A Love Letter (or, A Tale of Desperation from a Sleep Deprived Momma)

Oh, you.  I remember you.  So well, in fact.  You were like a dream — in fact, I embraced you with that notion in mind.  Dream.

You know how they say hindsight is 20/20?  I fear that when I had you in my life, I took you for granted.  I didn’t give you the appreciation you deserved.  You had been there, pretty much since the beginning.  When others were doubting they would ever see you again in those early weeks/months, I would stand back and say nothing.  A slight smile would curl at the end of my lips, because.. I was confident in US.  I knew all the work, the scheduling, the routines we had built were solid.  We were a team.  We made it work.  We MADE it.. 2.5 years of greatness.  I thought the hard times were behind us, and we had persevered with grace, dignity. We were unstoppable.

I didn’t tell you that enough.  I didn’t express my gratitude enough.  I didn’t remind you that you are beautiful. I didn’t let you know how much you meant to me.

I wasted time.  I piddled away valuable minutes, hours. Time that I will never get back.  Time that we could’ve spent together.

People warned me about this.  People said this could happen — but I refused to believe it.  People told me when you were there I needed to take advantage of every opportunity to be with you — but I didn’t.  I found other things to occupy my time — wasteful things.  Irrelevant things.  If I wasn’t with you, I could’ve been productive, at least.  But I wasn’t.

I fear things may never be the same. You are distant now.  You come and go, sporadically — sometimes you are here, sometimes you are gone.  Sometimes I force being with you, and it hurts — like I’m trying to hold on to something that wants to be let go.

I’m finding myself going to extremes to have you stay.  I bought new sheets — did you notice?  New pillow? New blanket?  It’s fun colors and super soft — I thought you would like it.  Did you see I upgraded us to a new BIGGER bed?  I thought that would be a welcome change compared to the squeaky crib mattress, or pile of pillows and blankets on the floor.  I’m sure it was hurting your back as much as it was hurting mine.  I did this all with you in mind.  I did this all for you.  For us.  So we could be together again — on a consistent, regular basis.  Like we used to be.

As much as it hurts, I understand that this is happening. I get it.  I mean, she’s growing up.  This is part of life — and I’m sure these past three weeks of missing you aren’t going to be the last ones we have for the next 18 years — or forever.

But, in case I forget to tell you.  In case I fail to mention.  In case we never see each other again —

I love you.  I miss you.  Please come back.  I promise I’ll be better, I’ll treat YOU better.

You. Complete. Me.

Longingly yours,

Ashley (aka the sleepless momma who is currently going through sleep regression with a cranky and tantrumy  2.5 year old –and is dog-tired and can’t help but focus on all that is lost — sleep.)

For reference: 🙂

Ella Grey with BagheeraTsum Tsum bedding

6 Grown-Up Lessons from a Toddler Playdate

Hi friends!

Yesterday was a beautiful day for our little household, as we held a playdate for Ella with her new friend Quinn.  This was very exciting for us (all three of us: Me, Raux, and Ella), as we haven’t really had too many “playdates” since Ella was born.  We don’t have many friends that have children yet, and since she isn’t in daycare, the only real interaction she gets with other kids her age is at our Stroller Strides class or the park.

So, when one of the Mommas from SS texted me asking if we wanted to get together to let the girls play, I was stoked and said YES right away. Little did I know, this playdate would teach me more about MYSELF than I’d realize, and that’s an added bonus for my year of GROWTH. 🙂

6 Grown-Up Lessons from a Toddler Playdate

Be Open. 

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Like I mentioned before, Ella hasn’t had a lot of interaction with other little ones. So, when Quinn and her Mommy came to our place for our playdate, I was a little nervous how Ella would act. Once Quinn walked in the door, Ella took right to her.  It was like they were old friends — they started playing right away without hesitation.  Here was my beautiful little girl being all social, and I realized.. the nervous one wasn’t Ella, it was me.  I was nervous not how Ella would act — she’s a kid — I was nervous about how I would act.  How would I be judged? What if I was awkward or too quiet or too loud or too weird?  I was already judging myself before anyone came over.  But, in the end, it doesn’t matter. I am who I am, and I really need to lighten up. Be more open to new experiences.  Meet new people.  Play right away, without hesitation.

