“Youuuu can’t caaaatch meeeee!” six-year-old me challenged my Dad as he quickly side-stepped toys and lunged in an effort to swat my behind. I was in trouble. Again.
Then there was the flat screen TV incident a year later, when I intricately carved my older sister’s initials into the upper right-hand corner of our brand new, 50-inch television.
“DAMN IT, KELLI!” my Dad yelled frequently… including the night I snuck a kitten home from my babysitter’s house in my backpack.
But that wasn’t quite as bad as the day I tossed lit matches from a moving golf cart and set an entire corn field on fire at the same sitter’s house.
Or the time I got kicked out of Girl Scouts for spitting on the troop leader’s daughter. Turns out being the top cookie seller five years in a row wasn’t even enough to save me from that one.
How about when I slammed a stapler on my babysitter’s hand because she wouldn’t let me play with my mom’s make up?
Or the time my neighbor and I somehow shot homemade, lime green icing on the kitchen ceiling, then didn’t tell my parents until much later, when the frosting was rock hard.
Then there was that Sunday 10-year-old me tried to mow but couldn’t figure out how to get dad’s big ass Ford tractor out of gear. So I intentionally rammed it into the side of our house to stop the forward motion. That went over well.
The list goes on… high school me vomiting all over the kitchen floor and my mom, in front of several friends who thought I was fake-drunk. (Oh hello there, low tolerance for alcohol.)
Frequent 3am drunk dials to my parents in college – including the time I got kicked out of a bar (and almost murdered with a high heel) for throwing beer on a bartender.
Can’t forget calling hysterical as I literally drove a news car toward a tornado during my first TV job in college.
You get the idea.
I pushed limits.
Never asked for permission.
Refused to take ‘no’ for an answer.
I was what you might refer to as a “challenging” child.
So my parents said it. Often. Sometimes angrily. Sometimes laughing. But looking back, I have a feeling they always meant it: “I hope you have a daughter just like you.”
I had no idea what I was in for.
Fast forward to June 11, 2015.
My water broke at work.
Seven hours later, after the easiest labor and delivery in the history of ever, her seven-pound, ten-ounce body slid out of my womb and into the world and I had a brand-new baby girl in my arms.
“Wow!” my mom said when she saw Lyla in person the next day, “She looks so much like you!”
“You think?” I asked.
But also, I should have known.
No, really… Should. Have. Known… I was suddenly face-to-face with the biggest challenge of my life.
She was such a needy baby – much more so than her two older brothers. And she only wanted her mama.
As a newborn, Lyla screamed in the car the entire five-hour road trip to visit my family. And again the next year, and the next.
At 18 months old, she screamed the entire flight to Florida. It was torture.
As an infant, she rejected naps, which made her an overtired mess all the time.
As a 2-year-old, she begged to nap, causing her to be so well-rested that she woke up in the middle of the night and binge watched cartoons on the couch for hours. Unsupervised.
I would find her passed out with the TV blaring when I woke up to get ready for work. That went on a good year-and-a-half.
And she was so damn sassy.
Her favorite word? “NO!” with a smile, as if it were a viable option.
She’s now six.
And undeniably just like me.
I have a video of her dancing and singing to Fireball by Pitbull. Naked. In front of a mirror. Not a damn care in the world.
She can fall asleep anywhere, at any time. And she does. But good luck waking her up – she just might kill you.
Lyla once got so mad at her BFF during their first sleepover that she refused to talk to or even look at her. It was so much drama that the mom texted me, asking how to handle the situation.
At dance class, my girl flat out told her teacher “no,” then cried at the end of class when she didn’t get candy.
A few months ago, the school bus driver wrote her up… because after asking Lyla to stop pulling down out of her coat and sprinkling it on the kids around her, my mini locked eyes with the driver and continued to do it anyway.
Holy. Fucking. Defiance.
Discipline rarely phases Lyla and she’s tough enough to go straight at her older brothers in a wrestling match.
But… my bougie little girl loves sparkles, dogs, unicorns, pretty dresses and all of the LOL Surprises.
She’ll often get my attention with a, “Hey Mommy? I wuv you. So much.”
She loves baking and crafting.
She loves when we wear matching outfits and hairstyles.
