been thinking about this post for 2 years and I finally decided to write it. I think maybe someone needs to know that it’s okay to mourn the life you planned while still feeling happy about the life you have. I do not know why I’m walking the road I’m on, but I’m confident it’s charted with purpose. And know too that everyone has at one time or another had to draw the line and say, “but I won’t do that.” Don’t feel bad about having to change course, I lived a lot of days feeling like a failure because I said many times I would do ANYTHING to stay home full time with my kids and I felt like I made myself into a liar. Life took an unexpected turn and I made the necessary adjustments to stay afloat, no shame in that!

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To my 7 year old 2nd grader

To my book lover giggly girl Ellery Wynn,

SEVEN, I don’t know why that one feels so big, but it does. And YOU feel so big. You tower over all the kids in your class, are losing teeth like it’s your job and you wear a size 2 shoe! This year you have endured tons of change and the changes will keep coming for the foreseeable future. You are pretty good about just rolling with it when it comes to home life change, it’s the change in the school routine that sends you into a tailspin of worry. We have worked on coping when things do not go exactly to schedule and you have come a long long long way in the two years of grade school. We recognized you coming back to yourself when you began telling stories with a giggle in your voice again. Now you giggle so hard you often snort which is both endearing and annoying depending on the context.

If we cannot find you we just find the nearest sunny window and there you will be with a book in your hand. You could literally read for 5 hours a day without growing tired of it. This theory was tested a couple weeks ago when you got strep throat, you crawled up in your bed and stayed there reading the majority of the day. Your favorite books right now are Usborne lift the flap books, with the General Knowledge one topping the charts. You love to memorize facts and share them with us and I find all of them fascinating. In fact, I find YOU particularly fascinating. The way your mind works is magnificent, the deep thoughts you have that pop out here and there always catch me off guard. You love to create, whether it is a painting, or a picnic with all your beanie boos, or a classroom setting where you are the teacher and Vaughn is the student you love to make something come alive using your imagination. I would say the thing you dislike the most is working on something that isn’t naturally easy for you. This has made piano lessons particularly difficult and dare I say it on here……FULL of tears. But that’s my job as your mom, to push you, to teach you how to try, and to raise you to do hard things. I don’t always do this well, but I try to lovingly nudge you to believe in yourself and to keep trying over and over.

We have asked A LOT of you this year and you have rolled with it. New home, new bonus dad, new room sharing situation, new schedule with daddy overnights, and so much more! While I’m sure it’s been hard on you inside sometimes, you have been able to maintain your sweet demeanor, your carefree attitude, for the most part, and your friendship with your sister. You are still such a kid and I love that about you. Today we walked in to “meet the teacher” and I tried 3 different times to let go of your hand because I thought maybe that “wasn’t cool” anymore and I didn’t wan to embarrass you. Each time I put my hand back down you would grasp it tightly and I just savored it. I feel like you are growing up so fast and then something like this happens and I’m reminded that you are still a little girl and have so much growing up left to do. Roots and wings, my little love, that’s what I’m trying to give you in these 18 short years I have you in my direct care. I hope you soar someday and always know you can come home. Prayers for you as you walk those big halls tomorrow and navigate that delicate dance of making friends while staying true to yourself. Never dull your light for someone, I hope you SHINE bright always.

Love you FOREVER,

Mama

Elle 2nd grade

We Said Farewell

Monday morning I took the girls to say goodbye to our home. When we purchased the house in August of 2015 I immediately started a Pinterest board called “Family Home.” That was the plan, this was going to be our big family home for the next 10-15 years. We would raise our girlies there in the house with the big back yard with 40 shade trees, big decks and space to run around. When we bought it we could picture all the special things taking place there: Christmases, birthdays, big family dinners, hosting out of town guests and friends that are more like family. We’d take pictures of the girls with their dates in their fancy dresses for dances and sell that big family home when the girls left for college. Then life happened, things changed, and that big  house just felt WAY too big, very overwhelming and no longer felt like the proper space to raise the girls.

