The Kindness of Strangers

Today has been a day. Not a good day, not a bad, just a day. The kids had been fighting me on everything from breakfast, to getting dressed, to buckling their own seat belts.

After dropping G off at speech, I thought, let’s go run an errand. I have 45 minutes to walk around and grab the few little things I need. Which undoubtedly turned into me grabbing a few things I didn’t need.

I was wrapping up my shopping trip and inserted my card into the reader to pay. It wouldn’t read my card. Tried and tried. Then tried swiping my card. Still a no go. So I thought, why  not try the ATM. Nope. Now usually I have another card that I can use. Today though, while shopping, I dropped said card and hadn’t realized it. I was waiting patiently to see if there was a way to try my transaction at a different terminal when a woman I have never seen before in my life offered to pay for my purchase. I was dumbfounded. She said she had kids and knew what it was like and didn’t want me to have to go back out into the cold. I was in complete and utter shock. I thanked her repeatedly and yet forgot to ask her contact info so that I could pay her back. Ugh. I’ve been blessed on more than one occasion and can say that it is still just as shocking every time a stranger does something out of the kindness of their hearts – and it shouldn’t as I’ve done similar things for people in the past.

Sometimes people are just genuinely good people putting genuine good out into the world.

So today, at some point, I’m going to pay it forward. And not just with a coffee in the Starbucks drive-thru. Give me some ideas! What would be a good way to repay this good deed so that it doesn’t just stop with me?

Organized Chaos

So awhile back I posted my blog Cinde-who? about how I go about keeping my house in a more organized chaos. I’ve updated my cleaning list recently and prettied it up a bit.

I found that with my health issues, I had let my home fall to the way side. Not really the smartest way to go in order to keep my chaos manageable. My fainting spells seem to becoming less frequent and thus more manageable. Because of that, I decided it was time to whip out the old trusty cleaning list and start making my home a little more manageable as well.

Each day, I complete all the tasks on the daily cleaning list and then follow it up by completing the corresponding days tasks on the weekly cleaning list. I’ve created multiple cleaning lists over the years and with the help of one of my number one besties, I combined her list and my lists to create one master list, using her formatting.

You can snag your free copy of this cleaning list – here – so that you can tweak it to work for your home.

I know that most of the items on this list are no brainers. Wipe the counters. Sweep the floor. Take out the trash. But for me having the list to cross off seems to hold me accountable for the items I should be doing.

Another thing that I’m beginning to implement in my home is a chore/routine chart for my little ones and an earn it chore chart for my bigs. I scoured the internet for a photo chore chart that was easy to use, functional and actually looked good. What I found after a long time of searching was that I loved the one I found on the blog A Mother Far From Home. They cost a minimal amount and all I had to do was print them off. I’m sure that I could have found some on Amazon to use that were already printed, cut and laminated but why not support fellow mom bloggers instead? Am I right?

I created both a chore chart and a daily task chart for Gabe – Oliver will be using this bit by bit as he understands as well. I attached it to a magnetic board and glued magnets to the back of task cards to make it almost like a game. As the tasks get completed we match the cards to each task.

For the older kids the work for pay chore chart that I found on Living Well Spending Less seemed like the easiest route to go. I bought a decent looking cork board, some clips to attach chores and money to and hung it up. If the kids want to earn money, they choose a chore and once complete they can take the corresponding cash. Win, win.

As far as chores go, I looked up numerous “age appropriate chore lists” on the internet and found a handful for both the littles and the bigs. For the littles, I pay them a dollar per year old. So Gabe earns $3/week and Oliver earns $1/week. The older boys can earn as much as they want depending on what chores they decide they want to do. Their rooms must be in order and their beds made before completing any of the “for pay” items and each item must be mom/dad approved before being paid.