She loves to wear make-up and work out and run with me.
She puts on nice clothes, grabs a purse and gives me a big hug before pretending to leave for work.
And I melt.
I want my daughter to know life is beautiful and she can truly make it whatever she wants it to be. I want to tell her time and experience will teach her to channel her drive and determination in ways that help her succeed beyond what she ever imagined.
I so desperately want to tell my little girl to stay bold because the path of least resistance is not always the best one. I want to tell her being dubbed “aggressive” or “too much” by someone else is not her problem and not necessarily a bad thing.
I want to warn my daughter there are people in this world who will do whatever it takes to try and dull her shine... simply because she shines so bright.
I want her to know life – at some point – will inevitably bring her to her knees… she will feel lost, broken and alone. I want to tell her when that darkness comes, the only way out is to keep pushing forward.
But those are awfully grown-up conversations for a six-year-old.
So for now, I try not to lose my shit on the daily. I wrap her in hugs and tell her the most important thing she can do is treat others with kindness, love and respect. I also tell her it’s never OK to be dishonest or step on someone else to get what she wants. But when she does make a mistake, the very best way to get past it is to own it and apologize to anyone she hurt.
At bedtime, I ask all three of my kids about the best part of their day and what maybe could have gone a little better. I sometimes ask if there’s anything on their mind or heart. I tell them they can always talk to me or ask me anything… without judgement.
A few weeks ago after a particularly rough Saturday filled with defiance and plenty of time outs, Lyla and I snuggled into her bed, exhausted. The weight of the day hit me. Did I yell too much? Am I too hard on her? Did I show her the kindness, love and respect I drill into her every single day?
DID I SCREW UP MY KID???
“Hey Mommy?” she asked sweetly, breaking me away from my own thought monsters.
“When I grow up, I can’t wait to be a mom… Just like you.”
And I exhaled.
I don’t know with 100% certainty what’s happening where you are, but it’s getting reaaallll ugly over here.
This place is slowly becoming a graveyard for my shellac mani/pedi… do I say screw it and peel off the rest or just let that shit keep growing?
My 8-year-old just racked his 6-year-old brother squarely in the nuts. So my 6-year-old sought revenge by biting his brother in the ass.
And last night? I tried to call and cancel our 7-day spring break vacation to warm, sunny, beautiful Florida. Except I can’t even do that because the airline phone lines are jammed AF right now.
You guys, this is the weirdest shit most of us have ever experienced in our lifetime.
We’re homeschooling but still working full-time (some of us are still reporting to the office daily). Dogs are barking and babies crying in the middle of conference calls and everyone just has to be OK with it.
We aren’t technically supposed to go anywhere for another two weeks (other than the grocery store, where people continue to wipe out toilet paper... pun intended). School is out until at least May flipping first and, according to the governor’s order, public playgrounds are also technically closed.
According to my iPhone, my screen time is up to an average of 6 hours per day.
Oh, and my most favorite one yet? Boomers blame “Millennials” for choosing to spend their college spring break getting drunk on the beach during quarantine. Bitch, I’m a Millennial with three children, a career and a mortgage. Those college kids are a good 15 years younger than me. Try again.
Then there’s the whole dating scene. Real dates aren’t even happening because there’s nowhere to go. So consider yourself lucky if you can find an open Starbucks and at least take a walk without getting arrested. Or you can do what a friend of mine recently did… meet someone on Hinge and do a virtual date. They literally FaceTimed each other while simultaneously watching the same movie. I love her. She said it was fun. But I’m not sure if there’s anything worse.
Oh wait, there is.
The gym is closed. My sanity and summer body are gone. I can feel both withering away with each passing day. Yes, I’m doing all of the planks and push-ups and lunges and squats at home. I’m running (a little). I’m trying to hold both the 10lb and 12lb weights in the same hand while praying the resistance band doesn’t slip from underneath my 4-year-old’s foot and smack me in the face. Let’s just say my workouts aren’t quite the same.
How is this even real?
I feel like we could use scenes from our lives right now to make one hell of a music video to the song “Into the Unknown” from Frozen II. Don’t act like you haven’t already watched it 27 times since it came out on Disney Plus two weeks ago.