So Monday we said goodbye. Goodbye to the home where my world was shattered and then put back together. Farewell to the place I fell in love again, where I felt safe staying with the girls alone, where I spent so much quality time with my little ladies. Goodbye to the backyard where my kids became best friends, where they played countless hours, the place where I felt so much peace and joy watching them be carefree. That chapter of our stories has come to an end and I’m thankful for this new one.
The new one is simpler, smaller, no backyard to take care of, two bedrooms instead of four. It’s less stuff, less responsibility, and a whole lot more opportunity to spend quality time together. Every ending is bittersweet, and I think Semisonic said it best,”Every new beginning comes from some other beginnings end.” Love that quote, I think about it a lot and celebrate the past while stepping in to the future.
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Dear Daughters

To my little loves on the eve of my wedding,

As our current life chapter comes to a close I felt it important that I take a moment to write my heart for the two of you. Change is coming tomorrow, and while it’s good and exciting and full of love and hope, change is hard sometimes. Tomorrow you have to share me at a level you have not known before. This man who you have come to love and adore, who you refer to as “MarkOh”, will officially become your Stepdad (I’ve tried to get you on board with bonus dad, but you (mainly Ellery) insist that the correct term is STEP dad and I’m trying to roll with it). The random slumber parties in my big bed will become less frequent and reserved for special occasions only. The pizza picnics on the floors and the fend for yourself dinners of cereal and buttered noodles will also become just a memory from the single motherhood days. The evenings where I can lay in your bed for an indefinite amount of time so you can chat with me will have to get cut short sometimes because someone else will need my listening ear.
It’s been hard for me this week letting go of “just the three of us.” It’s been a good chapter. Despite the struggles, and there have been a few, I will look back on this single motherhood chapter in the story of my one beautiful life with fondness. We became closer, you became best friends with each other, and I was afforded the luxury to really get to know you in the evenings when my attention was not split. We navigated some rocky waters as I became a working mom after 5 years at home and I learned how to cherish the time together better because I had less time with you than I wanted or planned. Life is a mystery. I have learned we can either view it as just that, something that is unfolding before us and we are along for the journey, or we can spend our days angry that it’s not the storybook we wrote for ourselves. Find joy in the mystery and the freedom that we are not in control, trust God my little loves, He can see the big picture when we are focused on the details.
Something special happens tomorrow, Mark and I will pledge our love and faithfulness to each other. We will make promises to you and become a family unit. I get to marry a man that treats me how we expect a man to treat you some day. Someone who I love at a level I did not know was possible, someone who loves me back fiercely and looks at me with total adoration, I pray some day you have that too.  We are growing as a family, you still have a daddy that loves you like crazy, and now you get a bonus dad. You. Are. SO. Loved. I hope you have felt it at the magnitude that we send it out to you. Tomorrow we start this new chapter, I look forward to watching it unfold and making beautiful memories with you. So grateful my journey brought me the two of you and that we get to continue the next part of the adventure together. I never thought I would have daughters in my wedding, but it is so special sharing it with you, what a beautiful gift all of this is.
Love you forever,
Mama
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SHARE

shareSeeing as it’s the last day of the first month of 2019 I decided now was a good time to write about “my word” for this year. Last year my word for the year was transparency, which I thought was synonymous with sharing, but found that was not the case. I was called to being transparent in my real life, telling the truth to people that I came in contact with and navigating a year of living the truth and becoming comfortable with our story.

2019 my word is SHARE and not just our story, but time to share my life again in this space. Writing has always been something fun for me and I want to get back to that place again. I feel led to share a lot of things this year, not just the nitty gritty that two and a half years of processing has unearthed. I want to share things I’m loving, more about my kids, Wedding stuff, YEP….. I’m getting MARRIED this year, share more about my coaching business that I’m pretty darn passionate about and just overall share more.

In my real life I’m being called to share more meals with people, more conversations over hot drinks (I know *gasp* I’m not a coffee drinker, but tea is my jam), more wisdom (looks like middle school ministry with the hubs is coming in May!), and share my feelings about people to them more. I previously lived a life of encouraging people and calling out the good I see in them, but I took a break while I cocooned for a couple years.

I’m baaaaaaacccccckkkkkk and ready to get back to blogging and sharing and being intentional with people again. Cocooning was necessary for a season, but it’s not me and I’m ready to get back out there and share my life again. HELLLLLOOOOO 2019!!!!!

