5 Ways To Make Your Privileged Child Feel Humbled & Thankful During The Holiday Season

The holiday season is quickly approaching.  With Thanksgiving upon us, I’ve been taking some extra time to reflect on my life and really notice all.the.things I’m so very thankful for.  From the really big things all the way down to the tiny, minute things.   I’ve been thinking about this post for a few weeks, brainstorming it all in my mind and somewhat dragging my feet about putting it out there.   As I was sitting in church today, listening to the sermon, I realized that it was extremely important for me to put this message out there and share with anyone else who may be feeling the same way.

My children and my family are extremely blessed to live a life where we never have to worry if there will be food on the table or clothes to wear.  We never have to worry where we’re going to sleep or how we’re going to get somewhere.   But the very harsh reality is, MANY people in this world worry about those things every single day.  Things that most of us take for granted.   Many children do not know where their next meal is coming from and they often wonder if they’ll have electricity at home to keep them warm.

Because my children are blessed with the lives they have, I have tried my hardest to make them aware of how difficult some peoples lives are.  Partly because I don’t want them to grow up and be ungrateful brats and mostly because I want them to be empathetic and have a servants heart.

When my kids start acting particularly entitled, I usually give them a big ‘ole dose of “here’s how bad some people have it.”  I’ve learned over the years that it’s best to be honest with our children and not try to hide poverty from them.  It’s important that they see it, they understand it and that they process it.   The amazing thing is – your kids will want to help the less fortunate.  I’ll never forget the first year we took our then-4-year-old daughter to the City Mission’s annual banquet.   Children, living at the shelter, put on a beautiful play.   My tiny little pre-schooler was so touched by that play and her heart was broken that those children (who looked just like her) did not have a home, or toys of their own.  My sweet girl had the idea that we should collect toys for the children at the Mission and deliver them for Christmas.   She spear-headed the entire project and I was so unbelievably proud to watch her be a helper for those in need.

Y’all, Acts of Service is where it’s at!  Involving your children, and the entire family, in Acts of Service will not only make you feel good about what you’re doing but it will also really make a difference in others’ lives.  Sometimes we’ll never truly know how much it means to a stranger to receive an act of kindness.   Below are some of my favorite ways to teach my children thankfulness and kindness, not only during the holidays but all throughout the year!

  1.  Take your children grocery shopping with you.  Make the entire trip dedicated to buying meals and supplies for the homeless shelter or your local foodbank.  As you’re shopping, talk to your children about how some people are not lucky to have warm meals at home.   Get your children involved in the decision process on what to buy and what foods make them the happiest!
  2. Adopt an ‘Angel’ from the Angel Tree.  Adopt a child that is close to your children’s age.  Take your child shopping with you and let them help pick out the items.   Talk to them about how sometimes we humans get to be Santa for less fortunate families.
  3. Start a winter coat drive at your school or office.  Many adults and children go cold every winter because their families can not afford a winter coat.  Often children are absent from school simply because they do not have clean clothes to wear to school.  Let’s work to keep every baby warm this winter!
  4. Clean out your play rooms each year before Christmas.  Get your children involved on what items to donate and let your children go with you during the donation process.  Explain that their old toys will be ‘treasure’ to a child in need.  (Or run a new toy drive!)
  5. Take your entire family and go serve a meal at the City Mission.  Honestly, this will be the harshest dose of reality that you will ever receive; talk about a humbling experience.   It is also a gentle reminder that none of us are that far away from poverty.

What do you all do with your children to ‘pay it forward?’  Leave a comment below and let us know!

Happy Thanksgiving from our home to yours!

XOXO

Jill

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An Open Letter To My Daughters: Letting Go Is So Hard!

Hey Y’all!  It’s been a while.  We’ve been soaking up every.last.second of summer.  Family time is everything in our household.  Sometimes it’s good to take a step back from our social media lives to focus on our real lives and the people that mean the most to us.   My girls are growing at the speed of light.  This summer I feel like if I looked closely enough, I could’ve actually seen them grow.   We’re heading into major transition times in our household.  This week begins a whole new world for both girls.   Tonight I put my big girl to bed for the last time as a “little kid.”  Tomorrow she wakes up and heads off to Middle School…..MID-DLE SCHOOL.  I can’t even believe I’m saying those words.  While every parent out there knows just how fast time goes, there are often moments that slap us in the face and make us realize that our babies aren’t quite babies any more.

My sweet toddler is officially a Pre-Schooler now.  Not just that pretend “pre-school” where you say the word Pre-School just to sound cool.  But she’s actually in a class that counts attendance, gives out tardies (I can only imagine how this is going to go…..I’m sure my just-turned-4 year old really understands the idea of tardies when there is no actual bell that rings) does class work and gets a progress report.  Like, she’s in legit pre-school.  And honestly, I’m not here for it.    When I look at her, I still see a baby.  She’s still my cuddle bug that can’t go to sleep each night unless momma lays with her.  How is she capable of writing her name, saying her ABC’s and being graded on her social, emotional and educational skills.  I’m not ready for someone else to “judge her,” even though I know she’s progressing just fine.  I want her to just be my baby a little longer.  To live in that stress free world of constant fun and entertainment.  Babies don’t keep and that hurts a momma heart.

