He Sweeps Me off my Feet Over and Over Again

The man sweeping snow off of our cars, and shoveling our driveway also sweeps me off my feet over and over again. We have certainly been through our fair share of ups and downs, but in the end he always comes through.

When I’m anxious and overwhelmed by the children’s antics, he steps in like a knight in shining armor, to save the day.

Although I’m a stay at home mom, he never makes me feel like I’m not doing enough. He’s constantly praising what I do get done, and also helping with the tasks that I didn’t get to.

Those dishes that pile up, and laundry that becomes insurmountable sometimes… okay about half of the time, take a back burner to spending time with our children. My husband knows that our children come first. So, he steps in and steps up.

We have this constant give and take relationship, in a very good and productive way. While it certainly didn’t happen overnight, I’m thankful everyday that it finally happened.

My expectations of what a “perfect husband” and “perfect father” have changed over the years.

I used to think he should just know what to do. I used to think that it meant showering me with love all the time and knowing that I needed help. the problem was, that he didn’t know because I didn’t tell him.

Now, my expectations are that he loves me in his own way everyday. He helps when I ask and also when I don’t, because we both communicate much better.

We pry out the thoughts in each other’s heads so that we’re not alone in our worries.

We fall in love over and over again because we make it a priority.

He shows me by his actions that this love is forever.

He apologizes when he’s wrong, and sometimes when he’s not.

He washes and dries the laundry, helps me find time for myself, and actually listens to what I want and need.

He holds my hand and holds me tight, when I just need that closeness to be grounded.

He rubs my hair through his fingers and kisses my forehead.

He steps in and steps up. He does what is necessary to make our marriage and family come first.

The man sweeping off our cars, sweeps me off my feet over and over again… and I’m thankful that he’s mine.

Cute and Easy Class Valentine (with a Free Download)

Hi all! With Valentine’s Day approaching, students who are in school will be getting ready to exchange Valentines. Every year, I try to get creative but also make things easy.

This year, my husband found adorable little prepackaged gummy bears. While there is already a spot to write “to” and “from” on the packages; it’s hard for my First grader to write his classmate’s names and his on there.

Below I have what I created in my Silhouette Studio to use. I saved it as a PDF for easy download.

Enjoy this free download!!! ❤️❤️❤️

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Magic and Love; not Perfection

I don’t live in a gorgeous farm house.

I don’t have it all together.

I’m often struggling to comprehend that I am the mother and not the kid anymore.

My house is more a mess than in order…

To be honest, so is my brain.

But, my heart. My heart is 100% focused on bringing the magic into my children’s hearts this season and every season.

This season will be filled with baking, crafting, snowball fights, elf visits, hugs, kisses, and so much love.

I may not be a size 2 in jeans, but I like my yoga pants better anyway.

I may not be the model of fitness, but I’ll still get down on my children’s level and play hard no matter how much of a sweat I break.

I may not live in that farmhouse with my perfect body, perfect husband and my perfect kids… but I live in a single family home with a purposeful body, a perfectly imperfect husband who loves me and our wildly imperfect children.

My mind is on a never ending treadmill of thoughts, but I will step off of that treadmill to focus on what is most important, especially THIS season… and THIS year.

I’ll focus on magic, love, and togetherness.

Remember, you don’t have to live in the perfect house with the perfect people. You just need to live in a welcoming home (albeit messy most of the time) with the people you love.

That’s what this season is about… magic and love; not perfection.

Easy Elf Shenanigans for Everyone!

For the past 7 years I’ve been doing the “Elf on the Shelf” tradition with my kids. I didn’t really get too into the fun and creative ideas until my older son turned 3. That’s when he really understood the concept and was super excited to find his elf, Tootie Fuss every morning.

There were so many good ones I’ve done in the past. I’ll share several of my favorites below.

1. The Elf Arrival:

The Elf Arrival is crucial. It’s always fun to put a nice twist on how he/she arrives. Our Elf, Tootie always arrives the day after Thanksgiving, but I know many families wait until December 1st. Below, Tootie arrived in a Parcel Package from the North Pole. There are plenty of FREE downloadable parcel labels on Google and Pinterest.

