Slowly {thoughts}

Today started slowly. It was a Monday that felt very much like a Sunday. I inched my way to meet the day. Waking and sleeping and then waking again. I worked for most of the weekend and Sunday was a day scheduled to the gills. So today, we slid slowly into the day.

It was a day spent in pajamas. On the couch watching old reruns of our favorite tv shows. We had whatever we wanted for breakfast that was really brunch. I spent the better half of eleven o'clock reading the Sunday paper. For whatever reason, we ignored the calendar because today was our Sunday.

There were a million things I could have done. I could have spent the afternoon writing. The laundry baskets line the path to the laundry room. The dishes are drying on the counter. Clean clothes wait for hangers. But instead, we were too blind to see those things today. Instead we focused on dolls and construction paper chains, and books that we have read a million times. 

I feel like summer will pass us by. So quickly, since it took so long to get here. It's like Summer never really unpacks it's bags. Like it's always waiting for a midnight train or the red eye. Summer is a tease and a flirt and shows us the very best part of itself, right before it breaks our hearts and leaves. It's like the love song that is never long enough, the love story with no specific ending. It gives us just a taste, before it leaves us, always wanting more. 

So it's our only option to spend our days slowly melting into the summer days. Before they are a memory. Letting the clock tick and the dishes sit, and wearing yesterdays clothes because you slept in them. Staying up way too late because the sun isn't ready for the moon's kiss, and because we are never ready to say goodnight to another summer day.

Because before we know it, we will have to say goodbye, goodbye to the sweet surrender of a slow and languid summer day.

She is seven

Caitlin is seven today. Just like that. As if the months of sleepless nights never happened. As if the months on the couch at two am were someone else's life.

She is seven. As if she woke up one morning and suddenly was big. Didn't need a bottle to keep her quiet. Didn't need a diaper changed to start the day. So big in fact that some mornings I find her in her bed happily with the iPad, having been awake long before me. But on some special mornings I still wake up with her in my bed. Surprised, because she doesn't even wake me anymore. She crawls in like it's the most natural thing in the world, because it is. 

She is seven and really too big for my lap. We barely fit in the same chair anymore. So now she sits next to me on the couch. All those days of holding her while she napped, because she wouldn't nap any other way are just memories. Sadly, I used to hate those days. I'd spend the time worrying about the dishes and the laundry. Sitting with her in my lap thinking of all the things I should be doing. Oh, how I long for those days. To just sit with her with her little head on my chest. The look of pure delight when she woke up to discover it was me who was holding her. It was the only quiet and calm we'd get in those early hectic days of motherhood. I realize now that there was nothing I should have been doing, because I was doing it. I was holding my precious baby, who one day was going to wake up and not need that comfort anymore. Some days I wish I could go back and really enjoy those moments, and really be present in them. 

But today I wake and she is seven. Instead of sleepless nights we steal early moments together in the mornings before little sister wakes. We watch silly cartoons that speak to our dark senses of humor. We stay up late and watch re-runs of Modern Family after everyone goes to bed. We sneak off to early dinners just the two of us, reminiscing about the days when it was just the two of us for hours on end. Today I know that the sleepless nights and the two am feedings are really behind us. And the early struggles of motherhood are finally behind me. I'm better prepared to be her mother, today. After seven years, I'm finally ok with who I am as a mother. And I owe it all to my beautiful girl who is seven. 

Motherhood doesn't get any easier, I think we just get better at it. Never perfect and never precise, but we learn from our mistakes. We have new adventures, but it doesn't mean they are easier. They are just different, and I have learned from past mistakes so I'm just as different too. My guilt is still at times overwhelming, but I think that will always be the case. As my best friend says, "Guilt means you care".

But we made it. Caitlin and I, we made it to seven. There are more smiles and plenty of sleep here. We cuddle and share secrets. We bake cookies at random times, and look at Pinterest together. One day, the marvels of being seven will be memories, so today I will cherish this time. I will be present, and welcome every distraction. There is nothing else I should be doing. Today we are seven together.

I wasn't built for this

Me, the early years.

Seven years ago this week, I became a mother. No one tells you that when your baby is born, you are reborn as well. That person you were, even as you laid on the table, is no longer there. She gets thrown out with the placenta, and a new person emerges. She looks like your former self, and she has the same mannerisms, but she is just as much a newborn as the baby in her arms.

Motherhood didn't instantly take for me. I wasn't a natural. I spent two nights in the hospital struggling with something called a "latch" and a baby with hiccups. Two nights before I gave in and did the cardinal sin of mothers everywhere. I gave my baby formula. Just enough so they would let us go home. Because it's all that I wanted. Until I was home and then all I wanted to do was leave.

The "Latch" never happened. My baby took a bottle after two full weeks of trying in vain to breastfeed. Exhausted and defeated, I surrendered to the bottle and the guilt that followed. Then I realized that my baby wouldn't sleep without me, and I gave into that too, because if I didn't I was sure the exhaustion would kill me. And then soon I was a walking zombie. I was lost in a fog of failed milestones, failed attempts, and overwhelming guilt.

