The Ask For Help

It was one of those days where you had to lean into the wind. Bend yourself into a C so you didn't get blown away. Coming out of the store, the wind blew so hard the cart swung left and gave my toddler two skinned knees. It picked up babygirl's blanket and blew it 30 feet away where it wrapped like a burrito around the metal poles of a stop sign. My hands were as full as my cart because there is never enough room, and as I squinted through my hair whipping around my face, I wasn't sure where to turn, what move to make next.

Every thing is worse when you can't see because of your stupid hair.

I saw someone approaching. A friendly face watched my struggle as she walked toward the doors.

All sorts of words lumped in my throat like a hunk of dried out playdough. I needed her. But it was so hard to admit it.

I swallowed the playdough, it went down with a burn, and in a moment of courage and insanity I asked, "I - I'm sorry, but would you mind helping me?"

She held the cart while I picked up my crying boy and ran to unwrap the cover. She was about to go inside but I was reckless with the ask and made it again, "Would you mind helping me to my car? I'm not sure I can make it with this crazy wind."

She told me, "Of course, I'd be happy to. I remember how it was." And we walked to the car with me awkwardly making small talk, the wind taking away every other word. 

We parted and I was left windblown, but grateful.

***

My mother always tells me that I have to ask for the help I need. People want to give it to you, but if you don't ask, how can they know what to give?

But why is it so hard to make the ask? 

I can't tell you the amount of times I've muttered frustrations under my breath as I've taken my children to appointments made for adults and they've screamed and cried and given everyone within 300 feet a headache. Or how how stressed and strung out I've been preparing the appetizer, main course and dessert for guests because I won't let others bring something. And it never fails that I try to carry all the grocery bags into the house in just one load, praying the bags don't break as the handles leave burn lines in my arms.

I am too proud, too stubborn, too scared to ask for the help I need. 

We are our own worst obstacle. 

We are our own best advocate. 

It is humbling and brave to ask for help. It goes against the grain to admit our weakness, our inability to succeed on our own, the reality that you in fact cannot. do. it. all. You never could before, but children have a way of making your struggle loud and glaring and exposed.

If there is anything we can learn from Gwyneth Paltrow and her "mother's special," it's that it takes trainers and nannies and stylists and managers and assistants, with a side of a whole lotta money, to get it all done.

We were not made to do it on our own. 

It takes a village.

So have courage and make the ask. 

Carry on, mommas

Six Things I've Learned While Living in Temporary Housing

This is our last week in the apartment we've been temporarily living in, and I couldn't be more excited! We've been here for seven weeks now and all told, it really hasn't been too bad. While the apartment doesn't have all the comforts of home, it truly does have all the necessities. Although I do have to say, they told me it was a "fully equipped kitchen" yet I don't even have measuring cups and had to put in a "special request" for a baking dish and cookie sheet ...  BUT. Get over this: I HAVE A MAID. That's right, these hands haven't cleaned a toilet in TWO MONTHS. Seriously, I'm addicted to this maid-thing. Every other Wednesday morning, I pack the kids up and we burn two hours so we can have someone come in and scrub the bacon grease off the oven and the toothpaste out of the sinks. Every time I get down on living in temp housing I just have to remember one thing: the MAID. And all is well again.

But even with all the maid-perks, I'm so ready to be done living in transition and to complete the final leg of this move. It feels like we've been so transient these past four months with our lives in so much upheaval, it'll be nice to begin to put down roots and feel like there are no (foreseeable) changes in the future.

