Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Family Photo Time

I'm done with studio photo sessions.  Done I tell you.  Every year we pack up the children and head to whatever studio has the best offers, and every year I wonder why we did it.  The posed shots never turn out as you quite hope.  In fact, most of the time we end up sending out our Christmas card with some random candid shot taken by a friend, an unposed shot that captures a more realistic view of our family.  You know, the one that embodies the dysfunctional chaos of our lives.  So then what's the point of going to Target or JCPenny's in the first place? My point exactly. 

This year we did something a bit different.  We scheduled a session with a friend of our who happens to also be a photographer.  Actually Betsy and I hired her to do some professional head shots for Strategic Victory and thought we'd throw in some family photos as well.  So on Sunday, we gathered our families at a beautiful stone church right in Catonsville and let Kasey perform her magic.  I haven't seen all of them yet, but from what I have seen, I'm certainly pleased.  And for the price, not even Target could beat it. 

When you go to a studio, you typically get a package of prints and you pay per pose. For us, a typical session with several different poses costs us upwards of $50 or so, and that's with my super frugal shopping skills.  If you want the rights to the photos then you're going to be dishing out several more precious pennies.  With Kasey, we each bought a mini-session for $35 and we got the rights to 5 different poses.  Plus we were able to choose the time and place.  Never again will we venture out to a store studio like Sears.  Why when we have a such a gem right under our noses?

This might seem like an advertisement for Kasey Caruthers photography and in a way it is.  However, my point is that there are other options available.  We no longer have to enslave ourselves to the traditional cheesy background scenes and overpriced prints.  I mean, seriously, there are way too many deals to be had with online print shops, why would I pay upwards of $15 for a 5x7?  That's just insanity.  I'm just saying, that's all.  (Bonus point if you can tell me what movie that line comes from)

Monday, November 29, 2010

New Column on Patch.com: Behind the Cape

I know I mentioned the fact that I was going to start writing for the Catonsville Patch.  Well, today marks my third column and the excitement has yet to wear off.  Then again, neither has the nervousness.  Luckily, God was looking out for me on Saturday night because he brought me the perfect circumstances as fodder for my musings.  Isn't it funny how He works sometimes?

Today also marks the first comments from people I didn't already know.  I don't know why but there's a sense of accomplishment rolled up in that first contact beyond your own little circles.  The same thing happened when Strategic Victory brought in our first client that wasn't somehow connected to us.  Not that it means I've arrived, but it just feels good, almost like a validation.  Either way, I'll take it.

Well, it's a busy day today.  Tomorrow I have 10 or so moms and their kids coming to play and my house is an utter disaster.  I love Christmas and I love how my house looks at Christmas, but at this very moment, it sort of looks like Christmas vomited all over my living room.   There's no order and it's driving me insane.  Since I have a Central Committee meeting tonight, I think it might be best to get my butt in gear and put my house in order.

I only have about 2 hours and then it's time for Chick-fil-a. But Hillary, don't you guys normally go to CFA on Tuesday nights?  Why yes we do.  What a good observation there friend.  Today just happens to be Receipt Day at CFA.  Not sure if this is at every location or just mine.  I'd like to think we're special, but I'm guessing not.  Anyways, you go, you eat, you save your receipt.  Then on December 13, you go, you show that same receipt, and you eat for FREE.  Sweet deal, huh?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Neverending Story

Someone please tell me that Blake will not be 18 and still peeing in his underwear.  Seriously, I really need someone to tell me that.  It's been months of this back and forth regression and I'm about to pull my last hair out.  Just when we think he's on the upswing, he slides back down.  It's the most frustrating thing in the world.  Literally, I sit there thinking, "am I really that bad of a parent?" 

Owen just decided one day he was done with underwear and that was that.  Madison is starting to pee and poop on the potty without any coaxing, bribing or begging.  But Blake?  No, Blake just doesn't give a hoot.  If he's too busy playing to stop and go potty, he just goes right there in his pants.  And it doesn't seem to bother him that his pants are wet either.  We've tried everything from praise to discipline.  I'm at a complete loss.  There are few things I can't conquer, but Blake and potties is going to be the straw that breaks my freaking back. 

Any suggestions?  Seriously, I'll take them.  I mean if you want to borrow him for a couple days and bring him back fixed, I'm willing.  Maybe that's it.  Maybe I broke my child. 

Tomorrow is another day.  Is it sad that I pray for dry pants?  I do.  Every single flipping day, "Lord, please let Blake have a good day, learn more about you, and not relieve himself in his superhero underroos." 

I feel like I'm stuck in a rendition of  "The Song That Never Ends," sung to the tune of "Nanny Nanny Boo Boo"  Am I part of some Gotcha reality TV show?  If that's the case, you guys can jump out at anytime and replace the fake Blake with the real thing.

Do you sense my desperation yet?  I need a solution, and short of selling him on the black market, I'm open to any and all advice. Thank you.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Check out my new column

It's no secret.  I love to write and now I can finally do it beyond the simple musings of a blog.  A couple of weeks ago I was given the opportunity to write a column for a new hyper-local online news source powered by AOL, Patch.com.   Basically it breaks the news down by cities and towns.  Catonsville has it's very own Patch site, and I have my very own column, "Behind the Cape."  It's all about being a mom and a real one at that.  I also get to share fun activities and great deals.  What an experience!