I counted days and weeks. Months and milestones. Because everyone said the older she got the happier we would all be. Once she is x months she will do y and you can do z (as in sleep). But the more I counted the harder it got, and soon, easy was no longer a word in my vocabulary. I had a feeling that we would never get to the other side of the mountain, where babies slept and took bottles and ate food and napped and for the love of God didn't cry for hours on end.

And we got there. Some how, we got there. We made it to here, seven years later. Even now, it's hard for me to believe.

At some point in during that first year, I told my best friend, "I wasn't built for this shit", this "shit", being motherhood. I've never said a truer statement. I wasn't built for motherhood. I wasn't build for selflessness. I wasn't built for patience. I wasn't built for exhaustion. I wasn't built for this shit.

Luckily, motherhood has built me.

You don't survive a year where everything is dark and dismal, with a small human who has decided all the rules of nature do not apply to her, without becoming a brand new version of yourself. Motherhood has made me hopeful. Motherhood has made me grateful. Most importantly, motherhood has made me brave. It's made me love myself, despite my flaws, because of my flaws. Motherhood has finally allowed me to accept myself. Motherhood gave me the one thing I had always been looking for, confidence.

I wouldn't be able to write this blog if it wasn't for motherhood. And not just because I write about motherhood, but because I found confidence to write in general. I found confidence to tell the truth about myself and my life. Even the things I'm horrible at, even the things that I fail. I would have never been able to admit any type of defeat before becoming a mother. I was a type A, first class, overachiever. When I was in school any grade less than a "B" was devastating. For the first three years post college, any job or internship I applied for, I got. I was the Vice President of my Sorority, and the year I was in charge of recruitment, my sorority got quota plus. I was also the first person to graduate from college in my family. In a nutshell, I was a kick ass woman of my generation.

Then I had a baby and my world imploded. There is no perfection in motherhood. Motherhood is an exercise in defeat and survival. Everyday is a new day, yet every day also seems like the same day. When I was exhausted, in yesterday's yoga pants, three days past a shower, it didn't matter that I had a college degree or if I was a CEO. In my mind, because I couldn't breast feed or get my child to sleep through the night, I was the biggest failure of my generation. Until I realized that I wasn't the only one struggling in my generation.

It's been seven years, and three of those have been spent writing this blog. Letting you know the guts of this life I love and cherish. If you have been here since the beginning, then you know it's not always wine and roses. Hell, it's rarely Franzia and carnations, but I love it anyway. In the last seven years, I've learned that my happiness is more important than the rules in some book, the standards of my neighbors, or what some celebrity decides is a motherhood standard. I've learned that my way is the right way, no matter what my friends are doing, no matter if they roll their eyes. I've learned that we don't need a summer solstice party, a summer bucket list, or a fancy advent Christmas calendar. I've learned that for all the baby food I make from scratch that kid is one day going to eat Cheetos off the sidewalk and drink after the dog. I've learned that for every single time I yell, lose my temper, and want to run away, my kids love me anyway. They still want me. They still love me. Because I'm their mother, and that is a powerful thing. 

And it's because of all of those reasons that motherhood has built me. That it continues to build me. One imperfect block at a time.

totally pinable.

Just what I needed

I took the weekend off. I'm sure you could tell. Before a few minutes ago, I hadn't posted to Instagram since Saturday. I'm sure you all thought I was dead. 

I didn't have to work last weekend. I left work on Friday at eleven a.m. and didn't have to be back until this morning. There was something magical about that. There was something sacred about that. I wanted to enjoy every single minute at home. Just my family and me, doing whatever we chose, or choosing nothing at all.

We went to a birthday party. I took naps. The kids played on the iPad longer than they should have. We ate lots of junk food. Subway cooked dinner. McDonald's cooked breakfast. We decided to stop in at Trader Joe's, which was a new adventure for the girls, since we rarely go. We watched some World Cup and even though we know nothing about soccer, we cheered anyway for 'Merica. And we said it just like that too. Because it made us giggle. 

And just like most weekends, it wasn't long enough. We could spend the entire week wishing for more, but the magic of the Summer is that any night can feel like a Saturday. 

For the first time in a long time, I felt like I had a weekend off. A weekend to ditch the make up. A weekend to let my hair do what it wanted. I also left my phone on the table on in my purse. I didn't open my Instagram app much, only Facebook when I was tagged. I didn't worry about spending too much time on my phone or not enough time with my kids. I didn't even write, even though I could have at any time. I could have spent the entire weekend writing. 

Instead I was mom. The mom without a blog or a book working it's way out of her brain. I was the mom without a story to tell. I was the mom without pictures to take. I was the mom who said yes to ice cream after eight at night. I was the mom who couldn't be bribed to cook or do laundry. I was the mom who took a nap. The mom who read a book when she was asked by her kids. The mom who stayed outside and watched her kids and their wild imaginations. I was the mom who was present. Finally.

