A Sweet Sister

Let me tell you a story.

While Mandy was playing near the lakeshore, Dad was mowing the lawn up the hill.  Kristy had her Barbie dolls on the dock splashing them into the water.  It was mid-summer and the girls had spent every day [without lightning] outside by the lake. On top of the rocks laid a large wooden board roughly the size of a standard door.  Mandy sat quietly on the bottom of the board near the shoreline.  I… I mean- Mandy was adorable, perfect; was never a bother to anyone.  She was a quiet child, always shared and was practically perfect in every way.  While sweet Mandy sat gazing into the lake, Kristy, the older of the two, had a fit of anger.  She ran towards Mandy jumping on the top of the wooden plank.  It was then that Mandy’s petite body catapulted into the air straight into the water.  Kristy watched and snickered and I imagine laughed with the intensity of the Wicked Witch of the West.  Mandy’s heavy head of hair kept her face under the water.  She struggled to get her tiny body out, but as she kicked and thrashed her wet hair kept pulling her under further.  Finally, she was able to break free from the water and her lungs filled with air.  She began to cry.  Cue Kristy’s evil laugh.  Dad looked down the hill and ran to Mandy.

Look at that sweet, perfect little angel.  Look out for Kristyyyyy!

Look at that sweet, perfect little angel. Look out for Kristyyyyy!

…Maybe that’s not all true, but pretty close 😉

I always tell people, “If you don’t have a big sister, you should get one.”  Of course, I haven’t always felt that way about Kristy, but there were several perks to being the little sister.

1. Let’s face it, they are cuter.  In the tiny, baby sort of way.

2. It’s rarely your fault because the older sister ‘knows better’.

3. Mom and Dad have done it once already and care less about getting your ears pierced at 5 even though the rule had ALWAYS been 8.

When we were younger and got into trouble with Mom, our punishment was to sleep in separate rooms, which I remember being unbearable.  Who was I going to stay up and toot with?  (p.s. we were absolutely not allowed to say fart.  Mom only allowed “fluff”, which sounds more disgusting to me…) As time went on, Kristy became cooler than me.  She had friends over and I annoyed the crap out of her (and them).  I wanted someone to be silly with, Kristy wanted to draw pictures of frogs and dragons in her sketchbook.

We grew apart and fought all the time. I mean blood, bruises and hair chunks torn from the scalp.  When our fighting got really nasty, our punishment was to be stuck in a room, staring at each other.  We couldn’t leave until we were laughing.  I remember Kristy saying, “Just fake it so we can get outta here.”  Throughout the fighting there were times when we weren’t scratching too.  I vividly remember spending nearly every day after school hanging out with her in Mom’s car, just listening to the radio and doing homework (also stealing m&m’s from Sandy’s Specialties).

It wasn’t until Kristy turned 16 that things started turning around for us.  When she got her license we drove together a lot.  We’d drive to the mall or the movies and on our way there we’d complain about Mom and Dad [sorry, ma] and we finally had some common ground.  [[[[sidenote– one time while backing out of the driveway, Kristy smashed into the side of Mom’s van.  I was in the passenger side laughing hysterically and Kristy was spouting off expletives too afraid to tell Mom.]]]]  We attended separate high schools so our friends never intertwined and we never had to fight for the same role in the spring musicals.  Kristy was smart and artistic (obviously still is), while I went to school for the social scene and simply, because it was mandated.  I don’t think there was an exact day, but I remember being awed by how cool my sister was.  She was like… so cool.  And her hair was always perfect and she had good taste in clothes and teachers liked her and… so much more.  Why did it take me so long to realize how much FUN she is?!

And I guess here we are, more than 10 years later.  I have a built-in best friend.

She still annoys the crap out of me- she has no idea how to properly manage money (but is learning!), she gets snippy at me for my incessant party-planning and since she started eating better it’s not as fun to be the only one eating the pan of brownies with a fork.  But with that built-in, best friend thing we got goin’ on, I can literally text her anything at any time of day.  My recent fav was a pic of me in leggings and her response, “whaaaa are you doing?”  She’s also hilarious.  And we’re hilarious together.  Except we’re the only two laughing.  We can go from bickering about something stupid to giggling about Dad in minutes.  I miss her constantly.  She is the best aunt in the whole world.  She loves my kids an indescribable amount.  I could create an entire blog describing games we used to play [like wind], stupid things we did to get into trouble [like open Christmas presents early two years in a row]  and inside jokes between us [like Jane and Michael Banks].  She can never be replaced- my one and only.  I love her backwards and forwards and upwards and downwards.  And I get to be her little sister.

