The Tie That Binds Us...


This is not a political post. I will not tell you that your viewpoint is wrong, flawed, or less worthy of consideration than my own. I will not unfriend you if your passionate opinion is not mine. We are more than our affiliations or parties or platforms. We just are.

Instead, this post is a call to action. For ALL of us, no matter what side of the spectrum we find ourselves on. Despite how we feel when we watch the news, regardless of the division and ugliness that bogs us down, and resisting the "well, they started it!" accusations, this is a call for a renaissance of some of these most basic and essential ingredients of humanity:

--Respect: due regard for the feelings, wishes, rights, or traditions of others
--Kindness: the quality of being friendly, generous and considerate
--Patience: quiet, steady perseverance, even-tempered care
--Understanding: sympathetic awareness of other people's feelings, tolerance and forgiveness
--Peace: freedom from disturbance, or the cessation of violence
--Love: feeling of warm personal affection for someone or something

I believe that if we focus on all that connects us rather than that which separates us, it makes it easier to treat others well. Like the love we feel for our families and friends, the care we show in our communities, the hope we have for future generations. We can choose understanding and patience even when our opinions differ. And if we do that, we may be able to live alongside one another with respect, kindness and peace within differences.

In no way does this mean we shouldn't stand up for what we believe in, and work with our voices and votes to propel those causes forward. But don't you think we can do all of those things with respect, kindness, patience, understanding, peace and love? I do. (Resist the "well, they don't" here too. Like I tell my kids, you are the only one responsible for your behavior. Don't let someone else bring out the worst in you.)

So if we all did that, if we tried not to let the world change how we treat others, wouldn't it be a nicer world to live in? Just a thought.

Love you all...truly I do.

Peace be with you.

{J}

Photo credit: Will O.-Unsplash
Holly and Jenn

Parents, I Stand With You.


Friends, many of us have recently taken our kids to college and LEFT THEM THERE! I've read lots of blogs and taken the advice of some very wise women who've charted this path before my time, but I still wasn't fully prepared for what it would feel like.

For those of you still reeling a bit, I'm with you. For those of you yet to experience this normal, healthy progression in life, here are some things you should know:

  1. When you pack up your child's room, you will discover that there is way too much crap. This is not the best time to go through every cubby and drawer and keepsake box. You do not have the emotional stamina to endure a walk down memory lane as you are sending a piece of your heart away. Resist the urge. You'll be wrecked soon enough.
  2. When you unpack them in their dorm or apartment on campus, there are two main objectives. First, you want them to feel as comfortable as possible, so you wash everything in your family detergent, you fill their mini-fridge with favorites from home, you help them set up their room for function and familiarity, because that will all help with the transition. Second, you want to make sure they survive the night so you take the campus map and highlight the health center and emergency numbers and all the various places where they can find food and water. And maybe you have a little refresher course on the buddy-system and stranger-danger.
  3. When you tour the campus, every corner, every hedge, every narrow passageway feels like it could be a potential crime scene where your child is the victim. Then you're really glad you got the two-pack of pepper spray, and you might suggest she looks for a self-defense class, just in case. (Maybe this is just with girls??)
  4. When you see your college student interact with her RA, his roommates, her fellow students, the dining-hall-check-in-lady, you are impressed and proud and a little baffled that you had something to do with that. The confidence, the friendliness, the spirit they possess...WOW! Then you feel a tad bit better about them managing things on their own.
  5. When you say good-bye and hug her for the last time, it's gut-wrenching, soul-crushing, heart-breakingly sad.
  6. When you walk through the airport with big fat tears running down your face, most people will avoid eye contact. But some will inquire kindly and listen to your story and say they understand because they've been there. Maybe you'll feel momentarily better - part of a tribe of parents who have survived this unnatural, awful parting. But when you leave the nice, strong, reassuring strangers to board your plane, you'll find that the tears were not done with you.
  7. When you get home, even though their room is still cluttered and messy and you can sense their presence and know they'll be back soon, the house feels weird. Off. Empty. Lonely. And oh-so-wrong.
  8. When you settle into bed that first night, you may request a proof-of-life photo. At first she won't know what that is. But then she'll think you're funny. You weren't being funny.
  9. When you see your other kids miss their sibling, your heart breaks a little more.
  10. When you see your spouse pause at the door to her empty room, that just about takes you down.
  11. When you talk to other moms, you realize that everyone's experience is a little different. None is more right or wrong, weak or strong. Just different. And there's comfort in those conversations with your sisters-in-life.
  12. When you talk to other dads, you realize that men are really good at compartmentalizing. And maybe, for like a second, you wish you were a man. 
  13. When you get that first text, you are totally cool and love how fun texting your grown-up-child-friend is. And then you transfer some money just because you're so happy.
  14. When you get that first call, you take it more seriously. It feels like every word has to be perfect because for the first time in their life, they can control the frequency of contact and the conversation. And more than anything, you really want them to WANT to call home.
  15. When you get the first FaceTime call, you notice your adult-child looks different. Like they grew a little overnight. And you realize how much you missed seeing them and how much their expressions reveal about their time away. The way her eyes light up when she's excited. The way his smile stretches all the way to his eyes. The way her laugh crosses miles to warm your soul. The way his voice tells you exactly how he's feeling. You also realize that they really are fine, even if they're not quite sure yet.
  16. When you hang up, you wonder if she knows how much you miss her. Did you tell her? Then you wonder if you'll make her sad if you say it too much, either because she feels the exact same way. Or worse (better maybe?), she doesn't. 
  17. When you talk the next time, you'll listen more, you'll take her lead, you'll let him share. It's the job now: ADAPTING. And you'll re-engineer your role as parent, until like Goldilocks, her favorite bedtime story when she was five, you get it just right.  
  18. When you adjust to the new rhythm in the house, in your day, in your week; when you sleep through the night without waking up in a panic at 3 a.m.; when you can finally do the laundry she left behind, you feel a little bit like a superhero who truly can endure anything. Because you just did probably one of the hardest things that parents are tasked to do in life: love them good and let them fly. 
Stay strong parents-of-college-kids. We're all going to be fine.

