Small Town Winter

It’s currently 17 degrees out, and I’m wearing tights, boots, and a sweater over my regularly-scheduled clothing.  So far this winter we’ve made it through a Polar Vortex, a Snowpocalypse, a Bomb Cyclone and just your basic freezing-your-ass-off weather.  It’s been a long year, and it’s only February. I’d cry, but my tears would stick to my face, and my eyelashes would freeze together, and then I’d be even worse off than when we started this whole weather mess.

February in Grand Haven, Michigan

The weather takes a toll emotionally too.  We haven’t had sunshine in what feels like years, and everyone that I know is suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder…which, if you’re not from Michigan you need to know is an actual and verifiable disorder.  It’s what happens when you don’t see blue sky or green grass or don’t get any Vitamin D for over a month. It’s what happens when you’re cooped up inside and get sick of looking at the cracks in your ceiling, the dust on your bookshelves, and the people that you live with.  And it’s symptoms are horrific…they include anger when you can’t stay hidden under a heated blanket in your bed for weeks on end, disappointment when you have to actually try to function in a socially-acceptable way to others around you, and an overall sense of crabbiness at the world in general.  This is Seasonal Affective Disorder…and no wonder it’s acronym is SAD.

It’s even worse when you are a not-outdoors-person.  I suppose I could stave off SAD by going cross country skiing, or snow-shoeing, or ice fishing…I mean, I hear that just being outside is helpful, and I have a friend who continues to train for a marathon in this weather (I use the term friend loosely, because let’s be honest…I just don’t know if I can actually be friends with someone who trains for a marathon in the snow) but honestly, being outside sounds worse than suffering from SAD, and truth be told, I would rather put hot coals in my eyes (because then they would be warm) than go outside and try to get some exercise in the fresh air.  Look, I don’t even want to exercise indoors, I can’t even imagine heading into the snow to do it. That seems unnecessarily excessive

February in Punta Cana

As if all of this isn’t bad enough, my daughter and her roommate left today for a week in Punta Cana.  I had dinner with them last night because I had to bring her an extra swimsuit and her sunglasses (insert eyeroll here) and her biggest concern is how much sunscreen to use each day to get the right sunburn/suntan ratio.  On top of that, my son is leaving for Arizona on Thursday to spend a long weekend with his grandparents. He’s a little bummed that it’s “only going to be in the 70s,” and I kind of want to kick him. Seriously? That’s what you’re complaining about?  Because if I look at the forecast here, I’ve got 5 degrees and a blanket of clouds coming up.

On the upside, each of my kids gets to spend this week with a set of grandparents, and Chris and I get a weekend to ourselves…and since it’s too cold to actually do anything, we’ll probably hunker down under a pile of blankets and watch Netflix and drink wine (well…I’ll drink wine) and wish we were on a beach somewhere…all the while being thankful (but slightly jealous) that our kids are traveling around the world and escaping from the blight of Seasonal Affective Disorder and hoping they bring some sunshine back with them…and hey…hunkering down under some blankets isn’t such a bad thing either…I mean, I can think of worse ways to spend a weekend…like training for a marathon or walking to the driveway, for example.

So, I’ll take my blankets and my space heater, my husband, and my Seasonal Affective Disorder and pretend it’s summer…and we’ll hold on until July 4th when we can break out the warm-weather clothes and get some Vitamin D for a week before starting the cycle all over again. And then we’ll buck up and cross our fingers that mother nature takes pity on us next year and makes up for this year’s snowy nonsense by turning up the global warming and turning down the cold. But until then, we’ll just look at pictures of our kiddoes enjoying their beaches and their deserts, their beachscapes and their canyons, and hope they bring some sunshine with them when they come back home.

Much love from a cold-and-very-jealous-of-her-kids Small Town Girl

A Small Town Word

I like to think that I was at the forefront of this #onelittleword trend. Seriously, Chris and I heard about the idea for choosing a word for the year way before hashtags and bloggers made it popular. It was before kids and before we were actually ready to think about a word for the year. Instead, we set resolutions like “I’m going to be a better version of myself this year,” until January 5 when we figured out that the plain old year-before version of ourselves was just fine.

In the past 5 years however, we’ve embraced the #onelitteword movement, and we’ve (I’ve) even made the whole family get involved. It usually sounds like this on December 31…

  • Me: Ok, you guys…it’s almost midnight
  • Chris: Here we go again *eyeroll*
  • Kaitlyn: Mom, seriously?
  • Carson: I’m not doing it this year
  • Me: We are all doing it. I’ll start.
  • Everyone else: *mumbles a word to get me off of their backs*
  • Me: See, wasn’t that fun??
  • Everyone else: Can we get back to watching the countdown?

So no, it’s not everyone’s favorite New Year’s Even moment, but it’s mine, and they are all mediocre sports about it because they know how important it is to me.

Two years ago, in 2017, I chose the word BRAVE. You can read about it here. It was one of the most significant years for me as far as choosing a word goes. I remember in May of 2017 when I finished writing and publishing my first novel, “The Single Guy,” (ok…it’s my only novel) and I wondered if I should tell anyone about it (I know, that’s the point of writing…but let me tell you…sharing your writing with the world is hella scary!) And then I reminded myself that my word was BRAVE. And I sent it into the world…and people loved it…and didn’t…and those are both ok, because I was just brave enough to do it. (FYI: You can buy it here on Amazon).

