Mothering as an Introvert

Mothering as an Introvert

I am an introvert through and through.  Though I may not have had the name for it early on, I always knew that I felt physically drained from being around people for long stretches of time.  Groups of people intimidate me.  Having to make small talk makes me want to hide in a corner.  And I need time away from everyone in order to feel like myself again.  For a long time I thought there was something wrong with me, so I just kept pushing myself to be more "normal". 

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The Start of My Next Chapter

The Start of My Next Chapter

Today is the close of one chapter and the beginning of another. 

Ever since I was old enough, I have worked full-time.  Throughout college I worked while going to school, with a new job ready for me as soon as I graduated.  The longest absence I’ve taken from the working world was for the maternity leave I had with both of my sons.

Well, today I’m leaving behind the corporate world as I step into a new chapter of my life.

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5 Things At the Moment

5 Things At the Moment

Life has felt overwhelming lately.  In both the best ways, and some really tough ways.  I sit down to write and nothing comes out.  I don't know where to start with all of these thoughts swirling around in my head.  Some of them I'm not able to say out loud yet, others just sound repetitive.  So instead I walk away.  I take a break.  And somehow I find myself back here three weeks later feeling the same.  So instead, here's a run-down of things in my head...

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Capturing the Mundane

Capturing the Mundane

Seeing me with a camera in my hand is a pretty standard sight in our house.  I'm always capturing little moments of our days - some that seem pretty important (like when we announced Baby 2), others seem fairly boring (like many of the photos below).  But still, I keep clicking.  I was asked recently why I like taking photos and the answer is simple - there is beauty in the mundane and I want to capture it. 

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For This Father's Day

Dear B,

Sometimes I find myself amazed at the type of father you've become.  And other times, I'm not surprised in the least.  I always knew you'd be good at this.  I always knew you'd be fun but tough, loving but cautious.  

Henry idolizes you.  You can see it in his eyes.  Always wanting to know where you are, if you'll play with him, and his giggles are the loudest when he's with you.  I hope that he grows up to be just like you.

If there is something that I've learned in the last three years as a parent, it's that the person you're parenting with makes all the difference.  I cannot imagine our life any other way.  You make each day happy.  You go out of your way to see Henry and I smile.  You are everything a father is supposed to be - but so much more.

Thank you for giving everything you've got to our family.  Thank you for making personal sacrifices to give something back to us.  Thank you for doing the dishes and the laundry and the yard and the trash and cleaning the bathroom.  You are the rational glue that holds this whole operation together and I'm so happy that Henry and I have you to do life with.

We love you.

Happy Father's Day.

How Old Am I?

There are some days where I look in the mirror and see my sixteen year old self looking back at me.  And other days, I see the dark circles, the wrinkled skin, the tired eyes and I realize I'm not quite as young as I sometimes think I am.

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A joke from my brother in law has stuck with me recently.  He said that he felt he could pass for a college kid most days but then when he actually SAW a college kid, he had realized just how old he had gotten.

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The saying goes that you're only as old as you feel.  Most days, I still feel pretty young.  Until I wake up and stretch my tired muscles, or I realize that 10:00 on a Saturday night is really pushing it for me.  No doubt some of that is due to life with a toddler, or working a full-time job while also running a magazine "on the side".  No doubt this season of life is just tiring and my body is reacting to that.

But I still think about it.  I think about being 34 and being much, much closer to the dreaded 4-0 than I am to the young 21.  I think about the fact that my youngest brother is nearly 30, and what does that say about me?  Mostly I think about the fact that if we have a second baby, I may fall into the "high risk" category and will I have the energy to deal with another non-sleeping newborn.  

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Still, other days I'm happy with this stage of life.  This age.  34.  It's young and it's old.  And yet, I've also come to the point where I understand where my life is headed, what I want, and who I am.  I don't have all the answers yet, but (hopefully) I have plenty of time to figure out the rest.  The dark circles might be there to stay, but this age has lead to more confidence and fulfillment than at any other time in my life.  And that's a pretty great thing.

 

5 Things

A few things that have a smile on my face lately.