Elf Arrival Parcel Package

2. The Floor is Lava!!!

“The Floor is Lava“ is a popular phrase amongst kids that watch YouTube and Ryan’s Toy Review. The best part is when your Elf is down with the times. To create this elf idea you just need a sign, Christmas ribbon, and some red tissue paper. Super easy, and a great surprise for the kids in the morning.

The Floor is LAVA!!!

3. Endgame for the Elf? Or is it?

While I may have traumatized my older son from this one, he was just thankful that there was “magic powder” to bring Tootie back to life. In order to create this idea you will need a Thanos doll, crushed up candy canes, elf hat, and magical glitter.

4. The Elf got PIED!!!

If you’re like every parent with children 3 and older, you most likely have the game “Pie in the Face.” If not, it should be on your list to get ASAP! It’s hysterical! Instead of whipped cream, I used Barbasol shaving cream for a thicker consistency. It lasts longer and also won’t attract bugs like the sugar in whipped cream. It also adds to the humor of the situation that the Elf got himself into.

Tootie got the wrong kind of cream. 🤷🏻‍♀️

5. Elf on Strike!!!

Whenever my kids misbehave, I have a Warning Notice and sometimes have our Elf be “on strike” until they behave well. My older son does NOT appreciate the warnings, but sometimes they are needed and actually work. There are plenty of Warning Notice sheets on Google and Pinterest to choose from; or you can make your own. I saved the files so I can go in and edit if I need another one. I made the “Elf of Strike” sign with a little bit of cardstock, hot glue, and a lollipop stick.

Elf on Strike!!!

6. Farm Fresh Christmas Trees

This one is so cute and easy. Just make a sign that says “Farm Fresh Christmas Trees” and then line up Little Debbie’s Christmas Tree cakes. It looks adorable and the trees can be used for snack time. Yum!

Farm Fresh Christmas Trees!!!

7. Potatoes are irresistible!

Our Elf Tootie must have gotten hungry in the middle of the night. He started to shred Mr. Potato head. Thankfully, he was caught red handed before any real damage could be done. My older son got a kick out of this one! It’s definitely funny and there is an automatic sequel for this one. You only need a Mr. Potato head, cheese grater, and either chips or chip fries. I added a “Help!” sign for extra drama.

That’s one hot potato!

8. You do the Crime, You do the Time

Since our Elf Tootie got caught for attempted murder, he had to get his mugshot. You do the crime, you do the time. Just search “mugshot background” on Google, print one out along with a black and white miniature label of the offender and offense; then boom, another day of Elf Shenanigans in the books.

Guilty as charged

9. Plants vs Zombies

If your kid is a gamer at all, then he/she will know all about Plants vs. Zombies. My 6 year old loves this game. So, of course his Elf turned into a Zombie for one day. Print out a Zombie head that’s about 2 inches around. Then tape it on. If you don’t have other plants and zombies then print some out. This one was cool and easy to do. It was also one of my 6 year old’s favorites!

Brains!!! Yum!!!

10. Bye Bye until next year!

Every year on Christmas Eve, I allow my 6 year old son to hold his Elf for the day. There is always a magical element that allows Tootie to keep his magic so he can go back to the North Pole. This particular year it was the magic sweater he was wearing. In the past there was magic dust (glitter).

Bye Bye Tootie!

The whole point of Elf on the Shelf and Christmas in general is to keep traditions and magic alive. Children deal with so much “non-kid” stuff on a regular basis. The holidays should be carefree and magical for them. That’s why I try to make the elf shenanigans as creative as I can. I hope you enjoyed these ideas. I would love for you to share these ideas with anyone who could benefit.

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas!

How my Children Saved Me from my OCD

Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and shades of purple. Then black, white, and dresses. That’s how my closet was organized for years. There was a special spot for jeans and dress pants as well. I had a precise system for my 60 plus pairs of shoes too. They laid strategically upon shoe racks in order to maintain their shape.

You may be thinking “Okay… but how is that OCD? You might have been just really organized.” The difference is that I would feel physically ill and have a true breakdown when something was out of place. Tears would stream down my cheeks, my chest would get tight, and I would feel extremely nauseous. This happened often after my husband would put the laundry away. So, I either began putting away the laundry or I fixed it when he did.

