Monday, December 22, 2014

Hang in there. You're in for one hell of a ride!

Sharing from Huffington Post Divorce...

8 Years a Divorcee: 8 Things I'd Tell My Freshly Divorced Self

The holiday season is a crazy one. Time seems to move faster, obligations pile up all around us and there are hundreds of things we think we should be doing at any given moment. It's hard to put the brakes on in November and December. But that's exactly what I've been doing.
You see, there are two dates that have special meaning to me during this rushed, exciting season. Not special like the birth of a child or a holiday, but things happened on those dates that have made indelible marks on my life. Kind of made me who I am today. And for those reasons, I acknowledge them. Not with any fanfare, mind you. There are no announcements made, no celebrations to be had. But still. I pause, momentarily on each of these days, and remember.
The first one hits in November. It's my now-defunct wedding anniversary. We got married on Thanksgiving. I was a blushing bride, five months pregnant and giddy with anticipation to begin a new phase in life. I have nothing but good memories of that day; despite the giddiness gradually giving way first to complacency and then to much darker emotions, the memories are nice.
Then, just around the corner, is the anniversary of my divorce. That one lands in the beginning of December. Thirteen years, a house and four kids later. The memories of this one aren't pretty or fun or dotted with sweet flashbacks. It was the final blow of a two-years-long beating, and in some ways it was a blessing. The date used to be a black mark on my calendar, THE DAY EVERYTHING ENDED. Now, I see it more as THE DAY EVERYTHING BEGAN.
It's 8 years now. There were times I didn't think I'd live through the first year, but I did. And each year after that as well. Some were harder to get through than others, but here I am: older, wiser and somehow...happier. I wish I could go back in time and let Newly Divorced Jenny know that things were going to be okay. I'd sit down with that terrified, sad woman, make her a dirty martini (which she didn't know would become her favorite cocktail) and tell her what I've learned:
1. You did the best you could. There will be people who are going to make you feel guilty about being divorced. Make you feel as if you didn't try hard enough, didn't make the right sacrifices. Your ex is going to do this, too. Head games and guilt trips and bizarre behavior that will make you question every single thing you've done to get to this point, this consciously uncoupled state. Screw them. And screw the notion that you didn't try to save your marriage with everything you had. You did try, you tried harder than most people would have. You showed more grace than necessary, more class than needed. You became the poster child for dignity, and you did all of that while solo-parenting four children. Own your part in this, my dear: you rocked it.
2. You should sell the house, right now. Sell it, give it to your ex, do whatever you can do to get this albatross off your neck. Yes, I know it's a box full 'o memories, but my's time to be done. The three mortgages will end up breaking your back, and your credit. You're going to discover, albeit a little bit late in the game, that home is indeed where the heart is. And you can move your heart somewhere better. You're hanging onto it for all the wrong reasons. To quote a movie that your kids will thankfully be too old to become obsessed with, "LET IT GO."
3. Don't rush into the dating thing. Honey, I know you're hellbent on getting back into the game, that you need to show yourself and everyone else that you can still do it, but slow down. Focus on repairing. There is brokenness all around you, and despite the nagging feeling that you're missing Mr. Right, you need to be in fixing mode for a while. Believe me...if Mr. Right is out there, he'll wait until you're ready. That's why he's Mr. Right. Oh, and FYI: when you see the Mullet guy on eHarmony,just say no. Dude did time for domestic assault. And he's still married. A married felon. You're welcome. And now please see #4.
4. You will have sex again. And again, and again. Remember that day, after some of the fog began clearing, and you realized your sole source of all things sex-related was gone? I do. You were getting the mail and actually said, out loud, "Oh my God. Who am I going to have sex with now that he's gone?" Fifteen years of being with just one person is kind of habit-forming (well, at least it was for you). For a long time after he left, sex was the furthest thing from your mind. But then it wasn't.  Know that the desire to have sex is natural. But take this advice: choose wisely. Believe it or not, you will have several fellas to choose from. Some will be fun to flirt with, and some will be best left alone. I will tell you that the guy who is remodeling your neighbor's kitchen is definitely one of the latter. I know you're lonely, girl, but do you not see his striking resemblance to Captain Caveman? PASS.
5. You aren't going to hate him forever. No, not Kevin James. It's 2014 and we still can't stand that actor. Seriously, must you pull out the 'dancing fat guy' shtick in every single movie, Paul Blart? The "him" I'm referring to is your ex-husband. Right now, there is nobody on earth you love less. Lucifer himself sounds like a fabulous companion compared to the man who broke your heart. But there will be a day when the hate is just gone. Poof. You will change his name in your phone from "A HOLE" to "HIS REAL NAME." Your lips won't purse and your nose won't wrinkle and your eyes won't scrunch when you speak of him. No, you will never be the president of his fan club, but you will be relieved of the back-breaking burden that is hate. And it will feel all kinds of amazing. In the meantime? Take advantage of that hatey energy. Clean the damn garage.
