August 2, 2015 by Jessica
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July 26, 2015 by Jessica
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You were born and I was a mother.
I didn’t fully understand that I had been a mom since the moment I saw two pink lines,
that I was being handed 6 pounds 14 ounces of the most fierce kind of love.
I didn’t know breathing you in would soften the blow of 2 am feedings and 5 am mornings,
that your gummy smile would cure a million hurts.
And no one could explain the hum of bedtime stories and the clink of tiny snaps in the dryer,
that giggles have their own color, their own shape.
I didn’t realize how many times I would re-stack a book shelf and cube cheese and cut off sandwich crusts,
that I probably still do it in my sleep when you dream of a good book or midnight snack.
I had no idea I would miss lugging you around on my hip and pushing a swing ten thousand times,
that I would cling onto any hint of the year before as it became the one after.
No one told me you’d grow out of squeeze-hugs and some days I’d wonder if I could fold myself into your backpack,
that watching you do things on your own could be more difficult than the days of doing everything for you.
I couldn’t have imagined standing eye-to-eye or needing you to explain SnapChat and how to hold a Wii remote,
that you’d teach me so much just by being.
And I never could have comprehended how much you would change and how much you would stay exactly the same,
how much yesterday looked just like today until you turned around and it wasn’t anymore.
Your birthdays have tumbled into the next and must have gained momentum along the way because here I am saying goodbye to your childhood and wondering how no one could have told me it would all go by this fast.
Happy 20th birthday Ashlyn, you are so loved.
July 19, 2015 by Jessica
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Dear Young Mom,
I’m writing you because my oldest daughter will be 20 next week. This fact probably has you dropping me into the “as old as your parents” black hole but I’m you, just a decade or two away from where you are now. There is so much I have learned that I want to tell you and I hope it sounds like it’s coming from the place it’s intended, a place of understanding without a bit of judgement or an ounce of lecture. I’m sure you’ve had enough of that already. So here it goes…
1. You can do this. You can. It will not be easy and you will feel alone at a time when you should be surrounded by friends and parties and fun but you will make it. You might be trying to finish a paper due tomorrow while bouncing a baby who won’t nap or you might be wondering if that paycheck is worth it since you already used most of it to pay a sitter. It’s not easy, I know, but it’s worth it. You are going to crash a few times but you will not burn. Keep focused on today and don’t think too far into the future. Take one hour at a time and one of these days you will be “old” like me, marveling at how you and your baby made it all the way to 20 years together.
2. It will be fun. It will be miserable. No matter what age you become a parent this is true but it’s especially true for you, young momma. People will tell you how hard it is going to be, how little you will sleep, how much you will sacrifice. This is all true and nothing to roll your eyes at (unless you’ve already heard it 800 times). But you will also have fun too. You have more energy than all of us older moms and you will climb through park tunnels and slide down swirly slides and giggle so hard at your baby’s first full-on smile. You will grow up together for a while and be closer because of it.
3. You need help. This is a hard one to admit, I know. You are at an age where you want to prove yourself and you are in a position where everyone is doubting you and you want so badly just to tell them all where to go and show them how well you are rocking this young mom thing. But you need to ask for and accept help. You will need to do this as a mom at 19 or 29 or 49. None of us birthed a child with an instruction manual and the only good thing I found on YouTube was a video showing me how to babywear with style. If you don’t have someone you can lean on email me and I promise to help you find someone close.
4. Do the fun things. If you can, show up for a few of the things that people your age still do. I know you want to show you are old enough and responsible enough but you are also still in the throes of school dances or college applications or 21st birthday celebrations. All of that stuff only happens once and, no matter your age, you’ve got to remind yourself you’re still human. Experiencing the normal parts of your own life will help you be a better mom and not look back with regret on your fast track to adulthood. Plus you can look back at how good you looked not wearing mom jeans.
5. You’re going to be lonely. I wish I could say this isn’t true but it is. You are young and you have a baby. No matter how awesome your friends, there’s a good chance they will pick parties and late-night test cramming in a dorm over lullabies and lights out at 8 pm. And the only thing you have in common with the women who do have kids the same age as yours are your kids. It’s going to be tough to find someone to relate to for a while but when you find them, hang onto them because those friendships are gold. Until then, look for a Facebook group or some other kind of online support that I would have loved to have available when I was a young mom.
6. Be proud of yourself. You are doing a big thing. Being a young mom takes a ton of dedication and responsibility and you are doing it. I know it’s easy to get caught up in being embarrassed by your situation or let others think they know better because of their age but be confident in the mothering skills you are learning. Don’t let anyone treat you like you are less because you’ve taken on more.