You can check it out and let me know what you think. In fact, I'd love to hear from you in the comments section of the article.  The more people read, the more I get to keep writing.  And we all know that writing keeps me sane.  This week's column is entitled "Confessions of an Ungratefulholic."

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A Shocking Confession

I was rocked tonight by a shocking confession from a dear friend.  It doesn't matter what was confessed or who did the confessing.  The point is that this declaration had some serious ramifications for my psyche.  Literally rocked me to the core.  Do you want to know why?  Because I realized that I'm not above it.  I'm not immune from falling.  I'm not untouchable.  So often I watch a TV show or read an article on the internet about someone that has fallen from grace, and I think, "I would never do that."  Truth is, I'm perfectly capable of sinning.  I am after all a sinner.  I'm so quick to judge others and yet I mask the evil in my own heart.  In fact, I justify it.  Why is it so easy to talk myself into doing what I know to be wrong and extremely difficult to talk myself out of it?  Seriously, what is that? 

The only good news to come out of tonight was the fact that, for the first time in a very long time, I felt close to God. For a microsecond I felt like I had never drifted away.  I found myself begging God for mercy, not only for my friend but for myself as well.  Now the test comes.  Will I continue to spend time with Him?  Will I carve out a few moments of each day to return to my knees before His throne of grace?  Here's hoping, right?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Here It Is

It's completely surreal to see your own name featured on the front page of a website that you didn't create.  Check it out and let me know what you think.  But don't post your comments here.  Post them on the article itself.  It helps my editor know that people are reading and engaging.  However, if you absolutely hate it, then just maybe snicker to yourself and not make it public.  My ego is a little fragile right now. 

Thanks again for all the support.  You guys are amazing.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A Done Deal

That's it.  As of 6 am tomorrow morning, I will be an official published columnist.  The article is written, name chosen, picture uploaded.  Now it falls into the hands of readers.  Whether or not it is well received will likely determine if I get to continue writing.  Do me a favor?  Go and read it, even if it sucks, okay?  I'll post the link when it's live.  Prayers appreciated.  I just dove in and there is no turning back.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

This is it...my very own trip down the rabbit hole.

I've been thinking about it all week...what to write for my first column on the Catonsville Patch.  Maybe I need to get one of those voice recorders so I don't get to this point and forget every flipping idea that has entered my head over the last couple of days.  Call it nerves.  Call it writer's block.  Call it whatever you like, just pray that I can somehow find the words.  Look at me, I can sit down and any moment on any of my other blogs and the words just flow freely.  However you add a payment and an actual publication to the mix and it's like I'm mute.  I know, who would have thunk? Me? Mute? 

So what do I write about?  It's my first ever paid writing gig.  I will say, however, that it's certainly nice to know the topic.  For a long time, I wasn't sure what I wanted to write about, hence the 4 million blogs I manage.  The point is that I love to write.  It's therapeutic for me, and if people happen to read it, that's just a bonus.  Now the stakes are higher.  If people don't read, I don't get to keep writing.  Hhmmm, have I just stumbled upon  the cause of my writer's block?  Could I be afraid that I'm not actually that good at doing what I love?  Shocking revelation peeps, I have insecurities. Why do I get the feeling I'm about the walk into a high school cafeteria buck naked?  Risky.

All right, I have to just do it, dive in, and pray I know how to swim.  Prayers appreciated.  This is going to be a bumpy ride with a super secret and equally exciting destination.  I'll let you know when it's up and running.  I trust that, as my true friends, you'll give me honest and constructive feedback (while keeping my very fragile ego in mind). 

Friday, November 12, 2010

Worthwhile

Why is it that the people closest to us have the power to make us feel like dirt and a complete stranger or an old friend can lift us up with one kind word?  What is it about human nature that allows us to treat the people we love with such disrespect? Why do we have this uncanny ability to shut off our own humanity in order to ignore another’s?

Then again, why do even we allow how we feel about ourselves to be dictated by the opinions of others?  Why do we put people on such pedestals with such high expectations that their doomed to fall and fall hard? 

Despite what it may look like on the outside, there are times that I feel like a complete failure, failure as a wife, a mother, a housekeeper, a Christian.  You get the point.  Notice how I didn’t include my political life even though we just lost big time.  Or More than Moms or the neighborhood association?  Sometimes I think I bring these things into my life so that I have an outlet where I don’t feel like a complete loser, where I’m appreciated, where I’m more like a superstar.  Okay, maybe I’m reaching a bit, but again, you get the point.  