I'm not that mom very often. I'm often distracted with my mind in a million other places. But yesterday I realized that being present in this life and unplugging from my other one was just what I needed. I needed to breathe, and breathe life back into me. Being slow and still, even for a few short days, is just what I needed.

It's Monday and life is in full swing. I'm back at the keyboard and my kids are probably getting into trouble. I'm plugged in and going full speed again. But this time I know that stepping away and unplugging isn't the end of the world, it isn't even the end of my world. 

It's an entirely different world all together. And it was exactly what I needed.

I'm gonna brag

You can stop reading now if you'd like. Because I'm going to brag about my imperfect life. I may be exhausted. I may be sitting in yesterdays clothes. I'm probably not wearing any make up and my dishes are stacked higher than me. But life is good despite all of those things. I'm blessed because of those things. So let me tell you a little bit about my life lately. It probably sounds a lot like yours.

This girl got straight A's. I couldn't be more proud, but the really awesome part is that my family as a whole is proud. Even my grandpa, Caitlin's great grandpa, who has demanded to see it because he has a five dollar bill waiting for her. I can't tell you how much my heart swells when I think about it.

I had one kid who was super excited that it was the last Monday of the school year. Then I had one kid who could give zero effs. I'll let you guess which is which.

 I had a really good pony tail day. It demanded to be shared.

My beautiful girl on the last day of school. She is so big and yet still so small. Perhaps she will always lightly tip the scales either way in my eyes. She turns seven next week, which is totally believable and unbelievable in the same breath.

Oh, you know. Sometimes your four year old says, "Mommy you forgot dinner", and it's eight o'clock on a Sunday night. Peanut butter and jelly with the crusts cut off saves the day. Also she is freshly out of the bath and in a night gown. Did I mention that I'm winning at dinner time? And those mint mason jars are plastic, four for under seven dollars at Walmart, and have customizable lids of choice. I'm not even making that up. We replaced all sippy cups with these bad boys.

 I've decided that this picture confirms I look really cute with a baby on my hip. Not that I'm planning on having another. Why would I when I have a neighbor this freaking adorable? I mean we match and everything.

 This was a legitimate warning from Aubrey Plays. I cannot stress this enough. A lesson to everyone, read the labels on your packages before you open them. I needed every ounce of this warning. Stay tuned for more information on this awesome package next week.

I wore a "new to me" skirt from my neighbor. The same one with the baby. Yeah, I'm lucky she is all kinds of awesomeness. I look really thin and fit here, but I'll just add now that this picture was taken before the coconut milk ice cream incident of June 2014. I'm recovering and doing fine, however I'm pretty sure I gained five pounds. Don't feel and eat kids.

The teen aged neighbor girls across the street brought their travel case of nail polish and played salon with my girls. There is at least a seven year age difference between the youngest and Caitlin. Mackenzie was so excited to ask Caroline to paint her nails, that it's all she could talk about. Here is the best part of this story, the girls laughed at me because I wanted to Instagram it!!

 Recital Day for Mackenzie. She did a tap number to Going to the Chapel. It was all kinds of precious and adorable. I'm going to save this picture for her wedding day. I may even show it to potential suitors. At this point I may even have it printed on a shirt to wear everywhere. That's how much I love this picture.

Caitlin on Recital Day. She got to choose her outfit as long as it was red, white and black. Her tap number was to One Direction, Best Song Ever, and she is in a group with the older girls (7-12 years). She did an amazing job and worked really hard on the routine since this is her first intermediate tap class. I'm so proud of her, but also... She looks like a teenager here!

Hello Summer Blockbuster with my favorite comedy duo since Amy and Tina. What was that? You want me to come and see you in the theater? Well, I'm pretty sure that can be arranged, let me check my schedule.. Oh, what's that, how many times does Channing have his shirt off? I can't wait.

Some people only brag about the good stuff. The perfect days, the perfect dinners, the perfect moments in their life. And that's totally fine with me. But this is my real life, and sometimes it's shiny, but sometimes it's scuffed and tarnished, and most days I'm a mess. But it's a good mess, and nothing that's tarnished or scuffed has to stay that way forever. So I'm going to brag about it all, because we all should have something to brag about.

Our Summer F*$k it List

Pin me, don't Pin me.. F**k it.

Last year I made up a Summer Bucket list for my family. With good intentions I might add. I thought, at the time, that I had made it really easy on myself. I only put things on the list that we were probably going to do anyway. Because it was summer, or because it sounded fun. At the time I thought it was going to be really easy to cross every single item off the list before school started. Oh, how I was wrong...

last years summer bucket list

I'm going to say we did half of the list, without being under duress. I'll say we did half of that at our own free will, and then about a fourth were done with me demanding that they be done, driving myself crazy so we could actually complete them. Those were not as much fun as you can imagine. Then there were the ones that just didn't happen. Nope to the lemonade stand. Nope to the night swim. Nope to the night walk to get ice cream. But guess what? And you probably already know this, my kids have no idea that we failed, as a family, at our Summer Bucket list. They are clueless to the fact that there was even a summer bucket list because, and here is why I'm such a good mother, I never bothered to post it. I think that was done by my subconscious to save me from having to admit to my children that we didn't do something they didn't know we were supposed to do. Even though, we really didn't have to do any of those things. Because I made it up.