6. Wait, what? Another dirty martini? Of course! Didn't I say you'd love them?
6. Your kids will survive. Oh sweet Jesus of Nazareth. The children. It's almost unbearable to look at them right now, isn't it? The pain is so fresh and so vivid in their faces. That's where most of the rage comes from, my dear. I mean, yeah, it bites the big one to be cheated on, but your kids? The dismemberment of your marriage has hurt your offspring, and that evokes an almost-otherworldly fury from you. Know this, woman: each one of them hurts, that's true. They handle their pain in different ways. Four kids, four ways of dealing with it. None of them are easy, and a couple of them are downright horrifying. You're going to be tested, my friend. Your limits to what you can take are going to be pulled and stretched like taffy, until you think you cannot possibly handle anything else. And then you get more to handle.
Spoiler alert. You handle it like a gosh darn boss. The two older ones? They are almost 21 and 19 now. Both in college. Both thriving and healthy and happy. One of them is in love! The two younger ones are still home with you. They are both giant teenagers now and spending time with them is like a salve on your soul. You have wonderful relationships with all of the kids. Thick as thieves, you are. And you know why? Because you stuck it out with them. You were there for them when they needed you, and you never, ever gave up.
(P.S. For Christmas of 2012 our daughter Molly buys you a toaster. You hide in the kitchen so the kids can't see you bawling over a freaking toaster. Yeah, you are still a big crybaby. Sorry.)
7. This is going to feel like the worst thing ever. Until you realize it's not. Your middle name is going to be Woe Is Me for a while, and honey, that's okay. Woe is you, no question. But then you're going to notice that planet Earth has been merrily spinning away while you were embroiled in what felt like mortal combat. People's lives were changing, kids were growing, the economy was getting ready to take a massive dump. Things are going to happen, some bad things, some scary things. People you love are going to get sick. You and the kids are going to hit some hard bumps in the road.
You're going to discover that your divorce, as painful and exhausting and traumatic as it was, wasn't the end of the world. It sucked, no doubt about it. But it didn't kill you. You will learn the difference between "bad" and "awful", my friend. It's not a pretty lesson, but it's something you never forget.
8. There is no limit to what you can achieve. This one is the most important, so I'm going to repeat it: THERE IS NO LIMIT TO WHAT YOU CAN ACHIEVE.Oh, what's that? You say that getting out of bed these days takes all you have? I get it. And that's okay. It's to be expected. Your world was torn asunder, girl, it takes time to recover. Time to work everything out. And when you're living in the aftermath of a brutal divorce, everything doesn't always work out with ease. You're going to face obstacles that scare the crap out of you, challenges that make you feel like a tiny, trembling David staring up at a gnarly, giant Goliath.
Get this: You're going to learn how to manage money and balance a checkbook and do your own taxes! You'll figure out how to change the bulbs in your car lights. You'll install a garbage disposal and hook up wireless routers and you'll talk to your teens about sex and love and condoms. You're going to become a fierce advocate for your children, you're going to ask for help when you need it and give help when asked. You're going to be stronger and smarter and tougher and more tender than you ever imagined you'd be. You're going to write like a mofo, and find so many friends and opportunities when you do.
You're going to love. You're going to be loved. You're going to adopt a dog who sheds so much but who will own substantial real estate in your heart (and much to your chagrin, the couch).
The day is going to come when getting out of bed is easy and you do it early every morning and work hard all day and then go home to be with your family at night. You're never going to master cooking much more than your curry chicken and a decent pot roast but that's okay. The kids still love Costco pizza.
Eight years will pass in the blink of an eye even though some of the days and nights seem as if they will never end. Eight years, and look at all the good things that have happened. Look how much light and love and laughter there is in your life. I can't even begin to picture what the next eight will bring.
So, my younger, freshly divorced self (and anyone else who fits the bill), hang in there. You're in for one hell of a ride.
But...I'm here waiting for you at the end. Waiting with a hug and a spot on the couch next to me and an ice cold dirty martini. It's all going to be okay, and it's all going to be worth it.
I promise.
This post first appeared on Jennifer's semi-neglected blog, The Happy Hausfrau. You can read more about divorce, single parenting and her obsession with Louis CK there.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Keep it cute, keep it comfy, keep it cheap - Winter Family Picture Edition

