Friday, September 2, 2016

Just Keep Swimming

In January of 2015 I wrote a blog post about choosing to be happy. I made the conscious choice to attempt to choose positivity and happiness over falling into a pit of despair and negativity. Don't get me wrong, I stand at the edge of that pit and think about diving in head first and grabbing a few candy bars for good measure.  However 95% (nobody's perfect) of the time I am able to back away from the cliff, push the reset button and push forward.

I have been in that pondering mood again. Why? How? That is what I ask myself. How and why have I been able to maintain my attempt for the past 20 months.  When I reflected and came to certain realizations, I felt I needed to share.

Lets start with how. Unfortunately we are bombarded by so much negativity and hate that I think we lose sight of the good. There is good though! It really is all around us, we just have to be open to seeing it and receiving it.  For me this has come in the form of people. I feel the need to point this out, because I think as a whole we don't realize how our actions and words affect others. I don't mean in a bad way. I mean in a GOOD way.  A simple compliment, thank you, hug, text, call, may completely change the course of a persons day and outlook on life.  This has made a tremendous difference for me in the past year and a half. In the past three weeks alone, I had one friend mention me and another person in a post. Essentially saying that because she had received encouragement, she was going to give something a shot, that she was hesitant to do, because others believed in her and let her know! I cannot tell you, how it made me feel, that something that seemed so small on my part, made a drastic difference to someone else. I had another friend out of the blue compliment my photography skills and the way I raise my kids (at the time I felt I was sucking at both).  I have had champions in the past year and they do not realize the impact their actions have made on me and my life. Making my first friend in Texas, was life changing. she had no idea how much that saved me. We connected instantly, she feels like a sister to me now. I can talk to her when I'm sad/mad/happy. She will not BS me, she is a straight shooter all the way and I love her for it. Our kids play, we hang out together as a family. That sense of belonging changed me.  My neighbor who has become one my best friends. She ALWAYS has my back. If one of the girls is sick, she picks the other up from school, the water heater breaks down, her husband (also a good friend) is there helping. Our kids play. If she knows I'm struggling, she checks in. She cares and she lets that be known. It has literally changed and saved me more times than I can count.  I have a friend that I have known since the fourth grade. One of the positives of Facebook is that we reconnected after years. We text almost every single day. Sometimes it a funny meme, other times serious conversations. We have this insane connection that cannot be put into words. Her texts come through at the times I need them the most and she could have no clue. Having that relationship has changed me for the better. Then I have a husband that after 19 years, I am pretty sure we share a brain. He knows what I am thinking before I even say it. He also knows just the right time to say either, " You are doing a fantastic job and I'm proud of you" or " the cranky pants have been on long enough, time for a wardrobe change"! I love him all the more for it.  For me these are just a very few examples of how someone else's kindness, insight, text or call has made a direct impact on my mission of choosing to be happy. Choosing to be positive, choosing to go out and kick the world's ass, instead of it kicking mine.
That brings me to the "why" portion. Why do I choose to continue my mission? I know some people  think I am insane. That choosing to believe sunshine, happiness, faith, hope and little bit of pixie dust can make a difference, is annoying and delusional. I assure you. I am not crazy.  So why? Why am I seemingly so nauseatingly positive? Even in situations that seem to not have one ounce of any good?? Three words. Elizabeth. Abigail. Sydney.  I want them to ALWAYS search for the good, the happiness, the kind, the helpers.  Yes, the world is full of hate, evil, and negativity but it doesn't have to win. The battle against it has to start somewhere. So I am starting it at the most logical place for me, home.
If I do nothing else right in this life, I hope this is the ONE thing I get right. I want them to face adversity with the courage to know they can over come. I want them to throw love at the haters. I want them to be able to LAUGH, even when the situation seems dire. That is my wish, that is my goal. While I focus on that here. I want to share that it so easily spread. Make that call, send the text, give someone a hug or an unexpected compliment. Who knows, we just might change the world!

