I write birthday letters to my children every year. It’s just something that I do. It’s probably a bit of therapy for me to be able to reflect, in writing, on who they are becoming and what makes them special individually. This year, I’m choosing to write about myself.
This has been a hard year for me. So many things have turned upside down. It’s funny because I appear so open on social media and I think people have an idea that they really know me. In fact, I’m pretty private. If something means a lot to me or is very special to me, I won’t post about it at all. Only about a third of my life is lived online, believe it or not. And, in this past year, it’s been the third of my life – the stuff that I keep to myself that has seemingly come unraveled and taken me with it in some ways.
I had a life-shift of sorts around March. A friend of mine lost a close friend of hers; we were around the same age. In reflecting upon how my time was being spent, I had a life shift. My priorities were very much out of whack. I was devoting time to things that in the end would never matter (or not much matter). Giving the most of my energy to people who didn’t require it. And spending time doing things that I didn’t really enjoy only because I’d always done them.
I ran across this saying on Pinterest a few weeks back, it perfectly described what has happened with me over the past year.
One morning she woke up different. Done with trying to figure out who was with her, against her, or walking down the middle because they didn’t have the guts to pick a side. She was done with anything that didn’t bring her peace. She realized that opinions were a dime a dozen, validation was for parking, and loyalty wasn’t a word, but a lifestyle. It was this day that her life changed. And not because of a man, or a job, but because she realized that life is way too short to leave the key to your happiness in someone else’s pocket.
It has taken a lot of getting used to, this life shift. Saying “no” to things that I’m not interested in or that won’t bring peace. Giving myself the freedom to say “yes” to new opportunities. (How exciting!) And, looking for the joy in all things and in all situations.
I lost my grandfather last month. As we prepared for his funeral with the pastors and our family, I knew that I wanted to leave just as big of a legacy behind. I saw glimpses of myself in so many of the stories that were told about him. I had never considered that growing up glued to his side had such an influence on me beyond the love that I was constantly shown. It was another reminder to be so careful and so cautious of how my time is spent.
I love the last line of the mantra that I shared above: “Life is way too short to leave the key to your happiness in someone else’s pocket.” So, here in year 44, that’s the line that I’m most focusing on. When I’m happy, I can take better care of everyone that I love and that’s the legacy that I want to work toward in this stage of my life. But, if I put the key to my happiness in anyone’s pocket but my own, that can’t happen.
Words of wisdom from a 44 year old wife and mom: Love big. Don’t be afraid of change. Give second chances. Give the biggest chunks of your time to your biggest priorities.
In July, I took Piper to New York for a week of dance. It was her first trip to the city and I really looked forward to seeing her experience everything that NYC has to offer. On our first full day, we ventured to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. I don’t think either of us expected that this day would have such an emotional affect on us.
It’s easy to say where you were when the tragedy of 9/11 happened. It will forever be etched in our minds, much like the assassination of JFK is for our parents. I didn’t know anyone personally affected or that lost a loved one on 9/11, so it has been easy for me to simply pay respect to the day each year and move forward without an attachment.
One visit to the 9/11 museum has changed me. I’ll admit, embarrassingly, that museums are not my thing. I find them interesting, sure … but to spend an entire day at a museum is not on my list of things to do. Or on Piper’s list for that matter. (My husband and son are the complete opposite!) Piper and I entered the museum and thought we would just do a walk through. We could not get enough … and stayed until the afternoon.
For me, as an adult that vividly remembers the day of September 11, 2001, I can go right back to that time in my life. But, for Piper, who wasn’t even born, it was new. The fact that a group of people did this on purpose was baffling in her mind. She read every sign, every plate, looked at every piece of scrap – trying to make sense of it all.
We spent most of our time in the hall where the museum features photos of every person that lost their life on 9/11. There are some interactive boards that allow you to find out more about the individual and even a small glimpse into how they came into the path of tragedy on that day. Putting names with faces and stories was absolutely heart wrenching. It seemed unfair to not click on every photo to learn more. As a mom, I wanted to hear everyone’s story – almost like it paid a form of respect to their families.
So many young lives. So many beautiful stories. So many accolades and tremendous accomplishments. Our country lost a lot of remarkable people.
There was also an area where you could hear audio recordings from first responders and people who were in the towers during the attacks. You heard first hand their stories of how they attempted to save people, or how they tried to escape, and what they saw. There is also so much in the way of memorabilia from the day. Fire trucks, the door of an airplane, bent steel from where a plane entered one of the towers. To see it in person is just mind-blowing. The heat of the flames, the force of entry, the magnitude of the loss is impossible to put into words.
