the one about six

Oh, dear.

It's been a terribly long time.

I apologize for my absence.

I have nothing to blame except life. Busy day-to-day happenings, weekly ups and downs, responsibilities out the wazoo and doing my best to avoid responsibilities on the daily.

But, here we are, staring at the last couple days of October. How can this be? I feel like I was just doing the Fall Starbucks Drinks happy dance, and pretty soon that controversial red cup will be making its debut. If there's one thing I know for sure, it is that time is passing...quickly. I also know that I love Dairy Queen Chocolate Extreme Blizzards. Very much.

I do have some news, though.

I am pregnant with baby #4!

I am thrilled. I am excited. I am nervous, for sure. I am hopeful. I am happy.

But I have something else on my mind...something else on my heart. It's not something I have written about a lot, but that sentence right there...."I am pregnant with baby #4," reminds me that I am actually not pregnant with baby #4. I have experienced pregnancy loss not once, but twice, and so while my voice is saying "baby #4," my heart is screaming BUT THERE ARE SIX.

There are six.

If you have followed this blog for a while, you might remember that I experienced my first miscarriage 8 years ago now. It was a surprise pregnancy...our first pregnancy...and I had barely gotten my mind wrapped around the fact that I was going to be a mother when I went in for my first ultrasound at 10 weeks and saw an empty amniotic sac. I still remember our doctor's words to us. "I'm sorry. This will not be a normal pregnancy for you." I still remember that I was wearing Colts socks that day. I still remember not sleeping that night as all I could think of was that my body betrayed me in the biggest way, and perhaps that my God did, too.

My body believed it was pregnant. The bloodwork was all what it should have been. I felt different, but in a good way. I felt like a mother. But seeing that ultrasound and experiencing the deafening silence in the place where the heartbeat should be felt like the hugest, nastiest, Real Housewives-style slap in the face.

I felt like a joke.

And when the weeks went on and I still couldn't "get over it," I felt crazy. I actually told myself that I was being punished...for what, I didn't know, but surely God felt I wasn't worthy to be a mother and this was my sentence.

More negative thoughts filled my mind. Thoughts I have never shared with anyone other than Luke, until now. I couldn't stand how the pregnancy loss was medically termed a "blighted ovum." The very definition of "blighted" is ruined, wrecked, destroyed, infected. What terrible ways to describe what happened to this first baby of mine. Even Luke would describe the miscarriage as a blighted ovum, unable to abandon his doctor role and it would crush me every time. I felt like I must be the only one who actually believed this was a child.

Until even I stopped believing that for a time. I told myself how ridiculous it was to be so sad about something that never had a heartbeat. I went back to the thoughts that there would be no baby awaiting me in Heaven one day because it was never a baby to begin with. We never thought of a name because I thought it would seem silly.

And believe me, I know now how terrible that all sounds, but that is where my mind was for many months, and it isn't until now that I finally feel brave enough to admit it.

I grew tired of being "the sad girl." While no one ever said it out loud, I just felt their burden of having to watch what was said and tiptoe around me so I wouldn't shatter. I would cry at holidays and at church and during the hour long commute to and from work.

Eventually, I stopped crying daily. Then weekly. Then monthly. When I became pregnant with Noelle about 9 months after the loss, I was full of fear and negativity....fully expecting to see another empty ultrasound. But, that's not what happened, and I went on to have not one, not two, but three healthy, beautiful, smart girls.

What more could I want? Well. I wanted one more.

It is hard to explain to an outsider why I would possibly want more chaos, more diapers, more sleepless nights, more messes.... But this is my happy place, and my heart didn't feel complete.

After 10 months of hoping and praying for another child, it happened. Positive pregnancy tests filled my bathroom. And then a couple days later, it become evident that this pregnancy was not meant to be.

Foolish. Empty. Crushed.

Familiar feelings and emotions came flooding back. The scab was ripped off the wound, and there I was again, questioning everything. Revisiting my thoughts of embarrassment that I would even be sad to begin with...given the extremely short length of the pregnancy. I shared this latest loss with no one as I just couldn't put myself out there again. Many reading this will be surprised that it even happened.

Fast forward a couple months later to now, and I am pregnant, again. Just shy of 9 weeks along. And so you say, "Why are you making it public when you aren't past the first trimester? You of all people should know the risk of announcing too early."

Well, the only risk of announcing too early, in my opinion, is getting to actually see joy on the faces of your family and friends instead of just sorrow. With our first loss, we had been trying to wait until the 13 week mark, which is why the first our parents learned of our first pregnancy was when we were telling them it was already over. I never got to see their happy reactions as we announced our our pregnancy for the very first time. I only got to be the bearer of bad news. And while I know that we would ultimately have had to disappoint them by sharing about the loss, at least we would have had the happy memories, too.

And more and more, I am learning that there is no "safe zone" in pregnancy. While the risk of miscarriage goes down substantially after the first trimester, there are so many other tragedies that occur later in pregnancy. Unfortunately, a few women very close to my heart have had to say goodbye to their babies before they ever got to say hello.

So, no. I don't have a guarantee that I won't lose this baby, too. But life hands us no guarantees on anything.

The point of all of this is to say that miscarriage and pregnancy loss can make you feel so many ways, and it effects everyone differently. My experiences will differ from yours and hers and theirs. But the trend is that we don't talk about it. It makes others feel uncomfortable, so we must keep our thoughts to ourselves. I have done that off and on for 8 years now. Share a little, but keep the rest to myself.

But today...because it is October for just a couple more days...and because October is miscarriage, stillbirth, and pregnancy loss awareness month, I will bare a piece of my soul that mostly stays hidden.

And to all of you who, when asked, have to pause when a person asks you how many children you have, because your voice says one thing but your heart says another... I get it. I feel it. I'm sorry.

I say four.

But there are six.

the one about my "bump"

I love a good compliment...both giving and receiving. Compliments are good for the soul, and we should give them freely to both our loved ones and perfect strangers.





If the compliment you are forming in your brain is something along the lines of, "You are an adorable pregnant lady," you might better stop and really think about that before you blurt it out.

Because...well...she might not actually be pregnant.

Friends, as I was exiting a store over the weekend, a woman yelled across the parking lot (at me as I was the only one in earshot), "THAT'S AN ADORABLE PREGO SHIRT!" 

My brain: "Shit."

My face: Half-assed smile over my shoulder.

My brain: "Just keep walking. She will go away."


My brain: "%&^#! I'm fat. And I thought this shirt was slimming."

My heart: Trampled. Crushed. Broken. 

Lady: Trots away proudly thinking she made my day.

I mean, I have mirrors. I know that I am not skinny by any means. I know that I carry my weight in my belly (and my arms and my face and my legs but mostly my belly). I can see how this can be confusing.

But everyone... you can't just go around assuming that every woman with some extra in the middle is pregnant. Actually, you can if you want to...but the error is when you act on that assumption. When you yell something across a parking lot or issue a well-intentioned yet incorrect congratulations. You just can't. 

Why? Because it's hurtful. 

Even if your intention was to do a good thing (and in these cases, nearly 99.9% of the intentions are good...I know this), the consequences of being wrong are far more detrimental than the benefits of being right. 

In public, we tend to rely on the easier compliments to give-- which are the ones based on the things we can see...such as physical appearance. In general, we don't know if the lady waiting in front of us in line is really intelligent or a great mother or awesome at public speaking or can bake an award-winning cheesecake, so in an attempt to connect and be kind and make conversation, we pick something easy like her hair or her lipstick or clothes or her shoes to compliment. 

Most of the time, if a woman is not pregnant (or not visibly), we don't say to perfect strangers, "Ma'am, I was just noticing here in the prescription pick-up line that your ass is on point today."

Or "Lady, I just have to tell you that your stomach is so flat. I just love it."

But once a woman is obviously pregnant (or you just assume that she is), her body is evidently eligible for public commentary.

"Your belly is so cute!"

"You just have a basketball in there, don't you!?"

