Guilty(less) Pleasures

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After an extraordinary amount of peer pressure missing Sunday Confessions, I AM BACK! I contacted Ash over at More Than Cheese And Beer to see what this week’s prompt was.

“Guilty Pleasures,” she responded.

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I nearly chocked on my peanut butter M&M’s. Could that prompt be any more perfect? I am 30 weeks pregnant, laying on the couch, eating candy and watching a  Keeping Up With The Kardashian’s marathon on Hulu Plus. I was a walking, talking, breathing guilty pleasure.

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I started taking notes. PB M&M’s, bad reality TV, caffeine-free Coke (from a can only), wearing pajamas all day, chocolate chip cookie dough Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, my bed, fudge, tabloid magazines, jelly donuts, fashion magazines, red lipstick, more jewelry than any one girl needs, NAIL POLISH, Caramel Macchiatos from Starbucks, baby shoes. These are a few of my favorite guilty pleasures.

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I read my list. I read it again. And again. Then I got a snack because it made me hungry. Then, I started thinking. None of these things make me feel guilty. None. They make me super happy. Sure, some are not the healthiest snack/food/beverage choices but, SO WHAT? I don’t dine on candy and ice cream for dinner every night. Usually. I tried to find the guilt in my guilt pleasures.

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There was none.

No guilt. Just a list of pure awesome that makes me beyond happy. I had been convinced that these things should be guilt inducing because they don’t help to squeeze me into a mold. They don’t go along with my love of whole foods and healthy eating. The surely are not the choices of a so-called “natural parent”. Clearly these are things that should leave me feeling riddled with guilt, right?

Wrong.

I don’t need to fit neatly into some box with a label on top that sums up the contents. It is more fun to do and be whoever and whatever makes me happy. Some days it is relaxing by the river while my husband takes photos and my daughter frolics, naked in the water. Just soaking up the sun and breathing in the air provide me with all I need. Other days, it is a reality TV marathon, jammies and my BFFs Ben & Jerry.

No mold, no box, just me.

My confession? My guilty pleasures bring me absolutely zero feelings of guilt.

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Have something to confess? Head over to the More Than Cheese and Beer Facebook page and let it all out. Interested in participating in next week’s Confession? Click HERE for all the details.

MoreThanCheeseandBeer

Requesting Relations

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Requesting Relations

I have tried. I have fought against every particle of my being and tried. I have swallowed an immense amount of anger and tried.

 

But this, this one thing that should be meaningless, this one thing that should not have any effect on me. This one was the final straw.

 

Our relationship began rocky. I was a seven year old girl who had never had a father, at least not that I could remember. Then my mom introduced us to this guy. I heard her say she loved him. I heard they were getting married. That we were moving away from the only town I ever knew, away from my family. Not far, but far enough.

 

I didn’t know how to feel. I was sad. And angry but she seemed happy. He was ok. I never felt especially close to him. He was my mother’s husband. I could comprehend that. Then they said he would adopt us. My sister and I would be his daughters. He wouldn’t be our stepfather. He would be our dad.

 

I watched from our car as my absentee father, a man I did not know, signed the papers to allow the adoption. I cried silently, never letting anyone see my sadness. I had a photo of him. Taken before I was born. I would spend hours staring at a man I had an uncanny resemblance to but didn’t even know his birthday. My emotions were jumbled. Hatred and love coexisted. I longed for what I never knew.

 

The adoption was finalized on March 7, 1989. Everyone seemed so happy. So, I did my best to be happy. I had a chance to have a father. I was a little excited and a lot terrified. I didn’t know what it meant to have a dad and I was pretty sure he had no idea what it meant to have a nine year old daughter. I daydreamed about us figuring it out together.

 

As the years went on, we did not figure it out. He would bark orders and make arbitrary and rigid rules. I would rebel and scream. He would yell and swear. I would dream of leaving. Nine years after becoming father and daughter I did the best thing I could for our nearly non-existent relationship and I left. I moved out, never to look back.

 

With the lack of literal common ground our paths hardly ever crossed, only a few times a year at family gatherings. Maybe a random phone call. We had nothing in common besides a last name and even that was just on paper. Conversations were awkward at best. I had nothing to say to him, he seemed to be forcing himself to speak to me. I asked him to walk me down the aisle on my wedding day, he on one side, my maternal grandfather on the other. Our only commonality was about to end at a ceremony he escorted me to.

 

My daughter was born a few years later. I had my own family now, one without tension. One I loved unconditionally, something I could never give the man who became my father 21 years earlier. I watched as my daughter and her father fell in love. I shed tears of joy and tears for my own longing for something I would never have.

