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Sunday, May 31, 2015

Happy 4th Birthday, Mommy Stories!

Oh my word, I don't know where time goes, it flies by so quickly!

I have had the busiest month ever, so much that I forgot the special day that May 26th is!

It was this blog's FOURTH birthday!

Four years of being this kinda blogger like I termed it way back when I had no clue what blogging even was! Four years of writing and sharing stories - both my stories of my kids and trials and tribulations of being a momma the last five years, all I've learned and those stories of other mommy friends I've met along the way. That's the MOST fun part about this blog - the amazing, hard working, devoted mothers I meet and try my best to feature here for you to learn more from.

That's what this mothership is all about in my opinion, learning from others, sharing and supporting others joys and moments of falter. We're in this together. That's what this blog has been about for me. Making sure you know you aren't alone, that we've all been there.

This year has been pretty crazy. The Facebook group that goes along with the is blog is so large that I have a waiting list. I'm not too sure why the waiting list is there or what I'm waiting on... but I've found that the more people who are in the group, the more time it takes for me to oversee the group and more issues sometimes we face with disagreements. It's an awesome issue to have - so many moms who have heard this group is supportive and wonderful and helpful. I love that.

There are currently 1,613 moms in there, with 88 on a waiting list. Wow. About 1700! Yikes. That's amazing. I have to admit I have no idea how this happened. I started this whole project as a gift to a good friend who was then pregnant with her first child. And now, it's a passion, sometimes a job, and always fun for me. I honestly love it.

I'm grateful that you share your stories with me. This year, I've heard from a few moms who were really struggling with major issues. They talked to me online and thanked me for helping them. I don't even remember their names, to be totally honest with you, my Mom Brain is at its peak as far as worst of the worst having no memory (that helps with the whole anonymous stuff on the blog I guess, that I can't recall people's names!).

I'm a busy mom. You ask me how I do all this all the time. How I write this blog and work a full time job, mother of two, and then oversee the big Facebook group. I just do. I type fast, I tell people, that's part of it. I have fun with it, that's the biggest part of it. I LOVE it.

Recently after some tough days a friend asked me if perhaps I would want to shut down the Facebook group for a bit while I focus on the other stuff going on. I am not ready to give it up. I love it. It's a distraction for me, it makes me feel like it's helping someone daily, even in little ways. I find a big purpose in this blog and in the group's discussions. It's busy, not gonna lie, there are days lately where I can't even scan through the many posts on there. There have been more days this past year where I've reached out to my trusted mommy friends asking for them to keep an eye on the group if I'm going to be super busy with other things.

I have a little village around me growing this blog, don't you worry. I could not do it alone, that's for sure!

I don't blog as often as I like. I sometimes can't think of good MOMMY SPEAK questions in the group. I take a week longer to reply to messages sometimes than I like to admit.

I've realized in this past year of this Mommy Stories project that I'm in full mother load status. I'm BUSY! It's kinda crazy. Yet it's a good metaphor for this blog, too. That it's OK to let it go sometimes. That it's fine to not post as many blog stories as I planned that week. It's OK to be messy and all over the place. That's real motherhood, and if you know anything about me and my blog, it's always been about being SUPER REAL.

It's never been about being perfect or even great. It's about being REAL and HONEST, and sharing stories so that moms don't feel alone, a sort of how-to guide for parents, especially new parents.

For all the things that don't go the way I would like them to, there are a trillion other things that are fantastic in my life and with this mommy thing. I'm lucky to have two healthy kids who adore me and think that I'm the coolest thing ever. I'm grateful to have even one person read my blog posts, share the ideas in them, learn from me and my stories as well as from the moms I feature. I LOVE that every month on my blog one mom is featured as Mom of the Month and basically a superstar in my book.

There are so many good things happening here. For all the tough moments or frustrating things I read sometimes, I know there are 10 times as many great aspects to this blog.

THANK YOU, THANK YOU for following along on this journey.

You have no idea how grateful I am to you for your support.

Hope you have FUN along the way with me!

HAPPY #4 to the Mommy Stories! I hope to make this next year amazing, fierce and fearless. 

Follow along in pictures @themommystories on Instagram.

MOMMY SELF-CARE: learning that it's OK to put yourself first - #momMEchallenge

The month of May was ROUGH in this household. Everything that could happen, did. Anything that could go wrong, went wrong.

Behaviors were out of control from lack of routine and too many activities, exhaustion and lack of patience set in big time among all of us.

