How I Do It All (Hint: I Don’t)

Every once in a while, someone asks me how I do it all... and that's when I try really hard not to laugh, because I totally don't.

One of the number one questions that I get, is how I do it all. It makes me laugh every time I see it, because I really don’t get everything done. No one does! But wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could get it all done? People look at my life, and they see that I’ve got 6 kids, and I run a business. They’re already stunned at those accomplishments. But then they find out that I also homeschool. That’s when the fainting and shrieking starts… I just don’t know how you do it they say. I could never…. blah blah blah.

Sure you could! The cool part is that there’s nothing magical about what I do, and I really don’t get “everything” done. For days that I have magically accomplished getting school, dinner, and client work done, there’s umpteen other things I wanted to achieve that just never happened. Sometimes it means that the laundry sits unchecked. Sometimes it means that personal projects were put on hold.

Sometimes it means that we picked up pizza, or tacos, or corndogs for dinner. I know some of the sanctimommy’s out there just cringed. I could never feed my kid that you say. And believe me, I’d love to be the ultimate Mrs. Cleaver… just kidding… I can’t vacuum in pearls.

Can't vacuum in pearls, but it IS easier to clean with a baby wrap.

Regardless, like most Moms, I’d love to have a perfectly clean house, with gourmet meals on the table, freshly scrubbed kids that all use their manners all the time, thriving business, amazing wardrobe, and perfectly coiffed hair all the time. But then I wake up.

The fact is, my kids aren’t always clean… and I prefer it that way. Getting dirty is part of childhood… hell it’s part of life. I actually want to get messy with them more often than I do. Sometimes my Type A takes over, and I cringe at the idea of breaking out the scissors and glue, but again these are vital parts of childhood. I’m trying to learn not to let my own issues prevent creativity in my kids. Or learning opportunities for that matter.

My kids aren’t clean, and they’re not always well-behaved… aren’t you relieved? In fact I have had days were I’ve called my Mom to vent about how it’s only 8:15 in the morning, but I’ve already broken up 4 arguments, told the kids to be quiet and eat their breakfast, and told the boys to get their clothes on about a half-dozen times. Sound familiar? That’s right, you’re not the only one who has days like that.

Then there’s school. Yes we school at home, and some days it’s magical. The kids get in there, and we do history together, and read-alouds… and then the older kids do their independent studies (like math), and I sit with the younger kids to work on phonics. But then there are days that one of the younger ones decides that Duplos sound waaaay more fun than sounding out bat, cat, and rat… and the oldest one has a ‘tude about math. (Not that she didn’t come by it honestly.)

So yes. Like every other parent, there are moments I want to duct tape my kids to the wall, and days I feel sheer relief that it’s bedtime. But then we get up the next day and start all over again. We try to look at every day as a fresh beginning around here.

So how do I “appear” to have everything together? It’s easy… number one I put as many systems in place as possible. Sometimes it gets me accused of being OCD, or Type A, but in general my family appreciates the results of the structure… if not the structure itself. So here are some of the systems we use…

Bullet journaling has made my life easier

 #1. I use a bullet journal.

I used to be super obsessed with planners… I tried just about every one that came around. I tried the Erin Condren, and the Happy Planner, and cheap ones from WalMart/Target. I’ve tried just mapping things out in a notebook… I’ve used Google Calendar, iCal, and Cozi. But nothing every really fully clicked, until a friend of mine started bullet journaling.

I’d heard of bullet journaling before, but when it first became a “thing” it was preeeeetty boring. It was very straightforward, and seemed like it was intended for guys or very left-brained people. But then I saw the pictures my friend was posting on Instagram… and her journal was PRETTY! It had headers, and doodles, and pops of color, and it was like a cross between journaling and art journaling. Uhm tell me more!

So I completely went crazy and dove into researching this new wave of pretty bullet journaling.

#2. I make small adjustments.

Once upon a time, I had the psychotic notion to get up 3 hours earlier than I had been. Why? I wanted to cultivate a writing habit, so I wanted to be up before the kids. But instead of being reasonable with myself, I set my alarm for 3 hours earlier than I’d been waking. I’ll let you guess how long that lasted… zzzzzzzz.