All said and done, this has honestly been some of the hardest, most difficult months of my life, but I've learned and grown so much through it all. I'm still processing a lot of what has happened, (and has yet to happen) but here are a few things I've learned from living in temporary housing:
  1. You really can live with less. Our apartment is actually the same size as our old house (1,500 square feet), and it claims to be "fully furnished" - a table and four chairs; a couch, club chair and coffee table; two beds, two dressers and two side tables and a handful of basics in the kitchen. Everything else we brought with us in just two cars. Which means we really don't have much. And you know what? I don't really miss my stuff all that much. Sure, every once in a while I'll wish I had a throw blanket to take a nap with on the couch, or I'll wish I had a tray to hold my jewelry so I didn't knock it off the side table at night, or how nice it would be to grate my cheese with a food processor instead of a 4"x2" grater, (Yes, that is its actual size, I measured it. Do you know how long it takes me to make a quesadilla?) But small annoyances aside, I'm amazed by how little we have here at the apartment and how really, we have everything we need. 
  2. But at the same time, sometimes all that stuff is pretty great. At the risk of sounding super materialistic, I've also come to appreciate all the things we have in storage right now. Pretty art to rest my eyes on, a glass vase to put flowers in, and my favorite coffee mug to use in the morning. While those things are not necessities, somehow, they make the day-to-day more enjoyable. I've written before about how we're hardwired to be drawn to beauty and living in this apartment with a sterile hotel-like environment is anything but beautiful. While I can live here, I don't enjoy living here. I don't like spending time here because, honestly it's not a very nice place to spend time in. Living in temporary housing for two months has made me really appreciate all of the wonderful "extras" I've been blessed with and to remember that often it's the small things in life that can make a big difference in your attitude and perspective. It's those personalized touches that takes a place from just being somewhere to sleep to being someone's home.
  3. Garbage bags and duct tape are pretty much the best things ever invented. Since it's spring, the sun rises at an hour no one should be up at, and temporary apartments aren't really designed with children in mind. We have a two bedroom apartment - Colette sleeps in our closet in a portable bassinet and Eli sleeps in the guest room. The first thing we did to his room was throw garbage bags over his windows with duct tape. Now the kid has no idea if it's day or night in his room - giving him the best chance at sleeping late as possible. I'm seriously considering just doing this to his room in our new house too. The sleep is just soooo good. 
  4. I have finally learned the secret to a picked up house. (Please note I didn't say "clean" - although the answer to that is above - MAID.) Ever since we said yes to moving five days after Colette was born, our lives have been insane. But you know what? Our old house always stayed fairly organized and picked up, even with all the chaos of preparing for a move. But here at the apartment? For a long time it was in a constant state of mess and disarray and it was driving me nuts. Then one day it dawned on me - nothing has a true "home." We don't have coat hooks, so the coats go on the floor by the patio door. We don't have an office area so our mail/printer/paperwork all ends up on the kitchen counter, and we don't have a true linen closet so all our bathroom stuff stays on the counters. About four weeks into our stay, I pulled a few boxes out from the move and put them around the house as catch-alls. Now we have a box for coats and hats by the door, toiletries and towels by the sink and a box in the dining room for paperwork. It's not pretty, but it works. I know it sounds like a no brainer, like something everyone knows and does naturally, but I never realized how important it is for everything to have a "home" in order for your house to not become a cluttered mess until I lived in temporary housing.
  5. I am totally going to rock a capsule wardrobe from here on out. As I'm still trying to lose all the baby weight from Colette, I only brought the clothes that fit when we moved, which means I've been wearing a capsule wardrobe this entire time - eight shirts/sweaters, two cardigans, three pairs of pants, one pair of shorts and three pairs of shoes. And that includes pajamas and lounge wear. Literally. Seventeen pieces. That's ALL I have.  I have more underwear than shirts here at the apt. But you know what? It's been pretty great. I don't like putting too much thought or time into my appearance in the morning and this unintentional capsule wardrobe has helped me keep my wardrobe decisions to a minimum. I am all about the momiform, and these last two months have taught me that while a capsule wardrobe can seem a bit intimidating it's not too hard in practice. 
  6. Every time we pull into our apartment complex, Eli shouts "Home!" from his carseat. Not only is it adorable, it's a great reminder for me that home is wherever you make it. Yep, it's the cheesey "lesson learned," but I have to say it. More than ever, I'm realizing just how important family is and how unimportant stuff is. I'll be the first to admit that I always know the right answer, but my life doesn't always live it out. Sometimes, I can get so caught up in my surroundings and wanting to be comfortable and cute and put together that I forget what really matters - that my family is together, safe and loved - and wherever we are together, well, that's home. 
This apartment and this situation, it may be temporary, but the lessons learned are not. There are a lot of growing pains happening on this side of the computer, and honestly, the list above doesn't even scratch the surface. But I know it's good for me - giving me perspective, insight and a mindset I wouldn't have had if I hadn't been forced out of my comfort zone. But I have to be honest, I'm ready to be DONE learning from temp housing and get into our new house - now I just have to figure out a way to get to keep the maid ...

ps. The winner of the Stella & Dot giveaway is Laura Ruch. Laura, check your email for a note from me to claim your prize!