And then in July. I called my friend Randilynn at Blended Furniture Market and asked her for a job. And I get that that doesn’t feel brave…except it was. Because she wasn’t really my friend at the time, just an acquaintance. And I’m super afraid of rejection. And I thought it might be awkward if she said no. Or yes. But I reminded myself to be BRAVE and I walked in and took a job that has literally changed my life (I had no idea jobs could do that…I’ll write more about that later).

And then there was August. In August I sent my baby girl to college. And it was the bravest thing that I have ever done in my life. Actually, the bravest thing that I have ever done is not calling her or visiting her everyday, and instead, just sitting back and wondering if she’s ok. She is. Probably. But if you want to know more about what that feels like, you can read about it here.

And then there was 2018. And because I had been so brave and sent my baby girl out into the world alone, I stopped being brave and instead I battled depression. And on January 1st when I usually make my family and my friends share their Word for the Year with me, I just cried. Because I couldn’t pick a word. Because I was sad. And scared. And I had no idea what I wanted to be in 2018 because I couldn’t find myself…but that is a different story for a different day. Because today is 2019. And I’ve found my way out of depression. And I’m ready to conquer the world. And I.HAVE.A.WORD.

The thing is…I don’t actually like my word for 2019.

I had chosen a different word.

A good one.

It was active…it was about doing more and being more. It was about being goal-oriented and conquering the world. But everytime I said it…I had this weird niggle of doubt in my mind. I wanted it to be my word SO BADLY. And yet, it just didn’t seem to quite fit. So I asked my friend Randilynn for her advice (it’s a good thing I was so brave in 2017). And it went something like this:

  • Me: OK, this is my word for the year…what do you think?
  • RL: Hmmmmm…
  • Me: Ok, here is another version of my fabulous word. Is that better?
  • RL: Well, have you asked for clarity about your word?
  • Me: Yes, I’m asking you.
  • RL: *Awkward silence* I actually meant, did you pray about it?
  • Me: *Awkward silence* Oh, right.

So I did.

I prayed about it.

And the thing is, God gave me a totally different word. One that I don’t really want. Except that everytime I try to find a new word, a little voice pops up in my mind telling me that I already have a word. And it’s an important word. And to be honest. That word scares the hell out of me. THE HELL.

The word is TRUST

See, I’m an Enneagram 3. Do you know about the enneagram? It’s a personality profile. And mine says things like “You’re driven, and goal-oriented, your a leader, and you confidently get things done.” And the thing is, the word TRUST falls under exactly NONE of those categories. NONE. OF. THEM.

Trusting is about sitting back and watching God do his own work in his own time in his own way. It’s believing that he will take care of all of the situations in a way that is better than my own…even when I have a pretty damn good way of taking care of it myself. And I don’t know about you…but we have situations. Like, life situations. And I want to take care of them. Because I have some pretty good solutions. And I’m an Enneagram 3, so I’m pretty confident that I can do it best. And yet, everytime I begin to worry or plan or worry about a plan, God gently whispers in my ear

TRUST ME.

This might sound crazy to you. And it’s okay if it does. And to be honest, it sounds crazy to me too. Because in 2017 I didn’t pray about whether or not BRAVE was supposed to be my word, I just picked it. And it was my word. And it worked. And I was brave. And there was nothing crazy about the process.

But this year, I asked. And God answered.

And He gave me a word.

And I’m not happy about it. And I am.

Either way, my word for the year is TRUST. It’s going on a tattoo soon (I haven’t told Chris yet). And I’d love to hear what your word for 2019 is too. Maybe it’s deep (I just read a blog about a girl who chose the word CULTIVATE…dang, what does that even mean!?) Maybe it’s lighthearted (Carson chose RELAX last year, and we had to do our bests not to roll our eyes because that’s basically all he does). And maybe it’s something you’ll choose in February or September, because like my friend Krista reminded me (you can hear this conversation on the New Year’s Day podcast here). We don’t really just wake up on a random Tuesday and change our lives just because the calendar has turned.

But… when you’re ready to join the #onelittleword movement, let me know. Because I’d love to join your journey. And in the meantime, I’ll be sitting here TRUSTING in what God has for me as I journey through 2019.

With lots of love from a ready-to-trust-in-the-new-year Small Town Girl

Small Town Traditions

Our Christmas cookies

We don’t actually make Christmas cookies every year. I want to…I mean, it seems like a tradition that all good families have. They pick a day, do a cookie trade with another family or have cousins over and design all kinds of beautiful cookies…go caroling and share them with others…and all of the good family things that good families do. And since I desperately want to have a good family…that’s what we did this year too.

I prepped by watching 5 different video tutorials about how to decorate cookies. I can actually recite the steps:

  1. Using a piping bag or condiment dispenser to outline your cookie with Royal icing.
  2. Flood the inside of the outline with more royal icing
  3. Add edible glitter or the silver metallic balls (I still can’t remember what they are called) but don’t eat them…you might crack a tooth.
  4. Etc. etc.

I found the perfect recipe on Pinterest (you can check it out here) and checked the cupboards:

  1. Sugar. Check. (We had to chop at it with a knife to break it apart, because apparently when you’re not a baker and don’t use sugar for over a year it gets crusty and sticks together…but I have a great set of knives from Carson’s culinary camp this summer, so we solved that problem).
  2. Flour. Check. (We found a half a bag in the back of the freezer)
  3. Butter. Uncheck. Apparently “I can’t believe it’s not butter” doesn’t count…I checked…so it went on the grocery list along with baking powder (not the same thing as baking soda according to the internet) almond extract and eggs. Oh, we eat eggs, it’s just that Carson finished of a carton for breakfast, so we needed more.