1.  Feeling like a kid again.  On a whim last night I decided to drag Henry to the store with me to pick out some board games to play.  We came home with Don't Break the Ice (Frozen version, much to my dismay), and Cooties.  When we got home we immediately played both with Brandon and my mother-in-law, Lynne.  It was so fun to take myself completely out of real life and just enjoy time with my little guy.

2.  Superheroes.  Henry is super into wearing his Batman cape these days and insists that I wrap a blanket around my neck to play, too.  We run around the house or yard chasing ghosts and saving the kitty and I love watching his imagination come to life.

3.  Spring issue of Holl & Lane.  On Monday I sent the spring issue of the magazine off to the printers and I've never been so excited about an issue.  This one is all about mental health and I think it's something that is so needed in our world.  You can preorder a print copy of the issue at a discount until Sunday if you want in on it.

4.  Wireless earbuds and an app full of podcasts.  I go through phases where I want either nothing but music, or nothing but podcasts.  Right now, I'm on a podcast kick and I listen all day while at work.  Because my headphones kept getting wrapped around my desk chair, I finally purchased wireless earbuds and I'm FREE!  A few of my favorite podcasts: My Favorite Murder, Strategy Hour, Up and Vanished, Beautiful/Anonymous, Call Your Girlfriend.

5.  Random travel.  I told Brandon that I wanted to make this a year of more travel.  There's so much I want to see in this world so I wanted to put ourselves in positions that would allow us to pick up and go more often.  After finding a great deal on a flight and a hotel in Savannah, GA, we've decided to make a trip there in mid-April just for the hell of it.

Bonus: Good friends.  We've made good friends in our town recently and it makes everything feel a little easier.

The Mexican Fisherman

The American investment banker was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked.  Inside the small boat were several large fin tuna.  The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.  

The Mexican replied, "Only a little while."

The American then asked why he didn't stay out longer and catch more fish.

The Mexican said he had enough to support his family's immediate needs.

The American then asked, "But what do you do with the rest of your time?"

The Mexican fisherman said, "I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siesta with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos.  I have a full and busy life."

The American scoffed.  "I am a Harvard MBA and could help you.  You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat, and with the proceeds from the bigger boat, you could buy several boats.  Eventually, you would have a fleet of fishing boats.  Instead of selling your catch to a middleman, you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery.  You would control the product, processing, and distribution.  You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA, and eventually NYC, where you will run your expanding enterprise."

The Mexican fisherman asked, "But how long will this take?"

To which the American replied, "Fifteen to twenty years."

"But what then?"

The American laughed and said that's the best part.  "When the time is right, you would announce and IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich; you would make millions."

"Millions?" asked the fisherman.  "Then what?"

The American said, "Then you would retire.  Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evening, sip wine, and play guitar with your amigos!" - Author Unknown

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This story was featured in Erin Loechner's new book Chasing Slow and it is something that has stuck with me since i finished reading it.  As an American, I seem to be hard-wired to believe that we have to make millions of dollars, and I have to make it RIGHT NOW.  Recently I've been feeling like there is so much noise out there that it is beginning to drown out my own voice.

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I've never been the person that needed to be a millionaire or to become an overnight success.  But then suddenly I became an entrepreneur who needed to make money in order to continue on with my business and the noise took over.  I was reading all of the "Learn how to make 5 figures by lunchtime" blog posts and e-books.  I was taking courses that I thought would make Holl & Lane an overnight sensation.  And I was essentially driving myself nuts because I wasn't suddenly a millionaire - when I didn't even want to be one in the first place!  

It all came to a head at the end of the year when I felt broken and lost and unsure of how to move forward.  I was stuck in a pattern of feeling like nothing I was doing was good enough, like everything I had built to this point was a waste of time.  So I finally sat down and took stock of why I was feeling that way.  It was easy to figure out - it was the noise.

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With a renewed sense of focus for the year, I've been putting on my metaphorical earmuffs and tuning out the noise.  I'm listening closer and harder to the voice inside of myself.  I'm remembering that it's so much more important to me to be happy than it is to be rich.  I want to wake up and enjoy what I'm doing for a living.  I don't want to wake up and wonder how much I made overnight.

Money is a necessary evil to make a business thrive, but it doesn't have to steal joy.  So now when I hear the noise coming at me in a tidal wave, I think back to this story and the Mexican Fisherman and I ask "then what?"