The truth is, I will love my children at every age and every stage.  It’s not that I only want “babies,” it’s just that I know with each new year comes new challenges and they learn more about this cold, cruel world.  With each new stage in life, it’s necessary to have uncomfortable, scary discussions with our children.  While preparing for Middle School today we had to talk about drugs, alcohol and boys who may act inappropriate.  While it’s important for her to know this stuff and even MORE important for her to hear it from me, I wish we could just go back to the days when I could shelter her from literally everything.  It’s no secret, guys.  We live a Mr. Rogers lifestyle – I’m not even kidding.  My kids have no idea how scary this world can be.  For YEARS my daughter thought “the F word” meant “fart.”  And she thought that was so seriously bad.  (Lord, can we please go back to those glorious years. The years when I could shield her from all the bad and heal all her wounds.)  The hardest part is, there is no going back.  I just have to build her up, show her the way, give her all the mental and emotional tools that she will need in life, encourage her and pray that she always knows how much she is loved.  We have to trust that we’ve done everything that we possibly could to prepare them to leave the nest.   Then we have to let them go and watch them soar.

This is the stage I’m in right now.  My oldest daughter has been soaring so high and I’m so proud of her.  We moved to a small town where we know no one.  She’s starting a new school, she’s meeting new people, she’s playing school sports and she’s putting herself out there every day.  She’s walking into a gym full of 70 girls and she knows not a single one.  She’s brave and strong and she’s facing life head on.  She was scared the first day, but fear didn’t win.  She held her head high and made her way through the crowd.  Now she’s packed her bookbag, picked out her first day outfit and she’s put herself to bed excited to start a new chapter in life.  You all, she is actually excited….like really excited.  Now that is BRAVE.  She is going to slay at this thing called life.  And if my 11 year old can be brave like that, so can I.  Sometimes we can all take a queue from our kids.

There are good things about the kids getting older, too.  This year, for the first time ever, I actually enjoyed back to school shopping.  We took an entire weekend and just shopped ’til we dropped.  I didn’t allow myself to be in a hurry.  I didn’t allow myself to constantly say “no.”  I was present with no outside distractions.  There were so many belly laughs and so many good memories made.   It made me realize how, I may not have babies any more, but I’m gaining bestfriends.  This stage is new and different and I’m not totally sure how to navigate it sometimes, but we will survive and we will thrive.  Although I’d rather talk about bottles and blankies than boobs and pubes, I know that this too is part of my job and we’ll make our way through it.

All my love and hugs to you mommas who are sending your ‘babies’ back to school.

XOXO

Jill

 

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How to Survive 10 Years of Marriage – 10 Things I’ve Learned!

Twelve years ago, when this Cancer (water sign) met an Aries (fire sign), this ESTJ (executive – think Judge Judy or Robb Stark) matched with a INFJ (advocate – think Mother Teresa or MLK Jr.) and this politico met an apathetic voter (who has since never missed a vote), there was some serious steam! Let’s also throw in the fact that we are both independent, strong willed, first-borns! While we found our perfect match, I’ll just say that it took us a minute to hit our stride once we moved under the same roof.

We just celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary which made me want to look through pictures of our wedding but also made me think about how far we’ve come! What?! I didn’t know everything there was to know about marriage at the ripe old age of 25?! HA, no!

Here are 10 of the lessons I’ve learned (yes, just 10 out of the millions of lessons) about making marriage work after you find the love of your life finds you (moves to DC, convinces you that he’s the only one for you and takes you back to your hometown to have two kids):😘