I also wanted to be absolutely prepared for the process, so we bought a whisk…I feel like it’s a good purchase that we might use again at some point. And because I wanted to really commit to the process, I bought condiment containers to use for the Royal icing.

Yes, Kaitlyn is using a wine bottle as a rolling pin.

Speaking of Royal icing…apparently the grocery store around the corner doesn’t just carry meringue powder…who knew…and since I don’t own a mixer…or a beater (I was willing to make the investment, but Kaitlyn reminded me that it’s kind of a big purchase for a once-a-year baking experience, so I didn’t) I knew I couldn’t use egg whites…so instead I found a recipe that only called for powdered sugar and milk. And surprisingly…I had powdered sugar in the cupboard…from that time 3 years ago that I made Christmas cookies with my cheer team. But since there’s no expiration date on sugar (probably…I didn’t actually check) we went ahead and used it.

So…5 demo videos and one grocery trip later, we were ready. Sort of. I mean…we had to hunt down a measuring cup…and fortunately we found a 1/2 cup in the back of the cupboard…so the math was easy from there…and a rolling pin…which we don’t have, but I have plenty of wine bottles, and amazingly, those work incredibly well. We cranked up the Christmas music, mixed and stirred, measured, and rolled, and we made our cookies

And they were terrible.

And ugly.

And nobody actually wanted to eat them.

So now we have a plateful of sucky cookies ready for Santa (he’ll eat anything!) and a few more handfuls laying in a pile on the counter…because of top of everything else, the cat (yes, the bad one) jumped on the counter, landed on the cooling rack, and dumped all of the cookies onto the floor…and now, I’m not sure if we should just dump them or keep them on the counter to look at…it seems a waste to throw away all of that hard work.

These ones are ready for Santa

And it’s not really the cookies that I don’t want to throw away…they aren’t worth keeping around…it’s what they represent. They represent that short period of time in which we were all together laughing and singing, dancing around the kitchen, rolling out dough with wine bottles and leaving everything else behind. And I wonder if that’s the beauty of Christmas traditions in the first place. It’s not the final product of the cookie making, or the caroling, or the gingerbread house competition…it’s the process. It’s the moments in which the kids throw flour at each other and squirt non-Royal icing on each other’s cookies. It’s the moments when someone eats the head off of the gingerbread man and pretends it’s a Halloween cookie instead of a Christmas one. It’s the moments when everyone chimes in to “All I Want for Christmas is You!” even when no one can sing on-key. And it’s the moments when everyone is together for just one moment and despite the fact that the cookies didn’t turn out…the family activity did. And that’s what it’s all about.

So, as I try my best to be the kind of family that has amazing traditions, and does the activities that all good families do…I realize that maybe it’s okay to be just a mediocre family that does mediocre things, as long as we do them together. And today, as some of us are watching football, and some of us are texting our friends, and some of us are writing a blog. I think about the fact that we’re all sitting in the same room being a mediocre family and that everytime one of us looks at another one, we smile back and share the knowledge that is what love looks like. And that’s a tradition that I’ll stick with all year long.

Merry Christmas from a mediocre, but filled-with-love Small Town Girl.

Small Town December

Last night, on December 1st, when it should’ve been snowing gently…and looking like every single Hallmark movie ever made…it rained.  And really…it seemed fitting.  Because as the rain came in and cleared away the snow…and left behind patches of grass and dead leaves and dirt…it was both exciting (because the snow is gone) and sad (because the snow is gone). And, like so many other things, it seemed to be a reminder of all of the changes this year.  This December is like raising teens.  One year it’s picture perfect…and the next… it’s like a pile of dirt.

Ok, I’m exaggerating.  It’s not like a pile of dirt.

But here’s the thing… this December 1st came around and I got to see lovely pictures of friends and acquaintances taking their little ones to the Jingle Bell Parade…and shopping along the Miracle Mile in Chicago…and baking gingerbread cookies…and don’t get me wrong…I love looking at those photos…but it gave me a bit of nostalgia for the days when I got to do the same. 

Instead, this year I have one kiddo away at college, where she’s hanging out with friends, staying up late, watching Netflix, and I’m sure studying…probably.  And I have another who spent most of his December 1st playing Fortnite in the basement with friends.  And while I’m glad that he’s able to connect with his friends all while staying in my house…I still miss him.

So, instead of heading downtown to the parade this year. And instead of indulging in Christmassy-goodness, my husband and I just cozied up on the couch to watch a movie and fall half-asleep under a fluffy blanket while eating take-out and drinking wine…and it was great. ish.

And here’s the thing.  I actually hate the Jingle Bell Parade.  Well…I mean, I really do love the Jingle Bell Parade… Like, I love the lights, and the firetrucks, and the marching band, and Santa.  I LOVE SANTA.  But the overall idea of going to the Jingle Bell Parade I hate. It’s always freezing. And snowy. I remember one parade in which we went with friends who wore full snowsuits…like, the kind that cover you from head to toe in order to go snowmobiling or snowshoeing…or any of the other outdoor winter activities that I have zero desire to participate in.  And then there was me…in my regular winter coat, cutesy stocking cap, and thin gloves…and I froze and hated every minute of it.