One would have to argue though…Hillary, if you dropped all this other stuff, wouldn’t then have a ton of  time to invest in your family so that you weren’t such a big fat L?  While that may be a true statement, I’m not all that convinced that much would change.  Sure, my house and my kids would be cleaner.  I’d cook better meals and possibly be able to detach myself from my Blackberry, but wouldn’t I lose my identity in the process?  Don’t get me wrong, I love being a mom (really I do), but I’ve fought hard to not just be a mom.  I wanted to have an identity of my own, not just someone’s wife or mother.  I’m certainly no June Cleaver but I’m not Peggy Bundy either.  Maybe I’m going through my own little identity crisis right now…heck, maybe it’s a midlife crisis. 

This morning I was sitting with a couple girlfriends talking about this very topic.  Where does our self worth come from?  The question arose:  What do you do when you doubt if God loves you?  One of the girls said that it didn’t seem like a relevant question to her because she’s never really struggled with it.  But when you look at it from a little different perspective, it’s a perfectly reasonable question. 

If we’re seeking our self worth in the eyes of others, our husbands, our kids, our friends and colleagues, then maybe that reveals a deeper issue within us…maybe we do doubt in God’s love for us, at least in his unconditional love for us.  And that makes perfect sense to me.  Of course I struggle with understanding his unconditional love for me because the only love I can comprehend is conditional.  Love without reason is hard to find even amongst Christians.  We constantly tie strings to our affections and it seems that the closer we are to someone, the more strings there are.  I happen to believe that those strings are tied to expectations. 

Whether we admit it or not, we set expectations for the people in our lives, normally much higher than they are even capable of attaining, and we get hurt.  We allow those unmet expectations to define us, to determine how we feel about ourselves.  It’s all one big fat lie, and yet we don’t recognize it.  Even I struggle to see that.  I allow myself to be hurt, to feel like a loser, to invite myself to countless pity parties for one.  Just because someone I love treats me like I don’t matter doesn’t mean that I don’t, right?  Why is it so hard to believe that?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A New Direction on the Same Old Path

I know, I know, I've neglected my blog.  Heck, I pretty much neglected everything in my life over the last couple of months.  And for what?  We lost the election.  Don't worry, I haven't gone off the deep end, and I'm not buying a one way ticket to my very own pity party island.  It is what it is, and to be quite honest, I have no regrets, or at least not many. 

I never thought my path would lead me here.  Politics?  Neighborhood Association? Mom's Group? Who would have thunk?  Looking back over the last year or so, I feel like I've stumbled upon myself.  If only I would have had this amount of confidence in who I am way back in the day, who knows where I would have been.  Don't get my wrong, I wouldn't trade my life for anything, but as you get older (and a bit wiser), you do start to wonder...what if I had made different decisions?  What if I made more decisions on my own instead of on what other people expected of me?  What if I had believed in myself and my potential?  Of course I don't want any of this to come across as arrogant.  I just feel like it took a very windy and crooked path in order for me to see the real me.  Some people saw it way before I did, and I'm sorry I didn't believe them.  Regardless of what path I took, I'm glad I'm here now. 

I love politics. It's meaty and complicated, frustrating as all get out yet familiar and refreshing.  Would it be easier to be back in Georgia where it's more red than blue? Absolutely, but would it be as challenging to my character? Probably not.  Plus, here I get to be a somewhat medium fish in a very small pond.  In a Red State, I'd be more like a minnow in a vast and wide ocean. 

I love being a mom.  Three kids under 6 presents its share of challenges.  Believe me, there is never a dull moment.  Sure, in most of those moments I'm left wondering if I'll have any hair left at the end.  But as much I fought against it, I love that my identity is entwined in those three lovable bundles of energy and personality.  More than Moms gives me the opportunity to not only fellowship with other moms, but to learn from and be shaped by their wisdom and even grow together through our triumphs and our mistakes.  And now that More than Moms is taking on a great and exciting new cause, non-profitdom,  I can't wait to see where we'll end up.

I love being a business owner.  Strategic Victory Consulting has certainly surprised me over the last few months.  What we thought would be a political venture has turned into so much more.  We get to watch businesses grow, most of the time from tiny little sprouts.  Betsy and I are both learning the extent of our skill sets and how they can work together for good, and not evil.  He he he.  If you want to know more about what we're doing, check out our website.  While you're there, join our email list. 

I love our neighborhood, as well as living in Catonsville.  Close your ears, Mom.  It's almost like we've found our home...at least for now.  I haven't completely given up on the South, but Oak Crest and Catonsville have provided us with a place we can finally feel comfortable.  From the house to the tree-shaded streets to the active community association (which I now lead...scary), it's like our own little slice of Mayberry, only less antiquated.

And now for the gran finale...I love to write.  And now I get the opportunity to do so and get paid.  WHAT?  I know, crazy, huh?  There is this new hyper-local news source, powered by AOL, called Patch.com.  Catonsville has it's very own Patch site and I will be a weekly columnist.  No, I will not be writing about politics.  I'm pretty sure I'm too biased for that.  However, I will be writing about two other loves in my life...motherhood and deal seeking.  My column launches early next week, so keep an eye out for that.  My dad would be so proud.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Am I The Busiest Person in Baltimore?