"When are you due? You look like you are about to pop!"

"I got big like you when I was pregnant."

"You must be having a girl. When you have a girl, you carry wider."

"You are just all belly!"

So in the case of what happened to me most recently, all hurt feelings could have been avoided if she would have taken the part referencing my body out of the compliment and simply said yelled, "YOUR SHIRT IS ADORABLE! IT LOOKS GREAT ON YOU!"

But because she thought I was pregnant, she assumed it was perfectly fine to throw that in there, too. And the only reason she thought I was pregnant was because of my belly. I wasn't waddling around eating pork rinds dipped in peanut butter, asking for someone to time my contractions. There were no other clues.

Some of you reading this might be thinking that I should use this situation to fuel a new weight-loss ambition. That I should take it to heart and be inspired to change. That I shouldn't be upset because the lady had good intentions.

You are entitled to that opinion, but for me and most women I know, these types of situations do nothing but crush me, defeat me, and make me drive to Chick-Fil-A for a #1, large (YES I want the fries large, too), no pickles, with a side of punch me in the face.

And ya'll, I know there are worse things than being asked if I am pregnant. Pregnancy is a beautiful, wonderful thing that I have been blessed to experience multiple times. However, remember that there are many women who have suffered pregnancy loss, infertility, and other heart breaking situations that you know nothing about, and bringing it up in such a way can be extremely detrimental to any kind of healing process.

So, I decided to make a little flow chart for handy reference. Screen shot it. Save it to your phone. Pull it out whenever you are faced with the dilemma of being in the presence of a woman who might pregnant. Save yourself, and most importantly her, a lot of heartache.

the one about the tree housE

I have debated with myself about whether or not to share this part of our lives, but I tend to be a sharer. Probably an over-sharer. And when something so big and crazy is consuming my daily thoughts, I have to put pen to to keyboard, and process everything in the best way I know how. Through writing.

Let me start from the beginning.

When my husband and his brothers were younger and still living with their parents, they would help an older man who lived down the road take care of his property. This property, in its entirety, is 55 acres of classified forest with a sprawling ranch home built in 1942 sitting somewhere in the middle of it. 

Luke would plant daffodils in a giant field for this man and help repair or build new rock walls around flower beds, among other things. Over the course of the years that Luke worked on this property, he fell in love with it.

Fast forward many years later, when Luke is in medical school and then residency...that same older man who owned the property began planting the seed that Luke should buy this property from him and raise our family there. 

My first answer was absolutely not.

My second answer was over my dead body.

My third answer was Hell no.

You catch my drift? I didn't want to live there. I am not the most outdoorsy gal. I don't enjoy extreme temperatures. I don't like bugs, snakes, spiders, etc. I can appreciate nature and all its glory, but I don't necessarily need to live out in the middle of a forest. Not to mention the home on the property was 70+ years old. Outdated. Too small for our family. Not our style. 

I don't know what happens in our marriage, but it seems that most of the time, Luke is able to convince me of just about anything. What starts as a very firm no somehow becomes an, "If it makes you happy." I guess that is what marriage is supposed to be about. 

I was pregnant with Shiloh, sitting in a hotel lobby in Nashville, Tennesee, when Luke first called to tell me that he had gone out to speak with "Doc" (that's the name I will use here since that is what we call him and he is a retired doctor) about the property and how much he would charge us to buy it. 

I remember laughing out loud, thinking there was no way that we could ever afford it or that we would ever want to spend that kind of money on a bunch of trees and a house that would surely need a complete and total gutting. 

That was two years ago.

We tabled the discussion until after I had given birth to Shiloh. I was finally able to make a visit to the house and the property, and I guess, somehow, I fell in love with it, too.

The sound of silence is an incredible thing when you live in a world of chaos. The way you feel so small standing among the giant trees that have been there for years and years. I could picture my children playing in the woods, running in the field of daffodils their papa planted. I knew then that Luke's dream had become my own, and that we had to make this happen somehow for us and for our girls.

It's not that we hadn't been looking for homes in other parts of Delaware County. We certainly had been. We would spend our Sundays going on drives and spotting houses, coffee in hand, wondering if we could see ourselves starting our forever there. We cruised neighborhoods, country roads, and everything in between. We found plenty of beautiful homes, but nothing was our style. 

There was one home, however, that was our "dream home." A home we said we had to at least go in and walk through if it ever came up for sale. Luke excitedly texted me one day in April of 2015 that the home was for sale. It was miles out of our price range, but we decided to take a look anyway. As we walked through this stunning home, we realized that even if we could make the money work, we still didn't feel attached to the overall style of the home and thus couldn't see ourselves living there. The realtor did tell us who the builder was and said how his homes were wonderful and we should look him up if we ever think of building. We logged this builder's name into memory and walked away from that home, knowing what we really wanted to do.

In May of 2015, Luke signed an agreement with Doc, naming the price of the land and when we would be able to purchase it. We spent that entire winter visiting the property while Doc was at his second home in Florida. He gave us the keys so we could take contractors in and do measurements and think if ideas of how we would make this house work for us. We spent hours out there with our girls, with our family members, and eventually, with that contractor who came so highly recommended. 

We began our relationship with this person in January of 2016. He was excited to do our project. His eyes grew wide when he set foot on the property, and he expressed how much he always wanted to live on a property like this. He said he was tired of building the same type of home, and that he was ready to show Muncie something different. He gave us an estimated start date, which was October of 2016. He met us at his office. He met us out at the house. He took measurements. He recommended we get an architect on board so that we could have the house we truly wanted. So, in March of 2016, we hired our architect, Cynthia. We were thrilled to have her knowledge and expertise, and she was also excited about our project.

More meetings. More discussions. More emails. 

All the while, we felt good about having some key pieces of the puzzle in place. Contractor. Architect. And as of August of 2016, the process of buying the property began. Doc was "ready" to part with it and downsize to a condo. I use the term "ready" loosely, because he is deeply attached to the property and would probably stay there forever, but he is also excited for our family to love it for the next 50 years like he has.

We decided a while back that we did not want all 55 acres. Or maybe I should say, we did not want to pay for all 55 acres. The idea of owning 55 acres of land sounds amazing, but for the price tag, we thought we should stick to 40 acres and the house. We would be building basically a new house in the place of the old one, so we needed every last penny to go toward our actual living space, not just more trees. 

Here we sit, over 1 year past our initial agreement on price and intent to purchase, and 2 years past that initial conversation about buying the property in the first place....and we still barely have anything to show for it except for some paperwork that is working its way through the mortgage approval system. We are hoping to close on the house in September.

But, we felt confident in the people we chose to be a part of this project.

That is until yesterday.

Remember that contractor? The one who came so highly recommended? The one who was excited about this house, about doing something different, about building on property he had always wanted himself? The one who put us on his calendar back in the spring for an October start date and verified this date as little as three weeks ago?

Well, he completely backed out on us yesterday.

He called us to his office for a meeting that we thought was to hash out the bid on the project. How much he would charge us, what our next steps would be, and how to get this whole process going for October. 

We made small talk and shot the breeze about fishing and Luke's Canada trip, and then he basically said he didn't have the time to do our project...not now, not in the future, not ever. He didn't have the manpower. It wouldn't fit our budget. And that our project would end up "being a disaster."

After 8 months of communicating with this person, and being told up to three weeks ago that he was still on board and set to start in October, he drops us like we were nothing.

Now, if you know me personally, you know that I can't hold my emotions in. I cry when I am mad. I don't hide "my face" well. I speak my mind. 

And I did all of those things yesterday in that office with a man who showed the professionalism of a litter box. 

So what's the big deal? Well, the big deal is that because of this "timeline" he gave us of starting in October, we built our house purchase around that as well. Do you think we would be purchasing a house that we weren't ready to do anything with for 6 months? No. We planned to purchase the house right now because we were told the project would be starting this Fall. 

Who loves the idea of paying a mortgage on a house that will be sitting unoccupied and not under construction while we still own the house we currently live in? I don't know about you, but flushing money down the toilet isn't one of my favorite pastimes.