 

Share.

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This one seems like a given, but is often forgotten.  Watching the girls play, there were many times when Ella would give up her toy to Quinn, and vice versa.  They only needed to be reminded a small number of times (which, c’mon.. they are two!).  But honestly, I think there are some adults that need to be reminded of this from time to time — myself included! While there are some key points in your life where you can (and should be) selfish, there are just as many (if not more) opportunities to share — physically, mentally, emotionally.  Sharing teaches compromise — if you give a little to others, you can get some of what you want as well.  Sharing teaches us to “take turns,” negotiate, and how to deal with the emotions of not getting what you want at the exact time you want it. As adults, sometimes we need to be reminded, too.

 

Paint With Your Fingers.

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We chose to do an Easter painting activity with the girls, where they used cookie cutters and plastic eggs to “stamp” on paper.  After about 3 minutes, the girls were done using the cutters, and resorted to using their fingers and paintbrushes.  This reminded me that it is absolutely okay to choose a different way to do something.  Even though the point of this activity was to “stamp” and create a cute Easter themed print, they still created a masterpiece by going their own way and choosing their own painting utensils.  Sometimes it turns out better by going against the “rules” or “guidelines” set upon you.  And, of course.. sometimes it’s best when you get messy.

 

Keep an empty shelf (or cabinet).

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After painting, the girls played in Ella’s room for a bit, then returned to kitchen to play in Ella’s “clubhouse” — aka an empty cabinet area in our kitchen.  When we lived in Jacksonville, our kitchen was TINY — we barely had room to cook in it, much less have items or appliances that needed to be stored away. When we were looking for our current house in Orlando, I had one requirement: it has to have a bigger kitchen.  We were super lucky to find our home equipped with a HUGE kitchen — complete opposite of what we were used to — and we honestly, just didn’t have enough “stuff” to fill all of the cabinets we now have. So, one cabinet area has been left empty (minus some rolls of paper towels) for Ella to play in.  Plus, having an empty shelf or cabinet is exhilarating for me — it shows that there is always a possibility of expansion, that I’m not crowded in by too much stuff.

 

Dress Up.

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Ella has a lot of dress up clothes and costumes that she loves to bring out and wear.  When the girls were in Ella’s room, Quinn found Ella’s stash of costumes, and wanted to be Elsa. So, of course, Ella was Anna.  They were ADORABLE — and it reminded me, it’s so much fun to dress up — and to use your imagination.  I think as we get older and become more “adult,” many people forget how to use their imagination.  We get too logical, too reasonable, too … accustomed to running like a “machine.”  Albert Einstein once said,”Logic will get you from A to B, but imagination will take you everywhere.”  To that point as well, Carl Sagan said, “Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it, we go nowhere.”  Somedays, you should just pretend you are Anna or Elsa — and see where it takes you.

 

It’s okay to miss your friends.

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As our day ended, both girls were very tired — but didn’t want to stop playing.  Quinn kept trying to reason with her Mommy that she should take a nap at Ella’s house instead of going home. Ultimately, it was time to say “bye bye” for the day, and both girls cried as Quinn had to leave.  Ella stood by the window connected to our front door and watched as they drove away.  My heart was so sad about this, but it made me smile.  It made me think of my own friends — near and far — and how it’s okay to miss them.  Saying goodbye is never easy, but it’s necessary.  We are all living our own lives, doing our own things — but yet, when we get together, it’s like no time has passed since we last saw one another.  Sure, there are days when you wish they were here with you to play, or talk to, or to cry with — and you may get sad, and miss their company.  And that’s okay, completely normal — and just goes to show you, the friends that tug on your heartstrings are the ones you want to keep.

 

All in all, we had an amazing day with our new friend.  We painted, played hide and seek, rode a bike down a hill, ran around outside, dressed up, ate lunch, colored easter eggs, and cried as we had to say goodbye.  And, the last lesson learned: Plan to do it again. 🙂

Hope everyone has had a great week so far!

