Out of tragedy.

There is typically one day out of my week that I am home by myself.  When all the kids go to school and I have the day off work.  Today is that day.  As I was doing my weekly decluttering and cleaning of my kids’ rooms, I couldn’t stop the tears that have been flowing since yesterday.

Yesterday, at about this time, a friend of mine received the call that no mother ever wants to hear.

Your son has been in an accident and airlifted to the hospital.

At that moment, the world stops.  Nothing else matters.

He was on his way to school.  And I can’t stop thinking about what the morning before the accident was like.  Did he eat his breakfast with his brother and sister like my kids do?  Did he leave a mess in his room like mine son does?  Did he kiss his mother good-bye or was everyone in a hurry, like my family?

As I cleaned up my boys’ room, I couldn’t help but stop, weep, and pray.  I prayed for my boys, thanking God that he has given them life and that I get to keep them here on earth with me. I prayed that they would be safe.  I prayed that I would be able to hold onto as many memories as my heart could keep.

I prayed for my friend who has already gone through horrific loss in her family.  I prayed that she would take comfort in knowing that her young son, who was taken far too soon from her, is now with his dad, who was taken just 6 years ago.  I prayed that she would remember how he smelled, how his voice sounded, and how he held his pencil when he did his homework.

I don’t understand such a horrific loss.  I don’t understand how one person can endure such pain.  I don’t understand why, out of tragedy, we realize how short our time with our kids is.

I will spend most of my day praying for all 4 of my kids and mourning the time that my friend lost with hers.

I will hold them tight when they get home.  I will cherish my time with them and try not to let life get in the way.  Time matters.  I just wish it wasn’t out of tragedy that I realize it.

These 4 are my life.

These 4 are my life.

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For the first time in about 8 years….

I did a craft!  Notice the excitement in my tone?  That’s right, I, the most unsuccessful, least crafty mom you will ever meet, did a craft!  AND, not just one craft, but 3!

Now, this may not seem like a big deal to most mommies.  In fact, it’s pretty common within the mommy-community.  But like I said before, I have never been your typical SAHM mom.  Even when I was a SAHM with just two kids, the most I ever did was decorate cookies, and they were usually the Pillsbury ones that are already cut out with the frosting that looks like toothpaste (I cringe as I actually admit to that).  And I’m pretty genetically inclined to be crafty.  My mom was the macrame queen (yes, I grew up in the 70’s) and my sister could scrapbook and sew dresses in her sleep.

Being the not-so-crafty-mom, I learned a few lessons today:

1.  It’s OK if you don’t get it right the first time.  Just like anything there is a learning curve.  While some things come very easy to me (I can cook up a gourmet meal like nobody’s business using only ingredients that I have on-hand and never need a recipe), it is just fine if I struggle with a few things here and there.

2.  I am creative.  Maybe I’m not the mom the creates the fun things that go on Pinterest, but I can adapt anything to fit my personality and lifestyle.  And that still makes me feel like I have a teeny-tiny creative bone within me.

3.  I’m not, have never been, or ever will be the mom who can make a memory book, darn a sock, til the garden, and make a pot roast from scratch all before the kids get home from school.  Working outside the home gives me a little more of an excuse, but even when I was a SAHM, I didn’t do those things.  I’ve learned to accept it and focus on my positive mommy/wifey skills.  Besides, I can wear 3″ heels to a field trip and still keep up with twenty 12-year-olds with no problem!

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These are the Valentines that Autumn chose to make for her class party.

What are your strengths?  What can you do better than anyone you know?  Focus on those and be happy with what you do and are!  And maybe in the midst of it, try something new.  You never know what you can accomplish, even if you think you’d never be “that girl.”

You can always depend on the kindness of strangers.

We’ve all heard this expression over and over. But is it really true? Can strangers be more kind than expected? And what makes people want to help each other? I’ve had many first-hand experiences witnessing this very statement. I’ve had people pull off on the side of the freeway to help me change a flat tire. I’ve had people let me cut in line at the grocery store. I even had someone give me a diaper from one of their kids because I was out and didn’t have any to change my own child. Of course, that one benefited them, too. But I have the ultimate story of strangers going out of their way to help me when I needed it most.

Last October, all 6 of us Montagues and our friends with a family of 4, ventured on a road trip together to Disneyland. This is not a rarity in our family, but having more kids than most people, we do draw a bit more attention and are a lot rowdier than most. Especially as they grow older and bigger, we are even more of a spectacle than we used to be. Our younger kids think they are as old as our older kids, and our older kids think they are as old as us, so many discussions and differences come into play when we are in an environment where opinions run rampant. Which brings me to my point.

My youngest son and child, August, decided that he’d had enough of waiting around for us to figure out what we as a group were going to do next and ventured out on his own. Now, since he is the baby of the family, he does get overlooked sometimes. OK, a lot of the time. But being the independent 3-year-old that he is, he took matters into his own hands and wandered off by himself to pursue his own fun. And being that he is the overlooked baby of the family, it took us a while before we finally realized that he wasn’t with us. About 5 minutes, to be exact, until we noticed that he was gone. My baby had disappeared.