Focus

I'm not normally someone who chooses a word, sets resolutions and plans out huge goals for the new year.  Mostly because I tend to do that throughout the year.  But 2016 had me feeling lost in more ways than one so I figured that being a bit more intentional wouldn't be a horrible place to start.

This year, I want to focus.

I have ideas all the time.  I'm an idea machine, really.  And I'm incredibly impulsive.  Which means that when these new ideas pop into my head, I want to act on them immediately.  I don't often think them through, I don't make a solid plan to get them going, I just act.  And while that has sometimes served me well (such as with starting Holl & Lane), it's also lead to me feeling a bit scattered.  So this year, I sat down and created a marketing plan for H&L, and I set new boundaries for myself, and I made actual, realistic plans.

Focus is defined as "the state or quality of having or producing clear visual definition".  

And the word for me takes on many meanings.  For H&L, it means that I want to focus on growing the magazine which is the heart behind it all.  I have big dreams and goals for the magazine, but until the magazine is at a place of profit I can't do them, so why not place my focus where it should be?  

For my personal life, it means being more intentional about focusing my energy and time.  I'll be reducing the number of nights that I work on H&L and instead spend time really focused on my husband and son.  I'll only do shipping for the magazine two nights a week so that I am not constantly feeling pressured to be GOING.  

And I'll also be focusing on where I'm at in life rather than where I want to be.  This is the trickiest of all for me.  I'm a forward-looker.  I always see that place in the distance I want to be and I get so laser focused on it, it's hard for me to see where I am RIGHT NOW.  Plus always looking forward has the problem of me always feeling like where I am isn't good enough and that simply isn't true.  This season in my life, when I stop to think about it, is one of the best I've been in.  I've created a business that is growing and that I'm passionate about, my son is at a super fun (and super frustrating) age, and my husband and I are learning how to be partners again rather than just parents.

Focus, for me, is about acceptance as much as anything.

And once I put my focus on those things that I really love and believe in (my family and my business), I truly believe they will grow and thrive in the ways that I desire.

So here's to a new focus, a new resolve, and a new acceptance of this stage of life.

The President

Today I'm hurting.  It's a hurt that I've never encountered before because it's something I can't control in any way.  A man who I am staunchly against has been elected the President of the United States.  

Now, I've been disappointed in the choices in the past.  There have been plenty of times that I haven't agreed with a President's ideals and values.  But never, NEVER, have I been scared of a President and what he might do to this country.

I am a Democrat and always have been whether registered or not.  I believe in letting a woman do what she chooses with her body, I believe in marriage equality, I believe in the middle class.  These things are built so deeply into my values that they are shown in anything that I do.  I don't often find common ground with Republicans over our values, but I do acknowledge our differences of opinion, and I respect them for that.

But Donald Trump is something completely different.  He is not like any of the Republicans I know.  He is a bully, in the clearest form of the word.  He does not seem to care or respect anyone that does not look like him.  He tells me, as a woman that I am inferior.  He tells the gay men and women of the world that I love so much that they are wrong for being in love with the same sex.  He mocks those that are disabled, calls women pigs and Mexicans rapists, and he has issued a blanket statement that all Muslims are not to be trusted.  This is horrifying to me.  How can we ever come together as a nation if this is who leads our country?

Last night before the poll numbers started rolling in, I was feeling confident in my vote for Hillary.  She may not have been my number one choice, but I felt confident in her ability to lead our nation.  I felt that there were so many others who were able to see through Trump.  To see that he didn't have any concrete plans, any ideas, any concept of how government is actually run.  All I had to do was wait to see that Hillary was going to shatter that glass ceiling, I could do a mini-celebration for women everywhere, and I'd go to bed.

But then the map started to light up red.  More and more states were being called for Trump.  I sat on the couch near my husband in disbelief.  But still, I didn't believe it.  My husband didn't believe it.  Was this really happening?  The early polls told us that Hillary had this in the bag.  At one point, Nate Silver gave Hillary at 98.5% chance of winning.  And that's what I expected.  I expected a clean sweep.  I was not prepared for this.  I had underestimated just how many were Team Trump.

