Adventures

Eat Your Vegetables and Stop Apologizing So Much

It was nearly 10 p.m. one night a couple of weeks ago when I realized I hadn’t eaten one serving of fruits or vegetables that day. I had grabbed fast food on the go to a work meeting. I then got home late after attending a meeting for a volunteer group, and stood in the kitchen ravenously devouring the rest of the macaroni and cheese my husband had made for our daughters.

I had trouble getting to sleep that night. I felt lousy. I felt rushed. I felt like I hadn’t done a good job at anything that day despite giving it my best shot. I felt like I owed everyone an apology.

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Photo by Tayhart Photography

Then around midnight, a voice of clarity crept into my restless brain. It said: What you need to do is eat more vegetables and stop apologizing so much. Wow, voice of clarity (we’ll call her Lucille), well-said.

Eating more vegetables is pretty straightforward, but what about the apologizing? I apologize a lot. Even if I don’t say the apology out-loud, I often have thoughts like: “Did I offend that person? Was that too harsh? Should I have done that differently?” Most of the women I know do the same. Why do we feel this need to apologize constantly?

I even see it in my four-year-old, who often apologizes for things that truly do not warrant an apology (dropping a toy, mispronouncing a word, writing a letter the wrong way), and I can’t help but wonder where she got that? From watching me? You won’t catch most guys apologizing incessantly for the minutia of the day.

When I look at my young daughters and all the other amazing women in my life, I am often overcome by just how much I want for them. Sometimes, though, the message is simple: Take care of yourself and stop apologizing for everything. There’s a time and a place for a sincere apology, but chances are, others are not criticizing your actions as harshly as you are. That’s Lucille talking again.

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Adventures

Because Someday She’ll Leave for College

I took this picture of my youngest daughter the day after she was born. It was one of those lulls in visitors at the hospital and my husband had stepped out to spend some time with our oldest daughter. I just sat there with her by myself looking at this perfect new baby, foggy from the post-Cesarean pain meds, but so happy and in love. I just wanted to soak in every moment, already so aware of how fleeting these moments are.

She is now almost two years old and my oldest will start kindergarten this year. I’m constantly looking for ways to be more present and enjoy every moment. If you have been following A HOUSE WITH CHARACTER, you’ll notice I don’t post as much as I used to. I have started really limiting my time spent on social media. I love connecting in those ways and I’ll keep blogging at least a few times a month, but right now the connections I have with my girls are most important to me.

I often struggle as I strive to be a more present and mindful parent. I don’t want to be distracted by my phone, the endless laundry, or whatever work stress is on my mind, but those issues inevitably arise. I don’t want to be the mom who loses her cool when her toddler spills cereal on the floor for the umpteenth time that day, or my four-year-old is whining because I won’t give her candy.

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I am still a big proponent of parents making time for kid-free experiences like travel, date nights, and outings with friends, but I try to schedule that time thoughtfully. Our travel plans include our kids more often than before and we are loving that. (Ask me again when we are half-way through our flight to Alaska in July with a two-year-old and a four-year-old.)

I have also found that if I make a little more time for self-care, whether I’m stopping at the gym to run a couple of miles before I pick the girls up from daycare, or making some time to read during that small window of time when they are asleep and I am not yet, I an actually a more present, less stressed version of myself.

The quality moments with my two daughters are definitely not extravagant. Some of my most enriching moments with them involve reading a book together or playing “Baby,” a silly game we made up where I sit on the floor and hold out a blanket and the girls run to me. I wrap them in the blanket and they shout “Baby!” Don’t tell the people at Parker Brothers or they’ll surely steal that million-dollar idea.

At the end of the day what I remind myself when I feel like I can’t do it all is that they won’t always need me this much. Someday there will be no cereal on the floor, no diapers to change, no 5:30 a.m. wake-up calls on Saturdays, and no sleepless nights. Someday they’ll go off to college and I’ll be so grateful for every single moment of parenting small children through the good, the bad, and the sticky.

