Finding Summer in My Own Backyard

Saying YES to summer hasn’t looked like I thought it would. More pool time, like I promised. We’ve been good at that. We haven’t done quite as many Campfire Wednesdays as we hoped but we’re working on it. We seem to be spending A LOT more time with one another, which is so rad I can’t even begin to tell you. But…I have become really attached to my own back yard.

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I’ve never been known for my green thumb or even wanting to have a green thumb. But this suburban orchard I’ve inherited has been both overwhelming and so damn good for my soul. But did I mention it’s a little overwhelming? Oh good. Because it is a little overwhelming at times.

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PLUMS

Apricots and plums are coming out of our ears. I’m not mad about it. But I’m learning a lot this time around since it’s our first season with all of this…abundance. There are things that I’ll do SO different next year. We also know a little bit more about trimming down the right way and parsing down the fruit so it’s even better quality. The fruit is delicious. But I think with even more TLC and knowhow, we’ll have better success with ALL of this!

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I almost can’t even explain the joy I have had going out in the backyard in the morning to pull fruit from the trees in our yard. Or sharing our abundance of apricots and plums. I’ve never really experienced it in this way. I mean, I’ve never had my own suburban orchard. So there’s that.

*  *  *  *

Last week, after a particularly frustrating day, I came home from work in a pretty foul mood. I was so relieved to be home. Even if I did announce as I walked in that I wasn’t cooking dinner. (It happens.) (I’m just not going to talk about the frequency that it happens.) With leftovers from the previous days and hosting family, I got it in my head that a fancy cheese plate was the only answer. Sure, I could’ve just dumped all the packages and ingredients on the counter, but taking the few minutes to make something nice for myself was a luxury that made all the difference in the world.

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The four of us found our way out to the backyard with the “fancy” cheese plate and any leftovers we could find and had the most delicious and relaxing evening you could imagine. It soothed the soul after a crummy day. The kids read or we talked or listened to music. Sarah stopped by with jam (that will literally knock your socks off) made from our suburban orchard fruit! (No really. You have to try this)

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We sat there laughing and talking. We maybe finished a bottle of wine. I was so bummed when it got too dark, I wanted to stay out there all night long.

But it was the perfect lesson to saying yes to summer more. It doesn’t have to be a “fancy” cheese plate. (Although, three nights in a row last week, I just couldn’t say no to them.) It made a world of difference that I just took a few minutes to make it special. It was enjoying my own backyard and being (SO!) grateful for what I have and for the amazing people in my life. THAT is what makes summer so magical. And if I can take those few minutes as often as I can, this summer is already winning it all.

 

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(Yes. We are totally going to keep talking about the apricot pepper jam that Sarah made with the apricots. I have put it on EVERYTHING. Just thinking about it now makes me so happy. Stay tuned, folks.)

 

The Adorable Side of World Cup Soccer

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I know we didn’t LOSE yesterday, but every time I see a replay of that stupid header goal in the last 30 seconds of the game, I break out in hives. I don’t know how we escaped yesterday without taking any pictures, but we had the BEST time hanging out with friends. And stuffing our faces. (I’m still full, guys.) Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve had a BLAST watching games with some of our very favorite people. Lunch breaks at KBAR. Breakfast at one of our favorite taquerias? My uncle has created this incredible watching experience and I love that he includes us all.

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I have to say, one of the funniest parts of hanging out with the family, is when my (husband’s) uncle introduces me as his niece. I’m not saying they don’t believe him. I’m just saying their expressions are funny. Sure, he could introduce me as his nephew’s wife, but I love that he doesn’t.

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we are adorable

 

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I mean COME ON with this. We are freaking hilarious.

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no cigarettes were smoked in the making of the blog post (they’re candy, for crying out loud)

You know you want to hang out and watch soccer with us.

