Real Life with Rita: It All Passes Too Fast

As of yesterday… I am two weeks out from my due date. It’s a time when many expectant moms are ever-so-anxious to meet their little one and be done with all that comes with pregnancy.

And there are plenty of good reasons for it… Who doesn’t want to finally see the precious face of a a newborn baby–especially one that is your own? Not to mention the level of discomfort that you have at this point in the game. Having an extra 30 pounds on my midsection and a basketball size weight in my front while chasing toddlers is not exactly my favorite thing. By 38 weeks doctors tell us the baby is safe for delivery anyway, so why not hope for things to move along sooner rather than later?

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I have never had expectations for an early delivery this time around. Maybe it’s because Jacob went past his due date and my hoping/wondering if I’d go into labor those last two weeks just caused it to drag on. But I think the truth is, with this being my third pregnancy in three years, I instead realize the pricelessness of time more than ever before. Time marches on at the same beat no matter what. This baby will arrive. This baby will grow. This time will pass.

It will pass all too fast. It all passes too fast.

I see my friends posting pictures of their babies that I feel like were born a week ago, but already they are 1, 2, 3, 4 months old! What?? My nephew is nearly a year old and I feel like it was last month we were waiting on his arrival! Jacob is a full-on toddler speaking words and playing silly games with Dorothy. Dorothy is a little girl who plays imaginary games, draws pictures that actually look like things and speaks in full sentences.

I’ve been asked if I’m all “ready” and if I have my bags packed, etc. I kind of laugh and shrug saying something about, “Oh baby number three… We have stuff. We’ll be fine.” I think some take that to mean I’m not excited. It’s actually the opposite. With Dorothy’s pregnancy, I was so excited, but I didn’t know what I was excited for. It was all a mystery. The only thing I knew to do with that excitement was to make lists and try to prepare. With Jacob, he was so soon after Dorothy, I was lost in the fog of still raising the baby Dorothy was (not even walking when I found out I was pregnant) in addition to building a house. I was excited but very much distracted with so many other excitements in my life.

 

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This time, I am excited because I KNOW what is in store and that it will be over in a blink and that there is nothing I can do to slow time down. All I can possibly do is live in the moment and not be anticipated the next one. Call me crazy, but my baby has not even been born and I already get sad about how quickly it will be suddenly be ‘big’.

It’s better to live in these final moments of feeling this babe wiggle inside of me.
It’s better to enjoy the magic of hearing it’s heart beat at the doctor appointments.
It’s better to capture the opportunity to talk to Dorothy about what will happen when the baby is born and ask her questions to hear her perspective on something she doesn’t fully understand yet.
It’s better to snuggle a little longer with Jacob while he is still my “baby” and I am not being pulled away by an infant that needs me.
It’s better to fully participate in the fun of taking two toddlers to the park or trick-or-treating.

I already spent too much time in the first three years of parenthood anticipating the next thing for my children or my life. Looking for the next milestone or next development. Those things come regardless of anticipating them.

I have a close friend due about a week ahead of me. It is their first. They had an induction scheduled, so they knew it was their last night at home together sans-baby. I thought so much about them that entire night. They knew it was their last night at home, just them, but they really had no idea what that meant. You can’t know how your life will change and how YOU will change. Adding baby number 3 (I imagine) is not quite the same as the change you experience with number one when you first enter parenthood, but after 2+ years of having a ‘baby’ in my house, I do know that life right now–two toddlers and no nursing baby, is different from what it will be when this baby arrives. It’s more of a change than just having our family grow by a number. This time of just Jacob and Dorothy playing, dancing, doing activities and chores…This time will pass and be a snippet of a memory in my life. By the time this baby is at a toddler age, Dorothy will be nearly five! FIVE… Are you getting it yet? TIME DOES NOT STOP. If anything, I think it speeds up.

 

In a blink, this baby will be here and life will be completely different. And in another blink, it won’t be a baby.

 

 

It’s easy to wish this baby were here now so I could know if it’s a boy a girl and hold it and see it with Dot and Jake–and be done with the preggo belly. But what is two more weeks? It’s two more weeks of this special time with my two toddlers. It’s two more weeks of soaking in the kicks and braxton hicks and the magic that is carrying a life inside.

It’s two short weeks.

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Real Life with Rita: Finding Fall

I admit it. I’ve slacked in the blogging world.

I used to not understand when other bloggers said they’d lost motivation or had writers block. You can always find something to write about, right? I learned that as a journalist with a deadline. But when you have a million other things on your plate… Finding time to write a blog post when no topic is motivating you to sit down usually means it just doesn’t happen.

August was busy, making it hard to focus. But September, I just lost motivation. Maybe it was the fact I was expecting the fall season to begin moving on to fall blog topics, but instead the Bluegrass decided to hold onto the 90-degree weather, making scarves, boots and pumpkin spice lattes not really fit the vibe. Here we all wanted to change out our wardrobes, sip on warm drinks and enjoy the sites and smells of fall, but instead we were still planning trips to the pool to cool off!

The good news is September 22 welcomed the first “official” day of Fall and the following week saw the 60-70 degree days we’d been anticipating. And, given I still have pretty much zero spare time in my life, I do want to get back to my regular blogging.

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Blogging may not have been a high priority last month, but enjoying adventures with the two tots was. While I am anxious to meet our growing peanut (Dorothy named it (him?) George), I am doing my best to get out and have fun with Jake and Lou. Chasing two toddlers wears a mama out, but just imagining what it will be like next year at this time–with three and one that hardly if even walking–is exhausting.

