Chasing Dreams

Seven years ago today I wrote on Facebook that I’d sent my resume to a local fledgeling museum. At that point it didn’t even have a building or a staff of more than one. I wanted to work for the organization so badly that I would have taken any position. A couple of days later I got a polite response, “we are not currently hiring but thank you for your interest.” I gave up on my dream of working in a museum right there and moved on. Around here managerial positions at museums are few and far between and I wasn’t interested in moving.

From that day on my life took a seemingly different direction. I worked retail as a manager selling paint for one of the world’s leading paint companies. I shot up through the ranks quickly and learned a lot only to see that dream crash on the rocks as I realized my soul wasn’t in it. It wasn’t my place anymore. As much as I’d loved it when I started, I was unhappy now. So I moved on when opportunity knocked.

I went on to work at one of the world’s most well known tech companies in a field that I was not at all familiar with. They took a chance on me and gave me confidence. I’d stepped out of management and learned more about humility and not being an asshole just because you’re in charge. I learned how to listen to the voice of my people. I’m not perfect by any means but they laid the ground work. I thought I was on my path. God had other plans. Things were starting to reshape at the company and I didn’t like where it was headed in terms of my personal career path. I applied for a few jobs elsewhere but heard nothing.

Then one day almost three years ago, I got a message in my inbox. “Are you interested in a Visitor Services position?” The museum that I’d given up on all those years before was finally opening. This time, we were both ready to face the world.

I say all of this to remind you that just because the dream doesn’t come true right now, doesn’t mean that it won’t ever. The Lord will show you the way if you keep your eyes and heart open. Be Brave my loves, you’ll find your path.

One Date a Month for 12 Months: Our 2019 Goal and How It Turned Out

At the end of 2018 our lives were crazy and we were stressed. Really stressed. Marriage was hard and parenting was even harder. We felt like we’d lost each other a little. So we decided to commit to one date night a month. Inwardly I worried that we’d make excuses and that we’d let it slip. Now our monthly date has become an island where we are able to find each other and reconnect again. Each month we tried to do something different although one month we did, admittedly, stretch the term date. We write down every date in my journal and try to keep a small keepsake from each date but it doesn’t always happen. Here are our 12 dates of 2019. I’ll share links to some things so that you can enjoy them too and even score them so you know what my favorites were. (The Hubs claims that they were all equally good but I suspect that’s because I woke him to ask what his favorites were. Haha!)

1) January: King Cake night! This is the date that kicked it off and it was 100% my husband’s creation. For those of you who don’t live in areas where King Cakes are made, you’re missing out. You can read more about them here. These tasty confections are a South Louisiana girl’s dream and every year we happily go straight from Christmas to King Cake season. This year, The Hubs and I did something we’d never done before. We MADE ONE! It was most definitely not from scratch. We used this great Mam Papaul’s mix. It was fun to make and pretty tasty even though ours was ugly compared to what the professionals do. Date score: 9/10 Messy, funny, inexpensive, and TASTY

2) February: Fancy Meat and Cheese Night. This one should probably be called tapas night or something fancy but that doesn’t really seem to fit. During this time I was still weird about letting the girls stay with people and we didn’t have a lot of money so we had our date night at home. We ate cheese, crackers, olives, fancy meats, and chocolates just like we were at a nice restaurant. Except we were home. Of all of our date nights, this one was the most laid back. We asked each other random weird questions that we found online and laughed at the poems on our chocolate wrappers. Date Score: 7/10 It was yummy and relaxing but ended up being just as expensive as going out to eat. I’d do it again though.