  1. Make smart deals – Before we got married, we made a list of our non-negotiables – a list of our biggest requests from each other. We really got into the weeds and picked our top 3 or 4 things that we thought we’d be able to keep up. For example: After being a bachelor for several years, John really, really, really, really wanted home cooked meals. While I don’t mind cooking, putting together a full dinner every night was definitely not a top priority for me. However, he offered to always do the dishes when I cooked. BINGO! We had a deal. Now, I have a full dinner 4 or 5 nights a week (SAMS is your friend, people!! Flounder + steamed broccoli + rice = dinner) and leave the dishes for John. If either us starts slacking, the other has some leverage. Ha.
  2. Be your spouse’s biggest fan – I guess I’ve always thought John was good at his job, so that part was easy. It was all the other stuff that we learned together about keeping up a house, taking care of our kids, or making big decisions that had us questioning each other’s ability (ok, mostly me questioning…) to do things the right way. Learning that my way isn’t the only way (although usually the best way….he he) was a serious milestone for this independent girl.
  3. Keep letters/gifts/mementos of your favorite memories around – John is really good about keeping notes/cards. I am not so good. I’m more of a picture kind of person. A way around that is a Pinterest board! We have pinned our special vacations, restaurants and gifts. When times are harder, it’s a great reminder of all of the fun things we’ve done, moments we’ve shared and bucket list of adventures that we have to look forward to.
  4. Lay down the sword (or get two tubes of toothpaste) – Seriously, there are just some things that aren’t worth it. I don’t know why I thought we had to share everything and agree on everything. O.M.G. It was so life giving to learn to “agree to disagree” about the things that aren’t pillars of the relationship (e.g. politics).
  5. Do what works for you – Ever heard that you shouldn’t go to bed mad? That’s actually one of the best things John and I can do! I used to be quite the night owl, but these days (ahem…two toddlers) I pretty much shut down around 10:30pm.  Anyone else get irrational and overly emotional when you are tired?! Yeah, me too. If a disagreement crops up when one of us is tired, it goes downhill fast. We do well to hold our tongues and discuss the next day. Many times it wasn’t even a big deal and we forget it and move on.
  6. Spend time together! I never understood the concept of “date night” before we had kids, but now totally get it. Planning one night a week (or month) to just be “us” has been so beneficial for our sanity relationship. Don’t forget to do the things you did together before you got married. After all, these are fun things that got this relationship to the alter. As our relationship grows and morphs, things we do together have changed too. We can’t take two toddlers to the tennis courts and risk them getting pelted with 50 mph balls.  While we still make time for it occasionally (the babysitting money is totally worth it); a lot of times we would rather spend time having an adult conversation over a relaxing meal.😅
  7. Take interest in what your spouse likes (and remember what you like) – I’m still not awesome at this (primarily because I’m worried it entails hours playing Mario Kart…he he, just kidding). John is good at this. He *pretends* to be excited about good deals I’ve found for clothes/groceries/anything at Target, lives at the pool in the summer, indulges my excitement about Disney World, and listens to my rants about the latest issue in the news. It is also good to have separate interests! Putting pressure on our spouse to be our “everything” is a lot for anyone to bear.
  8. Communicate and be flexible – I have to admit, John and I both are the opposite of flexible, so this has taken some work. (*Note: we are still working on this*) No one likes stepping out of their comfort zone and doing things that they don’t want to or don’t think is the best way, but I’ve noticed that when one of us does this, it makes the other want to do the same (occasionally). Communication is hard for anyone. John is crazy tech savvy, so even the thought of adding information to a paper calendar has him cringing. We have set up a family calendar on our phones and are able to add in doctor’s appointments, who is picking up the kids on what day, and any other piece of information that the other should know. This has saved us a TON of irritation about forgetting to tell the other about the-family-trip-we-have-had-planned-for-two-months thing.
  9. Divide and Conquer – This is especially important for parents. John and I have tried to do it all and then tried the divide and conquer technique. I’ll tell ya, DON’T TRY TO DO IT ALL! That will just burn you out and make you tired and grumpy (see #5). Team work makes the dream work. 😂
  10. Show Love – This one seems like it should be the easiest right? I think sometimes its the thing that goes by the wayside. For us, it can be as easy as stocking the Coke Zero stash or stalking the ADIDAS website until I can score a pair of the latest NMD shoes (you can probably tell the love language here right?!😄). Speaking of Love Language, check this out to see what yours and your spouses’ are: Love Language Quiz.

What things have you learned in your years of marriage? Tips? Secrets? New Ideas? We’d LOVE to hear from you.

✌❤💑,

Lauren

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Major Life Hacks From A Military Momma! How To Streamline The Moving Process And Make Friends Easily!

 

My name is Lorin Beier, and I’ve been married to an Air Force pilot for 11 years. We’ve moved 8 times to 6 cities and one foreign country. At any given time, I’ve got friends on just about every continent, in 10+ countries. We’ve got 3 kids who were born in Alabama, Japan and Georgia; and one on the way.

 

Over the years, I’ve gained some insight that I want to share with you! How about some moving tips?!

 

Moving Tips

  1. Valuables in your trunk! Our first set of movers taught us that. Jewelry, personal papers, etc.  Keep those in your possession!
  2. Plastic totes. We bought 30 from Big Lots and they lasted us through 4 moves and we lent them to a friend for her move as well. It was a tad expensive to do, but I really don’t have to save or buy new boxes every move.
  3. If you prepack, use your linens! Also, paper plates in between your dishes works great.
  4. Label your boxes by room. Make sure the movers place the boxes in the correct room at the new house. It’ll make the unpacking way easier.
  5. Take out your trash. They will pack it. Including dirty diapers {gag.}. I remember thinking surely, they know there’s TRASH in the cans, but if it’s not nailed to the floor, it’s gotta go in the truck or the crate. They’ll also pack drain stoppers, the rack in the dishwasher, and water hoses with water still in there. But heaven forbid they pack non-perishables.

 

Making new friends

In the military spouse world, we call this friend dating. Often times when you get somewhere you have to decide on someone very quickly to be your go-to person for those emergency contacts.

 

  1. Find a church!! And look what social opportunities they have. Whether it’s a mom’s group, playgroup, bible study or couples social group.
  2. Ask ol’ Facebook who you already know in the new location. An option would be to search for ‘Name of City’ Play group, or Mom’s Group.
  3. Once you get your kids in activities, try to recognize other parents who are there often and introduce yourself.
  4. Try to befriend your kids’ friends’ parents at school.
  5. Good golly, go meet your neighbors. Nothing says hello like a box of cookies! We have an inflatable, when we blow it up in the front yard, kids come out of the woodwork.  Great way to meet their parents too!