If you don’t have a big sister,you should get one.

 

xoxo


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To The Mom Who Wouldn’t Take a Selfie

I watched you today playing with your 6(ish)-year-old daughter at the park.  When she was swinging wildly on the monkey bars, you whipped out your cell phone from your back pocket to savor the moment.  Later, you took a video of her while she made her way across every bar without your help. You laughed and encouraged her to keep going.  You looked like you were having so much fun.  I loved hearing her shout, “Mom! Mom, watch this!”  She was so proud to show you all of her moves.

She asked you to push her on the swings and she begged you to do an “underdog.”  You snapped a few more shots of her when she said, “Now take one of both of us!” You laughed it off with a ‘nah’, but she continued to ask.  “Mom, just a quick one!”  I could see the sadness set in as you said, “You don’t want Mommy in the picture! I haven’t showered today and I don’t have makeup on.  I don’t want to ruin it.”

Your words shocked me.  I glanced over at you and I thought that you looked very pleasant!  Your light blond hair was pulled up in a cute, tight bun.  You had no makeup on, but as far as I was concerned, you didn’t need any.  Dare I say it… I thought you looked pretty.  I couldn’t stop thinking about you all day.  About your daughter and how badly she wanted to remember your time together with a photo of both of you enjoying each other’s company.

A few weeks ago, Lucy was sitting on the couch with me scrolling through the pictures on my phone. As we got to the end, Lucy said, “Let’s do cheeeeeese.”  I took a selfie of us.  She was (obviously) adorable and I was… unkempt.  It was early on a Friday morning, I was off work and had no where to be.  I was in my pajamas, hair disheveled, no makeup and there’s a 50/50 chance I had no bra on.  Still, I kept the photo in my camera roll.  Later that day, Lucy came across that picture as she began to scroll through the photos again.  “Oh Mom! Dat is good one.  You’re buueeful!”

Ew.  What?  In THAT picture?  I chuckled and said thank you.

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A few years ago, I sat down with fourteen of my 7th grade girls on a retreat.  We were discussing how the media’s disgusting portray of body image can affect girls.  I asked them, “How many of you have heard your mom, in the last week, complain about the way she looks in front of you?”  Every. single. hand. raised.  After I asked them how they felt about that, one girl chimed in to say, “My mom is my mom.  I mean, I don’t think she looks hot, but she’s my mom.”  Another girl raised her hand- she was more mature than the others and many of her comments took me by surprise.  “It’s harder to believe my mom when she calls me beautiful.  If she’s that picky about herself, how can she not be picky about the way I look?”

Woah.

I had no intentions of posting that picture of Lucy and me.  But when I saw your daughter’s face I thought of us taking selfies on the couch together.  “Mom, do dis face.  Now dis one.”  She doesn’t care if I’m wearing makeup or if my hair has tight curls.  She wants to be silly with me.  In years to come you’ll look back on your pictures.  You’ll wonder where you were.  You have the snapshot of her crossing the monkey bars, but now you can’t show her that the two of you had such a great day together.  You seem like such a fun mom.  You seem like you love her so much.  I bet so much of your life goes undocumented– staying up all night while she cried as a baby, folding endless loads of laundry, your tears as she took her first steps onto the school bus.  She won’t see any of that, but she knows you were there.  And someday, she’ll want a tangible memory that she can look at.  She’ll want to see that being a mother makes you beautiful.

I’m sorry if you woke up this morning and felt you were unworthy of a photo.  Between too many extra lumps and hair that some days looks like a stranded dog, at times I feel the same way.  I’m sorry that society makes you believe that you have to look a certain way to be a “pretty mom”.  I’m sorry it makes you vulnerable to a camera.  I’m sorry you had to disappoint your daughter .

But someday, I’ll look back on that picture.  Well, any photo of my girls and me for that matter.  I’ll gaze at my tiny Lucy and Nora and wish they were still that small.  I’ll look at myself and instead of dreading my face and hair I’ll say, “Gosh, I sure love them.” That photo will show it.  And that’s enough.