We were spread too thin.
Not home enough.
Didn't get enough sleep.
Sick with allergies and viruses.
Run down.
Overwhelmed, stressed, so tired, and just done.
Not eating as well or making good meals at home.

You know how this feels, don't you?

My husband had a work trip for a week so he was gone and I ran the show at home. I got sick for a couple of weeks with a terrible virus. My kids had swim practice and T-Ball three times a week. Birthdays and goodbye parties at work, plus my husband and my busiest times of the year at work, plus some other family stuff... just busy!

It didn't set us up for calm, peaceful, relaxation at all.

Two weeks ago I knew I was losing it. I lacked all patience, I was snippy, sick, dark eye circles, and just frustrated with life.

So I called in sick and took a personal day. A mental health day for mom.

SO important!

I spent a relaxing morning with the kids. Stayed in bed longer than normal, sat on the couch to watch cartoons with them instead of rushing around packing lunches and getting everyone out the door by 6:10 which is our norm.

We ate breakfast at the table together, laughing and talking about our day, instead of me eating breakfast standing up in the bathroom while I apply makeup and brush my hair or a kid eating a bagel on the run in the car.

We arrived to school a little late, which was fine because we were enjoying each other's company.

I cleaned a few things before we left the house, but mostly it was kid time. Love starting my day like that. I then headed to my favorite place on earth: the beach.

I walked the beach. Talked to a good friend for like 45 minutes straight without having to say "Just one second, kids stop it, quiet please, yes, in a minute, etc." I picked up sea glass, enjoyed the beautiful scenery, drank my whole water bottle instead of parts of it when I remember, read an entire magazine, and just relaxed.

It was slow, thoughtful, quiet, serene.

I was there almost two hours, and left feeling so rejuvenated, like I could take on anything in the world after that.

Sometimes we need a break.

Sometimes we realize we aren't thinking clearly, we're so unfocused, easily distracted - more than our typical Mom Brain Syndrome. We can't make sound decisions like this. We sure as hell can't be responsible to take care of our family like this if we can barely function ourselves.

Sometimes we need to take a Mommy Time Out, a moment to pause, breathe, think, figure things out, and just relax. 

I know mommy and relax don't usually go hand in hand. I get that. Motherhood is the toughest job out there, I swear. 

But ... here's what I've learned lately: we NEED to take a break. We DESERVE to take a break. Our families are BETTER if we take a break.

I've learned this time and again, usually when I feel I'm at a breaking point, where I can't do one more thing or hear one more whine, or after I've yelled and feel bad about it or when I'm sick and physically run down and cannot focus from the pounding sinus headache.

I'm a school counselor by day and we counselors are professionally trained to take care of ourselves. It's called self-care. It's the airline motto: you cannot do a good job taking care of others if you don't take care of yourself first. It's so important to make sure we are well-rested, fed healthy foods and frequently nourished, mentally and emotionally talking out issues and talking to someone as needed, connecting to our family and friends, etc.

If we neglect ourselves, we are not good workers, friends, spouses, and certainly not good parents. It's that simple. 

I know it's bigger and more difficult than that to actually do the work of taking care of yourself as a mother.

I'm just here as a reminder to tell you that it NEEDS to become a priority of yours, or else you face burnout - as a friend, worker, parent, etc. We cannot sustain running all engines at all times without crashing and burning.

I'm grateful I took the time to take care of me that morning, because later that day we got some difficult news about a family member's health. I needed to be ready, focused, able to think clearly and there for others. I'd not have been able to do an ok job with that if I'd not had a little time to myself making sure I was in good operating order first.

I started this project last summer #momMEchallenge on Instagram. 
I made it a point last summer to take care of ME, do things I want to do like read, and take care of my body by exercising. I posted pictures all last summer of me resting on the beach, reading a book for fun instead of something about parenting, taking a run while the kids played with dad, taking a nap in the middle of the day instead of washing dishes, etc.

I chose to do this challenge during the summer months because I work in a school so am off more in the summer, but you can do the challenge all year round.

I'm hoping some of you will join me on this #momMEchallenge this summer! Please use this hashtag on all of your social media so we can cheer one another on with this project.

I know some of you look like me below, wide eyed, open mouth like "um is she crazy? I don't have time for ME! when will I find time for me?!"

I know it's tough, but you CAN do it. Sometimes, all you need is 5 minutes. For me, if all I have time for is 5 minutes, I get myself an Ice Chai and sip slowly, drive slowly to pick the kids up. It's 5 minutes of peace, quiet and purposeful ME time. It doesn't have to be a huge walk on the beach or morning like I spent last week. Yes, those times are GREAT and I hope you plan a few of those every now and then, but honestly, focus on little things at first.