 

How to help kids adjust

This might be the hardest thing. Sure it’s hard on you leaving familiarity, friends and comfort zone. But, depending on kids’ ages, it’ll be nothing or the hardest thing they’ve ever gone through. And I think it all depends on your kids, their maturity level and your parenting skills.

 

  1. Start early. I will prepare them for an upcoming move several months in advance. Sometimes I know where we’re going, sometimes not. But we will play the “what type of house” will we live in next game. My son’s vote is a red pizza cabin mountain house. My daughter thinks it’ll be a yellow beach house.
  2. Look up their school and find an activity they can join. Special interest groups are instant friends with similar likes.
  3. Google the new city and what to expect. Will there be mountains or a beach? How about an aquarium or skating rink? Of course, find a Mexican restaurant, cause mama needs a margarita.
  4. Find fun things to do. For the first several weekends we will pretend to be tourists. Go find fun places, parks and restaurants, no chains!
  5. If you get farewells, I’d suggest giving stationary and switching addresses; so the kids can have a pen pal. Shoot, that would be great as an adult. It’s really cool at Christmas time getting cards from all over the world.

 

I know the inevitable will happen and the kids will get sad. My daughter is 6.5 and I think this is her first move out of 5, that she fully understands what is happening. Best advice I ever got was to let the kids be sad. Let them cry and feel the weight of the moment. But its really important that they don’t stay there. Kids are more resilient than you think.  It’s going to be fine, momma!

Guest Contributor & World Traveler,

Lorin Beier

 

 

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I Don’t Have Babies Anymore And I’m Not Quite Sure What To Do With Myself!

 

As I sit back and reflect on our lives over the last few months, and all the adventures we’ve gotten into, it suddenly hit me (like a wrecking ball) that I don’t have babies anymore.  And honestly, that hurts my momma heart.  Like, a whole lot.  Our kids seem to be growing at rapid speed.  Our oldest is nearly as tall as I am and her maturity level is off the charts.  Our tiny love  has surpassed all the “baby milestones” and looks much more like a little girl than a toddler.  Right now we have two kids playing soccer and one kid playing volleyball….and one mom coaching volleyball (which really just means that I can’t skip anything.  Don’t even think about judging me, y’all know exactly what I’m talking about.)  We live at ballfields, community centers and dance studios.  Our weekends come and go and we barely see our home because someone always has something going on.  Life seems to move in fast forward.  Recently I’ve been really looking at my children and trying to soak it all in.  Some mornings it’s like they wake up and i can tell they grew over night.  It’s beautiful and heartbreaking all at the same time.

We have one child going in to middle school this fall while another child will register for Pre-K.  I feel like I just had them.  Yes, both of them.  Where did the time go?  Not only do i realize how much they’re growing, but i also realize that I’m getting older as well.  Where’s the young, dumb 25 year old with the infant?!?  How have i been a mother for over a decade?  How am I turning 35 this summer?!?  Am i really done having babies?!  Is that portion of my life really over?!  While it sounds like I’m having a mid-life crisis over here, not to worry, I’m just processing all the random emotions that us mommas have to work through.  We dream our whole lives about the families that we’re going to have then once we’re actually in that situation, it all happens so fast that we can’t really fully enjoy it.

I wish i had all the answers and could tell you how to freeze time, but unfortunately, i don’t have those kinds of magical powers.  I do know that I’m realizing how important it is to unplug and be present; not just sometimes but all the time.  To listen to every crazy, long-winded story; to get in the floor and crawl around like a puppy dog and to play ball in the yard like you have no chores that need completed.  These are all things that we, as parents, would normally put off because we “don’t have time.”  But honestly, the older I get, the more I realize that the chores can wait but my children can’t!  They’re only little for so long.

Each day I’m forced to let go just a little more.  To let them walk a little farther away from me in the store, to let them sit at their own restaurant table with their friends, and to let them choose their own outfits and hairstyles (even when I most definitely disagree with their styling choices!!)  They’re only mine for a little while and I’m realizing that more each day.  This part is probably the most heartbreaking of all.  Who will I be when they’re grown and gone?!  We bring these tiny little bundles of joy into the world and vow to protect them from all evils.  We nurture them and hold them close, but letting go will definitely be the biggest hurdle we have to climb.

As I pave my way into becoming ‘middle aged’ and begin to tread the waters of being the momma to a Middle Schooler, I am reminded that each day is a blessing.  And even if I don’t have babies anymore, I know that they need me just as much now as they always have.  They just need me in different ways.  I may be taking the backseat for a while, but i’ll always be their biggest fan.  The truth is, I’m as lost as they are, but we’ll figure it out together….one laugh and cry at a time.

XOXO

Jill

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Be Your Own Valentine: 5 Tips For A More Confident You!