The next time I tried that, I started getting up 15 minutes earlier. Once I had that down, I got up 15 minutes earlier than that… much smarter! And it’s been working a lot better for me.

Some days look more like this

#3. I roll with the punches.

Sometimes the baby is just cranky. Or the toddler is clingy. Sometimes you’ve got the migraine from hell. And sometimes…. sometimes your head just isn’t in the game.  I would never say that you should give up when these things happen… if you give up every time there’s a monkey wrench in the works, the evil monkeys win. And we don’t want that to happen. Sometimes you just need to throw them a banana and get back to your day.

Okay that analogy got out of control. Where was I? Oh yes… Sometimes pushing through isn’t in your best interests. Sometimes if you push through, you just wind up with a crappy blog post, a painting that you’re unhappy with, or kids who are mad at Mom.

In fact today, I started off with the biggest plans. I was going to write copy for a landing page… write a welcome email sequence, and start a blog post draft. But my baby was up playing at 5am, and I’m a really light sleeper, so I was up at 5am. (Hint: I’m not usually up at 5am) So I’m tired today, and the baby is cranky because he was up earlier than usual.

I’ve also spent the last 15 minutes with my toddler on one knee, screaming like someone possessed, because we dared wake her up for dinner. So instead of working on the email sequence, and a new blog post, I’ve been working on the finishing touches for this one.

But you know what? That’s okay. My email sequence will wait. But before I know it, my toddler will.be a grown woman, maybe even with kids of her own. And some day, when she tells about the rough day she’s having with my grandkids, I’ll gleefully remind her about her post-nap meltdown.

35 Things I Want To Do By The Time I Turn 35 Years Old

I really wanted to do a 30 by 30 challenge... but I didn't find out about it, until 6 months before I turned 30. So rather than give up entirely, I've chosen to create a list of 35 things I'd like to do before I turn 35 (in no particular order).

The other day, my husband asked me what I want for my birthday. I just rolled my eyes at him, because my birthday isn’t until August. But he said he wants time to prepare. I love how he always says he needs to prepare, like I’m going to ask for something enormous.

Seriously, I’m pretty easy to shop for… a gift card to the book store or craft store, and I’m a happy camper. Heck, for Mother’s Day we went on a drive… and I had so much fun with that.

But all of this has me thinking… I’m turning 32. I really wanted to do a 30 by 30 challenge… but I didn’t find out about it, until 6 months before I turned 30. So rather than give up entirely, I’ve chosen to create a list of 35 things I’d like to do before I turn 35 (in no particular order).

As I accomplish each of these, I’ll create a blog post about it, and link them back here. 🙂 But for now, in no particular order here’s the list, followed by the detailed breakdown.

  1. Attend a Broadway play
  2. Learn how to swim (well)
  3. Swim in a BioBay
  4. Successfully complete a 30 day challenge (with no catchup days)
  5. Pay off our SUV
  6. Crochet an afghan
  7. Knit a sweater
  8. See the Giant Pandas at the National Zoo (or the Atlanta Zoo)
  9. Visit Boston
  10. Visit Asheville
  11. Have a real vacation
  12. Learn Spanish to reasonable fluency
  13. Learn how to dance (tap, clog, or ballet)
  14. Attend the symphony
  15. Go to a planetarium
  16. Go to the Met or the Smithsonian (any of them)
  17. View a War Memorial
  18. Learn to play piano, violin, or guitar
  19. Spend a week at the beach
  20. Complete NaNoWriMo (it doesn’t have to be good)
  21. Finish a cross stitch project
  22. Go to a convention (in any of my interests)
  23. Enjoy a couples massage
  24. Set Phillip free from his job
  25. Have our honeymoon
  26. Learn a sport (volleyball, softball, etc.)
  27. Create garden
  28. Enter a photography competition
  29. Learn how to drive stick
  30. Sponser a child through Compassion or World Vision
  31. Have at least $10k set back in savings
  32. Be in marathon shape
  33. Stay in a cabin somewhere snowy
  34. Visit New Hampshire or Vermont in the autumn
  35. Learn to sew (bonus: and quilt)

1. Attend a Broadway play

I’ve wanted to attend a Broadway play for years, because I’m kind of obsessed with musicals. I grew up on a healthy diet of Sound of Music, Seven Brides For Seven Brothers, Fiddler on the Roof, and Thoroughly Modern Millie… just to name a few. If you give me a movie that has singing, dancing, or both… you’ve probably sold me.