For the little ones:

put dirty clothes down laundry chute
match clean socks
sort silverware
put toys away
clean doorknobs

For the big kids:

mow the lawn – $5
shovel the sidewalk – $4
take out trash – $1
wash laundry – $2
clean bathroom – $3
de-clutter toy room – $1
put dishes away – $2
walk the dogs – $2
vacuum/sweep a room – $1
babysit siblings – $5

So far, Gabe seems to love having some structure and asks what’s next a lot. Still waiting to see what the boys end up doing with their chart. I’ll keep you posted. How do you think this could work for you?

Mom of Many Survival Tips

As a mom of four, I’m often asked how I manage my brood and stay sane. A. I am far from sane and 2. There are far more people with the same if not more children that handle it much better than myself. I’ve been complimented on my ability to be so relaxed… don’t worry, my give a shit is just a little lower than it probably should be. But after so many kids you start to realize what you actually need to worry about and what you can let go.
Here are my go-to’s to getting through as a mom of many.

1. Let it go.

This is not an ode to the ever famous Disney movie. There are so many little things that will stack up and topple down… you can choose to pick up the mess or let it knock you down too. You have to decide not to let little shit get to you. Realize that your home is never going to be perfect, your life is never going to be perfect, you are never going to be perfect and your kids are never going to be perfect. Once you realize this, you can get through any of your hard days.

2. Let the kids be kids.

They’re going to fight. They’re going to fall. They’re going to get hurt. If there isn’t blood, take a deep breath and let them do their thing. If something is really wrong, they’ll come to you. Brush them off, check them out, give them a hug and send them off to keep playing.

3. Have the big kids help.

Luckily I have a big gap between my older and youngers. But older kids – no matter the age difference – are going to help the little ones. Let them. Why not take advantage of it and lift some of the weight off of your shoulders.

4. And on that note – everyone should be helping out.

Give age appropriate chores to your whole brood. You shouldn’t be doing everything on your own. It makes you become resentful. Even if all your kid does is throw his diaper in the trash, pick up their own clothes or clear their plate… it helps.

5. Feed them.

As long as your kids are fed and you’re trying your best to get them something healthy at every meal, you’re doing it right. Your life doesn’t have to be 100% organic. Hell, I let my kids eat day old apples and cookies off the ground. Know why? It isn’t worth the fight and the tears and the screaming. Sanity mama, sanity.

6. Weather appropriate is what matters.

Eventually you’re going to let go of the need for your kids to be matchy matchy and perfectly dressed. It is so much easier. Let them be creative and dress themselves. If its weather appropriate, its appropriate. If your kids are anything like mine, they should probably have a wardrobe change at least once a day. But if you’re really like me, it won’t happen until bedtime/bathtime.

7. Screen time saves lives.

We’ve all heard the studies on screen time. And we all know the mom who doesn’t allow any and the mom who lets it happen whenever. I’m a firm middle of the ground mom. Sometimes I need that movie/tablet to help wrangle these kids into submission so that my sanity doesn’t fly out of the window. Sometimes, you have to do, what you have to do.

I’m a firm proponent of surviving parenthood. To me that means you do whatever it takes to get through your day. Some days you’ll have it all together and other days you’ll want to hide in your closet with a pint of ice cream and a bottle of wine and just cry. As a mom though, you don’t really get to do the second option. So instead, follow my little rules for survival. Let it go. Breathe. Try your best to raise your kids in a nurturing environment and if shit hits the fan and is filled with temper tantrums, fussiness and just plain old meltdowns … throw on the television, sneak a candy bar and BREATHE.

4 Years of Marriage

Today is our 4 year wedding anniversary. It has been four years filled with lots of highs and lots of lows, yet here we stand, together still.

Our wedding story is super untraditional. We originally planned to elope in Vegas. We were going to go down for my birthday and get married on October 10, 2014. We began planning a reception that would take place back here in Minnesota in January. We booked a venue, I bought my dress, things were going smooth. Then I found out I was pregnant with G. Vegas plans were cancelled and we changed our would be reception in to a full blown ceremony.

We planned an entire wedding in a four month time span. Cake, photographer, food, flowers, DJ… the whole thing. It was a whirlwind.