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Attack of the Stomach Bug

Hi friends!

What a whirlwind of a week it has been!

It started last week, with Ella getting a nasty stomach bug.  Originally, I had thought it was just a reaction to her vaccines from her doctor appointment a few days prior — but she seemed to be okay, just really nasty diapers and a low fever.  After a few days, she was back to normal, and I didn’t think anything else of it — in fact, talking with a friend who was going through the same thing with her 2 year old, we were chalking it up to teething and that was it.

Ahh, well — fast forward to Saturday night.  A sudden and powerful migraine came over me, and I wasn’t feeling like…myself.  Tossed and turned all night, finding myself going back and forth to the bathroom.  Needless to say, it wasn’t pretty — and somehow, someway, I managed to get the nasty bug too.

Before Ella, I used to get bitter when I was ill — thinking and saying that “I didn’t have time to get sick.”  Oh what time does to you…. I thought I was too busy before to get sick?  Getting sick while having a 2 year old is just physically impossible — yet it isn’t. And it happened. And, it was exhausting.

Yet, despite the exhaustion and just overall “gross”-feeling, it still managed to be great couple of days laying low with my little girl.  We still went on walks, but replaced our workouts with a few more Tinkerbell movies. We still had tickle-fests and made cookies, but Mom laid off the cookies and tried to stomach toast instead.  We even had some accomplishments: we can name each alphabet letter in our flashcards and we learned the entire “Little Einsteins” song in only a short amount of time hearing it.  You can check out the cute video of this on our Facebook page here. 🙂

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I guess my point is, even when you’re feeling like utter crap, there’s still some sort of sunshine to bring you up.  Sometimes, you just have to search for it — to wade through all of the negative to find the beam of light to boost your mood.  And, truth is — when you start to act like you feel better, you actually do feel better.  If you physically smile, then your brain — and in this case, stomach — smiles too.

We are feeling better, for sure.  I’m hoping that one more day of “rest” is what the doctor would have ordered if I actually went to the doctor.

Hope everyone is having a great start of their week! 🙂

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“You are STRONGER than you THINK.”

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Ever have those moments where you question EVERYTHING you are doing, trying to figure out if you are doing it “right,” and sometimes feel utterly defeated?

That’s been me lately — which really is out of my character.  I work on being positive and “sunshine and rainbows” because, well, I like feeling that way — and I believe in “acting the way I want to feel.”

But it seems in the past few weeks, I’ve been questioning ALOT.  And, I haven’t been acting the way I WANT to feel, I’ve been acting the way my brain THINKS I feel in the moment.  The mind is a very powerful thing — and sometimes we let our mind trick us into believing something that isn’t necessarily true.  We think it, then we act it. It’s a vicious spiral that, in the end, just leaves you feeling…. lost.

Picture it, the spiral:

Ella has been having some serious temper tantrums recently.  It is so sudden, and most of the time, it seems to be for no real reason.  She will be an absolute gem and acting normal, then all of a sudden, she freaks out.  It’s like a flip of a switch — for those who have seen the movie “Inside Out,” it is really like the Anger character when he flings up the control bar, screams “WHAT?!”, and his head lights on fire.  Scary, even.

I’m still trying to figure out how to handle these meltdowns.

At first, they surprise me: “Oh my goodness, what happened?!”

Then, they worry me: “It’s okay, baby. You’re fine. It’s alright!”

Then, they frustrate me: “Ella, no ma’am. This is NOT how we get things. NO. STOP. SIT DOWN.”

Then, they confuse me: “I don’t understand what happened. You were fine two seconds ago. What changed?”

Then, they frustrate me again: “Ella. NO.”

Then, they worry me again: “Ella… it’s okay. Just breathe….. BREATHE…..”

Then the internal monologue begins: “Why is she acting like this? Am I not doing a good job? Should I smack her hand when I tell her “No?” Should she get a spanking? Time out? Is she too young for those? Is she even listening to me? I know she’s just frustrated because she can’t communicate.. is telling her “No” a bad thing? I think I read in some book that you shouldn’t say words like that to a toddler.. what book was that? This is ridiculous.  Do I just ignore this? Will that cause worse behavior? If she continues to act this way, it will be my fault for not disciplining her at a young age.  Will she grow into a demon child that isn’t fun to be around on the playground?  How long do these last? Is this just a phase?  Am I failing?  I’m failing. I’m a terrible mother.”