 

Saying Yes to Summer

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A couple months ago, as we neared warmer temperatures and our pool being open for business, I realized just how much I didn’t use our pool last summer. Moving to a new home is not easy, and the summer months are crazy busy for me, but I was really surprised that I hadn’t even attempted to swim more. I suppose it was “one more thing” for me to worry about. I mean, sometimes changing into a swimsuit is more work than just taking care of the laundry or doing the dishes. While I do know this has a lot to do with how I feel about myself IN a swimsuit, it still felt like an item on the to-do list that I just couldn’t seem to tackle. It made me a little sad that I had missed out on that part of summer.

I have NEVER been comfortable in bathing suit situations. Even as a stick-thin kid, I was bony and awkward and, let’s be honest, never filled out a swimsuit in all the right places. (I still don’t. Go figure.) I was self-conscious and horribly shy about my body. Two kids, SEVERAL pounds and many years later, I have even more swimsuit issues than before. I became really good at avoiding reasons to wear a bathing suit.

By some miracle, or a crazy smoke and mirrors trick, I have raised two confident daughters. At least for the most part, I’ve never heard or seen them be worried about what they look like in a swimsuit. Sure, they are athletic and have great figures, but they could’ve easily fallen into the same trap I did. I am so grateful that they can be confident in their own skin.

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***

I made a promise to myself those couple months ago that I would get in the pool more this summer. Along the lines of saying YES more, getting myself IN (and around) the pool more was a big deal to me. Being in a habit of hating the summer deadlines, and not spending more time with kids, was hard on my happiness. I let it get in the way of the times that I DO have. And while I haven’t embraced my summer work load with open arms, saying yes to the pool has propelled me to a more “glass half-full” mentality. In the two weeks since our pool opened for the season, I have been in the pool more times than I was entirety of last summer. That’s huge. I don’t even have a real swimsuit because I knew if I waited for a suit that I liked, we’d be getting ready for Christmas with no pool-time to speak of.

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I can’t help but document parts of this time that I’m having with my family. I’ve posted several pictures on Instagram out of sheer amazement that I’m making this happen. That WE, as a family, are making this happen. We laugh. We play. We lounge around relaxing. Things that we don’t usually have time for. We still don’t have time, I guess. Except for YES WE DO. We’re MAKING the time to be out there and I’m MAKING myself be a part of it, no matter what I look like in a swimming suit or what time I get home from work.

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We’re saying yes a whole lot more.

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I’m enjoying the hell out of summer already.

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No one is more surprised than I am.

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(Except for maybe THAT guy.Ha.)

Sunday Night Preemptive Guilt

Every year around this time, I start shutting down a little. Late spring and summer are very busy for me at work, so it’s hard to welcome it with open arms. The guilt of a 40+ hour work week becomes even more precarious. It doesn’t matter that my kids are 16 and 12. The guilt is still there. In fact, I’m pretty sure it’s worse now than it was before. I can’t just up and quit, mind you.

I like my job. But mom-guilt always wins.

Mom-guilt fights dirty.

So it’s Sunday night and I’m dreading the work week. It’s deadline heavy. But after weeks of running myself ragged – I’ve been flying solo in the parenting arena several nights a week for the past few months – I know that this week means that I pour myself into work while my husband takes a turn at the double duty wheel. (Thanks, honey.) It’s a parenting balance to be proud of.

But instead I feel guilty.

Also, tired.

It’s not even Monday morning.

It’s temporary, right? That’s what I keep telling myself. This too shall pass and all that.

But that’s probably part of the problem.

We all know how much I worry about time passing.

But it’s 10:25 on a Sunday night and I’m not even close to going to bed. I’m waiting for for the dryer to finish and my husband decided that tonight would be the night that we start watching House of Cards. Don’t even tell me. We’re only on the second episode, and I’m pretty sure I won’t be able to keep up with that kind of time commitment, but damn it’s good. (Also, yikes.)

Tomorrow will bring the deadlines and the stress of the week. But tonight, I’ll finish the laundry, make the lunches and prep the coffee maker while I get sucked into this show that I won’t ever finish. It makes no sense whatsoever.

I’ll feel guilty about it tomorrow.

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Sometimes I forget that this space here is mine.