Oh, and according to my Facebook and Instagram feeds, we are all literally eating and drinking our way through pandemic quarantine 2k20. So that’s cool.
But I also see something else happening.
I see us forced to cancel plans (including my soon-to-be 7 year old's bowling alley birthday party) and clear our calendars to stay home and spend time together… as families. I see people near and dear to my heart buying groceries for the “at risk” category of those who really shouldn’t go to the store right now.
I see business owners fighting to keep their doors open one more day. I see neighbors connecting around bonfires and spring clean up in the yard. I see "Bear Hunts" happening in neighborhoods so kids can safely play outside while connecting with their parents. I see love and kindness and compassion in action every single day.
Life is hard and surreal right now. Many of us are scared or nervous about the unknown that lies ahead. Many others out there (myself included) are exhausted and just about at our breaking point from giving the past two weeks everything we’ve got.
At the same time though, we are also uniting and fighting for the greater good. I challenge you to think about who or what you are fighting for (aside from privacy in the bathroom and pretending you didn't just hear the 1,000th “Hey Mommy” of the day).
We are all fighting to protect our parents, family members, neighbors and friends in that “at risk” group.
We are fighting for those in our communities who are currently out of a job.
We are fighting for the wisdom to show patience and kindness toward each other. Especially the human beings we created who won't stop the steady stream of smart ass comments after everything we say.
I’m fighting for my little human beings, who probably needed a sound lesson in gratitude and the fact that even though we sometimes we don’t get what we want, it’s shockingly NOT the end of the world.
I’m fighting to keep a solid sleep/wake/eat schedule (who knew a 7-year-old boy could eat so much!?) inside our home so we can maintain a tiny sense of normalcy.
Think about the example we are setting for those little eyes and ears that watch and listen to us so intently. Think about the lives we are saving because we know we can make a difference. Think about what truly matters and why.
We will get through this. We will use and then remove our old-school polish and sprint to the closest nail place when it re-opens for shiny new shellac.
We will stop punching each other in the nuts and biting each other in the ass.
We will never look at an ice-cold Corona the same.
And someday, we will become filled with nostalgia as we tell our grand kids about that time we used lots of medicinal wine, vodka and love to survive quarantine during a pandemic that happened to have the same name as a beer.
It's only appropriate to begin with a few small doses of reality...
Reality Check #1: I consistently set off the smoke detectors in my house when I cook. I tell myself it’s because of where they are located relative to the kitchen, but let’s be real… that’s not normal. My cooking sucks.
Reality Check #2: As I picked up my four-year-old from her Dad’s house a few weeks ago, she grabbed the screen door and said, “Come on and open up, ya asshole door!” I unsuccessfully bit my lip and tried to find a stern face, but still laughed a good three minutes.
Reality Check #3: The same 4-year-old got so mad at her BFF at their first sleepover together that she refused to look at her or speak to her… for at least half an hour. The other mom texted me at 9pm, asking how she should handle the drama.
Reality Check #4: I was on the phone with the guy I’m dating just a few weeks after we’d met when my six-year-old suddenly ran up to the phone and screamed, “Our Mom is a trainwreck!” That was cool.
Reality Check #5: I thought I was killing it as I bootlegged leftover Halloween candy and six water bottles in my purse through the doors of Frozen 2 with four children in tow. Joke was on my stingy ass when I somehow lost my wallet in the theater. Thank goodness for honest people though – I got it back the next day.
Reality Check #6: I recently transported eight cases of wine from point A to point B for work. But when I opened the back hatch of my SUV, an entire case came crashing out. I cussed as wine seeped out of the broken bottles, through the cardboard and onto the sidewalk in the rain. Then a colleague drove by and whipped out his phone to take a picture and I laughed… because that’s funny!
So before you confuse me with someone who actually has all her shit together, please read all of that again. I'm not writing this from my ivory tower or my soap box or my golden throne.
There was a time not so long ago when those same incidents would have sent me into a spiral. I would have found someone to blame. I would have been mad, negative, even hateful toward some of the people closest to me because something didn’t go my way. I would have let some silly, inconsequential thing ruin my day or week because that’s just how I used to live. But the truth is, I was hurting. I didn’t like who I was, and I was incredibly ashamed by some of the choices I’d made.