 

Eventually the phone calls stopped. We stopped exchanging niceties at family gatherings. The silence that stood between us was a relief to me. I no longer had to push away feelings and offer an olive branch to him. I no longer had to play the role of adoring daughter when all I wanted was my birth name back. I found comfort in his absence. I had my own family.

 

Then, one day while checking out Facebook I saw that he had created an account. I saw that he had listed my siblings as his children. The familiar yearning for family, for a father washed over me. I didn’t hesitate and I clicked “Add Friend” and waited. Days turned to weeks, weeks to months. I still waited. I saw him interacting with my mom, my siblings. Conversations with the rest of my family that I was not involved in. I was on the other side of the digital window looking in. Maybe he hadn’t seen the request?

 

I waited. It has been over three years that I have been waiting for him to approve my friend request. I am done trying. There is only so much a person can take before it takes over them. Clearly family is more than a shared name and common relatives, more than bloodlines and heritage, more than a common address and parental rights.

 

A family is about unconditional love.

 

I will no longer wait for him to accept my request.

 

*This post was originally written and posted on December 8, 2013. It took me over 8 months to submit it to become one of my weekly columns in The Reformer. Thank you to More Than Cheese And Beer and her Sunday Confessions for allowing me a platform to write this.

And Then, She Was Four

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**This post is part of the Use Your Words Challenge. Participating bloggers each submitted 4-6 words or short phrases for someone else to turn into a cohesive post. The one rule is that all words must be used at least once. Each piece will be unique, as we all write in our own voice and style. The fun twist is that we do not know who received our words, until now! Keep reading to see what I did with the words Crumpets and Bollocks submitted. The words are: banana, dream/dreamed/dreams, hugs, lavish, pearl clutcher, and facetious. Enjoy!**

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“Happy Birthday Mommy!!!!”

 

I could barely blink but managed a huge smile. It wasn’t my birthday, it was hers, but she insisted on wishing her daddy and me a happy birthday anyway.

 

“Happy birthday sweetheart!”

 

I couldn’t think of a better way to start my day than with smiles, giggles, and, of course, birthday hugs. I slowly sat myself up as she bounded out of my room. Blinking the blurry sleep out of my eyes, I rubbed my tummy. The tiny baby growing inside met my hand with a nudge.

 

By the time I made it to the kitchen a what-to-have-for-breakfast discussion was well underway. Usually cereal, toast, or a banana were her options but today they didn’t seem quite special enough for a newly turned four year old. My husband and I looked at each other and smiled, sending our daughter to the other room to sit and wait. The first of her birthday surprises was about to be unveiled.

 

I slid the silver platter out of our refrigerator and my husband grabbed the lighter. Four tiny dinosaur candles were lit. Their flickering flames bounced off the hot pink sugar that decorated the tops of the cupcakes. As we rounded the corner, singing “Happy Birthday” to her, it was clear that she thought we had been being facetious when we said she could have cake for breakfast. It was a Stephens’ family tradition, cake for breakfast on your birthday. One I personally looked forward to every year.

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While our sweet girl ate her cupcake breakfast we brought out her presents. It is the one time of the year we get to lavish her in all that she loves, even if it is on a small scale. Every gift she opened was met with squeals and smiles. My heart nearly burst as she thanked us and declared the day, only 1 hour in, her best birthday ever.

 

We spent the next hour playing with her new toys and introducing them to her existing entourage. Occasionally she would stop and thank me. I would fight back tears and tell her how welcome she was, knowing she would never comprehend how much I adore her. This little girl and her tiny sister, napping in my belly, were our dreams personified. Birthdays were a big deal for us. The anniversaries of having our dreams come true.

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Eventually we put the toys away and got ready to head out on our next adventure. As I was getting dressed I glanced at the clock, 8:49am. Two minutes until the moment she would turn four. I announced the two-minute countdown, much to her delight. As the time neared I did my best pearl clutcher impression, pretending to be shocked when I asked her how old she was going to be.

 

“FOUR, Mommy!! I am FOUR!!!”

 

I smiled at our amazing little girl. Four of the very best years of my life stood in front of me with giant, sparkling blue eyes and a grin that could melt the most hardened of hearts. I rubbed my growing belly and took a second to breath in the immense amount of gratitude I had for that moment, every moment that had led to me to this one, and every moment to come. As I exhaled I glanced at the clock. 8:51am. And then, she was four.