2. Learn how to swim (well)

I can kind of swim. And by kind of, I mean it’s slow, and it’s ugly. But I can get from one end of the pool to the other without drowning. Scoooore.

3. Swim in a Bio Bay

Some years ago, I learned about something called a bio bay…. it’s a body of water that has bioluminescent creatures in it, and they glow when you swim through the water! And there’s a gorgeous bio bay in Vieques, Puerto Rico.

4. Successfully complete a 30 day challenge (with no catchup days)

I LOVE challenges. I sign up for so many it’s not even funny… no really… it’s not funny. At the beginning of the year, I sign up for so many reading challenges that there’s no way I could ever finish them all. I sign up for lettering challenges, photography challenges, squat challenges… and I never make it through all 30 days.

5. Pay off our SUV

Pretty self-explanatory.

6. Crochet an afghan

Crocheting an afghan has been on my crochet bucket list from the get-go. But I’ve never actually made one yet. It’s time. 🙂

7. Knit a sweater

This is sort of a measure of my knitting education. If I can knit a simple sweater, I’ll be pretty darn proud of myself.

8. See the Giant Pandas at the National Zoo (or the Atlanta Zoo)

I really don’t have to explain this one do I? Paaaaaandas.

9. Visit Boston

Boston in the fall. I know *valley girl voice* it’s like… omg suuuuch a cliché. But it’s a cliché for a reason.

10. Visit Asheville

We were originally going to move here, but we changed our mind for several reasons… but I still want to see SO MANY things in the area.

11. Have a real vacation

I’ve never been on a real vacay, ever, in my entire life.

12. Learn Spanish to reasonable fluency

I’m trying to learn right now, but I need to up my game because I am soooo slow. Ha!

13. Learn how to dance (tap, clog, or ballet)

I’ve wanted to learn how to dance since I was a little girl. Tell me I’m not too old?

14. Attend the symphony

Self-explanatory.

15. Go to a planetarium

Self-explanatory.

16. Go to the Met or the Smithsonian (any of them)

I’ve been to a few small museums, but never any of the biggies.

17. View a War Memorial or Ground Zero or Arlington Cemetery

Phillip and I are both former military, so this has been on our list for a while.

18. Learn to play piano, violin, or guitar

I own all 3. I can’t play 2, and I can only kinda play the other.

19. Spend a week at the beach

I’ve never had an enjoyable experience at the beach. I’ve been there in February, March, and October. Those are TERRIBLE times to be dragged to the beach… unless you live somewhere tropical where it’s gorgeous all-year round. I finally fell in love with the sight of the ocean when we went to Chincoteague, but now I need to properly experience it.

20. Complete NaNoWriMo (it doesn’t have to be good)

Remember what I said about challenges? Yup. This is like a challenge for me. And I’ve never finished it.

21. Finish a cross stitch project

Honestly, this is kind of in the same vein. At this point, it’s a matter of honor. I know you may not have realized that there is honor in cross stitch, but now you know. The reputation of future generations rests on this…

22. Go to a convention (in any of my interests)

Conventions have been on my list for a while, and oh my goodness there are so many to choose from. Comic Con… Planner conventions, book conventions, blogger conventions.

23. Enjoy a couples massage

I’ve never had a massage. I’ve never had a couples massage.

24. Set Phillip free from his job

I’ve been very blessed to have a husband who supports me in my business and artistic pursuits. Unfortunately, in his quest to care for our family, he’s been unable to pursue his own dreams. He’s had to take on really terrible jobs, just to keep our family secure and comfortable. My biggest dream is to get my business to the level where he can have a job that really enjoys, or go back to school, or start his own business. Or all of the above.

