How A Few Magnets Are Saving My Sanity This Holiday Season

Such a great idea! I'm so doing this over this holiday season.

Guys. It’s only the beginning of December and I’ve already lost it a few times.

Not my purse. Or my keys…

But my sanity.

In fact, I’m pretty sure it was gone waaaay before Thanksgiving. And then Thanksgiving gave it a good shove down the garbage shoot.

The holidays are a completely different experience as parents, am I right? Riddled with stress, insanely high expectations, hyper children and breakable decorations…it’s pretty much a recipe for disaster. Five years in, and I’m just now learning that.

And man-oh-man, the responsibility we feel as Moms. I tell my husband, “it’s our Super Bowl.”

We’re the magic makers. We’re the ones who make it all happen. From Elf on a Shelf, to Christmas morning, to school assemblies and Christmas parties. From presents, to decorating, to cookie-making and budget-planning.

It’s all us.

And we love our families so stinking much that everything has to be just perfect. PERFECT, I TELL YOU!!!

Then we crack.

I’ve cracked so many times over the last five Christmases. (Ask my husband about the time he misplaced our kids’ biggest present on Christmas Eve. Let’s just say it wasn’t my finest hour.)

And this year, I stumbled upon the secret. Just by happenstance.

I’d like to claim it was my own genius idea, but sadly, much like everything else in my life…it was a product of my type A, perfectonistic, and slightly OCD personality (you know, we’ve all got our stuff).

A few years ago, we were gifted a Nativity magnet set from a dear family friend.

No clue where they found it but the moment we opened it, I knew my kids would love it.

I just had no idea how much it would mean to me

My boys have so much fun with it, every single year. They love arranging it in the classic ways, in silly ways, adding animal magnets to the scene. You name it.

But in the end, it always winds up looking like this: 

Nativity1

 Much like how I feel. Jumbled. Unfocused. A little messy and out of sorts.

I usually do my “clean up rounds” every night after the boys go to bed. I take about fifteen minutes to go around the house, picking up any leftover toys and putting them out of sight. Call it what you want, but I’m a stay-at-home Mom, so my house is my office. And if I have any chance on God’s green earth of relaxing, there has to be some sense of order…mainly, no reminders of my children. 

A few nights ago, when I was clearing out the kitchen and cleaning magnets up off of the floor…it happened. Something told me to sit down, right where I was. So I did.

I took a deep breath, and I slowed down. I carefully cleared away the clutter, leaving only a blank slate.

Just staring at the empty white space on the fridge made my heart feel lighter. (Told you. Type A.)

I put away all of the random magnets, then I started to put the Nativity scene together. Slowly. One piece at a time.

As a made the manger I thanked God for our home.

Nativity3

 

When I added the gifts and the animals I thanked God for the many gifts in our life. Amidst all the crazy. Amidst all the chaos…

Nativity4

Then I added the angel, and the stars. And I thanked God for the angels in my own life. Those people who have often rushed to my rescue, and the loved ones who are always there for me.

Nativity5

And lastly of course, Mary, Joseph, and Jesus. As I slowly put them in place, I sighed so deeply. Letting out all of the frustration, all of the chaos, all of the negative energy and remembering the simplicity. The basics. The reason we do all of it. Reminding myself that nothing else really matters.

And I thanked God for his very presence. For his Grace. For his refuge.

Nativity2

All of a sudden, I felt peaceful. Clear-headed. Focused. And much less likely to explode.

My heart felt light. And full.

Funny how that works.

Ever since, I’ve made it a nightly thing. Heck, on the bad days it’s a “several times a day” thing. It’s my Advent meditation of sorts.

And as often as I need it, it’s there. Waiting for me.

Much like God is.

Do yourself a favor, and try it. Or find something similar that brings you peace. Just a few minutes every day; to re-focus and re-energize, remembering the very reason we celebrate this crazy Season.

And to keep you calm when your child opens all the presents you just wrapped and put under the tree…

 

 

 (Note: I couldn’t find our exact size set, but I’ve linked to a similar one here.)