7. This won’t last forever. There are so many things about being a young mom that are overwhelming and, if you’re like I was, you’re obsessing over the future and how to make this all work. I know you can’t even imagine it, but in a few years things will be so much different. You will have finished college or found a steady job or finally left Mr. Not Right for Mr. Oh So Right. Think about how much things have changed in the last year or two, it’s going to happen again before you know it.
8. YOU ARE ENOUGH. You are, you are, you are. I spent SO much time worrying I wasn’t married and didn’t have a house and that my daughter would probably move a gazillion times before we were ultimately settled like a “normal” family and you know what? None of my worrying made an ounce of difference. Do you know what she remembers about her childhood? She remembers laughing hysterically while I tried to squeeze a gigantic Christmas tree through the door of our flat and burning so many meals and how we went to the park all the time. She has no idea that I thought we needed a guy to make our park trips better and a house to fit our Christmas tree. She just needed me. And she had me.
She still does.
Sending you all the love and hope and strength,
A young mom who’s not that young anymore
July 13, 2015 by Jessica
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One of my favorite things about homeschooling is that I don’t have to pack daily school lunches. It’s so freeing not having to make sure we’re stocked with bread and drink boxes Monday through Friday. Even though I’m not packing lunches all week long, we still have a day or two each week where the kids need to take a lunch somewhere for something, so I’m not completely off the hook.
Two of my three little homeschoolers will not eat sandwiches so I’m always trying to come up with bread-free ways of packing them a decent meal. We’ve got enough things in rotation now that I’m pretty happy with our long list of non-sandwich substitutions and my kids generally only waste whatever veggies I try to sneak in their meal. Here are a few of our favorite sandwich substitutions, using THE BEST way to store them, Rubbermaid LunchBlox (I always add a side of fruit, veggies or applesauce too:
Crackers and cheese
Apples and peanut butter with raisins
Salami triangles with cream cheese
Dry cereal or granola and yogurt
Bagel with peanut butter or cream cheese for dipping
Lunchmeat roll ups with cheese sticks
Chicken salad and crackers
Hard-boiled egg with crackers or bread
Pizza rollups (tortillas spread with tomato sauce and cheese)
Diced chicken with hummus and veggies or pita chips
Pasta salad full of meat and veggies
Granola bar, yogurt and fruit
Zucchini muffins and yogurt or cheese slices
Pancakes, waffles or French toast with syrup/honey/peanut butter
Pita pocket full of their current favorite thing to eat
Salad and bread sticks
Soft or hard tacos with their favorite fixings
Spinach dip and bread or crackers
A few notes about the Rubbermaid LunchBlox:
-I love these things!
-They stack neatly and come with a stackable ice pack too.
-You can change the order of how they stack so the ice pack goes wherever you need it most.
-I was given one set of LunchBlox to review for this post but have already bought more because the kids all want their own and did I mention I love these things?
Do you have picky eaters like I do? What are your go-to non-sandwich lunches?
Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Rubbermaid through their partnership with POPSUGAR. While I was compensated by POPSUGAR to write a post about LunchBlox, all opinions are my own.
July 8, 2015 by Jessica
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June 21, 2015 by Jessica
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I’ve been reading like crazy this year, thus my rare appearances on the blog. I set a crazy goal on Goodreads for 2015 and I hate losing even in a race against myself so I’m going to read 50 books even if my whole summer is spent under the glow of my Kindle. That actually sounds like a dream summer but one I will not have until my kids can entertain themselves.
I’m not yet halfway to my goal even though I should be because it’s June. I have read some amazing books so far though and you must read them before the summer is over. Wherever you’re heading before September take one or all of these with you.
Hugo & Rose
I fell in love with this author after I read one of her pieces on Salon and then found out about her book and then talked to her on Twitter and I think we have a fangirl-turned-friend story in the making (she’s probably changing her address as I type). Brigid shares the story of Ruth peppered with such explicit honesty about the realities of being a housewife. But the details that will have you nodding your head with understanding are juxtaposed against a complete fantasy world that you can’t even begin to fathom. Such an amazing read, not to be missed.
A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty
There’s a chance I was the last person to discover Joshilyn Jackson but just in case I’m not I had to add this book to my list. Every sentence is perfectly written in this book. And then every sentence comes together to make a page-turning story full of rich characters. I’m now working my way through all of her books.
Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend
I’ve never read a book written from such an interesting perspective. This book is told from the point of few of a boy’s imaginary friend. It is sweet and funny and then insanely riveting. I read the first have of the book smiling and laughing, I read the second half frantically turning the pages. So, so good.
The Art Forger
I like a book that teaches me something new while weaving in a good story. This book taught me so much about the art world I did not know while also being a really nice piece of fiction. Not an amazing read but a really good one that will keep you turning the pages.
READ THIS. Easily one of my favorite books I’ve ever read. I always love John Green but this is one of his best. I already want to read it again and I never read anything twice.