SENSES-Touch

 

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Please check out the other challenge participants:

http://Bakinginatornado.com                                            Baking In A Tornado

http://spatulasonparade.blogspot.com/                          Spatulas on Parade

http://themomisodes.com                                                  The Momisodes

http://thethreegerbers.blogspot.ch/                                Confessions of a part-time working mom

http://www.eviljoyspeaks.wordpress.com                      Evil Joy Speaks

http://followmehome.shellybean.com                             Follow me home . . .

http://www.someoneelsesgenius.com                             Someone Else’s Genius

http://www.crumpetsandbollocks.com                           Crumpets and Bollocks

http://berghamchronicles.blogspot.com                         The Bergham’s Life Chronicles

http://thesadderbutwisergirl.com                                    The Sadder But Wiser Girl

Focusing

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focusing

“Momma? Are you sad? I see your tears? Everything OK?” She runs to me as fast as her nearly 4-year-old legs can carry her. She wraps her small arms around my no longer small waist and squeezes.

I thought I had hid them well but she somehow saw the tears. They started when I hung up the phone after hearing the words, “Head to the birthing center, they will be waiting for you.” They became plentiful as I made the phone call to my husband, telling him what I was instructed to do.

I squeeze my tiny daughter back. We’d been through this before and had a beautiful little girl as the result. Everything would be OK, it would just be scary getting to OK.

The contractions had started weeks ago. The familiar, painless, tightenings that signaled that my uterus was “practicing” for the big day still months away. When they came on I would slow down, drink some water or juice and put my feet up. They usually left as quickly and uneventfully as they had come. This day was different. They didn’t go away. I laid down and they still were there, every few minutes. Then, cramping and pain started with them. So, I made the phone call. The one I didn’t want to make this time. Not this pregnancy. I wanted this one to be uneventful and perfect. It was most likely my last and such a miracle, I didn’t want a moment marred by hospital visits.

I arrived at the hospital soon after hanging up the phone. Within minutes I was hooked up to a machine that kept track of the contractions. A thousand questions later and I was left to lay very still, relax, and wait, clicking a button ever time I felt the baby move. My husband and daughter chatted and played next to me. I silently prayed, hoped and wished. “Please, let the contractions stop. Let me go home and enjoy this pregnancy. Let my baby be safe.”

The contractions eventually stopped, just as abruptly as they had started. My OB was called and tests were performed. I was sent home with instructions to take it VERY easy. “Don’t do anything you don’t have to. Ask for help when you can. Be easy on yourself. That sweet baby is easier to take care of while she is still inside than if she is born early.” Not prescribing full bed rest just yet, she suggested I do a modified bed rest and stick close to home. I nodded, wiped away the tears, and silently swore to comply.

As I fell asleep that night, my doctors words resonated in my head. “Don’t do anything you don’t have to. Ask for help….” Without knowing it, she had said something I had been needing to hear for months.

Slow down.

Between parenting a 4-year-old, spending most of the summer alone while my husband was away, and being six months pregnant, I had not slowed down since early Spring when the morning sickness knocked me on my butt all day long. Maybe these contractions were my body’s way of telling me to stop. Just stop. What was I running around for? What good was coming of this non-stop, have-to-do-all-the-things pace I was trying to keep?

No good. None. Instead, I found myself arguing with my daughter daily, not having time for my husband ever, and laying in a hospital bed at 26 weeks pregnant praying I wasn’t in labor. For someone who loved being pregnant and wanted to enjoy every moment I sure wasn’t acting like I wanted it to last.

My go go GO! attitude was taking it’s toll. On me. On my husband. On my daughter. And now, on my pregnancy and unborn baby. It had to stop.

I had to become OK with days filled with too much TV. Days spent snuggling on the couch or quietly playing Legos. I had to become OK with asking my husband to switch the laundry and bathe our daughter. I could not do it all and trying to was leading me to an early labor and possible delivery. It was not worth it.

I have less than 13 weeks until my due date now. That is only 10 weeks until I will be at the point when my first was born. This pregnancy, the pregnancy I didn’t think I could have, is flying by. Meanwhile, my 3 year old is going to be 4 in a week. Somehow in the flurry of trying to do it all, control it all, make it all happen, my dreams started to come true. The family I always wanted is being created while I stressed about laundry and appointments.

No more.

Dreams come first now. I WILL enjoy these last weeks of pregnancy. I will sit and feel my baby hiccup inside my belly, even if it means allowing my 4 year old to watch another episode of Scooby Doo or comb my hair into the craziest “makeover” you have ever seen. I will enjoy watching the transformation from 3 to 4. I will have longer conversations with this amazing tiny person and LISTEN to her instead of pushing back when she tries to get my attention. I will realize that my life isn’t the only one changing and that we all need a little slack and extra hugs. I only get these moments for a very very tiny amount of time. Before I know it, the hospital stays and stressful days will be a distant memory. Why allow it to dictate how I live now?

