In a year...

In a year...

This was once my mantra. Those first few years of motherhood. When I was knee deep in it, sleep deprived and stuck, I would tell myself that in a year things would be better. Caitlin would be older. She would sleep better, eat better, I'd manage things better. In a year I'd be a better mother. And then the next year would come, and with it more obstacles, complications, and bumps in the road.

Still, I told myself that in a year it would be better. Others told me too. The knowing "grandmas" at the grocery stores, "Don't blink or you'll miss it". The other mothers with children older than mine, "They will grow out of that". The mothers with children the same age as mine, "It's a phase, I'm sure of it". All the while giving me that false sense of security that in time all that crap that weighed me down would reconcile itself.

This time last year I was knee deep in it again. With my first born, who I've with struggled since day one. This time last year we were in a place where anxiety and fear took over every bit of our days. Her anxiety and fear, my misunderstanding and sometimes disapproval. This time last year she cried every morning on the way to school, as if a switch had been flipped sometime around Thanksgiving. She refused to go to music class, refused to participate in the Holiday program, and out right refused to attend school the day of the program in fear that someone would make her participate anyway. And when I say refuse, I mean hysterical crying with whole body shakes. It was a sight. And it was something I didn't know how to handle.

This time last year, her and I fought constantly. To the point where one of us, or both of us, were reduced to tears, then screaming, then resigned to guttural animal noises. I'm not proud to say that, or even admit it, but it's true. It was supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, but I'll be honest with you, it was also the most confusing when it came to Caitlin. How did we go from loving school and music class, to hot mess express in just a few weeks time? To this day we still do not know what caused that anxiety and fear.

It's been a year. In fact last Thursday was the annual Holiday Program at school. In the weeks leading up to the program, I listened to my daughter practice "Blue Christmas" in her bedroom. I took her shopping for a new dress. Grandma took her shopping for new shoes. We found the perfect headband. And all the while I was saying silent prayers that nothing would tip the scales the other way. I prayed that anxiety and her bitch friend fear would keep their filthy mouths shut. Because my girl was excited and ready, and couldn't stop talking about how much fun it was going to be.

We made it to Thursday. At breakfast she mentioned a poem that she was reading with two of her friends. It was the first I had heard of it. I asked her what it was about and she said Hanukkah. She was excited and talkative and really wanted me to post her dress on Instagram. I let out a sigh of relief. And thought... What a difference a year makes.

Imagine my surprise when I arrived at the program to find my daughter in the front row off to the right. In front of a microphone, with two of her friends. She looked a little nervous, and I worried for her, and then worried more for me. But when she saw us (Me, Daddy, Grandma Linda, and Grandma Kathy) she had smiles for all of us. The program began with "Blue Christmas" and I teared up. It took everything I had not to cry big fat happy and sad tears. Because so much changes in a year.

I had to hold my breath for most of the performance because if I had allowed myself to breathe I would have cried like a baby. I was so proud and so happy for her. Happy that anxiety and fear had not gotten the best of her this year. Happy and proud that she led the entire second grade in a Hanukkah poem, with two of her friends, at the microphone, in front of a packed cafeteria. Happy and proud that she was so happy, comfortable, and proud of herself. That she basked in the light of being on stage and did a fantastic job. I was so happy and proud that she knows what that feels like.

But some of those tears were for sadness too. Because so much changes in a year. She went up a size in clothes this year, up a reading level in school. She makes her own lunch and picks out her own clothes, and sometimes would rather hang with dad than mom. Because for so long I just wanted to get to the other side of that year. The one that was hard, the one I felt like I couldn't get through, and then when I did get through I was left wondering if I savored every bit. If I enjoyed every moment, learned from every misstep, valued every lesson. I've learned so much from having Caitlin as my daughter because she taught me that no matter the challenge there is joy in every step. Joy in every misstep. Joy in every part of the journey. Even if I'm blind to it at the time, it's there for me when I'm ready.

Sunday night Caitlin brought me a book she wrote for me using computer paper, tape, and markers. The book is dedicated to Me, Daddy, and Kenzie, it opens the wrong way, and it's only four pages long. It's the best gift I've gotten this year because of these three lines,

"Wuns upon a time there was two people who had a baby.
She was perfect.
Everything was perfect."

And again, I cried. Because it is the absolute truth. Even though I didn't know it at the time. She is perfect. Everything is perfect. In its own way. The day she was born, perfect was redefined. I was struck that my daughter who challenges me, fights me, and loves me,  obviously "gets" me. She has always known that everything is perfect, no matter the year.