My daily activities revolved around habitual rituals such as: Setting the volume on an even number, writing my name on the steamed mirrors after a shower, praying/wishing at 11:11 AM every single day, and setting the timer for my TV to go off at exactly 2 hours at bedtime. My brain would tell me that something awful would happen if I didn’t adhere to these rituals. I truly believed that this was how I could control my anxiousness and fate.

Then my first son was born. I wanted to be able to handle everything. I wanted to be able to protect him with my built in safety system of controls… My OCD. Slowly I had to let go of control. I couldn’t keep up with the demands of an infant in addition to maintaining my rituals. Slowly but surely, my obsessive compulsive behaviors dissipated. My son deserved better than a mother consumed in false beliefs.

Eventually my OCD was gone. I stopped focusing on rituals altogether. However, my anxiety moved from the backseat to the driver seat. As my older son grew, I was constantly worried about everything that could go terribly wrong. Eventually, my anxiety led to high blood pressure in addition to more severe migraines than what I had it the past.

One day after almost literally stroking out at age 32, I was given a chance to get ahold of my anxiety, high blood pressure, and migraines as well. I started medication, then eventually therapy, and a better eating lifestyle. It helped for a while. However, anxiety doesn’t just “go away.” I guess having OCD helped cover up a lot of the anxiousness. Then, when it was gone out of necessity, it brought my anxiety to the front.

Anxiety is always there, but it is treatable. It occasionally seeps past the medicine and therapy, but I’m able to clean it up. I’m thankful that my OCD is no longer a factor in my everyday life. However, there are still triggers that I avoid so that I don’t go down that rabbit hole. I enjoy having a clean household, but I no longer stress about how it is done or if it gets done immediately.

Having children allowed me to focus on them more than perfection and rituals. I’m okay with that. I prefer to focus on their laughter, growth, and love. They may cause me to be anxious at times, but I’m thankful that they saved me from a life of seeking perfection that doesn’t exist. I would be searching forever, and believing that ending on an even number would somehow make or break my fate.

There is NO control through rituals. It was a hard pill to swallow, but worth it. Once I realized that; I focused my energy on becoming a better mother, wife, friend, daughter, sister, cousin, niece, and human being. I choose to make good choices because I want to leave my legacy as an ambassador of goodness, not perfection.

My fate isn’t determined by a ritual, it’s determined by enjoying a fulfilled life with the ones I love.

That’s how my children saved me from my OCD.

The Feeling of Fall

While others dread the ending of Summer; I have always loved the familiarity and the possibility that those cooler temperatures bring. It’s more than apples, pumpkins, and a wardrobe change. It’s the essence of nostalgia. It’s a chance to start fresh with structure and grace.

As a child, the new school year always made me a bit giddy, anxious, and excited. I loved going school supply shopping with my dad; and clothes shopping with my mom.

Memories were made in the preparation of a new school year.

Memories were made in the change of season… in the change of structure… in the change of me.

I missed that feeling so much when I was finished every level of school, that I eventually became a teacher. Every new school year was so exciting. The new faces I was going to watch progress. The new prospects and beginnings. All of it just felt right. Eventually, I decided to stay home when I became a mother, but that nostalgic aroma still invaded my senses every Fall.

Last year when my oldest started Kindergarten, it was such a bittersweet emotion. I felt overwhelmed with excitement for this new chapter in his life, but I also had that same anxiety I felt as a child. “Is he going to fit in okay? Will he fall asleep in the middle of instruction because he still likes naps? Will he be kind? Will he be happy? Will he love school like I did? Or will he struggle?” Thankfully, school was exactly what he needed.

The structure helped with his own anxiety.

The socialization helped him with basic skills in empathy.

The teacher taught him to respect and understand other authoritative figures other than my husband and I.

This year just feels different. It’s empty. There’s this bout of sadness surrounding the circumstances of the new school year. I am trying my hardest to make this school year as special as I can with the cards I have been dealt.. but if I’m being honest, it’s just different.

There really isn’t a right answer regarding the upcoming school year. The only right answer is the one that is closest to that nostalgic feeling… The one that fits your heart and your family just right. Or at least the “next best thing” as Anna from Frozen 2 would say.

If you too are searching for that feeling… That reminder of normalcy as the weather changes, the leaves fall, and endless possibilities of a new beginning…

YOU are NOT alone in your search. I hope we find it.