My friend Alicia posted this contest on my wall for the Busiest Person in Baltimore. It's hosted by a local radio station, Shine 95:1 FM.  Anyways, I decided to enter.  The winner gets a free cleaning service.  I'll take that.  Here's my submission.  What do you think?  Would you vote for me?

"Oh my, I could totally use a cleaning service.  My poor house is so neglected.  I'm a work at home mom who barely has a second to think, much less clean.  Not sure if I'm the busiest person in Baltimore, but I do get the question, "Hillary, how do you do it all?"

I have three kids.  My oldest is 5, starting Kindergarten tomorrow, and my youngest is 19 months.  They alone keep me pretty busy, but that's not the end of it.

I own my own business doing marketing and event planning for small businesses and political organizations, which I started a little over a month ago. I never expected it to take off so quickly.  Most of my work gets done during nap time and after the kids go to bed.

Last year, I started a mom's group called More than Moms on meetup.com.  It has over 100 members and we're about to go non-profit so we can work more with moms in need in the community.  I'm the president and chief organizer.  We do a couple outings a week, plus I spend several hours working on my responsibilities as president.

Wait, there's more.  I also serve at the Communications Director for a local county council campaign.  This takes up about 20 hours a week that I squeeze in when I can.  Can you tell I don't sleep much?

As well, I serve as VP of my neighborhood association, which doesn't require too much of my daily time, but fluctuates from week to week.

Lastly, my husband and I are extremely active in a starter church in our community.  We host a small group in our home once a week and I help plan the women's socials once a month.

As you can probably gather, I don't have a set schedule.  Instead it's dictated by the needs of that day.  Maybe it's playgroup at my house, or a heavy work load for my business, or a planning meeting for our neighborhood block party.  I don't have a nanny and my kids aren't in childcare, so when most people are working during the day, I'm being a mom.  Of course, I do try to sneak tasks and appointments in here and there, but my kids are my first priority.

I don't know how I do it all, but I know that I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing.  God has made that very clear and He's always provided for my every need and the needs of my family.  Somehow all of these things connect, like a spaghetti junction of sorts.  It amazes me to see friends from church serving with me in the political realm, or women from my mom's group checking out our new church.  I might be busy, but I know I'm blessed to be right in the middle of God's amazing plan."

Kindergarten Zombie Mom

My little Owen starts school tomorrow.  I've been so caught up in the hustle and bustle of school supplies and doctor's visits that I hadn't thought about the fact that my little boy is going to be in Kindergarten.  As I walked the halls of Mini-ville (AKA the elementary school) yesterday shuffling from classroom to nurse's office to PTA meeting, I was very aware of how out of place I felt.  Was I the only one who had absolutely no idea what she was doing?  I must have looked like a complete zombie.

Owen, of course, was quiet and reserved, not sure he spoke a word from the time we entered the building until the time we left.  Oh and in typical Hillary fashion we were late.  Why?  Because there were a few items on the supply list that I hadn't gotten.  It helps to pay close attention to quantities.  So we get there, load everything into his locker (They have lockers in Kindergarten?), and sneak into the back of the classroom.  His teacher had all the kids sit on the big carpet at the front of the room as she oriented them to the layout of the room.  Then she came to talk to us, the big people, while the other kids played quietly with puzzles, books, and blocks.  Guess what I learned first?  Turns out the supply list I had was wrong, so I was late for nothing, and I still have to go back to the store.  Perfect.

Then there was more paperwork.  Back in the Spring, at registration, I filled out paperwork for over an hour. No joke.  Then they sent a packet with his teacher's name and information on orientation and such.  Guess what?  More paperwork.  And now I have 4 more pages to fill out. Once we were done, we could turn them in, sneak out of the back, and make our way to the PTA meeting.  As if I wasn't already feeling completely overwhelmed.   They held the meeting in this tiny room.  By the time I arrived, there wasn't even room to stand.  A bunch of us hovered out in the hallway waiting for what we thought was a second wave. The room slowly began to clear and this clueless mom slinked her way towards the front.  Yes, coffee.  And then a woman, asking if I'd filled out my form yet, and do I have my check ready.  Wait, what?  There's only one presentation, but I missed the first one...cause I apparently I wasn't lost enough.  It's a real good thing that my friend in the VP of the PTA.  At least she can fill me in.  Besides, I didn't have my check book on me and the PTA doesn't take Amex.

Defeated I made my way back to Owen's classroom to find him sitting alone on the floor.  His teacher must think I'm the worst mom ever.  First we're late then my kid's the last one there.  Perfect.  What a great way to make a first impression.