There is a chance I loved this book because so much of it was set in Michigan in the 20’s but I think I loved the storyline too. Written in part fiction and part memoir, the author pulled together stories of her grandmother’s life according to stories she was told growing up. I read a review that said it’s like sitting next to someone as they tell you the most interesting stories of their life and it is exactly that.
The Girl On the Train
I’ve heard so many mixed reviews about this book but I loved it and couldn’t put it down. Whether you love it as much as I did or not you will not be able to put it down. A perfect weekend read full of suspense but not a bunch of gore.
Chasing the Sun
This was another book that taught me about a world I knew nothing about while keeping me enthralled. It’s set in a time of political unrest in Peru and takes you through one family’s encounter of kidnapping. I was shocked at how somewhat common of an occurrence this was and how little the legal system can do.
A Girl Named Zippy
I read this book pre-kids and vaguely remembered laughing on the couch while reading the way you vaguely remember everything pre-kids so decided to read it again. It was just as hilarious the second time and almost like new since my memory left with my free time. I’m not sure there is another non-fiction book that has kept me this entertained. I probably need to branch out and read a few of her others instead of rereading this one.
I Still Just Want to Pee Alone
I love the Pee Alone books and not just because I was in the first one. They are laugh-out-loud funny and you can pick them up and read a story or two anytime, especially when you are feeling all alone in this crazy mom-gig.
What else should I be reading this summer?
This post contains affiliate links. I make a small amount of money off the purchases made on Amazon if you click on one of the links which would be really nice so I can say I actually make money off of my blog.
June 11, 2015 by Jessica
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I took Sawyer for his Last Ice Cream of the Fives and while his feet dangled under our chairs at just the right height to repeatedly scrape my shins he asked the deep questions of an almost six year-old.
When did you know I was in your belly? What was it like when I was in there? Did you know it was me?
I told him about my intense love for processed cheese and root beer and my obsession with the home doppler that wasn’t around for his siblings before him. Somewhere mid-sweet story I froze at the realization that I was looking back on my last pregnancy fondly. Never in a million sleepless pregnancy nights did I imagine myself sitting with a brown-headed boy, eyelashes tickling his glasses and smiling over his time in my belly.
The majority of my pregnancy I spent wracked with paranoia over my baby’s possible death. If he didn’t die during pregnancy then he might days or weeks after. It had happened to us once when I never expected it, it could happen again.
By 27 weeks I got incredibly sick at the same time H1N1 was appearing in the United States. The nurse taking my blood wore a hazmat suit and I was sent home on strict bed rest once they decided I wasn’t carrying anything deadly. I had two one year-olds and a teenager at home and I cried (and cried and cried) as I wondered how we would survive my weeks of bed rest.
My hormonal self was sure I had stunted the emotional growth of my toddlers by being unable to pick them up and would never be able to recoup the time I’d lost of involvement in my oldest’s school year. There was nothing warm and fuzzy about my pregnancy. I even cried over knowing I would not look back fondly.
But here I am, ignoring my issues with lactose and memories, telling my youngest about his hiccups in utero and how hard he could kick at 3 am and how lucky he was to have my belly all to himself, over milkshakes and a sticky table. When I’m in a miserable moment I’m not good at telling myself one day I will love it. The eye roll I give to people who tell me this fact actually hurts my eye sockets but I’m going to say it anyway.
Whatever tough space you are in right now, whatever big thing keeps you up at night and drains your energy during the day, I promise, promise, promise one day it will turn small. You might be sitting knee to knee with your almost six year-old or you might be sharing a coffee with your grown child or you might be soaking your dentures. I don’t know how long it takes things to change shape in your heart. But I promise it will happen.
Every time we leave for something new or better or different or maybe worse, what we leave behind or fiercely carry with us gets smaller. Whether we cling to its curves or try to bury it neatly, it still shrinks. Somehow our memories are left holding the pieces we need.
The memories will be right there when you need them. But they will look different when you try to go back the next time.
After all, you’ve come so far.
June 1, 2015 by Jessica
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A few months ago I wrote a post about the realities of homeschooling and now that the school year is almost over I’d like to amend my list to add about 300 more things. The first one on my new list would read something like “if you give your kids the laptop to play educational games, within 30 seconds they will be watching YouTube videos of adults making Frozen characters out of Play-doh while talking in ridiculous voices.”
I would love to tell you my children quietly attend to their school work while I bounce from child to child, patiently awaiting their next instructions. In reality, if I don’t have my act together someone will start using flashcards to spell bodily functions while I’m teaching someone else sight words.
I’ve had to get really creative with keeping everyone engaged during our school hours or I lose them all and it’s a slippery slide down the slope of my sanity from there. So it was a huge relief when School Zone offered to send me their new Little Scholar Educational Tablet to see if my kids enjoyed it and if it helped to supplement their learning.