3) March: Charity Auction. I have had the extraordinary privilege this year to begin working with McMains Children’s Developmental Center as part of my work at the museum. These amazing folks do God’s work every day and I recommend that everyone take a minute to learn more about them. I’ve never worked with such a large group of kind hearted, creative, and dedicated people in my life and it’s truly been a blessing. The team at McMains has helped us to make our museum more inclusive for all children regardless of their abilities. They’ve helped to train staff and even made their own adaptive solutions to some areas of the museum to ensure that all children get a chance to play. The wonderful ladies at McMains invited The Hubs and I to their annual fundraiser and we jumped on the opportunity. There were fun games, amazing food, a live auction, and a silent auction. We left with full bellies, big smiles, and a nice bottle of whiskey. Date score: 10/10 Partying for a great cause AND eating amazing food? Count me in!

4) April: Jazz Fest! We love Jazz Fest in New Orleans and do our best to go every two years if not every year. This year we went to see Van Morrison. His performance was to be expected after all his years of touring but the overall experience was great. My Mom and Bonus Dad joined us and The Hubs and I tried a ton of different foods. I also stepped out of my comfort zone and wore a very skimpy top but I’ve already told that story in The Mom in The Mirror.Date Score: 8/10 The Food was great, the weather was nice but the music was…meh.

5) May: Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats This was hands down one of my favorite experiences of 2019. The music was amazing and the venue was beautiful. Shout out to my Aunt for making seeing one of our favorite bands possible. We danced and sang during the entire concert and enjoyed a night away from the kids. Date score: 10/10 This one was a blast and such a nice change of pace for us.

6) June: Beach Walking/ Getting Lost in Mississippi Okay so this one is an odd one because technically our kids were there but we considered it a date for two reasons. One, we were on a beach vacation. (Thanks to Dad and my Bonus Mom!) Two, despite having the kids, we felt that we were able to connect and spend quality time together and that’s the whole point of our date night commitment. We love taking long car rides together so the getting lost part was fun. The beach at night was so much fun to share with out big kids. They needed quality time with us without their sisters around and we were happy to have the opportunity to give it to them. Date score: 10/10 I know I speak for all of us when I say we wouldn’t have changed a single thing about any of it.

7) July: My High School Reunion Woo buddy! This was a fun one! I wrote all about my school when it happened and you can read about it here. I got super drunk at the reunion and the hubs had to take care of me. Bless his heart he dealt with my butt all night. He even bought me Whataburger on the way home because he loves me. Date Score: 6/10 I had a blast but my poor husband had to baby sit all night.

8) August: Adult Trip to New Orleans As a grown up I still feel super special and adult when I get to hang out with my parents and the friends who helped raise me. So it was awesome when we got to head down to New Orleans for a night to celebrate my brother’s 21st birthday with my brother, Mom and Bonus Dad, and the Ya-Ya’s. We had our palms read by a fortune teller, ate dinner AND breakfast without children yelling at us, and had a blast. Extra shout out to my dear friends who watched the twins for us. Date score: 10/10 WE GOT AWAY FROM THE KIDS FOR 24 HOURS! That alone makes it awesome but the company was great too.

9) September: Rhett and Link This date was another gift courtesy of my Aunt. We had the opportunity to see the hosts of YouTube show Good Mythical Morning live. It was pretty neat even though we were almost an hour late. #traffic The Hubs introduced me to the show when we first got together and I’ve since grown to be a fan myself. It was cool to see them live although the show was less like their regular shows than we’d expected. Date score: 4/10 This was probably my least favorite date of the year but only because the others were so awesome. It was nice to have time together but I think our favorite part was the car ride haha!

10) October: Ramen Night October’s date night was desperately needed. We were stressed and cranky and arguing a lot. I wasn’t in a good place mentally. We finally realized that we needed an emergency date. We called up a good friend of mine to watch the twins and set out to try a new Ramen restaurant. If you get the chance to try Jinya Ramen Bar DO IT! Wow! The food was so amazing! The service was great too! The best part of the date was that we recognized that we needed time together and made it happen. We even banned all talk of work from dinner. It was an amazing decision that ultimately helped me to realize that I was focusing too much on work and not enough on my personal growth. Date score: 11/10 This date gets a bonus point because it had lasting effects on our marriage, not to mention good food.

