Thursday, May 7, 2015

A few days before you turn F I V E.

Somehow your birthday crept on me, sweet girl. It's funny how that could happen, considering how many times you've reminded me and asked for a countdown again. But it's finally here. This weekend you turn 5.

I think I pushed it far from my mind, if I'm being honest with myself. Something about this age both excites me to no end, and terrifies me. Something about this age, turning 5, just feels so large, so monumental, like I have a real kid now. Something about this age makes me feel like I'm no longer a Rookie in this parenting gig. And yet--most days I still have no clue what I'm doing.

I know there have been a lot of days recently I've said, "but I remember you as my baby--I can feel you in my arms, so little, so new-..." I've looked at you and our eyes meet, and you've seen mine well up with tears and you keep hearing us say, "how did this happen? how are we here already? how are you so big?" And you smile, with that tender little smile that makes your eyes squinty and twinkle a little--and when we ask you to stay little you giggle and tell us just how gosh darn excited you are to be turning five. 

The truth is--the very truth of the matter is that we are excited that you are turning five, too. Even though I may not act like it all the time. Even though the thought of it turns this non-crier into a crier at the drop of a hat. Even though I ask how you got big, so fast, over and over again until you roll your eyes and say, "Mommmm".  Even when I show you baby pictures that pop up in my timehop every day and swear that this cannot be. The truth is we are happy--because we are so lucky that we've had five wonderful years with you in it, Ems. 

You are the baby that knit your daddy and I together in a way we weren't before, making us all a little family. 

You are the toddler who we helicoptered over at the park and made sure was safe from bumps and bruises. 

You are the big girl who continually surprises us, teaches us, reminds us of God's love for us every single day.

You are a delight. Simply put--a joy.

This year is huge. For you, for me. For us. You've championed through big changes and you've transitioned with such grace and ease. You have taught us to slow down and enjoy our surroundings, always noticing every bird song through the air,  or strange ocean plant that's washed up on the shore. You're so great at making new friends and being confident in who you are as a person. This makes the thought of big changes like Kindergarten just slightly easier, because I know you got this. Because you know you got this. 

Living life with you as my first daughter is special and good.  Every day I anticipate your gentle smile and freckly face coming up to me whispering 'g'morning, mommy' and giving me unforgettable hugs. Every time you spontaneously tell me you love me or I'm the 'best mom ever' I adore it because I know this won't last forever even though I wish it would.

You've always had a way, ever since you were teeny tiny, of making people around you feel loved. I can attest, it's truer than true. This is such a gift. You are such a treasure.

As we go onto 5--you and I, and Daddy and Lucy---(because we're all in this together, you know), let's make it good. No, the best ever. I've heard 5 is good, but let's blow it out the water, it's gonna be friggin' great.

Happy birthday sweet Emeline Kay. You are loved, loved, loved.

Let's celebrate!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

To live simply is to live clear.

One of the many benefits of moving such a far distance is having to be mindful of exactly what you choose to take with you. It quickly becomes a lesson in simplifying. One that can be kind of hard at first, but yet insanely freeing.

When you've got two small 8'x5x7' storage containers to ship everything you think you'll need to start your life over, you think about everything. Will this benefit me there? Will I be annoyed when I open this box to see I wasted time and space to ship this? Does it serve a purpose to help our life? 

Our home in Pennsylvania wasn't large by most people's standards back East--but somehow, in that townhome we managed to accumulate a whole lot of junk over the years. Every single closet, every single drawer must be opened when you move. There is no more secret-keeping and hiding the 'dirty laundry' behind door #1. Those leftover Christmas boxes that would be perfect for the cookie-making I never did shoved back in the depths of the closet had to be uncovered. The cheap purses and beach bags I'd collected over the last 10 years filled with old receipts were found. The old boxes upon boxes of my things from my teaching days I held onto "just in case" were just collecting dust.

If moving revealed anything to me it's that even if I didn't think so, I had excess. I had excess of most everything and moving revealed all our dirty little secrets about what we really had. What we held onto. What kind of junk was lurking behind drawers and closet doors.

I wish I had kept count, because I can't even tell you how many bags of clothes I gave away. How many baby toys, swaddles, jumpers, all the stuff you keep 'in case' that we got rid of. Endless amounts of things that ended up by curb, things that went to donation, were given to friends and family, and things that got sold.