The Rocking Chair

“Somewhere over the rainbow, skies are blue…” I sang, in a newly painted surfer blue nursery; as I rocked and rubbed my rotund belly safely housing my first baby boy.

I rocked back and forth dreaming of what he would look like. I rocked back and forth imagining his sweet little fingers and sweet little toes. I rocked my unborn child in the softest dark grey cotton rocking chair that we purchased with the extra money from our Baby Shower.

I knew that chair had to be comfortable, welcoming, and lasting … for it would be the most used and loved item for both of my children. It would be the place I nursed and bottle fed my babies. The place that I sang lullaby after lullaby as my babies drifted off to sleep between the nook of my arm.

Today, as I rocked my toddler to sleep for his nap, I remembered rocking his older brother in that same chair; singing the same lullabies in addition to a few new ones now. The look on his face as he became more content in his current state of rest, just as his brother did years prior.

The rocking chair is now located in a modern grey colored nursery to match my younger son’s original Mickey Mouse decor. It still looks brand new even though I have rocked both of my baby boys a countless number of times in that chair over the last 6.5 years. My body fits into it perfectly still. There are indentations where my body enveloped into the soft cushions that reserve the memories of every moment I rubbed my finger over the petite noses of both of my boys as I hummed them to slumber.

My older son no longer fits in that rocking chair with me. One day far too soon, his brother won’t either. They will grow bigger, I will grow older, and the chair will remain our constant.

One day my boys will be grown and they may just find me rocking back and forth in that same rocking chair. This time instead of wondering what my sweet boys will look like, I’ll remember their angelic faces squished on my chest, the smell of their baby shampoo, and that feeling of contentment within my soul.

“One day I’ll wish upon a star and wake up where dreams are far behind me…” I will sing out loud, and remember how fast it all went by. I’ll rock back and forth in that rocking chair and be proud of the mother I became and the boys I raised into men.

But for now, I’ll just soak in every ounce of love, cuddles, and snuggles from my precious boys. For I know all too well how quickly babies grow into boys and then into men.

So, I might rock my baby and revel in the curves of his face a tad longer.

Daddy’s Little Girl

“Holly, are you sleeping?” My dad would ask me every night when I was a little girl. This would be after he sang “Daddy’s Little Girl” several times to help me fall asleep. Then I would pretend to fall asleep and whisper “Yes.” My dad would carry me up to my room, tuck me in, and kiss me good night.

Whenever I wasn’t feeling well I could expect a brand new coloring book, with brand new 96 count Crayola crayons. My dad would make sure that I was fully prepared to color beautiful pictures while I healed from whatever ailment I had.

My dad is my superhero. He may not wear a cape, but he does carry a toolbox in his truck. He always has been and always will be. Whenever I need him for anything at all, he doesn’t even hesitate to come to my aide.

Flat tire? My dad comes to the rescue with his tools and a spare tire.

Plumbing issues? My dad assesses the situation and uses his industrial snake drain to rectify the issue.

Starting a new craft business? My dad buys all of my start up supplies and a heat press so that I can focus on my new skills.

Suffering from post partum pre-eclampsia 11 days after giving birth? My dad rubs my head and reassures me that I will be just fine, as the doctors figure out how to lower my blood pressure safely.

Start blogging? My dad reads and likes almost every single post, even though he barely uses social media.

Dads in general don’t always get positive reviews. However, my dad is exceptional. My dad is one of those dads who was just meant to be a dad. He loves my sister and I with his whole being. He spoils all 5 of his grandsons with love, food, and trips to the store to buys toys.

My dad is the kind of dad who will finish an entire puzzle, put together an elaborate toy, and go to the park for a catch or to fly a kite. He makes sure that his complete attention is devoted to his family as much as he possibly can.

When I go to visit my parent’s house, I can expect my dad to make me my favorite dishes. I can actually smell the potatoes o’gratin right now.

He has always been about making the small gestures mean the most for all of us… especially for my sister and I. We are Daddy’s Little Girls after all. He has always been so proud of all of our accomplishments in life. He (along with our mother) is our biggest cheerleader.

So many years have passed since he would sing to me and put me to bed, but I can still hear him singing every time he hugs me.

“You’re sugar, you’re spice. You’re everything nice. And you’re Daddy’s Little Girl.”