I mean, you all are welcome here in this space at any time. You don’t even have to take off your shoes and I won’t even be mad if you eat all of my cheese. But I keep forgetting that it’s up to me what goes here. I don’t have to make it look like anyone else’s space. It might even smell funny sometimes. (I’ll try to work on that, though. Febreeze up the place every now and then.)

But it is mine. And it really is ok that I make myself a little more at home here. Hang a few more pictures on the wall and walk around in my underwear sometimes. Just kidding! I’ll always wear a robe. Probably yoga pants.

Let’s be honest: it will always be yoga pants and a t-shirt/tank.

* * *

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My parents celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary on Sunday. I sure like them a lot and I’m glad that their insane enough to have five kids and that they still like each other after all this time. They have this amazing family and a whole lot to be proud of.

* * *

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These two went to a Stanford game on Friday night. For a few minutes, it almost felt like it will once she’s off at college. I was sad and excited and then sad again. I had avoided Rob Lowe and his words for many days because I knew I’d be a mess after reading them. (I was.) So it’s no surprise that I was a bit more aware of all the feelings.

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I’m so damn proud of all her hard work. I hate that I can be such a wreck about this. I’m already so annoying about this. (I’M SORRY.) I only write about it when I’m not holding it together. I really am fine most of the time. Except for when I read about Rob Lowe and then all bets are off and she’s never leaving me ever.

* * *

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But then prom happened. How on earth is this classy chick my kid? Do you KNOW what I looked like at my prom? NOT LIKE THIS. Mostly because I didn’t go to my proms. But even if I did, I wouldn’t have looked like this. She’s just so…cool.

Although, mad props to her Fairy Godmother (aka: Sarah) for being the make-up (and hair) magician. It was all quite fabulous from start to finish.

Ramona took it upon herself (and nagging me to curl her hair) to get dolled up. I’m not sure if she was expecting to take some pictures with her sister, but…well, the two of them made my heart explode into a million pieces. It was a huge mess in the driveway. But seriously with these two.

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How did I get to be so lucky?

* * *

While in Atlanta, Dove gave the attendees a bag full of goodies at the beginning of the conference and encouraged us to take a couple of notepads that we could use to leave notes for our kids. I loved the idea. LOVED it. Except, my kids beat me to the punch and hid it in my planner in the space for this week.

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I always knew I wanted to be a mom but these kids of mine are more than I could’ve ever imagined. It is hard and frustrating and maddening and did I mention hard? It really is all of those things. But it is also amazing and wonderful and the best thing ever.

On Mother’s Day I spent part of the morning thinking about the hard side of mom life. The times when you feel like you’re doing everything wrong and nothing makes sense. You have no idea how to fix it or make it better, you just know that you should. But even as my heart hurt for the times when kids are jerks or when I’ve lost my cool, I wouldn’t change a thing. I wouldn’t go back in time and take it all back. I would do all the hard all over again because I wouldn’t be who I am today without experiencing all of it. We wouldn’t be the us we are without it.

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* * *

Have a great week everyone. Next time, you host. We eat all the cheese at your house next.

 

Are We Showing Our Daughters What Self-Confidence Looks Like?

I had an amazing weekend in Atlanta for the Mom 2.0 Summit. I have lists and thoughts and more lists of things I want to accomplish after being inspired by so many. I met the coolest people that offered up their expertise and wanted to help us all reach our goals. I felt acceptance when I worried about being the outsider. (The “small-potatoes” blogger outsider.) I met some delicious new friends who warm my heart and who are now stuck with me forever. I even stepped outside my comfort zones and actually survived.

But this weekend also reminded me of things that need my attention. Some pretty important things.

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I’ve always known that it was important to me to raise strong, kick-ass daughters. It has always been important to me that they know how amazing they are. How beautiful they are. More importantly, how smart they are. I want them to be comfortable in their own skin. I want them to be brave. I want them to be happy. I want them to work hard and have fun. I want them to know that they are precious and priceless. I want them to have the confidence to stand up for themselves and be who they were meant to be.