Every single thing that came with us to this side of the country was a conscious decision as we put it into a box because, mostly, we needed it.

I cannot even tell you how relieving it was when we packed up those two u-boxes knowing full well that everything we were taking had a purpose. There wasn't much excess. There was no room for that.

Unpacking on this side was wonderful and dare I say--easy. When you aren't looking for closets and drawers to tuck things away you 'may' need one day--it's funny, but, you end up with lots of free drawers in your kitchen and open closet space. And it's NICE.

It's refreshing.

I've always talked about simplifying. I WANT TO LIVE LIKE A MINIMALIST! I live in a small'ish house, so clearly back in Pennnsylvania I was "living simply", as my sign boasted on the wall.

But no. We weren't. I wasn't.

To live simply is to live clear, to live easily, with what you need and not too much more.

Do I still have too many clothes? Yes. Are there far too many little girl shoes thrown around the living room? Yes. Have I perfected this simplifying thing? No. 

But did we make a huge, giant leap in the process? Absolutely.


tr.v. sim·pli·fiedsim·pli·fy·ingsim·pli·fies
To make simple or simpler, as:
a. To reduce in complexity or extent.
b. To reduce to fundamental parts.
c. To make easier to understand.

I don't know about you, but reducing complexity is always welcomed in my life.

We may have a long ways to go, but hitting the refresh button certainly helped us reevaluate all that stuff.


Thursday, April 9, 2015

When you feel unsure-press in.

I was the first one to preach that it didn't matter where we were, it was just that we'd be together. If we had one another, it didn't matter that we were leaving the home we brought our babies home to, the one we poured so much love and care.

It wasn't about the place we lived. The physical walls of the place we called home. Home is wherever we were together. I preached that over and over and over to myself.

And then that very first night, two+ months ago, after traveling thousands of miles by plane and being extremely sleep deprived--we turned the key into what would be our new home for the year. Just like that all my prior self talk flew right out the window. 

I'm not sure if it was just seeing a place so stark, so empty, so cold. It held no memories for us. It was dark outside, so no hope of sunlight was beaming through the windows to touch my shoulder and tell me it was ok. It was...just not home. We walked room to room, faking smiles for the kids but shooting looks of what did we do back and forth to one another. We'd seen it in photos. It felt ok. But that night, over exhausted from all the traveling, I felt worried that I could not make this place feel like home. No matter how 'together' we were. I was forgetting to practice what I preached all this time.

That night we went back to the hotel and I sunk into the bed with a face full of tears. I said things out of pure exhaustion like, I think we made a mistake. What did we do? We took our babies away from everything they knew. Should we go back?

I wasn't sure. I wasn't sure we had made the right decision. 

In those moments Declan held me and he promised me--he promised that we would tackle making this place feel more like home tomorrow, with fresh eyes, and sleep. That we could do it--that we could pretty much do anything if we were together. 

He was right. That next morning our boxes were delivered, we had hired two moving helpers, and as I saw some of our familiar things come into this place it did start feeling more and more like home. People commented that "wow-I can't believe you settled so fast". But you don't understand, we had no choice but to make this place feel as warm as we could, as fast as can be. 

Moving so far was our choice, yes--but it doesn't mean that we didn't cling to some sense of what we felt back home in Pennyslvania. We needed to feel settled, see the things that felt familiar. 

It brought us comfort.

I can safely say that although this little rental place is just that--a rental. It really feels like home to us. We're all here, we all feel settled, we're all together. 

It's the place that holds our laughter, our tears, our fights, all our crap, and the buckets of sand we drag in on our feet from the beach. It's the place we feel we can breathe and just be us. 


It's hard for me to share the story of what a struggle that first day or two was for me. I know that on the outside it can look so perfect and glamorous and oh so fun. But those initial feelings of shock, worry, feeling like an alien in a new place--yea, those were all really real to me. While I'm grateful I don't feel that way anymore, it was part of the growing and learning process.

Grow and learn. grow and learn...

Saturday, March 7, 2015

If I could send sunshine in a bottle.

Last year I was pegged as the chronic winter complainer. I absolutely know I whined and oh my gosh, if school closed again just go ahead and kill me. That winter really messed with me, a lot. With a toddler and a preschooler who both seemed to aggravate the ever living heck out of one another every two and a half seconds plus living in a small'ish house--we were so done. I was so done.