The day of the wedding, I decided we would wait to see each other until the ceremony. No sneak peak. No hiding behind a door to say hello. Full on first time seeing each other was at the ceremony. What. A. Mistake. I balled like a baby when I saw my husband for the first time. He had cut his long hair off and was standing at the front of the room ready to promise a future together forever.

My mother-in-law officiated the wedding and I wrote the entire ceremony, including the vows. It was truly beautiful. Towards the end we did a sand ceremony in place of a traditional unity candle. Mr. B, myself and B and D each poured sand into a picture frame and then we announced the gender of G and what his name would be. A surprise for everyone in attendance.

Nothing about our relationship or our family has been traditional. Nothing ever goes as planned. Even on the day of the wedding there were hiccups. But somehow we always manage to work through them. Our relationship is far from perfect. If someone asked me for marriage advice, I’d likely direct them to the nearest couples counselor rather than defer to any sage advice I may have. I do know that we have a love that will never die and through the highs and lows we call on that love to get us through.

We don’t always make time for each other, we don’t always do the little things they recommend. But there is one thing that we do follow. We choose each other. Every. Single. Day. We continue to choose each other. Some days other things might come first… like the kids, work, writing, the need for time alone. But we still make the conscious decision to be with the other person forever.

I also rely heavily on my relationship with God to help shape my relationship with my hubby. Cliche to some but my relationship with God has gotten me through some dark times and continues to do so. I firmly believe that God keeps our relationship strong.

After nearly eight years together, four of which we’ve spent married, we’ve added two kids to the mix and spend every day choosing this life over and over again. I know that the future won’t promise a life of ease but I also know that if we continue to embrace our love and choose this life that we can get through anything the world throws our way.

The #10YearChallenge

I reached out to my friends recently to see what they would want me to write a blog post on… one of the things brought up was where I thought I would be in life right now, 10 years ago. With the #10YearChallenge underway, I thought the timing of this blog was only appropriate.

Now, I did the challenge a bit differently and took my first photo from Facebook and my most recent photo. The difference? 13 years. I was still in college. I was actually in Australia at the time. Acting a fool and learning about the cultural differences between Australia and the United States.

I still thought I would be a nurse at the time but with my indecisive nature I ended up switching my major not once, but twice, only to end up with a double major in two areas I’ve never used. Women’s Studies and Broadcast Journalism. At that time, I think I probably thought I’d end up married to my boyfriend at the time, hopefully have kids and be working as a nurse.

Here I am today.

I’m employed as a Pharmacy Technician, although at the moment I’m back to being a full time stay at home mom due to my health issues. I definitely did not marry my college boyfriend and the kids thing definitely went a lot differently than I thought it would.

I didn’t think that I would never use my degrees that still have me in debt to this day.

I didn’t think I would ever be a stay at home mom.

I didn’t think I would fall in love with and marry someone younger than me.

I didn’t think I would have what was once considered an untraditional family.

I didn’t think I would eventually finding a job that I love … even if it is outside of my degree.

I never thought I would be a stepmom.

Or a boy mom.

Or a hockey mom/basketball mom/swimming mom.

Here I am though. I struggle like everyone else and post happy, smiling photos on social media. Life is crazy beautiful and I know that I am blessed beyond measure. Overall, I am happy with the way my life has gone. There have been ups and there have been downs but I know that there is a plan laid out for my life and I’m just trying to enjoy the journey.

50 Simple Acts of Kindness

As the new year is underway, I was thinking of ways I could make this year truly amazing. What better way then doing something kind for someone else. I know that when I do something nice for someone else, it always makes me feel better no matter how bad of a day I’m having. So here are some ideas for some simple ways to give back and put some good karma into the world. I tried to pick some easier ones since I know how busy life can be, but remember that there are so many ways to give back to the community.