I want them to know that they are loved beyond all reason and explanation. Especially when the world is so hell bent on making them think that isn’t true.

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During the Dove Friday morning keynote panel about confidence, we were all reminded the importance of leading by example. We can tell our daughters all day long that they are beautiful. But if they regularly see us, their mothers, talking bad about our own bodies or show that we are uncomfortable in our own skin, we are teaching them to do the same.

If we aren’t an example of self-confidence, our daughters will not learn self-confidence.

***

A couple weeks ago, I wanted an excuse to celebrate my birthday. (Apparently BEING BORN isn’t reason enough.) I’m not good at having the “birthday attention” on me, so I thought having a jewelry party would allow me to have a fun time with my friends without being the center of all the attention. But as the party started, the jewelry person had everyone introduce themselves and then give one word that described me. The words were beautiful, sweet and touching.

But I was coming out of my skin uncomfortable.

I wouldn’t describe myself as having low self-esteem, but there were wonderful things being said about me from some of the dearest people on the planet, and there was a part of me that wanted them to stop. In fact, when the jewelry lady saw how uncomfortable I was getting, she asked me if I wanted to skip it. I was *thisclose* to saying yes. What is it that made me so uncomfortable? Did I feel unworthy? Or just embarrassed?

I’m still not sure, but as I was listening to that morning keynote, I was transported back to that day and my inability to take compliments. As they spoke of the importance of being an example of confidence, I was reminded how much I struggle with that very thing. I know that I am strong and that I can do hard things, but my outward example of confidence is almost non-existent. Perhaps because I’m really not very confident at all.

I need to be more careful. While I know that I shower my daughters with love and support, do they ever see me do the same for myself? I want them to be kick-ass and brave. Am I doing my part to make that happen for me? I tell them they are beautiful and smart. Have I ever embraced those words to describe myself? Not really.

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I’ve been thinking about all the times I’ve brushed off compliments and changed the subject. I keep thinking about all the times I half joke/half complain about my flat chest and large ass. How many times have I complained about going completely gray in my 20’s? (A LOT.) It’s weird to admit that I’m proud of the mother that I am but that I’m not proud of the example I’ve been setting as a woman. It’s time to work on that.

I’ve admired Dove and their self-esteem project with the work that they do to inspire and encourage. I am grateful for their participation (and sponsorship) of Mom 2.0 Summit. Most of all, I’m so glad that I was reminded that we have a lot of work to do to make sure our girls know how wonderful and special and beautiful they are.

These girls are amazing! They can move mountains. They can change the world if they want.

But you know what? So can we.

The Easter Dilemma

It just dawned on me that I’ve done NOTHING for Easter. No decorations up. No Easter baskets down from the storage shelf in the garage. Nothing that resembles the fact that Easter is in two days. I mean, I accidentally have a little bit of candy because we visited Andy’s Candy on Monday, but I really can’t list that under the “accomplishments” column because we’ve already started eating it.

Hell, the kids asked the other day if they were getting something for Easter.

All signs point to NO.

It’s too bad you don’t believe in the Easter Bunny! Basically that means that you get crap from your Mom & Dad because they’re JERKS!

I’m pretty sure we’ll come up with something. (Tomorrow. Maybe.) But I’m feeling conflicted on this new chapter of parenting we’ve reached. I’m equal parts nostalgic and relieved that ‘these types’ of holidays are no longer a very big deal in our house. Less stress, but I promised myself that it didn’t matter that if they believed or not, we’d still celebrate with gusto. But here we are and I’ve done NOTHING to prepare and I’ve kinda entertained the idea that I don’t have to.

I won’t actually DO nothing, but I’ve entertained the idea.

(Also, I’m really bummed that I forgot to decorate. I do love springtime/Easter decorations. They’re so cheerful.)