We live in a world that constantly reminds us that we’re not good enough.  We’re not tall enough, thin enough, tan enough, happy enough, healthy enough….the list goes on and on.  It’s exhausting, honestly.  We are hit with a constant flow of information, via the internet, that tells us exactly how we should look, act and think.  Our senses are on overdrive trying to keep up with the latest workouts, trends and technology.  All we want to do is better ourselves, but what ends up happening is that we don’t love the skin we’re in.  We’re always searching for happiness and chasing contentment.  We always think “if just this one things happens, THEN I’ll be happy.”  Or “if I find this kind of man, THEN I’ll be happy.”  The truth is, you don’t find happiness, you make it.  If you can’t find peace where you are, then you never will.  I’m as guilty of this as anyone else.  While I agree that it’s always important to move forward, grow and better yourself, it’s most important to stop and smell the roses and LIVE.  To enjoy the present and love ourselves and those around us.  While truly loving ourselves on the inside is a little bit harder to achieve, here are five easy tips that will boost your outer self confidence.  When you look good, you feel good.  Outer self confidence will start to boost your inner self love!

1.  Go-To Jeans

There is literally nothing more important than having a favorite, go-to pair of good fitting jeans.  A cute pair of jeans can really boost any woman’s confidence.  Find a pair of jeans that can be dressed up or down.  While I’m normally chasing a good deal, jeans are one thing that I don’t skimp on – I’ll pay top dollar for a pair of good quality jeans.  My favorite jeans are American Eagle High Rise Jeggings.

 

2. Good Skin Care Routine

I am SO guilty on this one.  Luckily, I didn’t have skin problems during the teen years.  While that is a huge blessing, it’s a curse in it’s own way.  Because I never had to take care of my skin, I didn’t.  Last year, at 33, I finally got on board with a nightly skincare routine and I can definitely see the difference.  I keep my routine simple, but I still feel like it’s important.  Nothing makes a person more self conscious than to have a giant zit on their face that everyone is staring at (at least that’s how it feels!)  All skin types are different, but here’s what works for me (bonus: you can get this at the drug store for cheap!)

These Neutrogena Makeup Remover Wipes are literally the bomb.  They get everything off while still being gentle on the skin.  I even use them on my kids delicate skin after wearing dance competition makeup.

After thoroughly cleaning my face, I moisturize with Olay Firming Night Cream.  This stuff will literally make your face as soft as butter – and it smells good, too!

3.  Lipstick!

Even though I keep my lip color very “nude” most of the time, I make sure to incorporate a bold, fun lip color on date nights.  It’s also fun to wear a bold lip with minimal makeup – to switch things up a bit!  Here’s one of my favorite looks:

 

4. Pearly Whites!

This one ranks right up there with good skin care.  A healthy oral routine is very important to me.  No one feels very confident if their smile isn’t on point.  I’ve had teeth problems my whole life (lots of cavities – *eye roll*, ugh.)  As an adult, I try to take really good care of my teeth.  I brush two-to-three times daily and use this Listerine Whitening Mouth Rinse.  I’m not even kidding, I can totally tell a difference when I’m not using it.  A warm, happy smile goes a long way – share yours with others!

5. Head Swag!

I can not stress this one enough!  As women, we are constantly doing our hair.  If you’re anything like me, you probably dread doing your hair – it’s SUCH a process.  You might even plan your hair washing days around your social calendar (not that I would know anything about that!)  Here’s a tip that will help you out majorly.  Find several different styles of hats that you like.  Create a collection.  I have hats for most all occasions.  If you’re in a hurry, skip the hair wash.  Just throw your hair up in a messy side bun and throw on a cute hat.  You’ll look trendy and your husband will be happy that he didn’t have to sit around and wait on you!

While I enjoy slathering paints all over my face and jacking my hair to Jesus, it’s not because someone else made me feel like I need to do that.  It’s because I like it and that’s what makes me feel confident!  It’s not even because of my husband.  In fact, he would much prefer me in workout clothes, a ball cap and bare faced.  But I’ve come to realize what’s most important is making myself feel confident and beautiful.  That feeling is going to be different for every single person.  Your job is to figure out what makes you feel beautiful!

Whether you’re spending your Valentine’s Day with your lover, your Galentine or you’re flying solo, make sure that you remember to love yourself first!

Hugs & Hearts,

Jill

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2017 Nearly Broke Me: Onward to 2018 And The Milestones Ahead

 

 

As many of you will remember {if you rack your brain really hard – because I’m sure my life isn’t your top priority} on New Years Day 2017, I posted about how my plan for the year was to spend more time on myself.  More workouts, more healthy living, more girls nights, more fun with friends and to really focus on positive energy.  For the first six months of 2017 I literally killed this goal.  Totally crushed it.   I felt so accomplished; I felt more like myself than I had in years.  Then life suddenly took me on a crazy adventure.  One I wasn’t planning for and one I really wish didn’t happen.  There were some really exciting moments, but then came the deepest pain I’ve ever felt.

In July, we quickly decided to make an offer on our dream home.  As crazy as it seems, they accepted our offer {Holy Crap!  Did we really just buy this huge Estate?!?  Are we even adulty enough for this purchase?!}  Before I knew it, we were suddenly doing approximately a bazillion things in preparation to buy and sell homes.  Two short months later and, voila, we were the owners of not one, but TWO homes.  Panic started to set in {Caleb had to practically force me to sign on the dotted line.  I felt like I needed to put my head between my knees and breathe into a paper bag}, but thank God, he watched over us and our old house sold in record time.