11) November: Phil’s Oyster Bar We we’re both excited to try another new restaurant after our October date so we have Phil’s Oyster Bar a shot. The food was incredible and we enjoyed some quiet time away from the rapidly approaching chaos of the holidays. It wasn’t an earth shaking date or particularly adventurous but we enjoyed the time. Date score: 5/10 Good food, nice night, but not my favorite.

12) December: Dinner, A Movie, and Games This was a fun date for several reasons. My Mom and Bonus Dad took the kids while we went to the movies for the first time in like a year. We saw Knives Out and both enjoyed it. Then we ate some tasty Tex Mex and went home to play games. He introduced me to a new game and we played our new favorite board game, The Game of Life: Quarter Life Crisis. If you’re a millennial and/or struggling with debt I recommend getting this game. It’s a hilarious reminder that it could be worse. It was nice to connect and focus on something different to round out our year. One of the best parts of the date was that it only cost us 40 cents. We used gift cards for the rest of the date. Yay Christmas Gifts! Haha! Date score: 10/10 We managed to pack so much into this date and do it without worrying about money. We had time to connect and have fun.

As I was writing about our dates I was able to put into perspective how much our family and friends have helped us to make monthly date nights possible. We couldn’t have done most of these things without them. We also really love making food a date night priority haha! It’s the south though and food is what brings people together. I can’t wait for our 2020 dates. I’d love to see your date ideas in the comments below.

Happy New Year Mom Van Riders! Thanks for taking this journey with me and my crazy family. I can’t wait to see what 2020 has in store for us!

What Being A Mom Looks Like

My husband took a picture of me the other day that I feel really sums up the stage of Motherhood that I’m in right now. The stage when your children are so attached to you that even peeing by yourself is a sin in their eyes. The picture, however unconventional, has quickly become one of my favorites because it’s honest…and I think it’s funny.

So, this is me. Yes, I’m sitting on the toilet. Yes, my shape wear is around my knees. The tan, uncomfortable shape wear that we all wear and wish would magically make it look like we never had kids. The kind we feel does nothing but outside of the lense clouded by self doubt actually does smooth out our bellies. Yes, that is my tacky sweater because it’s Christmas so why the hell not? Yes, those are my twins. Moments before, they’d been actively trying to shove me off of the toilet because apparently I’m no longer allowed to pee. It doesn’t fit into their plan. Yes, five of us were in the bathroom at once. The twins screaming their heads off until I held them and my husband and mother in law trying desperately to get them out of there without a colossal meltdown so I could use the bathroom in peace.

I’m sure someday I’ll miss them wanting to spend time with me. For now I’m trying to stay patient and see the humor in it. For all you Mommies out there who’d love to pee by yourselves, you are not alone. I’m right here with you.

Being A Working Mom

Its cold in my room as the sun slowly creeps in through my window. My babies are sleeping in their crib and snuggly and warm. They climb into each other’s beds now to be close to one another. I have to fight myself to get dressed for work and not just put them in the bed with me and stare at them until they wake up. These are the days when I envy the stay at home Moms and Dads. Where I wish career wasn’t both a necessity and calling for me. Where I feel like a crappy parent because I know that I don’t really want to be a stay at home Mom. The honest truth is that I know in my heart I don’t have what it takes to not have a job outside of my home. I don’t have that level of selflessness or patience and I’m really okay with it most days. I just get a little envious from time to time.

I’ve known for a very long time that career and family would have to coincide for me. I wanted them to. Want them to. I chose a degree in Management over a degree in Art because I knew that, while I had the skills to accomplish both, I’d feel more secure working an office job with children than relying on my art to get us through. (Looking back, I’m glad I did it for so many reasons, the number one being that my art isn’t all that great. Haha!) When I had my Twins that rocked the notion of having a full time job and a family a little for me but it really only takes a day or two of being the only person my twins interact with to remind me that it’s better for all of us this way. One of my dearest colleagues once told me that she realized she was a better mother when she was working. While I have my moments of crappiness, I know that I’m the same way. When I have the opportunity to work and utilize my talents I feel most like myself.