  1. Stop by a friend’s house with their favorite kind of coffee.
  2. Hide a love note for your significant other to find.
  3. Make a donation to a local Museum for a family in need to get their admission free.
  4. Send a bouquet to someone on a random day.
  5. Give a gift to someone – just because.
  6. Write a thank you note to someone who has touched your life recently.
  7. Donate old books to an at-risk youth program.
  8. Offer to do laundry for a friend that just had a baby.
  9. Become a classroom volunteer in your students classroom.
  10. Adopt a family during the holidays.
  11. Organize or participate in a park clean up for Earth Day.
  12. Babysit for a single parent.
  13. Call an elderly family member just to say hi.
  14. Help motivate a friend who is working on a new goal.
  15. Adopt a section of highway.
  16. Walk a friend or neighbors dog who might be having a hard time getting out for whatever reason.
  17. Plant a tree.
  18. Sign up to be a bone marrow donor.
  19. Donate blood.
  20. Shovel snow for a neighbor.
  21. Stop and help a car stuck in the snow.
  22. Donate unused toys to a shelter for children in need.
  23. Bring flowers to the hospital and leave them at the nurses station. They’ll know who needs them most.
  24. Leave an encouraging post it note on bathroom mirrors.
  25. Give fair trade gifts.
  26. Help unload a neighbors car.
  27. Give a hot drink to your mail carrier on a cold day.
  28. Bring in a box of donuts for the office.
  29. Read a story in the childrens section of the library.
  30. Adopt a soldier.
  31. Send a post card to an old friend.
  32. Hold the door for someone.
  33. Pay for the coffee for the car behind you.
  34. Leave change in the vending machine.
  35. Let someone go in front of you in line.
  36. Insert coins into someone’s parking meter.
  37. Leave a large tip for your server.
  38. Buy groceries for the person behind you
  39. Pick up the tab at dinner
  40. Smile at someone
  41. Offer to help a mom who is struggling
  42. Offer to help someone carrying a lot of items
  43. Donate to a cause you care about… need ideas? Check out the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation or the Blue Dot Project.
  44. Make no sew blankets to donate to hospitals or homeless shelters
  45. Put together packs to hand out to the homeless
  46. Pick up litter in your neighborhood
  47. Make greeting cards for residents at a retirement home
  48. Make a tag announcement that reads “Take What You Need” with pull offs of words like compassion, faith, happiness, etc.
  49. Volunteer at an animal shelter
  50. Leave money in your DVD case for snacks for the next renter at the Redbox

Surviving the Threenager

As a self-proclaimed veteran mom – simply because I have older children as well as younger – I try to be as candid as possible about parenting. In other words, dont expect me to sugarcoat anything. When people ask me to describe my children, many colorful descriptions come to mind but usually the word “terrorists” make it’s way in. And if you were to ask me to describe my 3 year old, well, the kindest way I can do so is calling him “spirited.”

Everyone has heard of the “terrible two” stage but it seems that we are unfairly kept in the dark about the threenager years. Like, as soon as they turn 3, things will get easier. NO. NO. NO. This is a lie to try to keep you sane during the “terrible two” stage. Then 3 comes along and they become absolutely impossible to control and their attitudes become comparable to that of a teenage girl who was just told no to going to prom as a freshman.

This age is best survived with a tribe of other moms whom also have tiny little terrorist threenagers ruling their lives. It is also helpful to read as many mom blogs centered around the threenager as possible – not for the advice per se, but for the solidarity.

At this age, they’re working on developing their emotions and being able to verbalize what it is their feeling. That might be why you’re seeing a Jekyll and Hyde situation where one minute they’re trying to push/punch/slap and the next they’re hugging/snuggly/loving. These little ones dont have the vocabulary to express how their feeling in the moment so they act out their emotions instead.

The best thing to do with a 3 year old is to model the behaviors that you want them to mimic. Easier said than done. Because it is so easy to snap in these trying times when they’ve done the same bad behavior 300 times that day or have broken down for the millionth time in an hour. And it will happen – you will snap. Give yourself grace. Apologize. Give them a big hug. Move on. They have and if you dwell on it, it makes parenting that much harder.