Amidst all this chaos, it still hadn't dawned on me that my little boy was going to kindergarten.  KINDERGARTEN.  Am I ready for this? Is his ready for this?  I feel a bit like we're peeking over the top of the hill on a roller coaster.  There's no turning back, but we're at that moment when I wish we could.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Things We Do As Moms

So I'm sitting outside the Y nearly an hour before they open, just hoping I didn't get here too late to get Blake into the Tots program. Actually I've been here since 4:50 or so. When I arrived, there were already 15 to 20 people in line. Now it's wrapped around the building. I find myself eyeballing those in front of me. Are they here for Tots too? How many of them are after the four remaining Wednesday morning slots. Seriously, you'd think I was camping out for a Black Friday laptop deal. If it weren't so dark, I'd take a picture. It's crazy ridiculous what we'll do to make sure our kids get into a preschool program, a swim lesson or a sports class. Absolutely ridiculous. How insane do you have to be to roll out of bed at 4:20 and come sit on a curb at 5 in the morning just to get your child into a Y program? At least I'm not the only one. The parking lot is almost full now. Wow, after all this, I have to say I'll slip into depression if I don't get the spots I want. Crazy, right? If only it weren't such an awesome program, or if there were a comparable preschool with the same pricing plan? But there's not. This is it. There is no plan B.

I think the fact that I'm a work at home mom now adds to my desire to get him in. I'm sure it does. I woke up before my alarm went off because I was so paranoid that I wouldn't wake up to it. It there a 12 step program for overzealous moms?

Either way, it will all be over in about 30 minutes. I'll let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Overwhelmed

I bet you're thinking I'm going negative with this blog.  The title would surely imply that, right?  Sure, there are times that I am completely overwhelmed.  How could I possibly add yet another thing to my plate, much less a new business venture?  Hillary, there literally is no time left.  You run a mom's group.  You're the Communications Director for a local campaign.  You're part of a new church plant. You sit on the board of your neighborhood association.  You're running for Central Committee.  Oh yeah, and you have three kids five and under, a husband, a dog, a house, friends and family. Don't worry, I get it, but I've always felt like the Lord has been leading me and somehow they're all connected.  I've talking about the "Spaghetti Junction" that is my life.

Truth is: I'm most productive when I'm so busy I can't breathe.  On days that I have little on my calendar, I literally would sit and veg the entire day, translating into poor parenting, cranky wife, lousy housekeeper, and completely useless individual.  The hills of chaos keeps me going, and I believe my Maker is clearly aware of that.  Do I have to learn boundaries?  Absolutely!  Do I have to communicate better with my husband?  Clearly!  The point is that I'm overwhelmed and still completely filled with joy at the same time.

As Betsy and I venture down this road into the world of business, I'm constantly reminded that this is not my business.  It belongs to God, period.  He's made that clear from the beginning.  The fact that we've only been in business for a few weeks says it all.  Currently, we have six clients, and two more on the way in.  Everyday, we're making new connections, exploring the realms of our abilities, and watching businesses and organizations build foundations that will help them succeed.  It really is such an exciting opportunity and we're loving every second of it. 

I might have to fit work into 10 minutes here and there, an hour or so at naptime, and sometimes into the wee hours of the night, but what we're doing matters to the companies and candidates we work with.  There is such a need for what we do.  We're seeing that small business owners know that they need to market, but lack the skills to do so and the finances to pay a large firm.  We offer cost effective solutions that will help establish the foundation and facilitate the best kind of marketing, word of mouth. 

Overwhelmed!  Not only by the sheer amount of stuff on my plate, but more so by God's goodness.  For some reason, he has chosen to bless this venture.  He clearly has a plan. Our goal is to not only put him at the center, but to let him roam throughout every facet of what we do.  If you're a praying person, you can pray to that end with us. 

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Diving into business

If you've noticed the radio silence over the past two weeks, there is actually a good reason for it.  My friend, Betsy, and I have launched a new business, Strategic Victory Consulting.  I know what you're thinking.  Hillary, how could you possibly add one more thing to your plate?  Do you not do enough already?

Honestly, it's something we've been pondering for months now.  We kept thinking that we'd start it up after the election, maybe in January.  However, where would be the value in that.  The start of Maryland holds the vast majority of their elections every four years, meaning there won't be another statewide election until 2014.  Why not use this time between now and the election to build name ID, garner clients, and build relationships with the business community?  So we dove in, and in two short weeks, we have a logo, a website, a registered business, and two clients. 

What do we do?  We're two politically minded ladies with a vision to empower conservatives to victory.  So how would we define victory?  It doesn't have to be a political campaign.  There are a myriad of conservative organizations and small businesses that need help marketing themselves, but often lack the time and budget to do so. Whether candidates, incumbents, organizations or small businesses, we're offering up our expertise in marketing, event planning and fundraising in a budget-friendly way. 

Personally, I'm stoked about where this will take us.  It's always been my goal to go back to work when the kids get in school.  My goal would be that by 2014, when Madison heads off the Kindergarten, we'll be an established business with a steady income and even an office decorated with cute little purple elephants. 

Why the purple elephant?  We're not naive.  We live in Maryland, a deep blue and heavily liberal state.  Our vision is to see it become more a shade of purple than red, more of a two party state. 

Today, we meet with a potential supplier and possible customer.  It's my first official business meeting.  Tonight, we're heading to Howard County to our first networking event, at least professionally. 

It's been such a whirlwind.  Just over a week ago, we were sitting on the beach in Ocean City brainstorming about this venture.  Now, it's a full fledged reality.  Of course, we're a God-centered company and we believe this is the path we've been asked to take.  We covet the prayers of our friends and family, as politics is not exactly a cheery, bright place to work.  We hope to show people that you can work in this arena and maintain your faith and integrity.  And we can't do it without a network of supporters.  So, I'm asking each of you to stand by us, hold us accountable, and pray for us regularly. 