Or the year that we came home from the parade to find that our Christmas tree had tipped over, because in an effort to be super-Christmassy, we had cut down our own tree…and it ended up having a wonky stem.  Instead of warming up over a cup of hot cocoa, we searched the house for a set of dumbbells (why on earth did we have a set of dumbbells in our house??) and a jumprope (again…why?) and rigged up a contraption in the back of our tree to keep it from falling over.

So the thing is…it’s not really about the Jingle Bell Parade…or about any of the other things that I don’t really want to be doing…it’s about the fact that despite having no desire to actually attend the parade…attending the parade is off of the table…because our family isn’t all together this December 1st. And that’s a hard reality to face.

But there is also a flip side.  As I write this, I’m sitting in the gym at Alma College, where I get to watch my daughter pursue her goals as a college competitive cheerleader.  She is happy and healthy and has a National Championship ring on her finger...and there is beauty in watching her thrive.

And my son? Well, he may be hanging out in the basement more and more…but yesterday we enjoyed watching football together…and although we are neither from Alabama or Georgia…it was fun to watch two amazing teams battle it out all the way to the end as we cheered for the underdog but ultimately watched a very deserving quarterback win.

And after that?  Well Chris Hottie and I got to curl up on the couch and watch a movie that we didn’t have to turn the volume down for during the bad words (not that we would EVER watch a movie with bad words).  And despite the fact that we now have fewer kids and more room to watch movies…Chris made the following observation:

  • Chris: “You realize there are three full cushions on this couch”
  • Me: “Why would we need to use all 3 cushions?”
  • Chris: “And an entire basket of blankets.”
  • Me: “One cushion and one blanket are plenty for the two of us.”

So…no, we didn’t get to go to the Jingle Bell Parade.  And no, we haven’t shopped the Miracle Mile or made Gingerbread Cookies yet this year…but despite that, I got to look around my little 1/2 empty nest and realize that on this December 1st my kids were happy and healthy (I mean, relatively. They are still normal, imperfect teenagers).  My tree was up (without a wonky stem), And in the end, I got to curl up on a single couch cushion and cuddle with my husband as we watched a Saturday night movie, and enjoy not being out in the cold…and for now…I’ll take that over a Jingle Bell Parade anyday.

Much love from a very nostalgic but content Small Town Girl

Small Town Girl in Canada

I didn’t actually realize I was going to a different country.  I mean…I get that I needed my passport and had to go through customs, but let’s be honest…Canada isn’t really supposed to be another country, it’s more like America’s sibling to the North…with a better-looking leader and lots of geese.

Vancouver, BC
Granville Island, Vancouver, British Columbia

You can imagine my surprise, then, when I landed in Vancouver and realized that contrary to popular belief, not only is Canada not American, Canadians do not actually even speak the same language as Americans, instead, they have their own strange language that only they understand…and they also speak French. In fact, when I went to the information desk at the airport, I was greeted with a “Bon soir, Madame,” and I was so flustered that I responded in English…but with a French accent…no seriously.  I found myself pursing my lips and trying to sound like I belonged to any of the made-up kingdoms that the Hallmark Channel movies use as I asked for directions to the car rental.

Also, once the lovely French lady gave me directions to the car rental, I had to find directions to the restroom…which is apparently called a washroom…so it took me awhile to find…except for the fact that my French accent is so amazing that I was able to realize that the “Toilette” was actually the “Toilet” and therefore the washroom was actually the restroom…I also just found the correct stick figures, which is the bilingual sign to get everyone around the world to the right place.

Here are additional words that come directly from the Canadian dictionary

“Petrol” – which is what I was supposed to fill my rental car with before returning it…but instead, I got nervous and just let the rental place fill it up themselves for $22.50/gallon (but that’s Canadian, so it’s probably a good deal.)

“Poutine” – a snack with fries and cheese curds and gravy…which seemed weird…but then I realized that last week I made shepherd’s pie…which is basically the same thing…minus the ground beef…and the vegetables.  Actually…poutine is still wierd.

And finally…

“Eh,” – the equivalent to “Cool?” “Huh?” “Maybe?” and every other 1-syllable response that a Canadian might want to use to indicate something positive…or negative…or even neutral.  It’s slightly confusing, and closely related to the American version of “Huh.”  Which can be positive…or negative…or even neutral but also remains slightly confusing.

On top of having their own language…Canadians don’t know how to measure time, distance, speed, or temperature…which can be a bit daunting if you happen to be in a rental car driving to a location that you don’t know how to find at 23:00 (Seriously.  What time even is that??)  My first actual Canadian driving experience included trying to set the cruise control and checking the speedometer to try to find a good speed…and realizing that I was going 100km/hour…which seemed to be the going rate of everyone else, so it was probably legal…probably.  On top of that the signs say things like “Exit in 1200 M” which was no help at all in knowing whether I should move into the right lane within five minutes or five seconds…and I kept trying to do the following math:

If a 5K run equals 3-ish miles…then 1200 meters is a quarter of that…which is more than 1 mile…right? Or not? Oh…it’s not… *swerves right to take the exit.*

The beauty of that scenario is that Canadians are also very polite…so although I cut of half of the Vancouver population at one time or another while driving this week, they were all very kind, and no one even honked their horn or threw a hand gesture.  It was lovely.