Now, we obviously live 2600 miles away from the mess that's happening back home. I see the facebook posts and the instagram photos and the cries for help on blog posts about #hurryupspring. And I SO GET IT.

I really, totally do.

I know how real it is to feel trapped and jailed by weather. To feel like 'oh my god, will the sun ever shine again?', and to truly doubt that it ever will. To see another 10" snow storm in the forecast one day after getting 2 feet dumped on you and feel sick to your stomach about it. To see piles of snow so high you know it's not possible they'll melt until May, at least. To get excited for 30 or 40 degree weather and actually think it's acceptable to go coat-less because it's a notch up from the single digits. How miserable it can be to be stuck inside with kids clawing at the walls and cabin fever so bad that nothing except a trip to the park in sunshine and flip flops can cure.

I only had to suffer through the very early stages of winter this year. Before long we were on the west coast down here in our little San Diego slice of heaven where 70 degrees and sunshine became our new winter 'normal'. You can go ahead and hate me if you are in the misery stage of winter right now. It's ok--I don't mind. (Just remember all the work, people I loved that we left, and logistics that go into a cross country move when you're doing the hating, ha!) I mean, it's 84 degrees today and I'm wearing shorts. I'm wearing shorts in March, which frankly, is unheard of where I'm from. The weather no longer holds us back, basically, from anything. School is always open. The beach is no longer reserved for just 'vacation'.

But no matter how much our daily life and weather patterns over on this side of the country have changed--I don't forget. Oh no, I don't forget for a hot second that feeling and that misery that comes along with a never ending winter. If you've not been there, not felt what it's like to be stuck inside for endless day with children (snow days pre-children were pure awesome by the way...), with a huge lack of Vitamin D, and the winter blues that comes along with it---remember to be nice. You don't get it and you may never get it. I hope you don't, actually. Because Endless Winter is exhausting, and hard, and soul-draining. And if you're someone who loves all this winter nonsense and being trapped indoors with kids for endless days, I don't understand you-but it's ok. To each his own.

So, my friends and family in that "We hope it's the end but we just don't know if another storm will slap us in the face"-season, I love you. I get it. And I'm praying for your sanity.

Eventually all your #hurryupspring hashtags will come forth.

And next winter you will book your tickets to see us to escape all that nonsense, yes? Just say yes.


Monday, February 23, 2015


Do you hear that? 

Me neither. 

Because there is silence here. Deep breath.

It's been almost a solid month of transition time here in San Diego. A month where the girls couldn't start into their preschool schedule here, and a month where the sister togetherness might have been just a tad too much. A month where they begged to go to school and to make "fwends" and all that fun stuff they missed from back home. 

But today. Today they started. Even if just a few mornings a week, it's enough right now to bring back some semblance of normalcy to their little world and I'm so excited for them. And maybe a little bit for me. Ok, I am excited for me, too.

I'm so excited that all I could do was come right back home and make a bowl of oatmeal to eat in peace. I like to live large.

But the truth of it all is that this past month as much as we might have annoyed one another at times, we needed that. We needed that time to, as Lucy says, "Da whole fami-wee" figure out this life on the other side of the country. We explored together, cried together, had meltdowns together, bugged the crap out of each other and really loved one another. 

These two were my sidekicks in exploring our new YMCA's, our beaches, the best place to take the dog for a walk, what restaurants are kid friendly, new churches and sunday schools, and best store (Target) to display epic tantrums to ensure the most eyes can view it.

Us, 'da whole fami-wee'--we were a team this last month figuring out new life over here. 

Though crazy at times, ok, a lot of times-I wouldn't want it any other way. 

Happy 1st day of 'california school', my babies. I'll see you in two hours.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Ocean ease.

I realize it could get very old very fast to be the girl talking about The!Beach! and sunshine all the time. Remember last year when I got a lot of heat for complaining about winter all the time? At least you don't have to worry about all that anymore. (But seriously, harsh winters kill the souls of moms everywhere.) If happy sunshine pictures and stuff bothers you I may not be your cup o' tea--at least for a little while until the newness of all this wears off.