I started the month with a baby shower/girls night. Some of my closest gal pals and I hosted a baby shower for two fellow mamas-to-be. Their due dates sandwich mine in November. (11/4, 11/10, 11/17) but they are both first-time moms. I decided to take the kiddos to Louisville with me the night before the event while Mingus stayed home and had all the husbands at our house for man-activities (including building our garage!) Taking two toddlers for an overnight trip somewhere other than one of the grandparent’s house can be intimidating, but I’ve learned it’s best to roll with it and make it work. It’s good for me and for them. We enjoyed a trip to the neighborhood park before they hit the hay, and then it freed me up for a cozy night of much-needed girl talk with two of my favorite ladies–something I rarely get anymore! We all enjoyed the shower the next day as well. If you have ever gone through pregnancy with a close friend, you know the special bond and joy you share, knowing you’ll have little ones to grow up so closely.

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The next week was low key, but I did make an impromptu shoe-shopping trip for Dorothy. I’d hoped to take on the task at a time when I could have some assistance in order to focus Lou on shoes while someone kept track of wily Jake, but I’ve started forcing myself to worry less about going into ever task with ideal kiddo conditions. It’s better to just take on the task and see how it goes. Even if ends up disastrous… you do survive, you might accomplish a little, and you learn something to help with the next occasion. I definitely learned Once Upon a Child in Lexington was a much better kid consignment choice than Re-Kid. At least with kids in tow. Re-Kid was incredibly too packed (aisle so close together), so unless the kids were right next to me, they were easily out of site. Also the organization was kind of all over the place (particularly when it came to finding shoes in specific sizes easily). Unfortunately, that was my first stop. I did find a couple of pairs of cute boots for Lou, but I wanted out fast! I nearly skipped the second stop, but being that I’d made the trip to Lex and Once Upon A Child was only a few minutes away, it seemed silly not to at least pop in. I’m glad I did and it was much less stressful than the previous stop. In the end, I felt I’d accomplished what I’d come for. Oh, and did I mention the trip included the bonus of a stop to see none other than Holly Jo and her precious girlies.

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Mingus was away the next weekend and we had plans to travel to St. Louis for a wedding shower, but those maternal instincts told me my kiddos needed some deceleration in their lives. Instead we stayed home–went nowhere–all weekend. We had a great time and everyone was in fantastic moods. It even helped move Dorothy through some of the threenager habits she’d been developing and I’ve seen SO much less of it since. Sometimes I think that’s all a toddler needs. We, as parents, are always filling up schedules because of so many invites and options. It is easy to forget how the constant change in routine and going disrupts a little ones life. Sometimes it is our duty as parents to sacrifice the things we’d like to be go-go-going and doing in order to let the kids be kids in their own little peaceful world.

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Despite the warm weather, the kids and I had a week of fun celebrating fall that included nature hikes and afternoons outside. The following week we moved on to apples, which included a trip to Haney’s Appledale Farm to celebrate the first day of fall. It’s just a small farm, but plenty of apples for picking, a play area, picnic tables and treats for purchase. I went with two of my dear friends and their littles. Between three moms we had six under age three (plus my bun in the oven!): two almost-3-year olds, two 18-month olds, and two 3-month olds! It’s days like those that I remember how blessed my life currently is and how much there is to cherish. I know I’ll look back at these ‘good old days’ with my kiddos and friends when times were slow and simple in their own right. Sure, toddlers are exhausting, but spending a day to take in the joy of something as simple as picking apples with friends is what life is all about: the simple joys.

That weekend was our local Apple Festival. It’s the most time I’ve spent at the event since moving back to the area five years ago. Having two kids that could actually enjoy aspects of the festival–and not having to carry any babies–made it a must. Hubs was heavily involved with the fire department, which actually was a huge perk for me. Not only was there a spacious booth right in front of the grassy town hall  lawn where we could easily sit for a break, but it gave me reason to feel welcome at the city fire department building where we could cool off and little Lou could use an actual bathroom and NOT a port-a-pot! We watched the parade, enjoyed some carnival treats, rode some rides–partook in the giant apple pie AND giant cookie.

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The fall weather finally arrived this past week and we laid low at home, but I was happy to be pulling out the long pants and boots and sipping on tea both morning and at night. Now October has arrived and I think it’s safe to call it the fall season. We have less than six weeks until we are a family of five, and I can’t think of a better month to soak up the final days of life as we know it. We’ve already planned a trip to the pumpkin patch and have some birthday fun on the agenda for our soon-to-be 3 year old! Mingus and I are about to hit our 5-year wedding anniversary and, while we may not be doing anything extravagant, I think we have a lot to show for five years. Oh, and who could forget the amazing holiday all about costumes and candy?! I think the only fall-fun I am missing out on is football action! I have some hopes to see our currently undefeated high school team under the Friday night lights in the coming weeks.

Cheers to a Happy October to all of you! Fall is for real now and we know what jolly season follows!

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Real Life with Rita: Embarking on Life with a Threenage

Remember how I started the month reporting my One Simple Change update and how some of my adjustments with the kids had gone? I told you how surprisingly smooth it all was?

No more pacifier for Dot? No fight.
Two kids, one room? Sure!

Well, something then happened during the month of August. I think it’s a pretext to that thing I have heard about for years called “the threenager”.

I always heard of the “terrible twos”, but threenager was a new term I started hearing a few years ago, alongside noticing more and more people talk about three-year-old toddlers pushing the limits and sanity and patience of parents to a whole new level that two never saw. A year ago, my pediatrician (who has two daughters) explained it in a simple but sensible way: At two, a toddler acts out without any understanding. They are learning and trying to understand when things don’t go their way. At three, a toddler knows what they are doing and they begin to push to find out where limits exist–if at all.