 

When Your Dreams Take the Back Seat

I haven’t blogged in forever. Two months, to be exact.

It’s hard on me, to tell you the truth. I don’t feel like myself without writing, or journaling in some way. And that’s how this little space began, after all. My place to write, share, and be.

And let’s just say it out loud, I let my favorite holiday season pass without posting even ONCE!

It’s tempting to feel ashamed, but when I stop to think about why…I’m not.

I have a lot of dreams; things I want to do, write, accomplish. I’ve always loved that about myself, but lately…it’s been a sore spot for me. Because I can’t deny that those dreams have been taking a back seat to my little ones.

I’ve struggled with it since the day I became a stay-at-home-Mom.

I’m a do-er and I want to DO. Those dreams, they run deep in my veins.

In the beginning, I didn’t know how to let it all go. I’d spent years building my career, and I was exactly where I wanted to be…doing exactly what God had made me to do. Until he tugged on my heart (practically pushing me) to leave.

I was so confused. How could I leave at the top of my game? With no excuse, other than motherhood???

Until I realized, it wasn’t an excuse…it was a calling.

It may not be for everyone, but it was just something I had to do.

It was one of my bravest moments…walking away.

And I’ve never regretted that decision, not for a minute. Does that mean that being a stay-at-home-Mom has been easy? Heck no. It’s challenged me to my core. More than any job ever could.

Especially when it comes to leaving my career dreams on the table…

But the thing I’ve realized about dreams? Is that you don’t have to rush them.

DREAMS

They are a part of you. They grow with you. And they wait for you.

It’s okay to hit the pause button in life. It’s okay to slow down and be present, right where you’re planted…instead of focusing so much on the future.

There’ll be a day when my babies don’t need me quite so much. And then, by gosh, I’ll get after it.

I was rocking my youngest the other night, when a flood of memories rushed through my mind.

I remembered rocking in that very same chair, while I was pregnant with Isaiah…staring at an unfinished nursery. The doctors had just given him a grim diagnosis, and my heart was broken into pieces. So there I sat, rocking and praying feverishly. Four months later, I was rocking my healthy baby boy.

Fast forward two years. Same place. Same chair. Tears streaming down my face after the doctor couldn’t find a heartbeat.

And now I rock my sweet Samuel there, every single day.

You see, I dreamed of these boys long before they were even born. I dreamed what their lives would be like, what they would be like, who they would become, and more.

And I want nothing more than to be a part of that, every step of the way.

Everyone should follow their dreams, no matter what they may be. I fully believe that.

But these boys? They are mine. And they are my most important one.

Everything else can wait.

So forgive me if my posts are less frequent. I’ve committed to write and share as much as I’m able. But for now?

I’m following my dreams. And man, are they precious…

Dreaming

 

The Thing About Pottery

Pottery1

Life has been a little complicated around our house these past few months.

Sure, it’s the end of Summer. The time of year when every Mom wants to pull her hair out, no matter how much she loves her kids. The time of year when going certifiably insane actually sounds like the sane option.

But it’s more than that.

Life has just been hard. And I’m sure we’re not the only ones in that proverbial boat. Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned these past few years, it’s that life. is. hard.

Good. But hard.

There’s just no way around it, no matter how hard you try.

These past few weeks I’ve been focused on changing my morning schedule. Call it a desperate attempt to gain some much needed structure in my life (because that’s exactly what it is) but it’s been blessing me beyond measure.

Each morning I wake just as the sun begins to rise. I spend the first hour of my day in silence, watching the sky as it changes hues. I do my own form of meditation, read a passage from my Bible, practice gratitude and generally spend my time setting my intention for the day.

It’s not just changing my morning, or my day…it’s slowly changing me. Especially the silence.

If you live in a house with little ones, you know that silence is hard to come by.

For once, I get to listen. To the morning, to nature, to my soul, and to God.

This morning my mind kept wandering. I usually spend my time trying to focus my thoughts and energy. But today, the wandering felt healthy. As if I was being led…

I sat in my chair, wrapped up in my blanket (don’t laugh, it’s comforting) thinking about where life has been taking me. Wondering where it will be taking me. Feeling the oddest range of emotions (sadness, gratitude, fear, joy). Feeling, I’ll be honest, like life is a mess.