But What If….

I know in May I promised we’d start sharing our story. It just never felt right. I couldn’t figure out why I was so paralyzed to write our story here. Then one day it hit me, I’m afraid.

I know there are many couple out there living our former reality. There are gay men married to women and they have children and lives and hopes and dreams and I’m afraid I’m going to write something that disrupts their illusion of happy. I’m worried that as we process our thoughts out loud there will be people who can no longer live in their closet. But that little voice inside keeps whispering, “but what if you push someone in to freedom?” “What if your story saves a life?” “What if what you share helps a parent accept their kid?” “What if you help a generation love people better?””What if you were meant to share this?”

So I will try to sit down and write, Andrew and I have to proof them together so the process is longer and I always wrestle with how much I want on the internet for the sake of our kids. My goal for 2019 is to get back to blogging, so I am committing to just write, sometimes it’ll be our story, sometimes it’ll just be like the old days where I shared a lot of things. 2+ years into this journey and I very much feel like myself again, only actually a bit better than before.

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To my 4 Year Old

To My Defender Vaughn Emerson,

If I could assign one word to describe who you are becoming it would be DEFENDER. You go to bat for anyone you feel is being mistreated. You try to end any kind of conflict you perceive to be happening (even when people are actually just having a normal conversation) and you are all about defending those who lack your level of bravery. I knew from early on that you would be a feisty person, now I am seeing the positive side to this and hope you only continue to grow this personality trait.

You are so super sweet. You whisper to me often how much you love me and you and Ellery have started telling me, “I love you so much I could never stop loving you.” I find this to be one of the sweetest things a kid could ever say to their mother. I feel the same way, it’s not possible for me to ever stop loving you. You have the sweetest smile and you know exactly when to whip it out just as you are about to get yourself in trouble. You push the limits with almost everything and, as maddening as it is, I secretly cheer knowing that you  will be able to stand your ground as you get older.

I am soaking up this season of you being in preschool. I took a new job in October which allows me to be home with you a lot more and it was the best decision I could have made. The unthinkable happened and you actually want to go to school everyday which has made drop off so much nicer. You have very sweet teachers this year who think you are a riot, and everyone else in our life agrees with them. You don’t like wearing your hair in a ponytail because you don’t like that the boys at school say, “awwww” when they see you and yet you only talk about two boys ever, Brooks and Bennett, they are not even in your class and you talk about them non-stop at home.

You think your sister is the best thing on the planet and you wait patiently all day for her to come home from school. Many days she craves alone time so badly that she hurts your feelings unintentionally, but Saturdays were made for sisters. You girls play for hours every Saturday morning, lately out on our playground in the backyard, packing your backpacks, going on field trips and taking turns being the teacher in your pretend school. My heart bursts when I watch you girls on Saturdays and I say my little prayers that you will forever be each other’s “person.”

You’ve been sick lately, it’s becoming a birthday trend for you to come down with a fever and illness on your birthday. This has given me the opportunity to lay with you and watch you fall asleep and, even though it’s been 4 years, I’m taken back to the newborn phase. Watching you fall asleep, so much is the same: your lips, your lashes, your round cheeks, the way you breathe, but so much is different, and so much has happened since your birth. Part of my heart screams, take me back, while the other is so in love with where we are today.

We’ve come a LONG way baby, and we have a long road ahead. Gone are the days of you screaming for literally HOURS a day for no determined reason. Those days have been replaced with sassy hands on hips and phrases like, “I’m so mad at you, you are not going to be my family anymore” to which Ellery and I remind you that you are stuck with us forever and then I send you to your room because, mama doesn’t take disrespect like that. You boil my blood and push me to laughter all in the same minute and I wouldn’t trade you for the world. I thank God for you literally every single day. It is a privilege to raise you and I don’t take it for granted. I love being your mom and I pray one day you look back on childhood and have the same feeling about being my daughter.