And more than that, I had underestimated how much hate there was in this country.  And that is more disappointing to me than anything.  The hate spewed from one American to another is baffling to me.  How did we get here?  How did we let it become okay for a presidential candidate to spew hate leading others to believe it's okay as well?

I am thankful today that my son is not old enough to understand what is happening.  I feel for all of those parents out there who have to explain to their children how someone with so much hate in his heart has won.  How someone who flooded the campaign trail with lies and deceit and general unwillingness to acknowledge basic human decency has taken over the office of the greatest country in the world.

And mostly, I feel for us.  Americans.  We have a long, long road ahead of us to come together and remember that we're all one big American family.  It's going to take a lot of work and there will probably be so many stumbling blocks along the way that we will want to give up.  But we can't give up and give in.  We have to take what we're feeling today and stand up and say that LOVE TRUMPS HATE, even if it takes a different form than we expected.  

The Lifetime Checklist

I'm 33, and will be 34 in March.  Young by all accounts but still getting to the point of wanting to have life figured out.  I'm wanting to figure out my place in this world, how I can leave it better than I found it.  I'm wanting to figure out those things that will make my life feel fulfilled, that will leave me on my deathbed smiling and thinking "life has been great".  

If I died tomorrow, I will have known some of the greatest pleasures there are - the support of great friends, the bond of family, the love of a good man, and the indescribable feeling of your own child's arms around your neck.  

But yet...

There is still so much I want out of this life.  I want to forge my own path and travel the world and explore other cultures.  I want to create something people love and allow that passion to travel with me around the world- working in coffee shops and sidewalk cafes on a street in Italy or Paris or Ireland.  I want to show my son the world, let him meet people who are different from him, and fall in love with what our world has to offer.

But yet...

I don't know where to start.  How does one live the life they've always dreamed of?  How do you put all your reservations to the side, and just go for it?  How do you shake the feeling of wanting to be safe in your community, with wanting to be a world explorer, someone who follows every dream she has?

I'm scared to do it.  I'm scared to not do it.

Hidden

photo-1463509010001-8b0e90d5f904.jpg

How often do we really get a full picture of someone?  Through the Instagram-shielded lens of our world, lives look more put together, feelings remain dormant, mistakes are hidden down in the depths.  We portray the best image of ourselves, the one that makes it seem as if we're invincible, that makes us feel better about the lives that we're living.

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I, for one, am tired.  I'm tired of trying to be my best self at all times.  I'm tired of pretending I don't go to bed with zit cream all over my face, that I don't occasionally break down in tears for seemingly no reason, that I don't constantly question if I'm doing the right thing in this life, that my toddler doesn't throw massive tantrums at times, that I can't acknowledge that there are many days where I'm just sad.

Because the truth is, those are my realities.  

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I recently heard of an issue called "smiling depression".  Something about it urged me to learn more.  When reading through it I began to really understand it and realized that at times, that is where I have found myself.

You see, I've gone through most of my life with a smile on my face.  Masking any pain, any frustrations, and any self-doubt.  Putting a smile on my face told the world that I was fine and that my life was floating perfectly by.  

But often times, it wasn't.

And it still isn't.

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I have a great life.  I do.  And I appreciate what I do have - a loving husband, a healthy toddler, a great roof over my head, a job working for good people, and friends that are always so supportive.  But in the past when I've talked about feeling low, feeling sad, there is this backlash that comes with it.  The feeling of "You don't understand how good you've got it".  

But I do.  I understand.

But, does that mean that just because on the outside I'm smiling it means on the inside I can't feel sad and hurt and betrayed and lonely and frustrated and lost?  Does it mean that the picture of a perfect life does not afford me the luxury to say that sometimes things go wrong?

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The problem with feeling hidden all the time is that at some point things feel as if they're pushing against a wall.  And when the dam breaks, there is no way to stop it.  Feelings rush out on a tidal wave of sadness, covering every surface available until things feel so heavy that you're drowning.

And at those times, where can you turn?  To the people that believe your life is too good to have problems?  So instead, you go back to internalizing.  You rebuild the dam, piece by piece, but this time things are a little more cracked and jagged.  But you hope it holds.  You cross your fingers and stay hidden in the depths.  And you put a smile on your face and keep going.

 

This essay was written for The Figment.