Little man wears:
Red gingham button down shirt: Ralph, Marshall's, $19 (SPLURGE)...
but in my mind, red doubles as Christmas and NC State!  :)
Sweater:  Gymboree, Consignment Sale (NEW WITH TAGS!), $10
Pants:  Wonder Kids, consignment sale, $2
Shoes:  Pediped, consignment store (accounted for in a previous post)
Total outfit: $31

Baby girl wears:
Red turtleneck: j. Khaki, Consignment Store (NEW WITH TAGS!), $2
Fur vest: Baby Gap, Consignment store, $1.75
Pants:  Wonder Kids, consignment sale, $2
Shoes:  accounted for in a previous post
Total outfit: $5.75

Mama wears:
Layering top: No brand, yard sale, $1
Poncho sweater:  Forever 21, online, $30 (SPLURGE!!)
Jeans:  J.Brand, gift (thanks Mom & Dad, best gift!!)
Boots:  unbranded, Sears, $9 (STEAL!)
Bracelets:  J. Crew (gifted)
Total outfit:  $40

Photo shoot clothing expenditure for three:  $76.75
Memories:  PRICELESS!  :)

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Keep it cute, keep it comfy, keep it cheap - Thanksgiving edition

Counting my greatest blessings!!

 Little man wears:
Long sleeve shirt & vest: Tea, consignment sale, $10
Pants:  The Bailey Boys, consignment sale, $2.50
Shoes:  Pediped, consignment store (accounted for in a previous post)
Total outfit: $12.50

Mama wears:
Tunic:  Umgee, consignment store, $10
Tank Top:  Forever 21, $4
Pants:  Converse, Target, $8
Shoes:  Old Navy, $20
Total outfit:  $42

Baby girl wears:
Dress: Matilda Jane, NWT, consignment sale, $18
Long sleeve top:  The Children's Place, yard sale, $1
Tights:  Consignment sale, $0.50
Shoes (not pictured): Gymboree, consignment store, $8
Total outfit: $27.50 (shoes, including shoes)

Thursday, November 27, 2014

A Love I Never Thought I'd Find

There's a place I've been looking for
That took me in and out of buildings
Behind windows, walls and doors
And I thought I found it
Couple times, even settled down
And I'd hang around just long enough
To find my way back out

And I wouldn't change a thing
I'd walk right back through the rain
Back to every broken heart
On the day that it was breaking
And I'd relive all the years
And be thankful for the tears
I've cried with every stumbled step
That ... got me here, right here

It's amazing what I let my heart go through
And I'd relive all the years
And be thankful for all the tears
I've cried with every stumbled step
That led to you and got me here, right here.


So grateful to be right where I am today with my sweet babies, my mama and my little sister. Happy Thanksgiving, friends and family! Praying that your blessings are many and your worries are few!!!

