Milestone Markers

Guys, today marks the end of 2nd grade and Kindergarten for my little ladies and I am really feeling the pull of my heartstrings this year. I mean, yes I am normally emotional during these kinds of milestones, but this year has me feeling more. In fact, I think even my girls are feeling it more as well. They have had definite excitement about the end of the school year but they are also sad to say “goodbye” to their classmates, teachers and their school community for a few months.

I’ve been asking myself, why? Why is this year so much more emotional? And I think I’ve come up with a few reasons that we are having all of the feelings right now.

First, this is our first time having summer vacation after our big move last year. So I think for me as mom, I am thinking where did that year go?! We are just getting settled into a routine and now we are messing with it again. Also, the sense of community I feel every day when I drop the girls to school has been a blessing. I have met the most wonderful group of parents this year who are all so very different but have been my lifeline to a social life when I was feeling lost. I will miss morning coffee chats at drop off and having that adult time to start the day.

Postings are emotional rollercoasters and this is one more reminder of that.

Additionally, and this one is no joke, my kids have grown so much this year it’s unbelievable. Honestly, I am blown away by how incredible my girls are. They have navigated this transition year so well and exceeded any all all expectations in school. They have embraced this new community and it has embraced them. They are laying roots here and making memories and I love their bravery. My heart bursts with pride to watch them grow independently and grow their bond together. On this last day of school, my hubby and I couldn’t be more proud of our little ladies if we tried.

Lastly, I think it’s the feeling of wow, we have really made so many memories and established some amazing “roots” in this new place in one year, but we only have two years left! And there is trepidation and anxiety that comes with knowing this is all only temporary. So with this marker of year end, the emotional pot is stirred vigorously for this MilSpouse. I was saying to hubby last my that I think I need a few more moves under my belt and maybe these feelings will seem more manageable.

For my girls, I think they are feeling emotional because they are wondering what it will be like when school starts again. Will it be as hard? Will it be as amazing as this year? Will my friends remember me? Will I continue to make new friends? What a rollercoaster this year has been for them as well. Just when they have a social circle and feel comfortable, summer vacation arrives and as much as we will try to have play dates etc this summer, it’s not the same and having that time with their peers daily. My heart aches for them. I will do my best to help them navigate these waters but it will of course still have it’s challenging moments no doubt.

So friends, here I am, vulnerable and emotional and I’m asking for advice!

How do you MilFams cope with the anxiety and excitement and trepidation of short postings? How do you make the most of it all?

How do you other parents manage being so proud and loving watching your kids grow, while all the while screaming and crying at time to slow down just a little bit? I am at a loss on this one. How do we embrace the beauty of these milestone markers like the end of a school year and not want to dig in our heels and press pause?

Let’s start this conversation so we can all feel support and love, but also so we can add tools to the tools box to manage this difficult moments!

Happy End if school to you all and may you find fun, quality time and adventure this summer!

~M~

On Becoming a Mom

For as long as I can remember, I have loved babies! I never questioned whether or not I wanted to have kids but just had to meet the right person and know we were ready to embark on a lifetime of adventure and responsibility. I also know that if my darling hubby had never come along, I would have still found a way to be a mom.

My path to being “mom” wasn’t easy. My first pregnancy was a dream, until it wasn’t. At 33 weeks and 3 days my angel Addison was born, with no brain activity, after hours of monitoring, tests and finally an emergency C-section. She was tiny and beautiful but she wouldn’t make it to see 24 hours.

When we heard that our time with her would be limited, the feeling was surreal and beyond devastating. We had so many questions. We felt anguish and grief beyond anything I had ever known possible. I also carried guilt, unnecessarily, but I carried it nonetheless. What had I done wrong? Why is this happening? What is wrong with me? My first duty’s as a mom were not feeding my baby, changing her bum or bathing her. I rocked her, and held her as long as I could. We had her baptized and took photos. I held her until her final breath and then did something no mother, or father should ever have to do, I said goodbye.

Saying goodbye to the beautiful baby whom I loved from the first time I even thought I might be pregnant, was literally heart breaking. Watching my husband go to the funeral home to make plans, take care of me and cope with his own grief, was gut wrenching.

The days, weeks and months to follow were a fog and full of love and support, but still so empty. Hubby and I had nights of long conversations, tears, fear and loss. But what we did know what that medically, there was no reason to think we couldn’t have a healthy baby at some point. And if having Addison taught me anything (and honestly she taught me so many things) it was that we wanted to be the best parents to her by honouring her and remembering her. We also knew we still wanted to try again.