In all, my trip to Canada was fantastic.  I didn’t understand half of what anyone was saying…and I was continuously unaware of what speed I should be driving, how far away I was from anything and what I should wear outdoors (let it be known that 5 Canadian degrees is not the same as 5 American degrees).  But the people were fantastic, and aside from the the fact that I kept waking up at 3 in the morning because of the time change, I would go back in a heartbeat.  I’m willing to face the washrooms and fill up with petrol…and I just might start throwing in an “Eh,” here and there to practice for my next trip…because the one thing that I know for sure is that I will miss this lovely sibling to the North, even if they do use kilometers and eat gravy…I mean…there are worse things than kilometers and gravy…and if it comes with a smile and a wave…I’m in!

O, Canada…I will miss you.

From a content, but still-quite-jet-lagged (eh?) Small Town Girl

Advice for New Moms

This week my baby turned 15.  And all I can think about is this one moment in the middle of the night, when he was less than two weeks old, and I was completely sleep-deprived…and I hadn’t worn pants with a button for almost a year…and I mostly smelled like baby spit up…and I had cried almost every day that week…that I held him in my arms with his little head in my hands, and the smell of new baby all over him and I thought…

“This.  Is totally worth it.”

IT. IS. TOTALLY. WORTH. IT.  New mom, hang in there.  You’ve got this.  And don’t listen to anybody’s advice.  Including mine.  Unless you ask for it. But unsolicited? No. Everyone is going to have lots of advice for you, but just smile and nod and head home and roll your eyes and then do whatever you think is best for your little family…because your baby will be fine.

But in the event that you really do want some advice… totally unsolicited, and easily ignorable…here it is:

Breast/Bottle:

Either one is fine. Just feed your baby. They will be hungry and will  care less about whether or not they drink breastmilk or formula than you and the rest of the world do. They. just. want. food. I tried breastmilk with Kaitlyn until I realized that she slept better through the night if I gave her formula…and with Carson, I just told the nurse at the hospital to please bring me a bottle because seriously…I had just spent 9 months giving my body to my child and that was pretty much my limit. Also…I was ready for some wine.

And ironically, it’s my breastfed child that is constantly sick and costs me way more money in visits to the doctor than any can of formula ever did. That being said, both of the kids have turned out relatively well and have gained plenty of weight and their brains developed the proper neurons…and ok, so neither of them is a valedictorian…but they’re pretty well-adjusted and your baby will be too. So breast? Bottle? Either way, just feed them. They’ll be fine.

Work/Stay at Home

I don’t know. Do you like to work? Do you have a job? Do you need a job? Do you prefer play dates and mommy and me groups? IT DOES NOT MATTER. YOUR CHILD WILL BE FINE. My kids have had a combination of daycare, babysitters, me at home, and days in which they rocked in their car seat under my desk at work. I had a season at home in which I spent time with other moms sharing tips about healthy snacks and watching Caillou, and seasons of work in which I dropped my kid if at a daycare center where they played with other kids and made macaroni necklaces and handprint valentines. So far, my kids’ biggest complaint about me is that I try to pry into their private lives too much, but I’ve never heard them say, “I can’t believe you had the nerve to drop me of at daycare when I was a baby,” or “Why did you think it was a good idea to take me to playdates and feed me Cheerios?” Your kid won’t either. They will be fine. Because you love them and will do what’s best for you and your family. And that is all that matters.

Cry it out / Pick them up

I mean…sometimes do one and sometimes do the other.  I’ve spent plenty of nights with a crying child and a stopwatch to see just exactly how long I was letting them cry.  My limit was always 10 minutes, but to be honest, they never really made it past 3…although those 3 felt like 586 hundred million.  And then one day they just sleep through the night. 

Look, do what you feel is best.  Some moms swear by the sleep schedule (I’m going to be honest…I did this and it SAVED MY LIFE.)  And some moms feel it’s better to pick up their child when they cry…or co-sleep…or sleep-nurse…or all of the other things…and their children seem normal too.  It’s possible that one day my child will be in therapy and will blame all of their issues on the fact that I let them cry themselves to sleep as an infant…but so far they blame their issues on other things… like the fact that I write blog posts about them and hug them in public.  So, new mom, as long as they get some sleep…in a crib, in your arms, in a carseat, before eating or after…they will be ok.  Here’s the truth.  Moms always know best…and I promise…that begins the minute you bring your little one home.  So welcome to the club.

Because soon enough your baby will turn 15 and you’ll still feel completely inadequate as a parent…and you’ll wonder if you’re ruining his life…and you’ll wonder if you’ve done everything wrong…and answer is maybe.  But probably not.  Your baby will always be your baby, but one day…as you look at him across the gym, laughing with his friends and acting like a goofy teenager…you’ll realize that it’s probably not because you’ve fed him breastmilk or formula, you took him to playgroup or daycare, or you let him cry himself to sleep.  It’s because he has you for a mom and you’ve loved him through every stinking minute of his fifteen-year-old-life…and honestly…that is the only thing that you need to know.

With lots of love from an experienced, but still completely mediocre     Small Town Mom.

Small Town Cheerleaders

Last weekend I had the opportunity to watch my daughter celebrate her Sophomore Homecoming as a collegiate cheerleader.  She joined us at the tailgate, took pictures with her teammates, and then headed to the sidelines to cheer on the football team…sort of.