Friday, May 13, 2016

Body Shaming: Something Needs To Change.

This week Elizabeth came home and recounted a lunch time conversation that she had at school. It was so preposterous that I can't shake it. She told me that 2 girls that she sat next to during lunch told her, that if she continued to eat a turkey/salami/cheese sandwich, that also had mayo (gasp) she was going to get fat.  Yes, folks she was told at seven by other seven years olds, that eating her sandwich daily was going to make her FAT.  They recommended to her that she eat salad and chicken, because that doesn't make you fat. Seriously? Is this what it is coming to? Body shaming starts in the first grade. I was shocked and saddened.

This is something that I have personally struggled with as long as I can remember.  I remember vividly comparing myself to the models on Seventeen magazine. I did the thigh master religiously. I snuck diet pills. I look back at those pictures of myself now, and think "what in the hell was wrong with you"?? "You were not fat, you had a perfectly normal body, dare I say beautiful"?  Being 5'8 made me not petite and therefore in my eyes fat. Oh how stupid I was...

It ( body image) was at the top of my list of things I wanted to be different for my girls.  So much so, we have NEVER EVER uttered the word fat in front of the girls. Even as I continue to struggle with my own personal body image issues, I never speak about my self-conscious thoughts in front of them. They listen to EVERYTHING, they hear EVERYTHING. Instead we talk about being healthy. We discuss that we need to try new foods, fruits and vegetables included. We do have the fun treats, but we do so in moderation, because too much of anything is not good for you. We talk about the need for exercise to keep you HEALTHY. That is the word I try to use, healthy. Not fat. Not skinny. Not strong. Not weak. Healthy.  Our goal is to make good choices and keep our mind and body healthy.

I am lucky that I am raising self confident girls that trust me, themselves and communicate well. First, she recognized that she was not going to get fat and promptly told the other girls, eating her sandwich was not going to make her fat. Second, she came home and openly spoke to me and asked questions. I am lucky, but it may not be like that for every little girl. So where does that leave us? It leaves us with seven year old girls being afraid that eating their lunch will make them fat and I for one am not okay with that.

What is the answer? I don't know and I am ticked! I think communication and raising self confident little girls is key.  Teaching them beauty comes in all shapes and sizes is a must. Making good choices is a must. Realizing their own self worth is a MUST. Making healthy choices is key. Building each other up instead of tearing each other down is a MUST.

This is a conversation I wish we didn't have to have but we do. Maybe that is where we start. A open, honest conversation.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