It seemed like all of the cards were falling into place and everything felt perfect….until my dad, who was my best friend in the world, was hospitalized.  As much as we had hoped that he would get better, deep in my gut, I knew he wasn’t coming home.  I cried in the hospital hallway the night he was admitted and told my husband that I was scared that he would never leave the hospital again.  Unfortunately, my worst nightmare came true.  Within a few short weeks, we were faced with the hardest decision I’ve ever made.  Saying goodbye to my hero and moving on without him has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever faced.  2017 nearly broke me.   It’s a feeling I can’t explain and it’s something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.  But, here we are, moving forward and looking ahead, just as he would want us to do.  Dad was full of so much love, he would never want us to sit around and stop living.  So many times in the last few years my dad had given me the advice to “stay young, be active, live life to the fullest and always love your family.”  And that’s exactly what I’m focusing on in 2018.

This year is going to be FULL of milestones in our household.  Milestones that make me want to have an emotional breakdown.  In 2018 I will enroll a child in…gasp…MIDDLE SCHOOL!  How is that even possible?!  My tiny baby will go to preschool – like backpacks and lunchboxes and class work.  And I will turn 35.  I’ve never been one to worry about age; age has always just been a number.  But 35 is a real number, y’all.  35 sounds an awful lot like 40…and that can’t be possible!   Isn’t my mom forty?!?  I mean, it can’t be me staring down forty’s door!  Life is moving at such a rapid pace.  I feel like every time you have a child it just clicks the ‘fast forward’ button a couple more times.  Semesters in college used to seem soooooo long; like they were never ending.  {You know, back when we had no real responsibility but life seemed so hard. *eye roll*  When our biggest problems were what outfit we should wear to Thirsty Thursday and if that jerk of a guy was going to be there and maybe talk to us.}  It seems like now that we’ve hit the sweet spot in life, and we’ve finally found an ounce of real, true happiness, we just want time to stand still but as hard as we try, it just keeps going faster and faster.  So in 2018, while I still plan to focus on ME, I also want to spend every extra second that I can making memories with my family.  My babies are only going to be little for so long.  I want to soak in every second and make every memory that we can make.  I want to seize the day.  I want to say “NO” to outsiders so I can say “YES” to my family.  Time to make 2018 about my crew – and I’m totally ok with being selfish this time.  Just remember, you’re in charge of your time and how you spend it.  You only get one life, spend it well.

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Said No One Ever

Remember back to middle school? We had those scrunchies, wore braces and raisin-colored lipstick, listened to our music with walkmans, watched Clueless, and let’s not forget our Backstreet Boys posters. To get a look into how things are in the 2017’s, I’m deferring to one of my besties, May. She is a middle school counselor (bless her) in Maryland and always provides me with good insight. Here are some of her thoughts (with some of my commentary) that will be useful for not only middle school parents but all of us!

 

 

There’s something deeply powerful about backwards mapping—the concept of beginning with the end in mind, of connecting outcomes to the decisions we’re about to make. The process is widely used in educational settings as well as in day-to-day decision making. It can be as simple as, “I don’t want my tongue to be blue, so I won’t eat that blue jolly rancher,” or “I want to fit in my pants, so I’ll lower my calorie intake this week.” (Been there!)

As a middle school counselor, I’m always looking for ways to get kids to consider the consequences of the present decisions they are making. This is a difficult task – certainly not for the faint of heart. Developmentally, adolescents are generally impulsive and present-focused, giving little thought to what will come tomorrow. They are naturally impatient, much like toddlers. (Wow, so this doesn’t end?!) But while they embody many raw and intense qualities, I have found that they are painfully accurate reflections of the state of our self-focused culture.

While most of us are well past our middle school years, we often find ourselves facing similar issues (we just don’t have the same excuse that they do!).  So when I impart words of wisdom to them, I’m really talking to myself as well. When you’re trying to get through to middle schoolers, I have discovered that it takes a healthy combination of pithy + snarky + humorous. So, in my quest to communicate how particular actions or inactions produce wanted or unwanted consequences, I have begun using a phrase which really puts things into perspective in a powerful, soundbite that is palatable to the middle school brain (and to my old middle school brain).  Said no one ever. For example, “I’m glad I ate that entire box of Swiss Rolls…said no one ever” (sounds delicious…) or, “I’m glad I didn’t put sunscreen on…said no one ever.”

Here are some that I’ve shared with my middle schoolers to get them to think:


“I wish I had posted that inappropriate picture of myself…said no one ever”
“I wish I had thought more about myself than others…said no one ever”
“I wish I had tried to impress people more…said no one ever”
“I wish I had taken more selfies…said no one ever”
“I’m glad I cheated on that test…said no one ever”
“I wish I had made more lame excuses about why I didn’t do my work…said no one ever”

Most of us have lived long enough to partake of the regret that comes from careless living. So, here is my meager offering as a challenge to the rest of us “old middle schoolers”:

When it comes to life choices:
“I’m glad I spent 2 hours Facebook more…said no one ever”
“I sure wish I had racked up more debt…said no one ever”
“I’m glad I procrastinated taking care of my health… said no one ever” (Eeeek!)
“I’m glad I keep staying awake at night on my phone…said no one ever”
“I should scrutinize myself more in the mirror…said no one ever”
“I’m glad I gossiped today…said no one ever”
“I should really binge-watch more Netflix… said no one ever” (Ouch!!)
“I’m glad I refused to donate that dollar to St. Jude’s at the cash register…said no one ever”
“I really glad I worried today…said no one ever”
“I wish I had smiled less…said no one ever”
“I wish I had put off pursuing my dreams…said no one ever” (Boom.)
“I’m glad I keep comparing myself to people I think are more successful than me…said no ever”
“Boy, I’m glad I planned every square inch of my day without time to relax today…said no one ever”
“I sure am glad we postponed our trip to Europe again…said no one ever”
“I’m glad I was so controlling today…said no one ever”
“I’m glad I didn’t let that car into my lane of traffic so he had to wait…said no one ever (Except when you’ve been waiting over two hours to get over the Canadian border, am I right May?!)
“I’m glad I did a mediocre job” – said no one ever

When it comes to relationships:
“I’m glad I hung onto that grudge for 20 years…said no one ever” (oooh…)
“I wish I had kept the truth from people I love…said no one ever”
“I wish I had spoken without a filter…said no one ever”
“I’m wish I had taken my mom and dad for granted…said no one ever”
“I wish I had dismissed other’s perspectives more…said no one ever”
“I wish I had spent less time with my family…said no one ever”
“I wish I had been less patient… said no one ever” (I hear that collective groan, parents!)
“I wish I hadn’t been so forgiving…said no one ever”
“I wish I had insisted I was right more…said no one ever”
“I wish I had assumed the worst about people more…said no one ever”

When it comes to spirituality:
“I wish I hadn’t read the Bible so much…said no one ever”
“I wish I hadn’t prayed more…said no one ever”
“I’m glad I didn’t stand up for what I believe…said no one ever” (whew, May!)

Reading this list leaves me stinging with regret. I think I hear a resounding OUCH coming from all of us. But the sting is good, because we still have time. Time to start living in the light of who we want to be. And time to minimize future regrets. We need to think past this moment. What will “future you” wish you had or hadn’t done? Socrates famously claimed “the unexamined life is not worth living.” If he was right (and most of the time, he was), then I don’t think any of us will ever be wishing we were less intentional with our time—or less focused on the person we want to become.

In other words, as say to my middle schoolers, “I’m glad I don’t think about the consequences of my decisions…said no one, ever.”

 

I mean, mic drop, May – thanks for the words of wisdom! I hope this helps you all, as much as it did me, to take a minute, step back and get some perspective.

 

Guest contributor May Novalis hails from Maryland, where she’s worked with middle schoolers for the last 10 years.  She loves puns, Nutella, Masterpiece theater, morning coffee and connecting with people. You can find May here on SoundCloud!

 

XOXO,

Lauren

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Seven Types Of People You Will Encounter On Facebook

Facebook has evolved so much over the years.  I remember back in the day when a college email address was required to even sign up for Facebook.  Now literally everyone has Facebook, and let’s just admit it, some people can be so annoying.  Here are seven types of people you’ll encounter on Facebook, on the daily.

 

 

The Drama Queen:  This person is always extremely over dramatic, telling all of their most personal information online.  They treat Facebook like it’s their journal and love to stir the pot any chance they can.  This person will divulge every.single.detail regarding their marriage, personal life and any type of work drama.  They also love to constantly make references to their ex and past relationships.  If they know it, it’s going on Facebook!

 

The Political Debater:  This person feels like it’s their mission in life to constantly spew political tirades online.   Their posts are filled with hate and rage and they have zero ability to empathize with anyone who has a differing opinion.  These people are so totally consumed with politics that I’m pretty sure they’ve forgotten how to enjoy their own lives.

 

The Cliff Hanger Suspense: This one especially gets on my nerves.  These are the types of people that leave a very vague attention seeking status, leading you to believe something is terribly wrong.  Then when someone leaves a comment inquiring about the situation, the original poster responds with “personal message me for details please.”  Ummm….if this was a private matter, why did you just make it your public status?  Shut the front door!

 

Cougar With The Duck Lips:  Really, there’s no description necessary for this one; the title says it all.  We all know her, quite well, due to the obscene amount of duck-lipped selfies that she posts.  If she goes more than 15 hours without posting a selfie, we all begin to worry about her well being.

 

The Over Aggressive Direct Salesman:  We’ve all encountered this one.  Let’s just all agree that anytime someone personal messages you, when you haven’t talked to them in 10 years, and the message starts out with “Hey, Girl!”  It’s time to run because she’s selling something and she won’t take no for an answer.

 

Mamaw New To Social Media:  This is probably my favorite one.  I love to watch people my grandma’s age learn to navigate social media.  Watching them share and like their own statuses and comment on the Days Of Our Lives fan page is my absolute favorite.  Life goals right here, y’all!  {Sidenote: this one is very similar to me when I was learning how to use SnapChat.  I felt like a total geriatric, not even kidding!}

 

The Oversharing Momma:  Let’s just put a big ‘ole picture of me right here.  {Raises hand slowly and looks around.}  Just to be fair, I realize I’m just as annoying as everyone else in Facebook land.