The spiral. All good logic and truth flies out the window.

 

Why is it that negative thoughts are sometimes easier for us to believe than the positive? And sometimes, it gets really nasty up there in that head of ours — sometimes, we forget EVERYTHING and just focus on the bad in the moment, rather than expanding the picture and seeing all the good.

The truth is, yes — she’s having a meltdown, but that doesn’t trump the fact that she can count from 1-20.  She knows her colors and shapes.  She can recognize most of the alphabet just by looking at the letter, and not even in ABC order by repetition.  She would prefer to play “match game” with her color and shape cards than watch TV.  She loves to be outside — heck, she learned how to “scoot” on her scooter in 15 minutes last week.

Am I failing? No way. She’s healthy and smart, and learning more and more everyday.  And, I have to take a little credit for that.

Am I really a terrible mother?  No.  I’m just a mother — period.  I have no idea what I’m doing, and that’s okay.  Who really does?  I’m sure I’m not the only mother on the planet who has had these same thoughts in these same moments.

But, there is something we can all work on — we are STRONGER than we THINK.  We have to remember that.  When those negative thoughts sweep into our minds, we have to cancel that out with remembering how awesome we are.  We are doing it. Not even the worst 2 year old tantrum can deny the fact that we are, ultimately, okay.

So, this one is for you — fellow momma who forgets sometimes, maybe a bit stressed out, tired, drained, questioning.  You aren’t alone.  🙂

Happy Tuesday, y’all!

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Lessons in Real Life

Today is beautiful.

Beautiful weather, open windows and a breeze through the house.  We started the morning with pancakes, then Daddy let Momma get another hour and a half of sleep [best Valentine’s Day Eve gift ever!]. We went for our morning walk, listened to our daily podcast, and before lunchtime, Ella and I made cookies again.

She was SO excited to make cookies — she kept saying “I love cookies! I love cookies!” Even though when I first opened up the dough and she managed to grab a pinch of dough and put it in her mouth — she’s quick, man! — we had a great time cutting out cookies again as a Valentine’s Day Eve activity!  I even posted a cute pic on Instagram showing our efforts — feeling all proud and Pinterest-y — total #momwin today!

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Cookies in the oven, Ella was quietly playing, I was enjoying a cup of hot tea, listening to some music…

…Then, Ella came to me to tell me she went “stinky.” And good god, did she ever.. TMI, but it’s true, and I try to be real with y’all. Ever have those moments where you really try to reason with someone when you know they don’t quite understand?  That was me during this diaper change.

Me: “Ella, Stinky girl!  You know, this wouldn’t be as stinky or uncomfortable if you would just go stinky on the big girl potty..”

Ella: “STINKY!”

Me: “Yes, STINKY!! When do you want to try to do this on the big girl potty?  It’s SO much better when you stinky on the potty than in your pants!”

Ella: “STINKY!”

Yeah, she totally gets it.

When we finished cleaning up, we walked out of her room and I smelled something different… A “stinky” unlike the “stinky” I was just cleaning up.

Crap. The cookies. 

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Fail.

And all I could do is laugh.

My point is, even though we burned the cookies today, it’s still a beautiful day. Not everything in life is sunshine, rainbows, sweet smells, and perfectly baked cookies. It’s how we react in the moments where it isn’t that truly matters. Because, you know, they may be burned this time, but the process was what was most enjoyed.. Something I’m still learning to acknowledge everyday. Thank you for the reminder! 🙂

I hope this brings a smile today, and hope everyone is having an amazingly beautiful weekend!

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Like a Sack of Bricks…

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Ever have that feeling of having 48 hours of stuff to do, but there are only 24 hours in a day?  That’s been me lately.  I’ve been feeling a bit down, overwhelmed, and overtired.