Like every child, Dorothy has her traits and tendencies that make her difficult, but for the most part, she is a very agreeable child and aims to please. (Translation: I think I’ve had it pretty easy.) She doesn’t even like it when my facial expression changes to that of disappointment or concern. She will ask, “Mama, are you happy?” even when she just hears me directing a stern tone at Jake. But I am beginning to see her explore her independence and it is coupled with experimenting with trying to mimic what she sees in others. This includes actual people and things she sees on TV. I’ve always been particular about wha she can and can’t watch, but I am now finding fault with shows I was OK with for the past year.

For example,  Max and Ruby, an old Nickelodeon cartoon based on a book series, is super cute and something she’s always loved. However, I’ve found her mimicking Max’s tendency to use one word phrases repeatedly. He is the younger character and I suppose this is the extent of his vocab. In her case, it’s led to being less polite. Instead of asking, “Please, may I have more soup?” she will yell, “More!” or “Soup!” Mingus and I have been very committed to working on reminding her to use her manners and speak properly.

Even worse, the one word phrases have branched into two of any parents least favorite phrases: “No” and “Why”. She will even say “No” at times when her actions follow direction. While I’m glad she isn’t completely defying me, I still want to quickly correct this habit of rudely responding “No” to myself or anyone, for that matter. Both the “why” and “no” tend to be in whiney tones that drive me bonkers and continue no matter what response I give. (I have started using the “Because I said so” line frequently or even more simply: I don’t respond at all!)

The worst, though, is the disaster of nap time or bed time. She has never liked sleep. As an infant it was a constant battle. (She didn’t even like being cuddled or rocked!) Sometime after our early August vacation, she started defying bedtime. She goes through the bedtime routine just fine. She’s content to move from bedtime snack to books. She gets a little wiley by prayer time and singing, and that’s usually when Jon and I depart, but now she begs us to stay, comes out of the room a complete crying disaster.

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I am working hard to find a balance between accepting that she is moving into a new age and phase where questioning limits and boundaries is completely natural, but I also do not want to accept this as an excuse for her poor behavior developments. I also recognize that this little soul is extremely sensitive. She crosses quickly from A-OK to distraught and nearly unconsolable when she feels disappointment or disapproval coming down on her.

Additionally, I remind myself that she is not even three years old yet. It is easy to have unrealistic expectations for her when it is only a matter of months and she will be the oldest of three children. I have to realize that while I want her to behave a certain way, she is still learning much of what my expectations even are and her vocabulary is limited, so my reprimands and instructions are not always understood. In short, I need to keep my patience intact and not expect her to figure these things out without some guidance and attention.

I still consider myself blessed with the kind of child Dorothy is at this age. No one said any of it would be easy, but I am beginning to realize just how easy I have had it, particularly through the first 18 months of Jacob’s life. Despite having two kids so young and close in age, together they made it feel (more or less) like a walk in the park. These last few weeks have just been a wake-up call to the reality that Dorothy is just a normal child who is waking up to the reality of her freedoms and if I don’t put layout expectations for her behavior, they will spiral out of control.

For those of you who have been through this and similar stages with your kids, how did you move through it best?

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12 Ideas for Celebrating Your Birthday as an Adult

My birthday is tomorrow!! But let’s be honest, by your late 20s and into your 30s and 40s, it’s not uncommon for your birthdays to have lost their sha-bang. Either you feel it’s unnecessary to make it a big deal or request big events or your life is just too full of other things (career, kids, etc) to stop and celebrate. If you’re like me, the day sneaks up on you. Honestly, I still always love my birthday no matter how low key, because it’s awesome to receive the texts and Facebook messages and even small acts of acknowledgement. Anything bigger is icing on the cake.

But that does not mean one should feel guilty about wanting to do something fun or memorable for a birthday. Plus, there are ways to celebrate that don’t necessarily mean tons of money or time. Here is a list of ideas for yourself or to plan for someone special in your life whom you feel deserves a memorable day.

1.Go all out with dessert or drinks
Birthday meals are great and all but great drinks and great desserts are really the way to celebrate. Try doing finger foods or appetizers for your main birthday meal and instead focus on an elaborate and fun dessert. If sweets aren’t your thing then go all out with your drinks. Come up with a fun new drink to try.
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2. Celebrate like a Hobbit
J.R.R. Tolkien’s Hobbits celebrate birthdays in a unique way where the one having a birthday gives gifts. (In their case, it is because they are infamous for accumulating way too much stuff and this is a way to get rid of things.) If you have kids, I think this is a great tradition to teach and start with them. We should always remember that even though a birthday is a fun reason to feel celebrated, know our lives would not be what they are without the special people we have in them. Find a way to fit the Hobbit tradition into your own birthdays.

3. Have a day out while the house is cleaned
Maybe it’s just me, but the one thing about throwing a party, having people over or any kind of birthday activity is that it tends to result in a mess needing cleaned up afterward (and sometimes pre-cleaning as well). Avoid creating extra work for yourself on your birthday and instead plan a day out–either with special people or solo– and have your house cleaned for you while gone. You can hire someone to come in or someone you know (your kids and/or husband, for example) can do the cleaning as a gift.

4. Have a themed party and dress-up
Make a get-together with friends a little different for your birthday. There are plenty of occasions where you all dress up nice (showers, weddings, holidays), so try something a little fun and different to make your celebration special. Throwback to the days of high school or college and have a decade-themed party. (70’s/80’s/90’s) Some other ideas are to dress as favorite movie or TV characters, have a luau even if you don’t live near the beach, a pajama party (and play board games!) or a “formal prom” or a Goodwill inspired party where you find attire at a local Goodwill. You can even simplify it further and have fun accessories for a laugh. One year we all wore temporary tattoos for my birthday.