Love you forever,

Mama

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To My Ellery Wynn on your first day of 1st Grade

To my lover of routine Ellery Wynn,

Today was your first day of first grade. When I came home from work I asked you how your day was and you smiled ear to ear and responded, ” I give it an A+” and yet this mama has done everything I could to not e-mail your teacher tonight to let her know that I really do love you and I really really would have been there if you wanted me to. You will learn, my sweet girl, that comparison is the thief of joy. Today after school I got on this thing called Facebook (I really hope for your sake by the time you are reading this Facebook no longer exists), and well, everyone in my newsfeed had pictures and videos of them dropping their kids off IN THEIR CLASSROOMS on the first day. My heart sunk. I put you on the bus this morning because you LOVE RIDING THE BUS and you beg us not to drop you off because you like the routine of getting on the bus and are much happier that way. I suddenly felt like I should have walked you to your class and said goodbye and I internally started panicking that you were looking around wondering why your parents didn’t come to your class this morning.

All that aside this year was MUCH easier than last year. I woke you up this morning and you gasped with delight at the realization that IT WAS THE FIRST DAY OF 1st GRADE. You jumped out of bed, got dressed, ate breakfast happily, got ready and were completely jazzed about walking to the bus. You gave me a couple quick squeezes and you were merrily on your way. You were the only one on the bus and I didn’t have the heart to ask you if anyone else rode the bus with you this morning, you probably didn’t notice anyway because you took a book with you for the ride.

Everyone loves your teacher this year. When I tell people who you have they respond with, “oh we love her, and she loves reading.” Reading is currently your favorite thing. You probably read at least one chapter book per day, Bad Kitty seems to be your current favorite, although Magic Tree House is a close second. I can already tell it’s going to be a wonderful year with a teacher that is a great fit for who you are. You have a couple friends in your class this year from your class last year, and one special friend in particular that lit your whole face up when he walked through the door, I’m really glad you have class together again this year.

I missed you all day today. Not because I tend to see you during the day since I’m at work, but knowing that I couldn’t check in or request a photo or send you a text message via Mimi’s phone made for a LONG day. These years go fast and I cherish everyday that I get to be with you. You are delightful, smart, creative, fun, independent, loving, confident and this year I can actually say you’ve become BRAVE. I am so proud of who you are and I am incredibly thankful how you have handled the life change you’ve faced over the last 2 years. Praying you through this year and hoping it’s full of wonder and joy!

Love you forever,

Mama

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Giving You a Lens

Hand puts a transparent clean protective UV filter to the cameraOver the coming months we (Andrew and I) will be sharing the journey we have been on with God (together at first and now on our own). We’ll be sharing some potentially “radical” things we feel God has been doing in our lives to challenge our beliefs. I feel like these posts need to be read with a different lens, so this post is to give you some perspective before we start posting more of our story.

Please know this: I’m not asking you to believe what I believe. I’m asking you to ask yourself WHY you believe what you believe. I have discovered that I had A LOT of beliefs grounded in someone’s perception of the Bible and that I believed whatever was spoken from the front of whatever church I was attending. I rarely asked God what He thought about different topics.

For MANY decades the church has been in the “sin management business.” I believe the Church as a whole is shifting to a “life change encouragement venue” and because of that church’s are analyzing why they believe what they believe and are starting to change their minds. It’s the Church’s job to aid you in encountering the life changing truth of Jesus, it’s the Holy Spirit’s job to convict you, and we have been really bad about this for way too long. Christians are terrified that the church is “changing due to culture,” I believe the Church is finally becoming a place that is accessible to all people and that to me looks a lot like Jesus.

The Bible is the LIVING WORD OF GOD. When you ask the Holy Spirit to interpret the scriptures for you and you read them, it will CHANGE YOUR LIFE. I’m not exactly saying the Bible changes, but I’m also kind of saying that it does. It speaks to you on a personal level and communicates what you need in each situation you are in.

And last, but CERTAINLY not least: you changing your mind about a TOPIC does not mean you are changing the GOSPEL. I get really tired of hearing preachers talk about how we are bending to culture and changing the Gospel. If the Gospel is that God is good and Jesus came to save the world, you having a different opinion about something that urges you to love people better does not mean that you’ve changed the Gospel, you’ve just changed your heart.

Read what we share, if it challenges you, pray about it before you form an opinion.

Photo credit: HERE