Girl's Girl

I didn't use to think of myself as a girl's girl.  Growing up, I was always a guy's girl with a couple of girlfriends on the side.  I typically enjoyed hanging out with my guy friends - their low key attitudes and drama-less lives were much more appealing to me.

As I've gotten older, I've come to really appreciate those female friendships that I've hung onto, especially those that I've had through so many stages of my life.  When I got pregnant, these relationships became a lifeline for me, as the majority of my female friends had already had kids by this point.  They were able to assuage my fears of motherhood, let me know that weird happenings were common in pregnancy, and assure me that I'd be a great mom.

I am someone who primarily keeps my innermost thoughts and feelings to myself.  I don't talk about my fights with B, I don't talk about what scares me or how my life is actually rolling along.  Except with the people that I do.  I can count the number of those people on one hand and that number is 100% female.

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Amy is someone I've been friends with for over a decade.  We are an unlikely pair, and didn't particularly like each other when we first met, but balance each other out nicely now.  She is the Carla to my Amy (ironically) if you've seen Bad Moms.  Over the weekend she made the 4+ hour trip to visit.  We spent most of the day talking about everything that we haven't been able to talk about in person for too long.  We talked life and love and relationships and careers and motherhood and parenting and sex and money and all of those things that you can only talk about with those people.

As she pulled away on Sunday to start the long trip home, I felt mixed emotions in my heart.

I felt renewed, revived, like me again, having had the chance to talk to someone who truly knew me inside out and still loved me for it.  And I felt an overwhelming sadness knowing that she, and the rest of those people, are so far away from me.  Not knowing when I'll get that chance again.

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But for now I will sit back and think about how lucky I am to have those people in my life.  To have the people like Amy who will make the drive and make the call and make it count when I really and truly need it the most in my life.  Who will know without me telling them when I am drowning and it's nothing that a little wine can't fix.

Who will know me.  The girl's girl.  The one who can count those people on one hand and feels fortunate to have them, no matter how many miles are in between.

Things Left Unsaid

I have this irrational fear that this life I've built for myself is going to be taken away from me, that I'll be stripped bare of Brandon and Henry and I won't know how to get back up.  They are my lifeline.  They are my pulse.  

I see the news stories of children taken away at 2 years, 5 years, 10 years old and each time I do, I burst into a new round of tears, my heart feeling as if it's breaking, unable to stop the sobs.  I cannot imagine the pain of that.  But yet, I continue to see them.  I know that it happens to people like me, in fact, I've heard of it happening to friends of friends.  It's never the "bad people" that get diagnosed with cancer.  It's the innocent children that are just starting out in this world.  It's the mom that is so full of life, and loves her family.  It's the father with five children who is so in love with his wife.  It's you and me.  

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I sometimes wake up in a sweat, having dreamed a nightmare of something awful happening to Henry.  Of having my beautiful boy taken away from me and not being able to stop it.  The feeling doesn't leave me all day.  It sits there like a rock in the pit of my stomach.  It's heavy.  It's overwhelming.

Those are the days that I hug him a little tighter.  That I tell him over and over how much I love him.  That I try to make sure nothing is left unsaid.

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When you don’t talk, there’s a lot of stuff that ends up not getting said.
— Catherine Gilbert Murdock

But still, I'm terrified that he and Brandon will never know just what they mean to me.  That even if life goes as it's "supposed to" and we grow old together, that they still just won't know.  Is there ever a way to let the people in your life know what they mean?  

And more importantly, is there a way to stop the feelings of dread that threaten to overtake you like a wave pounding into the shore?  How do you learn to live in the moment, to enjoy life as it comes, to just be positive and optimistic?  These are things I struggle with daily.  But regardless, I try not to leave things unsaid.

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This post is written for The Figment, a community writing group for people who love writing.

PS... Apparently I have now entered my fifth year of blogging and sharing my life on the Internet.  What a strange ride this has been.

In Limbo

Have you ever gotten to that point in your life where every option feels like a fork in the road?  If you go left, your life will turn out one way, and turn right, it'll become another.  Life currently feels as if it is one big fork with multiple tines and no clear direction pointing one way or another.

I've felt in limbo before, but in general I've been staring down two options - Option A or Option B.  It feels as if now we have options for everything, choices that we'll have to make, next steps that will need to be evaluated.

