It's been so very long since I've really sat down to write. Like 2 months long. Ahhhhh, this season of life....
For those of you who don't know me personally, my oldest daughter graduated high school a few weeks ago. I've known for awhile now that I wanted to do something extraordinary for her. Something that would fill her love tank up and let her feel how proud I am of her. This kid. She is just amazing. I'd go on and on, but I'll keep that part simple and just tell you she is the absolute best. She really is.
I've had this epic surprised planned for some time now, and around Easter, I couldn't hold it in any longer. I was taking her to Ireland. We were to leave the day she had her 2nd graduation(she graduated with not only her high school diploma, but her Associates in Science as well). I'm gonna go over a few questions I know I would want to know:
1) Did we use a travel agent?
Absolutely!!!!! We used a local travel agent and I can't say enough great things about her. Travel Center of Hickory (Dina). I made an appointment with her, told her what I wanted, and I came in and had a few choices that she found for us. SOOOOO easy.
2) How did you afford it? Was it expensive?
Well, it wasn't cheap, but the great thing about using a travel agent was that I put a deposit down and then when I had any extra cash, I'd head over there to her and put it towards the balance of our trip. Doing things this way took a lot of pressure off of me to pay everything all at once.
3) Did you backpack it or go with a group?
This was going to be my first time out of the country by "myself" (aka: without my husband) and with my daughter so I was a little nervous to just 'go with the flow,' therefore we went with a group/coach/tour thingy. I was nervous about not knowing these people, but I can't say enough about how amazing it was. These people were hilarious, kind, and just as excited to be there as you were.
4) What tour group did you use?
Globus. I can't stress this enough...THEY WERE AMAZING. There was not one tiny glitch in the entire trip. We stayed in the nicest hotels, were given the best food(yep, a lot of our food was included with the package), and the tour guide was AMAZEBALLS. This women knew everything about the country she grew up in.
5) Is there anything you wish would have been different?
Honestly, the only thing I probably would change next time is not have picked the fastest moving trip. What I mean is that you can choose a trip that is leisurely, fast fast, etc. We did the extra fast lol. We were in a different area probably 6 different times and that meant changing hotels that often as well. I probably would do just a slightly slower pace next time ;). But, moving that fast meant we got to see ALOT and I mean ALOT.
6) What was your favorite place you saw?
As much as I loved every single place we saw, my heart struck a beat with Kerry. I've never seen anything more beautiful. I can't even describe it.
I hope you enjoy seeing Ireland through my eyes.
It's been a month you guys. Just that season of forgetfulness, too many tasks on my "to do" list, and not enough structure for myself. A few weeks ago I had a mini meltdown. I knew I needed to refuel myself and so I left the house. Left to go have some dinner with some church ladies, but before went to my most favorite spot to go have me time, the book store. I had an hour 1/2 of blissful time by myself. I grabbed a stack of books I've been wanting to look at in person, sat on one of their comfy chairs, and flipped through beautiful literature until I decided what I wanted to buy. Yep, I bought something for myself. A book stuck out to me while I was there. I find comfort in other women's stories of how they made it through. It's my thang. I've already finished that book and packaged it up to be given as a gift to another mom who I know needs to hear the words the author spoke. She talked about "safe sisters." I had never heard that term before, but it made perfect sense to me. In fact, so much that I texted those 3 people the moment I read the words. Safe sisters are other women who you can tell anything to. Who you can pour out your most open self. The ones you can tell how much you're struggling, the difficult conversations with your husband, or your relentless schedule that you can't grasp. He knew I was going to need that book.
After leaving the book store and head to dinner, I sat in the car in tears. I had gotten the day wrong on dinner. Yep, like a big blubbering mess, I sat in the parking lot crying those "whoa is me" tears. Ridiculous right? Or is it. I needed those women that night. I needed that adult conversation and I felt like a weight sat on my heart. The night wasn't a complete loss. I texted my husband what had happened and asked him to send my oldest to the restaurant to have dinner with me. It turned out to be a really nice evening. We ate entirely way too much, had desert, and took our time. Maybe that's what was supposed to happen. I can't control everything, even when I want to. Things are going to happen, and I have to just give it to HIM. Moments like that night have happened more times than I can count these last few weeks, and thinking now I believe it's God's way of looking at me straight in my face and saying " I am here. Even when the world feels like it's against you, I am here."