Less than 3 months later, it was New Years Eve, and I had ” a feeling”. I took a pregnancy test before going out with friends and sure enough, I was pregnant. I was over joyed, overwhelmed, and scared as hell. Luckily we had the most beautiful angel watching over us, as well as a team of doctors, and less than 11 months after we said goodbye to Addison, Ava Grace was born, with a grand entrance, healthy and perfect. Fast forward 22 months later and she had a gorgeous baby sister, Mackinley Paige. And our family was complete.

This Mother’s Day I will find joy in the paper crafts and hugs with my two little beauties here with me. I will spend some quiet time by myself with a few tears wishing a I could hold Addison just one more time and wondering what my now almost 9 year old would look like and what her personality would be like. I will wipe my tears and be thankful for her. I will also remember that being a mom is hard, but it is such a privilege that so many take for granted. In fact, sometimes I still take it for granted.

On those days when I count down the seconds until bedtime, when I raise my voice to stop the sibling bickering, when I find myself needing 5 minutes to be alone, I take a deep breath and know that someday they will be grown and I will miss their laughs and bickering in my house. I also remember that my journey to get here wasn’t easy and take a moment to practice gratitude for the joyous life I love with my family here, and my angel who watches over me.

This Mother’s Day I hope that my friends, family and those who may read this who are struggling to have a healthy baby know that they have our love and support, and we pray that they will be able to fulfil their parenting dreams at some time in someway that works for them. I hope that those families who have suffered loss, have found peace and comfort.

Becoming a mom often isn’t as easy as we would like it to be, so let’s be gentle with ourselves and with each other on Mother’s Day and all the other days that we are needing a mom, being a mom, or longing to be called mom.

Things I LOVE Thursday

Admittedly, its been like a hundred years since I did one of these Thursday posts but here it is! There is absolutely no rhyme or reason to this one, just a few of my new faves that I want to share with you guys this week!

Muscle Milk Coffee House Protein Shake

Yes, I am a HUGE fan of coffee as we all know and I am also guilty of splurging both my money and my calories on a Startbucks Latte from time to time, but on the day to day when Im making a delish cup of java at home, this protein shake is my go too “mix in”. I use this in place of any dairy or dairy alternative AND in place of any additional sweetener. I just CANNOT handle black coffee so this is how I indulge a little, guilt free.

Is it a “perfect” choice? No, but it works for me in moderation. So for my 12oz coffee in the morning, I add about 1-2oz of the shake and it is better than a straight up DOUBLE DOUBLE (2 cream, 2 sugar). I bought mine here in Cali at Target and they are about 5.99 for 4. Since i only use up to 2 oz per day, each one lasts me a few days, refrigerated.

Simple, Quick and Foolproof DIY home decor

Guys, I could sit here and tell you I am the next best thing to Martha Stewart in the home decor department, but anyone who knows me would snicker and maybe drop and eye roll. But what I do love to do is make easy, personalized home decor items that are both meaningful or speak to the character of my family.  I have a Cricut Explore Air 2 which makes some of these DIY projects a breeze. I like vinyl projects were I can personalize some of my favorite household belongings or make new ones! One of the pieces I did with vinyl was my Keurig, and it just adds a little something to my “coffee station” on my kitchen counter!

Also, I LOVE printables. You can find a million free printables on Pinterest or make your own with programs like Canva, MS Office, etc. Added with the right frame and they can change the look of your area in a a very effective and inexpensive way! I love changing things up but am always looking for ideas that don’t break the bank, and this is by far my favorite Home Decor DIY hack.

RAE DUNN

Guys, if you havent seen these darling glasswear, mugs, champagne flutes, dog treat canisters, wine glasses etc. you are missing out! Haha! I find my pieces at Marshalls/TJ Maxx (aka Winners in Canada) and the price point is so affordable. I love the simplicity and design of the pieces and I have JUST begun my love affair with these products and here are a few of my faves. I am sure I will be adding to my collection especially with some of the adorable holiday/seasonal items they stock! Let me just say I was kicking myself for not grabbing a few of their Easter themed gems!

Knock Knock Pads

I think I have shared with you all before that I have a minor obsession with stationary! Well these note pads have been in my Top 5 faves for years now! They have these magnetic notepads for just about everything and anything you made need to make a list or a plan for. From packing for vacation to everyday planning and meal planning! They make them for the office as well, with Things to Do list and memos and message pads! I love them. It makes making the “to do list” look organized and thought out in a way that is helpful in managing my time! This one pictured below is an absolute FAVE of mine as well as the Day’s of the Week pad that is great for the day to day TO DOs.