So many thoughts ran through my mind. I was certain that someone had picked him up and walked off with him. I just wanted to yell for everyone to stop what they were doing and find my baby. I had visions of being a Monday night movie of the week where one minute your child is playing and your whole world is bliss then goes crumbling to pieces the next. Everything felt like it was moving in slow-motion and my voice felt silent.

My husband ran around frantically, looking in lines, in restrooms (including the women’s, but that’s a different story), in restaurants and my Gus was no where. After about 5 minutes of my world coming to an end, I got the brilliant idea to ask security for help. Looking back, I’m not sure why that wasn’t my first reaction, but until this moment, even though I had come close many times, I had never actually lost a child.

The security guard asked a series of questions. What color is his hair? Blonde. Eyes? Glasses. How old is he? 3. What’s he wearing? A shirt that says “My Mom Rocks.” Yeah, sure I do. But as much as security helped, and they definitely helped more than I can put into words, I was more than surprised at the many people who came up to me in my panic and asked how they could help.

People I had never seen in my life. A woman in a wheel chair. A mom with her kids. I experienced true kindness like I never had before. And I’m not sure that I ever will again. Even as we were being ushered by security to where August had been found, people along the way were pointing to where he was. Encouraging us. Even applauding as I scooped him up and held on to him for dear life. True and real kindness. Kindness that I will probably never again experience in my life.

The Happiest Place on Earth remained, that day, the happiest. I wish I could personally thank each person that helped to locate my son. Because I’m so thankful. Kindness of strangers does exist. In all capacities. In all locations.

On a side note, after we found August and asked why he wandered away, his response was “I didn’t. I was going on the ride.” He knew exactly where he was the whole time. If that’s not the attitude of a fourth child, I don’t know what is.

Looking good vs. feeling good.

In my never-ending pursuit to have a body like Brooke Burke, I do a lot of daydreaming followed by endless planning.  What if I had a killer bod?  Would my life be easier?  Would I feel better?  And how would such a feat even begin to take place?  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m thankful for the many people in my life that let me off the hook with various excuses. I have 4 kids.  I’m very busy.  As I get older, my metabolism decreases.  I have a sweet tooth.  OK, that last one was my own excuse.  But when does my attitude go from wanting to look good to just being happy about feeling good?

About a year ago, I decided my family needed a change in our lifestyle habits.  We starting eating a primarily whole diet.  Basically what this means is, nothing comes out of a box or a package.  I started looking at ingredients in everything and tried to cut out a lot of unnecessary preservatives.  We eat more fruits and veggies than we used to.  Snack on high protein foods.  It’s been a fairly easy transition, mostly by me and my 2 youngest kids.  My husband and older kids really liked the unhealthy me, but are learning to adjust to our new eating habits.  So here I am, asking my family to live a healthier lifestyle so that we can all feel better.  But am I doing it for me or them?  Looking good vs. feeling good.  But eating is just the beginning of my planning and dreaming of a Hollywood body.

Enter, the gym.  2 years ago, I joined a local gym.  I love it.  I really love it when I have a vacation coming up and I have something to work for.  I don’t love it when it’s pouring down rain and my house is a disaster and it would be easier just to stay at home, in my jammies, and clean.  Since I live in Seattle, you can guess which happens more often than not.  So again, I’m faced with the dilemma of looking good vs. feeling good.  Fortunately, going to the gym results in the same thing.  Feeling good and looking good, right?

Here’s where things really start to irritate me.  I eat healthy.  Really healthy.  Healthier than I ever have.  I work out.  A lot.  I try to be active everyday.  Luckily, I have a job that allows me to be on my feet most of the time.  When I’m not at work, I’m pretty restless either in or outside my home.  And guess what happens?  Nothing.  I’m still my same size jeans that I was 2 years ago.  I still break into a steady sweat after being on my feet for 10 minutes.  So nothing’s changed, right?  Not quite.

I may not look any different, but I feel different.  I have more energy and confidence.  I have less tummy aches and muscle pain.  I sleep better at night and wake up easier in the morning.  I may not have the toned and tight body that I want, but what I do have is a body that I feel good about.  So here’s where feeling good wins.  And don’t get me wrong, if I had a choice, the bikini body of my dreams would be my preference.  But for now, I’ll stick with being happy and feeling good and strive to keep making it look better, while feeling great.

 

 

I feel like Popeye.

I don’t love vegetables. At all. I force myself to eat them because I know they’re good for me. Plus I make my kids eat them, so there’s that whole “lead by example” thing. However, I think I may have found a veggie that I can’t live without. Spinach.

I’ve started putting it in everything from salads to pasta to smoothies. Not only are the health benefits truly impressive, but it becomes a chameleon when added to your favorite foods. And my kids like, even if it turns everything green.