Piper is a very happy soul. She’s a people-lover and does a tremendous job of seeing the good in everyone. Going through the museum with her, explaining some of the things she was reading, and watching as we got further into the story and knowing that she was understanding the concept of terrorism crushed my soul. I have always tried to shield my kids, and probably moreso Piper, from the meanness of the world. But, there’s no shielding or fluffing up of what happened on September 11. She left heavy and so did I.
After we left the museum, we went to lunch and it was hard to find words for what we had seen. Like so many places in the world, you really need to see it for yourself. Your life and your outlook on so many things will change with just one visit to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. Allow yourself the time to really take it in and do it justice, for yourself and for the families of those who lost their lives.
Our family was new to Houston when Hurricane Ike hit in 2008. We had just moved into a new home and had two young children. We struggled with whether to stay in our house and monitor the situation, or to head north toward familiar land and watch from afar via TV. In the end, we decided to stay. Hurricane Ike came ashore as a Category 2 (nearly a Category 3) storm and we swore that we would never stay with a storm stronger then that, but here we are “hunkering down” and ready for Hurricane Harvey! With that said, though, here are some easy last minute hurricane tips for you and your kids.
Pull out the candles. In our home, we rarely use candles. We have a box of candles that only come out at Christmas and special occasions. Not only will candles provide light if you lose power, but they are also relaxing and give a calm aura.
Get out the glow necklaces and bracelets. We weren’t sure how long we would be without electricity when Ike came ashore. When the power goes out during the night, it becomes strangely black. So, we put glow bracelets on each child so that (a) we could find them and (b) they might not panic.
Have a safe place. Hurricane Harvey isn’t predicted to bring sustained bad winds for the Houston area. But, just in case, make sure you have a closet or another safe place where you can go. In our house, we have a closet that runs under the stairway. If there’s an emergency or a tornado (those can spark from Hurricane winds), we’ll head to the closet. We put our daycare nap mats and a bag of toys/stuffed animals in the closet during Ike. The kids played in the closet and took their naps in there because it was fun! Anything you can do that makes the storm less scary for kids – do it!
Think past bottled water. Yes, you need bottled water. But, more then that, you need water to flush the toilet. Fill your bathtub(s) and every pitcher/container that you have with water. Then, should your water supply be cut off – you can still flush!
Get cash today. It’s good to have some cash on hand during events like this. If you are like me and NEVER have any cash, stop by an ATM and get some. If you lose power, the ATMs won’t work – and you might need to pay for something along the way.
Make it a game for the kids. Storms can be scary, especially once the photos of devastation come across the airwaves. If you live inland like me, the first photos will make the news before the storm has come across my suburb. We took the kids outside and let them feel the wind in their hair, buy a rain gauge and let them track the rainfall, whatever you can do to make them feel included and a part of the preparation (fill pitchers, organize flashlights, etc.)
Keep your shoes handy. God forbid you need to leave your house in a hurry, but if so, you don’t want to only be able to find flip flops. If that case were to arise, you want tennis shoes or the like. We will line up our tennis shoes in the entry hall so they are handy if we need them.
Use the eyes of your pet. Finally, as funny as it may be, look at things through the eyes of your pet. Whatever is near to the floor — 0-24″ ground level — would you be ok losing it? That’s what you are looking at losing if flood waters enter your home.
What is your hurricane tip? I’d love to hear how you are preparing for the storm!
For many years, our family has used a shared calendar that was web and app-based. Our schedules with work and kids rivals any family that I’ve ever seen. We must have a product that is easy to use, available on desktop, tablet, and mobile (app). A quick search introduced me to Picniic.
My essentials in looking for a shared calendar are:
Easy to use
Color-coded for each family member
Still in active development (I want a product that will continue to be updated)
Push notifications for reminders
Picniic is a next-generation family organizer built with the goal of being the ‘operating system for the family home.’ It serves as a family management dashboard that brings all your activities, tasks and data together in one place, keeping everyone organized and on the same page.
In a nutshell, Picniic has a shared calendar (every family member has their own color); a family locator tool (think “Find My iPhone”); a meal planner, a to-do list, a shopping list, special event calendar (which syncs birthdays and anniversaries onto the shared calendar), and a family info locker where you can store key information like your medical details and other household information.