Parenting is so weird. I’m blown away by the fact that I’m done with the babies and toddler era. But OMG MY KIDS FEED AND DRESS THEMSELVES AND IT’S GLORIOUS. But then…the only time I’ll sniff a baby’s head is if it belongs to someone else. MY CHILDREN TALK AND CAN USE THEIR WORDS TO TELL ME IF THEY’RE NOT FEELING WELL OR HUNGRY. I DON’T HAVE TO WIPE ANYONE’S ASS. The cuddles, the footie pajamas the cuddles! I DON’T HAVE TO PAY FOR DIAPERS AND DID I MENTION I DON’T HAVE TO WIPE ANYONE’S ASS?

So yeah…we’re back to two days before Easter and totally not prepared. Or decorated. And completely grateful that we have plans with family on Sunday that will be fabulous fun and will give my kids a taste of Easter festivities. Which means, really, that I can give myself the weekend off and not worry about this anymore. Done!

I love Easter.

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Last year’s Easter deco. Obviously.

 

Ramona: Age 12

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Twelve just sounds really old.

I obviously know how old my kids are. I really do know how to do math. But for some reason, Ramona’s jump from 11 to 12 yesterday knocked the wind out of me. It’s not that her new and updated age took me by surprise. It’s just…no, I’m lying. It somehow totally took my by surprise. I’m constantly amazed by how fast time flies. At this point in my parenting career, I should really be used to it.

For various reasons, I worried about how much fun Ramona would have celebrating her birthday. With her big day falling right in the middle of her two weeks of spring break and then a family filled, Easter weekend, we didn’t have too many options and will be having her birthday “event” in May. At some point. On a weekend that is NOT Mother’s Day or the weekend I’m not out of town. (Sigh.)

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yes, she is pointing a sling-shot at me

Don’t get me wrong, I really do think she had a great time yesterday. I mean she practically had a breakfast of gummy bears and worms as we visited a fabulous new candy store downtown. (LOVE them.) We had a Starbucks date, her and I. A visit to one of her favorite people. Her best friend was able to get out of school early yesterday and hang out with us for the afternoon. They were pampered with pedicures, just the two of them. (Which I neglected to get a picture of. Mom FAIL.)

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there are only 10 candles…another MOM FAIL

We had celebrated April birthdays with my side of the family over the weekend while everyone was in town, but my inlaws were able to come over for a nice, little dinner. I was also so glad that some family that lives so close could come over for birthday cake. (That Beezus made. From scratch. It was amazing and DELICIOUS.)

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the beautiful, vanilla layered cake made with a LOT of hard work by the big sister

I can’t even begin to express my gratitude for the people in my life that love my kids so much. I am so blessed with family (and friends who are family) who make my kids feel so special. This kid is so loved. Plus, that look on her face? Makes me so damn happy. She is just the coolest chick ever.

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I love her

It’s a Good Thing They’re Cute

Get up at 4:30 in the morning. You’re solo-parenting this week so you have to get completely ready for work before taking kids to school. You also need to go in early because there’s a track meet to attend this afternoon. As you’re putting on your make-up, you realized that the dog still needs to be fed. Feed dog, finish make-up downstairs. Yell up to the kids that it’s almost time to go. Try to make sense of the toaster. Realize it’s just not plugged in.

Car is packed with your things, kids are not ready to go. Throw something together for lunches. Kids still aren’t ready. Start yelling at this point because everyone is going to be late. After all, you have to drive one kid all the way across town to school. Then drive all the way back towards home to drop the other on off. Oh, and then drive to work.

Finally get everyone in the car, leaving later than planned. One kid forgot their water bottle. (You give them yours.) The other kid forgot the “spirit wear” order form. They start freaking out saying it’s due today. (This is the first time you have heard of this deadline. Of course.) Have children call the husband that is enjoying a nice, quiet hotel room morning. Ask him to look on-line for spirit wear form. Or at the very least, remember the price of the shirt. He finds nothing. Asks to speak to you. You miss the exit off the freeway because you’re trying to be safe as the kid shoves a cellphone in your face. (You weren’t even touching the phone.) Lose your shit a little, tell husband you’ll have to call him back. Take the “scenic” route to the high school. Ignore the arguing children.