Can you see where I'm going with this? It's a made up list of expectations of what I think, and what Pinterest thinks, our summer should consist of. I have some blogger friends that are in the midst of posting their summer bucket lists. Some even have printables. And I love that. And I love them. I love that they are the kind of blogger that plans a summer of magical adventures for their children and their families. And good for you, if you have a summer bucket list and you are wholeheartedly enjoying checking off every item that you have planned for June. You're amazing, I'm serious. But I realized last week that Summer Bucket lists just aren't for me. 

My mom never used or wrote a summer bucket list. She worked full time so my summers where spent with my grandma. I spent my summers catching up on General Hospital, grandma's favorite. I spent my summers at the grocery store helping my grandma bag our groceries. I spent summer nights in our apartment complex riding bikes with my friends and waiting for the ice cream truck to come around. My mom spent her summers relaxing and enjoying a break from the school/dance schedule hell she spent nine months being a slave to. We read books and watched movies, and if she got a wild hair up her ass, we'd bake Bisquick biscuits at midnight and watch Saturday Night Live. Without a list in sight, I have the most wonderful memories of  unscheduled, fly by the seat of your shorts kind of summers.

Which brings me to this year. I've decided that this family has a Summer F**k It List. Maybe we will get dressed and leave the house, maybe we won't. F**k it. Donuts sound fun, maybe we will leave the house early enough to enjoy them as breakfast food. Maybe we will have a picnic in a park, or maybe we will just eat on the patio at Panera. F**k it. Sure a baseball game sounds nice, but soon it will be 114 degrees, and that's just miserable. A movie sounds nice, but will we have to take a second out on the house to enjoy it? Homemade ice cream was a hit last year, but that new yogurt place just opened up and, well... F**k it.

No matter what we do this summer, it will be wonderful and amazing and probably much of the same we do all the time. Summer to me is about sleeping in. It's about eating ice cream at all hours of the night. It's about spending the entire day and most of the night in the pool, until you can't comb a single section of your hair, and you smell funny, but you are so damn happy about it. Summer is about enjoying every single minute of the daylight and every single sliver of the night. Summer is the absence of bedtime, grilled cheese sandwiches at nine o'clock at night, and donuts in pajamas at almost noon.

I'm not completely worthless as a mom. I know we have to do something this summer. I also know it doesn't have to be a blockbuster. It doesn't have to dazzle the little people in this family. It just has to be something we all do together. Even if it's just for a day. Or for an hour. That's why we are so content for now being home. Watching the Amazing World Of Gumball, while eating cheetos, and destroying the house with blanket forts and play food restaurants. We are quite content with Target trips, memorizing the phone number for pizza delivery, and frozen waffle breakfasts. Because it doesn't matter if you have a Summer Bucket List or a Summer F*&k it list. What matters is that you are enjoying every single minute of summer with the people who matter most. If you can say that, then you are doing it exactly right. No matter what Pinterest says. 

So if you never make that sidewalk chalk paint this summer that you pinned two years ago... F**k It. 

I love him more than Instagram {Father's Day 2014}

Today, I spent time with my Husband. The father of my beautiful babies. The man that made dreams I didn't know I dreamed come true. He spent the first half of his day with just his girls, because mom had to work. And no, it wasn't a Mr. Mom kind of day. It was a completely ordinary kind of day. Because he's a Dad. A Dad of this generation. That gets his hands dirty and his heart broken by little people with limited vocabularies. He's the kind of Dad, much like your husband I'm sure, that works hard at work, and harder at home. The kind of Dad you always wanted for your children before they were even born. He's the kind of Dad who vacuums because mommy hates to.

And sometimes I take him for granted. I forget that he needs someone to lean on too. Because most of the time he seems like Superman. Because when I met him, he didn't need a thing, not even me. But somewhere down the road that all changed, and now, he needs me. To be his friend, his partner in crime, his confidante. It's so easy to forget that I'm a wife, his wife. It's so easy to forget that I'm also his friend. Life happens and gets in the way. We have to talk about the bills and the grocery shopping, and how much I'm spending at Target again. We forget to enjoy the little things. The little sliver of quiet after the kids go to sleep. The moments before they wake up. We forget to watch that movie we DVR'd three weeks ago. We forget to sit down and have dinner together. We forget that we were once friends before we were parents.