Wore {November 2014}

Because November ended almost two weeks ago... Because this was my last chance to show off some outfits I slapped together. Because I just love the Outfit of the Day Selfie.

Let's talk about finding an old maternity sweater you bought when you weren't even pregnant, in the back of your closet on the first weekend of November. I wore this sweater almost three years ago for family pictures. And unless I tell people, they have no idea that it's maternity.

Something about this scarf said Fall is upon us. And it was the first truly cold day in Fresno, so I wore the outfit on the left to work, came home and put on jeans for my Walmart trip, as evidenced on the right. Incidently I wore the same outfit three weeks later for Thanksgiving. If I had thought it through, I would have worn that scarf, every day of November.

I really, really wanted to wear this plaid shirt to work. Alone, without the cardi, it looked too casual. So, I added the cardi, but the sleeves of the shirt bunched. So... I cut the sleeves off of the shirt so I could layer it. I've done this with like ninety percent of my collared or flannel shirts. I leave the seam of the sleeve so it doesn't fray, and I wear them more often because I can layer them. The Hubbs thinks it ridiculous, but he just doesn't understand that bunchy sleeves are not my jam.

Fall in Fresno is hit or miss, so this was an actual dipction of my day. Scarf, sweater, jeggings, and boots in the morning. Toms, button down, and jeans in the afternoon. I haven't cut the sleeves off this pink button down yet... But I'm pretty sure it's going to happen.

This is a gratitutios selfie because I was super proud of my new camo shirt, that I cut the sleeves off. I know, I have a problem, someone should take my scissors away. But this shirt was so fun to wear, and adding the hoops and the necklace dressed it up in an unexpected way. The shirt was on clearance at Target, for like eleven bucks.

I do this thing on Instagram where I will say "Pinned it. Wore it". It's kind of bragging, but it's also very honest as I will go thorough my Pinterest boards for outfit inspiration the night before I work. I wore a brown cardi because I couldn't find my ivory one. I think I would have liked this outfit better with the Ivory.

I pulled all the stops for Black Friday. My printed Christmas scarf, with another maternity sweater, and jeggings. For the record, this maternity scarf was actually purchased for maternity purposes. I added the long sleeved shirt, because it was actually chilly the day after Thanksgiving. Also to continue to be transparent on this blog, I bought Christmas Tree earrings at work to complete the outfit. Yeah, I was totally that person on Black Friday.

Another Pinned it, Wore it attempt. On this night I was super sick, super tired, and super over the fact that I had to work until ten at night. Thanks Pinterest for making it easy.

To end November, the family and I got all fancy and went to the Nutcracker. I wasn't super excited about my booties, but I didn't have any other shoes that I could wear for longer than ten minutes. The dress is super old, and is not only my "asshole in a dress" dress, but a dress I blogged about before. Short story: It's from Ann Taylor Loft, originally eighty eight dollars, I paid nineteen ninety nine. I wear it every possible chance I get. Even if that ends with me being an asshole in a dress.

Once upon a time there was a girl named Megan, who had a subscription to InStyle, who idolized Carrie Bradshaw, who once bought a pair of suede, stacked heeled pumps and then had to create an outfit around them. Megan always wore make-up, always remembered to curl her eyelashes, and always wore lipstick. Then she had kids, forgot about things like mascara, traded InStyle for Parents Magazine, and packed all the pretty shoes away. Today you will find her mostly in jeans older than her youngest daughter, or on the days she works, posting Outfits of The Day on Instagram.

Days filled with... {Life Lately}

I've found that I have to fill my days with moments for me. I never realized how valuable time really is. It's the hottest commodity around. Sometimes I think that I wasted days, let them pass, empty, never bothering to fill them with what matters. I've tried to change that in the last year. Tried to fill the time that I do have with memories and moments, and to be present for those around me. November was like that. Trying to fill every day with a little something, a memory, a moment, a treat.

When I was a little girl, my mom's best friend, Sandi, invited me to come over to her house and make cookies. This was a treat and a delight. My mom, did some baking, but she was a lot like me, if she could do it faster herself, that was the way to go. Baking with kids isn't efficient, it's usually messy and slow, and not for the faint of heart. At five, I knew nothing of those things. Sandi, was and is, in my mind, a master of the sugar cookie. She taught me the best ways to roll out dough, and use extra flour for cut outs. Sandi always had the best cookie cutters, vintage from the forties, passed down from her mother. I looked forward to making cookies with her every year, for every holiday, but as time went on and I grew up, we did our cookie baking less and less. Then when I was in high school she moved away, and cookie baking lost it's magic. Then I had kids of my own and that first year I baked with Caitlin the magic returned, yet the whole time all I could think of was, "Sandi should be here too".