Worth Sharing

"Do I sometimes look at Gisele Bundchen and wonder how awesome life would be if I never had to wear Spanx? Duh, of course." 10 Beauty Tips from Smart Women. 

The Fascinating, Never-Ending Job of Painting the Golden Gate Bridge. Yes. It really is fascinating! I've never thought about it before. 

This pretty much summarizes my entire struggle with blogging. "But I’m realizing that when I decide what to write—and not write—about, it’s not just about whose story it is to tell. That question has an equally important corollary: whose story is it to hear?" There are SO many things I would love to write about here but for various reasons are left off the screen. I try to be intentional about not painting a perfect picture of my life on the internet but as the article says, my life online vs my real life is HIGHLY edited. Often, I'll wait two or three months after something has happend to even write about it, just so I can be sure I'm not writing impulsively and sharing something I'll regret later. And even if you don't have a blog, this is still an important idea to consider in how we use Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social platforms. Food for thought. 

Woah. One company raises their minimum wage to 70k a year. Where was that when I was first starting out in my job? 

For my local homies - a Mpls blogger wrote about taking the train from the Twin Cities to Chicago. My husband and I are already planning on taking it back to Minny in a year or two when Eli can appreciate it a bit. You all should do it to - then come visit me!

I never did get the coveted American Girl doll growing up. I wanted Flelicity of course - because she rode horses like a BOSS. Penny was pretty much my dream hose. I had all her books, but I never was able to swindle my parents into buying me the actual doll. But this made me sad, I had no idea American Girl had fallen so far!

This. This is what I learned from my parents and I hope and pray I can pass on to my children:  "Nothing can take the place of simply living as a Christian in view of my children ... For all the good things my parents did for me, I believe that the most important was simply living as Christians before me. I don’t think anything shaped or challenged me more than that." via: The Most Important Thing My Parents Did.

And if you haven't yet, don't forget to enter the Stella & Dot giveaway - right over here. 

Mom Style + Stella & Dot Giveaway!

When it comes to getting ready in the morning, I'm a minimalist. With Colette still waking up around 5 or 6 a.m. to nurse, and Eli typically waking up for the day raring to go at 7 a.m., I don't have much mental energy, let alone time, to put into my appearance. I have a total momiform: skinny jeans, a tee and a cardi are my go-to's, and if I remember, I'll throw some makeup on over the old stuff - that's right, I don't even wash my face at night, only when I shower. And since my tiny dictators give me pretty much no time to shower EVER, I tend to shower about every four days in the evening, when my husband is home. My weekly hair routine goes something like this:  

  • Day one: Hair down with (some) effort 
  • Day two: Hair down with no effort (AKA, I ran a comb through it)
  • Day three: Hair up in a sock bun 
  • Day four: ONE BIG HOT MESS

And I gotta be honest, now that I don't know anyone here in Chicago, I have most definitely worn the same combination of jeans/tee/cardi not one, not two, not three, but FOUR days in a row. Heck, I'd wear it seven days of the week, but I figure if I'm going to shower on that fourth day, I should at least put on clean clothes. 

I'm also a minimalist when it comes to jewelry. It's like I want to try with jewelry, but I can never seem to get it right: I don't really know how to combine more than one piece together, my ears usually hurt if I wear big earrings, heck, my neck has even started to hurt when I've worn a big statement necklace - apparently I have a weak neck and ears? And really, I just don't want to think a lot when it comes to accessories.

So when my friend and cousin-in-law, Kim and I started chatting about her new gig as an independent stylist for Stella & Dot, I was intrigued. Stella & Dot is big on wearing one piece multiple ways and they have a lot of great classic, staple pieces that my minimalist, mom-self was drawn to. 

