Parent’s Only Back To School Survival Kit {Giveaway}

30 August 2015 | 7 Comments

It’s hard to believe that summer is over and it’s back to school time! 

Shiny new supplies are labeled and tucked into backpacks.  There are visions of straight A’s dancing in parents’ heads.  Students are groaning at the thought of homework.  Kindergarten parents are tentatively testing the waters of letting their baby grow up.  Teachers are ready to fill students’ minds with math and science and reading.    

When Finn started fourth grade last week, mornings were a rough start.  Not for him but, for me.  Waking up early with a smile isn’t my forte.  Thankfully, Seattle’s Best remedied that by sending me a box filled with their Parent’s-Only Back-to-School Survival Kit.  They even smartly included the Tile app so I’m not tossing couch cushions in search of my keys every morning.  The best part?  It’s filled with enough caffeine to make me look like a morning-person and that, isn’t an easy feat.   I’ll be on my way from Snoozer to Maestro in no time!

Parents Back To School Survival KitSeattles Best Parents Survival Kit

Now you can pretend to be a morning person too!  Seattle’s Best is going to hook one of you up with your own Parent’s-Only Back-to-School Survival Kit, a $115 value.  


  • A signature red Seattle’s Best Coffee mug.
  • A to-go tumbler.
  • A Moleskine notebook.
  • The Tile app to keep track of your car keys.
  • A magnetic dry erase weekly planner for the fridge.
  • THREE varieties of Seattle’s Best Coffee.
  • All tucked into a backpack.

Simply click on the Rafflecopter box below and tell me which type of back to school parent you are from the video above! 
Need some help deciding?  Buzzfeed created a quiz to help you

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Catching the Good.

13 April 2015 | 5 Comments

Catching Your Kids Being Good

As my mom will attest, after hearing the stories now that we’re older, parents don’t always catch every bad thing you do. 

But, we sure try.  Don’t we? 

Here is a secret and maybe it isn’t my finest parenting hour to admit this...  I have managed to complete convince my children that moms develop eyes in the back of their head.  It’s how I know when they’re messing around when they shouldn’t be.  Dads?  They have a magical parenting power too… super hearing.  Dave knows when it’s quiet… too quiet, it’s time to go searching for the reason. 

As parents, we develop these sixth senses for catching our kids doing all of the things they aren’t supposed to do.  That is our job, right? 

We give a warning with that tone.  We use their full names.  We ask them to consider whether they are doing what they should be doing.  We set limits, we catch them crossing, and put them on the right path, until they learn to do these things for themselves.

Yesterday, Finn was frustrated, tired, and just having a tough day.  Tate was on task, being a great listener, and having a great day.  The difference was unmistakable.  I should also say, there are many, many days when this is the exact opposite in our house.  But yesterday, I found myself gravitating toward reminding him about his attitude and making sure he completed what he needed to do and it felt remarkably worse to him because there she was, doing exactly what she was supposed to be doing, without argument, smiling even. 

I put Tate in the tub and she said something about Finn not being a good listener but, she was and it gave me pause because that isn’t the message I wanted to send.  Instead, I said loud enough for Finn to overhear, that we all have good days and bad days.  I said, there were lots of days that he was a great listener and that after a good night’s rest, is a great time to begin again with a fresh attitude.  Then, I told her that even though I was busy, I really noticed how much effort she had put into cleaning up her room and what a good listener she had been with her dad.  I promised I’d put a fresh coat of paint on her fingernails, something that is a huge treat for her, after she put her pajamas on because she had worked so hard.

Not only did that simple little thing make her light up, but when I went to tuck Finn in for bed, he had done his stuff too.  My nagging for half an hour hadn’t remedied the bad attitude and mess that needed picked up, but overhearing our two minute conversation had.  I gave him a squeeze and told him that I really appreciated that he did those things and that I understood how hard sometimes it is, to turn your day around, but that you always can. 

I kind of feel that way about parenting too.  My friend Kristina, who has more grace and patience in her pinky than I have in all of me, reminds me constantly that even good parents, have bad days.  It’s not about what you’ve screwed up, it’s about making the choice to do it differently next time.   We’ve been doing a good job of catching the bad because we recognize the need to correct it immediately.  Making an effort to catch the good takes some thought, we have to be conscious and mindful of it.  For me, and maybe for other parents too, it doesn’t come nearly as easily, but it’s something that I absolutely think is worth it.  