This year, Sandi came to visit, and baking cookies was on her list of things to do. She couldn't wait to bake cookies with my girls. I'm not sure who was more excited. It was a wonderful and beautiful afternoon, filled with love and nostalgia, and stories I had never heard before. The girls loved baking with Sandi, and were very impressed that she jumped right in with flour up to her elbows. And by the time we were done with the cookies, we were so tired and our bodies stiff, but we were also so full. Full of joy and blessings and friendships that not only stood the test of time, but continue to stand the tests of generations.

It was a day filled with sugar, sprinkles, and smiles.

Some days are just made for ice cream dinners. For example, Fridays are my six a.m. days at work, and by the time I pick up Caitlin from school, I'm so tired I could go to bed right then and there. For whatever reason, I decided that it was a grand time to make tamales. So off to the Mexican grocer for supplies. It was packed and the kids started getting hangry, and so I walked up to the ice cream counter (because they have one) and ordered dinner. Sometimes you just have to go with it. Some days just beg to be filled with chocolate ice cream.

I got sick the Friday before Thanksgiving. With zero time off, I was able to finagle a few hours of rest before work. So from the couch, I watched Twilight with my seven year old, and wouldn't you know, the Cullens made me feel loads better. A cuddly blanket, hot water with honey and lemon, and a few hours of rest made me feel good enough to slap on some make-up for work. This day was filled with gratitude for a boss that knew that rest was what I needed, and gratitude for a daughter who knew that the Cullens help every ailment.

Most school days are filled with homework and errands and dance classes. Recently, most school days have been a blur. But on this school day, we stopped and took note that our girl is doing great at school. She is growing up to be quite the young lady, and she was quite proud of this achievement, and so was I. This day was filled with pride that even when you think you are failing at all the things, you realize that you must be doing something right.

We filled some of our days with gluten free treats. We have recently switched Caitlin to a gluten free diet with great results (more on that to come). On this day we took the Betty Crocker gluten free yellow cake for a spin. I think she like it.

Mackenzie fills most days with debauchery. She is curious (read: nosy), she is funny (read: sarcastic), and she is always on a mission (read: bossy). Most days you will find her making elaborate meals in her play kitchen or dressing Monster High dolls for a fashion show. Mackenzie fills her days with what makes her happy, much to the dismay of those around her, because Mackenzie's happy isn't always a general happy. Whatever, she's the baby, we let her, and when she asks if she can play in her sister's make up, I say, sure why not... Not bad for a first time right?

November brought us days filled with snot and coughs and fevers. It sucked, but we survived, mostly. I'm still nursing a sinus infection, the girls still have coughs. But on this rare day off for all three of us, we made going to the doctor a real event. Filled with Starbucks, McNuggets, and even a trip to Target.

Because when your days are filled with work and chores and things you have to do, sometimes you just have to stop and fill them with things that make you happy. Which in my book always includes Starbucks, Instagram, and the people I love.

A Christmas First {2014}

Our tree is finally up. This is no small feat considering someone or everyone in this house has been sick for the last two weeks. Add to that the fact that I am a retail warrior, working almost every day, while listening to Mariah Carey slaughter every Christmas song you thought you liked. Then finally
coming home every day too overwhelmed and exhausted to decorate, bake, craft, or even think about Christmas. I had lofty goals to decorate my house and set up my tree Thanksgiving weekend. Go ahead, laugh, but it's good to have goals, even if they are lofty and totally unrealistic.

I knew that this Christmas would be different. You don't take a job in retail and have an honest thought that your Christmases will ever look the same. I told myself over and over, as summer turned to Fresno's excuse for fall, and as November first turned into November thirtieth that I would have to let go of those "holiday ideals". The ones that involved Pinterest and advents, and really inventive Elves on Shelves. I told myself, it will be okay, you'll have fun anyway, you can do this...

Then I realized that there were roughly twenty days before Christmas and I cried. I cried most of Thanksgiving week and some of this week too. Every time I saw their little faces notice the lights on the neighbors house, or realize that "so and so" had their tree up, heard them ask about our tree and the stuffed Rudolphs or for Buddy, I died a little inside.