This age is hard. Hell. It can plain old suck at times. Remember that this is just a developmental phase and you’ll get through this one, just like you got through the last one, just in time to start the next one. You will not get out unscathed, but you will come out stronger and able to manage your tiny person a little bit better.

Trust me when I say, I know what you’re going through. G has used a brand new television as a slide. He tells me he doesn’t love me when he doesn’t get his way and then that he does love me when he’s in trouble. He will try to beat O one second and then snuggle him up the next. He runs through this house like an overzealous tornado. Most days I want to cry, pull my hair out and laugh all at the same time.

Just breathe. This too shall pass. Laugh when you can – even if you have to do it so they can’t see. Take a break from them – put them in their room for quiet time so you can breathe for a minute. And remember that one day you’ll be the old lady at the park telling a mom how much you love this age.

“Ask Me Anything” answer portion

I didn’t get nearly as many questions as I thought I would. I answered the few that I got and maybe I’ll try again in the future.

Why did you start blogging?

This is an interesting one for me because I don’t have a solid answer. I thought I would be entertaining and full of dry humor and wit. I also thought that it would be a creative outlet and my art of choice is writing. I’m not sure I’m reaching many people or that I’m entertaining them or if my blogs truly resonate with readers but I have found that when I’m writing consistently, I am far less bitchy and quick to snap.

Who’s your biggest famous person crush?

I am so boring. I don’t really get celebrity crushes. But if I were going to pick someone it would probably be Ryan Reynolds. I think he is humorous and a great dad and he is pretty damn smokin’

What are your greatest accomplishments in parenting?

This could be a blog post in itself. But honestly, I’m going to get all mushy on ya and say my children. My kids are my greatest accomplishments. I’m raising four very different boys, all with separate learning curves and obstacles. But each one of them finds a way to prove that what I’m doing is working even if we have some really shitty days together. Like, I can see that these little dudes are going to be adult gentleman eventually and I had something to do with that.

How do you keep the spark alive in your marriage?! 😉

This may not be as fun of an answer as you’d hoped. My hubby and I have our fair share of up’s and down’s but we genuinely love each other and will do anything to make things work between us. Some things I think help keep our relationship going are:

  1. Put the electronics away and be present during your alone time. We all know its few and far between after kids.
  2. Find a way to date each other
  3. Try some new things together
  4. Try new things sexually
  5. Surprise each other with small acts that coincide with their love language
  6. Let the other person know you appreciate them
  7. Spend time apart so you can see how much you miss each other
  8. Have fun together

Some of these things definitely come easier than others in certain times of our lives but I really believe this list has things that have helped us throughout our marriage to keep the spark alive.

What was the most difficult thing about being a single mom?

I think the hardest part of being a single mom was sharing my son and missing out on things with him. There are so many more difficult struggles that come along with single parenting but for me that was definitely the most difficult. Not being there for some of his firsts broke my heart to pieces. I am one of those moms that loved to document all the little things – not as much with the youngest now – and knowing I was missing things was so hard. There was always the struggle to make sure he felt loved as much as possible when I did have him. I definitely would not wish single parenting upon anyone.

Who has been the most influential person in your life, for better or worse?

Another difficult question to answer. I think that a lot of my friendships have been influential on my life as well as my husband. But the most influential person in my life would probably have to be my aunt. She took us into her home when things were pretty complicated in our lives. She helped to raise us and tried to be an amazing role model and adult for us to look up to. She is compassionate, caring and responsible. Although we don’t always see eye to eye on everything, I know that I could entrust her with anything.

This is a sensitive one, so don’t answer if you don’t feel comfortable: what was the lowest point in your life? Thus far, what is the highest point in your life?

If I’m being completely honest – the lowest times in my life were when I was addicted to methamphetamine and after every break up I’ve had post high school.

In high school, I had a huge problem with methamphetamines and didn’t let anyone know how bad it was. I was running myself into the ground and I’m just really happy I was able to pick myself up and adjust my life.