There’s that saying, “Hurt people hurt other people.” And it’s so freaking true.
Holidays were the worst. I took out anger and anxiety on people I loved. I took what should have been beautiful days filled with family and memories and I ruined them. Every. Single. Time.
After a while though, I realized that messed up person was neither who I truly am nor who I wanted to be. So I faced that unhappy person head-on. I went to therapy. I put in the work and dealt with the mess that came as side-effects of working through my shit. I sat with the pain and the guilt and the past that once bogged down that miserable girl and simultaneously made her want to take others down with her.
There were also some pretty important steps that I now realize helped me heal, which included holding myself accountable. And even though I didn't have some grand plan or end game in mind, sharing the how is important... because I now realize none of it happened by accident.
I set and accomplished a huge goal.
It’s funny how opportunity often appears at our lowest point. I was a complete mess on my living room couch the night my friend Cindy sent me the text, asking if I would complete a Half Ironman with her. Come to think of it, my emotional state was probably why I said yes without thinking it through. But crossing that finish line nine months later is one of the most prideful moments I’ve had in a very long time.
I looked inward.
My company recently incorporated employee engagement surveys at our corporate office. Some of the feedback suggested I needed to improve my management and leadership skills. Big time. First I cried. Then I got mad. Then I was defensive. But after self-reflection and coaching from people I trust and respect, I owned all of it. I realized much of the feedback was true, and some was simply perception that needed to be addressed. Either way, I had a lot of work to do… on me.
I walked away from a toxic relationship.
Sometimes we get so wrapped up in other people that we can’t see how much they’re damaging our soul. But somewhere in the middle of therapy and hundreds of hours of triathlon training and self-reflection, I realized I deserve better. So I blocked someone in my phone. I unfriended and unfollowed them on social media. I stopped talking about them. I took away their power over me and gained so much self-respect.
I focused on my kids.
Last April, I took my kids on a spring break beach vacation. Just the four of us. I booked it, planned it and paid for it myself. I thought we were heading to a tropical location with 80-degree temperatures and sunshine for days. But high temperatures that week were mostly in the 40s and low 50s with lots of rain. I knew the kids would reflect my energy. So I made new plans and changed my expectations. And you know what? My littles had no idea our vacation was supposed to be anything different than what it was. We had the BEST time. That trip became a huge turning point for me when it came to learning how to connect with my kids emotionally.
I put myself first.
I knew if I stood a chance of crossing that Half Ironman finish line, I had to take better care of me. I focused on self-care – including eating better and sleeping more. I also built (or, in some cases rebuilt) positive relationships. I stopped settling and decided to spend my time doing what makes me happy. If a situation doesn’t have a feasible positive end-result or if my gut feels weird, I walk away. I’ve never felt more free
It’s worth noting none of this has been a straight line. It was messy and jagged with high points and super low ones. It also took time – more than 18 months – and a lot of really hard (and heart) work on my end. For real.
At one low point in the past year, I wanted to quit my job.
At another, I cried myself to sleep several nights in a row.
At yet another, I screamed at my mom and accused her of not being there when I needed her most.
And at another, I had a hard conversation with someone I'd hurt. Even though it brought that person intense pain, I was finally able to forgive myself and let go of massive guilt I’d held on to for years. I allowed myself move forward.
Therapy helped me work through all of those "things" from my past. It taught me how to sit with the hard stuff and how to do the heart work - to heal my heart from issues I'd avoided and not dealt with previously.
The heart work included lots of solo time. Instead of going out on empty dates or giving my energy to superficial relationships on weekends I didn't have my kids, I chose to stay home. It wasn't fun, but was what I needed at the time.
I write all of this because I know someone out there needs to read it. If someone you love is going through a hard time, please love them harder. They need you (even if they say they don't).
If you’re at the bottom and you feel alone, sad, scared or just plain pissed off, I get it. Those feelings seem to suck a lot more this time of year, but I promise it gets better. You will feel better and do better and be better and love better. It is possible to become a better version of yourself.
But you have to keep moving forward. You have to be willing to put in the heart work. And you have to know you're worth it.
About 14 months ago, a few weeks before our divorce was final, Justin and I sat down on our bed to talk. The kids were asleep and the house was quiet. Too quiet. At some point during that conversation, he calmly launched into an analogy about our marriage. It spoke to me. And it devastated me.