But who am I most angry with? 

Honestly? It's us. I am most angry with us.

We were naive. We were taking far too human of an approach with this process. We trusted this person when we had no reason to actually trust him. We believed what he told us, but we had nothing on paper. We didn't start a relationship with another builder because we were wanting to preserve the relationship we had with him. We didn't want him to puff out his chest and get defensive if we told him that we had actually been working with another contractor at the same time and decided to go with the other guy instead.

We didn't want to waste his time.

Isn't that funny? We were so concerned with wasting this person's time that we ended up just wasting our own.

So Friends, that's what you get for trying to be a good person. For trying to be honest. For trying to trust that the person who has been working with you for 3/4 of a year would not lead you down the wrong path.

We don't know what our next step will be. We have a list of other contractors we will be calling, but there is a very good chance that no one will want to take on this project this late into the year. There's an even better chance that this project will not start until Spring of 2017 and won't be finished until long past a year from now. There's also a really, really great chance that this person will find a flaming bag of poopy diapers on his front door mat, but you didn't hear that from me.

So, for now, my children will still sleep 3 to a bedroom, which they love. Our living room is still too small for a big party of people, but we make it work. We don't have 40 acres of woods to adventure through, but we have a yard and a swing set. I don't have a folding table in my laundry room, but I hate folding laundry anyway. My kitchen isn't state of the art, but I can still feed my family

In the midst of the tornado damage in Kokomo and the flooding in Louisiana and the numerous tragedies all over the world, I must remind myself of these luxuries that I still have, even in a house that I am eager to leave behind. 

Luke's brother built a home on 30+ acres of land, and they call it The Field HousE (uppercase E on the end for Ernstberger).

I'm calling ours The Tree HousE.

I cherish these photos we took in May of 2015 (taken at The Tree HousE by Kira Childers), right after we agreed to purchase this property "someday." Before all the heartache and letdown and hurry up and wait. 

I plan to continue to share our progress on the house and how this story unfolds. I hope you'll stay tuned.

The one about sticks and stones

Um, hi. I am just looking for a cool new bumper sticker.

I want it to say, "My child is an honor student pulled a stick today."

How many other parents would be interested in purchasing one?

It was inevitable. I knew it would happen sooner or later. No child is perfect, and my years in the classroom taught me that even the best and brightest will slip up and "pull a stick," "flip a card," "clip a strip," "clip down," "lose a star," or any other cute way to say, "You slipped up."

When my eyes met Noelle's after school today, she was already fighting back the tears.

"I pulled a stick today," she sputtered.

I threw my arms around her and pressed her cheek into my heart. My first thought was not anger or frustration or defensiveness.

I honestly felt relief.

You see, on the first night of school, when I was reviewing the classroom procedures packet that her teacher sent home, I felt a twinge of anxiety. It's not that I disagree with the idea. I used a similar system with both my 4th graders and my preschoolers. I just knew that my sweet, perfectionist, sensitive 6 year old would want to "end on green" each day of this school year, which is a pretty steep  goal. When, not if, she would fall short, she would surely be devastated.

So, I was relieved that we hadn't built a 174 day streak that would be broken by an ill-timed giggle or forgotten end-of-year assignment. Just shy of two weeks into 1st grade, and we are starting over tomorrow.

Of course, my heart broke for Noelle. I didn't delight in her pain, and a part of me had to fight back the Mama Bear that was trying to come out. This is uncharted territory for us. Noelle provides a lot of challenges to us as her parents, but in school she is typically 100% golden. I didn't exactly know the best way to handle this situation, and with Luke on a camping trip in Canada until next week, I was left to handle it on my own.

The offense -- talking to a friend when she wasn't supposed to be -- was minor. And not surprising. Girlfriend loves to talk! In fact, she has been struggling with passing her 1-minute math fact quizzes because she likes to stop after every problem and chat with herself about how she got the answer or admire the way she writes each digit. Getting dinged for talking was bound to happen sooner or later.

Just because I wasn't surprised doesn't mean I wasn't disappointed. Was I thrilled that she wasn't being a model student? No. Was I annoyed that she allowed something so easy to control to interrupt an otherwise fantastic start to the new school year? You bet. On the drive home, I lost myself somewhere between wanting to bring on additional consequences at home or buy her a puppy to make her feel better.

I settled on having her write a letter of apology to her teacher with a promise to do better, and a strong warning that if she pulls a stick again, she will lose TV privileges.

We went about our night the same we always do. I helped her with her homework, which included studying her spelling words and reading to me. I made dinner while the girls damn near killed each other played sweetly together. I got them to bed at a decent time (and by decent, I mean an hour earlier than normal because the Law of Mondays and Out-of-Town Husbands prevailed).

After the house was quiet, I reflected on the day's events and truly began to understand my role in all of this. As my children continue to learn and grow, they will continue to make mistakes. They will talk when they shouldn't. They will laugh when it's inappropriate. They will say bad words, tell a mean joke, and realize that many times it is simply easier to do "the wrong thing." And it will cost them. Cost them sticks. Cost them recess. Cost them TV and iPads.

It is not my job as their mama to protect them from these mistakes. It is not my job to fight their battles or question their teachers' every move, either. It is, however, my job to be there. To steadfastly be there. In all weather. In all seasons. In all triumphs and tragedies. To be consistent. To be predictable. To be firm when necessary, tough when it's called for, and maybe just a little bit rough in spots. To be cool when they run a little too hot and to be warm in the palm of their hands.

Like a stone.

Some days I am granite, all pulled-together and polished, and other days I am gravel, just a shitstorm of clutter on someone's driveway, but I am always their stone. And it will always be that way, no matter how many sticks they pull.

the one about how she couldn't

Another school year is upon us, and I am pinching myself as I realize that it was one year ago when I was dropping my oldest child off for her first day of Kindergarten. I remember trying to swallow down the lump in my throat to the point that it physically hurt. Tears burned my eyes as I put on a brave face and smiled and waved and blew kisses and wished her well.

First Day of Kindergarten

An entire school year, and an entire summer later, and here we are....about to do this whole thing again. We have spent the past few weeks preparing for this day. Shopping for school supplies, picking out to new shoes, ordering new uniforms, and filling out paperwork...the process has been mostly enjoyable as I see how excited Noelle is to return to her beloved school.

Last Day of Kindergarten

But tonight, as I was packing the first of many, many lunches for this year, I thought to myself, "I should put a note in her lunchbox."

I didn't do this last year because...well...she couldn't read. Every now and then I might slip a post-it with a smiley face or an I Love you, but I never did a note because I knew she couldn't read.

But now she can. Now she reads.

So, with tears in my eyes, I folded up a card and tucked into her pink and purple leopard print lunch box with a sequined tie-dye heart (as you might imagine this was not the one I wanted her to pick, but I'm rollin' with it...).

It struck me just how much she couldn't do last school year, but now she can.

She couldn't write her last name, but now she's got all 11 letters of that sucker down pat.

She couldn't tie her shoes, but now she's a pro.

She couldn't remember her address or her phone number (and by that I mean my cell phone number because...home line? what's that?)...but now she recites them to a peppy little tune she created herself.

She couldn't put her head (or chin for that matter) under water in the swimming pool, and now she jumps off the diving board.

The list could just go on and on and on and on.

Children are just amazing. They learn despite the circumstances. They succeed despite the failures. They run despite the fatigue. They smile despite the fear.

We have so much to learn from our children if we would just let them teach us.

And honestly? It scares me a little to think of what she can't do right now, but will be able to do by the end of this year.

But it's a happy kind of scared. A proud kind of scared. An excited kind of scared.

I have always said that we aren't raising children, but we are raising adults, and heading off to school is just one step in that process.