Here are some great tips for necessary MOMMY SELF-CARE:

  1. Schedule it. Your life is busy. That's unavoidable, BUT things are more likely to happen if you schedule them in on the calendar. Aim for once a month at first, then try once a week... until you reach daily self-care moments. Again, look for shorter bursts of self-care at first.
  2. Keep it simple. It doesn't have to be an extravagant day at the spa - although that would be A-MA-ZING! Think about getting a cold drink, deep breathing for 5 minutes, reading one article of a magazine, reading a book for fun for 5 minutes or one chapter, taking a nap instead of cleaning the dishes, choosing to do one chore instead of three, going to bed a half hour earlier, etc. 
  3. Realize the importance of self-care. Keep reminding yourself of WHY it's important to do things for yourself. See the results after you do take time for yourself. Keep track of how much better you feel mentally, emotionally and physically. See how you respond to your kids, how perhaps they listen to you better when you aren't snapping and impatient with them. See how your partner treats you kinder when you are kinder to her / him. See how your body feels stronger and you're better able to spin your child around or pick him up when he asks you to after you've been walking a few times this week. 
  4. Some is better than none. Develop this philosophy. If you can't do a full day at a spa or keep up with running three times a week, at least do SOME self-care. It's OK to start small and progress. It'll be contagious actually once you start, you'll want to continue doing small things for yourself. 
  5. Give yourself permission to focus on YOU for a change. I know some moms feel selfish or guilty all the time for doing anything for themselves, including date nights out with partners or meeting girlfriends for dinner or shopping, etc. I know friends who feel guilty even leaving to go grocery shopping alone. What?! That's like my dream vacation! It's NOT bad to be selfish sometimes. Selfish has this terrible connotation. But honestly, I'm telling you to be selfish sometimes. To listen to your music on the radio sometimes. To ignore messes even though you know cleaning would make the house run smoothly. To go to bed early instead of making those Pinterest projects for preschool. To leave early, arrive late if necessary. To laugh more, hug more, slow down and rest. It's OK to focus on you. You used to be YOU, a girl, a woman, an individual before having kids. It's awesome being Mother, but it's not the only part of who you are. Remember that. You are a friend, daughter, sister, partner, etc. Make sure you take care of those parts of yourself, too. The other people in your life besides your kids deserve to have the best version of you, too! It's GOOD to do things for yourself. Remind yourself of this. 

Try some of these and tag yourself with the #momMEchallenge

  • Take a nap when kids nap
  • Go to bed early
  • Lay in your bed later when the kids are asleep and you're thinking, "I could get up and do something before they get up," just lay there longer
  • Call a friend
  • Go out with friends
  • Plan a date night out with your partner 
  • Go grocery shopping / clothes shopping / to the mailbox by YOURSELF! 
  • Read 
  • Watch TV
  • Take a walk / run / swim / bike ride 
  • Breathe
  • Yoga
  • Exercise or dance video on You Tube 
  • Get take out for dinner
  • Indulge in wine, chocolate, ice cream or all three at once! 
  • Paint your nails
  • Have a mini spa at your house - facial mask, hair treatment, nails, foot lotion, bubble bath, eyebrows, etc. 
  • Reorganize YOUR closet and clothes
  • Go shopping for YOU, and refuse to buy anything for the house or kids or food 
  • Clean out your purse - sometimes doing something for you can be a type of chore, but it's focused on YOU so it's OK! Add little things to your purse that make YOU happy (not just crayons!) - fun smelling hand sanitizer, chocolate, gum, lipstick, etc. 
  • Read inspirational quotes
  • Look at a photo album of fun pictures and memories
  • Write 
  • Bake 
  • Color in one of your kids' coloring books or paint or use play doh or blow bubbles - seriously! Play is FUN and relaxing. 
  • Sit at the beach or lake, just listen to the water 
  • Listen to music 
  • Take a hot shower

Whatever you decide to try, DO IT! 

Make yourself a priority, moms. It's the only way to make sure we can be our best mommy selves in taking care of our children. 


Follow me on Instagram @themommystories 

the start of summer!

Memorial Day has come and gone and that means the start of SUMMER is approaching!

I love long weekends at home, out in the sunshine, hanging with cousins, family and friends, barbecue foods, and more sunshine.

It's the best time of year. My kids and I are full of adventurous spirits in the summer.