I realize now that working mothers have been doing this dance for years. The slow waltz of balance and bullshit. What to let go of and what to do. Do you kill yourself day and night? Do you stay up to hand make the advent calendar filled with "events" you will never have time for? Do you squeeze in cookie decorating on a school night? Do you do your Christmas shopping on your lunch or online only? How do you enjoy this almost thirty day period between Thanksgiving and Christmas without crying over every broken candy cane?

I'm sure this sounds really stupid. I talked to my best friend about it and she was irate at the idea that I'm going to have a shitty Christmas in my mind because I can't "do all of the things". She reminded me that just because it's not hand made by me with my own blood, sweat, and tears, doesn't mean it's not the best I could offer my children. She wanted to know why I was so upset about the things I couldn't do this Holiday season. Why I was focusing on the crafts that I wouldn't get to, and the baking that wasn't going to happen ever? And until I sat down to write this post, I didn't really know either.

It occurs to me that the reason I'm fretting over Advents and Elves and Trees (Oh, My!), is because I want to do all of those things. I want to craft and bake and make my house "Pinterest worthy". Not because I need to share it and not because I want to be the queen of social media or Pinterest, but because it's what I want. I don't want perfection, I don't even want it all to match, but damn it, I really do want to make an effing reindeer heads out of wooden spoons! I want to dress my Elf on The Shelf up and have him do funny things like grab Barbie's boobs and put that shit on Instagram. I want to bake pins I pinned three years ago, because I've been meaning to bake that shit for three years.

And maybe that will happen, and maybe it won't. And maybe I'll have a great Christmas anyway.

In addition to my best friend reminding me that we (her and I) never had Advent Calendars or Elves on our Shelves, and look at us, we are fine; She also reminded me that all my kids want this Christmas is me. Me. Their mother. They just want me to be present, with no tears, or only tears of joy. They want my smile and my laughter. They want their mother to realize that they don't care about the Advent or the Elf or even the Charlie Brown Christmas special that I will forget to DVR. All they care about is having Mommy at Christmas.

So here I am, December fourth. My Christmas shopping isn't done. My Christmas cards are somewhere in transit. My tree is up, my Nativity is down, and all my decorations are still in the living room waiting on me. I'm pretty sure the Hubbs is giving me until tomorrow to remedy that shit. And yes Virginia, we have an Advent. It's from Trader Joe's. It was ninety nine cents, and by the Glory of the dear Lord himself, it has an activity on every tiny door to a chocolate, thereby making my life easier. Thank you Trader Joe's for understanding that the handmade, activity advent was never going to happen this year, and thank you for understanding that I didn't want to pay more than a dollar for twenty four chocolates.

It looks like I just might make it this Christmas. I just might enjoy myself. I'm going to take it one day at a time. I'm going to buy store bought when I can. And I'm going to be here, decorating or not decorating, baking or not baking, crafting or not crafting. Does it really matter? Will my kids really remember that year that mommy went back to work and didn't make ornaments out of pipe cleaners?

Probably not. The only thing they will remember is that Santa came through with that trip to Disneyland and those t-shirts fit for a snow queen. And I will remember the looks on their faces and that they in fact, still loved me anyway.

Day 3 on the Trader Joe's advent: Family Picture

This post was inspired by Lisa Jo Baker and her "There is no Advent Police".

Thankful 2014 {and Family Pictures}

Thanksgiving came and went. It was all so quick and sudden. Most likely because we were all sick in the week leading up to the big day. The week of Thanksgiving was a blur, full of doctor appointments and trips to Whole Foods and baking. I'm still traumatized by the baking! But we made it and we survived, and at the end of the day Thursday, I laid my head down with the realization that I was indeed thankful. Thankful for my family, my parents and grandparents, my Husband and my children. Even though the last month was so incredibly hard, knowing that the next month isn't going to be any easier. For every folly, there was a blessing. I'm so incredibly blessed that I have my family, the ones that traveled far to see us, the ones who live down the street. I'm so lucky to have the friends that I do, who send texts to say, "Hang in there", "Don't work too hard", and "Thinking of you". This year has been so challenging, so demanding, so full of follies, that sometimes I'm blind to the blessings. Until I look into the eyes of the ones I love and know, they love me back, they love me anyway, they love me despite. And that is more than I could ever ask. 

Photo credit goes to the amazing Laura Hernandez. She makes us look beautiful. Thanks Laura!