So here's to Noelle, and to your child, too....and all their couldn'ts.

the one about why you shouldn't try Rodan+Fields

You might remember from a few posts ago that I am a consultant for Rodan+Fields skincare. In that post, I explained my reasoning for joining this company, and I shared my first set of before and after photos. I was nervous to put all of that out there-- not only show my skin in its naked form but to also say, in essence, "Hey, I am another person selling something!"

I am the first to shoot down most network marketing companies. My friends and family know this about me...which is why it was probably confusing as to why I would join such a company. For me, the reasons are simple. I use the products. I love the products. I want to share the products. I should make money for sharing these products. I WISH Target, Starbucks, and other businesses that I LOVE would pay me to use and share their products. But they don't. And that doesn't keep me from keeping them financially afloat each month, lemme tell ya.

So here I am, a full two months in from my starting date in April. Honestly... it has been better than I could have imagined. I don't feel pressured to sell anything. I am inspired by really strong, business-savvy women on my team, but I don't feel like a failure because my numbers don't stack up to theirs. I feel encouraged, supported, and challenged.

When I decided to leave my teaching job at the end of this year, I started to have the same feelings I felt when I left my first teaching job 3 years ago. Identity crisis. Who am I now that I am not a teacher? Money worries. Will I need to "ask" Luke for money for everything now that I am not making my own? (our marriage doesn't work like that anyway -- but the thought was there) Fear of burnout. Will I really feel happy with my days if they are spent completely with my children?

The R+F business side helps to fill these voids for me. I still feel like a human being. I set my own goals, and I challenge myself to meet them. I am supported and praised when I achieve these accomplishments. Financially, I am making more money each month than I was teaching preschool, and I am not leaving my house or my children to do it....or throwing that money back into the classroom by buying books and classroom supplies.

I have talked to many people about the R+F products. I have gotten lots of "yes," and probably more "no." So, I thought I would center this post around the top 3 reasons why people turn me down.

1. It takes too much time. / There are too many steps. // I never wash my face. /// I am too lazy at night.

This was definitely me before I finally become so sick of dealing with relentless breakouts. I totally understand. However, my mom's voice came ringing in my ears, "If you do what you've always done, you get what you've always gotten." And true confessions...I don't wash my face EVERY night or EVERY morning. I try to, but life gets in the way. Some nights, I am seriously too tired to deal with it. Thankfully, I am not layering my face with lots of makeup anymore, so if I skip a night, my face handles it just fine.

I timed myself when I used my 4-step Unblemish regimen today, and it took just under 3 minutes from start to finish. This is my face completely clean and fresh after using the products. The marks you see are freckles, sun spots, and just a few post-acne marks...but no new blemishes!

2. It is too expensive.

Again, I totally understand this thought. Yes, the R+F products are more expensive than what you can buy at Target, CVS, Walgreens, etc. But honestly? You cannot compare the R+F products to these drugstore products. You just can't. They are clinically studied, clinically proven products, developed by the same dermatologists that created Proactiv. When I used to use the cheaper stuff, I would use so much of it at once just to feel like it was working, which meant I was replacing it quicker. Did you know that R+F regimens (systems) last at least 3, sometimes 4 months? The price you pay is not a monthly fee.

When I would occasionally buy the more expensive brands at Ulta or Sephora, I was spending as much, if not more, than I spend on my R+F products, and I still never got the results I was wanting. I have tried so many brands and so many products.

And because I feel attached to all the money I have spent on these items, I tend to just keep them in a little graveyard in my bathroom. There are easily $250 worth of products in this basket that didn't work for me, and I am just hoarding them because I can't fathom pouring that money down the drain.

In hindsight, I should have just returned them when I realized I was unsatisfied, but many places only give you 30 days to return beauty products, and some of them won't take them back if they are opened. To me, 30 days isn't long enough to know if a product is going to work for you. Being honest, it wasn't until after the 30 day mark for me that I noticed my blemishes REALLY disappearing with R+F. You have to give things time to work, but you also shouldn't have to wait forever. R+F believes that if you don't see results you like by 60 days, you can return what's left of products for a full refund. Not store credit. A refund.

Let's also talk about the money I am saving by not applying 4 different layers of makeup so that I can feel confident enough to leave the house. Do I still use concealer under my eyes? Yes, some days I do. Other than that, my routine consists of a very light mineral powder, maybe a touch of bronzer, and then my eye makeup. No BB cream, no foundation, no powder foundation, nothing. Do I love makeup? Yes! Do I still love Younique? Absolutely! Do I love the feeling of a fresh, clean face on hot summer days? More than anything.

So, yeah, you might end up spending more on your skincare than the $6.99 special on Cartwheel at Target, but this is going to work for you or you are going to get your money back. I like those odds.

3. I want to do something about my skin, but just not right now.

We always think we can put things off. We always have a list of other things to buy and do before we take care of ourselves. We put the needs of our children, spouses, jobs, community, other family members, friends, pets, etc, etc, etc, above our own. We think there will be a better time in the future to invest in ourselves.

We are aging every single day. We are exposing our skin to harmful sun rays and environmental irritants. We coat our kids in sunscreen because we know it is good for them, but we forget that we still have skin to take care of, too!

For me, I wanted to show my girls that I could be confident in my own skin. I wanted to begin to reverse years of not washing my face, not protecting it from the sun, and simply thinking that the only way to feel beautiful was to be layered in makeup. It was starting to get out of hand. They would watch me apply makeup and ask, "What does that do Mama?" "What is that for Mama?" "Why are you doing that Mama?"

Ya'll know my husband is a family doctor. Well, when he was on his dermatology rotation, he was fascinated by the damage we do to our skin, and he was highly motivated to begin some sort of prescription cream because he wanted to keep his skin looking young. He is a 30-something guy's guy who likes to camp, run, play sports, and otherwise be a stinky boy. He is not vain, but he knew that he wasn't doing all that he could to prevent lines, wrinkles, and sun damage. So, rather than use the prescription stuff, he has been using the Redefine regimen, and he absolutely loves it. We both can tell a big difference in his skin, and he believes that this stuff will keep him looking young.

So, as you can tell, I really believe in these products and the company that stands behind them. If I have inspired you to try any of our regimens, Unblemish, Soothe, Redefine, or Reverse, or any of our other products, please don't hesitate to contact me.

the one about an accident and a gorilla

Disclaimer: This is my blog. I save my most heartfelt, from the gut thoughts for this space as opposed to Facebook because I feel like if you clicked on my link and came to my "house," then you knew what you were about to get yourself into. Just like when my friends come to my real home, they know it is going to look like a bomb exploded, a tornado spun through, and a hurricane just blew over all at once. I'm not sorry that they see it like that because they knocked on my door. Same thing applies here. 

If you have read my blog for a while now, you know that I write in phases. There are times when the posts keep coming and the inspiration is plenty, and there are times when it is radio silence because my mind can't download all the thoughts that are pumping through. And that's ok. You're here now, and I have my motivation to write, since it has been a couple of weeks.

It started with a gorilla.

Yeah, you're thinking another post about the gorilla in the zoo. (see my disclaimer above) If it bothers you to read something else on the topic, let that red X button be your friend.

Let me first lay something out.

I am not an animal lover. I respect animals. I admire animals of great beauty, size, and strength. I think animals are vital to our planet, and I would never wish the intentional harm of an animal that was otherwise doing absolutely nothing wrong. I don't have pets. I don't know if I will have pets. Pets to me are something else to clean up after and feed, and we are about to capacity over here with those needs.

In other words....I don't want to see anything bad happen to an animal, but I also don't kiss animals on the mouth.

Maybe this mindset sets me apart from the large majority of people weighing in on what happened at the Cincinnati Zoo over the weekend, but I am who I am.

And I am not a perfect parent.

Not even close.

I am actually a parent who is not very good about supervising her children 100% of the time.

There. I said it.

Call me crazy, but when my girls play with their cousins or friends their age, I tend to let them play. I let them go outside to our 3/4 fenced in back yard, and I let them play on our swing set while I fold laundry or prep dinner. Of course, I check in on them. I watch out the window. I listen for screams. But I don't watch them like a hawk 100% of the time.