{J} 

Photo cred: Tim Gouw, Unsplash
Holly and Jenn

Summer Is...



Good vibes only.
Toes buried deep in the cool sand.
Long, lingering walks anywhere.
Adventure around every corner.
Vacations, staycations, leisurely days at home.
Family time.
No routine. 
Saying YES more.
Bike rides, beach days, bonfires, BBQs.
Healthy, yummy salads.
Followed by froyo or ice cream or gelato.
Books to fall in love with.
Movie theater visits, extra popcorn.
Netflix binge-watching with your girl before she moves to college.
Quiet mornings and a cup of tea while the kids sleep in.
Long nights playing your favorite music.
Cold drinks with the best of friends.
Less social media, more phone calls.
Mindfulness.
Making memories.
Life is sweet, in the summer.
Holly and Jenn

Godspeed, Graduates!


These are our babies. Our first borns. Our hearts.
Today, they graduate from high school. 
Today, they close the chapter of their youth and prepare for the next great adventure.
Today, they bask in their determination, their passion, their success. 
Today, they claim ownership of their wild dreams, their lofty goals, their story. 
Today, they celebrate. Today, we celebrate.
Congratulations Jake and Bella. We are so proud of you!
We'll be front and center for the next chapter, cheering you on and supporting you every step.
You got this!!
Godspeed!
Holly and Jenn

Go Boldly Into The Feelings, Parents...


I missed Senior Awards last night. Scrolling through social media this morning was a bad idea. You know how they - the wise people of FB - say that we shouldn't compare, we should CONNECT through social media? Well, that's all nice and dandy until you miss a milestone and then feel the harsh pangs of guilt while scrolling through everyone else's pictures. (Disclaimer: I'm a little emotional about ALL the things. Hoping to process here. Writing = Therapy.)

Sorry...I digress...last night was Senior Awards night and I couldn't make it. My husband was obviously there but he couldn't stay the whole time since he had to take care of other children and a bed-ridden wife. But he was there for her special moment. He assured me that I shouldn't feel guilty and that I shouldn't be sad because I've been to ALL THE THINGS. Nonetheless, sad, sappy, sick girl remained.

Here's the thing, well, one of the things. I still can't entirely wrap my head around the fact that my first born, my little girl - once lover of all things pink, watcher of Bear and the Big Blue House (I absolutely ADORED the singing moon Luna!), consumer of salami and cheese like a true Italian, singer of Sara Hickman, reader of Angelina Ballerina, and NOW, lover of all things bohemian, watcher of too much Netflix, consumer of mass quantities of Starbucks, singer of country music, lover of Jesus and HTYM, but STILL my baby - is finishing high school. How did that happen?