One, big, fat, complicated mess.

It’s exhausting trying so hard to make sense of it. Trying to know the plan, figure out the plan, or trust the plan. And for a type A personality, like mine, trying to clean up the mess. I honestly get antsy just thinking about it.

Then suddenly, this verse popped into my head. Which at the time, seemed a bit out of place…

“I am the clay, and you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.” Isaiah 64:8

Over and over it repeated in my head.

“I am the clay, and you are the potter.”

“I am the clay, and you are the potter.”

I sat there, trying to connect the dots until it came to me.

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The thing about pottery is that it’s messy. Really messy. I don’t know if you’ve ever thrown a pot on a potter’s wheel (but we’ve all seen Ghost, right?) or molded real clay with your hands…but it’s virtually impossible to keep yourself clean.

You will get dirty.

There’s just no way around it, no matter how hard you try.

But to the potter that’s understood. It natural to make a mess. Because it’s all just a part of the process. And sometimes, the bigger the mess…the more beautiful the results.

The mess is essential to the masterpiece.

And aren’t our lives the same way?

Think about it. There’s no failure without the mess. There’s no learning without the mess. There’s no growth, or strength without the mess. And no beauty, without the mess.

I wonder what would happen if we stopped trying so hard to keep everything neat?

What if we embraced the mess? Sat with it for a while, and *gasp* enjoyed it like we did when we were kids?

What if we lived every day knowing that the mess is part of the plan? Heck, that it is the plan. And most importantly, that it’s not ours to make sense of?

We don’t need to know how to clean it all up.

It’s hard to remember, in the thick of it, that I’m in the middle of my own process. I’m becoming who I was meant to be. And it’s messy, that’s for sure.

But it’s supposed to be.

I’m a work in progress. And I’m proud of that. Because God makes beautiful things, doesn’t he?

Beautiful, messy, perfect things.

Searching for the Sun

Searching For the Sun

It’s been raining for weeks here in Dallas. No, months.

In fact, I just read that in the month of May alone, we’ve had seventeen inches of rain.

And boy, does it feel like it. 

I’m not one for rain to begin with, but rain as a stay-at-home Mom? That’s a special kind of hell. Let me tell you.

There were days I thought I was going crazy. 

And not only has it rained outside, it’s also seemed to rain in my life. Everywhere it possibly could.

I’ve been trying to keep my head above water both literally and figuratively.

I met with a friend a while back, and as I told her about my past few weeks, I lamented about the rain. 

I told her that THIS RAIN, it was affecting me. And not only has it affected my day-to-day routines with the boys, but my mood as well. I wondered how much longer I could take it. I wondered if things would’ve been so rough if the sun had been shining. Probably not. Most definitely not. Maybe I needed a sunlamp. Isn’t that a thing? Are there vitamins for this? I just wish I could see the sun. I need it in my life, I need it to be “me”. I JUST NEED THE SUN, DANGIT!

And then she said it.

You know, Alli, it’s always there. Even if you can’t see it. 

It was one of those “well, crap” moments.

I knew she was right, the second I heard it. And in more ways than one. 

I sat there, surveying these last few weeks, replaying almost instantly the cloudy days in my mind. 

It was there. All along. 

In tickle fights, and family get-togethers. In laughter fits and “leftovers night”. In date night adventures and kissing smushy little cheeks. In learning first words, and jumping in muddy puddles. In wine after bedtime, and hot bubble bath escapes. 

And in little faces. Little smiles and little cries. Little hugs and little goodnights. 

But I was fixated. Fixated on the rain in my life. And because of that, I’d missed the sun…and so much more.

If only I’d been looking through the clouds…I’d have seen that it was there. Shining as brightly as ever.

I committed, in that moment, to do my best to search for the sun every day. And I’m proud to say I’ve seen it ever since.

Even when it’s raining.

In fact, that’s when I see it the most…

Because the harder you have to look, the more of it you see.

True Story.