Should we stick with one baby, or try for another?
If we have another baby, will I continue to work, or will I stay home while working full-time on the magazine?
What direction do I want to go with for the magazine?  Do I follow my gut or do I do what works?
When do I introduce new products and ideas?  How do I make money to be able to afford these new ideas?
Will we stay here in Pennsylvania, or will we move?
If we do move, where do we want to go - Toledo, or Columbus, or somewhere new?
How much money and time do we want to invest in our house if we may not be here forever?
If we move to a new city, what will I do for work?  Will I work?
Will we be able to travel the way we want and explore the country and the world?
Or is our wanderlust something that must be put on hold while we handle real life?

So many questions and none of them feel as if they have an easy answer because at this point we just don't have all of the information.  We don't know where the next year will take us or what it will bring - babies, new jobs, new lives.  

I'm someone who typically loves change, but these big life changes have me feeling uneasy.  The limbo can feel overwhelming.  But when I think about it, in my heart of hearts, I know what I want from all of these questions.  I know what I would choose.  But whether or not that's the road that our lives will take, it's hard to say.

 

The Internet Pull

Last night after dinner, Henry wanted to go downstairs with me while I started laundry.  So we went down, he started playing in the play area we set up for him, I went about doing laundry and cleaning up the area a bit.  After I was done, I headed to the other side of the basement to see what he was up to.  He was playing by himself, pulling out various toys, pushing cars across the floor, generally entertaining himself.

So I sat down in the rocking chair in his play area and watched for a couple minutes.  Almost immediately I started feeling this twitch, this urge to do something with my hands.  It's rare that I'm not multitasking - even if the other "task" is just playing on my phone, searching through emails and Facebook and Instagram to occupy myself.  I had the urge to go back upstairs and retrieve my phone just so that I'd have something to do while he played.

And that's when I started to feel ridiculous.  Why can't I just sit there and watch Henry play?  Why can't I just enjoy the time without feeling like I need to be doing something else?  What am I really missing out on by not having my phone in my hands at all times?

So instead I sat there and watched him play and play and play.  He looked up a few times to see what I was up to, and I was so glad in that moment to NOT be on my phone - something that he sees far too often when he looks up at his Dad and I.  I've been noticing it lately, that we're both on our phones (not for anything important, just to keep ourselves occupied) when he looks up.  It makes me sad for him.  It makes me sad for us.  Why don't we just put down our phones and watch him learn and play and imagine?  Why don't we just put down our phones and learn, play and imagine WITH him?

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I watched a movie over the weekend called "Men, Women and Children" all about social media and the impact it's having on our lives.  It was interesting to watch the ways that its taken over our lives with nearly everyone on their phones at all times.  Information and occupation just a few finger taps away.

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But what are we missing out on each time we pick up our phones instead of just stopping and enjoying peace and quiet?  Or just enjoying the company that we're with?  Or maybe getting outside and going for a walk, enjoying nature and sunshine?  

I know for me, I might have emails to answer, and issues to work on and social media accounts to run.  But do I have to do those right now?  The answer is no.  Me not picking up my phone for an hour or two will never result in life or death.  But it might result in my son thinking that I'd rather be on my phone than on the floor playing with him.  

I need an internet detox.  I need to retrain myself that my fingers don't have to be moving at all times.  I need to remember that it's okay to just be still and present and in the moment.  I need to get on the floor and play.

Embracing the Moment

It began just as all of our other pre-bedtimes began, attempting to run down his energy, to get him prepared for bed.  He had begged to go outside and I had been dreading it.  It was hot.  The kind of hot that takes your breath away and your clothes immediately stick to you the minute you walk outside.  I waited him out as long as I could - until the sun had set in the sky and the temperature had cooled to tolerable.  But finally I relented to give him one last mini-adventure before we turned in for the night.  So out we went.

It started innocently enough.  I found the orange squirt gun sitting on a ledge in the breezeway.  We thought we had lost it long ago.  The purple reservoir was broken near the top, but when screwed in to the base, it still retained water.  I filled it up in his water table, and handed him the yellow squirt gun sitting nearby, also filled with water.  I pulled the trigger and water flew directly onto his chest.  I braced myself, not knowing how his pre-bed attitude would be.  To my surprise, he laughed hysterically and then began shooting at me with his own gun.  We chased each other around and around the driveway, behind the car, hiding and jumping out at just the right moment, pausing only to refill our small water guns.