In the end those details won’t matter. The piled up laundry, missed appointments, and extra TV show won’t even register. What will matter is how happy I was, how much I loved and how much I was loved. It is time to focus on what matters and let the rest go.

 

 

Never.

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Never

 

Before my daughter was born I knew exactly what kind of parent I WOULDN’T be. My list of “things I’ll never do” was longer than my current grocery list.

 

It is easy to judge in the waning afternoon light, swinging on a hammock, eight months pregnant with your first child. There is no way to know any better.

 

That hope of perfect and idealism is something new moms all over grasp onto. It is the daydream that fills the hours until they get to hold their sweet babies for the very first time.

 

Then, reality hits. The best-laid plans are left out in the rain while a sleep deprived mom tries to make it through another day.

 

Suddenly you find yourself up to your eyeballs in situations you never thought of. Those “I would never” statements become laughable. In those nine months of pregnancy one detail is usually over looked.

 

Children have minds of their own and are as individual as fingerprints.

 

My daughter is about to turn four any minute. You can tell by her stretched out, no longer a chubby toddler, appearance. You can hear it in her use of full sentences when she talks. It is also in the slight hint of annoyance in her voice when asked to do something she would rather not do or in the shriek she emits over being told that cookies are not, in fact, a good breakfast choice. It is clear in the never ending questioning and subsequent debate that is the soundtrack of our lives.

 

It is clear in her yearning to make me happy. It is also clear in her inability to listen to simple requests to use her indoor voice when talking to me from 6 inches away. It is clear in her growing independence.

 

She has developed her own thoughts and opinions. Some of which are in direct dispute with some of my own. She has challenged me to rethink everything I ever thought I knew about parenting, life, and the world in general.

 

It is the most amazing and frustrating challenge I have ever accepted.

 

I try to approach parenting my child the same way I approach my entire life now. I throw away any and all “never” statements and open myself to the possibility that I actually know nothing and am continually learning. I try to stay in the middle of the road, learning from both sides until I reach my destination a better, more balanced person.

 

The mommy/parenting wars that I see happening online and at the nearest playground all the result of people hanging out on either side of the road, refusing to acknowledge that maybe their neighbor across the street is onto something and knows a thing or two. I know because I have spent my fair share of time on either side of that street before I finally stepped into the middle, tail between my legs.

 

It happens from trying to parent in black and white when the world is purple, blue, yellow, green, and red. It happens when we assume that there is a right and a wrong way of doing things. It also happens when parents are villainized for not being the serene, calm, gentle parenting poster child.

 

I try to do the very best I know how to for my daughter. I, just like her, am still, and will forever be, learning. In some ways we are growing together. And just when I think I have the hang of it she will turn over a new developmental milestone and I will have no idea what I am doing again.

 

I can either hold tight to my “nevers” or I can roll with it, enjoy the ride (yes, even the bumps), and maybe learn a thing or two. But, I have to be open to it.

 

And that, THAT, is the hardest part.

 

Saying to myself, and maybe to the friend I bump into at Target, that I was wrong and have no idea what I am doing, is humbling, a tad embarrassing, but also liberating. I realized that I needed to let myself off the hook. I no longer had to try and squeeze myself into a mold that never felt right; that I didn’t have to subscribe to every word of the newest parenting philosophy. That sometimes, in order to be a kinder, gentler parent, you have to start with being kind to yourself.

 

Also, that parenting styles come and go and they are never, ever, a one size fits all offering.

 

I will allow myself to fail. I will screw up and feel bad and apologize profusely all while teaching my daughter that Momma is human and humans are beautifully and perfectly imperfect. Perfection is all relative and I am doing my best to be the perfect parent for HER. Something that even this imperfect person can strive for.

 

She doesn’t need me to parent the way the newest book tells me to. She doesn’t need me to stay on one side of the road any longer, unwilling to hear what the people on the other side are saying or doing. She needs me to look at her, in this moment, and do my best. She needs me to be willing and open to whatever challenges and joys and hardships will come our way.

 

She needs me to love her the best way I know how. She needs me to be her momma, to parent her in a way that fits her and only her. She needs me to stop bullying myself for my own perceived failures and instead, simply, listen to her.

 

She needs me to never say, “never.”

Adventures In Solo Parenting

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Adventures In Solo Parenting

“How is being a single parenting going?”

 

It was an innocent question. There was nothing loaded about it, just a sincere inquiry.