I don't know about you, but lately, I turn into a bucket of tears just folding her laundry, or walking down the street (she used to stop and crunch every.single.crunchy.leaf.), or hearing her voice mail memo when she doesn't pick up. In his defense, Michael has been making LOTS of space for my emotions and he's been very sensitive. So last night, I know he was trying to make me feel better when he gently pointed out that, due to my PITA vertigo, I looked a tad bit like a heroin addict and would likely embarrass our daughter if I showed up to awards, walking like a zombie+looking like a junkie. In truth, I haven't even been able to walk to the bathroom without nearly falling over so he was right. It was better if I just didn't.

But I couldn't stop thinking about the moment when our daughter, our about-to-fly-the-coop daughter, had her name called and I didn't hear it. Walked up to the stage and I didn't cheer for her. Smiled full of pride and I didn't capture it. (Torture...I'm good at torturing myself.) I really wanted to do all of those things. But I couldn't. And I was still connected to the moment - the LAST of all awards ceremonies - emotionally. And that's my issue.

What it comes down to is that I missed out on a moment. A moment that mattered to me, that I wanted to store for all eternity in my memory, along with all of the other important moments. Because they are fleeting these days. And even though sometimes she's an emotional, snarky, impatient, eye-rolling teenager, even as she practices her independence and it breaks my heart a little, I know I don't have many more milestones that I get to witness first-hand, front-row, camera-clicking, heart-swelled, knowing that I had some small part in getting her there. Because soon, there will be so many important moments that she'll be experiencing all on her own, that I won't even know about until she shares them with me. From a distance. As it's meant to be.

Moms and dads with kids leaving for college, it's okay for us to feel the sorrow for the future moments we're about to miss. The important thing is that we don't forget to embrace all the RIGHT NOW moments. Let's soak in the celebration, be present in the prepping, and see them, memorize their features and squeeze them tight every chance we get. These are the memories that we will treasure when the house feels empty, the texts come less often, and our babies bravely chart their own paths. Even though they won't see us, we'll be praying for them and cheering them on through it all.

Go boldly into the emotions friends, know you're not alone. Come over...maybe some vodka+LaCroix will help, (when the spinning stops). I'll hold your hand as you tell me all the things your dear one has accomplished and we'll learn how to navigate this new stage together.

Sending love and strength from my couch.

Jenn

By the way, when Bella got home last night, I climbed out of my bed and into hers and told her how sad I was that I missed the event. I told her that she is so so LOVED, even though I might've been the only parent in all of Tesoro that didn't make it. And finally, I told her that I was so, SO proud of her. Then I gave her a great big hug. She hugged me back, told me she understood and said that I really shouldn't leave the house looking the way I did..."Zombie Mom". We laughed, and I'm going to hold onto the humor instead of what I missed. Thank you writing-therapy!!

Holly and Jenn

Letter to Baby, On Her 18th Birthday


To Baby
September 16, 1999

Good morning. It's just after 10 a.m. Yesterday, when I got home from work, your father and I went to sushi for dinner and a little celebration. You see, we have both established ourselves in our careers and in our home and really have wonderful things to be thankful for.

When I came home from dinner though, I wasn't feeling very good...I guess you're not a big sushi fan yet. I went to bed early and felt a bit of a buzz throughout my whole body. Little did I know, you were the electricity flowing through my veins. My sleep was restless and my dreams kept waking me. I hope they didn't wake you as well, my little child.

When I woke up this morning, still feeling out of sorts, I decided not to go in to work. Your father was up and on his way to his third grade class and you and I stayed in bed for a few more hours of leisurely slumber. I arose at 9 a.m., showered and dressed and set out for the store. Your father didn't want to pick up a pregnancy test last night so I was on a mission to do so. I bought three yogurts and an EPT. Scott at Lucky's shared in the anticipation with me while I was in line. He simply said as he bagged my things, "You and Michael will be great parents." I wonder if he knew...

I got home and used the stick and three minutes later, I was aware of you. My hands shook, my heart raced and my eyes cried. It was the best moment of your life thus far, for it was when you revealed yourself to me. And it was the best moment of my life thus far, for I started to get to know you. And I gave you a name..."Baby."