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Birthday 2010

5. Date Night or Girls’ Night
Whether your work keeps you busy, you have moved away from many close friends, or you are involved with children, it is likely you don’t get a lot of time to just have fun the way you once did. Plan a date night with your husband only or a girls’ night if that is what you are in need of. I, for one, rarely get either. Between now having kids to accommodate for and the fact we live away from most of our friends, nights or days out like we had in our early 20s are few and far between. There is no better excuse than your birthday to plan special time away from normal life and celebrate like your 22 again.

6. Do a Bucket List item
Rather than a standard gift, think about all of the random things you’d love to try–your bucket list–and choose one (or more!) to try. Experiences are what make life memorable and your birthday is a perfect time to have a memorable and new experience. Maybe it’s something like zip-lining or skydiving; maybe it’s taking a class (cooking or dance). Don’t let life just pass you by.

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Celebrating a friend’s birthday… atop a firetruck!

7. Take a Mini Roadtrip
An adventure doesn’t have to include a plane flight or a 14-hour drive somewhere. You might be surprised the fun you could have with a mini-getaway roadtrip. Even a night out at a hotel in a nearby city is something that everyday life doesn’t present. As adults we have plenty of excuses to not have time or money for things that aren’t a part of the daily grind, but if you don’t make time for special adventures, they won’t happen on their own. Pick a place. Pick the people. Get away.

8. Let the Kids plan your party
If you have kids–especially young children–you may find planning a special event for your birthday is more work than it’s worth. So make it memorable by bringing them into your celebration. What child doesn’t like a birthday party? Live vicariously through your kids and feel young again. Let them help you pick decorations and set up a party. Let them help decorate the cake. You only have so many years where you will celebrate your birthday with your children at their young excitable age, so cherish it.

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9. Make a Mix CD/Playlist
How do teens make their mix tapes these days? I highly doubt they do mix CDs like we did, but surely to goodness creating your own personal soundtracks to life is still the thing to do. Do it for your birthday. Fill a playlist/cd/whatever works for you, with songs that make you happy and play it throughout the day. The other things I love about mix tapes/cds, is finding old ones. I can put one in and it takes me back to a certain era of my life. Be sure to hang on to the one you create and in 10 years, listen to it again on your birthday and feel 10 years younger!

10. Take a family picture
Start a tradition of taking a family photo on your birthday. It’s not uncommon to do an annual photo for your children’s birthday to see them grow year by year. Now, we my not physically change that much year-to-year, but our family does. It can include your spouse, significant other, pets, or children. It could also be a group shot of who you celebrated with that year. Do this every year and see how your family grows and evolves. (We do this each summer in the same location as something Jon and I did the first two years of being together even before marriage.)

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Annual family “Bench” photo: 2012

11. Journal the year’s highlights
Start a birthday journal and write down the highlights of your past year and aspirations for the coming year. I do something like this as a New Year’s tradition. It’s fun to look back on the accomplishments and happenings from the past years. I’m often surprised by things I wrote, thinking I’d “of course” remember them, but actually have forgotten. By writing hopes for the coming year, you can not only set goals for yourself, but it also records a place in time of who you were and what your life was all about.

12. Surprise parties truly are the best
Obviously this isn’t something you can plan for yourself, but if you are looking for ideas for someone else, I truly think everyone deserves to have a surprise party thrown at some point in their life. (Unless it is someone who would truly hate the experience for one reason or another.) Hubs did this for my 27th birthday and it was such wonderful fun. We’d been married less than a year and it had been a couple of years of living away from most of the friends I’d spent all of my early 20s with in daily life. To suddenly have them all gathered for a night of fun was the best gift.

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Surprise party!

Share in the comments your ideas for celebrating birthdays as an adult or something fun and unique you’ve done.

 

Real Life With Rita: Summer isn’t over yet

I hate that as July comes to a close, we mentally start moving into thoughts of “end of summer”. I’ll be the first to admit our recent spell of hot-hot-humidity has kept me indoors and doing anything BUT enjoying summer, but the reality is we have a solid six weeks of summer-y weather left. However, back-to-school mode is in full swing and marketing has shifted to playing on our love of fall weather. Even Dorothy has been talking about playing in the snow–slow it down, girlie!

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However, I’m still over here loving summertime. Maybe it’s the pregnancy; I can throw on tank tops, flip flops and running shorts and be comfortable very easily. (Bundling up with a belly can be a pain.) Maybe it’s the fact our vacation is still ahead of us. Who knows. Either way, I will say I feel like July went by quickly even though it seemed less eventful than June.

After hosting friends a family 4th of July weekend (and having Mingus home for 4-straight days!), we stayed in a lot. I made visits to a few friends who’ve recently had babies, but, otherwise, we’ve laid low.

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However, this weekend I will be packing up the kids for our first ‘family’ vacation, and I cannot deny the excitement I have for our Myrtle Beach trip. I am actually a little disappointed we are headed out later than planned due to some unexpected training that came up for Husband. The good news, the kids don’t feel that disappointment since they are too young to know the plan for departure anyway. We’ll just head out one day and they’ll be excited!

I suppose it seems natural to be excited over vacation–especially when you haven’t been on one in 4 years; however, the sensation is a little new to me. I did not grow up in a house where the word ‘vacation’ was used much outside of the general ‘summer vacation’ term. Often what we ended up considering a ‘vacation’ was a piggyback off of another planned trip… An extended stay in St. Louis for a family wedding; a week in Arkansas during my brother’s pole vault camp; North Carolina to get acquire a specific breed puppy… The only things close to standard family vacations we had were our Disney World trip, a road trip to Montana for a week of camping, and a beach trip to Florida; although this was with my aunt and cousin, not my father.