 

But, it rubbed me the wrong way.

 

My husband travels for four weeks every summer as part of his (awesome) job. The plan was to have our daughter and I join him this year but after that tiny digital screen read “pregnant” last February, our plans changed.

 

So, off he went and here we stayed. My daughter and I. And two dogs. And a five month pregnant belly that has taken on a life and personality of it’s own. I knew there would be challenges, but we rallied last year, this year would be no different.

 

I am surrounded by friends and family. I made plans to keep us busy. I developed a routine that allowed for flexibility but also predictability. I made sure my daughter understood that daddy was coming back and that momma wasn’t going to leave as well.

 

I reiterate daily that daddy is coming back.

 

Because, I am not a single parent.

 

A single parent does what I do for four weeks, alone. They don’t have morning phone calls to look forward to. They don’t have a calendar counting down the days until their partner will return and life will go back to normal.

 

Solo parenting IS a single parent’s normal. It isn’t just an annual summer adventure. It isn’t a test of their strengths or a 28-day reminder that they are capable of going it alone.

 

I am not, was not, a single parent.

 

I am parenting our child solo physically but I always have the emotional support I need from my husband. During a particular trying situation he called to say hi. After hearing about our trying day he talked to our daughter for a few minutes. He was able to work out what she was dealing with and ultimately remedy the situation.

 

He co-parented from 1,700 miles away because I am not a single parent.

 

My single mother raised me and my sister for nearly a decade before she remarried. She had a great support system but ultimately she was the sole caregiver for her two very young daughters. She made all the decisions on her own. From how to potty train to what to have for dinner every night, she didn’t have someone, be it at home or miles away, to consult. We grew up as products of her choices, no one else’s.

 

When the bills were due and money was tight, she didn’t have someone to help her figure out the family budget. After my sister and I went to sleep, she didn’t have someone to sit on the couch with and decompress after a tough day. She was a single mom. She had herself and us.

 

After I tuck my daughter into bed I can curl up on the couch and grab my phone. Within minutes I can share the details of my day, the hard parts, the funny parts, the mundane, with my husband. I get to hear about his day. We get to connect, vent, and decompress together.

 

Because I am not a single parent.

 

My adventure in solo parenting will come to an end. Our family will once again be geographically together. Our separate adventures will come to a close and the household responsibilities will once again go back to being split down the middle.

 

I will be able to take a Saturday afternoon nap without having to bribe or negotiate with my daughter. I will be able to take a shower in the morning while she and my husband have breakfast together. The dogs will go back to their routine nightly walk and I will once again be able to use the bathroom completely alone. With the door shut.

 

But, most of all, I will have my husband back. He will be here to hold me when I am sad. I will get to see his smile when I tell him about our day. I will be able to see his gestures as he talks about his. Our daughter will have her beloved daddy back. Our house won’t feel so empty, that missing piece will fill back in.

 

“I am doing ok. So far the kiddo and I are mostly just having fun,” I answer. Deciding that explaining why I am not a single parent may just be too long of an answer for such an innocent question. “My adventures in solo parenting will be over soon. Thank you so much for asking.”

 

Soul Friend

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Soul Friend

The warm breeze carries their giggles and squeals across the yard. Four tiny feet carry growing bodies towards me at break neck speeds. They run faster than expected.

 

“More? Peeasssss?” the littlest one says.

 

“She wants another fishy, Momma,” the bigger one translates.

 

My heart melts. I dole out snacks and go back to talking with my friend, the momma of the little one.

 

Time hasn’t always been this good to us. But right now, in this moment, it was so very good.

 

Our friendship started in the autumn of ’95. We were in high school and knew everything there was to know about everything. I was painfully shy and she was older and more confident. I adored her immediately. Our friendship bloomed fast and set as quickly.

 

Breaks up and make ups, graduations, college, hardships, joys, celebrations, and a wedding, you name it, we went through it. And now, motherhood. Would our girls be the kind of friends we were? As I watch them zoom and play in my backyard I can only imagine the long nights ahead of them. Secrets shared in the dark, the rules they would break, the memories they would make. I laughed at the thought of the phone calls my friend and I would share in 15 years….

 

A blur of small girls runs past us in a fit of giggles and smiles. My friend’s tiny daughter looks at my bigger one. The admiration in her eyes is so familiar. It is the same I have had in my own, looking at her mom. I have been blessed with her friendship. I see the way my daughter looks at the smaller girl. She adores her so much. I have no doubt they share a love that I am very familiar with.