I love you my child, and I can't wait to share the news with your dad, your grandparents, your aunts and uncles. You are going to be so blessed with family and friends and unlimited love. But for now, and for the next six hours until your father comes home from work, I will have you all to myself, and I will walk proudly with you, I will talk softly to you and I will keep you warm and safe.

With love forever,
Your Mommy

Today, our sweet Baby Bella turns 18. She is a beautiful spirit in this world, compassionate, intuitive and wise beyond her years, yet at the same time, she holds onto the magic of her childhood. In some ways, we're not ready for her to grow up, and in others, we can't wait to witness all of the grand experiences she'll have, the beautiful relationships waiting to be formed, and the many ways that our Bella will leave her fingerprints on the world.

Godspeed, sweet girl. We love you always.

Love,
Mom and Dad

Holly and Jenn

My Emotional Relationship With ExtraCare Rewards and Why My Son Is Now My Servant

I

I am a selfless person. In most instances, I will fulfill the needs of every single member of my household before I even contemplate my own. The chores: I will do the lion's share because they are so busy. The lists: I will cross off all the things before putting my feet up. (Wait, that's funny. I don't think I do that.) I know it's a mom thing, but sometimes I feel guilty if I put myself first. Anyone get me?

If you answered yes, I think you will understand my reaction to a recent situation. I came home from work the other day and found my thirteen year old, still sweet and considerate Noah, playing Fort Night (ugh...for another post) with a wide array of junky snacks. There were three boxes of Cheez-Its, two tubes of Pringles, some beef sticks and a giant Arizona Ice Tea. (Or is it Iced Tea?)

This is how the conversation went:

Me: Hey bud.

Son: Oh, hey mom.

Me: How was your day.

Son: Pretty good. How was your day? (See, considerate.)

Me: Busy. And good. (I may have munched on a few Cheez-Its here.)

Son: You like those?

Me: Yes. Yes I do. Where'd you get them?

Son: CVS.

Me: That's fun. Looks like you scored today. Did you and your friends buy all this?

Son: No. Just me.

Me: Wow...that's a lot of stuff for just you.

Son: Guess how much it all cost.

Me: Hmmm...I'd say $15.

Son: Nope. Just $2.50.

Me: What? How? Some sort of blow-out snack sale?

Son: Well, actually, when we first got there, I just got the Arizona. But when I checked out, the guy
gave me the receipt and it had $18 of coupons.

Me: Wait. Are you talking about the ExtraCare Rewards?

Son: I don't know but it was $18 in free money. So I had to go spend it.

Me: So you spent all $18 on this junk food?! (I possibly waved my hands a bit wildly here.)

Son: Mom, even you like the Cheez-Its. I'll share.

Me: But you spent ALL of the $18? All of MY Rewards?

Son: Well, the guy gave them to me so I just used them.

Me: But...but, they're mine.

Son: (Puts down the XBox remote in response to my whiney voice and maybe the tension in the room.)

Me: You see, they accrue from all the purchases I've been making at CVS. Like your hair stuff. And razors. And your sister's face stuff. And everyone's Easter stuff!! Everyone else's stuff. That I buy. And each time I check out, I wait for that special, really long receipt, that thanks me for all of my time and effort and patronage at CVS. I really look forward to my ExtraCare Rewards. And now they're gone!

Son: Sorry. I didn't know.

Me: (I had no nice words so I said nothing.)

Okay, so maybe I got a little emotional about my youngest stealing accidentally using what was rightfully mine, but the thing is, I kind of feel like those Rewards are exactly that: a reward. MY reward. For all the planning and all the sourcing and all the buying-for-everyone-else. I can purchase a blow-drying-curling-brush for half the cost with those rewards. I can invest in some fancy hair treatment oils and face masks with those rewards. I can buy the really good wrapping paper (to wrap their stuff in) with those rewards. I can secure a whole new summer palette of Esse nail polish with those rewards.

But I get none of the guilt-free-shopping-just-for-me if someone wastes them on a shit-load of crap!! (Pardon my French.) Am I alone here? I don't think I'm alone here. Perhaps there's a support group for people who strive to have a healthy relationship with their ExtraCare Rewards.

But for now, Noah owes me. And maybe, just maybe, I'll kick my feet up while he does some of my chores.

Rant over.

{J}
Holly and Jenn