Sometimes you have to be knocked down and put on your knees in order for you to see straight.
I went to a church women's meeting last night, but before I did I went to the wrong church. I kid you not. I got back into my car and even though I knew it had already started and I was going to be late...I still went. I drove and said in a whisper "not today Satan." I'm so glad I did. I'm so glad I didn't let him ruin what an amazing time of fellowship with these women it was. They are all on the same walk...the walk to get closer to HIM.
I've started my own little War Room area. It's in a corner of the bedroom and my goal is to fill that side with so many prayers that he gets tired of hearing from me lol. The thing I learned from that book, was not only about the absolute need of safe sisters, but the need to have time with HIM. Time to tell him all that is on my heart...no matter how small or trivial it may feel. He wants to know. So that's what I'm working on, talking to HIM. It's still a weird concept for me, but I know it will get easier with time.
My life has been pretty crazy the last few weeks. Having a husband in the military who travels often, 4 kids, and a business to run can sometimes feel...impossible. The laundry piles up, the toilets don't get cleaned, and the kids eat cereal for dinner more times than you care to admit, but they're alive. I have kept this house running, the dogs fed, and the kids alive and sometimes that's all you can do. One day I dropped Ella off at MMO(mothers morning out), came home and instead of "getting stuff done," I took a nap...at 9am. Then one day I budgeted for me to go get some coffee, go to a meeting that I needed to, and then went and bought myself some clothes. Guys, I don't do that. I just don't. That money can be better spent on our debt snowball, kids activities, or bills...but is it better? I've recently had an enlightening moment. I am important too. I've spent the last 5 years as a stay at home mom catering to everyone else. Sure, I've had times when I've made goals for myself, i.e.: working out, better eating habits, etc., only to have them fall by the way side around that 3 week mark. After this last MRI visit about my back, I looked around outside and inside of myself and thought "am I living my best life?" As cheesy as that statement is..think about it. Am I really living? Am I doing things that bring me joy besides this house, kids, and business? As selfish as it may feel, I don't want to look back on my life and have too many "I wish I would have" moments. I spend a lot, a lot of times with my kids. I love and adore them, but sometimes I want to be by myself for an extended amount of time and just be. Let myself clear my mind and find joy outside of being a wife and mother. Gasp! I know right? That gasp I just did was what I've been doing for a REALLY long time. I am not just a mom. I am a lover, a fighter, an artist, a traveler, a wife, a follower, a leader, and everything in between. I went out with my couple friend the other night and I looked at her husband and said "Do I look like a mom?" I meant that question to seek a real answer. His reply was perfect, "You look like a mom who hasn't given up on herself." WOW. YES. I don't want to feel like I've given up being sexy, or being humble, or being worthy of feeling beautiful. Does that make sense? I want to value myself enough to give myself some boosts from time to time. Rather that may be going on a hike for you, or getting your hair done, or just plain having a great date night with your husband where you actually take the time to look your best. It's not even for them, although they are more than welcome to think it is...it is for YOU.
I spend so much of my life in yoga pants, baggy t-shirts, or my go to tank top, I forgot how to dress like I'm living. I forgot how to carry myself like I'm still beautiful. I forgot how to enjoy an amazing massage without the fear that someone might email me an important task. I forgot. These past few weeks I've really thought about what I've been missing and it's me. It's that I have forgotten about me. I have forgotten to make sure I am taken care for so that I can give the very best to who mean the most to me. It's remembering that my husband still finds me attractive, that my kids are ok without me with them 24/7, and that it's ok to give myself some grace to take care of myself. It's ok to go to a yoga class to help my back, to have my kids eat that bowl of cereal for dinner again so I can meet with some friends for coffee, to have a reason to get dressed up and feel like a woman again. To buy that blouse that is not my norm to shake things up a little. It's ok.