When we first got married, Kelli, I felt like we got into a car, fastened our seat belts and started out on a journey, he began. At first, it was awesome. I really felt like we were on this long journey together. But then I came up behind another car and had to slow down. What do you always tell me to do when that happens? he asked.
Pass it, I said softly, intrigued by where he was going with this.
Pass it, he repeated. Hurry up. Go faster. Pass the next car, you aren’t going fast enough.
I stared at him.
Kelli, you always had to go faster and do more. You wanted the perfect job, you got it. And you were so good at it. Then you wanted a better job, a nicer car, kids, a bigger house… you wanted it all and we got it all. But it wasn’t enough. You kept speeding up. For a while, I thought I could keep up with you and for a while, I really wanted to. But then I got tired, he continued.
I was quietly crying by this point, processing his words.
Kelli, all I wanted was to slow down. I wanted to stop and enjoy the ride. I wanted to sightsee with you. But you never would.
He went on to tell me he was worried I would never slow down. He said he had genuine concerns about how that would affect my relationships with our kids and other people in the future.
That conversation haunts me because, in many ways, he was dead-on. It was also one of the deepest, most sincere talks we’d had during our entire marriage. And it happened much later than it should have.
You see, I have a knack for doing life aggressively. I excel at filling my plate with so much stress, work, stuff and super high expectations that I slip into autopilot. When I’m in “go mode,” I know one speed… running toward everything that keeps my walls high and away from what’s important.
Over the past year, I’ve worked on pumping the brakes and slowing down. But that’s a challenge because when it gets quiet, I’m forced to sit and deal with feelings and emotions I’ve never faced. So then I speed back up, piling on work and stress because there’s comfort in forging ahead. I’ve learned it’s such a dirty little cycle. Can anyone else out there relate?
Exhibit A: Hudson’s birthday party. I’ll preface this by saying the past twelve weeks almost murdered me. Crazy projects at work. Running kids. Trying to get to the gym. Calls (yes, more than one) from the principal’s office. Halloween costume shopping. Delivering dessert to the PTO teacher appreciation luncheon (I caved… the boys are in a new school and we all love it). Saying yes to the occasional date. Forgetting to pay bills (my mortgage in October… whoops). This, my friends, is all things Mom Life.
So for Hudson’s Lego-themed party, I ordered invites, gave Justin a handful then never sent out the rest. Friends and family on my side all got invited via text message. Ugh. (Do I at least get points for it not being a group text?)
But that’s not the worst part.
Our kids live for custom birthday cakes. Over the years, we’ve done fire trucks, garbage trucks, unicorns, baseballs, beach scenes and all sorts of 3-D cakes the kids pick out on Pinterest. It’s our thing and it makes them feel really special.
You’re high, by the way, if you think I made any of those cakes. I’d screw that shit up in the first 30 seconds. We trust and pay the experts. It’s money well spent. For real.
I booked the baker in August. Then closer to the party date, emailed a picture of the cake Hudson wanted… the number 6 with a Lego construction theme all around it. She asked me what number cake pan she should order and I confirmed a 6. Justin offered to get and assemble the Legos, because, well… I suck at that building and engineering business.
But the night before the party, we had a problem.
The baker had emailed a picture to show us how the cake turned out. And it was PERFECT. Except… the bright colored fondant Lego blocks were wrapped around the number 6.
And Hudson was definitely about to turn 7.
Since it was too late to bake a 7, she offered to turn it into a circle. Justin made a few tweaks to the construction site plan and SUCCESS! Hudson never noticed anything was weird. He was enthralled by the Legos and asked if he could keep the giant crane. He loved it. Phew.
That’s the story of my epic cake wreck.
But two days later, the cake wasn’t even a blip on the radar.
Disoriented and in pain, I was walking to an ambulance.
It felt like a dream.
I had my purse. My phone.
Why was my car against a tree? Why were people staring?
As I sat in the ambulance, a paramedic asked if it was OK for him to take my driver’s license out of my wallet.
“Wait, what happened?” I asked, wincing as I sat my hand down on the top of my thigh and felt pain shoot through my leg.