I'm being told though that the ease of going to the ocean whenever you want, the wonder of it all, won't wear off anytime soon. That people who live by the ocean still love it and don't take it for granted. I'm hoping that this is true, because right now? Right now we are eating this up.

I admit that it still feels a little like vacation, even though Declan is back to working full days. But the girls haven't started preschool yet (two more weeks), and since our days are a little carefree right now we get a lot of time to explore our new home. I also break up way more sister-fights than ever--so truthfully, I can't wait for them to have some structure with preschool. I might be counting down the days, it's possible.

The best part about living so close to so many options of beaches and entertainment is that we can pop in for quick "tire the kids out before bedtime" visits. There is no better tired than beach-tired. Hauling all those buckets of water back and forth, playing tag with your daddy, climbing the big (to them) sand dunes, dude, it's exhausting stuff. Everyone slept in this morning.

We feel like we've adjusted pretty well for the most part. Our place is starting to feel like home, a place to breathe and rest and break up kiddie arguments. I'm starting to cook meals and get back to a little bit of normal. I finally (as you can see) broke out my camera for the first time since December 25th. Because this place deserves more than my iPhone.

I promise not to take this sight for granted. I promise not to be like the girls last night who walked right onto the beach during sunset, turned their bodies around and proceeded to take 20 minutes of sunset selfies, never having once turned to enjoy the sunset at all.

We'll be in awe each and every time we walk onto a gorgeous beach, and we'll look at each other and say, I can't believe we live here. 

There's just something about the sandy toes and wind-blown hair that makes me feel like a childhood well done.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

When you just up and move across the country.

Two years ago, heck, a year ago even, if you'd have asked me if moving all this distance was in our plans I would have said a big heck-no. Was it in our dreams? Yes it was. In fact, I remember telling a friend that one of two things would happen in my future, and I wasn't sure quite sure which.

1) We would buy a house and settle in an area in Pennsylvania we were comfortable with/felt like home just because that seemed like The Next Responsible Thing To Do.

or 2) We would up and move across the country to live in southern California.

If I'm being honest with you, number 2 didn't seem like something that would actually happen--more like a pipe dream, perhaps.

But here's the thing. I am not special or brave or crazy (ok, maybe a little bit), or wild and adventurous for doing this. My husband says, "yes, you are brave, babe". I say, "no, no sweetie, I'm not, because I'm still scared."  But we took an idea, a dream, really--and began to let ourselves really think about it seriously. We played out every scenario in our heads, we got the ball rolling, we took the big, scary steps. We let each door open and if it opened we walked through it. We explored the avenues and broke the news to family. It was met with different feelings and reactions from everyone, as to be expected. Some very sad, some super excited for us, some ignored it, and some were wonderfully supportive. But then we kept on.

I've gotten a lot of comments, mainly on my instagram, things that go something like this:

You're brave, I could never do that. 

I wish I could, but I just can't. 

Leaving family is never an option for us.

I'd miss everyone too much. 

It's too hard. 

My parents would kill me.

The details make my head hurt. 

I've always dreamed of moving to the beach. 

I'll just live vicariously through you. 

All of them are exactly how I felt, how I still feel if I'm being honest. I told Declan last night that it still almost feels like a dream that we live here. While we were going through all the little details that it took to get here (omg, SO MANY---), I thought we would surely die in the process. There's no way to figure it all out. Is there???

Turns out you can. And I know this is like beating a dead horse, but you just take one day at a time, one step. Before you know it you're there and scratching your head like, whoa, we did it.

My point is not to say, You should all move far away from your family. I'm not suggesting that at all, that'd be crazy and it's not for everyone. Some of us make choices to move away, and some of us don't get the choice based on careers or whatever.

What I am saying is that sometimes you have to ask yourself the hard questions and then answer them truthfully. Sometimes considering your little family unit and making decisions not based on everyone else's feelings is actually the healthiest thing to do. Sometimes stepping out into something so new and unknown can stretch and grow you in a way you may not have otherwise. Sometimes you have to think will the regret of never trying haunt you all your life? 

Moving your little established family because you want to try it may sound crazy, and, you know--maybe it is, but I'm just gonna err on the side of this quote when those feelings of Oh God, What did I do creep in. Because I hope I'm lying in bed with Declan when we're 80 one day and reminiscing on our SoCal adventure with a smile.


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