 

I hope these brought a smile to your face and laugh to your heart on this Monday!  Cheers to a good week, my friends.

XOXO

Jill

 

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The Bully Teacher That Is Every Parent’s Worst Nightmare

 

Any time the word ‘teacher’ is mentioned in conversation, everyone in the room suddenly has very strong feelings.   In fact, people are as passionate about teachers as they are about politics.  Love ’em or hate ’em, everyone has an opinion; and more often than not, people are usually very vocal with their emotions.

Let me start by saying that we’ve had some INCREDIBLE teachers over the years.  We’ve experienced the best-of-the-best, but unfortunately we’ve also experienced the worst-of-the-worst.  There are people in this world that were literally put on this earth to teach.  They put their heart and soul into teaching and it shows every day in their students.  Those teachers are priceless.  Most of us couldn’t do what they do, day in and day out, and keep our zest for life.  Teachers are not just teachers, they wear so many hats.  They’re counselors, nurses, beauticians, managers, janitors, mediators, and pros at crowd control.  There’s no doubt about it, they have their hands full.  And I will never take a good teacher for granted, ever again.

But then there is the flip side: the side that most people want to ignore, or sugarcoat, and pretend like it isn’t an issue.  But i’m just going to come out and say it {or yell it from the mountaintop} there are A LOT of people who are teachers that should have never become a teacher.  There are teachers who abuse their powers.  There are teachers who are rude, bitter and childish.  There are teachers who are clinically, mentally ill.  And there are teachers who are BULLIES!  Teachers who live out a real live scene from ‘Mean Girls’, bullying innocent children on the daily.

Unfortunately, as a family, we’ve experienced these teachers over the years.  We experienced a teacher who just wouldn’t show up for work, for weeks at a time.  My husband would go to drop our daughter off for first grade and her teacher would be a no-show.  The door was locked, the room was dark, and the tiny naïve first graders would be lined up down the hall with nowhere to go.  They didn’t understand, and for a while we didn’t either, until we finally found out that our teacher was now a patient at a psychiatric facility.  The same teacher who was in charge of my precious baby was completely mentally unstable.  As time went on, we learned more and more from our girl.  We learned of the hurtful words and phrases that this teacher had spewed at the children.  We learned how this teacher had been so negative and so cruel that she had crushed my daughters self esteem.  We learned how this teacher would pull the blinds down on the door and turn the tv on all day, rather than teaching.   And most importantly, we eventually discovered that my daughter had learned virtually nothing during her 1st grade year: one of the most critical learning years in early education.

We’ve also experienced a teacher who was the worst bully that I’ve ever encountered in my lifetime.  She taught her daughter, who was also in the same elementary school, to rigorously pick on my child in a malicious way.  She coached her daughter to lie and fabricate stories.  This teacher and her daughter were constantly spreading false rumors about my child, all the while she was trying to sabotage my child’s relationship with other children at the school.  She constantly metaled in my child’s school life and she coerced and convinced other teachers to not like my child, because her and her daughter simply ‘had it out’ for my little girl.  The stories I could tell you are straight out of a lifetime movie, I’m not even kidding.  And, once again, this behavior was coming from a teacher who was supposed to be in charge of my child’s well being.

My biggest regret as a parent is that I set back and let these things happen to my child.  I made small complaints, but those weren’t enough.  Those calm, mild manner complaints were repeatedly overlooked and swept under the rug.  I look back on that time in our lives and I think “how did I let that happen?”  Why did I not march into that school and scream, throw fits, and turn shit over in the principals office until someone paid attention to me?!  Why was I so nice when those teachers were clearly liable of malpractice.  Why didn’t I do more?  Sometimes the guilt I feel is overwhelming.  I spent both of those years constantly trying to be the peace keeper, but I will never ever do that again.  If I have to fly my crazy flag I will do it proudly.  I’ll go down in a blaze of glory!

The moral of the story is, if you feel that your child is being mistreated at school, you are their only voice.  And you better use a megaphone to get your point across.  If something is seriously wrong, and you feel it in your gut, then don’t be calm like I was – calm doesn’t catch anyone’s attention.  Be bold, be brave and be your child’s advocate because no one else will be.

After all of the stress and drama that my daughter had encountered, we noticed that it was taking a toll on her physically and mentally.  We witnessed the joy drain from her eyes and we saw a sadness taking over her body.  She was mentally and phsycially exhausted.  Her confidence was nonexistent and she felt totally defeated.  It was at that moment that we said, “NO MORE!”  We moved to a new school district and it was THE BEST decision we’ve ever made in life.  Her 4th Grade teacher was absolutely amazing.  She totally reprogrammed my child to love school again.  She was an angel sent from God and i’m forever grateful.  I’m in no way trying to vilify teachers, that isn’t what this is about.  My point is, there are wonderful people and wonderful teachers in this world.  But, unfortunately, shitty people become teachers too.  Don’t always assume that just because someone is a teacher that they’re an amazing person.  Keep your momma senses on high alert at all times.

Just keepin’ it real.  Much love – XOXO-

Jill

 

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