Most of my friends took regular summer vacations or spring break trips. I never really envied them or wondered why we couldn’t do such things. I loved my childhood. I loved what I saw as “vacation” and the time I spent with my family. If anything I wondered “why” people went on these trips, because in my mind there had to be purpose outside of it just being “vacation”.

Since being married, I’ve been blessed with a wonderful new family. One thing his parents love is the beach–particularly when it is shared with family. We passed on our opportunity for vacation with them two years ago when they were going to Disney World. I was pregnant with Jacob, Dorothy had just turned one and we had spent the year building the house and were prepping to move in; it felt more stressful to think about a week away than anything.

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This year we are traveling with the Harris family to stay in a condo on Myrtle Beach. It will be our family, his parents and his sister’s family of four. And while I did not grow up taking these kinds of vacations (where there was no ulterior motive for taking time away to travel somewhere as a family), I can say I am truly excited about this trip and am grateful for the opportunity. My gratitude comes so much in knowing that this is something I never would be doing by my own choice. (Ask Mingus to take off work so we can spend a week spending money while taking away from the things he could be getting done at home?? Never!)

I so look forward to seeing my two toddlers experience the beach for the first time. While I know they will love it, I also know Jacob will likely have no memory of the experience and Dorothy’s will be dreamlike if anything. That’s why I feel like this is a gift my in-laws are giving me, more than the kids, because I will have these memories—ones I would, without a doubt, not be getting otherwise. Every stage in these children’s lives is precious. It all bring so much joy to my life and I just cannot savor enough. The way they respond and react to everything; the things they say; their levels of excitement. Seeing them experience the beach at this age is a moment in time I get to capture that I won’t ever get again at any point in my life—an experience, that without my mother-in-law and father-in-law—I would never have.

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I am well aware this won’t be quite a ‘vacation’ like it was for Husband and I when we went with them to the beach in 2012 and were newly married with no kids. It will be work. It will be crazy and tiring, but luckily we’ll have the help of others and playmates for the kids.

I am grateful that I was brought up with the mindset that vacations were not something to be expected or something to be taken for granted; however, I am also grateful for a new family that has taught me that there is nothing wrong with taking time out to step away from ‘regular’ life and capture priceless memories with those you love most. Life is short and it’s what we make it. It’s important to spend your time feeling happy—whatever that is for you.  If that is being home, traveling—maybe even working—that is OK. Just do what makes you happy with the time you have here–and spend it with the people who matter.

Also, be sure to check out my July Vlog here!

Real Life with Rita: Sharing Simple Moments

Remember back in January and February when I was in full hibernation mode and the kids and I barely left the house? Well, summer is definitely the complete opposite. I love getting out and being active with my hooligans and that’s exactly what we’ve been up to.

Don’t get me wrong. I still like a relaxing day at home. I get a little stressed when I haven’t had the opportunity to take care of standard house chores like laundry, cleaning, bills, etc. but even on those days, it’s nice to go on a walk, check out the garden, play in the creek…

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June was busy–as expected. We rode on Thomas the Train, celebrated a family baptism, traveled to Indiana to see family, made numerous pool visits and the garden is coming on in full force. Because of so much activity, summer moves quickly, and with each passing year (and additional child!) I realize how much faster time is flying. The past five years have been so filled with major planned events–weddings, wedding showers, bachelorettes, birthdays, baby showers, holiday gatherings. These things create such a structure to the ‘free time’ we have in life that we just move quickly from one planned event to the next, and time marches onward.

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I recently read this article and it really hit home to me, speaking to the idea that a gathering of close people does not have to be about having a “perfect” plan or set up. (Seriously, read the article…) It’s not that I don’t enjoy the planned events, but there is something to be said for the laid-back, carefree gatherings you can have where no major planning is required or expected. As if it isn’t in our nature to fret about how we measure up and may be judged anyway, social media has exploded onto the scene in the last 10 years and only added to that worry. Events have to be perfectly themed and planned. Mess-free and seemingly worry-free–and this includes everything from an elaborate wedding to a simple dinner with friends.

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But why is this? My desire to be active and social during these summer months coupled with reading this article helped me put into perspective the example I want to set for my children. Anyone can tell you I love to play hostess and open my doors for family and friends. I bought a “Children’s Party Planning” book at age 9 if that tells you anything. As much as the planning and decorating is fun for me, I get the real thrill out of seeing people I care about come together and find joy. I believe this is what triggers my love of photos and video. I want to capture and remember that joy.

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However, between the major, planned events and the feeling that we need to have things “perfect” in order to bring friends into our home, we tend to shy away from casual gatherings.
We don’t want to ask people to contribute food dishes. (Are ‘pot lucks’ socially acceptable?”)
We’re afraid we might not have time to clean well enough in advance. (Is it Instagram worthy??)
We’re afraid we won’t get to prep food and have the mess put away. (Pinterest must have a solution for this!)
We’re afraid our children won’t be on their best behavior. (What if I don’t look like the perfect parent??)
We’re afraid the chosen time and date won’t work for people. (What if I offend someone by planning it when they can’t come?
And we dread the extra clean up afterwards. (Ain’t nobody got time for that!)

Is it about any of that? Should it be?