What Matters Most

Last night I had one of those wake up calls as a parent that you really don't want to get but maybe need. It had been one of those days that started at 2am with a kid puking (awesome way to start the day)! So I had the younger girls home with me all day. I decided to take advantage of being housebound and cleaned out several closets. The girls were either best friends or sworn enemies, mostly the latter of the two. Needless to say there was a lot of yelling, whining and refereeing throughout the day. Matters did not improve when the oldest came home, it just got louder!
Everyone has these days during the week. Rush rush rush, clean, cook, moderate, chauffeur. It is complete chaos. Some days are easier than others. Some days tempers and irritability are running at all time highs.
After dinner, things actually begin to settle somewhat, still extremely loud and rambunctious but controlled. I was washing the dishes, Ebeth and Abbie were chasing each other around the living room and Sydney was having her treat at the table. All of a sudden I heard a very strange sound coming from Sydney. She was clearly choking but at this point still getting air. I ran over to her,  she was panicked and bright red. I pounded her back between the shoulder blades first, then no sound was coming from her. She was trying to inhale and couldn't So I am quickly trying to remove her from the chair and she is fighting me because she is terrified and trying fix this herself. I knew I was going to have to do the Heimlich on her and tried to quickly let her know mommy is trying to help. Attempting to do the Heimlich on a terrified 3 year old who cannot breathe correctly is like wrestling an extremely pissed off bear. At this point Ebeth has realized something is really wrong, I can hear her say we should call 911, but I don't have time to explain we don't have time. Nothing happened after the first push, I tried to crack her on the the back again, still nothing. I am one of those people who is good in a crisis, I can remain calm during and stay focused and then afterwards, have my little meltdown. When she still couldn't breathe after the first push and pound on the back, my brain went into complete overdrive. First thought, how long do I have? Answer, not long. Second thought. What if I can't do this? Answer, not an option. Keep trying. The second time I pushed she coughed then gagged then screamed louder than all get out and I have never in my life been happier to hear that sound. This whole episode took probably less than one minute and yet it felt as if time was standing still.
After I made sure she was ok and the crying stopped we all went to sit together on the couch. This is when I started recapping the day and previous days in my mind. How many times did I snap at her that day? How many times in the last few days or weeks have I been asked to play a game, have a  tea party, cuddle on the couch, color? And how many times was my response, I can't right now. I was either cleaning or on the phone or doing dishes or laundry or cooking.
Yes, all of the aforementioned items must be done but they are not as important as we make them out to be in our heads. Does it really matter, if the house is vacuumed? or a dish is sitting in the sink? Or laundry is sitting in a basket? No it doesn't! The answer is so plain and simple nothing is more important than your family and your kids.
In this day and age we hold ourselves to unrealistic expectations because of things like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Life is not picture perfect. It is messy, it is chaotic it is full of ups and downs. That is why we have family and friends to help us get through. They don't care if you baked the perfect cookie or if your house is spotless! I am very guilty of falling into all of those traps. So maybe I needed that slap in the face. Now is the time for that cuddle and the tea party because in a blink of an eye, this stage will be over. I don't want to be doing the dishes when that happens..

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Change the Story

This morning I read a very sad article about a journalist running negative articles about educators and education during a previous teacher appreciation week. A teacher contacted the writer and asked them to share something good. She was told " good wasn't news" and that negative and bad is what people are interested in. This teacher requested this year was that we change the story and share something positive. I don't think it's true the negative and bad is what we want to hear, I believe that is what is force fed to us constantly and we have little choice in the matter. I for one am thrilled and inspired when I read or watch something positive in the news. Its gives me hope when I see stories about random acts of kindness, kids defending other kids being picked on by bullies, teachers going above and beyond their duties (which many of them do).

I was extremely luck in my life to have had several teachers that made a life long impression on me.
When I was in the fourth grade we moved and I changed schools. I was extremely shy for several reasons. First I was the new kid. Second I was the new kid that happened to have cerebral palsy. While I have a very mild case I was the one who was picked on at my previous school because I was different. The first day of school was a day I won't forget for two reasons. First other kids finally liked me! I had people wanting to sit by me at lunch, talk to me at recess, wanting to be my friend and it was awesome! Second I met Mr. Swink. He was the absolutely the best teacher I have ever had, he made me feel welcome and special. He encouraged me to get into sports. Something that completely mortified me in the past. He was a swim coach, so I tried swimming, it was a disaster at first. I could not for the life of me swim straight, my left arm had a mind of its own. Instead of just letting it be or letting me quit. He worked out a way for my stronger arm to correct the problem. Lo and behold I swum straight and from that day forward loved to swim. He helped build my confidence as a person and in the classroom. I no longer let my CP define me. I learned if kids made fun of me I didn't need someone like that in my life and I actually could feel sorry for them for needing to lash out in those ways.  I maintained a relationship with him though my high school years. I would often go back and visit him or ask for advice. I invited him to my wedding but the invite was sent to an old address. A few months after the wedding my brother ran into him. They both called me from my brother's cell phone and he explained the address mix up and told me he received it, after the date had passed. He told me he would have loved to attend. That made my day. He was by now retired and spending winter months in a warmer climate. Several years ago I ran into him while out shopping with the girls. Even though I was 35 and he had not seen me in nearly 20 years he recognized me. I told my girls right there that this was mommy's favorite teacher EVER and he was the BEST hands down. His wife told me " you have no idea how much he loves to hear that".  It's very simple really. Give credit where credit is due.

