Motherhood Should Come with a Lifetime Supply of Kleenex

She’s three, sitting there bravely waiting to have her ears pierced, and I’m digging frantically in my purse for one of the little packs of Kleenex I can never be without. They’re not for her. I look away, pretending to be interested in a display of tacky pink feather boas, hoping she doesn’t notice my tears.

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Her sister will be one in a week. Again, I am reaching for Kleenex as I put finishing touches on her birthday party plans and wonder where the last year has gone. I can’t help but think that motherhood has made me soft. But in reality, it has also made me incredibly strong because I know I can and would do anything for these two girls.

I kick myself for crying because, well, I’m usually a little embarrassed about it. But, when you think about it, maybe that willingness to be vulnerable and to love deeply is actually one of our super-hero powers as parents. Capes are the new mom-jean.

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I know reaching for those little packs of Kleenex is just part of my life now. I’ll be digging for them at first days of school, graduations, and wedding days, and all of the milestones in between. I wouldn’t change it. Motherhood is such a deep, consuming type of love. We can’t describe it, and we can’t contain it, so sometimes the only thing left to do is to invest in a lifetime supply of little Kleenex packs. We are going to need them, and that’s a good thing, because I really believe most of those tears will be the happy kind.

A Tour of Hillcrest Estate

I have an amazing treat for you all today! I caught wind of the fact that the talented Tarin of Tayhart Photography had gotten the opportunity to stay in Hillcrest Estate, Chip and Joanna Gaines’ renovated vacation rental. The spread of this gorgeous estate in the winter issue of Magnolia magazine left me yearning to see more of this place.

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I reached out to Tarin, who I bump into occasionally in our small western South Dakota town, and asked if she’d be willing to share some of her beautiful photos on A HOUSE WITH CHARACTER. She graciously said YES! Warning: The images you are about to see are going to make you want to drop everything and hop on a plane to Texas immediately, just for those cupcakes alone.

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“I love photography, but my next favorite love (besides Jesus, my hubby, and kiddos) is all things Fixer Upper, ” Tarin said. “I’ve watched every episode of every season and love everything Chip and Jo do!”

So imagine her excitement when she received a text from her mom asking if she would like to take a trip to Waco, Texas and stay at Hillcrest Estate, Chip and Joanna Gaines’ newest vacation rental.

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Tarin’s mother went on to fill her in on the details of how her long-time friend from Spokane, Wash. won a three night stay, gift-card, and tour for herself and 11 of her friends. This awesome lady invited Tarin, her mother, and sister to be part of that lucky group.

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“Our first glimpse of Hillcrest Estate did not disappoint,” Tarin said. “It’s a stately historic home situated in the middle of a beautifully manicured lawn, complete with a garden area, gorgeous fire pit surrounded by rocking chairs, amazing porches, and a sweet little playhouse.”

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“The inside of the home is decorated to fit the historic charm of the house with some of Joanna’s classic touches of antiques, beautiful wood tones, perfect paint colors, gorgeous textiles, and, of course, shiplap,” Tarin said.

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Not only did Tarin and her mother get to stay at Hillcrest Estate, but they also were treated to a tour of Magnolia Market.

“My favorite part of the tour was that everywhere you looked you could see glimpses of Chip and Joanna’s faith and their love and appreciation for their employees,” Tarin said.

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Tarin said Silo’s Baking Co. was worth every minute spent in line.

“That line was pretty long, but the way they work it is like a fine-tuned machine,” she said.

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Tarin found time for shopping, too. Some of her favorite spots were The Findery, The Warehouse, Spice Village, and Laverty’s Antiques and Furnishings.

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Thank you Tarin for sharing this beautiful tour with us!

 

 

 

 

Our Maui Top 10 List

When it comes to Maui, I probably would have been completely satisfied spending the week on the beach or poolside reading, but after that long plane ride it seemed only right to do a little exploring.

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My husband helped me come up with our 10 favorite experiences in Maui. Yes, three of them involve food. No judgment, please. Full disclosure: The list originally featured four food-related faves.

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10: Hike at ‘Iao Valley State Park. This hike is beautiful and since our bodies were still on Mountain Time and we were up before dawn, we had the trail all to ourselves.

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9: Fish tacos at The Fish Market, Lahaina. I had the most amazing grilled fish tacos served in a basket with macaroni salad. Casual. Quick. Divine.

8: Trivia night at The Pour House. For two nerds who haven’t missed an episode of Jeopardy since we started dating (even counting the nights our two daughters were born), we jumped at the opportunity to play trivia on the island. We ended up winning a $20 bar tab and were embarrassingly proud of our efforts.

7: Hawaiian sweet bread at The Banyan Tree. This stuff. I can’t even explain how delicious.

6: Pools at the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua. We stayed at the villas near the Ritz-Carlton, but our villa had an agreement with them for guests to use the pool. There is a wonderful kids’ area our daughters would have adored, and an adults-only area where we could read in pure peace. The pools overlook the ocean, which is a plus.

5: Spa day and couples’ massage at The Grand Waleia. Our flight home didn’t leave until 9:30 p.m., which left us one last day to soak in some relaxation. This spa is absolutely amazing. We spent the afternoon in the sauna, steam room, and healing pools, then got a couples’ massage. The only thing left to do was have a glass of wine at the airport and completely zonk out for the long overnight flight home.

4: Twin Falls hike. The waterfalls on this hike are stunning exactly the kind of thing I imagined I’d see in Maui and they didn’t disappoint. I was also intrigued by the amazing flowers on this hike. Many were like nothing I had ever seen before.

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3: Sushi at Sansei. We are both sushi fans and agreed this was the best we’d ever had. The service was also excellent. Make a reservation. We tried to get a table our first night in Maui and had to make a reservation for the next night.

2: Whale watching with Ultimate Whale Watch. Our small boat made it easy to get close to the whales. We saw at least a dozen whales breaching, slapping the water, and even swimming right under our boat! We went on the 4 p.m. tour, which meant we caught a stunning Maui sunset during the ride. Our captain and the marine biologist onboard were knowledgeable and clearly very excited about their jobs.

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1: Helicopter ride with Sunshine Helicopters. I was a little apprehensive about getting on a helicopter for the first time, but just moments into the ride I experienced complete relaxation as we flew over the Maui countryside. This is truly the best way to see the island and worth every penny.

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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.

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.