Keep it cute, keep it comfy, keep it cheap: Birthday party edition

Little man wears:
Long sleeve shirt: boutique, consignment sale, $1
Pants:  naartjie, yard sale, $0.33
Total outfit: $1.33

Baby girl wears:
Romper: yard sale, NWT, $1
Bow:  Walmart, $1
Total outfit: $2

Keep it cute, keep it comfy, keep it cheap: play clothes edition

Little man wears:
Long sleeve shirt: Ralph Lauren, consignment sale, $3
Pants:  Kelly's Kids, ebay, $5
Jacket:  Mini Boden, hand-me-down, $0
Shoes: (not pictured), Pediped, accounted for in previous post
Total outfit: $8

Baby girl wears:
Embroidered tee: consignment store, $3
Leggings:  Gymboree, hand-me-downs, $0
Jacket:  Le Top, yard sale, $1
Boots:  Children's Place, yard sale, $1 (at this age, when they are barely worn, just throw them in the wash, and then wipe them out with a clorox wipe and you're good to go!)
Total outfit: $5

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Keep it cute, keep it comfy, keep it cheap: School pictures edition

Little man wears:
Plaid shirt: consignment store, $5
Pants:  Little English, consignment sale, $5
Shoes: (not pictured), Pediped, accounted for in previous post
Total outfit: $10

Baby girl wears:
Smocked dress: boutique, consignment store, $4.75
Bow:  mall store, $2
Total outfit: $6.75

School pictures outfits:  $16.75 for both kids
Purchasing school pictures:  $48 for a CD of two pictures!  ;)
Capturing memories:  priceless!!!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Keep it cute, keep it comfy, keep it cheap - tea party edition

Baby girl wears:
Smocked dress: boutique, consignment store, $8
Shoes: (not pictured), Smart Fit, yard sale, $1 (at this age, throw them in the washing machine, wipe them down inside and out with a clorox wipe and you're good to go!)
Necklace:  ebay, $5
Bow:  mall store, $2
Total outfit: $15 (including shoes)

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


For years, many of you have been praying for a very special little man, Denny. I've never even met this little man, but he was blessed to be born into an extraordinary family, and every day my babies and I pray for Denny and his family.
My heart was so broken that it took me an entire day to share this post from his mom, but I share it now to ask for your prayers. Prayers for miraculous healing for Denny, and prayers for strength, comfort and peace for him and his entire family.
Today the team told us that they don't have a curative treatment to offer at this time. We will be shifting our focus to enjoying Denny enjoying his life for whatever time that is.
We will be giving Denny angiogenesis inhibitors - this blocks blood vessels which would give the tumors the blood that they need to grow. The goal is to stabilize the tumors. As an example, they have a child that's been on them for 8 months and is still running around playing basketball. We would love to see Denny feel great for that long.
Other things that we'll be doing to help Denny feel super awesome are to take out his drain in the morning and generally reduce the time he spends at the hospital wherever we can. (We head back to Raleigh tomorrow afternoon.)
Of course, no one knows exactly how everything will unfold. But they explained to us that generally what happens is that Denny will continue to feel like his general little badass self and then he'll start to experience some pain as the tumor grows - and we'll be ready for that. Our focus will shift completely to managing the pain.....but all that is hopefully months from now.
My sister asked me today if we were on the same page that the next few months should basically be a "make a wish lifestyle". YES!!!!! That's exactly what I have in mind. There will come a day when we're sitting in our house staring at Denny - but that is not where we are yet. Sometimes making Denny happy is going to be things like going to school and learning his letters - I still want him to feel accomplished. And sometimes, it's going to be us flying to Disney World. (And going to see Annie at the DPAC, Annie is touring in Boston right now and Denny's desire to go see this is kinda ridiculous.)
This is going to be a very confusing time period for all of us and I don't expect us to get this perfectly or know exactly what to do. I would like to ask you to be cognizant of what you say in front of your children as you're processing all this. One of Denny's greatest joys is to get to be around classmates and Darian's friends - and he is very much full of life right now.
And again, I know you're wondering. "But really, are you guys ok?" "Is the rest of the family ok?" We are all either ok or will be ok. We adore Denny and don't want his sweet little spirit to leave us. But, I think that we all feel capable of moving on from that feeling and enjoying our many more moments together.
And in addition to your prayers, I have another request, if you feel so incredibly blessed this Thanksgiving season, please consider giving back.... to Denny, and to his family.
This is Wendy, Mandy's sister. Thank you all so much for the kind emails, texts, Facebook messages, banners, balloons, and gifts you've all been organizing after Mandy's post last night. We are all feeling very loved and supported by Team Denny!
The most common thing we are being asked is some form of "how can I help facilitate this make a wish lifestyle?" In response to that, we have set up this funding page:
Mandy and Doug can use the money to do anything our little man chooses to request. We know some days that will be eating a bunch of M & M's and some days that will be vacations, but this will leave them some flexibility either way.  
Thank you again for everything you've done to support our family. You are all absolutely amazing.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Keep it cute, keep it comfy, keep it cheap