I was lucky not only to have had Mr. Swink in my life but in high school, I had several teachers that encouraged me, supported me and helped me make decisions that would affect my future. I always loved history, not the most popular subject in school but it struck a chord with me. I had a teacher my Junior year that made History fun and exciting. Mr. Thilman's class was one of my favorites,  so much so that in college I decided to major in History, He was also one of the people I asked to write a recommendation letter for me, his words meant so much to me. I still have a copy of that letter.  I have passed that love of history onto my girls who at ages 6, 4 and 3 are reading and enjoying stories about Abraham Lincoln and Amelia Earhart.

One final teacher that stands out was my Junior year English teacher and creative wring teacher, Mr. Hertzlieb. It is very hard to put thoughts, stories and ideas on paper and have them be judged. Mr. Hertzlieb saw something in my writing and encouraged me to continue.  To this day writing is an outlet for me and I am forever grateful. He too wrote a recommendation letter for me and I still keep a copy.

I have no doubt that many many people have similar stories to share. Teachers come into our lives for such a short time but make such a lasting impression. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for choosing your profession and excelling at.

To my friends and family members who are teachers, I have the utmost respect for you. I am sure that you have hard days in which you question your choices. Please know that you do make a difference and you are appreciated for a life time.  

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Choose Happiness

This morning I woke up crankier than all get out. A tough day yesterday followed by a sleepless night and a raging headache first thing in the morning seemingly would set the tone for my day. Realizing I set the tone for my entire day at 6:30am, I stopped in my tracks.
I was grouchily fetching something for Elizabeth and I said to myself " you can chose to be a grouch and ruin your day and most likely those around you." or " You can choose to be positive in the face of negativity".  I chose happiness.  I realized in that moment I needed to practice what I preached. I have been having a lot of these conversations lately with people in my life. I have encouraged friends and family members " to focus on the good, to be positive, to believe in the impossible".  This morning I realized I needed a swift kick in the ass, to get back on track.

This past year has been one of the most challenging in my entire life. I knew moving 1100 miles away from everything I knew to was going to be hard but I had no clue just how hard. For months I have desperately missed my friends and family and it has made me so very sad. However if I am going to be positive, here is the truth I am incredibly blessed to have such wonderful people in my life. While distance is tough it does not define our relationship. Although we are so far apart I feel closer now to those I miss so dearly because of the great effort we have put into maintaining our relationships. While I am sometimes lonely and sad, I chose love.

This past year has also been the biggest test of my marriage. It would be easy on the tough days to get upset and assign blame, that we are here because of a job. Here is the truth, we are here because of a choice. A choice that was made as a team, a choice that was made because we believed it to be the best one for us and our family. There have been hard days, days when everything is called into question. This relationship started 18 years ago and at 19 years old we fell in love, at 26 we married at 30 we started a family. At 36 we made a life changing decision. We did this all together, with love and communication and trust. There are days when I want to throw in the towel. Then I take a moment and realize, no one has my back more than my husband, no one loves me more, no one knows me better, he knows what I am thinking before I even open my mouth 90% of the time, no one can make me laugh harder. Marriage is not easy, it is a commitment, one worth fighting for. Again I chose love.

I often feel overwhelmed by having three small children so far away from what was a built in support system.  Here is my new truth. I am stronger and more fearless now than I ever felt I could be. I can navigate doctor appointments, grocery stores, school functions, practices with no back up or extra pair of hands. While this might seem trivial to some I assure you it is not. Grocery shopping with 3 cranky kids is some parents Mt. Everest. ( you know what I'm talking about fellow parents)
Despite having GPS, I cannot count the number of times the girls and I have gotten lost the last year trying to explore some new park or playground. While it is scary to have no clue where I am or where I'm going. I choose adventure.