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

It's a Start

I did it.  I bought a new Bible and journal.  Yesiree, I did!  And they're pretty too. I have a feeling, though, that was the easy part.  Now I must open them and start to process of learning how to connect with God again.  After my post yesterday, Christy and Jen both left comments involving scripture.  So this morning, I decided to start there.  Of course, despite the fact that I was up early, Owen wasn't far behind me.  But I did get about 15 minutes to read through Luke 13:34 and Psalm 130.  The one word that stuck out to me, that ironically isn't mentioned in either passage, is repentance.  I think I"ll chew on that for a while. 

If you have more scripture suggestions for me, bring em on.  Maybe I'll let my friends decide the direction I go.  It's like a call for encouragement and exhortation. What passages have been speaking to you lately?  What has God been teaching you? 

In other news, Neil and I went on a date last night.  Alicia babysat.  In order to be as prepared as possible, I decided to give the kids a bath before we left.  I bet you're expecting a long drawn out story about the debacle that was bath time.  However, it was actually a really pleasant experience, especially when I came into the boys room to grab PJs and found Owen's play clothes neatly folded on his dresser.  Seriously, for a second there, I thought we might have a ghost.  I didn't even know the boy knew how to fold clothes.  I think I just discovered a new chore for him. he he he.

What's on the schedule for today?  Well, here's what I hope it is.  We'll see what actually happens.  First I'd like to go to the gym for a quick work out.  Here's hoping they have a space for Madison right at 9.  Then I'm heading over the the Trolley Trail for Stroller Brigade.  Hopefully someone else will show up.  I'm just not inclined to walk all by myself with three kids.  Doesn't sound like an ounce of fun.  Then, I have to head to Staples to make 400 newsletters for my neighborhood.  Last, I hope we end up at the pool.  Now, this will be my first time venturing off to the pool without the helpful hands of my husband.  You guys can definitely pray for that.  The good news is that, besides Stroller Brigade, there isn't anywhere I really have to be at any particular time, so all of this is fluid.  The bad news is that there isn't anywhere I really have to be at any particular time, so all of this is fluid.  See where I'm going with that?  Let's just hope I don't give up and decide to sit at home and stare at a wall all day. 

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Coincidence or Sign of the Times?

So it's not really a secret that Jesus and I have not been connecting lately?  Okay, really it's just me not connecting to him.  Of course,I know that the second I lift the embargo, the flood gates will open, but for some reason I'm keeping him at bay.  I wish I could say that it wasn't for a lack of trying, but I can't, so we'll move on. 

On my recent trip to Georgia, I left my Bible and journal in my in-law's car.  I promise, it wasn't on purpose.  My Mother-in-law, being the sweetheart that she is, boxed them up and shipped them off.  Ironically, they never got here.  I shudder at even the thought of a postal worker reading my prayer journal.  All my deepest, darkest secrets in one place, exposed?  Ouch!  Granted, my life is a wee bit boring for deep, dark secrets, but the point is that they're my thoughts, my prayers, my insights...and now, they're gone.  It's funny how I could go a week or so without even thinking about my journal, but now that it's gone, it's all I think about.  Alright, maybe not all, but still!

All of a sudden, I find myself desiring to journal, but I don't have one.  It's almost like a pregnancy craving, the kind that you'll do anything to satisfy.  I tried just grabbing a pad of paper, but the perfectionist in me (I know, right?) just wouldn't allow me to start writing.  It felt too open, unsafe.  Where would I put it when I was done?  What if I lost it?  How would I keep them in sequential order?  I know it sounds weird, but I've always been a journaler, even before they were prayers.  Every now and then I like to sit down and read back over the years, to see how far I've come and how far I have to go.  It's almost like a chronicle of my walk with God.  When we moved to Maryland, I somehow misplaced several years worth of journals.  I felt like I'd lost a huge chunk of my life. 

I could always tell where I was with God based on the dates in my journal.  When I was journaling every day, it was clearly a sign of good times with Jesus.  The farther they got apart, the more I could tell I was depending on my own strength, allowing the muck of life to get in the way.  Lately, the dates could sometimes span weeks instead of days.  Sure, some of it it busyness or just getting out of the habit, but somewhere in me is a lack of desire to spend time with God...possibly even a conscious decision.  Am I mad?  Or hurt?  Probably a little of both, and even though I know that none of it is God's fault per say, I'm guessing he's the easiest target. 

My mission for the day?  Find a new journal and force myself to sit down and work through these emotions that are clogging up my stairway to heaven.  There can only be so many excuses.

And if you happen to be a postal worker in some post office between Grovetown, GA and Catonsville, MD and see a couple of books lying around without a home, just send them on up here, especially if one happens to be a small, blue Bible and the other, a partially written-in journal.  I'll even reward you with a Starbucks card or two.  I would put up a bigger reward, but then I might receive every lost book in America.  And since I don't read much, that wouldn't be too much fun for me.  Though I could start my own book drive and donate them to a local library. 