And worse, I’ve been complaining about the little things that make my heart so happy.  I didn’t even realize it until this evening.

We usually eat dinner after we put Ella down for the night — around 8:30PM.  When T is home and not working, we really enjoy this time together — and tonight’s topic of conversation turned into my bitchfest.

I was talking about how I don’t really get much opportunity throughout the day to focus on “my things.”  My days begin around 7-7:30AM (which, I know, is way better than 5AM or 6AM — I know I’m lucky in this case) and are usually non-stop Mommy-time until 8:30PM when I put the girl down for the night.  Sometimes, I will get about 2 hours in the middle of the day when she naps — where I will try to squeeze in my workout and run, clean up the house from the morning’s playtime, start laundry, eat lunch, start prepping her lunch for when she wakes, and hopefully hop on the computer to start some of my work: writing, blogging, returning emails, etc. If I don’t get to squeeze my workout in during naptime, it’s the first thing I do when she goes down for the night — followed by eating dinner, cleaning up the house from the afternoon/evening’s play, finishing laundry, showering, and then — maybe — I’ll have a chance to write, read, return emails, etc.  By then, I really only have one hour or so to do all of this “work” before I need to go to bed, to ensure I won’t be a grumpy zombie in the morning when Ella wakes.  It’s truly amazing the amount of energy it takes to keep up with a 2 year old throughout the day — and trust me, I know I’m extremely lucky that I get the opportunity to be with her all day, everyday.  It’s my dream — and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

“I’m just exhausted, and I feel I don’t really have anytime to do the things I need to do,” I said, pushing around the rest of my salad with my fork.

My husband tried to offer suggestions of new things to try to be more effective throughout the day, and I shot each one down with a smirk and chuckle. Then he said something that hit me like a sack of bricks.

“Well, it won’t always be this way.  Soon, she won’t need all of your attention throughout the day, and you can get more things done.”

What I heard: “She won’t need you.”

“Soon.”

And he’s right.

Now, I know that I’m her Momma, and she will still “need” me, but it will never be the same as it is right now.  Soon, she won’t want me to sit with her as she colors every single page in her Doc McStuffins coloring book.  Soon, she won’t come running up to me to grab my hand, and lead me into the living room to show me that Mickey Mouse is on TV.  Soon, she won’t want to sit with me in her room playing tea party, and get upset with me if I “drink” my tea before we “Cheers!”  Soon, she will be too big to slide down her treehouse in the backyard.  Soon, she will be too big for the stroller I push when we go on our daily walks. Soon, I won’t need to be there to watch her play in the bathtub, as she sings songs and talks to all her bath toys.  Soon, she won’t want to snuggle before bedtime as we finish watching “Inside Out” for the 800th time, or when we “read” books, which is really her just flipping through the pages until she sees a lion, in which she will exclaim, “SIMBA!!” Soon, I won’t even need to put her to bed, she will just go lay down on her own, and I will just hope and pray that I get a “goodnight, I love you.”

Before I know it, she will be in school, be super involved in activities like theatre (a Mom-thespian can dream, right?), and have tons of friends that want to take up all of her free time.  Before I know it, she will fall in love, move away from home, get married, and have a little one of her own.  Before I know it, she will no longer be my little girl, but my beautiful grown-up daughter — and I’ll be thinking back to all the times we would hold hands, have tea parties, and color all day.

Life is short, my friends — and time flies.  Instead of focusing on the stress, the lack of sleep, and the things you didn’t get to cross off your to do list today, we have to cherish every single second of these moments we have.  Moments like these are fleeting, and I don’t know about you, but I would hate to miss out — and 10 years from now wish I would’ve done things a little different.

G’night. 🙂

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What Do You DO?

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A few weeks ago, I attended a beautiful wedding of two of our (newer) friends. My husband was part of the wedding party, and for this introvert, I was very nervous about being by myself with all these wedding guests whom I had never met. But, in the spirit of pushing myself out of my comfort zone, I went — and encouraged myself to go up to people I didn’t know and introduce myself, start conversations.

There was a repeating question that kept coming my way, over and over and OVER again.

“What do you do?”