Adventures

I Know I Should Stop Comparing, but Her Curtain Rods Are So Much Nicer Than Mine

Purusing Instagram, Facebook, and lifestyle blogs can be a fun way to decompress, get decorating ideas, and find inspiration. It can also be a soul-sucking rabbit hole leading to excessive comparison and feelings of inadequacy. Case in point: A couple of nights ago, while perusing a couple of lifestyle blogs I like to follow, I found myself comparing my living room curtain rods to the beautiful ones in that woman’s post.

Yes, my curtains rods. That’s what it has come to, ladies and gentlemen. I was just about to launch an intense search for new curtain rods, tie-backs, and valances, thus ordering $100+ of stuff I really do not need, when sanity began to regain hold of me.

Psychiatrist, author, and public speaker Marcia Sirota wrote: “Choosing not to compare ourselves to others doesn’t mean that we should be complacent. It’s appropriate to be always learning, growing and changing, but we’ll be more motivated to change when we already feel good about ourselves.”

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Photo by Tayhart Photography

The truth is, my happiness is not driven by the same factors as those that drive the happiness of the woman with the perfect curtain rods. Sure, we probably have something in common. We want to be good mothers, and we enjoy connecting with others through blogging, but that could be where it ends. I have never met her. I don’t know her deepest secrets, just that her curtain rods are cool and she loves shiplap. We all live different lives, have different stressors, different sources of joy.

The curtain rod comparison didn’t fill me with despair or make me genuinely feel horrible about myself, but it did prompt me to ask myself some questions. Will spending $100 on new curtain rods fulfill me and bring me true joy? No.

Then what will? Spending a Saturday afternoon playing with my daughters. Reading a good book. Talking with my husband on the couch after the girls have fallen asleep. Beating my personal record for running two miles, which by the way, is not fast by any standard but mine.

Speaking of running, when I run on the treadmill at the gym after work, I’m not worried about how fast or slow the person on the treadmill next to me is. I’m just trying to jam out to some White Zombie and not fall off the track. That’s life.

I have been guilty of posting false perfection, too, and my goal moving forward will be to be more self-aware of that tendency most of us share. When I post something on the Intranet, I want to make sure I am doing so for the right reasons.

Sharing a piece of our lives, connecting with others, even offering nutrition, fashion, or decorating ideas are all worthy reasons of being active on social media. It’s OK to be proud of something once in a while, or to show off a cute new puppy, outfit ideas, or flowers from a loved one. When we are reading others’ blog posts and social media content, let’s take it with a grain of salt and just be happy for them. Let’s find joy where we can, help others feel good, and try not to fall off the track.

Adventures

Why I Started My New Year’s Resolutions Early (or Really, Really Late)

Happy New Year! I had a great Thanksgiving and Christmas with my family, but truth be told, I couldn’t wait to start taking down my Christmas decorations and get back into a normal routine. This year I decided to get a jump on my New Year’s resolutions before Thanksgiving. Actually, perhaps I was just 11 months late in starting 2018’s resolutions. Don’t judge. Either way, I needed to commit to taking better care of myself, both physically and mentally, over the holidays. Also, I thought I would be more likely to adhere to my goals if I made them part of this busy time of year.

So I started my resolutions November 1, and I am so glad I did. My three simple resolutions are nothing major or impressive, but they are three relatively attainable lifestyle changes that will be good for me. Really, isn’t that all a resolution should be?

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Run a mile a day for a (month, year?). I started this November 1 with the modest goal of running 30 miles that month. Sometimes I ran just one mile, sometimes I ran more to compensate for days I skipped. It wasn’t much, but, having never been a runner, it was an attainable goal. A couple of weeks in, I couldn’t believe how much better this made me feel. Again, I have friends who run half marathons and are all-around stellar at being in shape. This isn’t about trying to be them, even though I think they’re completely awesome. It’s about being a better version of me. I made running a commitment, even when I was exhausted from working and parenting, and even when I was out of town for a girls’ concert weekend. I carried the mile a day goal on through December, and am planning on running a 5K in February.