“You were in an accident. We’re headed to the hospital to get you checked out,” he said.
No. It was a great Monday morning. I’d prepped dinner for that evening so I could quickly feed the kids before putting them in the gym daycare and squeezing in a quick workout. I got the boys on the bus, dropped off Lyla, knocked a couple things off my work to-do list for the day and this was all before 8am.
There was no time for an accident.
I still have no memory of what led up to the crash or anything immediately after it. According to the police report though, we both had yellow lights and I turned in front of another car that was going 45 – 50 mph. The impact sent hot coffee flying through my Honda Pilot, deployed airbags down the entire passenger side and totaled both vehicles.
I don’t remember calling Justin from the front seat of my car and asking him to tell the medics not to take me to the hospital. I don’t recall telling them I just needed to sign the paperwork to refuse medical treatment because I had so much to do at work.
I don’t remember refusing to get on the cot when they asked me to… even though I had airbag burns on my hands, a painful bruise on my thigh and a concussion from hitting my head. As my SUV was loaded onto a tow truck, I texted someone from work to come pick me up so I could go home and change clothes before knocking out the rest of my work day.
Not realizing how out of it I was, I pounded on until about 1:30 that afternoon when Justin and I met up to buy new car seats (they’re supposed to be replaced after a significant crash). As we walked into Target, he looked at me and said, “I don’t think you’re OK. If you’re not going to be checked out, I think you should at least consider taking the rest of the day off.”
He was only about the 20th person to say that to me since the crash happened. But I could hear the concern in his voice, saying slow down without using those words at all.
“OK,” I replied, shrugging my shoulders as I took out my phone to email my boss and my team.
That was two weeks ago. And here I am… removed from the cake and car wrecks.
So grateful my babies weren’t with me when the crash happened.
Up to my ears in insurance claims (a first for me).
Navigating the process of buying a new car (also something I’ve never had to do by myself).
Trying to learn from how I once again allowed myself to become so intoxicated and distracted by the chaos of life.
Forcing myself to take a step back.
Finding perspective in a place somewhat foreign to me, as I lean into a strong dose of GRACE… something that was once missing from my life. It’s a word I only ever heard as a little girl in church, or the song Amazing Grace… until someone on my team at work used it about two years ago during a difficult conversation.
“Kelli, please understand what’s happening in my life and why it’s hard,” she’d said. “I don’t handle situations the same way you do and it’s OK that I don’t. It’s OK that we’re different. But I need some grace from you. And I think you should give yourself some too.”
That was a turning point in my relationship with that person, in such a good way. I’ve re-played her words in my head a lot and – in that time – worked to figure out how to find the grace she suggested for me. It’s been a process.
Here’s how my sweet friend (and incredible writer) Mandy recently described it in a Facebook post:
Grace. For myself, for my family, for my friends, for our country. It’s a new concept to my little brain and it’s been life changing. It looks like forgiveness to myself when I’ve said something wrong. Love in the toughest moment. Breathing out instead of yelling. Napping instead of laundry. It’s knowing that people are good and may not feel so good right then. It’s grace. I’m here for it.
I recently bought a little porcelain sign at Hobby Lobby with that word on it. I put it in the giant greenhouse window in my kitchen, where I see it when I walk in to make the kids breakfast each morning and when I flip on the light after coming home from a long day at work.
Grace reminds me I’m human. Grace reminds me I’m never going to be perfect. Grace reminds me to slow down. Grace reminds me I can’t go back and change any of the proverbial “wrecks” in my life (there have been so many), but I can move forward and forgive myself for those mishaps and mistakes.
And you know what? It’s time.
THIS is our happy place. Like every other 30-something mom I know, that sign is hanging in a prominent spot in my home. Except, I’ve come to realize “happy” is not a specific place at all (more on that in a second).
You see, I dove into 2018 thinking I needed to find someone to replace the void in my heart after divorce. Someone to tell me I'm not damaged and that I will be OK. Someone to tell me I'm doing a good job juggling life. Someone to tell me I'm a good mom. Someone to give me a big hug at the end of a really hard day and promise tomorrow will be better. Someone to stop this terrifying free fall feeling of, Who am I and what in the actual hell just happened to my life? Someone to be my happy place.