Labeled a “Superfood,” spinach provides more nutrients than any other food. Spinach seems to be able to lessen our risk for many of the most common diseases of the twenty-first century. Overwhelming research has demonstrated an inverse relationship between spinach consumption and the following:

Cardiovascular disease including stroke and coronary artery disease
Cancer including colon, lung, skin, oral, stomach, ovarian, prostate and breast cancer
Age related macular degeneration (AMD)
Cataracts

What makes spinach and its sidekicks such powerful health promoters? The list of compounds that have been discovered in spinach is truly impressive. Beyond the iron that Popeye was seeking, spinach contains carotenoids, antioxidants, vitamin K, coenzyme Q10, B vitamins, minerals, chlorophyll, polyphenols, betaine and, interestingly, plant-derived omega-3 fatty acids. This is a shortened list and it’s hard to relay the powerful impact of these nutrients as they work together to promote health.

What can you add spinach to today that will make your body scream for happiness?  Even if you don’t squeeze open a can with your bare hands and gobble it down like Popeye did, you will still feel the health benefits throughout the day.

Spring and summer trendspotting. 2012.

As the season’s change, so do wardrobes, shoes, and hairstyles.  One thing I look forward to every year along with the change in weather is the new trends in fashion.  I find myself binging pictures of New York fashion week and skimming through magazines day after day to find a multitude of fun, mom-friendly, youthful fashions.  Here are some of my favorites for Spring and Summer 2012.

1.  Pastels.  Likely to be popular, with a lot of baby pinks, blues and yellows in different fabrics, consider it a paler take on the familiar colorblocking trend. More is more—think light pink plus mint green plus daffodil—and you won’t even have to sport sunglasses before checking yourself out in the mirror.

Pair this pink and white halter dress with a pair of pale yellow or nude pumps for a quick, classy, and modern upgrade.

2.  Lace. Talk about the perfect embodiment of romanticism, lace is for women that have a more personal kind of beauty, very sensual and sensitive. It’s all about organic textures but in a very simple shape with the memory of couture. Look for exquisite details, floral lace motifs and hand-painted flowers.

When wearing lace, choose just one piece and keep it a neutral color. This beige lace blouse and dark jeans is a perfect combination.

3.  Nude shoes.  My new favorite.  Nude shoes can go from winter to summer without being noticed.  We can thank Kate Middleton for starting this trend last year.  And for us shorter girls, they give us extra height while still being functional in the eye of fashion.

Choose a patent leather nude shoe for rainier days. They tend to look cleaner.

4.  Pops of color. Provocative Tangerine Tango, an enticing juicy orange, is a vivacious and appealing refresher to enliven anyone’s outlook this spring.  Just be careful when wearing this bold color.  You don’t want to add too much of a good thing.  Keep it simple to just one bold color at a time.

Add a white or tee and a black blazer to let these jeans speak for themselves.

5. Black is always back.  From head to toe, it is always timeless.  Just make sure to add seasonal elements or multiple accessories to keep the look fresh.

Add a nice big piece of jewelry to any black outfit to give it the attention it deserves.

 

525, 600 minutes.

I realize this has been a day of reflection for most of the world. As we look back on 2011 and remember things that were accomplished and memories that were made. Good and bad habits that may have just begun or happily ended. I look back on 2011 as an uneventful year.

Not uneventful in the way most people would think. Uneventful because my family didn’t have a lot of big change. In the 14 years that Duane and I have been married, we usually have some kind of a show-stopping, life-changing thing that happens. New job. New house. New car. Not are all good. We’ve been though job losses. My mom passing away. And losing an unborn baby. Good or bad, we’ve pretty much run the gamut.

This year however, was uneventful because of the lack of change that happened in our marriage. But 2011 held some huge changes for me, personally. I had a lot of “I am Woman, Hear Me Roar” moments. Here they are in no particular order.

1. I went to LA by myself! Twice! This may not be super huge for some people, but for someone with a huge fear of flying and the never-ending thought of my plane plunging to the ground resulting in my demise, this was a really big step for me. Both trips resulted in me feeling a little more confident about who I am and where I want my life to go.

2. I started a blog. Again, not huge for some people, but for a non-writer, non-creative like myself, my blog has been a huge turning point for me. I realized that I am comfortable stepping out of my happy homemaker box and finding a creative outlet that doesn’t seem very mom-ish. Thank you to everyone who reads and subscribes. You make me feel like I have something important to say that isn’t aimed at the stylings of a preschooler.

3. I went back to work. Another huge step in the life of a stay at home mom. I took the plunge to find something more than scrubbing toilets and wiping noses. Granted, I still do both of those and more, but I feel like I have found something for myself that I enjoy, my husband likes to brag about, and my kids take pride in. To me, a huge win.

4. I grew back my green-thumb. My garden was happily restarted, a little late in the season, however, but still flourished to my happiness. I also managed to can and freeze most of my crops. Yes, little Suzy Homemaker still exists and thrives in her suburban home.

So, how do you measure a year in the life? 525, 600 minutes doesn’t seem like much time, but in this last year of my life, I have accomplished much. And much happiness has been had during this season. I hope and pray that this next year will welcome such change as 2011.