I know the dangers of children in public places. I also know that there is one of me and three of them, and yes, there are times when my back might be turned for 2 seconds when I am loading child A into the car and children B and C are waiting their turns. I do my best to keep them safe, of course I do. But if I told you that I was able to load and unload a cart full of groceries and three children into their car seats without ever once turning my eyes, head, or back away from them, I would be a liar.

I have more stories. Some that belong to me and some that belong to my friends and family. And because this world is full of litigious spectators who think they are immune to mistakes and accidents, I am going to use the old elementary standby of "I know someone who" as I share these next moments of parenting failure.

I know someone who left their sleeping kids in the (not hot) car in the garage or driveway so that the children could get in a good nap.

I know someone who let their child walk him or herself all the way to the opposite side of the park to use the bathroom by him or herself.

I know someone who momentarily lost his or her child in a department store and had to be paged to the front to be reunited.

I know someone who thought his or her toddler was with the other parent in the backyard but was really being brought back up the front yard in the arms of a caring neighbor.

I know someone whose kids went missing at the beach for several excruciating minutes.

I know someone who didn't know he or she was being followed into the pool by his or her child and that child suddenly could no longer touch the bottom and went under.

I know someone who allowed his or her child, with a large group of other children, to run up ahead of the adults they were with at the zoo.

I honestly could go on and on. I have seen and done so many things that would be considered incompetent or risky that I lose count.

Am I proud of it? No.

Am I human? Hell yes, I am.

We lock our doors at night. We have smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms. They are buckled in appropriate car seats. I make them eat vegetables. They go to well-checks and get immunizations. They wear helmets when they ride their bikes or scooters. They wear life jackets on boats.

We play by the rules. We respect laws. We do our freaking best to make sure that our kids are safe, healthy, protected, and unharmed.

But we. are. human.

We turn our backs when we shouldn't. We get distracted by conversations or phone calls or thinking about what happened at work that day. We look away.

And when our most human moments don't result in an incident that becomes a national media frenzy, we are damn lucky.

In any one of those stories I shared above, I can see it as a headline of a newspaper. I can hear it as the lead in on the evening news.

When something scary happens, I use it as a learning experience. I remember how we got into that situation, and I do everything I can to make sure it never happens again. I hug my kids tighter, and I thank God that they were kept safe from harm.

And I thank God for His grace and forgiveness as I navigate these treacherous waters called parenthood.

My point in sharing all this is that I am in no position to weigh in on these parents who "allowed" their child to crawl into the gorilla exhibit at the Cincinnati Zoo which lead to the subsequent death of Harambe, the beautiful 17 year old endangered gorilla and the traumatization of the 4 year old child.

Maybe they told the kid, "Hey, I have an idea! How about you break into this exhibit and go play with that big guy down there. He looks cuddly!"

Maybe they told the kid, "No. You may not climb that gate. No. You may not get in that bush. No. You may not touch that fence."

Maybe, just as the dad was telling the mom, "Hey, we gotta move. This kid is getting really antsy over here," the child somehow found his way into the enclosure and into harm's way.

All of these are maybes because I wasn't there. And even if I was there, I still wouldn't be qualified to say what really happened. Not my kid. Not my parenting. Not my place.

What I can say is that we have a membership to the Indianapolis Zoo. We go several times a year. Many times, I go alone with my three girls, or I meet a friend or family member with their small children. We usually look like a band of gypsies, just roaming around singing and looking for food. I know that it is very difficult to keep an eye on all of them, but we do our best. We take head counts. We run the zone defense. We zig when they zig and we zag when they zag.

But we are no better than the parents of this child who got into that enclosure. We are no better.

I have seen moms sit and drink Starbucks and chat while their kids stick their fingers in the monkey cage.

I have seen dads on their phones checking sports scores while their kids smack the glass and agitate the tigers.

I am no better than those people, either.

And neither are you.

In my opinion, what happened at the Cincinnati Zoo was a tragic accident.

But these days, accidents no longer exist. Everyone is looking for someone to blame. Blame makes us feel better.

It's not good enough to assume that we will learn from our mistakes. We have to humiliate people. We have to make sure the world knows that those people are stupid idiots and we are all better because we have never and would never do something like that.

(and don't think for a second I am saying that there's no use for a legal or justice system-- I won't engage in dialogue about that)

So, I am here to say that I feel sorry for Harambe the gorilla. I feel sorry that his life was ended due to circumstances beyond his control. I also feel sorry that he was in the zoo to begin with, but that's a different issue.

I feel sorry for Harambe's caretakers. I can't imagine how hard it has been on them.

I feel sorry for the parents. They were caught with their pants down and what might have been a near-miss for other parents has become a horrible nightmare for them. I would guess they are embarrassed. I imagine they are ashamed. They might be wondering who their real friends are and if their family will still claim them. I am sure they are relieved their child is alive, and I can bet since they were most likely admiring that gorilla that they feel really bad that he had to die.

I feel sorry for the child. He is young. He was scared and probably still is. The world has seen the video of him screaming in terror. I am sure he has physical and emotional injuries that will take quite some time (and therapy) to heal.

But mostly, I feel sorry that he has to grow up in this world where our worst moments, our mistakes, our accidents are publicized, shared, discussed, and memed for the amusement of the worst kind of Monday morning quarterbacks.

the one about standing on the other side of Kindergarten

I'm just pissed, Guys.

We are a magical 15 calendar days away from the last day of Kindergarten, and, on this day, I screwed up and apparently did not order a lunch for Noelle like I thought I had. Her school handles lunch menus a little differently, and you have to preorder the lunches you would like for the whole month, and then you need to keep track of that on your own calendar at home. We let her eat a school lunch once per week (so she can have normal food like nuggets and hot dogs). I had circled today as a school lunch day, but apparently I was hittin' the wine a little too hard the night I made the selections and messed it all up. 

Long story short, I got a phone call from the school while I was at a super rare and secret destination (cough, Target, cough). So, I whipped through the Subway drive-thru at 8:55 a.m., got her a kids meal, and dropped it off at school. 

The point to all of this is that I was really hoping for an A+ in remembering lunches for the whole year, but I ruined it with such a short time to go. 

I think, as parents, we have such high expectations for how a school year will go, and are expectations any higher than in Kindergarten? It's our child's first official school experience, and we just need the year to be full of rainbows and apples and teachers in denim vests with school bus buttons. 

We need our kids to be full of enthusiasm and excitement for school. We want them to learn to read and write and 'rithmetic. We want field trips to the fire station and Christmas concerts and very first best friends.

But...we forget. We forget that our children are human and the teachers (and parents!) are, too. The newness will wear off. The excitement will ebb and flow. There will be days when the chore of making a lunch seems equal to scrubbing a toilet. You'll forget to check the papers in the folder. You'll forget the permission slip. The teacher will stop wearing the denim vest with school bus buttons. Why, Teacher? Why?

There is no such thing as a perfect school year streak. Someone will drop the ball, and it will probably be you. You'll dream up a Pin-worthy snack and end up sending a box of Cheerios instead. You'll want to be a part of every classroom party and end up sending the plates and napkins every time. You'll no doubt make that walk of shame down the hallway to deliver the forgotten lunch or the cans for the food drive or a coat for your child because the weather man is a liar. It happens to the best of us. I hope.

Your child will make mistakes, too. She will forget to do her homework or practice reading her book. She will talk when she isn't supposed to or make a poor choice with a friend. It is all part of the process, in my opinion. We are raising adults, not children, and it's a marathon, not a sprint. Few skills are mastered in one school year, and it is important to remember that.

So, here I stand, (nearly) on the other side of Kindergarten, and I am struck by how insanely fast it went and how much my child has grown since August...physically, emotionally, academically, and spiritually (Catholic school for the win!).

Pat yourselves on the back (and pop a cork), fellow Kindergarten parents. We did it! Even if it wasn't a perfect year, we did it all the same. 

the one about my obligatory introduction to rodan + fields

I am sitting here with a knot in my stomach.