Plus, Kim is probably the most fashionable person I know. Seriously. I've known her for years and she's always the best dressed anywhere we are. She graduated with a degree in fashion merchandising and even worked for my oh, so, beloved Target Corporate in apparel merchandising. 

Do you ever have those friends where you're like, "How am I friends with her again? She's too cool for me." That's Kim. 

See what I'm talking about? 
Anytime I need to get dressed up, I look in my closet and try to channel my inner Kim - wondering, "What would Kim wear?" (And she has an awesome Instagram account to answer that exact question - follow her!)

Kim is now a stay-at-home mom back in Ames, Iowa (Yay Ames!) to the two most adorable little girls and working with Stella & Dot part time. I mean, just look at those three:
So when Kim said she would style me in a few Stella & Dot pieces, I couldn't refuse! Since she knows me well, she already knew that I'd be looking for super simple and easy to wear pieces. To style me, I sent her pics of me in my main two momiforms: the jeans/tee/cardi and the jeans/fancy top for an "event" (Bible study, date night, church, etc.) I also requested that she include an initial necklace in her styling, as Eli had ripped my old one off my neck in a moment of gusto and broke the chain, so I was in the market for a new one. 

And here's what she picked for me: (I'm seriously nervous right now and I haven't even hit publish on this post. If you can't tell, getting in front of the camera on the blog isn't really my thing, heck, getting in front of the camera at all isn't my thing, but I'm working on it.  But of course, I still had to take pics with my super cute children to help take the focus off me. Also, please note, these photos were taken on Day One Hair. It's as good as it gets, folks.)

Up there with Colette I'm wearing the Cleopatra Studs, Engravable Bar (it says "E | M | C" and it is my FAVORITE piece she sent, I've worn it pretty much every day since I got it!) and the Rebel Pendant Necklace. Also, please note Colette's elbow dimple.

Below with Eli I'm wearing the déjà vu studs (which are reversible and amazing) and the Rebel Cluster Necklace. 

I love that she sent jewelry that could all be interchanged and worked perfectly for my mom-life. To be honest, at first, I wasn't sure if the Rebel Pendant would work since I'm nursing - I tend to be super annoyed by things getting in the way, but since it has a nice weight to it, I can just move it off to the side and it stays there. Also, I love that she included such interesting studs - again, I don't like anything dangling that my kids can rip right out of my ears, and these are perfect for being streamlined, yet add interest to my outfits. 

I think the any of these Stella & Dot pieces would be perfect as a Mother's Day gift (It's less than two weeks away, can you believe it?), especially the engravable necklaces! And they have super fast 3-4 day shipping, so you still have time to leave a tab on the computer open and subtly hint to your hubby ... 

And good news -  today, Kim wants to give one of YOU a piece of Stella & Dot jewelry! Just enter the giveaway below to win your choice of a wishing bracelet - my favorite is the arrow!

Plus, as I mentioned, Kim lives back in my hometown of Ames, Iowa and I know there are LOTS of Ames/Des Moines readers here! If you book a trunk show with Kim for the month of June, you'll receive a $20 product credit to use towards anything you want - jewelry, scarves, bags, wallets, anything! Just let her know you found her through Oakland Avenue. She's seriously amazing at styling - you'll love her parties! (Contact her via email: kimjojensen(at)gmail.com)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Two Under Two: Always One Step Behind

When I had just one kid, I could usually stay one step ahead of him. Not including the newborn stage of course - that stage was cloudy, foggy and downright blinding. I was at least ten steps behind and probably not even on the right path. (But that story is over here, if you want to read it.) This story, what I'm trying to say, is with my son, I could fairly easily make progress each day. Beyond putting dinner on the table and keeping up with housework, I utilized nap times for DIY projects, planning a Pinterest-worthy first birthday party and getting all the other to-do's and to-like-to-do's crossed off the list. Sure, my world still revolved around him, but I just moved him around so my orbit could easily get everything done. He was my side-kick. My buddy. My partner in crime. There wasn't anything we couldn't get done in a day (barring sickness or teething - if you had that, well, all bets were off).