DIFF Eyewear

These sunglasses are amazing! There is a different style and glam factor for everyone. I found these when I noticed a TON of B List celebs that I follow on Instagram were promoting them and I wrote them off at first as I thought it was a gimmick. But when I was really searching for a pair of affordable, stylish and well made sunnies, the reviews on these were awesome. Additionally, there is a little bit of a feel good factor in that, for every pair you purchase, they donate a pair of glasses (that a required medically, like reading glasses) to someone in need via charities like “Eyes on America”. Who doesn’t want to do a little good while they are buying something they want anyway?

The price point on these is decent as well, with the majority of frames costing only $85 USD.  In comparison to other “high end” frames I have owned such as Ralph Lauren Coach and RayBan, I find the quality comparable, if not exceeding those mentioned.

The Bella frames that I have on in the photo below have a retro vibe and a definitive style. They say a lot about my personality and allow me to rock my inner diva. There are more traditional frames, more edgy styles and a bunch of Celebrity collab styles, such as the cute aviators by Khloe Kardashian. For the price and the philanthropic factor, I am sold on DIFF eyewear!

That’s a wrap on this weeks Things I Love! Let me know if you try or have tried any of these! Would love to hear your thoughts!!

M

Its been a while. But thats ok.

Let me preface this by saying that I LOVE writing my blog, and I equally LOVE receiving your feedback, stories and the times, when something I share with you, that it strikes a cord and we find this connection. I also just couldn’t seem to find the balance to write and be present over this past few months, so I had to put this blog of mine on the backburner a bit.

As I was reflecting on my desire to reach out via this platform today, I was feeling the same tug in my heart that I feel when I haven’t checked in with a friend in a while. Then it hit me, it has been a while since i have had a chance to really connect with some of the people I miss the most. Living in the place of watching everyones life unfold on social media can be both a blessing and  a curse. Its amazing to be able to see kids grow, successes happen and life “go on” but it can also be a painful reminder of what we are missing. I have this one friend, she’s been a kindred spirit form the get go and we live in separate states now, but as this was all spiralling in my head I could remember her telling me  “sometimes, I have to take “social media” in small doses as it can hurt too much to be reminded that Im not able to be experiencing life with those I miss the most”.

The “A-HA” moment struck like lightning. It was like my heart swelled with love, homesickness, fear, and contentment all at once.

This gamut of emotions was a little anxiety inducing at first, but then when I took a deep breath and some time to think about it, I started to embrace each feeling as it flowed through me.

As I am writing completely off the cuff today, pardon my lack of flow at times but I will preface what I am saying by the fact that as a military spouse who is thousands of miles from my nearest and dearest, I often have serious FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). This fear is often irrational and is precipitated by reading a post on social media showing “my tribe” doing the things we used to do when I was there, but this time I am not making that memory with them. I am not in the photos. I will not get the jokes. I am not there to celebrate the successes or hold a long hug during a time of loss. I fear that I am being forgotten, or an less important. Worse, I fear that those whom I care for think that I have forgotten about them. I think that this is a common mindset in that lengthly period of/process of transition to a new place and creating “Tribe 2.0”.

In the past few weeks, and days, events have occurred that have reminded me just how far from home we are. The loss of a dear family friend whom I didn’t know was sick. The celebration of birthdays and the tragic losses of hockey players I never knew but I can feel the ache of my country mourning their loss. The homesickness comes in waves; sometimes the current is gentle, other days it feels like the “High Surf Advisory” has been called. The only real positive of homesickness is knowing that “home” will always be there and so will the people with whom you associate “home”. Home really IS where the heart is. My heart is here with my hubby and girls, but also with each and every one of those people in my life who are forever my “family”.

It is that reflection, that brings me to the LOVE. It pushes away the FEAR. It holds my heart in a way that lets me find peace and contentment. I am so loved, and I know that despite my FOMO. I hear it in the messages I get saying “the girls all got together tonight, you were so missed”. The texts from family and calls to say they love and miss us. The teary goodbyes at the end of FaceTime chats. The cards and letters we get via snail mail and knowing that we surround ourselves with people who love us and the quality of these relationships is transcendent of time and distance.

So, if you’re reading this and you haven’t heard from me in a while, or you are wanting to reach out to someone you miss dearly, know that you are thought of with love on the regular and that they (and I) would LOVE to hear your update, your story, your voice. But we get it, sometimes it has been a while, but with those people whom you love, and love you most, it is ok.

~M~

5 Easy Ways to Be Your Own Priority

This month I am focusing on self love, self care and generally becoming a priority in my own day to day routine. This is no easy task friends! For a number of reasons, including being sick with a crazy cold, I am struggling to make this practice of self-care feel achievable for the long term. So, I started doing a little research on how to make this possible and I found a few little gems that are helping me to get things to a point where they feel like part of my regular routine.