Make it to the high school. Quickly write a check for the event tickets you meant to buy yesterday. Look at the clock. Wonder if the other child is going to be on time to school. Hasty goodbye’s and love you’s said. Drive like a bat out of hell (a safe bat, of course) back towards home. Stop and go traffic and some points. Child feels carsick. Roll down all the windows, hope for the best. (Now that you mention it, you’re not feeling the greatest either. Not enough sleep and spastic car rides do not go well together.)

You never found out the exact price of the spirit wear but you’re hoping that if you just write a check, the child can figure it out and get a new order form. Settle on an agreeable price, write a check at the stoplight. Get critiqued by your tween on how you wrote the check. Consider making her walk the remaining way to school sans check. But as you’re contemplating all this, the light turns green and you, miraculously, drop her off at school with plenty of time to spare. Goodbye’s and love you’s said. The kid still looks a little green from the car ride.

At this point, you have to pass your neighborhood on your way to work. Contemplate the pros and cons of calling into work because you’re so tired and you haven’t even started your workday. Your eyes are so heavy, you stop at Starbucks in hopes that it will help you get to work safely. Since you drove a different route to stop by Starbucks, you find yourself on a path that goes right by your parents’ house. It takes every ounce of willpower to NOT stop and hang out with Mom all day. Or sleep all day. Or both. You sigh and keep driving. But you do call to wish your sister a happy birthday. Realize you sound slightly insane and your birthday song sounds like Buddy the Elf. It’s probably a good thing she loves you anyway.

Get to the office. Respond to emails, etc. Check all the things. Decide to email the track coach regarding the spirit wear order. As you make your way to the school website, you see the link plainly on the home page of the school’s website regarding spirit wear. Click on the form and hope that you’ve sent enough money.

See that the deadline to order spirit wear is next week.

With a slow shake of your head, and after popping two Excedrin, you somehow come to the conclusion that selling your children isn’t the answer but wonder if anyone will notice if you crawled under your desk for a nap. Decide that you’re just too tired to care.

More in 2014

About 9 or 10 years ago, I started blogging as an attempt to keep myself sane. That’s a lot of pressure to put on one blog named after one of my favorite quote in Drop Dead Fred, but there you have it. Telling some of my life stories helped me to gain perspective and, more importantly, realize that I wasn’t alone. I also wasn’t as crazy as I thought I was. Or…maybe I was, but I certainly felt better after spilling my guts onto the interwebs. With everything I was going through, I used that blog as my punching bag and where all my snark or sarcasm lived and breathed. No one had to know. But the problem with blogging anonymously and then finding yourself not quite so anonymous, I started to feel pretty anxious about people I knew in real life reading my words.  So I scrapped that blog and started a new one. And then another one after that. I believe it was the blog after that where I started to blog a little more “out loud” and where I allowed myself to be a little more vulnerable, even though there were people I knew in real life reading my words. Getting more comfortable in my own skin, I finally felt ready and was able to buy by own little internet real estate and name it Life of Jill. It had been a long time coming.

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With a bit more experience at putting myself out there, especially being a part of Listen to Your Mother, I found myself entering into a world of blogging I hadn’t previously been. Through all the different platforms and spaces of blogging, I had never really attached myself to the blogging community or putting myself out there for different  opportunities. I had watched from afar (well, read about) the different blogging conferences and experiences over the years but that was something *other* people did. But last year, things changed a bit. I went to a couple conferences. I had some of the most amazing fun because of blogging opportunities. I’ve met some pretty fantastic people.

And I’m about to meet some more.

In a little over a month, Sarah and I will be flying to Atlanta for the Mom 2.0 Summit. Amazing at it sounds, I am the More in 2014 winner and still completely blown away that this is even happening. First of all, I get to hug on people I’ve never actually met in person. (And some that I have.) I’m sure there are more going that I haven’t even realized yet. There is so much to look forward to, and tons to be nervous about! Although, more than anything, I’m really excited and so very honored to have this opportunity.

So, thank you Mom 2.0 for all this awesome. I absolutely cannot wait.