We have now successfully moved all of our family to Picniic and I’m very happy using it. It’s nice for all of us to have the latest updates – for every member of the family – right in the palm of our hands! No more “Mom, can I have a sleepover on Friday night? Am I busy?” My response is always the same – “Check Picniic!”
I admit that I often struggle with meal planning because it’s such a hassle. The Picniic app is loaded with recipes that are awesome. Type in an ingredient or a common recipe and it pops right up in the palm of your hand. The best part – one simple click at the bottom of the recipe and you can add all of the ingredients to your shopping list! As if that wasn’t good enough, you can also add your own personal or family recipes into the recipe binder. That is super helpful and actually makes it more of a reality that I will meal plan, and come home with every ingredient needed from the grocery store!
Picniic is free to use online or via app, but their are portions that are available by subscription. (I paid $50 for a year.) My suggestion is that you download the free version and use it for a few weeks and see what you think. I used it regularly for nearly a month and was sold!
I am not a Picniic affiliate, but I do love this product.
The movie Cars debuted on my son Avery’s 3rd birthday. My husband and I had seen the trailer months before and knew that Avery would love it … and what better way to celebrate being 3 then to go to a big theater and watch a movie about something you love – CARS! We had no idea when we stepped foot into that theater how the movie would change our lives.
Avery fell in love with Cars. I can’t even put into words how much he loved everything about the movie. The characters, the music, the storyline – our family lived and breathed every minute of the film over and over. One of my fondest childhood memories of Avery is hearing him sing “Life is a Highway” from the Cars soundtrack. His little voice with the perfect mimic of the inflection from Rascal Flatts – it was like a little angel was singing it.
We have had Lightning McQueen birthday parties, Sally birthday parties, Christmases filled with every Cars toy manufactured that year … If it has been made with the Cars logo, I feel confident in saying that we own it.
In April, our family was invited to attend an event called Cars 3: Road to the Races tour. We were excited to see what the new movie would bring and – fingers crossed – we were set to again become the biggest fans of the film.
At the event, we were able to take photos with the new characters and see a trailer of the film. Take a peak:
My husband and son were lucky enough to get to screen the movie on behalf of StephanieClick.com earlier this week. They were blown away at every aspect of the film with my husband even admitting that he teared up a couple of times.
My son, Avery, said “The visuals were stunning, especially the mud. The movie brought us many new characters, who each had their own story to tell. The introduction of each character and place was added in seamlessly and expertly. It brought out emotions I hadn’t seen from Pixar since the original Cars movie. The settings were both visually and emotionally pleasing. I can’t wait to see it again!”
As far as the music, my husband raved about the soundtrack. (It’s available now on Amazon!)
Here’s the jist of the film: Lightning McQueen is back on the big screen, but he’s not a rookie anymore. Blindsided by a new general on of blazing-fast racers, the legendary Piston-Cup champion finds himself suddenly pushed out of the sport he loves. “The next-gen racers are cool,” says director Brian Fee. “You can see instantly that cars like Jackson Storm are effortlessly fast. We designed these younger, faster cars to be sleek and aerodynamic—and they’re a sharp contrast to Lightning McQueen.
While Lightning is still the same self-assured, determined and fun loving race car audiences fell in love with, his confidence is being tested by the new cars on the track. “When we first met Lightning McQueen, he was a young rookie—a superhero,” says Fee. “He had his whole life ahead of him. And while he’s done well since we last saw him, he’s not a young hotshot racer anymore. We kept circling the idea of what happens when an athlete like Lightning is in the twilight of his career.
Enter Cruz Ramirez. Tasked with getting Lightning McQueen back on track after a devastating setback, Cruz isn’t shy. Her training style is high-tech, enthusiastic and steadfast—she’s not afraid to apply a little tough love. But there’s more to Cruz than meets the eye. “I love Cruz’s story,” says co-producer Andrea Warren. “She’s such an admirable, likable character. She’s so passionate about racing and her role to create champions. The movie isn’t just about Lightning McQueen—it’s Cruz’s story, in many ways.”
As a mom, I love the fact that there are so many great characters for our kids (and now teens) to fall in love with. This is a movie that everyone can enjoy, laugh, cry and identify with. We need more movies like Cars 3! Although it’s just mid-June, I feel safe labeling this as the “Must-See Movie of the Summer of 2017“!
Another year older and another year of “I can not believe that you are 14.” I know that I sound like a broken record. But, when I’m at a loss for words, I often just revert back to what I know is true and for this circumstance, it’s that I can’t believe you are 14.