  1. Identify your struggle. I’ve shared a lot about my struggle with positive self talk, and that seems to be the hardest part of self care for me. This one little mantra, each day, is a powerful reminder to treat myself as I would treat others. I am focusing on rewriting my self-talk script with this a simple mantra that I am working on making a part of my morning routine. I owe it to myself to love myself in the way I freely give love to others. This is an impactful reminder that I want to learn and embody for myself but also for my daughters.
  2. Keep it simple. The most impactful self care, I believe, comes from the smallest of changes. Take just one aspect of your life, health, technology, family, work, sleep, and whatever you choose, make a small but deliberate adjustment. For example, unplug from social media for an hour each day or read for 15 minutes before bed. Trying to make too many changes or invoke too many new “routines” at one time will be way too overwhelming and unsustainable.
  3. Be okay with saying “No”. Also, be okay with saying “Yes”. I know this sounds a bit contradictory but friends, life is about choices. By saying “Yes” all of the time, we make little room for ourselves, as those “Yes” responses often require us to give and give and give of ourselves and our time/resources. Conversely, saying “No” all of the time, may alienate or remove us from the possibility of exploring new experiences. Find your balance. Manage your time and resources like balancing your budget. You only have so much to “spend” so plan ahead to make the most of what you have. Both saying No and saying Yes can lead to new adventures, so take stock of your personal resources and make a plan to spend them wisely.
  4. Take a rest day. Often, self care looks like taking a beat for a chance to recharge. For athletes, rest days are just as important as those hard 2 a day practices. This is true for all of us. We live in a world of GO GO GO and sometimes we just need to press pause and rest our minds and bodies. Identifying that you need to rest, is a strength that most of us don’t employ. You can’t pour from an empty cup, you have to nourish to flourish, and you cant run the marathon that is life without every letting your body & mind take a moment to catch up.
  5. Lastly, practice makes perfect. Find a few little things to practice self care, and do them often. This will keep the practice going, strengthen your routine of self care and help keep you at the top of that “to-do” or priority list on the regular.

Follow me on Pinterest ( http://www.pinterest.com/michelledarrell)   for more self care ideas from contributors that I like to follow as well as on Instagram (@momdaymotivation) for my  “in the moment” self care practices.

Taking the Guilt out of Taking time for “Me”

Who wouldn’t love to blow off all responsibilities and spend the day at the spa, or heading to workout then brunch with a friend. What about taking time to tend to your mental health with a self led meditation or guided counselling session for the heart and soul? The thing I have encountered as a woman and even more so, as a mom, is the guilt associated with self-care. Will my child miss me while I am gone? Will I miss a milestone moment while I go I the gym? Will my husband resent me leaving right after he’s home from work? Will other women judge me for making time for myself?

The answer to all of these questions can be yes. That’s the kicker.

How do we carve out time for tending to ourselves and still being an individual outside of all of the social titles we are given? Mother. Lover. Wife. Friend. Daughter. And the list goes on. We have a lot of folks who look to us for a variety of needs to be met, but how often do we look inward and say, “girl, what do you need?”.

Self care itself can be defined in so many ways, but for the sake of this post I’m going to let you use your imagination and think about what you might do, solely for the benefit of no one but yourself for one hour if guilt were not an issue. Is it hitting the pavement with a friend to run off some stress? Is it to lock yourself in your bedroom with a snack and Netflix ? Is it a salon treatment? Is it a trip to the library? Is it a walk on the beach ?

I’m giving out these suggestions as a way to start your mind thinking about what you might do, but the options are so personal and endless that you really need to develop a self care wish list for yourself!

Then when you have a few options, grab the day planner and go on a treasure hunt for time. Days are short and there is a lot in your plate but you can make it work, I know you can! Find one hour, block it out. That’s YOUR time! Then share your plan with those you need to be involved to make it work… that may be your spouse, a friend, whom ever and whatever you need to do. And when that twinge in your belly starts to pile up the excuses as to why you can’t fit it in, think about what you would say to your spouse or best friend when they say they need a break? Would you say, “yup you’re right, don’t make time for you you don’t deserve it!”? Of course not? You’d be supportive, hell I bet you would even bend over backwards to help make it happen!

This one hour of time will do wonders for your mind, body and soul. Additionally, it will remind you how important YOU ARE, and how much you can and should continue to carve out time for YOU.

This week, of an hour doesn’t feel doable, take a few minutes just for you and see how it makes you feel and start to build a self care plan from there. I promise it will be worth it.