This isn’t to say that it’s not hard leaving my babies at home. I work around children and some days it’s unbearable. The other day I sent my Mom a message thanking her because I finally saw how hard it must have been for her some days as a teacher. Leaving your children to go take care of other people’s children seems like absolute bullshit some days. There are days when I see a Mom snuggle her baby and I just want to go sit at my desk and cry. I make sure to get in extra snuggles when I get home. I’m sure there are parents out there who think it’s terrible that I work instead of staying home.

Today I think I’ll skip the makeup and put down my writing and go pick my babies up and cuddle them instead. It’s a great way to start my day before I head off to work. It’s not an easy life we working Moms have. It’s not an easy life for a stay at home Mom either. The common denominator is that motherhood is freaking hard. It’s full of crazy pressures, annoyances, frustration, and for some reason things are almost always sticky or smelly…or both. At the end of the day though, it’s always worth it.

Stocking Snacks

Okay so Wednesday I promised to share our stocking stuffer “life hack.” Last year it felt like everywhere I turned stores were advertising “stocking stuffers” that ranged from silly junk to super expensive but small items. Buying toys as stocking stuffers seemed like it went against the Four Gifts rule so we opted for a new strategy. It was a gamble but the whole family LOVED it. Our rule is, if you can’t eat it, then it’s not a stocking stuffer. Now we ask Santa to bring everyone their favorite snacks along with a traditional orange and some walnuts.

Each of us have snacks that we love but we limit our purchase/ consumption of for various reasons. Last year The Twins were on purées mostly so they got baby food and those little puffs that melt in your mouth. They would eat their weight in bananas and gummies if we let them so guess what they are getting this year. The Boy is obsessed with Jack Links (he pronounces it Jacka Links) beef jerky so he went wild for the bag he got last Christmas. Crazy Eyes dips everything in ranch dressing or barbecue sauce. Sometimes she gets wild and dips into both. Santa brought her a bottle of each. We even wrote her name on them and told her that she didn’t have to share unless she wanted to. (Shocker, she didn’t haha!) The Hubs got cans of ravioli, instant coffee, and blow pops. (No one said it had to be fancy.) I got Kinder eggs and sesame sticks. Everyone got chips and cookies.

Everyone’s snacks went into their own gallon sized ziplock bag in the snack drawer after Christmas Day and the joy of opening our stockings lasted us a little longer. There was no bickering between the kids over who had what because even if we hadn’t labeled them it was pretty obvious who had what. Also, we didn’t need snacks on our next two grocery trips because Santa had brought special ones already. Everybody wins!

A boy and his jerky, a girl and her sauce.

Anxiety Attacks

Here I am, in the middle of an anxiety attack. It’s not the can’t breathe hyperventilating kind. It’s more subtle. It’s the heart racing, mind racing, it will be a miracle if I can sleep tonight kind. I’ve decided to share it with you even though it’s ugly and I hate it. I promised myself and you all that my blog would be honest. That I’d write my reality and not just pretty things.

I’m working hard to be more mindful when these things happen. To think about what triggers them. Tonight I made the mistake of thinking about money and the girls starting daycare next month. That’s where it started and then it spiraled into a thousand other things that I need to do but didn’t when I got home because I worked an 11 hour day and I was dog tired. Then came the guilt about not taking care of things because I chose to watch two episodes of The Crown instead. A simple thought in the shower turned into full blown anxiety attack in about 20 minutes. Boom! That’s how fast it can work sometimes.