 

People talk about love all the time. They talk about finding your one soul mate. Page upon page about unconditional love. What is rarely mentioned is the love between friends. The unconditional, soul soothing love that comes when you find a person who will forever be a part of your chosen family. A soul friend. I am frequently brought to tears thinking about how fortunate I am to have found mine.

 

I find comfort in knowing that whatever life has in store for me I will always have her. And she, well, she is forever stuck with me. I can count on her for anything. My soul friend. My chosen sister.

 

I watch our daughters playing. There is a bond there that only time, much more time than their very few collective years on earth, can provide. Somehow, they know they are family, they know the love that is unspoken and unseen. They know the history their mommas share.

 

“More? Peeeassss?” the tiny one says again, this time, with a slight cock of her head and a smile on her face. A face that is comforting and familiar to me. I see long nights of soul baring stories in her tiny face. I see the sweet smile of her grandmother, a woman who may not biologically be my mom but loves me as though I was.

 

I see where I have been and where I might go. I see her momma and the struggles and joy she has experienced. I see love.

 

Who knew such a tiny face could hold so much history?

 

I hand her a snack and tell her I would give her the world if I could. She grins and runs off to play with my bigger girl. I smile at her momma, my friend.

 

The warm breeze carries their giggles and squeals across the yard. And with them, so much history and even more love.

A Schedule Unscheduled

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A Schedule Unscheduled

The days are long and the nights are short. The air is heavy with warmth and the sun shines brighter than it has in months. Children wake with the birds and beg to be released into the morning misty dew. Warm breezes and cloudless skies beg to be soaked up.

 

It is summer.

 

This summer, we have decided to take a more simple, unstructured approach to life. Besides my husband’s normal travel for work, we have not made any major vacation plans. We have cancelled all organized day camps, much to the delight of our daughter, and instead will spend our days however we see fit in that moment.

 

If we wake up and the urge to spend the entire day at the beach hits us, off we will go, shovels and pails in hand. If flying a kite feels like the right thing to do, well, you know where we will be. Playgrounds will be frequented, lakes splashed in, rivers explored. We will wake with the sun and head to bed at dusk.

 

Our lives quickly were filling up with obligations and appointments. Our days were becoming so scheduled that spontaneity was slowly losing it’s place as a priority. Our backyard was lonely and our daughter couldn’t remember the last time she was taken to a playground.

 

We were on the verge of becoming exactly who we never wanted to be. I made this stunning realization one day when trying to figure out when I could meet a friend for a walk. Every day had something happening and if there wasn’t some sort of obligation then I needed the time to catch up on writing/laundry/grocery shopping. All this structure was making me miserable. Somehow I had forgotten to schedule time to be unscheduled.

 

There was no better time to clean our calendar then the dog days of summer. Those sunny mornings are just sparkling with possibility. The idea of saying no to one more request to go play, to have to explain that we could have 15 minutes in the backyard between errands, well, it made me sad.

 

This is the summer of less is more. Less schedule, more spontaneity. More yes let’s go, less no not now.

 

The Sunday before my husband headed out on his yearly work related adventure, we hopped in the car and just went. Our only plans were to take a couple photos for my blog and generally have fun.

 

We found ourselves in the middle of the Green River in Guilford, one of our most favorite spots. We spent hours sharing the space with a female Common Merganser. We watched her as she watched us. Eventually she hopped in the water and paddled around while our own daughter splashed happily upstream.

 

Minutes didn’t matter. Time was irrelevant. The passing of time was measured in giggles and warm breezes. Exactly the way we didn’t plan.

 

Eventually the snacks we packed had all been eaten and dinner called us back to the car. We slowly made our way home on not so traveled roads. We chatted about what we saw and stopped the car when something caught our eyes. That night, when asked what her favorite part of the day was, a bedtime tradition, our daughter answered, “The whole thing.”

 

So here is to a summer full of days filled to the brim with nothing and everything. Here is to loving every part of the day, living in each moment so deeply that there is no way to pick a favorite.

 

There will always be appointments and obligations. There will be days that spontaneity will be overshadowed by errands. However, those days will no longer be routine. Instead they will be the pause in between adventures. And when obligation arises, we will treat it as an adventure itself, making the very best of the situation until we are free to go back to wandering and roaming.

 

Spend some time this summer to roam. See where your day will take you. You don’t have to spend a ton of money (usually, not a single penny is necessary), or travel very far. Sometimes all you have to do is let go of expectations. Stop making plans. Wake up, grab your favorite people, and head out your door.

 

Adventure awaits!!

Do As I Say

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©ZP Stephens

I watched as my daughter’s eyes sparkled. “Here they come, Momma!! Here come the cows!!!”