Baby girl wears:
Dress: boutique, consignment sale, $10
Shoes: puddle jumpers, consignment sale, $5
Total outfit: $15 (including shoes)

Little man wears:
Shirt: Ralph Lauren, consignment store, $9
Pants: brand unknown, yard sale, $0.50
Shoes: Ck, consignment store, $9
Total outfit:  $18.50 (including shoes)

Keep it cute, keep it comfy, keep it cheap

Little man wears:
Top:  Mulberribush pumpkin tee, consigment store, $4
Pants:  Little English, consignment sale, $4
Shoes:  Pediped, accounted for in previous post
Total outfit:  $8

Baby girl wears:
Fleece hoodie:  Gymboree, yard sale, $3 (hand-me-down from brother!)
Orange leggings:  Gymboree, hand-me-down $0
Blue top with collar:  brand uncertain, consignment store, $1
Shoes:  Target, $5
Bow:  Walmart, $1
Total outfit:  $10 (including shoes)

Keep it cute, keep it comfy, keep it cheap - Halloween edition

Baby girl wears:
Cowgirl costume, consignment store, $8
Long sleeve top, hand-me-down, $0
Handkerchief, found at home, $0
Cowgirl boots, Rack Room $22 (splurge!)

Little man wears:
Sheriff costume, consignment store: $8
Long sleeve red top, brand unknown, yard sale, $0.50
Shoes: pediped, cost accounted for in previous post

Mickey Mouse trick-or-treat bucket: yard sale, $0.50

Total Halloween cost:  $39

Keep it cute, keep it comfy, keep it cheap!

Feeling a bit overdue for a keep it cute, keep it comfy, keep it cheap post (i.e. i'm still procrastinating and trying not to pack!!)  ;)

Baby girl wears:
Tunic / dress:  Hanna Andersson, consignment store, $5
Polka dot tights: George Davies, Strasburg outlet, $3
(these tights are extra special to me, I bought them when I was pregnant with Harper, before I even knew I was having a girl!  I just knew I was having a little girl, and if so... she needed to have those pink polka dot tights!)
Boots, Carter's, yard sale, $1 (at this age, throw them in the washing machine, wipe them down inside and out with a clorox wipe and you're good to go!)
Bow: Walmart, $1
Total outfit cost:  $10

Little man wears:
Top:  (need to check brand), yard sale, $0.50
Pants:  Naartjie, yard sale, $0.50
Shoes:  Pediped, consignment store, $15
Total outfit:  $16

Yes, I live with my mom!