10 Tools to Help you Find your Happiness : Mental Health Awareness

We’re all treading water in the middle of the deep blue ocean waiting for a rescue helicopter or ship to save us. However, some of us have rafts, floats, or floating debris to grab a hold of. Then there are some of us constantly using our overly exerted arms and legs to stay afloat. Eventually those without the help of a floating device will succumb to the heat of the sun and the weight of the glistening water.

This is what it’s like to have mental health issues. We are constantly trying to tread the most vast ocean water without a rescue device. Statistically 1 in 5 American adults suffer from mental health illnesses. I am part of that statistic. I am 1 in 5. Anxiety has been haunting me my entire life. As I got older, the weight of the adult world weighed even more heavily on my shoulders. Eventually it began to affect my physical health. Then I decided it was time to get the help that I needed. I finally got my rescue device.

Here are some ways that I have been able to help my mental health thrive, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic:

1. Breathing: I know it seems silly that breathing would help, but correct breathing to help ease the anxiety is extremely important to healing. In through the nose and out through the mouth. Keep it at a slow and steady pace. It can help bring your heart rate and/or blood pressure down.

2. Positive people: When you have positive people in your corner, you’re more likely to be positive. The company you keep really does make a huge difference in your mental health. Everyone who I considered a loved one and/or friend is positive. They are supportive of me, my kids, my husband, and they listen when I need to get the bad out of my system. I am also there for them in the exact same way.

3. Hobbies and Positive outlets: I have several hobbies. My main hobby as of right now is writing. Writing has been extensively therapeutic for me. I have made new writer friends, in addition to getting my feelings out on the computer screen. Additionally, I love crafting and creating, especially with my boys.

4. Me time: Whether it’s a walk, a couple of hours binge watching Netflix, a candle lit bath, or a nap… Me time is much needed. When you are a mother of young children you are constantly needed. Your billable hours are 24/7. You get paid in hugs and kisses. As priceless as that is, everyone needs some alone time with themselves. It helps me recharge my brain and energy to be ready for my days ahead.

5. Medicine: If you have an ear infection, you would take antibiotics to treat that infection. If you have diabetes, you would use insulin to balance your blood sugar levels. If you have a mental health illness, you can treat it with anti-depressants and other medications, in addition to therapy. I have been taking Lexapro since the Summer of 2017. It has made a huge difference in how I act around everyone. It has made a huge difference in how I feel as well. Lexapro is one of the medications that has saved my life.

6. Think Positive, Breed Positivity: We are able to choose how we react to others. It is in our control to choose happiness. Negativity takes away irreplaceable time. Time that you could choose to be positive and happy. Focus on the good things in life and more good things will follow.

7. Lists: Something that always helps me when I need to refocus my energy when I may be overwhelmed in my thoughts, is making a list of what I can do around my house or with my family. Lists help me follow a clear plan and focuses on exerting my mental energy into positive tasks.

8. Therapy: While you may not get an in person therapy appointment right now; teletherapy is an imperative tool during our current crisis. Most insurances (if not all) are currently offering FREE mental health appointments. Utilizing a therapist will only benefit you.

9. Healthy Habits: This is the one I’ve struggled the most with lately. Going for a walk/run/ bike ride, etc. is beneficial to your mind and body. If your body feels good, your mind tends to do the same. The same goes for overall healthy eating. Whatever you feed your body, you are also feeding your mind. I have been feeding mine a lot of cheesy breadsticks lately. I’m sure it’s been contributing to my fatigue and other health issues. This one is the hardest for me. It’s kind of a chicken and egg scenario. I usually have to get my mind wrapped around choosing a healthier lifestyle before I can actually do it. However, it’s obviously extra difficult to do that when your mind isn’t functioning at 100% capacity. Nevertheless, when I choose healthier options, I reap the benefits both physically and mentally.

10. Accepting help: I’m one of those strong willed stubborn people who hate asking for and letting others help. However, when I have let someone help in the past, it was truly a Godsend. Sometimes life is just overwhelming and we need help. Guess what? That’s okay! We’re allowed to need help. There is no rule that says we have to get through any of this alone. Help is that life saving device I mentioned earlier. Help will keep you from drowning into the abyss.