I’d love any tips on how you catch the good in your own kids.

Easter Weekend.

07 April 2015 | 2 Comments

My little sister travels a lot.  Countless times each year since moving to Kentucky for college six years, one bachelor’s degree, and a house ago.  This year, we did the travel and went to Lexington for Easter.  In addition to our crazy crew, my little brother drove down from Ohio State and my dad was able to see Elise’s new house.  We played many, many rounds of Spot It, went to the park, they went to opening weekend at Keenland {sadly not a trifecta was won} and we also watched a suspense-filled final four game that we’re not allowed to mention. 

We had an Easter brunch and an Easter egg hunt… the egg hiding was hilarious and luckily someone found the one in the microwave before turning it on the next morning.  That is what happens when you let 20-somethings hide eggs and then try to remember where they are in the morning.  There *may* have also been some terribly-written Easter Bunny raps courtesy of my little brother.  I used Oma’s vintage table cloth on the table, my sister’s Kentucky horse plates, fun bird napkins from Ikea, and we indulged in some seriously decadent treats sent to us by Shari’s Berries.   The weekend was incredible and I am sure my sister and El are still recovering from the whirling dervishes that are Finn & Tate hopped up on sugar.

Here is a peek.  How did you spend Easter weekend?

Easter Table

Easter Shari's Berries Brownie Pops

Easter Basket Note Easter Eggs

Easter Table 4

Easter Table Bunny Pretty Easter Table

Easter Shari's Berries

Easter 141 Easter 129

Easter 121

Disclosure: Shari’s Berries sent the treats, all opinions of their incredible decadence are my own.

Snail Mail.

02 April 2015 | 5 Comments

Snail Mail

I have a paper problem.  Well, it’s not so much a paper problem as a paper affinity.  I love a pretty paper, a pretty card, gorgeous handwriting, and snail mail.

Oh, don’t pretend that it’s NBD*.  When you get an actual something other than a bill because we’re grown ups and that’s all we’re allowed to get apparently, it makes you feel happy.  Multiply that by about ten bajillion if it’s not Christmas, or your birthday, carry the one, square it, and THAT right there is a card that comes just to tell you that you are incredible and you mean the world to someone.  Even when they forget to tell you often, even when you both get busy, or when you never realized that they saw that thing that you did or how hard you’ve worked, even if YOU know you’re awesome, but someone else not only says it, but takes the time to write it down, and it makes it so much true-r somehow.

That feeling, THAT was my mission.

Dave’s Oma, she used to send me notes in the mail.  At least once a month.  There were thank you notes, birthday cards, anniversary cards, and just because cards.  Dave and I would come in from collecting the mail, see an envelope with her handwriting, laugh, then guess what these envelopes might contain.  She’d cut out a thirty cent coupon and spend more on the stamp to send it.  I’d get a recipe, carefully cut out with a note saying that she read something in Martha Stewart that she thought I’d like.  Dave would get a twenty-five dollar check and a note of admonishment that she realized that he had tucked the twenty dollar bill that she had tried to pay him for picking up a gallon of milk, back into her things instead of taking it home.  She’d send Finn stickers in the mail, always made out to Master Finnegan J, because she was straight old school and addressed things properly.

You do not half-ass snail mail if you are Kelly.  Even if it’s a twenty-five cent coupon or ten Box Tops for your great grand-son to take to school.  You do it right.

In that spirit, because I miss her fiercely, I wanted to give that to someone else.  It’s been a year today and it’s not much easier.  I spent the better part of two days, writing until my hand cramped, tracking down addresses and knowing that if she were still here,  she would have surely gotten one herself.  Loads of these cards belonged to her and came to me in stacks as we were cleaning out her things and she would have loved knowing that they aren’t sitting in a drawer, gathering dust.

Which brings me to you.  If you could use a little love right now, send your address in an email and I’ll send one off to you, too. 

I’d imagine, she’d love knowing she’s single handedly keeping the United States Post Office in business.

Happy Weekend, Peeps.

Stick It Out.

