All 50 by 40: Hawaii

I just finished visiting my 43rd state on my quest to visit all 50 by age 40, and this last trip left me with one question: Why did I leave Hawaii until number 43?! Silly.

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My husband and I stayed on Maui. It was absolutely gorgeous. We chose not to island-hop on this trip because we really wanted to absorb as much of Maui as we could while still having time to relax.

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I am currently working on my Maui Top 10 list, which will definitely include whale watching and eating my weight in fish tacos.

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There was relaxing pool time.

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The Banyan Tree, which gets creepily loaded with noisy birds at sundown.

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Our beautiful resort made it difficult to come back to snowy South Dakota.

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Our beautiful resort made it difficult to come back to snowy South Dakota.

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The fantastic hiking trails were one of our favorite parts of the island, and, in my mind, an excuse to eat more fish tacos.

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I took my first helicopter tour. It was awesome!

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We left our three-year-old and eight-month-old daughters home with my very generous and caring parents. We missed them so much, but the time away was good for us. Thank you, dear friends, for reminding me of that, and squelching that mommy guilt before it had a chance to take hold.

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Stay tuned for my favorite parts of Maui. What state should I visit next? Here are the remaining seven.

The Updated List

Alaska

Arkansas

Michigan (I have been to airports)

Tennessee

Texas (I have been to airports)

West Virginia

Wisconsin

Who Gets the Best Version of Me?

A little voice crept into my head a few days back asking this question. I had given my all at work that day, put in extra hours, and was not being as kind or patient with my husband or daughters as I would like to be. I was drained. Who gets the best version of me? That day it certainly wasn’t the three people I love most in the world.

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(Photo by Alyssa Crawford Photography)

We can’t be “on” all the time. Well, at least I can’t. I get tired. I get impatient. I feel pulled in too many directions. I feel guilty.

Something has to give. I have found that I frequently use up every ounce of positive energy I can muster at work or on other tasks that do not include being a loving and kind wife and mother. My husband and daughters didn’t tell me this. They’re not complaining. Still, I can tell I’m not giving them my all. They’re not getting the best me.

Guess what? My endless work email list will still be there if I take a full hour lunch break to recharge. No one will be any worse off if I fully engage in playing ballerinas with my daughters instead of mentally making a grocery list or worrying about the next week’s work priorities.

Who are the people who really matter in your life? Do you dwell on an unpleasant exchange with a person you rarely see or don’t even know instead of nurturing the loving relationships close to you? I know I am guilty of this.

I am not proposing we slack off at work or start being rude to the strangers we encounter, but sometimes I’m a lot friendlier to the cashier at the grocery store than I am to my own husband. Who gets the best version of me? By asking myself this question regularly, rather than beat myself up for being a sub-par wife and mother, I hope to be more aware, take care of myself better, and save some energy and positivity at the end of the day for those who matter most.

A Season for Minimalism

I’ll be honest. Christmas had a way of overwhelming me. Again. The first two weeks of December I was stress-free, completing my Simple Holiday To Do List with enthusiasm. Then came the influx of toys, boxes, heavy meals, candy, cookies, and trash, trash everywhere.

I enjoyed the time with family and friends, but the sheer amount of stuff everywhere had turned me into a bit of a Scrooge, or the Grinch, or the boss on National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (you know, the one who gives Clark a jelly of the month subscription instead of a monetary bonus.) I can feel myself turning into this monster and as much as I try to be Buddy from Elf, I just can’t wait to get organized again. Does anyone else out there feel me?

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I truly am grateful that friends, family, and neighbors love us and want to give gifts, but how can we embrace the joy and magic of the seasons without drowning in cardboard toy packaging and crinkled wrapping paper? We find ourselves drifting from the real meaning of the Christmas season. Spoiler alert: It’s not presents.

So as we begin January, I am thrilled to once again be back to a normal routine. I took down the tree on December 28 and have three boxes of clothes and toys in my trunk just waiting for our local donation center to be open again. This brings me peace.