So, on this, your 14th birthday, I thought I would list the 14 things that I love about you!
Avery, you are one smart cookie and we’ve known this since you were a little baby. You have always been so curious about the world around you – how things worked, why they worked. Although you have proven yourself to me over and over academically, I’m still so proud. High school will be a tough one. Your schedule the next four years could, quite possibly, be harder then some years of college. Just know when the going gets tough that I don’t care AT ALL what your grades are – YOU are the smartest person I know and nothing will make me think differently.
You wake up with the sun every day. If we believed in past lives, I would think that one of yours had to have been farmer. Getting up early will serve you well in life. There is so much of the day that I miss by laying in bed. I admire that you get up and get going — even if it is only to watch TV. It’s still a great habit to have.
I’m excited that you are sticking with band. You have no idea what you are in for. The friends that you will make over the next 4 years and the experiences that you have will shape your future in ways that you will never expect. And, let’s face it – it’s fun. Friday night football games, contests, trips … I can’t wait for you to experience it all.
I know that I don’t get to pick your future career, but I still think that you would be an amazing vet. You absolutely love Gidget and trust me, the feeling is mutual. If I leave with you, drop you off, then come home without you – she runs outside looking for you. It’s the sweetest. You and Piper found her at the shelter and it was an immediate bond. I know that you’ll always have a dog in your life and that makes me happy.
I know I’ve mentioned in previous years that I love your sense of humor, but I really do. You always get a joke and it doesn’t matter if it’s dry humor, sarcasm, or slapstick – you get it and you laugh with your entire body! It’s impossible not to laugh along with you.
You definitely got my television gene and I’m sure you’ve watched way too many hours in your 14 years of life. With the onset of the DVR generation, like most families, we have the shows that we like to watch together. You will not watch them without all of us being there. (Piper is the same way.) We don’t have a lot of time together as a family, so I appreciate that you value that time & know that it’s something that is special.
Avery, you were born to two Type A parents. We like things done the way we like things done. We are outspoken and overspoken to an absolute fault. We are loud, pushy, and sometimes impossible to deal with. And, I absolutely thank the Lord that you are everything that we are not. You are compassionate, a think-before-you-speak person, full of kindness … I want to be more like you.
You will kill me for writing this, but you have the most perfect, beautifully arched eyebrows; the longest eyelashes; and the fast growing fingernails I have ever seen. Woman pay thousands each year to get eyebrows, eyelashes, and nails like yours. I’ll stop there because I know you are sick of me talking about this! (One of the questions I have for God is why the boys always get the great eyelashes!!!)
You love your downtime. I have no idea how to relax – you could sit and read for a week straight and be perfectly content. You can go days at a time in the summer and never leave the house. You will bounce from reading, to playing PS4, to bingeing Netflix – and be happy as a lark. I envy that about you!
You love your family and you love everyone equally. You value your time with me, your dad, and Piper, as well as each of your grandparents. I especially love how you support Piper in everything that she does. It’s been so great to watch, as your mom, as you have been such a fan of your sister through the years. (And she’s your biggest fan too, just so you know!)
You are the BEST traveler. Roadtrip, flights, Disney, the beach – you make every vacation fun. You can go 24/7 when on vacation and I love it! From roller coasters to water slides, you are an awesome vacation partner!
A lot of people probably don’t know that you are very artistic. You can draw so well. It’s fascinating to watch how you see color, shading, and light. I don’t have this gift at all. You see the world and every shape with a different lense. What a gift.
Well you are 14. I’ve mentioned that if I had $1 for every time you’ve rolled your eyes this year, I would be laying on a beach in Hawaii. But, you never roll your eyes in disgust. You roll your eyes when your dad and I think we are being cool or funny … and we clearly are neither most of the time. But, never you worry, we’ll keep trying!
Most 14 year olds probably don’t appreciate luxury, but you – my child – certainly do. And, since I’m as cheap and Wal-Mart-esque as they come, I can assure you that this trait did not come from me. Bacon Wrapped Filet at Pappa’s Steakhouse – your favorite; 1st class seats on United – they call your name; Behind the scenes tours at Cirque du Soleil – you fit right in. And, although you might seem haughty to some over this as you get older, I don’t want you to change. Reaching and longing for the finer things in life will assure that you always keep the bar high!
So there we have it, the 14 things that I love most about you on your 14th birthday … I could write 1,000 more! Enjoy high school, live large with your friends, soak in every fun moment that comes your way, and continue to relax every chance you get.