23 March 2015 | 5 Comments

When we were married in 2005, I was educated, owned my own house, had a retirement account, and a whole lot of love for my future husband.  In my head, I was an ideal age.  Twenty-nine is old enough to know better and young enough to have children, if you want them.  I had travelled, dated a sufficient number to realize that Dave was an extraordinary man, and knew how to live a happy, fulfilled life on my own.  We had done pre-Cana, adopted a scruffy rescue poodle, had discussions about future children, and a system in place for handling our finances. 

I wasn’t just settling for Dave, I was choosing him.  And he, me. 

I was also probably, most certainly, very much under-equipped for actual marriage. 

I remember driving home from a friend’s lake house and telling Dave that fine, I wanted a divorce and hearing him respond in kind.  We had been married a few months.  Marriage was kind of hard work, if I am being honest.  Aren’t we supposed to say the vows, have lots of sex, get pregnant easily, have two perfect kids, do well at our careers, and love each other always?  If he was ‘the one’ it would be easy, right?   

There was something humbling about that.   You walk down the aisle and into this life you’ve never led before.  You are completely inexperienced and yet, you think you know everything because we all come packing our own picture of just what the ‘good marriage’ is supposed to be.  When it doesn’t hold up to Hollywood, or your grand-parents’ marriage of 50 years or, what you see from your best friend’s marriage, or your next door neighbors’ you feel like you must be doing something wrong. 


Now, after nearly ten years of marriage, neither of us can recall what that first huge fight was about in the first place.  We both remember that we sheepishly faced the reality that our argument had happened in the first fifteen minutes of our trip… and that we still had an hour trapped in the car with each other. 


We were silent for about fifteen minutes and then,

Me: Do you really want a divorce?

Him:  No.  You?

Me:  No.  I have no idea why I even said that.

Him:  We are idiots.

Me:  Totally. 

We talked.  A lot.  We realized that even though we had moved in together when we got engaged, being engaged or living together is not the same as being married.  You might like to think it is, but it isn’t.  Kind of like you think that having children will be the same as life before children. 

Spoiler Alert, your life changes when you have children.

I learned quickly, you can’t just kick someone out when you get into an argument.  Oh, I mean, you can yell, “GET OUT of my house,” but then you realize that regardless of who’s name is on the mortgage, it’s their home too and you will feel like an idiot.   He learned that he had to communicate frustrations instead of ignoring them.  We also figured out that the only people who belong in our marriage, is us.  My sisters, his best friend, our parents, his boss, my Facebook feed… they don’t get a say, a vote, or to weigh in, and our marriage is not their business.  Ever.  

In the several hundred arguments we’ve had since then, we’ve both learned that a little empathy for your partner goes a long, LONG way.  

I know this in no way guarantees that Dave and I will stay married forever.  The reality is, marriages that I thought for sure would last forever, fail.  Marriages that were bad ideas from the start have lasted for years.  There are no guarantees, there is only the work, the love, the day to day, the fun, the hurt, the laughs, the frustration, the big stuff, the little stuff, and the fact that we’re both still willing do get up each day and choose each other.  Even on the days when that choice might not feel as fun as packing up and moving to Aruba and surrounding yourself with pina coladas and room service.

Or so I’ve heard.


10 March 2015 | 2 Comments

Since the stroke, which Meme likes to refer to as the ‘thing that happened,’ my mom and her siblings have assigned days that everyone is responsible for calling or visiting.  She’s convinced it was my mother who cracked the whip on her siblings, but it wasn’t, though Janet is pretty whip cracking, I’ll give her that.  The daily calls and the stipulation that we could install an emergency alert system in her house, is the deal to keep her independence.  It’s all slightly BS.  Secretly, I believe that they’re all afraid of her stubbornness and she’s just humoring them by allowing these daily check ins, but whatever works... 

Shortly after the ‘thing that happened,’ Dave was over there helping to install something and Meme was filling him in on these daily calls.  “I’ll be glad when this stage of my life is over.  Everyone is calling and checking in on me.  They think I’ve kicked it if I don’t answer the phone right away,” she said.  He chuckled a little because he already knew about the call schedule.

Then a few minutes later, “What are they going to do about it if I do kick it, anyway?  There’s not a damn thing any of them can do.  When it’s your time, it’s your time.”