And then Brandon came out and saw what we were up to.  We were out of water guns so he grabbed the hose.  The hose!  He sprayed us both as we ran and laughed, attempting to double team him with our dollar store guns.  Henry and I were soaked immediately and the water was cold.  But still, we laughed.  We all laughed.  Brandon eventually put the hose down and grabbed one of Henry's water toys, making it just a bit more fair.  

"Time Out!" we'd call as we stopped by the water table for refills.  But of course, time-out's don't always work.  And as retaliation for the hose, I scooped and splashed Brandon, drenching him, bringing him to our level of cold and shivering.  For thirty minutes our epic water battle continued, our laughter floating through the air, around the neighborhood.  Our attempts to outdo one another.  Trying not to slip and fall in our wet flip flops.

At the end, I called it quits first and went to grab towels for my fellow warriors.  Brandon quickly followed.  Henry continued to fill and dump, fill and dump - on his feet, my feet, Brandon's feet.  He didn't want the moment to end, and truth be told, neither did I.

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There are so many times that I wonder if we do enough, if we provide Henry with enough fun, enough time with us both since we work full-time.  There aren't enough times that we embrace the moments like this and just enjoy the water battles, no matter the time, the place, the mess that will have to be cleaned up.  

But last night we did.  And it's sure to be a night that goes down in our family record books.  Hartley Epic Water Fight, Summer 2016.  Worth every bone-chilling moment.

The World Today

Dear Henry,

The world is a scary place.  I don't want to alarm you, but I also don't want to sugarcoat things for you and place you in a bubble.  Actually, that's not true.  It is what I WANT to do.  I want to wrap a bubble around you so that nothing bad can ever happen to you, so that you will never see anything scary, so that you will grow up not knowing evil.  But I know that I can't do that.  You will see scary things as you grow older, you will be terrified by situations on the news or out in front of you.  You will constantly question if there are any good people left in this world.  I know that because I have to remind myself every single day of how much good there still is.

When I grew up, I don't remember feeling this powerless, this hurt, this scared for my life in the United States.  It was the greatest country in the world.  Bad things didn't happen here.  My world was forever changed on September 11, 2001 and as I sat in my freshman year dorm room, I knew that things would never feel quite as carefree and safe as they did just the day before.  And as time has gone on, things have only gotten scarier when I was so sure they would get better.

In the aftermath of that awful day, we saw so many people come together, to stand up for our country, to ensure our safety.  And I thought that would continue.  I was so proud to be an American.  Look at us, fighting back with love and peace.  

But sadly, that isn't the case anymore.  On a daily basis I am seeing things that have me completely terrified for our country.  People being senselessly murdered simply because of their skin color, their religion, their sexual orientation.  School shootings taking the lives of so many innocent children.  Political tensions inciting riots and tension between friends.  It's become too much.  I can't bear to turn on the news anymore, or read through social media.  

I am so scared to see what will become of this world as you grow up.  I never wanted to bring a child into such a scary place.  I wanted you to grow up without these fears.  I wanted to send you off to school without worrying every single day that you may not come back to me.  I wanted to show you that our world is good.

And now I'm afraid that it may not be.  That I have failed you because I already know I won't be able to protect you from seeing evil.

So instead, I have a new resolution for you.  I promise to protect you the best that I can.  And I promise that with each time something horrible, senseless, tragic happens, we will sit down together, I will explain the events to you, and then we will figure out where we can find the good, and how we can help.  I don't want you to grow up scared.  I want you to grow up asking how you can make a difference, to stop these tragedies from happening.  I want you to have a voice and to know that you can cause change.  That silence isn't the way to go - that being brave and speaking up is.

One of my very favorite quotes is from Mr. Rogers and he says, "When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

You can be the helper, Henry.  

In big ways, or small ways, you can be the helper.  When the world feels scary and overwhelming, just ask how you can be the helper.  And never forget to show compassion, understanding, and empathy.

I love you,
Mom