And as for the guilt? Well, that will take time. I share my self care plan with my spouse so he knows what’s up and he sees an obvious difference in me when I do take this time for myself so now he encourages it. My kids, they get a chance to miss me and I them. And that friends, is a gift. I also work to surround myself with likeminded people who share a passion for self improvement and have an “it takes a village” mentality so we can lean on each other when we need help executing our self care plans or we self care “date” and enjoy time together!

It does take time and effort but it is beyond worth it. In my world, self care is not about indulgence but necessity. I am a better mom, partner, friend and loved one when I remember who I am. Just me. Michelle.

Pack up that guilt, put it far away where it can’t taunt you and get to taking care of yourself! You will love how it feels to be important in your own life!

~M~

Defining Me : January Wrap Up

Wow, does anyone else feel like that was the quickest month EVER?!

Phew, I am still sweating from the race from start to finish that was January! It is not lost on me that the saying goes, “Time flies, when you’re having fun” and I can truly say that I strived to make my January health and fitness goals as much fun as I possibly could.

So, lets talk about how it went over all then I will break down the nitty gritty as well as let you know whats to come for February!

I am generally proud and pleased by my progress month, even though the scale isn’t showing a lot of my hard work, I am feeling fantastic and seeing lots of NSV’s (non scale victories). I am hitting up the gym or getting in an at home workout 5-6 times a week and doing 20+ minutes of yoga each and every day. I successfully accomplished the TRUE, Yoga with Adriene challenge and loved the days when hubby would join me on the mat for this awesome practice in exercise and self care! It was great for our physical well being as well as quality time together shared as a couple.

I crushed my Lululemon Strava challenge and scored 25% off any purchase so splurged on a new pair of my FAVE crops from them! If you haven’t tried their Align pants or crops, you are missing OUT! (Note to self, and to you guys,Things I Love Thursday needs a LULU edition ASAP)

As for the kitchen goals, I’d say I was at a 75/25% for success in planning and prepping. That being said, my hubby was away for two weeks and that always throws me for a loop but I didn’t go off the rails, I just approached things with a more laid back attitude and chose my battles carefully. Sometimes, I’ve learned, that when I over stress about the plan, I set myself up for failure. For instance, if one little thing goes off the track, I use that as an excuse for falling off the proverbial wagon. Deployment can often be one of those plan wreckers so I flipped the script and made a less stringent plan for those weeks so I could feel good about how things were going. I must say, this really worked for me and my girls. Less stress = more success!

Other NSV’s for me were:
1) feeling more comfortable in my clothing. I’m really starting to see things getting a little looser or fitting more flattering which is always a motivator and confidence boost. Also, in terms of the physical, I’m seeing my skin feel less oily and subsequently less break outs which is amazing.

2) I am loving that my mood has  improved and my approach is generally more patient and relaxed. When I feel like I have things, like my weight and health, under control, I am more positive, patient and less anxious. This shift in mental health for me is key. When I am physically uncomfortable, it greatly affects how I present myself outwardly and how I feel mentally. I exude more confidence, positivity and cultivate more motivation when I am on track physically which includes healthy diet, exercise and self care.

3) I took my measurements on January 2nd, then again this week and “bam” I am down 2 inches. That’s a move in the right direction for sure. This really does motivate me to keep moving forward and focus less on the scale and more on loving my body inside and out. That being said, I still have a number goal in mind, but ultimately, feeling good and being fit/healthy is the priority.

4) This one is a bit superficial, but who doesn’t LOVE a nice compliment?! At the gym two days ago, my Body Combat instructor pulled me aside after class to tell me how amazing my form was and that I am looking fierce and strong in class! Can I get a HELL YEAH?! That put me on cloud 900! Ill take that and make sure I am there at the next class ready to kick some a$$!

Alright, alright, enough about what I did already, lets talk about whats to come. This is just the beginning of my journey this year and although my focus in February will be taking a new angle, it doesn’t mean this part comes to an abrupt end. Health and fitness is a journey; a journey of and FOR a lifetime, and I am in it to win it! You’ll still hear about that part of my journey here and on Instagram (@momdaymotivation) but Im going to up the ante and indulge in a little love for the month of February. Self Love. Self Care. Self Talk that is kind and loving and courageous. I’m going to embrace the beauty that is ME; I will own it and give it a big ol’ hug!

I hope you met some of your own January goals, I know you have been working your tails off!! Literally! Share your progress with me. The good, the bad, the ugly and the down right AMAZING! Also, join me in continuing this exploration of self and add in a little love.

You’ve got this!

~M~