But life with two? I'm trying, I really am - but I am always, and forever will be, one step behind. It's one of those things that with each task, I have a decision: I can unload the dishwasher or supervise the toddler while he "plays" with the baby. If I choose to unload the dishwasher, I will find my toddler feeding the newborn's wide-open, bird-like mouth, mulch and poisonous berries while humming "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star." (Can you say creepy?) Or, let's try another example: I can try to beat the clock by bringing in all the cold groceries from the car on a hot day, only to make the newborn irate from hunger and giving the toddler time to dig through the trash for a train he threw in there, dumping coffee grounds, spoiled food and diapers all over the floor.

Basically, if I'm to get anything done during the day, one of two things will inevitably happen. One: The toddler gets into mischief making a giant mess that probably nearly kills the newborn - and of course, I'll need to do double time to clean up while he "helps." (And we all know a toddler helping ain't really any help at all.) Or two: Both kids end up bawling.

And honestly, I don't really like either option.

Over the past month or so, I've juuuust started getting them both napping on the same(ish) schedule and while it helps, usually I'm so zonked by the time the greatness of Nap Utopia comes around, all I wanna do is pour myself another round (Of coffee of course!) and zone out to social media/tv/a blank wall/anything that will turn my brain turn to mush. I'm learning to try to use at least that first 1/2 hour to hour of the nap to be productive and give the apartment a quick blitz, fold some laundry and make sure the meat is de-thawed for dinner, but after that, I give myself some much needed downtime. Honestly, all bets are off for how long the kids will sleep after that first hour, so at least if they wake I'll feel a little more prepared for the afternoon.

It's not to say there are no moments where both kids are happy and I can zip around getting things done. Just yesterday in fact, Eli played on the patio with Colette (She just sat like a vegetable on her bouncer - but he seems to like to hand her things on her face, so let's call it "playing.") for a solid half hour while I cleaned the kitchen and started dinner while watching them out of the corner of my eye. I suppose I just want to take a bit of time to recognize that - and recognize that I know it'll get easier as they continue to play more and get a bit older.

But right now, I'm learning to be content being one step behind. As I sit here and type this, I'm staring a laundry basket that needs folding, non-refridgerated groceries and toiletries that need put away from this morning's trip to Target, three dirty diapers and a couple boxes of new diapers that are needed to restock our empty stash - and I even used the first half of nap time to be productive. (I know, I can hardly believe that myself.) Today, I'm a whole lot more than one step behind and the old, mom-of-one me would really, really, really struggle with it. But these days, I'm learning to embrace it.

I'm learning to take each task slow, expecting interruptions, setbacks and delays and to lower my expectations for what each day looks like. When I was a mom of one, Eli and I could get a whole lot done in a day. Sine he was so young, he was content to just hang with me and do what I did, and since he was my world, I could easily give him all my attention and meet his needs in a heartbeat. But with two, I'm divided, bouncing from one need to the next, babygirl, Eli, the house. Plus, now that Eli's older, he has a whole lot of wants that he loves to make known in the loudest way possible that plays into a day too.

So, if I choose to take the kids to run out and be productive by picking paint colors and new hardware for the new house and stop at a park afterwards to make my toddler's day, I may not have time to clean up breakfast or fold laundry or unload the car until nap time, and that's okay. Nobody sees it but me. The dishes can wait. The laundry can wait. The bags from our errands can wait. The dirty diapers on the floor can't wait though - GET THAT STANK OUTTA THE HOUSE.

I'm okay with being one step behind, because I'm one step behind for two pretty wonderful reasons.

pssst. The winner of the Little Tikes Scooter Giveaway is Thao Habeck! Thao, check your email for a note from me to redeem your prize. And everyone else, get excited, because Little Tikes wants to do MORE giveaways with Oakland Avenue for all of YOU - so you'll have more chances to win awesome toys in the future!

When You Want To Be More Than A Mediocre Mom

I think I'm a five. I've always been a five. Well, I was probably a three and a half in jr. high, but I don't really like to count those years. Over there in that picture on the left, I might be a six, but black and white and strategically chosen filters will usually bump you up a point.

