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Last week, we headed west for our family ski vacation, which is quite an undertaking when you've got four kids under 8 and ski gear. But this time, instead of enjoying my own separate vacation, I decided to join my family, a decision I generally come to regret.
It's not that I don't love my husband or my kids or spending time suiting them up in their helmets, ski pants, and boots every single morning after I make breakfast and do the dishes. But as the non-skier with a toddler who can't yet ski, I pretty much become what I am at home: housekeeper, cook, butt wiper extraordinaire—which by the way is quite a challenge with snow suits.
And sadly, this trip was not unlike our last family ski trip, where, if I wasn't trapped in a condo with a toddler and no toys, I was carrying tired, cold children or blow drying wool socks. But this time I had two puking and pooping kids and a UTI I somehow earned through dehydration and just being old. Not even an ounce of exciting mischief with my husband caused my bladder infection.
"Are you having a good time?" the receptionist at the medical clinic asked me when I checked in to be seen.
"Not yet," I replied, giving her the look of "Duh, I’m here at a medical clinic because it burns when I pee. WHAT DO YOU THINK?"
Then the scheduled babysitter didn't show up so I could ditch my ski lesson and have a wonderful morning at the spa. And that regressed me right back into full-blown toddler mode, save the kicking and screaming on the ground—but, my, was I close.
"THIS IS NOT A VACATION," I huffed to myself while I cleaned the poop off the floor and toilet seat after one sick kid didn't quite make it, as my husband and kids zipped down the snowy hills together.
I finally decided to stop wallowing in my own crap, and get out of the condo. So I wrapped up my toddler and headed out for a little tour of the downtown area; a wonderful mix of restaurants, bars and shops. That is, if I were alone. Instead, I was doing the look and dash to avoid having to pay for any damage my daughter would make by pulling down the entire necklace display at the fancy boutique.
We ended our abridged tour of the downtown with a stop at a small coffee shop, which happened to be owned by the mayor, who served us coffee and hot chocolate. As he entertained my daughter, he smiled and told me that his daughters were 25 and 27.
"They've been gone for a long time now," he said, popping my daughter up on the bar. "Time really does fly."
Now it's not the first time I've ever heard anyone say that to me, and I'm certain it won't be the last. Most of the time I just smile and nod because yes I know that, but, OH GOD, DO YOU WANT A WHINY TODDLER RIGHT NOW SO I CAN BREATHE?
I found myself oozing gratefulness, but not necessarily for the catching of the vomit or the cleaning of the bowel movements made outside the toilet.
But that day it struck a chord, or more like a loud crash in my brain that suddenly transported me ahead 20 years. And I wasn't shopping with my toddler but with my 22-year-old daughter, and I'd appreciate every single second of it because she'd be on break from college and I would have not seen her for a few months, maybe more, and I'd never want it to end.
I'd rush to clean their laundry and make them dinner. I'd happily cook them breakfast and walk back from the slopes with them, now too big for me to carry. I would treasure every single second of having all of my four children, maybe with their partners or spouses, or even their own kids, together with me.
In an instant, I found myself oozing gratefulness, but not necessarily for the catching of the vomit or the cleaning of the bowel movements made outside the toilet. I'm no Mother Teresa. But grateful for the chaos and challenge it is to have children—many children in my case—because I know that those moments are fleeting. Oh, I know it all too well.
On that day, I needed the man to remind me of my blessings, to snap me out of my self-pity and bring me back to a place of thankfulness. He gave me a gift: a crystal ball that I'll keep in my pocket. So the next time I'm feeling overwhelmed or pushed to my limits or wishing for a transporter to lift me right up out of the craziness, I can see my future and know that it will never be like this again. And those trying times can actually be amazing treasures.