It's also ok to realize that homeschooling may not be for you. There are so many beautiful mommas out there doing an amazing job at homeschooling their children, and that's so inspiring. But it's also ok to say "you know, I think it's not for me." The harder part...having no guilt because of it. With all these recent reflections on myself, that was another area that I decided to eliminate. I will continue to do all the things I was already doing with them. Science experiments, reading, and experiences, but I give myself grace that it's ok to send them to public school. It's ok that I give Ella the opportunity to attend MMO and learn from others kids and crazy patient teachers.
So, what are some things you do for self care? What makes you feel alive? What things bring you joy that have nothing to do with being a mom, wife, or homemaker?
Some recent things for me was getting regular massages for my back. I have an old lady back my friends. Having Mark(aka: an angel with angel hands), has taken my hard as a rock back and gotten it back to being just a 30-something back. My chiropractor visits are another thing for me. Keeping those appointments just like you keep your kids' dentist appointments are all part of that self care. Making those things just as important as anything for your kids is important. If I am laid out with my back, what kind of best life can I live? One last thing I've done for myself is get my lash extensions. Stay with me here. I don't wear makeup. I, most of the time, look pretty haggard. Life with 4 kids. But can I just say that doing this one little thing has kind of transformed my face. I'm not even kidding. I look awake friends.
Take some time today to figure out what drives you. No, you're not allowed to say your kids. Think back to before you had kids. What did you dream about? What goals did you make for yourself?
Now, go chase it.
I did an impromptu Facebook poll the other day that said "Random poll: Do you think you can run a photography business without social media? Meaning, with this day and age of technology, do you think as a business owner you could step away from this vortex and still be profitable? I know it's been done time and time again, but curious what you guys think."
I had been hearing a small gentle voice for some time now. You know, that one where you try and ignore it? Well, I at least try to ignore it when it's not something I really don't want to hear. Then, I read it in print on a study guide I am doing, then in a book I am reading. Ok, God, I hear you. Here comes the truth bomb...Since starting my business 5 years ago, I have become a distant momma. Yes, I'm here. Yes, I cook and clean, run errands, read, etc., but I feel this pull all day long to check my dang phone. The constant "dinging," messages, emails, texts, and such has distance me from the now. I know how it started. I'm not blind. I was building a business. I was posting, writing, booking, editing, budgeting, invoicing, blogging, and more things you can even imagine. It had to be done and I'm ohhhh so grateful. I truly love what I do. But, in those 5 years, something has shifted in me. My children have gotten older, I've grown age in my face, their feet have grown overnight, and there are no more wake up in the middle of the night cries from sleepy babies ready to nurse. Where did it go? How did it go by so fast?
I'm missing it. The now.
There are too many times during the day when the words "hang on one second" "I just have to finish one more thing baby" or I can't right now" come out of my mouth. Now, don't get me wrong, I don't want to be at the beck and call of my children 24/7, but I don't want them thinking that momma's work is more important than their tea party, the story about school they want me to hear, or how their boo boo is really hurting. They ARE more important. I'm now at a place in our financial life when we don't have to have my income to survive. We did for as long as I can remember, but my body is still on that schedule. Do we need it to get out of debt faster? ABSOLUTELY. But at what cost?
My husband and I took a work trip to Aruba recently. My work. A blessed trip away to photograph a beautiful wedding. By ourselves. Alone. We don't get that very often. To just be. It was glorious. Yes, I posted pictures of our adventures during our trip to social media, but in a much different light. It was to share us. I love to share my family. Like LOVE it. I'm so honored God chose me to be their momma and his wife, but when is it too much? It's not the fear of being forgotten like I've heard stories of others tell. It's not the fear of going off the grid by any means. I think what my fear is that I genuially enjoy sharing our stories. And truth be told at times, the love of "likes" and comments does feel good. It's human nature.
So, I'm at a fork in the road. Do I risk everything I've worked so so sooooo hard for and follow what I feel HE is leading me to do? Do I continue on the path and always feel like I've missed something? Do I risk losing the clients that I adore so much because they think I'm not taking sessions anymore? Do I believe that blogging only and believing people will find me will work? Or do I trust that they will follow me, that they will see the need in my heart to step away from this addiction of sorts of social media?