 

If you are local or even semi-local, you know exactly where we were last weekend,  the 13th annual Strolling of the Heifers. Also known around our house as the cow parade.

 

We had been looking forward to this event for weeks. It was a guaranteed laugh when we explained that cows walked right past Daddy’s work and all the way up Main Street. She had been every summer since she made her home in my belly but had no memories of the event. We were excited to see it through her eyes, once again.

 

We arrived in town early and found prime parking. The calm before the cow storm left downtown serene and pleasant. We slowly made our way through the sunshine to grab coffee and snacks. We answered a million excited questions.

 

“When will the cows get here?”

“Will there be drums?”

“Is someone going to throw me treats?”

“Did I just hear a cow?”

“Is it starting yet?”

“Where are the cows? I only see people!!”

 

We made our way up a rapidly filling Main Street and found a shady spot to wait until the parade commenced. Not surprisingly, 10 minutes before kick-off both the 3 year old and a certain pregnant momma had to find a restroom.

 

I knew this weekend was going to be full of adventures.

 

After a successful potty break we decided to find a viewing spot close to the facilities. Sunshine plus lots of water plus an active baby makes for multiple trips an hour. I was going to be prepared.

 

We found a small stretch of sidewalk that was unoccupied. Folks were milling about stepping into the street to look down the hill, hopeful for their first cow spotting. We settled in, happy to find a spot were our kiddo could view this much-anticipated spectacle.

 

It started and the millers fell back, onto the sidewalks. Parents sat alongside their children. A mom and her two young girls ran to see the beginning. They sat directly in front of us, clearly not on purpose. My husband asked them if they wouldn’t mind scooting over. The woman very pleasantly apologized and happily scooted the two feet needed to make everyone’s view better.

 

We were sharing space with thousands of people in a town meant for hundreds at best. There were bound to be overlaps and requests to move. Every year either we have to ask or someone asks us. It is a delicate balance and dance to shuffle all those bodies into a limited amount of space.

 

I had noticed a couple taking photos in front of the mom and her four children that sat to my right. I saw as another woman asked them to move. Her request was ignored and they continued to block the view of the kids. As the parade progressed they pushed further into the street, blocking not only the kids next to us but now us as well. My three-year-old strained to see her beloved cows.

 

My husband got up and asked them if they wouldn’t mind moving, that they were blocking the kid’s view.  I expected some grumbling at most, it was getting hot and I know how territorial people can get. Then I looked at the faces of these children, as they gazed in wonder at the livestock. No one could possibly get grumpy about allowing these faces to see the fun.

 

Then I heard the yelling. The four-letter word that is usually hailed as the worse of the worse, the one that rhymes with a certain feathered farm animal. I could feel my heart beating in my throat as I yelled for my husband to come sit down. The man he had approached had lost all self-control and was telling my husband to shut up, just with that feathery word inserted into the phrase.

 

My husband walked away without losing his cool. How he did that, I may never know. The older man was screaming in his face. All because we asked if they could step over a few feet so that the kids behind them could see.

 

Within minutes his wife was behind me, standing with her feet and knees touching my back. She started ranting about respect and them being there first. She said things like, “Why don’t you just stand and hold your kid,” and “Learn some respect!” All within inches of my daughter.  It was too much for me.

 

“Ma’am! How old are you? My daughter is three. All we wanted was for her to be able to see.”

 

I was met with a snarky reply. She stated that she was 60 and I was being disrespectful. They were there first, after all.

 

I was astounded by this couple’s behavior. Both my husband and I stayed as respectful as the situation allowed. We were both highly disrespected and bullied, but because they were older, that did not matter. This was a classic case of demanding respect without showing any themselves.

 

A case of Do As I Say, Not As I Do.

 

The woman did not move, even after I asked her as politely as I could muster to please move away from me. I think she may have actually stepped closer. The only saving grace in the situation was that our daughter and the children next to us could finally see clearly and were so enthralled with the festivities they barely noticed the adults behaving badly.

 

I, on the other hand, was really upset. My husband had been verbally accosted and a very angry person I did not know was poking me in the back. The stress was too much and I started having small contractions. I knew I had to walk away.

 

I secured my daughter’s cow balloon to her dress and told my husband I had to use the bathroom. I walked away without even looking at the woman or her husband. By the time I got back the contractions had stopped and they had left.

 

Right before I sat down the woman beside me, the mother to the four children the older couple had been blocking the entire parade, stopped me and thanked me. They had tried to get them to move and were met with silence.

 

The parade ended and we gathered our things. Our daughter chattered excitedly about what she had seen and how she wanted to see more cows. We headed up the hill, to the town common, to join the throngs of spectators at the festival that followed.