Now though?  I think that she enjoys, or maybe just graciously allows, the intrusion into her daily routine by the brood she claims as her own. 

Tate and I have Mondays. 

We drop Finnegan off to school and go over and have breakfast with her.  Tate asks her for the 47th time just why Meme likes her oatmeal with milk and Craisins, when she likes hers more firm with brown sugar and cinnamon.   Meme fills  me in all of the family updates, including phone calls from my cousins in Chicago.  She announces at least once each visit, how absurd it is that my aunt does her laundry when she’s quite capable of going down to the basement to do it herself.  Oh, she gets it, she assures me, “They don’t want me going up and down the stairs with a basket.  It’s just not necessary when, I can do it myself.”  I tell her to enjoy it, humor her children, and to send Sue over to do mine if she doesn’t want the help. 

The talk lately, is of March Madness.  She’s not sure how she’s going to fill out her bracket, her past winning streak means she has a reputation to uphold.  Let’s not forget the woe that her beloved Buckeyes stink this year.  Priorities people, basketball is undoubtedly in her top three... we just aren’t sure if family comes before or after it.   She asks about Bo-Bims, which is what she calls my sister, and fields in depth questions from her great granddaughter about if she really knows Aunt Punka and just how she does.  Apparently, she is satisfied by Meme’s answers and I am convinced that Lyndsey will never be called her real name by anyone, but me. 

cell 1052

Tate has already moved on to the entertainment portion of our visit and twirls her way through the living room.  She pairs the excited whirligig with non-stop chatter about her imaginary sister, Heinje.  “We’re ice dancing!  Me and Heinje are the best ice dancers!”  Meme agrees and pays for the performance with a  belly full of Club crackers.  Then she makes a power play when I answer the phone, she turns on Disney channel for her.  When I raise an eyebrow, she simply pretends in her old age that she doesn’t see me because she’s concentrating on the remote buttons.  I now know where her loyalties lie.  They sometimes draw funny things and Meme tries to convince her to tell everyone that she is TQ’s great-grandmother, not because of her age, but her excellence.  “Tate, you can just tell everyone you call me that because I am so GREAT!  Don’t you think?” 

Yep, Meme.  We kinda do.

Press (re)Start.

24 February 2015 | 7 Comments

When I don’t want to do something, I have a really hard time starting.  When I’m stressed.  When I’m tired.  When I am embarrassed, angry, and overwhelmed.  It is easier to hide or immerse myself in something mindless, have you played Trivia Crack?  My mostly rational mind is clued into the fact that this is a by-product of the ADD, but my overwhelmed reaction (ding ding ding, also the ADD) sees it as a series of hurdles. 

And you know my booty isn’t making it over any hurdles.

The thing is, it bothers me, being away from here as much as I have been, but there are some other things I needed to spend my energy on.  It’s kind of like that put your own oxygen mask on, then your kids’ when the reality is you’re going to see their face and put their mask on first.  And I did, but it’s also a bullshit cop out excuse too.  Because everyone knows in the crazy airline demonstrations, doing that just makes you pass out while your kids are fine.  I’m pretty sure mine would just poke me with a stick because they want a snack. 

Coming back for a quickie “hi, how are ya,” in the midst of all of that, seemed like kind of a jackass thing to do.  So, I just didn’t.  I would be like that friend who just shows up unannounced to your party, because you put it on Facebook.  Sure, you forgot that friend wasn’t under your ‘acquaintance’ list, they aren’t really invited, if we’re being honest but, they still show up and make it all awkward.  Yep.  That about sums it up.

Ooooh, is that Chex mix?

And, no, I’m not going to talk about it just yet, the other stuff, but I will.  Probably.  Just not right now.  << I also hate when people do things like that,  WHO does that?  Annoying people, on your acquaintance list, that’s who.  But, you already know that. 

Unless you’re new.

In which case, um, hi, I’m Michelle, you can totally come sit by me.  I’ll probably even be back here tomorrow.  Maybe.

I am pressing the re-start button.  While crossing my fingers it doesn’t crash the system. 

What’s new with you?

Is Being a Mom Hard?

07 January 2015 | 8 Comments

We were sitting at the table and I was frustrated. 