Call it nerves.

Call it excitement.

Call it too much pizza for dinner.

I'm pretty sure, however, the knot has something to do with the fact that I just agreed to be a consultant with Rodan + Fields skincare, and it is now public knowledge.

So what about this is scary?

What if I fail? I don't like loathe failure. Even a rock-paper-scissors dual gone wrong can tick me off for an hour. 

What if I look silly? Who really needs more selfies in their newsfeed?

How could I possibly help anyone with skincare? My husband is the doctor, not me.

But, as Kendra, the friend who inspired me to try the skincare simply by sharing her own personal results, told me -- it is simply sharing what you like with your friends and family. That is all.

And I already do that here on this blog. I've told you how I fill in my nearly invisible eyebrows with this brow set. I've shared with you that the only way to get Noelle's hair detangled is by using this cream. I've shared where we rent our strollers at Disney World, and, hell... I've told you where to pick up your child's birth certificate (when she is already 8 months old).

I am probably a bit of an over-sharer.

Like the time I told you my cervix sucked. Or I'm sure you remember when I drank poop-flavored water.

So, I guess sharing is my thing.

I like to talk. I like to buy things. And when the things I buy do what they are supposed to do, I like to talk about that. I suppose it's a match made in heaven.

You may be wondering why Rodan + Fields? Why now? Why sell it when I can just buy it like a regular customer?

Or you may not be wondering any of that, and that's cool, too. I'm glad you stopped by anyway.

I think I have shared (hehe) with you that the year 2015 was a bit of a cluster for me. I don't look back fondly on it. I don't have many fun memories. All I remember are a series of events that lead to emotional stress in my life, and when I am stressed, my body tells the world, "HEY GUYS! SHE IS A FREAKING MESS! LOOK AT HER FACE! LOOK AT HER HAIR! LOOK AT THE WEIGHT SHE HAS GAINED!"

Yes, it's true. My hair was falling out. My body was not happy living on Starbucks and Chick-Fil-A and Snickers bars. My skin was erupting into a series of grouchy volcanoes. All I could do was stare in horror as my complexion looked as bad as I had ever seen it.

You know what else wrecks your skin? Having babies. Lots of babies. Like 3 babies in 4 1/2 years. Hormones don't help, but lack of sleep, lack of water, and survival eating (you know, like eating that remnant of a chicken nugget from your kid's Happy Meal because WHY WOULD SHE LET THAT GO TO WASTE?). It all adds up to a yucky, dull complexion that started to take a toll on my confidence.

I tried a lot of different things to help my skin. Do you all remember when I put coconut oil and apple cider vinegar on my face? I really liked the way it made my skin feel, and I did notice some improvement in my breakouts, but I got tired of the mess of my homemade skincare. There's just nothing luxurious about scooping some coconut oil out with a spoon and shmearing it on my face, and then removing it with vinegar. I got bored with it and went on to the next thing.

I tried Ava Anderson nontoxic skincare in addition to Beauty Counter, another natural skincare line. While I saw brief success with these brands, I quickly realized that my skincare needs far surpassed what these natural products could do. (I do still really enjoy the Beauty Counter lustro oil from time to time when my face feels especially dry)

I tried face washes from the drug store, and my skin just became extremely dry and sensitive. I was basically all out of ideas when Kendra posted her own personal before and after photos of her skin now that she uses Rodan + Fields. I was extremely surprised and honestly impressed that she posted something that had made her so self-conscious for all the (Facebook) world to see.

This is something I have never been able to do -- go bare-faced in public. I always, always, always have makeup on my face, and I have always, always, always been envious of the women who I perceive to be natural beauties. They don't wear makeup, and if they do, it is very light and minimal. I am sure it doesn't take them as long to get ready in the morning, and I am sure they feel so free knowing that their skin is glowing without the help of a shimmery powder (not that there's anything wrong with shimmery powder. I freaking love shimmery powder).

My girls watch me get ready in the mornings, and they see that it takes a layer of primer, foundation or BB cream, concealer, and powder to make my skin look remotely acceptable (in my eyes) to be seen. This process not only is time consuming, but it also brings about a lot of questions from my girls.

"Mama, what are you putting on your face?"

"Why are you doing that?"

"When can I wear makeup?"

"I want to cover up my freckles."

I always say, "You're beautiful enough without makeup," but this message inherently says, "but Mama can't be seen without it."

This isn't the message I wanted to send to my children, so I decided to get over myself and my general disapproval of things people sell on Facebook and just try the skincare that gave Kendra her impressive results.

And the rest is history.

I would have 60 days to try the skincare line, and if I didn't see the results I wanted, I could send it back and get a refund.

By the time my 60 days were up, I was hooked. 

Can you tell why?

Picture on left - Feb 2016; Picture on right - April 2016
No makeup on my skin in 2nd photo except for eye makeup (and my brows, duh.)

I didn't want to send my products back for a refund. I wanted to try more! I wanted to see what the other products could do for me. 

So how do I know this time, it's different. That this time, I won't just jump ship to the next skincare fad that I am into? 

Well, to put it simply, this stuff works. There's no need for me to switch to the next big thing. I am seeing results, and I am finally feeling more confident in the skin I was born with. With Summer right around the corner, I don't want to be a slave to my makeup routine. I want to be able to throw on some sunscreen and enjoy my day with my girls. I don't want to "put my face on" to head to the pool. 

And, for the big question. 

Why sell it?

Well...why not? I love it. I buy it. If nothing else, I can get a little discount on my own products, and if I am feeling ambitious, maybe I will meet a few new friends along the way. I am at a time in my life when I feel like a 'tween again. I'm going to be 32 years old in July. My younger, irresponsible years are over, but my older, slow-pace years are far away (I hope). I feel a little too young to be old and too old to be young right now, and this feeling leaves me a bit itchy. Itchy for some new experiences. Itchy for some new people. Itchy for some new challenges.

What might you expect from me from here on out? Really, nothing different than what you're used to. I will share with you how I feel about these products, and I will share with you how I feel about french fries. 

It's called balance.

And if I can help another person feel better in his or her skin, I suppose that's all I can hope for.

the one about how I don't need more children

No. More. Kids.

This is the message I received loud and clear this morning.




Who told me to stop having kids?

Well, my own self-doubt. My own self-pity. And probably my own children, under their breaths.

It was just another epic morning at our house. My husband had to leave early for work, so I was responsible for dropping my Kindergartner off at school and then taking my younger two to preschool with me. Typically, Luke takes my daughter to school, so this was an added responsibility this morning.

Our dining room was a sea of Cheerios on the floor, a gathering of ants around a piece of dinner from last night, random winter gear that had been dragged out from its drawer in the coat closet, and a stack of school papers that still needed to be sorted, signed, or tossed.

My oldest needed her hair braided.

My youngest needed more breakfast.

My middle needed pants.

I was barely dressed, teeth narrowly brushed, and, although I desperately needed it, I didn't have time for concealer under my eyes.

I could have used a shower, but that whole process would eat up an hour of time we didn't have, so the trusty ponytail would have to do. Again.

After a parade of constant mess, constant noise, and constant questions as I was trying to put the finishing touches on the gourmet lunches I was preparing (HA), I lost my cool. Like I do.

Where is your sight word book? Do you have your lunch box? Help your sister get her shoes on! Please, please, please... go get in the car!

It hit me in that moment that this family needs no more children.

You can barely care for the ones you have.

Only patient, calm mothers deserve lots of children.

You should get a dog instead. 

I shook these thoughts just long enough to pull it together and get everyone to school. I have a strict, "No one goes to school angry" policy, because after events like Sandy Hook and other true horror stories, I refuse to let my children leave me for the day with "Hurry up! We're late!" playing through their minds.

So, as I opened the van door to let Noelle out, I held her face in my hand, slightly squeezed her freckly cheeks, and kissed over and over again, right in front of the man who helps escort the kids to the door each day. I told her I loved her. And to have a great day. And that I loved her.