January is about getting organized, getting healthy, and undoing all the madness December brings. While I don’t have official resolutions this year, I will continue to focus on being the best version of myself for my husband, daughters, and friends, and embracing a deep gratitude for the gifts money can’t buy.

 

 

 

 

The Bellagio at Christmas Time

A trip to Las Vegas is never complete without a visit to The Bellagio Conservatory. I had never been there during the Christmas season and it was just magical.

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My best friend and I met up in Las Vegas for a quick girls’ trip. She lives several states away from me now, but we are committed to getting together at least annually. It was a magical weekend of long meals and great conversations.

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We aren’t gamblers so for us Vegas is all about the food. And being able to walk into Sephora with a beer, but I digress.

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I’ll post more about our out-of-this-world dining experiences later, but for now, enjoy these polar bears made of carnations. I dare you to try not feeling festive when you look at them.

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Merry Christmas!

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Momming Jessie Spano Style

Do you ever feel that when Jessie Spano had her epic meltdown on Saved by the Bell, she might have been speaking to how her viewers would feel years later when they became parents of small children?

“No time! Never any time! I don’t have time to study. I’ll never get into Stanford!”

I feel that way sometimes (well, except I’m not really worried about getting into Stanford) when all the tasks of work and parenthood seem like too much. If you remember the episode, Type A Jessie overwhelms herself by trying to be perfect at everything. She can’t accept earning a B instead of an A. Then, her caffeine pill addiction spirals out of control until A.C. Slater, pleated acid wash jeans and all, intervenes with the help of Zack Morris.

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(Photo by Alyssa Crawford Photography)

Sometimes I feel like I really have it together. I mailed Christmas cards early. My children are fed and have clean clothes. I cook legit dinners a few times a week. I make it to work on time.

But there are many, many moments when any semblance of perfection flies right out the window. I wiped my baby’s nose with my bare hand in front of her daycare provider last week, then proceeded to analyze my action over the next hour. Does this woman think I’m the most disgusting person ever? For the record, I did wash my hands thoroughly a few minutes later.

If there is one thing we can learn from Jessie Spano is to cut ourselves some slack. Perfection cannot be the goal for everything. Something has to give!

Sometimes I need to park my kids in front of cartoons so my house isn’t completely filthy. Sometimes I need to say no to a volunteering opportunity to just stay home for a couple of hours. Sometimes my baby uses a pacifier so we can sleep at night and I bribe my three-year-old with candy to clean up her toys. Sometimes I have a baby bottle in one hand and a glass of wine in the other.

We have to prioritize, be kind to ourselves, stop judging others, and be willing to say no without feeling tremendous guilty. I am working on all of these things as I try to remind myself daily that doing my very best is enough. And if all else fails, let’s launch into our best version of “I’m So Excited” and wait for Zack Morris and his huge cell phone show up before we pop that second caffeine pill.

A Simple Holiday To Do List

December is officially here and with it the busy feeling that, if not kept in check, can bog us down and take the magic out of the holidays in a hurry. This year I am vowing to slow down, simplify, and enjoy every day of December. Here are 10 things on my to do list and all are about slowing down and enjoying this time of year.

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Remember a neighbor.

Donate toys for children.

Get lost in the Nutcracker ballet.

Say no to something to fully enjoy something else.

Connect with new friends. Catch up with old friends.

Savor every Christmas card received.

Shop early, relax later.

Watch Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer as many times as my three-year-old (ahem, and me) requests.

Hang out under the mistletoe when my husband is looking.

See the magic of Christmas through my children’s eyes.

 

Anthropologie: Stocking Stuffers for Girls of All Ages

Anthropologie has loads of adorable stocking stuffers and gifts for girls of all ages. Here are a few of my favorites for my seven-month-old, my three-year-old, and myself. I live tragically far from Anthropologie, but all of these items are available on their website, too.

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Column 1 (Baby). A soft and artistic rattle and the most precious of cutlery. Column 2 (Toddler). Preschool reading with a feminist twist and fun hair clips. Column 3 (Mommy). A monogrammed keychain that won’t get lost in my huge bag and adorably packaged soap fragranced with fir, cypress, and lavender.