Here is what I have learned this past year. Life is full of challenges, sad days, loneliness, and stress. Confronting challenges, gives us strength to face the next obstacle. Sad days make you appreciate the happy ones all the more. Being lonely, makes you more kind and open to others. Having stress in your life makes you enjoy those relaxing moments just a little more.

I want to set a good example for my girls and for myself really. So I choose to practice what I preach.  I chose to be positive. I choose happiness.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Once in a lifetime

Kevin and I have often joked that the Talking Heads song Once in a Lifetime is our theme song. Hence the title of this blog. In the past 5 years Kevin and I have had 3 children, purchased our first house, moved from Chicago to my home town of Chesterton, added to our menagerie of animals and I became a stay at home mom. As we are about to embark on the next stage of our adventure, We may ask ourselves "Well how did I get here" I'm not sure that the answer is ever clear but looking back on the past 5 years, I can tell you we have had a great time arriving. Those who know me, know how much I love having the photos tell the story. I have chosen some of my favorites. These past 5 years we have experienced, first steps, words, birthdays, days of school, best friends and Christmases. The list could go on and on.  Let us begin:

                                                First new addition to the new house:
First Backyard for first baby
First Halloween
First Steps and Christmas in new house
 First Birthday
Elizabeth becomes a big sister for the first time. Hello Abbie!
E's Second birthday and first new family photo!

 Abbie's first Halloween

 Abbie's first birthday!

Abbie becomes a big sister, Hello Sydney!

Elizabeth's first day of school
  First Best Friend
Rare moments when we are all together

The same but different
 My best friend since the 6th grade, living 2 min apart has been a treasure
Sydney's first Halloween
Sydney's first Christmas
Sydney's First birthday
Getting big
Great trip to the Dunes
One of the last family pictures, in our house

                We may ask ourselves "where does that highway go to"? I can't wait to find out.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Potty Training: Blessing or Curse?

In the Kelly household we are currently going through round two of potty training. In theory it seems like moving a kid out of diapers should be the best thing ever, these days I'm not so sure.

In keeping with my mindset, if I don't laugh I might cry,  I would like to share with you one of our more recent adventures.

To begin with Abbie was more than ready to start this process she was to the point of telling me "Mommy I'm pooping, you need to change my diaper" sometimes followed by (less than 10 min later) "Mommy, I did it again, change please"- OK kid you are ready.

From day one she had no issue going what we call "peeps" on the potty, literally a few hours in she could stop playing and let me know she had to go. 

The comedy, if we can call it that comes from first, her fear of using a public restroom and  second Sydney.

On a recent trip to the library Abbie declared in a rather panicked voice that she had to go potty. I had to round up all three girls and take them all into 1 stall that was the size of a postage stamp. After much shimmying the 4 of us crammed into the stall. Abbie was gripping onto me for dear life, convinced she was going to fall in because she didn't have her trusty Elmo potty seat.  As I'm trying to convince Abbie, she doesn't need Elmo, Elizabeth screams at the top of her lungs "MOOOOM Sydney is trying to escape". Sure enough I turn around and Sydney is trying to make a break for it under the stall door.  I yelled "Sydney" loud enough to get her attention and make her turn around. She looks me right in the eye, cocks her head, gives me her best impish grin and says "No".  I now have to let go of Abbie to grab for Sydney before she is completely off and running. This does not go well. Abbie begins shrieking at the top of her lungs. "I'm falling in, I'm falling in, I'm falling in". After securing Syd, I made Elizabeth the stalls official bouncer. We pinned Syd in the corner and E blocked her in. I am now completely drenched in sweat and trying not to cry at the insanity that has become my life.  I turn back to Abbie and try to convince her she is such a big girl and can go on this potty. After the 4 of us sing multiple renditions of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star we have success.

While I am so proud that my baby is becoming a big girl, I couldn't help but think for a millisecond, changing the diaper would have been ten thousand times easier.  I had to smile to myself thinking about all the recent diaper changes I had done for Abbie and wishing she would start going on the potty. Be careful what you wish for because it might just come true!