As I pulled around to exit the parking lot and enter the Starbucks line 22 seconds later, I told myself again that I did not need any additional children.

Does coffee make things better?

Are you actually going to try harder to have patience?

Say you're sorry all you want, but you can't un-ring the bell.

That nagging voice of negatives tore away at me for a few more minutes while I listened to the news on the radio.

Another murder.

Another kidnapping.

Another burglary.

Another presidential candidate threatening this and promising that.

And then it came to me.

I may think I don't need more children, but this world needs more children.

There are bad guys (and girls) out there. We are inundated with news of the horrible happenings in cities across the globe. We feel fear. We feel anger. We feel sadness.

But when I look into the eyes of my girls, I feel hopeful.

Sure, sometimes I say, with a tone of dread in my voice, "I wonder what the world will be like when our kids are grown up." But there's something about the way they smile, or laugh, or get excited over the littlest things, or passionately sing a song they love, or pray about what is worrying them, and I realize that these girls have an amazing future ahead of them, and I can't wait to see who they become.

I see a cardboard box, and they see an airplane.

I see a blizzard, and they see Elsa.

I see a "no way," and they see an "I'm gonna."

They see the good in everyone and everything.

And coming from teaching children of all ages for nearly 10 years now, I can tell you that most kids are like this.

When does it change? When do sweet, innocent children turn into murderers or burglars or kidnappers or abusers or users?

I don't know exactly, but I think it starts when they lose hope. When they lose their smile. When they lose excitement. When they lose passion. When they lose faith.

And while I can't guarantee the type of adults my children will become, I can promise that I will not go one day of my life without helping my children deepen their hope...share their smiles...spread their excitement...fuel their passion...keep the faith.

That, I guess, is all any of us can do for the children we have...the children we hope to have...the children we teach...the children we care for...the children we see playing down the street.

Deepen their hope.
Share their smiles.
Spread their excitement.
Fuel their passion.
Keep the faith.

(and freak out less in the mornings)

the one about life right now

I was at a store recently, and I saw a beautiful sight.

It was another mother, completely losing her shit, because Child A wanted yet another toy, Child B was demanding chicken nuggets, and Child C had pooped his pants. 

Mom was frazzled. Worn. Her eyes were tired. Her voice was annoyed. She might have been choking back tears.

This (familiar) scenario brought me such comfort, because I have totally been in her shoes too many times to count. In fact, I was just in her shoes 17 minutes prior to witnessing her train run completely off the rails. 

There are times (a seldom few) when I think I am really cruising through motherhood. We have a routine that works. We have meals planned and shopped for. We have our schedule for the week. Our children are happy and well-adjusted. 

Then, there are the times (like, most of the time here lately), that things couldn't be more out of control. 

Bedtimes are thrown completely out of whack thanks to Daylight Savings Time. My kids love going to bed in broad daylight...said no mom ever.

Thanks to a "quick and easy" DIY kitchen floor tiling project, we have not had an oven, stove, or dishwasher for weeks...which equates to countless (and expensive) fast-food and take-out meals, hand washing dishes or simply buying stock in paper plates, a kitchen floor that can barely be walked on, and my refrigerator just chillin' in my eat-in nook, where the table should be. Construction dust lines every surface, and we are one trip to Lowe's away from just throwing in the towel. 

End of school year apathy has set in. Reading the little 10 page sight word practice book at night makes me want to poke my eyes out. Signing the newsletter envelope (ugh! every Tuesday!) feels heavy and daunting. 

I have lost my patience too many times to count since Spring Break. That last cup of milk before bed. That plea for the $9.99 piece of plastic junk that my child must have or surely she won't survive. That pile (mountain?) of laundry that doesn't seem to bother anyone else in the house but me. 

That time my husband inadvertently unplugged our deep freezer in our garage, allowing some pretty nice steaks to thaw and reek of rotting carcass. 

And to top it off, we don't have a free weekend until late June.

Do you feel sorry for me yet?

You shouldn't.

We are blessed, and don't I know it.

We didn't have to put new tile in our kitchen, and we don't have to say "yes" to plans every weekend and most weeknights. Our girls are healthy, and we are inching closer to Summer freedom each each day. 

We are the ones who busy ourselves to death. In fact, I hate that word -- "busy." It's not a good thing, in my opinion, to be busy.

To me, it refers to poor time management. Poor self-discipline. Poor communication. Poor planning. 

When it gets to the point when your friends, family, and potential customers or clients start their texts, emails, or messages to you with, "I know you're super busy right now, but...", you know have a problem.

It's a fine balance between appearing like you actually have plans and shtuff to do and giving the impression you're about to pull a 2007 Britney. 

So, if I am come across a bit like the gal above, I do apologize. I have been around enough to know that this is, indeed, a season, and we will find our groove again. 

And at about that time, I will be ready for another baby, and we will hop back on the hamster wheel and pick up where we left off.

I write this post for no other reason but to give you a glimpse of my reality and help you feel a little better about your own,  the way that lady at the store did for me. 

And to leave you with this romantic text exchange with my husband. 

The one about accountability

At the turn of 2016, I decided I wanted this year to be "the" year that I actually cared for myself. Not about myself. For myself. I have always cared about myself. I hope everyone cares about themselves! 

But caring for myself? Not so much. 

Between caring for my children and caring for my husband and caring for my career and caring for my commitments and caring for my family and caring for my friends and caring for literally everything else on this planet....I simply ran out of time, or cares, for myself. 

Ahh, yes. 2015. The Year of What Wasn't. 

I wasn't healthy. 

I wasn't happy.

I wasn't the person I wanted to be.

I wasn't.

But this year, THIS YEAR, I decided that I was going to be #1 in my own life. Doesn't this sound strange? Can you believe I just said that? Yes. You heard it correctly. I am going to be #1 in my own life.

Before my husband. Before my children. Before everyone and everything (except God. Not going to mess with that). 

How could I be this selfish? How could I think so much of my own needs and not the needs of my loved ones?

Well, see, I have this ability that I believe most humans also have, where I can actually manage to care about my own needs AND the needs of my loved ones, simultaneously! There is enough room in my brain and my heart to allow me to have a life, dreams, interests, activities, and proper self-care in addition to the life, dreams, interests, activities, and care of my family. 

Shocking, I know.

I think we all have that is just about making it a priority. It is about making YOU the priority. 

Don't get it twisted. I am not talking about skipping your daughter's dance recital so you can go shoe shopping with friends (but if you did that, I wouldn't judge you too harshly). I am talking about finding the time in your day that you already have and doing something productive with it for your own self-care. 

This is why, when I exercise, I do it at 5:15 a.m. It is not fun to wake up that early, but that is the best time in my schedule to exercise. It guarantees that I get it done ahead of my busy day, and I can't lose my motivation as the day goes on. It also helps to keep me on track with eating right because I don't want to "ruin" all the hard work I put in at the crack of dawn.

It works for me, so I am going to keep doing it that way.

I find the time to plan meals and go to the grocery instead of eating out constantly. This is a sacrifice on my part because I meal plan and grocery shop typically in the evenings so I don't have to include my children in this task. I would rather watch TV or do some deep couch sitting, but having a plan is essential to success, in my opinion. 

I also prep our school lunches as well as my breakfasts and lunches once per week, typically on Sundays. I wash and chop fruits and veggies. I portion out protein, and I cook a few things ahead. Again, this isn't my favorite way to spend a couple hours or so on a Sunday, but it has to happen or else french fries become my main food group for the week. 

What I am trying to say is that these practices are sacrifices, but this is a way that I am putting myself first. See? It doesn't look selfish and rude. It looks healthy and happy, and that is what I am going for.

I am about to start my 4th round of the 21 Day Fix program, but this is my 2nd round of the extreme version. I am going to share my meal plans and updates with you to keep myself accountable, and also to give you some ideas or inspiration if you are also trying to take better care of yourself. 