So today, I hope that he knew, I wanted to celebrate him, and the Dad that he is. Even if I didn't get to spend time with him until after work. I hope that he knows that the hard stuff will turn into the easy stuff, until it gets hard again, and that I will be with him every step of the way. I hope that he knows that I'd only climb this mountain of parenthood with him. That I'd never have made it this far if he hadn't carried me all those times. I hope that he knows that

I also hope that he realized his children adore him. That they really are two of the best things we've ever done.

Today was Father's Day. A day that could have been just another day, but because of The Hubbs, it was anything but. It was a day to celebrate, him and this life we have. A life full of chaos and mess, full of wins and losses, and dirty carpets and dishes on the counters. It was a day that I get to celebrate with him, because of him. Even if it was just as ordinary as yesterday. Because it's the magic we find in our monotony that makes life unforgettable.

And I wouldn't want to do this life with anyone else. 

Father's Day 2014

Third Party Parenting

The last five months since returning to a part time work schedule have been a total blur. It seems like I just started rearranging my schedule to get child care in order and to make sure someone could drop Caitlin off at dance. Maybe it's because I'm forever rearranging my schedule. A life working retail is anything but consistent, and even with the best laid plans, it takes one domino to make the others fall. Sure the closing shifts are hard on all of us. Working on the weekends has taken some real adjusting. And while we continue to do it, while we continue to change and adapt to whatever this week's schedule brings there is one part of this whole working mom thing that I hate...

Third Party Parenting.

That's what I call the fact that it is taking an entire village to raise my girls these days. Both Grandmas, Auntie and Uncle, even our neighbors. We are all in this together. We are all working to make sure the kids are getting from point A to point Z on some days, and for the most part it works. And for the most part I'm thankful. But it bugs me that on some days, I have no idea what is going on.

In the last five months I have missed note after note home about awards ceremonies, class events, yearbook sales, and carnival donations. I missed teacher appreciation week entirely, and that's pretty sad because I was the room mom last year. It was a very fly by the seat of your pants second half of the year, with me running around last minute trying to put together teacher gifts and carnival donations. I had to rearrange schedules to make award ceremonies, and had to ask the Grandma's to fill in for me at the year end talent show. Thankfully my neighbor recorded it on her phone, and I cried big ugly tears, because I missed it. By the last day of school I felt like I had missed it all.

Now it's summer and I just know there will be more cases of Third Party Parenting. I'll be working and someone else will be in charge of my girls. Be in charge of separating them when they argue, and makings sure they don't always eat ice cream for breakfast. Someone else will make sure they don't wear pajamas all day, and make sure they share the Barbie Dream House. Sometimes the girls will enjoy that their Grandmas bend the rules, and that Daddy will resort to ordering pizza. Most nights they won't even think about me at work, while they are playing in the sprinklers with ice cream cones and cans of Pepsi. 

But I mind.

A few weeks ago when the Hubbs and I were discussing my work schedule and who would do what, and how many things I could accomplish before having to be at work at one thirty, I told him I was so tired of the third party bullshit. He laughed. He was like, "What's third party?", so I told him. I told him I was tired of someone besides me being in charge of the girls. Being in charge of the rules. I was tired of not knowing what was going on because I forgot to check the backpacks for notes. I was tired of forgetting to pay the dance dues and forgetting to buy sandwich baggies, again. I told him that parenting from afar, parenting with a third party was total and complete bullshit. 

He told me I just don't like being in control. He told me I have to relax. He told me that I have to "Let it go". He told me to have faith in the system.

I won't say that he's right. I'll just say, it's still total bullshit. As much as I once complained about the monotony and complexities of being a stay at home mom, I really felt I had a better handle on my life. I felt like I was being the best person I could be, for me and for my family. Before going back to work, missing a note or forgetting a date on my calendar was a hiccup. Today it's a derailment. I know there are women who do this everyday, full time. They are successful working mothers, but I just wasn't built that way. I'm not a super hero, I'm not a saint. I'm a mother, who had finally accepted her flaws, only to discover that she has a brand new set of them. 

Some would say to embrace this third party. To take comfort in the fact that my girls are surrounded by this amazing group of people who love them. And I'm trying, I do feel lucky that they are love and cared for. I'm hoping that I can let go of some of the additional anxiety this summer. That maybe without two schedules to follow, I can find balance in my work schedule alone. That we can find some balance as a family. Or maybe we will just fly by our seats, which has become our normal.

I guess I should embrace Third Party Parenting. Because for what it's worth, my kids are happy and healthy and loved. Their third party parents buy McDonald's and Subway. Their third party parents have swimming pools and fudgesicles. Their third party parents let them stay up late and watch Ghostbusters. My girls have no idea that third party parenting just about kills their mother with guilt, because they are too busy having fun.

What's the price of motherhood redemption? {The Elsa Dress}

If you know anything about me and this blog at all, you know it was born out of the overwhelming desire to be the perfect mother to my oldest daughter. The desire to make her world a fantasy land of perfection has bogged me down in my journey to this point in motherhood. Even when I say I'm going to live in the imperfections, that I'm going to embrace the mess, I always resort back to wanting to make her life perfect.