I can tell you that I will continue to work because it brings me JOY. It's a deep rooted joy that is not going away and I don't want it to. I will continue this blog because it's a piece of my soul. I will continue my business blog because that poor thing has gone to the way side(lol). But as for Facebook & Instagram...I just don't know. All I can do is pray that I make the right decision for not only my clients, but myself, my children, my family.
He turned 12 today. He's in this stage of unknown territory. He begins middle school in a few short weeks, where the halls will be new, the homework will change, and the dynamics of friendships will evolve. I'm not ready. I'm not ready to let go of his elementary school days. I'm not ready to teach him things way beyond his years. I'm not ready to have to answer questions about girls, puberty, and deorderant needs. I'm not ready for the drug talks. I'm not ready for things be become more real.
Truth be told, he knows way more than I give him credit for. I begin a conversation of importance only to be told that he is aware. I'm blindsided, forgetting for a moment that I as well knew way too much at his age. I started prepping him a long time ago for these types of talks. I'm not scared of them, very opposite in fact. It's just when it's your own child, you wonder how soon is too soon? People/parents/teachers/therapists all say to start early. And I agree to a degree, but then think how fast we're pushing our children to know all that information. I guess it would be very different if he was homeschooled. I wouldn't have to worry as much with him learning these things outside of the home, but in the presence of myself and his family. The problem is...he's not. He's around boys and girls all day at school that all know too much. They have older siblings, siblings' friends, parents who maybe believe differently than our family, and the constant push of knowledge from tv, games, and music. It all makes my stomach hurt.
What happened to just being a kid? Where the most you had to worry about was where you were going to ride your bike to and who's house was fixing pizza that night. Now you have to worry about your children getting false information, snapchats, bullies, sexting, and heroin. I worry. It's my job. I'd feel like I'd be missing a limb if I didn't worry about them.
So, here's my advice to anyone coming into that territory like I have before and will continue to do so for 3 more kids...
1) Be nosey. I don't care if you say it's violates their trust, their privacy, their blah blah blah...KNOW WHAT/WHO/WHERE and WHY your children are doing what their doing. If they have a phone, go through it. Often. If they don't, good. Keep it that way. A phone/tablet/ipad/etc. opens up a world where if you don't stay on top of things...someone else is ready to do it for you.
2) Be proactive. Are they moody? Sure, moods are going to happen. In fact...frequently. You haven't done anything wrong. They have bad days, hormones, friendships, and school they are trying to keep up with. Close your eyes and remember how YOU felt.
3) But "so and so's parents let them do it." I don't give a damn. I am not their parent. I am YOUR parent.
4) Talk to them. Sound simple right? Have you ever had a teenager that didn't say one word during a dinner out? Yeah, me too. Know when to give them space and know when to step in. Even if it's just sitting on their bed looking at the ceiling. They know you are there. They need you there.
5) Touch them. Hug them, put your arm around them, cuddle them even when they are saying "ewwwwwww." They need it. We all need it.
6) Teach them to stand up for not only themselves, but the kids/animals/adults who can't. I remember being in the car with my two boys one day dropping them off at school and saying "find that one kid today guys. The one who needs a friend desperately." Teach them to be the voice.
7) Tell them everyday that they have done _____ to make you proud of them.
8) Make them go to bed at a decent hour.
9) Be ready to discipline. They are going to mess up. Bad. It's inevitable. Be ready to give the necessary punishment. Ohhhhh, but they'll get mad? Scream? Oh freakin well. Again, YOU are the parent.
10) Keep the lines of communication open. Ask the embarrassing questions. Tell the humiliating stories of yourself. Give them a reason to want to talk to you. They most likely won't start the conversation first, so get your big girl panties on...and go.
I'm not a parenting expert. I never will be, but what I can tell you is that he's 12 today and I will do everything in my power to keep our relationship growing, thriving, and I am forever his momma.
Happy Birthday to the first boy I ever really feel in love with.