The next time you find yourself treading that ocean water remember that there are life rafts, floating debris, and so much more if you just look around. There is help. There are options, and you are not alone treading that water. There are many of us also trying to stay afloat. I hope these tools help you navigate how to ease your mind during the darkness and chaos.

Make happiness a priority, a choice, and filter out the negative. Do not allow negativity to live and thrive.

Old Souls into New Souls (Part 1)

My mom always says that when a baby is conceived and/or born, someone in the same family passes on to Heaven. I think of it as a body exchange with the essence of the soul whose time on Earth has ended. Honestly, I never really bought into that whole superstition. I chalked it all up to coincidence. That is, until it happened to me… twice.

Coming from a large extended family (my mother is the youngest of 10 siblings) there wasn’t a shortage of aunts, uncles, and cousins. Being together and growing up with such a large close knit family is one of my biggest and most treasured blessings. Each family member was/is unique and special in their own way.

All of my aunts were/are like second mothers to me. Whenever I needed an ear to listen, arms to hug, and a heart to care; they were/are always there. My mother’s oldest sister had passed away when I was around two years old. I didn’t get much time with her, but I did get to spend most of my life with my other aunts and uncles.

My husband and I started trying to conceive the Summer of 2013. That was also the Summer that my Aunt Marion (whom I lived with most of my life) got very ill. She had been declining for months. Her coloring changed, and her stomach continued to fill with fluid. She would get out of breath very easily. Eventually she ended up in several care facilities to help with her needs. She had no children of her own; therefore she loved her nieces and nephews like her own… especially my sister and I.

In July 2013, the doctors warned us that my Aunt Marion may not make it to her 81st birthday on August 12th. We all painfully watched as the cirrhosis of the liver was draining her of her strength. She slept more than she was awake. On July 25th we decided to have a birthday party for her in her hospital room, since she most likely would not make it to her actual birthday. Her mind was not fully aware that it wasn’t August. She was just so happy that everyone was there to celebrate her.

The very next day with everyone by her side, (I arrived last because I was at a baptism) she waited to take her last breath until I got there to hold her hand. During her last minutes on Earth, I whispered into her ear “Please ask God for a favor when you arrive. Ask him to send Brian and I, a healthy baby.” Two weeks later I had a positive pregnancy test.

Although the start of my pregnancy was bittersweet, I know my aunt was watching over all of us. Months had passed and three quarters into my pregnancy with my son Brian Jr, I had severe itchiness on my entire body. The worst were my legs and feet. I didn’t think anything of it, but mentioned it during my next OBGYN visit just incase. The gynecologist had me take a bile salts test. Several days later the results came back. I had a rare pregnancy disease known as Cholestasis of pregnancy. Besides the extreme itchiness, the main concern was that my baby could be stillborn if not delivered prior to 38 weeks.

I informed my family of the situation. My Aunt Gracie called me on the phone and said “Don’t you worry about a thing. The baby is going to be just fine. You are going to be just fine.” Her words sounded like the most calming sounds in nature. She said those words with such confidence. I believed her.

On March 25, 2014 my first son, and new love of my life was born. Brian Jr was a healthy 6 lb baby boy, born via emergency c-section after 29 grueling hours of induced labor. Although his due date wasn’t until April 14, 2014, he arrived perfectly healthy.

While I was home bonding with my new sweet boy and recovering; roughly a week later… both my Aunt Gracie and her husband (my Uncle Joe) ended up in the hospital days apart. However, my Aunt ended up in a coma. A couple weeks had passed, eventually there was no brain activity or improvements. Her children (my cousins) had to make the gut wrenching decision to remove her from life support. On April 14, 2014 I said goodbye for the last time to my unconscious aunt over the phone (I had just come home the day before after visiting her). With tears dripping down my red cheeks I said “I love you, love always, your Honey Bunny… and thank you.”

You may be wondering why I thanked my aunt. It’s my belief that she made a deal with God. I think that in order for my son to live, she offered up her soul. The irony of my son’s due date and my aunt’s death date was more than a coincidence. While I once was skeptical, my own experience with old souls and new souls made me a believer.

My now six year old son, Brian, often displays various mannerisms of both of my aunts. His chin quivers like my Aunt Marion, and he often hums like my Aunt Gracie. Although he has never met either of my aunts, I somehow feel like he has. They are a part of him. They are a part of me. Thankfully, I believe my mom was right all along.