So to find Mr. Someone, I tried filling my free time with dates and meeting new people. I bravely ventured into the scary world of online dating. I also went out on a couple dates with guys I've known a long time.
As it turns out though, my Mr. Someone was not at a shitty dive bar on a Sunday afternoon (the scene of a horrific first date). He wasn't at a cute little brewery in St. Joe (the scene of a different first date that never turned into anything more because... well, yeah). He also was not at Hacienda during one horrifically hilarious lunch hour (more on that and other lovely little dating disasters in a future post).
Turns out… those “someones” were right in front of me the whole time. In my home and my heart.
Since I do have time away from my kids when they're with their dad, I've had more quiet moments than I'd like to reflect on my relationship with them. You guys, they’re so little. SO. LITTLE. And yet, they’ll probably never know how much they kept me afloat and forced me to keep going over the past 18 months. In the very best way possible, they gave me no choice but to get out of bed in the morning and plaster a smile on my face.
Especially when life got really hard.
Yes... they fight.
Lyla bites. (Yeah, for real.)
Sawyer wakes me up at 3:30 in the morning with a massive bloody nose or in a frantic search for his pillow that is inevitably hidden somewhere in his bed.
Then I find Lyla – chillin' on the couch like it’s her job – at 3:30 in the G.D. morning… watching Disney Jr. Or at 6:30 a.m. (this has been going on for a few weeks now), passed out cold with the TV blaring in the background. I thought only old men fell asleep like that?
No wonder she’s so crabby and tired all the time…
But in the middle of all that chaos and an already full plate as “Kelli the working mom,” I didn’t realize how much I really just need my kids. And they really need me.
At some point, my focus shifted from trying to find him… to rediscovering them.
I stopped to breathe this summer for what felt like the first time in forever.
We take early morning bike rides (sorry neighbors, for the fire truck and police car siren noises as we zip by at 7:15 on a Saturday morning), trips to the blueberry ranch and then use those blueberries to bake muffins. We spend 95 degree Sunday afternoons slurping down icees at Four Winds Field, have Friday night picnics in the back yard, take Saturday trips to the beach, explore the Farmer’s Market, snuggle up for popcorn and a movie at home, take in a matinee at the theatre, play games on the deck, catch fireflies, feed the fish at the zoo. We make every second count.
At night when we wind down and read books together in my bed, we often talk about the best part of our day and those parts of the day we might do a little differently if we could. Oftentimes, when I ask about the best part, one of the kids will reply, “Spending time with you.”
Holy. Melt. My. Heart.
I’ve realized my kiddos crave my attention and love our time together more than anything else. This is what carries me through the toughest, most emotional days – there have been a lot – THEY carry me. Yes, this is major progress. But I still have some work to do in the whole "working on me" department.
My close friends know I have demons, or at least one huge battle I just can’t seem to overcome right now. We’re talking about really hard stuff I'm not ready to share on my blog (not yet, anyway) or in a public forum. It’s my biggest, most painful vulnerability that – for whatever reason – has a tight grip on me and won’t go away.
It's crazy though how the more I share those dark parts of my life with people I trust, the more I learn they too have deep, haunting struggles. Marriages in trouble. Infidelities. Debt. Eating disorders. Quiet battles with addiction. Nagging bouts of depression. Someone very close to me recently disclosed she has terrible anxiety about getting in a car and driving anywhere further than the grocery store, so she often has to stay home and miss out.
We all have that something…
But we also have a choice to let the bad stuff consume us or to keep fighting through it.
A year ago, I bought one of those silver mantra bands that simply said “Choose Happy.” I wore it all the time as a constant reminder that I needed to push through the hard and the hurt to do what’s best for me.
Then earlier this month in the chaos of a typical Tuesday evening with the kids, I lost that bracelet. I got home and realized it wasn’t on my wrist when I knew I’d had it earlier in the day. At first I was really bummed. Then I thought about where we’d been – the county fair, making more memories together.
First I had to find my happy. And I’m finally learning how to choose it.
I'm a mom to 3 beautiful, spirited, elementary school-aged humans, I'm addicted to running + strength training, I have no filter & I work full time in the corporate world. But behind the scenes of all that is where it really gets interesting...