Which is stupid, because life is anything but.

As usual, I set unrealistic goals for myself every year around Caitlin's birthday. One year I tasked myself with making her a dress, as any good mother worth her weight in Pinterest pins would do. One year, and I'm pretty sure it was the same one, I stood in the Toy Story aisle of Toys R Us, in tears because there wasn't a Buzz Lightyear for miles. I've made ladybug cakes and cupcakes. I've made invitations. Every May and June I spend endless hours at Michael's, Joanne's and Target, just to make it the best birthday she will every have. And every year I almost have a nervous breakdown. 

This year, I knew, there was no way I was going to be able to deliver on what she wanted most, without some serious planning.

Because this year, Caitlin wanted an Elsa dress. The dress that parents everywhere are taking second mortgages on their houses to buy. The dress that goes for thousands on EBay. The dress that parents stand in line for hours on Saturday mornings at our local mall, just to get a raffle ticket, in hopes they will get picked to buy a very rare Elsa dress. Yes. An Elsa dress. Because why would we want anything less for our seventh birthday? 

Caitlin didn't just want an Elsa dress, she wanted me to make it. I love that she thinks I'm that talented. I love that she has undying faith in me as a mother. She has no idea at this point how imperfect I really am, since, as this story will prove, I get really lucky when shit hits the fan. And as much as I wanted to make that dress for her, I knew it was going to be impossible. I work now. My schedule isn't always the best, and a dress, a real princess dress, using speciality fabrics, was going to be a real challenge. Not something I could throw together with my minimal sewing skills and a glue gun.

I spent the better part of two hours researching Etsy for an Elsa dress. I emailed at least five sellers to make sure that they would be able to make a June 6th delivery date. It was May 12th after all and I didn't think it would be impossible. Three sellers said their waiting list was June 28th. One never responded and two said, Absolutely. In the mean time I also found a dress for Mac, a nice little Anna dress. So with my credit card and a prayer, I ordered two dresses one Anna, one Elsa. I made sure to add my shipping expectations in the seller notes, and also explained if they couldn't make this date, to please contact me immediately.

Mac's dress showed up in our mailbox a week and a half later. It is a piece of artwork. Hand embroidered bodice, soft fabrics for kids like mine who hate the itchy fabrics of princess dresses. Perfect. We hung it in her closet, and waited for Caitlin's.

We waited and waited. I got busy at the end of May. My work schedule changed four times in one week. I closed four days straight. I was never home, let alone able to piece together coherent thoughts. It wasn't until my first day off in almost seven days that I realized Caitlin's party for her school friends was a little over a week away. And when I thought about the party, I remembered the dress. The. Dress.

Still it took another three days to email the seller. On Tuesday the 3rd of June, I emailed the seller of Caitlin's dress. Just a quick note to see if it had shipped. What if it had gotten lost in the mail? The seller emailed me back to tell me that my dress still had a few days to go. Are you kidding me? I freaked. My heart fell into my stomach. Oh. Shit. So I immediately emailed back, from my phone of course, because all this was taking place in the car before school pick up. I included a screen shot of my original order with my "special instructions" filled out to include the date I needed the dress back. And then I waited. I checked my Etsy conversations again and again, and nothing. Nothing for fifteen hours. On Wednesday morning I received a message that said, I've moved you up on the list. You will have your dress by Friday. But something in my heart said, no. I just knew that I was never going to see this dress. 

Friday morning I checked my email as I was leaving work and found that I had been issued a refund from the seller. No personal email. No apology. Nothing on our Etsy conversation. Nothing but my money and no coveted Elsa dress. On the verge of tears I called the Hubbs. What were we going to do? How were we going to make this happen? He told me to call the party stores to see if they had anything, and of course I laughed. He has no idea the frenzy that is Frozen. Then he said to call the Disney Store, and I laughed again. But I said I would. What did I have to lose at this point?

Maybe a lot. The night before, we had talked with Caitlin about the possibility of not having an Elsa dress for her Frozen party. We explained to her what happened. But she's seven, and all she said through tears was, "Why doesn't anything every work out for me". Ouch. Because I kind of feel like she has a point. I feel like she never really got the best part of me when she was a baby. I feel like she doesn't get the best parts of me now. And here, on the eve of her most important Frozen party to celebrate her seventh birthday, the one thing she so desired, didn't come. I had to walk away from that conversation. Because sometimes mommy isn't as magical as she appears. Mommy can't always fix it, and at seven, that is a really hard lesson to learn. It's also hard to admit to yourself as a mother, that sometimes the best laid plans can still go to shit.

I called the Disney store, even though I was pretty sure they were going to laugh at me. I asked, what I thought was going to be the stupidest question on earth. "Do you have any Elsa dresses?", and to my total surprise, "Yes". Stop. What? I mean Elsa, you know from Frozen?, Yes, we have four. They had two in Caitlin's size, and they would not hold them, it was first come first serve. So I dropped everything. Threw Mac in the car, and drove, breaking every speed limit, and running not one but two red lights. Then I threw Mac into a stroller and ran my ass through the mall to the Disney Store. I'm sure I was a sight. When I got there, they only had one left. One. In Caitlin's size. In the twenty minutes it took to drive there they had almost sold out. So I bought one dress and one crown, and paid $70.63.