Such an important lesson.

And one I’ll never forget. Come Rain…

Or shine.

 

To The Stay At Home Mom

To The Stay At Home Mom

I’ve been wanting to write you for quite some time, now. To apologize.

You see, I used to be a working Mom. Working day in and day out. Trying to make ends meet. Trying to stay afloat. Trying to do it all, with grace, style and sophistication–all the while feeling like I was falling short.

I was exhausted. Worn thin. And while I loved what I did, my spirit was breaking with every day that passed.

And I’m ashamed to admit it…but I would roll my eyes when I saw you coming.

I’d watch you drop your kids off at school, wearing your workout clothes. Headed to the gym, I would imagine. Probably Yoga or Pilates, with a shopping date to follow.

I’d see you standing in the school hallways, talking up a storm, as I rushed to my office to tackle weeks’ worth of work.

I’d watch you walk to your car with Starbucks in hand, jealous that you had time for a coffee run. I barely had enough time to take a bathroom break.

But I didn’t know…

I didn’t know you wore workout clothes, but never had time to workout.

I didn’t know that you rarely had any time for yourself at all.

I didn’t know that yoga pants were your uniform of choice, simply because they couldn’t be ruined by spit up, spills, or the occasional projectile vomit. I also didn’t know that you often stared longingly into your closet, wondering if you’d ever wear your “nice clothes” again.

I didn’t know that you lingered in the school hallways because you were lonely. Because you had no one to talk to, other than Elmo or DJ Lance.

And that Starbucks Mocha in your hand? I didn’t know that it was crucial to your existence–because you were running on little-to-no sleep. Up all night with two sick kids, with weeks worth of chores still waiting for you to tackle. And no sick days in sight.

Oh…and I didn’t know you didn’t have bathroom breaks, either.

I’m so sorry.

I didn’t know. But now I do.

Because I’m a Stay At Home Mom, two years in. Working day in and day out. Trying to make ends meet. Trying to stay afloat. Trying to do it all with grace, style, and sophistication–all the while feeling like I’m falling short.

I’m exhausted. Worn thin. And while I love what I do, my spirit breaks a little with every day that passes.

I didn’t know that, all this time, we were really just one and the same. That both of our paths are a rewarding, but difficult, existence.

We’re so often put into categories, aren’t we? Working or Non-Working.

But might I suggest that there’s only one?

We’re Moms–no matter the situation, no matter the place. And we’re doing the best that we can for ourselves, our children, and our families.

And maybe, just maybe, we’d all rest a little easier if we really believed it.

Maybe we’d stop comparing our workloads.

Maybe we’d judge a little less, and love a little more.

I didn’t know. But now I do.

There is no greener grass. There is no easier path. And there is no right or wrong.

There’s just us–working day in and day out. Trying to make ends meet. Trying to stay afloat.

And even though we all feel like we are falling short, we’re showing up anyway…and doing our very BEST.

Because we’re Moms.

2015: New Years Resolutions

Do more of what makes you happy

I know, I know. I’m a little late to the party.

But, to be fair, I’m just following through with my resolutions.

And let me start off by saying, I used to hate resolutions.

I just couldn’t stand the idea of setting a hard and fast rule for myself that would surely be broken by week two. Because who wants to start their year feeling like a failure?

But a few years back I started lowering the stakes.  And then things finally started to make sense.

I started to change my resolutions into dreams, goals, and “things to work on.”

I think we all want to be better in life–better wives, better moms, better sisters, daughters, or friends.

Better people.

And I see resolutions as a road map to help us get there.

So every year, I set two or three of them.

And the key is this: There is no end goal. No failing. No measurement to say whether I “succeeded” or not…

Just me. Day in and day out. Trying to be better at this thing we call life.

And becoming a better person by trying.

So here goes, my resolutions for 2015:

 

1. Do more of what makes you happy

And let me emphasize the YOU.

Moms tend to put everyone else’s needs before our own–sometimes without even realizing it. I can’t even count the amount of times I’ve forgotten to eat a meal because I was too busy feeding my kids. But to be a good parent, we have to put ourselves first. Totally opposite of what our Mommy DNA tells us to do.  This past year, I lost my “happy” for the sake of my families’.