After every break up post high school I let myself fall into some pretty self-damaging behaviors. My best friend pointed this out to me after I did something that really hurt her and I’ve worked really hard not to be that person anymore.

What is the best piece of parenting advice you have gotten?

Everyone is a perfect parent until they become one AND each age is difficult in it’s own right and it will never really be easy.

What are some things you want to accomplish this year?

I really want to work on my writing this year. I’m working on blogging more and I’ve started writing a book. That’s my primary goal for the year. Although buying a house would be pretty amazing too.

Hopefully more questions will keep rolling in so I can do another post on this. Until then! ✌🏻

Perfectly Imperfect Parenting

I feel as though no one tells you what parenthood really has in store for you. Like, not the funny little things … like how even babies get erections and it’s totally normal or how potty training is MESSY. Or the multitude of stages kids actually go through. Or about how tired you’ll be. Or the craziness that parenthood just is in general. But I think that the thing that you really go into parenthood not expecting – and wind up getting slapped in the face by – is the feeling of not doing enough, being enough, feeling like you’re just plain not good enough. And I’m not going to sugar coat it for you – if a parent says that they’ve never felt any of those things than they are lying. You will feel this way about something.

Whether you delivered by c-section or vaginal, with drugs or natural, adopted or foster, breastfed or formula fed, co-sleep, spank, work or stay home…. you will have feelings of inadequacy in some way when it comes to parenting. And you know what? You shouldn’t. These children were entrusted to you, to raise with your abilities and your strengths and weaknesses. There was no mistake.

And there is no expectation of perfection except those that we put on ourselves because of what we think that parenting should be based on what we see in the media.

Going into motherhood I never expected to be faced with so many issues and obstacles. Currently I am dealing with my pre-tween who absolutely hates it at my house, thinks I’m a terrible mother and would prefer to not even visit me. Yet, here I stand. His mother, trying not to give up on him. Taking him to his appointments and his practices and trying so hard to have him know I love him. And he is smart, empathetic, polite and talented. But I feel like I am failing him.

Take my 3 year old. He is destructive – he used a 60 inch television that we had for 3 days as a slide. He is rambunctious and challenging. He is also sweet, loving and genuinely happy. Two days a week he goes to speech and occupational therapy for areas I haven’t been able to help him. I feel like I am failing him.

I wasn’t prepared for therapists and psychiatrist’s, speech and OT. I wasn’t ready for the simple things either though. I wasn’t ready for potty training or temper tantrums or straight up MELTDOWNS. I wasn’t ready for a c-section, VBAC, breastfeeding, postpartum depression and anxiety or the fact that you will WANT to wear depends after having a baby. No one prepares you for these things. And it feels like no one understands what you’re experiencing or where you are. But they do. You are not alone.

The pressure we put on ourselves and the impossible standards we try to live up to are leading us into lives full of worry, fear, anger and shame.

We need to all let go of this need to be “good enough” because we already are.

We need to embrace the wonder and amazement that is parenting even through the darkest days of it because our children continue to grow up and we should be enjoying these times while we can. We also need to be making ourselves a priority. It is impossible to fill others cups when our own cup is empty. My amazing friend explained Rachel Hollis’ theory to me. As moms we are constantly tipping our glasses over to splash water on others… giving our little bit of energy to our kids, our husbands, our jobs, our homes. But a glass that is constantly ripping over becomes weak and eventually breaks. Instead of tipping what little water is in our glass onto others, fill the glass to the top and let the excess spill out onto everyone else. By filling your cup first – through self care and self love – the energy we gain will naturally just spill onto all those around us. Leaving us intact, rather than broken and leaving us, and everyone around us, happier.

Take a bible study. Join a gym. Get up an hour early and spend some quiet time with yourself. Or with God. Enjoy your cup of coffee.

I know this is easier said than done but I’ve found I deal with the trials, tribulations and heartache of parenthood a lot better when my glass is a little fuller.

Where are you struggling with parenting? Let’s see if we can work through it together.