To say the table has helped would be an understatement. It is now the go-to device in our house and since it’s loaded with nothing but educational games and activities for kids in preK-1st grade, I know they are learning every time they pick it up.
My kids love the math games, the read-along books and the memory games and I love that I can keep track of what they’re doing and the progress they are making in the parent section.
Since the Little Scholar Educational Tablet and accessories are manufactured in Grand Rapids, it’s only fitting they are now available in Meijer stores. AND since they are Michigan-based and I am too, I get to give away a Little Scholar Tablet. I’m thrilled to be able to offer one reader our new favorite thing. I’m feeling like Oprah over here without the five million dollars in additional prizes and live studio audience and private jet.
Here are the features in the new and improved tablet one reader will receive:
• Ready to play – with or without Wi-Fi
• Over 200 apps including 98 songs and 54 “Start to Read” Books – WORTH OVER $400 in free content!
• All Start to Read!® Books will have read-along audio tracks
• 8-inch screen, textured easy-grip protective bumper
• Runs on Google AndroidTM 4.4.4 operating system
• 2 convenient charging options: USB interface and 5-foot DC power cord
• Download additional apps from the School Zone Market or the Amazon App Store may be installed
You can enter below, open to US residents only. Good luck!!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
May 31, 2015 by Jessica
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I didn’t realize why Sawyer volunteered to go to the grocery store with me until we got to the check out. I was speed-unloading the cart when I looked up to see him building a tower of produce, soup cans and ice cream (in that order because tomatoes make the sturdiest tower base, I’ve heard).
The week before I had taken Parker. He made a similar tower as the belt rolled towards the cashier but his seven year-old mind concocted something with cereal boxes at the bottom. His creation made it to the cashier before I could tell him not to make towers out of groceries, especially moving ones. The manager was one aisle away and came over, exclaiming over Parker’s tower. “This is the coolest thing I’ve seen in all my years in the grocery business!” he leaned down to tell my son. He asked the cashier to see if he could keep the tower together and the bagger to see if he could slide it into the bag just like Parker had made it. Parker beamed and the teen-ish, twenty-ish bagger and cashier took the task very seriously and we all cheered on the leaning grocery tower as it continued it’s journey.
We left the grocery store in the best of moods and Parker told the whole house about his tower and his celebrity status. Sawyer wanted to come home with the same story as his big brother to fulfill his little brother job.
But as his tower headed down the conveyor belt the cashier told him to take it down, it was about to fall, he would ruin all his mom’s groceries. He wouldn’t want to do that would he? And I saw the crumble. I saw his shoulders fold forward a bit and his top lip take hold of his bottom one and felt his hand looking for mine.
I certainly don’t expect every cashier to allow my children produce towers and cheer for them as they approach paper or plastic but what I saw happen with my boys made me think a lot about what goes on in our own life on a daily basis.
How many times do I hurry my kids along instead of encouraging them to do something neat that might take five more seconds?
How often do I make people feel like they did something fantastic instead of barely making eye contact and heading on my way?
Do I slow down enough to see what other people are really doing or do I just worry about what I need to do and how they might be in the way?
I know I’m guilty of knocking down towers and I want to do better at building them up. I want to be responsible for that smiley-faced kid riding the cart out of the grocery store, not the quiet one who would rather not come next time. I want to notice people and their intentions and do a decent job at remembering it doesn’t take much to make someone happy.
With a little practice and some good intentions I hope to keep a few towers from falling and encourage my kids to take the chance on building them in the first place.
May 27, 2015 by Jessica
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In the beginning it was the minutes, the hours, the months.
I tried to remember every detail, the weight of her in my arms, the almost-blue of her eyes, the shape of her eyelids as they closed.
I felt panic rise as the days passed and memories blurred, I couldn’t forget a thing. She was my daughter. I wouldn’t.
Repeating over and over in my mind our short moments, our last day, I hated that the edges of my memory were beginning to blur.
I called the hospital once, over a year after her death, convinced they might have one picture of her that we did not.
Praying they had some file containing one more piece for me to hold onto, I waited while the staff found a way to tell me there wasn’t anything more.
I was left with what I had. It needed to be enough.
There are still days I comb my brain for those memories, wish for something I might have forgotten, but I’ve made a bit of peace with time and its need to move forward.
I don’t remember Hadley’s life as a before and an after anymore. She’s woven into yesterday and today and is pulling a ribbon of light through tomorrow.
I will always wish for more time, more memories and the childhood she deserved, but I don’t count the months and years so much anymore. They’ve blended into an appreciation for the gift that was and always will be my daughter.
Her life, so much more a part of mine, than her death.