The more exhausted I get the more they happen and the worse they are. My rational brain says get in bed, turn on a sleep meditation, and turn out the lights. The anxiety monster says why the hell try to sleep? You have so much to do. You should just get up and start trying to do all of it right now. Get dressed from your shower and hook the car seats back in the van even though you won’t need them until tomorrow afternoon and it’s freaking cold outside. It says lay out the kids clothes for their Christmas pictures tomorrow afternoon even though I know where everything is already. The stupid little voice says that even if I do all of that it won’t matter because how am I going to pay the bills next month with so much going on this month. Then it tells me that I’m a crappy Mom and Wife. Oh, and a shitty housekeeper for good measure. Some nights it even throws in a you’re fat too. Classy broad that anxiety of mine.

When I was younger and an idiot I’d try to quell the anxiety by going out and drinking or flirting. It worked sometimes but never resolved the issues underlying it all. Big shocker there. In my healthier moments, I’d find a way to be creative. Now it just depends on the timing and the cause. The other night I started obsessively doing chores around the house until The Hubs helped me stop and made me go to bed. Sometimes when it’s really bad I cry. Tonight I’m writing. I guess it’s a good sign that I’m turning to a healthier option?

I know that in the morning I’ll be able to step back and problem solve. Be able to look at the unknowns rationally and be fine. Right now I’m going to finish setting up this post, cry a little, then put on a big giant comfy shirt and get in bed. Then I’ll close my eyes and count my blessings. The way I see it, my options are either keep fighting or give up. So tonight I’ll rest up and go back to fighting tomorrow.

Four Gifts

When you have a big family, Christmas can get a little crazy and gifts can get super overwhelming. For the kids, we try to limit it to four gifts. One thing you want, one thing you need, one thing you wear, one thing you read. Gotta love a catchy rhyme right? (Shout out to my High School American History teacher for sharing the idea on Facebook last year.) We always end up throwing in one or two extra small gifts that I pick up during the year on sale and we let the kids pick out something little for each other.

Limiting gifts has multiple purposes:

1) We don’t go overboard. Good grief it’s so easy to overdo it sometimes! We work hard all year and want to spoil our kids because at the end of the day they’re really great kids. After our first two years Christmas shopping for the kids together we realized that we’d bought them so many things that we couldn’t even remember what all of them were. It was all about quantity, which brings me to number two.

2) Our choices are more intentional when we limit what we buy. The Hubs and I spend a lot of time discussing and searching for the right gifts for our little monsters. We’ve had guitar in mind for Crazy Eyes for so long that The Hubs learned how to play some songs and read music so he could teach her. Each gift is picked especially for them and not just because we got distracted by the pretty packaging on the shelf. Does that mean every gift will blow them away? Nah. You can only get so excited about a new set of sheets (one thing you need) or a new pair of jammies (one thing you wear). Will the sheets or jammies be perfect for that kiddo though? You bet your holly jolly butt they will!

3) Christmas should be about more than gifts. My Husband isn’t a Christian. He celebrates Christmas with us because he appreciates the sentiments behind the holiday and the teachings of Christ regarding how we should treat others. Also, it’s the South and it’s tradition. If his Pagan self can see that Christmas is about spreading love and joy in the world and not getting a pile of presents then I think we all can. We try to focus on the teaching moments of the season and not just the presents for them. For example, we save our change all year and then use the money at Christmas for the kids to do something special for strangers. We usually do Toys for Tots. The kids love picking out gifts for other kids and it helps them to appreciate what they have. We are by no means perfect, but this falls in line with our “don’t raise kids who are assholes” parenting goal.

4) Our house is small and so is our budget. We don’t have room for a ton of toys, especially ones that aren’t being played with. The kids all share rooms and toys and things for four kids take up a lot of space sooooo fast. It’s either limit the gifts or break your neck tripping over a Barbie doll. I choose life. Our budget is often small as well so we’d rather a couple quality gifts instead of several junkier ones. (I’ll share some of the ways we make our money count with stocking stuffers in another post.)

That’s what works for us. It’s sometimes hard to stick with but in the end it makes sense for our family. What does Christmas look like for you? Do you pull out all the stops? Do you have special gift traditions? I’d love to read about it in the comments!