“What do you do for a living?”

“Where do you work?”

And, I didn’t really know how to answer.

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I’ve consistently had a job since I was old enough to start working.  I got my first job at 14, bagging groceries at our local grocery store.  It’s just in my genes — a workhorse to the extreme.  There was a time when I was in college, taking the maximum number of credit hours I could, but I was still working 40 hours a week at my retail job.  I had bills to pay, so I had to work.  I’ve worked 4 jobs at a time before. I’ve logged in over 80 hours of work in ONE work week.  It’s just my nature — working is what I DO.

Or.. did.

When Raux and I started talking about having a family, I told him that in a dream world, I would love to be a stay at home mom.  It is my dream job — just to be home with our little one, raise them right, teach them, watch them grow, document it all.  My mom was a single mother, who had to work really REALLY hard to give us kids everything — and she would always say she regretted “missing out” on things when we were little.  I, of course, never thought she missed out on anything, because she was a supermom who really did it all, and then some.  But hearing this over and over as I grew up, I knew that I wanted to be there for EVERYTHING.. I never wanted my job to keep me from seeing Ella take her first step or say her first word.

After having Ella, I had a six week maternity leave from my job.  Do you know when I returned to work? Two weeks.  Two weeks after having Ella, I was back at work, attending a meeting and picking up order books so I could start tackling the mountain of work that was piling up from me being gone… for two weeks. I worked the entire time I was on maternity leave.  I didn’t allow myself to have a break.  And when that “six week” time frame was up, I was back in the office everyday, sometimes pulling more than 50+ hour weeks.  But something had changed… my heart and mind weren’t there.  My heart and my mind were at home, thinking of my little girl, worrying about all the things I was missing. And this continued — these feelings of worry and regret grew stronger — for the next year and a half.

It’s amazing how much can change in a year and a half, and having a little one really helps you see how fast time goes by.  It’s like, one day she’s so little — she just lays in one spot, can barely hold her head up, and sleeps most of the day — and the next, she’s grown up — running around, babbling your ear off, and holds your hand as you pick flowers (weeds) in the backyard.

We were presented with the opportunity of a lifetime with my husband’s work, an opportunity that meant a move — physically, mentally, and emotionally — and it was going to afford me the chance to live my dream.  I was going to be able to stay at home with Ella.  It was here! My time!  And, at first, I almost started to talk myself out of it — thinking, “what? I’ve worked my whole life” — “I need to be able to provide for my family” — I even started looking for work before we moved.  Then, I had to take a step back and realize providing for my family meant so much more than money.  It was my time to provide my family with me.  My full attention.  My love.  My happiness.

I’ve been super lucky to be a full time stay at home mom for almost 6 months — and I can’t believe it took me this long to choose this path.  I remember when we told close friends we were moving and that I was going to stay at home with Ella, they laughed saying  I wouldn’t make it two weeks until I was looking for a job.  Because that’s how they knew me — workhorse.  I still am that person, except now it’s all about that sweet girl, inventing new activities and fun things for us to do rather than spreadsheets and countless emails.

There are some days that are a challenge, but everyday is beautiful with her.  For the first time in my life, I LOVE going to work everyday.  I may have one of the hardest jobs, but it is one of the best jobs ever.

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“So, Ashley.. what do you do?”

 

What do I NOT do, is really the question.

I’m a wife. Mother. Personal chef. Police officer. Housekeeper. Lawmaker. A (stuffed animal) veterinarian. Nutritionist. Park explorer. Personal trainer. Artist. Medic. Baker. Chauffeur. An event planner. Dancing queen. Professional colorer. A personal stylist and shopper. Playground champion. Homemaker. Teacher. Creative enthusiast. A professional flower(weed) picker.

My parachute is every color of the rainbow, and I can show you with all the fingerpaint left on my kitchen table.

But more importantly — MOST importantly — I’m someone’s hero.

I’m more than what I do — and my “job” can’t really be summed up with “stay at home mom.” But what I do know is… every morning when I “go in to work,” I receive huge smiles, big hugs, and the sweetest kisses that remind me I’m exactly where I need to be.