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We spent a weekend in Newburgh, Indiana with family. Jon’s parents were hosting a birthday gathering for his grandma. Most of the family (his dad’s side) lives in the area and were able to come over for a lunch time celebration. His parents made the bulk of the food but others did bring side dishes to contribute. That evening, his mom invited members of her side of the family over for leftovers and to let the little ones run about. It was so great to see so much family and feel relaxed doing so. There was nothing particularly special to do. It was simply about spending time together. Do you ever stop and think about the number of people who you consider close friends or family who live nearby whom you don’t spend much relaxed time with? Hanging out with people shouldn’t be about stressing over how it will transpire; it’s about being in the moment and enjoying the time with people.

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I don’t want my kids to grow up with the idea that every get together, gathering or event is elaborate and only for special occasions. I want them to know their aunts, uncles, cousins and friends as people that are welcome and comfortable in our home at all times and people they truly know. I want others to see our home as a place of comfort and relaxation that is always welcoming–even if it comes with a mess or crazy kids.

After reading the article I shared it with my friends and invited them over for a Saturday evening. That day I made some chicken and veggie skewers to grill and threw together a few other things. My mom brought over a salad. People came and went throughout the evening. Dorothy loved having “friends” over. Later a couple of the girls and I whipped up cookie brownies. It was perfectly relaxed and fun.

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If life isn’t about nurturing our relationships with each other and sharing in this adventure then I’m not sure what it is about. We are here to help each other and that includes just being together in the most simple, pure and true way so that the most sincere and real versions of ourselves can “just be”. It’s the best way to find both truth and happiness.

With much of the summer still upon us, I challenge you to get together with friends and family on a whim. Invite them to your place or to go out and not because there is a reason, but because nothing is more important in life than the people you share it with.

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For a look inside our adventures over the past four weeks, check out my June Vlog

Memorial Day Camping in the Knobs of Central Kentucky [VIDEO]

I bet you thought the holiday weekend (Monday) had me all messed up and I forgot about my regularly scheduled Tuesday post? Wrong!

I’ve actually been hard at work to get this non-traditional post up, but it took a little more time than usual. We celebrated Memorial Day in the same way I have my entire life: camping on our land with friends.

I decided to put together a special edition vlog on the event, as it has been 15 years since the first time we camped in our traditional campsite on the family property. Our “family” of friends keeps growing and before we know it, we’ll have young campers wanting their own fire circle like we had growing up.

A tradition that began many moons again with my uncles and their friends, turned into a tradition of my older brother’s and his friends… That evolved into college friends and extended to include my friends, then my younger brother’s friends… Now new husbands and wives have been added and even babies and kids.

We are truly blessed to live in such a beautiful world and I am even more blessed to call central Kentucky my home–it truly is a spectacular creation and it’s awesome to spend a few days disconnecting and enjoying the simple things like, green grass, rocks in the creek, cool breezes and good food. As someone pointed out over the weekend: You almost don’t even notice the lack of electricity! (Real showers are nice, though!)

I do sleep at the house now that we live a matter of meters from the campground, but… Can you blame me?? (Especially with two littles!!)

Here’s a look at what the great outdoors in the Bluegrass looks like as summer truly begins. (Plus some awesome footage from a recently purchased drone by my older brother…!)

Real Life with Rita: MAY the Madness begin

Summer is a crazy time of life–for everyone. May is the springboard month for that craziness. It was great to start getting out more in April, but this past month, the pace definitely picked up–and I don’t even have the wild aspect of the “end of school” in m life right now!

Every weekend in May has had activity (as will this coming Memorial Day weekend) and with the exception of a chilly week of 50-60 degree days (What was that all about??), we were out and about and it was for the better. It was complete with many of the to-do’s that make up many people’s summers: holidays, road trips, swimming, picnics, and weddings.

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Road Trip: We took our first summer road trip the first weekend of the month, traveling to North Carolina to visit family and see my cousin graduate from UNC Chapel Hill with her Masters in Accounting. What could have been an 8-hour drive with my Mom was, of course, closer to 10-11, thanks to two kiddos. I definitely took advantage of all toddler road-trip knowledge I have at this point in my motherhood ‘career’ and the kids did AMAZINGLY well for 15 months and 2 1/2 years. It actually gives me a lot of hope for our trip to Myrtle Beach later this summer (and some ideas on how to make it go even smoother.)

If you missed it before, here is a quick vlog I put together of the NC trip.

Mother’s Day: We made it home in time to celebrate Mother’s Day in the best place I can imagine–our home! It was a beautiful and perfect day and this mom could ask for nothing more than time outside with the kids and seeing them spend time with their Pop. (Who, by the way, added awesome flower beds to the front of the house while we were gone on our trip.) We had our first supper on the porch–a Mingus special: fried chicken. (And believe me when I tell you WISH you could be treated to his homemade fried chicken!)

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Baby Shower: The following weekend was our most low-key and the dreary, cooler weather also made it more uneventful. Dot and I attended the baby shower of a close friend right here in our county. She’s the mom of four beautiful boys–the youngest being Jacob’s age–and she is expecting her first daughter any time now! I am beyond excited for her! So while Lou and I had our mommy-daughter time, Hubs took Jake-O to do some “man” things and picked up some plant starters for the garden.

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Wedding: The third weekend we were fortunate to have some of our favorite visitors stay with us: Mingus’s parents. We are so blessed that, despite being four hours away, they are more than willing to regularly make the drive to visit us and the kids. While the weeks’ cool weather wasn’t quite gone, it was a little dryer, so ‘Mamaw’ got the kids outside with her and later on Saturday, Mingus and I took off for Louisville for our first wedding of 2016. Primarily a friend of mine, BK graduated from Bellarmine with me and then spent the next year being a part of almost all of my great memories in Louisville. He then took a job to teach English in South Korea and, believe it or not, has been there pretty much since. He moved back a little less than a year ago and just married the love of his life whom he met during his South Korean adventures.