 

xoxo

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$8.07

In this exact moment, I (…or we, I should say) have exactly $8.07 in my checking account.

Did you gasp?  If you did, then it must be because I know three things you don’t:

1) Payday is soon.  Which means (hooray!) we’ll make it through another pay period ahead.  I think that’s something worth celebrating.

2) All of my bills have been paid.  The fridge is full of delicious, red strawberries and thawing chicken breasts.  We have toilet paper stocked in both bathrooms.  And I have at least a half tank of gas.

And most importantly…

3) God will provide. He has provided.  He provides.

Of course having $8.07 is nothing to brag about, but with all things considered, I’d say we’re doing quite well.  For two fairly recent graduates with a family, we make an average amount of money, but have an above (way, way above- like 3 times) average amount of school debt.  Between my parents raising me to be very financially independent (hard lessons, but super rewarding) and my Type-A, obsessive-compulsive, spreadsheet-loving personality, I knew “getting by” was definitely a feat I could handle.

Getting started was the hardest part.  I followed a few simple steps of the Financial Peace University program and slightly tweaked it to fit my family’s needs.

1. Paying Bills– we first cut out a few unnecessary things (like some television channels, switched our phone plan, etc.).  I divided our bills in half by due date (1st-15th & 16th-31st) and changed a few billing cycle dates to make the totals as close to the same as possible.

2. Budgeting– this took a few months to perfect, but the system became so user-friendly.  We budget everything and allow for surprises!  Each pay period, I withdraw $280 for spending money.  The cash gets divided into six envelopes; grocery, gas, gifts, car, household & fun money.  After the cash is withdrawn and the bills are paid, we’ll have roughly $50 left in our checking account to last us 14 days.  We use this $50 as a type of “etc. fund” for those things we can’t budget for- extra groceries, gas or a dinner date with a friend.  Using the cash/envelope system really cuts back on excessive and unnecessary spending.  It’s not for everyone, but for me the tangible cash in my wallet is harder to give away than the swipe of a card.

Envelopes galore!!

Envelopes galore!!

3. Saving– Dave Ramsey suggests immediately setting up a $1,000 emergency fund for those unexpected life events. “It’s not a matter of if these events will happen; it’s simply a matter of when they will happen.”  We had become avid ’emergency credit card users’ when our cars needed repairs.  As the card racked up it became easier to “need” more clothes for the girls or “need” to score on a super good deal I didn’t have the cash for.  ‘Another $30 won’t make a difference’ type of attitude.  So, first, after working and saving my butt off, we completely paid off our credit card debt and began saving.  Now I set aside a certain amount of money each pay period to be put into our savings account.  I treat our savings like a monthly bill that has to be paid.

4. Having faith– Of course this isn’t a perfect system and I know it wouldn’t work for everyone.  We have, on several occasions, needed to find spare change to buy milk for the kiddos.  I have stayed up late worrying and praying that we could “just get by” until our next paycheck.  I still doubt, but two major things have changed that’s allowed me to breathe with ease.  1) Though not as much as I would like, we make a monthly contribution to our church that automatically withdraws.  And 2) I’ve let God have my fear and worry after He’s proven to me a MILLION times that He’s got this.  He’s in control.  All we have to do is trust.  It’s ridiculously hard and I’m super lousy at it sometimes, but it’s worth it.

I spend about three hours a week couponing.  We seldom go out to eat or buy clothes for ourselves.  Devin and I discuss almost every purchase.  We find deals.  We make sacrifices on little things for more meaningful experiences with our girls.  We set aside (just a little, but some nonetheless) money to take little get-a-ways to the zoo, Nickelodeon Universe, water parks, etc.  We doubt and then we are reminded of God’s grace.  We dream of the day when our never-ending school loans are paid-in-full amid praising God for another wonderful month of employment, another month of blessings.  I quit asking God to allow us to “get by,” instead I pray that we will thrive in our families, in our community and in our faith… and that money won’t get in the way of what’s really important.

 

xoxo

 

We even have a chance to get away for FUN sometimes!! Even if just for 48 hours.

We even have a chance to get away for FUN sometimes!! Even if just for 48 hours.