Implement a “something in, something out” organizational approach. Staying organized is absolutely critical to my mental well-being. That can be really difficult with two small children at home, especially after the excess of the holiday season. I did a significant purge/donation of toys, clothes, and baby items prior to Christmas. I even donated a lot of Christmas decorations because I felt like we just had way too much. Now that the holidays are over, I really plan to stick with a “something in, something out” approach when it comes to toys, clothes, and other household items. I realize this might need to flex a bit due to my kids’ clothes and toys, but in general, I think a happier household is one in which a whole bunch of “stuff” isn’t brought in without donating something else.

Make time for what I love. While this could mean more traveling, eating lavish meals, getting pedicures, and seeing Metallica a dozen more times, it is really more about incorporating simple pleasures into daily life. This means spending more quality time with my kids, planning regular date nights with my husband, taking an occasional bubble bath, and spending at least 15 minutes a day reading.

I now have two months of success behind me and it is only January 2. That’s a good feeling! Hopefully that’s the leg up I need on making 2019 a fabulous year, and, luckily my favorite treadmill (the old one at the far end of the row) was available when I got to the gym tonight after work. Cheers to a great 2019!

Adventures

My Apologies to Every Single Person in the West Side Starbucks Last Saturday

Sometimes I feel like I’m really rocking the motherhood thing. Then my toddler, dressed like a fluffy white snow owl, trips a lady carrying a laptop computer and a cup of coffee. Just like that, I’m one of those people. You know, the kind of people letting their kids run mad in a public place.

Last Saturday while my husband was working, I tried to take our four-year-old and 18-month-old trick-o-treating in downtown Rapid City. It was cold, windy, crowded, and not worth it for three or four Tootsie Rolls, so I decided to abort that mission and take the girls for hot chocolate and cookies. The nearest place with easy parking and a public restroom was Starbucks on the west side of town.

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I got the girls settled at a table with the most adorable owl-shaped cookies and their Starbucks beverages of choice: Hot chocolate for the eldest, white milk for the youngest. Everything was going so great. I was sipping my vanilla latte and patting myself on the back for raising such little angels who can go out for an afternoon coffee break without losing their stuff.

Then my youngest got restless. She started to climb around on her seat, throw her cookie, and then run around the Starbucks seating area. The more I tried to rein her in, the wilder she became. My oldest picked that precise moment to spill her hot chocolate so as I scrambled to clean up that mess, I turned my head for just a moment. (Classic mom mistake). I heard a crash, then hysterical crying. My little one had run into a young woman carrying a laptop. The woman dropped her laptop and my daughter hit the floor, where she immediately started sobbing.

The young woman was incredibly gracious. Apologizing (it totally was not her fault) and trying to make sure my little one was OK (she was). Fortunately her laptop was, too, I think. I quickly gathered my crew and booked it to the car, apologizing desperately as I high-tailed it out of the building.

I was embarrassed. I was mad at myself for taking my young children to a place where others were trying to have a quiet afternoon, and, above all, I doubted my ability as a mom. In the days following, I realized that the only person judging me that day was me.

In most circumstances, this one included, we as mothers are our own toughest critics. Everyone in the coffee shop was kind. In fact, there were two other moms enjoying a coffee date with their school-age children who were behaving a little on the wild-side, too, and no one seemed to mind. It made me realize that these interactions are an important part of teaching our little ones social skills.

So I’ll probably still take my little ones out in public by myself sometimes. I’ll probably still tear my hair out occasionally when doing so. And I’ll probably be embarrassed again at least a time or two.

To the kind young woman my toddler tripped, thank you for being so gracious to this frazzled mom. I owe you a Starbucks. And maybe a new laptop.