My whole life, I've always been pretty average at things. Never great, never the best, but okay. I pick up new skills fairly quickly, but I also plateau quickly. Let's just say I seem to have a lot of beginner's luck.

To be really honest, I've always wanted so badly to be the best at something. To be good - no, to be great - at anything. And for a hot minute there I thought that thing might be motherhood.

But then I literally ran my son over with my Target shopping cart right in the main aisle in front of ALL THE PEOPLE. I was leaning in to soothe my crying, well screaming, three month old, while simultaneously pushing the cart and the next thing I know, my cart hits a bump and my two year old is splayed across the tile, crying and lying on the ground while clutching his "Planes" fruit snacks for dear life. Of course, at the moment of impact, half of the stuff on the bottom of the cart flies off and we become just a massive, crying roadblock for everyone to gawk at.

It was in that moment that I knew - I am not and would not be good at this motherhood thing. This will not be the thing that I am finally, finally great at.

It's par for the course of my life that I'd be the mediocre mom.

***

I get out of the shower later that evening, just before my husband puts my son to bed for the night. We meet in the hallway, each of us going to our rooms. As I lean in to kiss my son goodnight he says, "Momma! So fun! Momma pretty. Wuve you foreva momma."

And even after all of that today, I think he means it.

And it's sort of amazing.

***

I have a pretty lame reading voice. And I guarantee you'd never want me to sing you to sleep. When I make pancakes, I can never seem to get a clean flip, one side is alway folded and mangled, extra thick and a little bit doughy. If I drew you a cow, you'd probably think it was tractor or a car or well, probably just a blob. I have a very limited imagination when it comes to playing with Mega Blocks (Wanna see another tower?!?), I tend to always forget hats or gloves on the most cold days, and I trip over my words and make no sense when trying to tie the gospel into discipline.

BUT. The thing is. The most amazing, marvelous, wonderful thing is: My kids have absolutely no idea how good or bad of a mom I am!

Because they've never had another mother! They have nothing to compare me to! They have no frame of reference! To them, this mediocre mom is not just an average mom - I am an AWESOME mom. To them, I am THE BEST mom. I'm fun! Pretty! Loved forever!


And even if - okay, when - someday they grow up and go off to school and I embarrass the heck out of them because I'm the loudest mom on the class field trip that brought cupcakes that taste like cardboard - they'll know they can't do any better than me. Literally, I'M THE BEST MOM THEY'VE EVER HAD.

And my best is good enough for them.

Sure, there will be times that I'll plow my kid over with my shopping cart, drive home wondering why my daughter is fussing only to find her with her headband covering her eyes, sit and stare while my toddler throws The Most Dramatic Tantrum You've Ever Seen because I have no idea what to do or how to stop him and am just sorta fascinated by how he can keep going and going and going - but we'll figure it all out, dust ourselves off, and survive - and that night I'll sing both of them to sleep with a voice they think is better than Adele's. I'll find my son running around with a random pair of scissors and nearly drop my daughter when putting her in a sling when she body spasms, but later that day we'll have a snuggle/tickle/giggle session that will fill all our love tanks. I'll forget their hats on a walk but we'll have a blast jumping in puddles and singing random numbers to the tune of the ABC's. We'll crawl like alligators on the ground but accidentally give ourselves enormous carpet burns so it will all end in tears and tantrums and Momma Doesn't Know How The Fun Turned Sour So Fast.

But I'm trying and it's enough for them.

I'll make mistakes. I won't be perfect. I won't be the best mother, or probably even a great mother.

I'll likely always be mediocre. Stumbling and fumbling my way through this motherhood gig getting very few things right or doing hardly anything well.

But isn't it great how that is enough for our children? They love us exactly as we are. Which is honestly, absolutely amazing - and should be a huge load off our shoulders.

We can only be ourselves. We can only offer them exactly who we are. And that is enough for them.

You enough for them.

I am enough for them.

And if that is mediocre, that's exactly what I want to be.

Like this post? I share a whole lot more on this motherhood gig over on Facebook (Oakland Avenue) and Instagram (@laurawifler) and I'd love it if you followed along!