See…here’s the thing about cheerleaders today…THEY.ARE.BAD.ASS. They are less about cheering on the athletes…and more about being the athletes…and I will seriously drop kick the next person that tells me that cheerleading is not a sport…seriously. DROP KICK.

I mean…I was a cheerleader once.  I had a varsity sweater and a pleated skirt that twisted and twirled when I performed the fight song.  I had pompons and a big bow, and I could easily hold Holly Linihan on my shoulders while yelling “Hold that line!”

I was even captain…I know…shocking.

Check the far right…

But let me tell you…today’s cheerleaders, even with their big bows and their pompons…are not your mother’s cheerleaders.  Look, I get that these girls are cute and sweet and can rock a glitter bow…but I also know that they are the toughest young women I’ve ever met and can out-benchpress half of the student population of their college…mostly the male half.  They work-out 4-5 days a week, not including time in the weight room.  And really, you do not want to meet one of these girls alone in a dark alley…unless you need a protector…then by all means grab her hand and take her with you, because today’s cheerleaders will take a mother down.  You do not want to mess.

Ok…I get it.  I know that some of you aren’t really “cheerleading people.” You glance occasionally at the sidelines of a football game and think, “Oh that’s sweet that they are cheering on the boys.” But…I’m here to tell you that YOU NEED JESUS.

Because if you were “a cheerleading person,” you would realize that Friday night under the lights is just one more practice that they have to put in…after 4 others during the week (not including weight room workouts) just to bide their time until competitive season.

You would realize that the jumps, tucks and stunts that you are watching on the sidelines are just the 1st draft of a bigger routine that will push these girls to their limits and might even get them a college scholarship…or a National Championship…I mean, I’m not bragging or anything (I’m actually totally bragging) but I can name one cheerleader in particular, who may or may not look a lot like me despite trying desperately not to, who has both.  Just saying.

Cheerleading is not for the faint of heart.  It takes courage to watch it and strength to perform it…and for those that just smile patronizingly and say, “Oh that’s cute…” I challenge you to climb on your best friend’s shoulders and then have your third best friend climb on yours…

That’s what I thought.

So here’s the thing. Last weekend wasn’t just Homecoming, it was also the weekend that the Alma College Cheer and STUNT team received their NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP rings.  Meaning…and I will not hesitate with the capital letters here…THEY ARE THE BEST DIVISION III ALL-GIRL CHEER TEAM IN THE NATION.  THE NATION.  THE ACTUAL UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. And lest you think I’m exaggerating, you can check out this video..because I’m incredibly proud…and incredibly honored to be a cheer coach and a cheer mom…and incredibly adamant that these athletes are recognized as such.

And in this moment, when our nation is desperately in need of strong women to stand up and have a voice…I just want to take a moment to recognize one specific group of young women who are strong, athletic, fierce, and lovely all at the same time…they are cheerleaders…and I, for one, am cheering them on!

Girls. I’m so proud of you!

With Lots of Love from a former Small Town Cheerleader

Chris Goes Shopping

Here is the drama that occured in my house this week…my husband went grocery shopping.  Now, I get that this is a really nice gesture.  It’s been a long week, and I’ve put in long hours at work, and I didn’t even have time to place a Shipt order…because, when on earth was anyone actually going to be home to accept the delivery??  So…Chris went shopping.

And he did so much right.  He bought everything that we always buy…

  • 2 packs of bagels (gone in 3 days)
  • 2 packs of Snapple (gone in 3 days)
  • A family pack of Nutty Bars (gone in 3 days)
  • Perrier…because they were out of LaCroix (I’m still quite suspicious that they were actually out of LaCroix…all LaCroix?  Even the melon flavor that no one buys?  Is it *possible* he was looking in the wrong aisle? Just a thought).
  • No milk (for obvious reasons…and if this doesn’t make sense, you may want to start watching my Instagram stories). 

And he even bought laundry detergent…and I’m going to stop right there…because as excited as I am that he went grocery shopping…I just need to point out that for 10 years.  10 YEARS. I have used the exact same laundry detergent.  I have not deviated once from the Tide with Febreze for sport…NOT ONCE.  

I know this beyond a shadow of a doubt because I literally remember the very first day I tried it.  We were living in Fort Lauderdale, and like every good steward I always skimped on the laundry detergent and bought whatever was on sale…Cheer, Gain, Arm & Hammer, the weird powdery-one that they sell at the Dollar Store…until one day Tide with Febreze for sport was on sale and this is what happened…

Me: Folding clothes in the living room

Kaitlyn: *Holding clean clothes up to her nose* Is this what clean clothes actually smell like?

Me: …

I never bought another type of laundry detergent again. NEVER.

So Chris…in his super loving gesture went grocery shopping this week.  And he bought laundry detergent…and he even bought Tide with Febreze…but that is where the similarity ended.  And I have to tell you…I am currently sitting here writing, and all I can smell is Spring Renewal because THAT IS WHAT HE BOUGHT.  SPRING RENEWAL.  And I’m trying to be thankful.  But I CANNOT.  BECAUSE I SMELL LIKE A FLOWER STORE.

I apologize for the capital letters…but it only seems appropriate that in this case, I say how I actually feel…and I (in capital letters) am devastated about my clothes smelling different than they have for the last 10 years.  Not to mention that I do not like floral smells…or fruit smells for that matter (in the event that you are planning to buy me a candle for Christmas).  I like the smell of Vanilla…and fresh air…and FEBREZE FOR SPORT.

