You Don’t Belong in a Group of Friends…

I’ve read article after article about how women in their 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s feel like they don’t belong in a group of friends.

I’m here to tell you, you’re right.

You don’t belong in a group of friends. You belong in YOUR group of friends.

Throughout my life, I have always had a large amount of friends from different groups. Each friend and each group served a purpose. They still serve a purpose. That purpose is a reciprocal understanding of love, acceptance, being there for each other when times are difficult, and being able to have fun together.

I didn’t fight to keep friendships that weren’t serving me as a person. I simply dropped those “friends.” If we weren’t serving each other’s souls, then I didn’t have time to waste on them.

On the contrary, my circle is always open. I will chat it up at the park with moms. I will compliment someone in line at the grocery store on their hair. I will tell a random mom that they’re doing a good job!

All of those can lead to friendship. Believe it or not, most of my friendships that I’ve made more recently have formed from my older son’s schools.

He is now 7, and we still spend time with his friends and their parents from preschool.

I’ve also made several friends through volunteering. I’m one of 3 chairpersons for the Kid’s events in our neighborhood, as well as the fundraising representative for the PTA at my older son’s school. I get involved and that allows others to feel comfortable talking to me and coming to me.

Eventually that had lead to amazing friendships.

Also, most of my close friends also have children. That makes a big difference for many reasons. The main reason is because they know that our time is limited.

They know that when we do get a day to hang out, we try to make the most of it.

They also know that if we can all bring our kids together to play, while we all hang, it’s even better! It’s hard for moms to get time away from their kids, so the best mom friends are those that have kids that play with your kids too. I call that a win-win.

Anyway, in order to find your people, you have to be reciprocal in your friendships.

Try to return the text.

Try to schedule play dates.

Try to schedule girl’s nights.

Try to be the friend you want to have, and that will help you attract the same.

Oh, and keep your circle open. You never know who’s waiting for your friendship.

Leading from the Trenches

Leadership doesn’t mean leading from afar. In fact it’s difficult to lead effectively without modeling up close and personal.

As parents we are supposed to lead by example. Our children watch us. They watch our body language and listen to the words we speak in context.

The same constitutes for every area of a professional workplace. Especially a place that also models behavior and learning… school.

In order to believe in something and truly make a difference, we have to live it everyday. We have to be in the trenches. We have to feel and empathize. We have to understand a different perspective than our own.

Every morning that I drop my older son off at school, his Elementary School Principal is helping students out of their cars and welcoming them to school along with several teachers and staff members. She is in the trenches. She is leading by example, and it flows through the entire school.

The teachers are genuinely happy to be teaching.

The children are genuinely happy to be learning.

The parents are genuinely happy to be sending their children to a school filled with love and acceptance.

As a former teacher, I have been through my fair share of Administrators and none of them did what Ms. Conlin does daily. She is present for all special events. By present, I mean she welcomes every child by name. Even during a pandemic with masks and extra guidelines, she makes school feel like the safe place it is supposed to be. She makes school feel like a second home.

In a world that changed dramatically in the course of one year, Ms. Conlin has been a constant for her staff, students, and parents. They look to her for guidance, direction, and true leadership.

So, she leads by example.

She leads with love.

She leads side by side.

She is in the trenches, gladly…

and it shows.

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.”