25. Have our honeymoon

We never got a honeymoon… in fact, we stayed the night at a Bed & Breakfast, and we had to leave before breakfast. Ha!

26. Learn a sport (volleyball, softball, etc.)

My first opportunity to be a part of a sport, was in the military. Unfortunately, the sergeant running the team was kind of a snob, and wouldn’t let anyone join who wasn’t already excellent at the sport, even though these teams were supposed to be an opportunity to learn the sport.

27. Create garden

I want vegetables, and fruit, and flowers. At least 3 of each. Plus herbs.

28. Enter a photography competition

I don’t have to win. I just want to enter one. 🙂

29. Learn how to drive stick

They say if you can drive stick, you can drive anything. I’m a very nervous driver, due to a car accident I was in. I think learning to drive stick would make me a better driver overall.

30. Sponser a child through Compassion or World Vision

Such a small thing financially, but what a difference it makes in their lives.

31. Have at least $10k set back in savings

Another long-time dream of mine… having a nice little savings account in case something goes awry with our house, the washer, the SUV, etc.

32. Be in marathon shape

I don’t know that I’d ever actually want to run in a marathon, because at this point in my life, I think running is awful. But I’d like to be in the condition to run a marathon. Once, I was a fitness instructor.. I’d like to be in shape I was in then, or better.

33. Stay in a cabin somewhere snowy

Vermont… Connecticut…I don’t have a specific on this. But it sounds so picturesque and romantic.

34. Visit New Hampshire or Vermont in the autumn

Autumn leaves. That is all.

35. Learn to sew (bonus: and quilt)

I can sew by hand, but I don’t know how to use a sewing machine, and I’ve never made a quilt.

So there you have it! Thanks for making it through the list. If you have tips on how to accomplish any of those, I’d love to hear them! And I’d love to know what’s on your list. 🙂

 

 

 

How High Maintenance Are You?

In the last few years, we've begun to abandon self-care under the notion that it's "high maintenance". But is it really?

Every once in a while, this particular post goes around Facebook. In typical Internet fashion, it turns the question into a quiz. “Are you High Maintenance?” it asks… and proceeds to offer a list of items that qualify one as being high maintenance, along with randomly chosen points to assign yourself, to determine your high-maintenance quotient.

Every time it comes around, I see my feed flooded with 2 very extreme responses. Those who raise their hands to scream how they only scored 3… or 0. And the others who with a casual flip of their well-coiffed hair, announce that they are obvi high maintenance, because they know they’re a queen to their man. And b-t-dubs, if your man was worth it, he’d pony up for your nails too.

Ladies please. Can we find some balance? There is something in between leaving an unnecessarily extravagant life (let me clarify… I’m not anti wealth, I’m anti living outside of one’s means for the purpose of show), and refusing to buy anything but single-ply toilet paper. (Don’t do it ladies… your butt deserves better!) Spending money for the sake of a label doesn’t make you better, and refusing to spend any money or time on yourself doesn’t make you better either.

Cue rant…

Can you tell this really bugs me? When it popped up in my feed again, I was ranting to my husband about it, and he laughingly said “tell me how you really feel!” and I said “I should write a blog post!” and here we are. #yourwelcome

Not taking care of yourself is NOT a badge of honor! Click To Tweet

What are your feelings on this? Have you ever been called high-maintenance? Do you take any time for yourself?

Our Weekend At Chincoteague Island

Hey everyone! I haven’t done a video in a really long time, but I’ve been encouraged to make a return. It’s not that I”m uncomfortable on camera… doing Periscopes got me past that. I just know that I make very odd faces when I talk. (See the adorable face below)

And sometimes the Internet gets a little trolly, and they like to tell me that I make weird faces. Or that my teeth aren’t perfect. But you know what? Those faces are so me. I’m a weirdo. I have a bizarre sense of humor. So if someone doesn’t like it, they can go somewhere else. I ain’t skurred of my block button. #byeFelicia

So this particular vlog is about our adventure last week. When I was 8-10 years old, I read a book called Misty of Chincoteague. Marguerite Henry wrote many books about the wild ponies, but this was the one that started it all. I fell in love with horses, and devoured any book I could find. Books about riding horses, wild horses, horse competitions, girls with horses, families with horses. I learned how to draw horses, and repeatedly checked out a instructional library book from a local artist who specialized in horse art.