It had been a very long day.  I was tired.  We had a snow day, on the very first day I was supposed to get two hours and fifteen minutes of blissful quiet time in two very long weeks.  They alternated all day between being the best of friends and relentless bickering.  I. Just. Wanted. To. Clean. Out. My. Stupid. Over-stuffed. Closet.  That was my goal for the two hours and fifteen minutes of quiet time while my youngest was supposed to be at preschool.  I wanted to listen to something with adult lyrics and drink coffee and pull out all of those old maternity clothes and too skinny pants that had somehow gotten tucked into the depths of the closet. 

That, and I’m not going to lie, there are some hideous shirts I was hoping to sneak out of Dave’s side too.

Instead, I was refereeing.  By dinnertime, I was pretty close to my exasperation limit, when Tate declared how much she LOVED her steak taco.  She wasn’t just saying how much she loved it, she was telling me that it was the BEST taco ever.  You would think, that winning dinner with a three and a half year old would be a good thing.  It might have been, but all I could do was stare in disbelief.  I wondered if maybe, an alien had taken over her body?  That had to be the answer.  She couldn’t be my daughter, the one who had thrown an epic, nightmare inducing, tantrum meltdown on New Year’s Eve because, that’s right, we had dared serve her steak. 

After dinner, I was skimming Finn’s homework from the night before and asked him do a couple more math problems for practice.  Math is one of those things that we struggle with.  I say “we” because I’m trying to decipher just where his gaps in learning are from a grade skip, so new concepts don’t completely blindside him, while simultaneously not screwing him up with my ‘old math’ ways.  And he?  He’s just trying to figure out how fractions relate to measurement.  He did the problems, but I wondered if he really grasped it.

“Mom, is being a parent hard?  Like, is it a hard job?  Because sometimes, it seems like it’s really hard for you,” he asked, sliding over to give me a hug.

Most days, I hope as a mom that I’m doing more right than wrong.  Some days, though, I wonder if that is true.  That’s difficult for me to say out loud.  To admit, I am far from the world’s best mom.  There are two sweet faces looking to me for an answer that I don’t always have.  There are days I feel like a failure.  I am a  completely crap ‘new math’ explainer, I am a zombie in the morning, and there are days that I tell him to hustle because we’re late and he’s got four minutes to get to class.  I wonder if I’m asking the right questions, wonder if they’re really happy, or if they’re going to think that we somehow screwed up their childhood when they are grown. 

See?  I assume that my parenting, will probably lead to therapy. 

It’s not easy or for the faint of heart, this parenting thing.  Well, some days it’s easy and those days feel like a gift.  They exist, I’m convinced, to make sure we don’t eat our young, when we’re confronted with, “This is the most boring house ever!” as you glance at the thirty five choices for entertainment in your immediate vicinity.

Almost daily, I wage a fierce debate that chocolate is not considered a ‘healthy’ snack and wonder would if it would be much easier to just feed Tate all the chocolate her belly can handle.  Have you ever examined the logic of a three and a half year old?  It’s the stuff that torture is made of.  I’m also trying not to yell because I don’t want to be that yeller mom whose kids roll their eyes and tune out, but I still swear too much.  Some days I have to consciously remind myself that it’s OK to close the door and take a minute to finish cleaning out the closet while they argue about who cut off who’s hand with a fake plastic light saber.  Then I wonder, should I be concerned that they are cutting off each other’s hands with plastic light sabers?  Isn’t that the first sign of the dark side? 

There are days that I’d love to not be the elected vomit cleaner.  Or nag about homework.  Or break up sibling squabbles.  Or days when I’m too freaking tired to try to figure out new math, so I don’t screw up my seven year old.  As long as we’re making this list, I also, unquestionably, still mourn the loss of sleeping in on Saturday mornings. 

I tell myself regularly, it’s normal to have failure.  It’s normal to make mistakes and admit when you’re wrong.  It’s normal to have tough days when you just want to give up and start over in the morning.  It’s normal to wonder if you’re the ONLY one screwing up your kids.   

When your frustration is maxed out.  When you’re at a loss for how to handle something.  When you are desperately searching for that child rearing manual they MUST have forgotten to give you when you brought this baby home.  When your seven year old sees you struggle.