If you're a praying person, then I covet your prayers.  I want to get back to that place where I actually communed with God on a daily basis, where He was my source of life, my daily bread.  And though I know that buying a new journal won't solve all my problems, it's a start.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Broken Keyboard Again

A couple months ago we were having a post yard sale, post shed building cookout with some very helpful friends.  Gosh, that totally sounded like Sir Topham Hat from Thomas the Tank Engine. Anyways, Betsy was the one to find the wounded, keyless laptop.  The shriek echoed up the stairs as I dropped what I was doing and booked it down the stairs.  I threw myself on the floor in search of it's lost limbs, scooping up a K here and a N there.  The men, hearing our moaning and wailing, come barrelling down the stairs to find us weeping for the poor, lost keyboard. 

Okay, maybe I'm over dramatizing the event.  It went down more like this.  "Hey Hills, I think you might want to see this," said Betsy from the bottom of the stairs.  After seeing the atrocity that used to be my laptop, the only thing left to say was, "OOOOOOOOWWEEEENNNNN & BBBBBLLLLLAAAKKKKEEE, Get your behinds downstairs right this second."

To my astonishment, Owen worked as a lone plucker.  Blake was released while Owen faced his sentencing.  He had to sit in time out while Paul & Allen attempted to rekey the board.  In typical male fashion, they refused to look at a qwerty keyboard.  Except for a few switched keys, the boys were able to put Humpty Dumpty back together again, and I had a mostly functioning laptop.

Fast forward to last week, Allison and Alicia are over for entirely different reasons.  Welcome to Grand Central Station.  You know I love the hustle and bustle.  So we're in Alicia's room eying some "genius" wall painting by my very clever and mischievous 4 year old. Then I walk out for some reason or another to find, once again, a keyless laptop.  This time, the culprit, one small-in-stature yet big-on-destruction 3 yr old.  However you wouldn't know it by how calm, cool,and collective he was just sitting there watching whatever was on the TV.  He's coy, I'll give you that, but seeing how Owen was already in time out and Madison was sleeping; there was really no other option.  This time it was Allison, Alicia and I trying to replace the keys.  This time we used another Qwerty keyboard as our guide. We were able to switch back the keys previously reversed, but now instead of 4 permanently missing keys, I now had 10.  Add to that the fact that most keys required a hard press or two before it would type, I realized that I could no longer function with a broken keyboard. 

So I called Acer, who politely told me that they would be happy to replace the keyboard.  Oh yay, really?  Yep, for $199.  What?  The computer isn't even worth that.  Can't you just sell me a keyboard and  I can do it myself?  Nope, I'm guessing they don't trust the end user with a few screws and a plug. 

Then someone said to me, "Hillary,why don't you just go on Ebay and order a new keyboard?" Oh my, the could the solution really be that simple?  Sure enough, I found pages and pages of brand new Acer 5517 keyboards just waiting for me to buy one. A click here, a little Paypal there and voila!  Now all I have to do is wait a few more days, and it won't take me 4 hours to type a paragraph.

All of that, though completely 100% true, was also a little bit of a metaphor for how I feel in my life right now, like a broken keyboard.  I can't go into all the details, but let's just say I could use some prayer.  I'm pretty sure that there isn't as easy a solution (especially since I can't buy a new me), but I would like to be fully restored, no matter how painful the process is.  Functioning right now is a bit like working with the flawed and damaged keyboard.  It probably doesn't help that I feel far from God right now as well.  Okay, it doesn't help at all.  In fact, it's probably what has gotten me here in the first place.  Regardless, if you're a praying person, please do so for me and my family.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

My Passion: Lost or On Hold

I can't tell you how many times a day I think, "Oh, I should blog about that," like Blake's reversal in potty training or my near emotional breakdown.  Writing is such a release for me, a chance to vent frustrations or dive deeper into my own psyche. 

People ask me all the time how I manage to do it all, be a wife and a mother, a community activist, a mom advocate, and a political junkie.  Truth is that it isn't easy, and comes with a price, more like a sacrifice.  Lately, I've gone from blogging at least every other day to maybe once a week, if that.  I miss it, more than words can even express.  You know what else I miss, spending time with God.  Yep, it's funny how the things nearest and dearest to my heart are the first things to go when faced with a time crunch.  I feel like I'm constantly managing the urgent but not all that important, like picking up the same toys forty times in one day.  But don't get me started on trying to keep a house somewhat presentable. (I gave up on clean a long time ago).