 

Halfway there I needed a bathroom. We ducked into the public library and I took my place in line. In front of me was a teenaged couple. The girl turned and smiled at me. “You should go ahead of me. You look like you need it sooner than me.”

 

I thanked the young girl and entered the restroom. As I left, I thanked her again. Her reply was another smile, a glance at my belly and a cheery, “Anytime!”

 

My faith in good was restored and a few stereotypes were shattered. My daughter got to witness firsthand and that no matter what age you are, sometimes meltdowns happen. Anger gets the best of everyone. She also witnessed a tiny selfless act by a person who would be typecast as less than thoughtful.

 

Respect, it is a two way street. One that has no regard to age or social standing but instead it has everything to do with actions. Actions and reciprocation.

 

**Photo by the talented, and dare I say sexy as hell, Zachary P. Stephens. Please do not steal it. If you love it, contact him at zpstephens@gmail.com and he will be super nice about letting you use it. XOXO**

Showering You With A Giveaway!

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giveaway

As you know, we are expecting our second daughter this fall. A couple amazingly sweet readers have suggested I throw a baby shower for my followers. I thought about it and felt weird asking for gifts. What I didn’t feel weird about was GIVING AWAY gifts.  So, I sent out a few emails and gathered some incredible hand crafted items from some insanely talented mommas. I grabbed my family and ventured out to our favorite river in the woods and photographed those items.

And now, I am giving them away to one lucky reader.

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And, I am jealous.

I mean, LOOK at this stuff!! It is so beautiful. I am beyond grateful to the women who generously donated their wares to me to give to you. Keep reading and at the bottom of this post is an entry form. Follow the simple instructions and enter to win!!

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Let me introduce them to you.

First we have a reader, Julia, who offered to make a set of 4 burp clothes. They are reversible and made out of the softest fleece ever. I was tempted to make them a set of three and keep one for myself……

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Next we have my friend, Amber. Amber is the creative mastermind behind Bubba Pickles Market. She creates all natural toys and dress up items. Click the link above to check out her etsy shop, it is amazing. The cupcake she is giving away is so adorable. It is made out of 100% natural and non-toxic wool felt. It would make the perfect birthday (or any day!) gift.

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Amber mentioned to a friend of hers about this giveaway I was planning. As soon as Jill from Fantasy Kids Wear heard about it, she wanted in and I couldn’t have been happier. My daughter lingers in front of her Farmer’s Market booth just about every week, eying her dresses and wings and fairy inspired accessories. The wings in this giveaway are so beautiful and will transform any child into a magical fairy or beautiful butterfly.

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My friend Melody heard about my plans to give away handmade gifts and she quickly whipped up some adorable baby legwarmers. Melody is the driving force behind Wrap Happy VT. She helps educated parents about the art and benefits of babywearing. Legwarmers are the perfect accessory for just that, especially during warm summer days. They keep baby’s leg protected from the sun and friction without the added warmth of pants. (They also work well under dresses for bigger kids, too!)

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There isn’t much more I can say about Tara of The Enchanted Root, and her enormous talent, that is not apparent in these photos. Her all natural, non-toxic wood toys are breathtaking. I “met” Tara through a Waldorf swap group and instantly fell in love with her creations. When I found out that she lives a little over 2 hours away in the mountains of my beloved VT, I knew we would be friends. I asked her to be a part of this giveaway and she happily obliged. When the package arrived from her, I nearly cried. The generosity and quality were almost too much. (She even added a rainbow stacking toy for our little rainbow baby!!) The winner of this giveaway will receive a set of 5 bath toys, 2 teethers (one bunny, one elephant), a GORGEOUS maple tree, and a rainbow stacking toy. Wow!

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As you can see, this is amazing! Please, tell your friends, spread the word, share the wealth!!!

I am so happy to be able to do this for you all. You have been amazing and I can’t express my gratitude enough. Thank you for reading, for laughing with me (maybe at me?), sharing tears and joy. Thank you for it all. Big love and GOOD LUCK!!!

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Love these photos? I DO TOO!! They are (with the exception of the purple promo photo, that one is mine) all by my ridiculously talented husband, Zachary P. Stephens. Check out his photo blog here. I cannot express how lucky I am to have him. Also, please do not steal my photos or his photos. Stealing photos is just bad karma. Instead, email me at juiceboxconfession@gmail.com and we can work something out. Plus, these photos are such low resolution, they will look crappy if you steal them. I can send you much better quality ones with a hefty dose of gratitude and good karma. Sweet deal, yes?

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