Years later came Hidalgo. Another story of wild horses, that re-sparked my initial adoration. And I’m not alone in my love. My sisters also fell in love with them, and I’m proud to say that one of my sisters volunteers at a therapeutic riding center.

So, back to Chincoteague. I’ve wanted to see the ponies of Chincoteague since the very first time I read that book. And last weekend, we finally made it there. But it didn’t quite go as planned. But you’ll have to watch the video to see why. (I know. I’m a party pooper. Or evil mastermind. To-may-toe/to-mah-toe)

Exploring Virginia: The Journey Begins

Today is Thursday. Hoy es jueves.

2 weeks ago, today, we were scrambling to say goodbyes to everyone around us. We drove out to my Mom’s house and said bye to her, and 6 of my siblings, including one who’d driven down from Oklahoma so she could wish me bon voyage, and so I could meet her son. My nephew. My big nephew who giggles at the world around him.

My grandfather came over and saw us off. My Grandpa Joe. Yep. I have a Grandpa Joe, just like Charlie Bucket. But mine plays guitar, and has hosted radio programs, and served in the military.

My Mom called my Dad so he could say goodbye too. He works as a funeral director, and on that day he was super-crazy-busy with funereal responsibilities. But he had a pocket of time in there, that he was able to come see us.

After that, we were supposed to go hang out at my sister’s apartment, but her husband was working late, so we went back to our house to finish packing the SUV, and cleaning the house.

We worked, and worked, and worked. Another “plan” we had, was for our 2 year old to go to sleep. Buuuuut nope. When my brother-in-law got off work, he picked up my sister and they came over to chat with us for a bit, and then they told us goodbye and headed out for a quiet dinner.

Not a great pic, but ehhh watch gonna do?

I have 5 sisters, but she’s the one I’ve talked to the most since I left my parents house, especially once we moved back to Texas. She lived in the town right next to me, and we’d bring surprise coffees over to her, and she and her husband would drop things by our place.

It took us so long to get everything cleaned & packed, that it wasn’t even worth going to bed. Phillip had drank lots of coffee and was raring to go, the kids were still awake (except for the 2 year old who had finally crashed, and I just don’t sleep right before a trip.

So off we went. Around 11pm, we loaded everyone into our cram-packed SUV, and we hit the road. Phillip tried to get me to sleep on the drive, but I’m a nervous passenger. Things feel different when you’re half asleep, or maybe it’s just me.

But I started drifting in and out… I call it twilight sleep. You’re not really asleep, but not really awake either. By all appearances you’re sleeping, but you know what’s going on around you. And just before Texarkana, I opened up my eyes and I knew that Phillip’s coffee was wearing off. So we stopped for the night.

In the morning we ate at Cracker Barrel (a road trip tradition of ours), and we hit the road again. When we drive, we have 2 rules. One is a general “usually applies” rule. The other one is pretty hard and fast.

Raymond enjoys pancakes

1. (The general one) Every stop is a fuel stop.

Meaning, most of the time, if we stop for any reason we also get gas.

2. (The hard and fast one) If one pees, we all pee.

Okay, I know this sounds like we’re entering Monica Gellar-Bing territory, but bear with me. When you have 6 kids, if you just stop whenever one needs to go, you’ll be stopping all day. And there’s actually more to this than just going to a rest stop. If we stop, we change anyone who’s in diapers (don’t worry that doesn’t include Phillip), and I feed the baby (also not Phillip).

These 2 rules saved our butt, From Texas to Virginia is an 18 hour trip, not counting any stops. We left 11ish at night on Thursday, and arrived Saturday night.