Guys…they DO NOT EVEN LOOK ALIKE.  10 YEARS.

Guys…Chris is so sweet.  He literally said to me: “Don’t worry, I bought the same detergent that you always get…you can even check.” And then I went into the basement and looked at the PURPLE CAP.   PURPLE.  I have never in my life bought laundry detergent with a purple cap. And I almost cried. Because…purple cap.

And in the end, here’s the thing.  I’m grateful for my husband.  And I’m grateful that during really busy weeks he is willing to go grocery shopping.  But truth be told…I am also glad to have already placed my Shipt order this week with an order for TIDE WITH FEBREZE FOR SPORT.  Because…there are just some things that should just not be messed with…like laundry detergent…and garbage bags…

He also bought the wrong garbage bags…

But that’s a story for a different day.

With much love from a smelling like SPRING RENEWAL Small Town Girl

Small Town Birthdays

I don’t know about anyone else, but it used to be that the phrase “middle-aged” referred to that select group of adults who wore reading glasses and cardigans, used their free-time to knit sweaters, and basically used some sort of Clairol product to give themselves home perms and a nice “Auburn Dream” hair color to cover their grays…basically it was my grandma…who I am just realizing is not actually middle-aged…because if she was, SHE WOULD BE MY AGE.

Seriously…when did I become middle-aged?  I don’t actually remember it happening.  First I was a teenager, then a young mom, and then MIDDLE AGED.  I don’t get it…there’s like no slow slide into this phase of life.  One day you’re the cool mom who has done everything in the world to avoid wearing mom jeans and cutting off your hair…and the next minute you wake up realizing that you’re definitely not as cool as you thought you were, and you’re about to buy a box of Auburn Dream.

And there is no exciting welcome into this party either…like why aren’t we a culture that allows its women to sit outside in a tent for their 40th year, being slathered in essential oils and plied with jewelry as they enter into this new stage?  Although to be honest, I’d probably balk at the whole tent thing because I’m partial to indoor plumbing…but you get the point.

Instead, people ask us our age and practically cringe when we tell them the truth… “Oh, you’re 40?  I didn’t realize you were that old, you look great for your age.” 

FOR YOUR AGE? What the heck does that mean?

I’ll admit that 42 has hit me harder than the birthdays that have come before it.  Maybe it’s the fact that 40 didn’t really seem like “mid-life” given the fact that 80 is the new 60, but now that I’m halfway to 84…42 seems like much more in the middle.  I mean, I’ve maybe got a good 84 years in me…but after that…I just don’t know that I’ll have the energy to keep it going.

And speaking of energy…that is one of the biggest side-effects of growing old.  I am just too tired to do anything that doesn’t fall into my daily routine. And…on the off chance that I would actually attend an event that starts at any time after 7:00pm, there is a 100 PERCENT CHANCE that I will be in bed as soon as I get home and be cranky the next day.  100 PERCENT.

My friend Beth just recently mentioned that she’d love to go out dancing sometime soon…but upon further review…we collectively realized that we would need to be able to go out from 6:00pm to 9:00pm with water and snack stations spread throughout the club (think Chicago Marathon style). Yoga pants and comfy shoes would have to pass as acceptable clubbing clothing, and no one would be allowed to hit on us unless they were:

  1. Buying us free drinks with no expectations
  2. Offering to babysit our children
  3. Hoping to rub our feet between dances, without any sort of creepy foot fetish.

In the end, it seems like Netflix and a bottle of wine is a much better option.

Mid-life is not just about being too exhausted to keep up a social life, but mid-life has also brought with it the realization that I have become too exhausted to worry about what other people think of me anymore.  And this is actually the upside of middle-age.

See, for about 40 years I worried about what other people thought about me…but now, I just don’t care.  Because the truth is,  even if I’m not someone’s cup of tea…I don’t have the energy to change who I am. I have used up all of my energy trying to raise my children, and build a career, and keep my marriage together…and now I don’t have any energy left to try to change who I am.  And the beauty of it is that after 41 years, I have finally become the most authentic version of myself that I’ve ever been. And that’s pretty spectacular.

See, I think gold hoops and lipstick are daily essentials, and I know that my politics will never match many of those around me.  I’ve come to terms with the fact that I didn’t breast-feed my children and I’ve worked outside of the home for their whole lives, and that most of the time when I sit at baseball games I am actually reading a book or scrolling through social media. I hate nature (but love the environment…like, we should save it, and everything) and exercise, and dogs (I am so sorry).  I like Latin dance music and hip hop…and I occasionally swear like a sailor…but only when it’s really important…and I’m finally at the place where I’m ok with who I am…and if you’re not…I am ok with that too.  I mean, not everyone likes God, either, and if he can’t please everyone…then I certainly have no chance.

So that’s the thing about my birthday this year.  I’m hitting the age where I should be wearing cardigans and reading glasses and cutting my hair into a fluffy poodle bob and slowing down and going to sleep at 7:00.  But instead, middle age has brought with it a freedom – the freedom from others’ opinions and from the pressure to be someone that others think I should be.  It’s the the freedom to finally live my most authentic life.  And as a middle aged woman who is just trying to find a club that allows yoga pants and keep up the stamina to go to a 9:00pm movie, really…that’s the best 42nd birthday gift that I could ever get…I mean, except for a new car…but it’s a close second, and on this middle-aged birthday…I’ll take it.