Spoiler alert: It didn’t work out so well.

So I’ve spent the last few weeks studying myself. Watching. Thinking. Noticing.

What are the things, outside of my family, that make me happy? It was hard at first. Because I’ve wrapped up so much of my happiness into my kids. But the harder I looked the more I found. I got to know myself again.

Musicals. Hot baths. Magazines. Vintage Trailers. And peanut butter-chocolate shakes. It’s a quirky list, but it’s mine. ALL MINE.

I’m slowly learning what makes ME happy. And by golly, those are the things I’ll do more of this year.

 

2. Be present

Sometimes I curse the very existence of smart phones. But I can’t just blame technology…

I spent this past year somewhere else entirely. I was either dwelling in the past, or worrying about the future. And in that very process, I missed the “todays.”

This year, I’ve committed to stop time traveling. I’ve committed to be present, with my thoughts and my actions. To see every moment before me, and stay there.

Two weeks in, and it’s already paying dividends.

 

3. Do your best

Notice I didn’t say “do your perfect.” 

Hi. My name is Allison. And I’m a perfection-a-holic. (That’s one step further than a perfectionist)

It’s funny. I’m well aware that life isn’t perfect, and that I can’t be either. But when it comes to the things I do? My responsibilities and tasks at hand? Good just isn’t good enough.

Except for the fact that IT IS. And thinking that “it’s not” has taken it’s toll–making me miss precious moments while trying to attain the impossible.

So this year I’m letting myself off the hook.

If the blog post isn’t perfect? I’m posting it.

If the party isn’t done? I’m having it.

And if things don’t work out just how I planned? I’m enjoying it anyways.

Because that’s life, folks.

And I refuse to miss it because I’m busy trying to make it something else.

 

Happy New Year, friends. I hope your 2015 is off to a fantastic start. Here’s to a year full of love, light, and dreams come true.

 

 

Learning To Walk

Learning to Walk

Samuel’s been learning to walk these days.

I know, I know. He’s a bit late to the party at fifteen months. But Isaiah was a late walker and…can I be honest for a minute?

I love it.

There’s something about walking that takes the baby out of your baby. More than any milestone, walking means the “toddler transition” has officially begun. And call me crazy, but I want my baby for as long as he’ll let me have him.

Anyway, where was I? Oh, yes…

Samuel LOVES to practice his walking.

His favorite pass time is waddling towards me from across the room–arms reaching out, grinning ear to ear, eyes wide with delight. And the second he gets to me, he falls gleefully into my arms.

In that moment my heart bursts with pride.

I mean, literally. It feels like my heart might burst right out of my chest. It hurts, even. But a good hurt.

Then he gently pushes me backward so he can do it all over again.

Learning to Walk

And the very best part is how he lingers in my arms–hugging my neck, and holding onto me with everything he has. It fills my heart with joy.

We play this game thousands of times a day. Walk, fall, hug, repeat.

And the thing that gets me every time, is his trust.

Think about it. It’s scary to take your first steps. It’s scary to lose your balance. It’s even scarier to fall. But he never doubts that I’ll be there. He never doubts I’ll catch him.

Sometimes I think we’re all “learning to walk” at times in our lives. Taking new jobs, starting relationships, having babies, facing new challenges…hard challenges. Starting over after divorce, battling addiction, or facing life after losing a loved one.

We are constantly stepping out on wobbly legs. And more often than not (tell me I’m not the only one?) we’re too scared to even begin. Too afraid to take a step. Because falling is scary for grown-ups, too.

But what if we could have the faith of a child? What if we could remember that someone’s there. Someone’s got us…

No matter what.

Think how much easier it would be. Think of the steps (no LEAPS) we could take, and the mountains we could climb.

I like to imagine God’s heart bursting with pride when we trust him, just like mine does with Samuel. I like to imagine his face beaming when we take our first steps, and courageously fall into his arms.

And oh, the joy he must feel we linger–hanging onto him with everything we have. Never to let go…