I would be lying if I said that there weren't times when I am embarrassed to say "I live with my mom". I mean, let's face it... I never planned on being 36 years old and raising two kids in my parents' home. But I just have to tell you that I. AM. BLESSED. WE. ARE. BLESSED. I was a strong-willed, rebellious child in high school and college, and I caused my parents more heartache than I care to remember. Even once I graduated from college, had a job and bought a place of my own, I still caused them quite a bit of stress (maybe even more!)... right, mom? ;) As an adult, there were so many times I wished that I had the opportunity to go back and live with them, as an adult, get to know them, as friends, and show them how much I really do appreciate them and love them (and always have!) And I got that opportunity. It wasn't something I planned, but on Saturday, March 3rd, 2013, I packed up my babies and I headed HOME to mom & dad's. And we've been here ever since. Dad passed away unexpectedly on Friday, March 7th, 2014. It was the worst day of my life, but I was blessed, and my BABIES were blessed, with the opportunity to spend an entire year with my dad (Pop-Pop! ...the man, the myth, the legend!) :) How many people can say that?!?! And we continue to be blessed to share this time with Mom & Jenn. I can't tell you how many times a day I call Mom to tell her something funny that Holden did or Harper said. She is my person, the one I share everything with (okay, almost everything!) ;) My mom is my very best friend, and I am so grateful that I get to share this amazing time in my life and my children's lives with her. We love you, Mom (Mom-Mom)! Thank you for everything you do and everything you are!!! You know I'd rather get all sappy in writing instead of in person, so I'll just say it here! We love you guys so much! We are happy to be here. And we plan to stay. Thank you for making room for us AND all of our stuff!


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

"Many times... I have been a victim of my own optimism".

I love that quote, I can relate to that quote... when it comes to friends, family and relationships. And, I can say that with a smile and a happy heart. I would rather believe the best of someone and be disappointed, than assume the worst of someone and be wrong.  :)

Friday, November 7, 2014

Cry it out? Do you or don't you?

I was personally never a fan of letting my kids "cry it out". Fuss, yes, I would let them fuss. But full out cry? I just couldn't do it.
When I first tried to put Holden in his crib (it was towards the end of nursing, so maybe 9-10 months?), he wouldn't have it. So I put him in my bed every night. Around 12-13 months old, he didn't want to snuggle with me anymore. He would wiggle and squirm and move all about. So, I put him in his bed, and he slept through the night like a champ - he was ready for it! That was my first indication that "cry it out" wasn't right... kids are ready when they are ready!
From the day Harper was born, that (sweet!) child wanted to be held! She came out screaming! Aunt Christie affectionately told Holden that her name was "wah wah" because she was always screaming. From day 1, I said she was a high-maintenance child, but no one seemed to understand. They would come, visit, hold her and leave... and it wasn't until they left and she was PUT DOWN that she began to scream! That started 28 months ago and hasn't stopped yet. She is the most high maintenance child I have ever met.
Tonight, Holden wanted me to lay down with him. That doesn't happen often. Normally, he kisses me goodnight and then goes about his business for the next 1/2 to 2 hours. But not tonight. Tonight was one of those nights when I could tell that he just wanted Mama to snuggle with him. I'm impatient, I can't lie. So the second he seemed to be asleep, I would start to disentangle. And he would cry. The next time I thought he was asleep, I would start to move away and he would whimper. My sweet boy wanted his mama to snuggle with him, and you better believe that any and all plans went flying out the window... that child grunts and he gets.
But it made me think...
How many times do I fall asleep next to Harper when she asks me not leave her? I don't know? But you better believe I don't leave her, ever... because she asked me not to!
I was given the blessing of lying down next to my sweet Holden tonight while he fell asleep. He didn't ASK me not to leave him, he didn't TELL me that he loved me, but when I rolled over, he grunted. When I pulled my arm out from under his, he moaned. And let me just tell you, friends... I LISTENED!
I have been blessed... I have a non-verbal child! I have had no choice but to read his non-verbal signs and cues. My point is... if your infant is crying... he/she is simply non-verbal!!!! Do you really let them just cry it out??? Or do you reach out and hug them and love them on their level until they CAN COMMUNICATE?
It is different for everyone, but I can tell you that if my own non-verbal child so much as grunts in my direction, I will positively re-enforce him asking for candy corn, if that is what he wants. my point... meet your child where they are and challenge them!!!! But what do I know... Harper still doesn't sleep through the night!