Us leaving Thursday night meant we had a little more leeway to stop and see the world around us. We detoured briefly in Memphis… at first on purpose, then by mistake.

Memphis Queen Riverboat
One of the cool things we passed in Memphis

We pushed our dinner to later in the evening so we could have gyros in Nashville*. And we stopped to gaze over a mountain view just an hour away from our new home.

Purple Mountain's Majesty

So here we are. In our new home state of Virginia. And the adventure’s not over. Now we’re going through the process of buying a house. But more about that next week.

*By the way, King Solomon’s Gyros in Nashville, Tennessee were absolutely delicious. So tender, and oh my goodness, they absolutely stuff their pitas. Phillip also vouches for the falafel. He said the spice was on point, and that there are few things that can make him enjoy a meatless meal, and falafel succeeded.

Your Kid Is Not Monet (And That’s a Good Thing!)

Your Kid Is Not Monet (And That's a Good Thing!) | When I was a kid, I got a lot of comparisons to my younger sister. I was the "music kid" and she was the "artist kid"... but there's a problem with that...

When I was a kid, I took to music from an early age… I sang for anyone and everyone who would listen. In fact on one memorable occasion, we were out of town for a funeral. My parents left us with our Nanny & Grandpa so they could go see some old high school friends, and we put on a full production for my grandparents. We sang, we danced, we dressed up… the works. At one point, I sang “Amazing Grace” for Nanny, who clasped her hands together and said “if I’d have known you sang like that, I’d have asked you to sing at the funeral!”

Whew. Dodged a bullet! Generally speaking, 8 year olds aren’t prepared to sing for funerals… especially for people they barely remember.

Later on, I sang during a Christmas parade (their scheduled person was late, or didn’t show, and I volunteered like a crazy person… for the record my moments of spontaneity are very rare, and when they do rear their head, they’re usually insane.

I entered a talent competition, I attended the Dove Awards twice, and I’ve sang for my church since I was in my teens. But why am I telling you this?

I was the “musical kid”.

My next sister down was the “artist kid”. She took to art from an early age, and even got to attend classes with our little towns resident artist.

But here’s the thing… I hated that it was like that. She sang too… we even did a few songs together at charity fundraisers. And I’d been noted at a very young age for how neatly I colored (won a coloring competition and got a stuffed animal out of it!), and had conversations about my horse drawings with that very same in-town artist (who was noted for her horse art no less).

But despite the fact that we were both multipassionate, we got put in distinct boxes, based on our first skillset we’d taken to.

By the time we were teenagers, people would compare her singing to mine… which wasn’t fair to her. I got a lot more attention for my singing, so I’d always practiced on it a lot more. And I hit a point where I didn’t show off my artwork anymore, because people always had to make comparisons.

I’ve said on numerous occasions, if everyone did art like Monet, the world would not know his name. There’s a reason the artists we’ve heard of, are well known.

If everyone did art like Monet, the world would not know his name. Click To Tweet

They did something different. They did something that stood out.

But we make comparisons between our kids. We make comparisons between our art, and that one friend we have that does it “so much better”.

We take classes and get frustrated that our stuff doesn’t look like the teachers, or one of our classmates. And we fail to realize that’s a GOOD thing.

Does it being different make it good? Not necessarily… No one is born painting like Monet… not even Monet. No one is born knowing how to sculpt, or photograph. Some people take to it more quickly than others, yes, but no one wakes up with all of the skills in place. And being crappy at it now, doesn’t mean you can’t get better.

So here’s the good news… your kid is not Monet. Your kid is not Mozart. Your kid is not Leonardo (Da Vinci, Dicaprio, Da Ninja Turtle… take your pick… it’s still no). But that’s awesome! It means they have potential to create something magical all of their very own.

Your kid is not Leonardo (Da Vinci, Dicaprio, DaNinjaTurtle... take your pick... still no). Click To Tweet
I’d love to know… were you ever compared to a classmate, friend, or sibling? Have you compared yourself to an artistic friend or family member?