I strongly believe that you cannot care for others if you do not first care for yourself. I want to be the best, happiest, healthiest mama for my girls, and taking care of myself is where it begins. 

I would love it if you shared any recipes or meal plans that make your tummy happy! I am always looking for new ideas.

And no, I am not a Beachbody or fitness coach...but if you need one, I know a few!

the one about friday/sunday favorites 3.13.16

Yeah, yeah. I have failed you.

My goal was to do my Friday Favorites on Fridays (imagine that!?). I missed last week because I was hosting a baby shower at my house and simply couldn't get it done in between stashing the giant mounds of laundry in hidden corners of my house.

This past Friday, my Noelle turned 6, and I was too busy eating cake.

But. BUT! I had some time this morning to really ponder what my favorite things are at the moment, and I am going to circle back around to my newfound love and obsession with these cosmetics.

So, I present to you, Friday Favorites on Sunday (because we all wish that Sundays were Fridays, anyway).

Maybe it's silly. Maybe it's vain. Maybe it's frivolous. Maybe I don't care? I am really trying to grow into owning my thoughts and feelings and wants in life, and I absolutely love putting my makeup on in the morning.

I have always loved doing "makeovers" with friends and taking "glamour shot" photos with my parents' Polaroid camera. My dad would buy the $15 film cartridge before he and my mom would leave for the night, and my best friend, Allison, and I would have crap tons of fun dressing up in my mom's clothes, putting makeup on, and taking photos to document it all.

I'm only slightly embarrassed to admit that we did that. I won't share how old we were, but I will give you a hint. We were much older than we should have been.

Anyway -- when I was younger, I would use any allowance money I had to buy the cheap makeup at Target. As I have gotten older, I have enjoyed spending a little more money on higher quality products. You name it, and I have probably bought it at some point...Smashbox, Bare Minerals, Urban Decay, Too Faced, Benefit, Tarte, etc, etc, etc.

And I have to say, I have been disappointed a few times after purchasing an expensive cosmetic item only to realize that it didn't work the $55 worth of miracles that it promised. Into the graveyard of cosmetics it would go (the back of my makeup drawer), never really to be worn again.

In my first Friday Favorites, I talked about how I had resisted the Younique brand for a variety of reasons. It seemed like everyone was selling it. It seemed like all the photos I saw online were of women and their mile long eyelashes that looked a little too extreme for daily wear. I would get Facebook messages from perfect strangers, inviting me to their online makeup parties. In general, I wasn't a fan.

Then, my friend, Candace, was running a sale, I think, and I just decided to try it. I started with the eyeliner, lipgloss, and the mascara (because I had to see what it was all about), and I was hooked. For a little while, I was embarrassed to admit that I loved it. I didn't want to be just another bandwagon rider.

However, I realized that you like what you like, and when you like something so much to keep buying it after it runs out, you feel like you want to share that love with everyone you know.

So, here I am, including my five favorite products for a natural face. I think sometimes when we see photos online of this brand, we tend to think it looks too fussy or too heavy for everyday wear. I get it. I teach small children, and if I wear a bright lip color, they freak out and ask me about it all day. I have to, for the most part, keep it pretty natural and understated.

Read on to learn a little more about the products that I have grown to love. Are these products pricier than drugstore brands? Yes. Are they worth it? I believe they are.

1. Precision Pencil Eyeliner in Proper. I don't wear black eyeliner as it looks too harsh with my coloring. I prefer a dark, dark brown, and this eyeliner is perfect. It wears all day long and sharpens nicely, which I love! My old favorite was a pencil from Too Faced, and each time I would sharpen it, the tip would continue to break in the sharpener. I even bought an expensive Urban Decay sharpener because the lady at Ulta swore that it was the sharpener that was breaking my pencil. Nope. Still broke every single time. This pencil sharpens great. I am still on my first pencil, and I think I purchased this one in October or November sometime. 

2. Glorious Face and Eye Primer. I have never worn primer much before. I believe I wore some on my wedding day to help my makeup last, but I hadn't given it much thought since. However, every presenter will tell you to order this stuff. My first bottle came with a collection I purchased, and from the second I put it on my skin, I knew I would wear this stuff forever. My skin is not smooth and problematic, so sometimes makeup doesn't look that great sitting on top of it. The primer helps to smooth out any lines and imperfections, and it also locks your makeup in place the entire day. It also keeps the makeup from getting into your pores, so for someone who struggles with breakouts (still at nearly 32 years old), this is very helpful. You literally use a pea sized amount for your whole face, so this stuff lasts forever. I am still on my first bottle, and I have had it going on 5-6 months now. I bought a second one a little while back because I didn't want there to be any chance of me going without. 

3. Lucrative Lip Gloss in Luxe. I just stinkin' love this lipgloss. I love that there is a mirror on the side of the tube. I love that it is smooth, not sticky, and tastes good. I love that even after I drink my coffee, there is still some on my lips. I love the variety of the colors. There is truly a shade for everyone. I own most of them! This color, Luxe, is my favorite for a natural lip color. It gives just enough color and shine with no sparkle. Glitter lipgloss is frowned upon after age 13, apparently. 

4. Addiction Shadow Palette Number One. So, how many of you have been eyeing the Urban Decay Naked palettes for quite sometime now? I actually have purchased two of the Urban Decay versions. I honestly don't know why I bought the second one, because I was disappointed after the first. First of all, most of the colors have glitter flecks in them (see #3 about glitter). Second of all, I noticed a huge amount of fall out from the Urban Decay shadows. This means that I would find powder under my eyes or near my cheek bones from the shadow not sticking to my eyelid and falling down onto my face. When I would go to clean it up, it would smear across my skin and ruin the rest of my makeup. 

Unimpressed with the expensive Urban Decay palettes, I bought a knock-off version at Target. I didn't care for this, either, because the colors were not vibrant once you applied them, and they creased and wore off very quickly. 

So, I took a chance on the Addiction Shadow Palette, and holy mustard-- I know why they call them "Addiction." I started with Number Three, which is a pinky/purple toned palette. I absolutely LOVED how rich the colors were, how they didn't fall down onto my face, and how they wore all day with no creasing (especially if you wear the primer on your eyelid before applying - see #2). The shadows are such high quality that they almost look like cream shadows on first appearance. They do not have large flecks of glitter, and every shade is wearable. You can create natural eye looks, dramatic eye looks, and everything in between. I love the palette idea because you know that any combination of the colors will go perfectly together. 

After loving palette number three, I purchased number one. This is the brown/nude tones, and this is PERFECT for everyday wear. To me, this palette will work with all skin tones, all hair colors, and all eye colors. I wear this one nearly every day, and again, it is nowhere close to being gone. I apply them dry or wet for a more dramatic look. These suckers do. not. crease. They last from 6 am until 10 pm. I am not kidding. I wouldn't lie to you. 

I also love that these shadows are made in Italy. Everything about them feels rich.

5. Beachfront Bronzer in Sunset. I wear bronzer year round as blush. I like the natural look, and I can always use a little color on my face. In the summer, I wear it a little more. Several months ago, I went to Ulta looking for a new bronzer that was not full of shimmer and also wasn't the color of mud. I had one that I really liked from Too Faced for a while, and when that one finally ran out, I decided to purchase the Beachfront Bronzer in the color Sunset. This color is for lighter skin. I absolutely love this bronzer. It has a matte side and a shimmer side, but the shimmer is very subtle. The color is natural and not red or mud colored. When you are fair skinned and wear bronzer, it is important not to look like you just participated in a Tough Mudder. Unless you just participated in a Tough Mudder, and in that case, go on with your bad self. 

So, can you tell I am obsessed? When you click the above links, you will see that I am listed as a "presenter." I am not really a presenter. I have never hosted a party. I don't have a presenter Facebook page. I am simply a presenter to get the presenter's discount on my own products because it is silly not to.

I dare you to replace one of your daily wear cosmetic items with one of these. You'll be hooked, no doubt.

What are some of your favorite products for a natural makeup look?