I hugged Finn and considered all of these things before I replied.  I am smart enough to know that my days of unprovoked snuggles are numbered.  “Probably the hardest and best job I’ve ever had,” I confessed.  “I know I screw it up.  I probably make mistakes all the time.  But, I wouldn’t trade it for any job in the world.”

“Well, I’m never having kids if they’re as bad as Tate,” he replied and packed up his homework.

They will test our limits, are crazy freaking mess tornados, and bicker with each other.  They will make us worry, tell white lies, and forget their manners.  They will exasperate us, make bad choices, and probably not always be nice.  And we still have a job because of it. 



05 January 2015 | 4 Comments

A week ago, I took this picture of Tate and my Meme.  Tate would argue that it’s her Meme, but I have 38 years worth of dibs that I am prepared to cash in.   

cell Christmas Oma's 205

This night, she was laughing and rocking in her chair, as Tate poorly serenaded her with Let It Go.  My cousins were here from Chicago, filling her in on basketball and college acceptance letters.  Her house was full.  She was happy, that Meme of ours. 

It was my cousin, who called me, just twenty-four short hours later.  “They think Meme had a stroke,” and that is when the pleading started.

What would I say if I had five more minutes?  Five more days?  Twenty-five more years?  Should I have…  I wish I would have… 

You wrestle the cold fear with the hoping… for just a little bit longer, a little more time.  You plead with the universe to make this ok.  You question how you’d even cope with this idea, this life that would feel so wrong without her in it.  Though, you know she’d argue with you and state, in her pragmatic, very Meme way, that she’s ninety and you can’t live forever.  You realize too, that not fully functioning or living on her own, is pretty much her biggest fear.   

So, you sit.  And you wait. And you feel helpless.

She had gone to bed, the night the photo was taken and woke in the middle of the night with a headache.  A headache that hadn’t gone away the next morning either.  My aunt had driven to her house that morning and told her that we should cancel having people over and Meme brushed her off because she wanted the kids to open their gifts.  She said she was going to rest for a little bit and by the time all of the great-grandchildren arrived in the early afternoon, things had only gotten worse.  My aunts were concerned, but Meme argued that she didn’t want anything to do with taking her blood pressure.  My cousin had asked her a question and she seemed confused and couldn’t answer.  By the time Dave and I arrived at the house a little later that afternoon, she was feeling sick and disoriented.  She tried to convince me that she’d have a cup of coffee to settle her upset stomach, until I pointed out that coffee was probably not a great choice for an upset stomach.

She asked me the next night, twenty-four hours after her stroke, as I was sitting with her, how we knew, or thought to take her to the hospital.

My answer to her was simple.  “I walked into your room and said, we’re going to take you over right now to get your blood pressure checked, just to be on the safe side.  Your only response to me was, OK and a little sigh.  I knew that something was very, very wrong if you weren’t pissed at me about going to the hospital.”  She chuckled a little because she’s a stubborn ox and she knows it.  She doesn’t even remember that conversation, or much of me being there at her house at all, but she vaguely remembers that Dave drove her.   She laughed when I likened getting her ready for the hospital, to the worst version of Cinderella, ever.  My cousin and I were down on the floor, each trying to wedge her feet, with her poor arthritic toes, into a pair of moccasins, the only shoes I could find in her closet.  I told her, we thought she had lost it because she had two completely different colored socks on.  She wiggled her feet, those ridiculous socks still on her feet in the ICU, and explained that she had lost one of each of the pair.

She doesn’t remember us leaving the ER to pick up our kids.  We suspected it was just her sodium level off again.  Knowing full well when it was fixed that she’d be pissed about being there we preferred leaving that to my aunts.  Nor does she remember sitting with my aunts, still in the emergency room some hours later, awaiting test results and suddenly, not making any sense.  Or, that she couldn’t even answer simple questions from the neurologist.  She doesn’t remember the decision being made to give her the tPA shot, or our visits with her that night as we waited to see if it might work. 

But there, twenty-four hours later, it clearly had. 

Sometimes you’re gifted with it, that beautiful second chance.  This morning, we were there, at her house, she and Tate were snuggled up in her chair again, thick as thieves, this time watching cartoons.  I’d argue that all of it makes you appreciate what you have, but then, I think we’ve always realized how lucky we are to have her.  I’ll take five more hours, or five more months, or twenty-five more years, whatever we’re thankful to have been given. 

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