Things we're looking forward to this summer:

  • BEACH DAYS - lots and lots of them. We live at the beach, sand everywhere, buckets packed the night before with plenty of shovels to go around, relaxation and waves crashing and cool water. LOVE these days.
  • Flip flops and Crocs. Love easily putting shoes on, grabbing a hat or sunglasses, and heading out the door. The ease of this time of year makes me smile. No more coats, hats, gloves, boots, etc. before leaving the house. 
  • Fresh fruits and veggies. Our favorite thing in the summer is to visit the farm stand up the street and the kids get to choose a fruit treat for the ride home. They think it's like going to a candy store - peaches, apples, bananas, pears, plums (their personal favorite are plums!). I love how fun that is for them. 
  • Summer dinners. Looooove barbecue chicken, corn on the cob, and cucumber/tomato salads for dinner. Again, easy, simple, good = that's what summer is all about.
  • More baths. Well, not so much, but honestly more baths means we played HARD and got dirty outside, which is when my kids behave the best, the more time outside the better for our family. I love watching their creativity explode outside. So much they can explore.
  • Windows open. I love driving down the road with the wind blowing into the car, radio up, everybody singing, sunglasses on the kids. It's just FUN and freeing. We all need that after a long winter!
  • All things in balance. In the summer I feel like we get plenty of rest, adventure, energy, fun, relaxation, fresh air, and healthiness. It's all in balance in the summer for us. The key is to keep that balanced state into the busy fall! 
  • Seeing old friends and family. It's a time to reconnect and hang out with those you don't always see. It's so easy to plan a quick trip to the lake or ice cream stand in the summer. We get out there more than we do in the winter months. I love that!
  • Reading. I read a ton more in the summer months since I don't work as much and so therefore aren't as tired. I get caught up on my magazines and read for FUN, not just for blogging or parenting. Love relaxing through reading.
  • Day trips- I LOOOVE adventures. My mom taught me well. We never stayed put too long as kids. We were always planning an adventure somewhere. Every morning my kids wake up asking me, "What are we going to do today, Mommy?" I love that they know we won't just sit around. It's always good to have those sit around days, of course, so in the midst of our busy summer fun we make sure we take down days in between. But planning trips to zoos, parks, new beaches and lakes, etc. is the most fun of our summer.

Most of all, I look forward to more time together! It will be "SO MUCH FUN" as my daughter says.

Happy *almost* SUMMER! 

Saturday, May 30, 2015

a Franklin Park Zoo adventure!

Two weekends ago we visited the Franklin Park Zoo in Boston. It was an awesome day! Such a fun zoo, very large, tons of animals, clean, easy to get to, just a great time. I highly recommend visiting.

I could not believe we were in the middle of the city! Such a great zoo, so much fun, big open spaces.

No idea what these playground structures are called, but LOVED THEM!

Bring quarters for these fun cars! We didn't have enough to ride them all, but that would have been fun!

Being from Maine, this was our FAVORITE part of the zoo - the farm land area. That silo is a SLIDE! It was awesome.

Tractors?! Loooove this. Who would have thought you'd see that at a zoo?

Most awesome slide we've ever seen. My kids could have stayed here all day.

We didn't end up playing in the playground, because by the time we arrived at the zoo the kids were exhausted and wanted to just see the animals. This playground was HUGE though, this picture above does not do it justice. SO MUCH FUN.

The bird area was the most incredible part! Tons of birds flying all over the place, landing on your arms and hands if you put them out. You could feed them sticks of nuts and items they provided for a few dollars. It was incredible! We could have stayed there an hour!

The gorillas were also our favorites!

I could not believe our luck that a gorilla was RIGHT THERE near the window so the kids could see him. Amazing.

We had an amazing day!

A few tips for visiting this zoo:

  • Wear sneakers- lots of walking. 
  • Stroller was helpful for little breaks for the kids and to keep water bottles, etc.
  • Speaking of water bottles- bring some! There are water bottle refilling stations at water fountains near the restrooms. Cheap and easy, cold and ready for the kids!
  • It's great to pack snacks and lunches even. The food there was good but typical prices for amusement parks. We packed lots of snacks. With the heat and all that walking, packing plenty of food is helpful. 
  • You will need extra money for the carousel and other activities there. 
  • When you walk in, I'd go to the back entrance near the giraffes so you walk in and see animals first, before seeing that large playground. If we had walked in the other entrance to the playground, I'd never have been able to get my kids to continue to see the animals. Do the playground last!