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The wedding itself was such a joy for me. I always appreciate seeing the little details a couple uses to create what is their perfect day, but to top it off, this was the first sans-kids getaway with Hubs since December, AND I got to see nearly all of the people I spent my post-college days in Louisville with. Some of them I see and catch up with regularly  (like my younger brother Deutsch who was in attendance), while others I have not see since Deutsch’s wedding last May. It’s incredible to see the paths all our lives are on, now that we’re ending the “20’s era” and on to our 30’s. Mingus and I enjoyed hashing memories of them all (as these are all friends of his too) on our 2-hour drive to and from the event, laughing at the little details we know and love about our friends. I am beyond blessed to have such an array of people in my life that I can call TRUE friends. It is actually how different we are that makes our circle special. We can love and admire the passions that drive each individual couple’s journeys and live vicariously through each other.

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Gardening: I have to give all of the credit to Mingus on our garden’s status. Everything is planted and seems to be growing, if not thriving. We’ve divided up crops with my parents since we are sharing the garden plot and will share what each produces. I’m thrilled over the fact I have actually gotten to spend some time in the garden already. Weeding was always a chore assigned to my brothers and I growing up, but now I find it relaxing and therapeutic and am grateful I’ve been able to contribute in this way. Our lettuce greens are ready for the picking and we enjoyed our first garden-fresh salads last weekend. Dot even helped her Pop with the picking.

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Swimming: We had our first visit to a pool; although it was a bit of a fail, depending on how you look at it. We visited HJ and the Johnson house for the first time in MONTHS. Lou could hardly contain her excitement. We were really looking forward to a dip in the pool, as the day before was 80-degrees and sunny, but the day of the trip was very overcast (although still warm). We would have skipped going out to the pool all together, would it not have left Lou so disappointed. The worst of it was the fact the heater had not kicked on properly so the water was FREEZING! Fortunately, for me, my kids were content on the steps, meaning I didn’t get more than my feet in. Jo was not so lucky, but she was a good mom and didn’t little little SJ down and embraced the frigidness. I truly am looking forward to pool trips with these kiddos this summer, knowing the fun Dot had last summer. Sure, they are at an age where I have to be on high alert constantly, but experiencing their joy is priceless.

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Also sprinkled throughout the month were doctor appointments for both myself and the kids, park and library visits, and numerous walks and picnics. I already know summer is going to fly by and I have to do all I can to cherish every moment. There will never be another summer like it, and I am realizing more and more how quickly this era with my kids will pass. I definitely have days where I want to pull my hair out, but sometimes I stop and think about how these will be memories one day and the adorable things they say and do right now will feel like a blip on the radar and I’ll miss it so much.

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For some insider looks at the month of May… Enjoy my vlog (below) and you can tune into HJ’s beach vacation and more here.

Who is expecting? Family of 5 coming this Fall!

Once upon a time… five years ago around this time… a guy and a girl got engaged…

Fast forward to today and that same couple is preparing to become a family of FIVE! 🙂

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You never know what can happen in five years!

Mingus and I are expecting an addition to our family this fall and we couldn’t be more excited.

Yes, you did the math right… Three babies in three years. Dorothy will turn three in October. This baby is due November 10–three months before Jacob will turn two.

Did you catch all of those numbers?

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But the truth is, we wanted our kids close in age. Jacob came a little faster than we would have planned ourselves, but I’m so grateful he is with us and I now get to see him and Dot developing into little playmates already. Seriously. Every day I’m in heart melting awe watching them. Now we have their next little amigo on the way.

We’ve known since early March, but we like to keep the news to ourselves and fairly low key for the first few months. It mostly has to do with the fact I simply I find an intimacy in having this special ‘secret’ to share with my husband when it’s just about us and our family. It’s such a miraculous thing and that will never be lost on me. Reflecting on that and sharing it with the person who is on this parenthood journey with me holds meaning beyond words for me. I do love to share the joy with family, friends and loved ones (and all of you!), but I also get a little self conscious making too big of a deal out of it for whatever reason.

For those of you who do love knowing any and all details available… Here is a rough video vlog of some of the initial updates on the pregnancy–including thoughts from Hubs and Lou and reactions from Jo and my sister when they heard my news. (Apologies in advance for poor video/lighting quality–many of the videos were shot late at night when I’d randomly think to do it! That also means I look pretty rough in some of them–eek!)

I’m also extra excited about this pregnancy because I have two of my closest friends on the road with me–both due with their first babies in November! Sara and Michelle (and their respective husbands) are very close friends to Mingus and I and my family in general. Our group of friends was together for the first time in probably six months (at least for Mingus and I to see them all) for a low key hangout of brats on the grill at our house on night in April. Both of my brothers and their wives were there as well. The news of each couple came out one by one, shocking the group with more excitement each time. We are all due within about two weeks of each other. It brought a whole new meaning to the term “crazy night” in that group of friend.

Also crazy (or maybe more coincidental), the night we all found out about each other’s news was exactly THREE years after the date when my sister-in-law, Holly Jo and I shared the news that the three of us were expecting within two weeks of each other. That time, we all had three babies in 24 hours. Both Sara and Miche (as we call her) were there the night of that big announcement and I am sure they never imagined then that three years later they’d be making the same announcement!

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Myself with Sara and Miche (as we call her) after finding out about our November “triplets”.

I am currently 14 weeks along–or just over three months and out of my first trimester. (Which was not all that bad… Some queasiness around weeks 6-8 but that’s about it. Plus exhaustion–pregnancy with two tots wears you out!) Oh, and in case you didn’t know… 14 weeks shows A LOT more the third time around than the first!