How much does it cost to redeem yourself as a mother? How much does it cost to confirm that you are doing it right? How much does it cost to save yourself from another disappointment as a mother, because no matter how hard you try you will still feel like that fumbling and bumbling idiot spilling breast milk at two am? 

Seventy dollars and sixty three cents. And it was worth every tear, every moment that I almost had a nervous breakdown. It was worth every dang red cent. Because look at that face. She loved the dress. So much that she tried to sleep in it the night before her party. And I was able to put one in the pro column for motherhood. So very worth it indeed.

And let's face it I would have paid triple that.

Here is the Anna coronation dress. I mean, really!
Photo cred: Best Dress Ever via Etsy

Mackenzie's dress is by Best Dress Ever on Etsy. Michelle is great. 
You can follow her on Instagram @michellebestdressever. 
Her dresses are fantastic and perfect for your littles 
that can't abide by tulle and scratchy fabrics. 
Please check her out!

Dear First Grade {2014}

Dear First Grade,

We were so excited to start first grade. With your morning lines on the big kids playground and lunch with the big kids.

We even got to try new things at Snack Shack like cup-o-noodles, which let's be honest, are quite possibly the best thing you can buy for fifty cents.

We knew you would be tough, with your math facts and compound words, but we worked hard and even got awarded for it.

But somewhere around Christmas, we fumbled a little. We got a little more anxious, we decided that there were things about you, First Grade, we didn't like. We kept smiling. We kept trying, and even on the mornings when we cried more than we smiled, we went and met you on the playground anyway. The only way we knew how to get over you was to go through you, no matter how difficult. Honestly, First Grade, you were harder than preschool and kindergarten. We shed more tears and spent more time using our outside voice this year. Many people told us that it just came with the territory, but we couldn't help wonder why it was so hard for us...

Despite all of our hardships, all of our bad days and rough starts, we found the good in every day. We became Daisy Scouts, and sold three hundred and fifty five boxes of cookies. We learned about making friends and being responsible, and we ate really good snacks with new scout friends.

We lost some teeth, and had fun with the tooth fairy who needed to make a lot of trips to the bank.

In the spring we found our smile again. We tapped into our school spirit. We had less mornings filled with tears and more days filled with fun. 

We stopped to laugh. We stopped to tell jokes. And we even decided that you weren't so bad after all, First Grade. Maybe you were even a friend.

You taught us some important lessons, First Grade. You taught us that we can climb mountains. Even the really steep ones, in slippery shoes and sweaty hands. You taught us that even on the roughest mornings, we could find a little joy, we could say a little prayer. You taught me and my daughter that we are so very strong in heart and mind, and we can, and will continue to do hard things. Things we aren't ready for, things we may not be prepared for. You taught me that motherhood is forever changing and challenging, and that I can be thankful and frustrated in the exact same breath. If anything, First Grade, you taught me that my work is far from over, and surprisingly, I'm one hundred percent ok with that. In fact, I welcome it.

I wish I could say that I will miss you, First Grade, but I can't. What I can say is Thank You. Thank you for teaching me so many lessons, and blessing me with every single moment. Thank you for the rough patches and the happy slices of joy. Thank you for my daughter, who has grown physically, but also in mind and spirit. A spirit I thought might break this year, but instead her spirit got stronger and braver. And I became stronger and braver. I asked myself many times over, why does First Grade have to be so hard. Now I know why. I realize we needed you this year, First Grade. We needed you to teach us that even in the hardest moments, our spirit is what makes us soar. 

I don't think we can ever thank you enough.

pinable, if you want...

My cup runneth over {Coffee Date}

via Etsy and Pen and Paint, a 2014 Elevate Conference Sponsor.

I wish we were friends in real life. I wish that you were my neighbor or lived down the street. At this point, I'd take you living on the other side of town. That way we could meet in the middle and have coffee. I'd suggest Starbucks because, as usual, my house is a disaster, and I'd spare you that sight. I'd buy because I love to hear drinks ordered at Starbucks that I can't drink, and if you couldn't make up your mind, I'd beg you to let me order. So I could live out one of my many Starbuck drink fantasies. 

When we sat down, I'd tell you without hesitation that my cup runneth over. With the good and the bad. That just when I think I have a handle on things, little earthquakes shake my world, and break my heart. I'd tell you that twice this week I told someone that I couldn't begin to plan next week, and that I'd be lucky if I made it through this one. In the same breath I'd tell you how I'm overwhelmed with the blessings that are my children, and that once again motherhood has surprised me.