Adventures

All 50 by 40: Tennessee and Arkansas

Some of my favorite trips are the ones I go into with no expectations. My expectations for Memphis were fairly simple: Visit Sun Studio, stop at Graceland, sleep in past 6:30 a.m., eat some barbecue, and enjoy a romantic anniversary date with my husband. It met all those expectations and then some.

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Sun Studio was my favorite place in Memphis. There’s something about setting foot in such sacred ground where Elvis, Johnny Cash, and others began creating the music that I love and that would influence pretty much every rock musician from that day forward. Our tour guide was super cool, entertaining, and informative so that certainly didn’t hurt.

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Throughout Sun Studio are pieces of original recording equipment, records, radios, and of course a lot of photos. The tour guide played a lot of original music as he explained the history of this magical place. It was so cool.

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We also toured Graceland. While not as inspiring to me as Sun Studio, it was definitely cool seeing Elvis’ home. I learned a lot more about the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll.

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We toured Elvis’ living room, dining room, airplanes, and even the Jungle Room. Sadly, I forgot to photograph the latter. I think I was just distracted by that much green shag carpet.

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Graceland was built in the 1930s. Elvis purchased it when he was in his early 20s and already an international star. The inside of the home is oh-so-1970s which was tacky and cool at the same time.

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Elvis was only 42 at the time of his death. He had achieved such over-the-top stardom, yet seemed to long only for spending time at home with his family. The tour definitely sparked a lot of conversation between my husband and I about what his life must have been like.

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Memphis was a great, laid-back place to take in a little history and a lot of barbecue. On our last night, we toasted our fifth anniversary at High Cotton Brewing Company. Then we took in some great live music on Beale Street.

Fifth Anniversary

We stayed at the Sheraton in downtown Memphis, a short walk or trolley ride to Beale Street and other area attractions. Notable meals we ate were ribs and catfish at Westy’s, to-die-for barbecued pork shoulder at Rendezvous, and some yummy steaks and oysters at 117 Prime. The food scene in Memphis was great and my barbecue-fan hubby definitely enjoyed.

Beale Street

As far as Arkansas goes, we merely drove across the Mississippi River to look around, so I don’t have much to say about that state. Sorry for the lame review, Arkansas. Maybe we’ll meet again another day. This end this trip with just four more states to visit before I turn 40 and almost five years to do that. I’m feeling confident that I will accomplish this goal.

The Updated List

Alaska

Michigan (I have been to airports)

West Virginia

Wisconsin

Adventures

The Lost Sock

A few nights ago, I got upset with my husband for losing one of my socks in the laundry. In my defense, he has a history of losing my socks when he does a load of laundry. In his defense, he was helping with laundry so why was I being so high-strung? In both our defense, it’s pretty awesome that the only thing we had to fight about that week was a lost sock.

After telling him he needs to pay more attention and insisting he help me look for the sock for nearly an hour, I found it. I didn’t want to tell him where because it was in my closet, tucked in a pair of my pants, completely my fault and not his at all. Embarrassed and humbled, I swallowed my pride and admitted my mistake.

In nearly five years of marriage I have learned that life is not always going to be perfect and that’s OK. Even as I was losing my mind over this dumb sock, I could tell how ridiculous I was being. Isn’t that the worst? When you’re being ridiculous and you know you’re being ridiculous, but you can’t turn it off?

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There are some things that just don’t matter. Read: Lost socks. I was clearly taking my stressful work week and parenthood-induced exhaustion and pouring all of that emotion into an epic search for that sock. Seriously. It wasn’t even a new sock.

In quite a few of my blog posts, I write about cutting ourselves some slack. That message is a reminder to myself as much as it is to any of you, readers. Sometimes I have it together. Sometimes I’m throwing a toddler-style tantrum because of something as inconsequential as a sock.

Fortunately, most of the time I don’t mind admitting I made a mistake and, most of the time, my husband is quick to forgive. We could laugh about this situation almost immediately. I’m thankful for that. Almost as thankful as I am to have my sock back.