Dot’s excited and claims she is getting a baby sister (typical little girl prediction). I’m still/always faithfully taking my Juice Plus+ to guarantee, despite any pregnancy cravings or lack thereof, this babe is getting a full daily dose of 30+ fruits and vegetables every day. I truly believe (and know from the research specific to pregnancy) it has done wonders in my extremely healthy pregnancies and deliveries, as well as these healthy kids I am now raising. THIS is also why I did my One Simple Change smoothie challenge back in April. Trust me when I say  that trying to eat enough and eat well when keeping up with two toddlers is no easy feat, so I love getting that wonderful macronutrients in a smoothie and know I’m nourishing this nugget. (And I have done a good job continuing smoothies this month.)

We appreciate any and all prayers for this new little soul in our family. We are so blessed.

Real Life with Rita: April at it Finest

Oh spring time, how happy were are to have you in our lives again! 

April has been a wonderful month. We’ve been outside a lot in the 70-80 degree days and fully enjoying watching the world come back to life. 

It did not take me long to realize something that will make this spring/summer extra exciting (for me). It will be the first time in three years that I will not be carrying a baby. 2013 was the last year I wasn’t physically toting a baby with me everywhere. In 2014 Dorothy ranged the age 6-10 months. (She started toddling in September at 11 months.) Last year Jacob was an infant and got mobile (crawling) by September at 8 months. This year they are both biped little people!

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I know I’m still going to be chasing them everywhere, trying to keep them out of all sorts of trouble. When you live where we do, trouble is just about everywhere—the same way exciting adventures are everywhere. Unfortunately, toddlers don’t know the difference too well! (mud puddles, creeks, critters, bugs…)We really need to choose an area to fence in with a gate for outside play. That would put my mind at ease some, but that has yet to happen… So many projects on the list since moving into this house.

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In many ways a baby would seem simple, because it can’t wander and get into that kind of trouble, but managing one around here? Easier said than done. Let me paint you a picture…

For Dot, she was past the age of sleeping much and wanted to be moved around, go-go-going… And we were building a house. Not too safe of a place to have a baby crawling and exploring. 

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Dorothy in her (now) bedroom, 2014

The next summer? Jacob did sleep a lot, but it still meant having to wear a carrier or have a stroller nearby and sometimes the heat got to him. Speaking of carriers and getting hot—yes, having a little person wrapped to you in 90+ degrees (plus humidity) is not too enjoyable. Add to that the fact you’re chasing a toddler under the age of two who sometimes needs carried over ditches or grabbed before falling in the water, etc. Tricky business. 

Then there is the whole breastfeeding aspect. You never know when that little babe is going to cry with hunger, which means stopping what you’re doing to nurse. Obviously, where I live “privacy” isn’t much of an issue, but, consider nursing (stuck sitting in one place and trying to be comfortable) when out at the garden or at the creek with the other kid. It’s kind of hard to manage the other tot while nursing.

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Summer 2015

We’re about a month into spring, but it feels like a little more with how much nice weather we’ve had since the end of February. We’re definitely enjoying the outdoors a lot, and I love seeing BOTH kids on their feet and entertaining themselves. It helps that our home is settled more than last summer. The grass has grown into the yard more and we’ve added both a play set and a sand table for the kids, plus I have a tub of ‘outside’ toys. The current outdoor issue near the house is the area we leveled for our future garage. (The plan was to have it done by now, but you know…  Life happens and the project has been on hold.) It tends to be a mud hole—heaven for kids, right? Not so much for the mom. Don’t get me wrong… I am all for letting a kid get muddy, but having to worry about it every time outside? Sometimes you just DON’T want to have to do a full change of clothes and mud cleaning before coming back inside.

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On the flip side… There is the creek. We’ve been lucky to have already had some hot, sunny days that allowed for water play. Like anything, the kids need monitored, but for the most part, the creek is not too deep so, unlike a pool, I don’t have to worry about them falling in and being over their heads. The rocks, sticks and nature in general provide for endless entertainment at this age. My most recent trip definitely told me I need to commit to some summer reading and take advantage of our creek trips by bringing a good book with me.

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Our garden is in its youth right now, so we haven’t spent a lot of time there, but I am SO hopeful I will actually help in the garden this year. It’s been hard in the past to be there for too long for previously stated reasons. The limited times we have been down there this year, Dorothy (sort of) understands what the garden is all about, so she wants to participate. That doesn’t mean she is really good at it yet, but it’s a step in the right direction. Keeping Jacob out of the wrong things will be an ongoing challenge, but I think he’ll keep himself much more entertained with the rocks, weeds and dirt than she did last year. I’ve even considered blocking off an area to be “theirs” where they can be free to dig, “plant”, whatever.

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I’m not fooling myself into thinking I won’t be on kid-duty all summer when outside, but I am hopeful about having my hands a little less tied. Plus there is the fact Jacob is developing like crazy and each week my heart is melted by seeing them play together more and more. By August he will be 18 months! I have a feeling their time of play outside this summer will only encourage and nourish their relationship as best buddies and to say I am looking forward to that is an understatement. Knowing they will be such close friends friends has filled my heart since the moment I found out I was pregnant with Jacob.

Bring on the warm weather and adventures. Bring on the messes and dirt. Like always with quickly growing children, this summer will be a special era of our lives that will never be repeated, so I plan to cherish it for all it’s worth.

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Want to see some of the outdoor madness in my life this April? See it in my April vlog on our YouTube channel.

Check out what’s been happening in Holly Jo’s world the last month, too! Check out the first part of April here and the latest few weeks here.  Always something exciting going on in the Johnson family!