This week is the last week of school. We've been late to school every day. We can't seem to get out of bed. We can never find the right shirt to wear. We can't decide on what to take for lunch. Every day we run out the door and every day I've said, Hurry, Hurry, we've got to go. But on Wednesday I said, We are late. We will just have to be late. And Caitlin offered to jump out at the curb, but instead, I decided that I'd walk her. All the way to class if I had to. Because really, why are we rushing? What in life is so important that I have to yell and scream my way out the door? Because the school bell rings. I've decided the school bell cannot dictate my happiness anymore. Obviously I wish I would have decided this months ago, but sometimes in life we are late. And I just can't yell about that anymore. 

We did get there just in time to salute the flag outside the gate. Then we pushed our way through lines of kids marching to class, and in the gap we saw Caitlin's teacher. I can catch up to her Mommy, and off my girl ran. And it wasn't in haste, it was in anticipation. And at the point my heart was so full. Full because no one cried. We weren't really late. And I finally slowed for a moment to be in the moment. I stood there and watched her run, I saw her catch up , I saw her surprise her teacher with a big smile. After the year we have had, to see her, in that moment, was worth every bit of being late. 

I'd tell you that the end of year gifts and teacher gifts sit untouched. They may never see the light of day. I really have to make amends with that. Friday is the last day of school. What looked really great on Pinterest, was just another crafting fantasy for this part time working mom. I could have stayed up all night, I could have gotten up early. I could have planned better, but the truth is, sometimes I just have to say no. Sometimes I just have to admit that it's not in the cards. The teacher gift will make it, but the end of year fun goody bags... We shall see.

And let me tell you about my Etsy disaster. I ordered an Elsa dress. I know, I don't even have to explain that. And I ordered it in plenty of time, only to find out on Tuesday that it wasn't finished. That it wasn't going to be here by Caitlin's Frozen Birthday Party on Saturday. And for a bit on Tuesday afternoon I lost myself. Not because I was getting a bad deal, even when I included my need by date in the seller notes, and not because I had already sent message after message confirming it could be done in my time frame, but because Caitlin had originally asked me to make the dress for her. I knew, in my heart, there was no way I could make an Elsa dress. I sew, just barely, and I haven't had to sew a project that required a pattern in years. I also knew that I just wasn't going to have the time. 

But it's not so much about the lack of time and creativity to make an Elsa dress. No that part doesn't smart that much. It's about me and my oldest daughter. The one that I have been trying to please and be the picture of perfection for since day one. I've been trying so hard to give her a perfect world. And for the most part I've given up on a lot of that perfection, but this year has been hard. For both of us. And the only thing I really wanted her to have was that damn dress. Sure I've gone overboard on the favors and the invitations and the games we will play at her Frozen party, but that dress, oh Lord that dress... On Tuesday that dress brought me back to the dark days. The days where I felt like the worst mother in the world. The days where I felt I'd never do anything right. And I cried, and I cussed, and I used every single profanity I could think of silently to myself. Then I decided that I just had to keep moving forward. Because of all things that are going to break me in the years to come, this Esty dress disaster just can't be one of them.

The Etsy dress disaster is still a major sore spot. Especially after I told her and she dramatically and tearfully announced that "Nothing every goes right for me". I'm still trying not to let that damn dress break me. 

I'd tell you that this school year is at the close. I'd tell you that I'm not quite sure who is more exhausted, me or the kids. I'd tell you that I've been counting down the hours. I'm so ready for mornings that don't require an alarm clock. Mornings that can be slow and sleepy. Afternoons that welcome pajamas and cookies and ice cream. Days spent at grandma's pool, or at the used bookstore or in the aisles of Target. Lazy evenings in the front yard with the neighbors and popsicles and music blasting too loudly. I'd tell you that I'm so ready to breathe.

In the end, I'd tell you that right in the middle of a stressful day. A day full of places to be and appointments to make, I realized that I was exactly where I wanted to be. I realized that my cup runneth over with chaos, but it runneth over with blessings too. I'd tell you that I looked in my rear view mirror and spotted a little hand in the air, waving at me. I'd tell you that the smile and cackle that Caitlin made when she laughed at her own joke was the most amazing sound. Better than any song ever written. I'd tell you that motherhood has surprised me again by being the thing I want to do most. It has surprised me by being the thing that makes me complete. Even when it's messy, and I'm yelling and I'm ready to throw in the towel, I realize I still want to do it. I still want to be here. I still want to be their mother. I want to kiss the boo boos. I want to sit and dictate spelling words. I want to color with all the broken crayons because they hate the broken ones. I want to make cake pops last minute, and bring home McDonald's in the twilight. I want to be their everything, their someone, their hero. But mostly I just want to be their mom. 

If we were having coffee, I'd tell you that motherhood has surprised me, and filled my cup to the brim. With good, with sad, with chaotic, with messy, to the point that it blissfully runs over day after day. And that is something everyone can drink to.

Link up your own Coffee Date with Alissa at Diary of an Addict

if you like this, pin it. Please.