With much love from a 42-year-old, living-her-most-authentic-life-ever Small Town Girl

New Adventures

For the past two years my husband has been working on his Master’s Degree.  And for the two years before that, I was working on mine.  On top of that, we both work full-time, coach sports, work side jobs, and raise kids.  And while this is the life that we’ve chosen, over the past two years, our schedules have looked something like this:

7am-3pm: Work at job #1
3:30-6pm: Coach or work at job #2
7pm-9pm: Do homework…or watch a kid play some sort of sport…or pick up dinner from the D&W deli…or fall asleep early.
9pm-10pm: Watch TV, take a shower, and check emails from a professor
10pm-6am: Sleep
7am – 3pm: Do it all over again.

For the most part, our lives have been a general movement from one event to the other while giving high fives as we pass each other on the way in or out of the house.  Our evenings have consisted of one of us typing up 10 page papers while the other one is out coaching some sort of sport or making a grocery order on Shipt, or shuffling our kids from place-to-place.  But this week, something strange happened…Chris finished his classes, neither of us are coaching anything, we are each only working one job, and only one of our kids is currently involved in athletics…and she’s 2 hours away…and doesn’t need us to drive her to practices (Yes, and Amen!)  We realized that were home together for an extended period of time for the first time in FOREVER…and we looked at each other and asked the question, “so, what do normal people do?”

You laugh.  But seriously, this is the question that Chris asked…and I wasn’t sure how to answer.

Chris: “Do they sit and eat dinner together?”
Me: “I think so.”
Chris: “Should we do that?”
Me: *Awkward shrug*

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining about the extra time that we have to spend with each other, I’m just saying that we probably need a hobby.  Because as nice as it is to relax together, I’m just saying that Chris and I function best when we’re busy.  Honestly, there was a moment when he was literally wandering around the house in circles, and I had to remind him that it was ok to sit down and relax…and then I pulled out my laptop and began answering work emails.

So, because neither of us has any aspiration in the least to get our Ph.D, our best bet is to find a useful way to spend our time together so that we don’t wear a path in the floor from pacing around and around.  We’ve already tried to find a Netflix series to watch together, but since Chris’s favorite series are The Sopranos and Ozark, and mine are Hart of Dixie and The Gilmore Girls, we’ve realized that this probably isn’t going to work…so here are our current options:

1. Cooking classes: The Artisan Cooking School is right around the corner from our house, and the head chef is our neighbor, who keeps inviting us to try it out.  Now that Carson has forced us to buy a new pair of (amazing) knives and I’ve invested in a giant skillet from Love, Inc. (the rest of my pots and pans are from my wedding…so, this is truly the best option that I currently have), I’m sure we could be successful in the kitchen…probably.  I mean, right now, our best dinners consist of whipping together pre-packaged items into something that includes the word “salad” or “casserole” or “bowl” but I’m sure that The Artisan will turn us both into Chefs de Cuisine and we will be throwing dinner parties all over the place. You’re invited.

2. Home Improvement Projects: The problem with having time at home is that all of a sudden you are staring at the walls and noticing all of the things that are wrong with your space.  This week Chris has already cleaned out the gutters, (and can I just say that we have a wonky ladder and I fully imagined a Clark Griswald experience over and over in my mind while it was happening.) he’s considering building a deck, and he’s mentioned installing recessed lighting in the living room.  I realize that not everyone knows my husband, but I want to begin by letting you know about the time that he had to hang a picture on the wall and ended up practically knocking it down (the wall, not the picture) and taught everyone in the house a stream of new vocabulary.  I’m not saying the deck and the lighting are not good ideas…I’m just saying that this should remain low on our list.

3. Golf: No.

3. Gaming: So no, we’re not going to join Carson in his Fortnite efforts (which you can read about here), but we’ve discovered that we’re pretty damn good at Wheel of Fortune…and now that we have extra time at night, this seems to be our go-to event. We literally watched this the entire week with the intensity of two people who had their lives on the line.  At one point we were standing up and yelling “HIDDEN COVE. HIDDEN COVE” at the top of our lungs as if Pat and Vanna could hear us.  We’ve actually entered the Wheel Watcher’s club, and while I totally understand that I’m now part of the same club that my grandparent’s are a part of, I don’t want to miss out on any possible prizes (an all-expense paid trip to The Bahamas, for example) or lose the opportunity to become a contestant on T.V…in fact, I’ve added “being a contestant on Wheel of Fortune” to my bucket list.  It goes without saying that we are in desperate need of hobbies…and friends.

Look, this new period of life is transitional and probably temporary…and we are definitely going to take advantage of it.  We’re going to watch more Wheel of Fortune and add Jeopardy to the evening routine.  We’ll learn to cook, and fix the lights, and build a deck, and maybe even play Fortnite with Carson.  We’ll chill out and just take some well-needed down time to remember what it’s like to just hang out and enjoy each other’s company.  Because truthfully, I know this won’t last.  Next week I start working at the store again in the evenings (which I love…seriously, come visit me at Blended Furniture Market!) and, soon enough, Chris will have baseball workouts and board meetings…and we’ll be shuffling our kid from school events to church events and everywhere in-between.  But for a moment…just for this small window of time, we’ll rest…and possibly win that all-expense paid vacation…and that will be enough of a new adventure for now.

Lots of love from a ready-to-be-adventurous Small Town Girl