I thought maybe I could bring you up to date in a manner suitable to my current time constraint: the Glee season finale (both urgent and important...he he).
  • Kid free time was amazing, restful and downright frisky (or so Neil says)
  • I turned 32 (yuk)
  • Went to Florida, saw my mom, the beach, and ate way too much restaurant food
  • Got a tick bite that got infected and forced me to see a doc twice while on vacation.
  • Came home just in time to celebrate Blake's 3rd birthday and rock out at an 80's prom.
  • Won the dance contest at the 80's prom (well...almost)...took my mom. 
  • Blake had a pirate themed party and showed off his new jungle gym.
  • Madison got bronchilitis for the 3rd time in 3 months...hope it's not asthma
  • Hung out with Jo and Ang is Chapel Hill, which was very good for my phyche
  • Met with Vanessa and Mandy about turning More than Moms into a non-profit...more to come on that. 
  • Got a chance to work the Red, White and Blue dinner this Thursday featuring Mitt Romney...it's a $200 event.  he he
  • Sent out my first press release today.
  • Owen is almost done with the Tots program and I've signed both him and Blake up for their summer clinic.  Sad and happy all at the same time.
  • Walking in Relay for Life this Saturday with Whisler Walking in memory of my dad.  Consider a donation.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Awaited Vacation

My in-laws come tomorrow beginning, what I hope to be, a much needed break from the chaos that is my life. They are coming for two reasons.  One, to build the play fort/ jungle gym in the back yard and two, to take the kids back with them.  Yep, you read write.  On Monday, all 3 of my beautiful children will be leaving the state without a single parent, leaving Neil and I alone.  What will we do with ourselves?  Of course, I will most likely fill any space emptied by the absence of children with some other conundrum.  For the moment let's pretend that I will be sleeping in til noon, eating cold pizza for breakfast and having nothing but "fun" with my hubby.  Oops, did I actually type that?  Oh well, you all thought it.  For three entire days, I will be at home, during the day, with no kids.  I actually get to go out to dinner with Neil on my birthday and not have to hire a babysitter.  Sweet!

I do have another plan as well, especially for the daytime.  As much as I would like to sleep til noon, it's really not in my nature.  I'd rather use my time wisely, and I can't think of a better way then to start the process of planning a new venture.  Oh, that's right, I haven't told you about said venture because I've been such a blog slacker.  My friends, Betsy,Leslie, and I are thinking of (more like planning on) starting a political consulting business post election.  Of course, if Steve wins, that bodes well for us.  Either way, we're diving in, and I thought I might use my kid-free days to meet with politicians, candidates, and consultants, picking their already fried brains.  It's an election year, everyone's brain is fried and scrambled.  Now if only we had a name for this business.  Hmmm...chew on that one for me, ok?

Back to my kid-less adventure:  It doesn't end there.  On Thursday, I'll wake up bright and early (AKA before noon) and make my way down to Chapel Hill to visit non other than my BFF's Jo and Angela.  I haven't even met Ang's new baby yet (and he's almost 6 months old).  I'll spend 2 days there before heading to Augusta to pick up my beloved offspring.  From there, we'll make the 7 hour drive to Panama City Beach to see my mom.  As the week comes to a close, we'll get back in the car (Mom included) and put the peddle to the meddle all the way back to Maryland, arriving just in time to throw Blake's 3rd Birthday Party and attend the 80's Prom with Team Whisler (yep, I'm making Mom go and buy some 80's garb).  Are you jealous yet?  No, really, you know you are. 

I personally can't wait for the adventure to begin.  I'll try and not be a blog slacker during the trip, but I make no promises.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Walking, Pooping and Keyboards

What could be better than a walking 15 month old and a potty trained almost 3 year old?  They're all mobile, which means I can unleash them into the wild (aka the back yard).  And Blake has leaped over his last hurdle in potty training, 'dropping off the kids in the pool."  Now to teach his potty etiquette, aiming, wiping, and flushing. Beware when you come to visit, in a house with 3 boys (yes I count Neil in that), you always have to look at the seat before sitting down.  It doesn't matter how many times I clean that toilet before company comes over, the boys inevitably make it look like a public bathroom from hell in a matter of moments. 

Now onto the brunt of why I write today...mainly I'm testing out my keyboard.  Why?  Because Owen much has been feeling left out with all the talk of walking and pottying, because Saturday night, he thought it would be fun to take every key off my keyboard.  Yep, every single one.  Paul and Allen graciously offered to reassemble what they could, which surprisingly was most of it.  However a few keys are reversed like the F & G and the comma and period.  And several keys don't yet have a home due to missing springs.  Some keys stick, which slows down my typing considerably.  Yes, I'm not exactly a happy camper, especially considering, in the end, it will probably need professional assistance, as may I before this whole childhood thing is over. 

So send out your thoughts to me today as I rejoice in the triumphs and accomplishments of parenthood, and at the same time attempt to maintain a bit of sanity (and at least one computer).  The end (the typing is annoying me).

Monday, April 12, 2010

Scariest Day of my Life

Like the onset of a scary movie, this particular day began in the normal, except for the fact that Neil was on his annual kayaking trip of course.  We spent most of the morning at a neighbor's house for a More than Moms' book club brunch.  Though I didn't actually read the book, I certainly enjoyed the company and distraction.  As we ventured home, my plan was to put Madison down for a nap, let the boys play for a few minutes and then head up with Blake.  The rest of the afternoon was supposed to be about laundry and Windex.  However, I'm guessing that just didn't sound exciting enough now did it?

It was a little after 1:00, and I was folding the last few remnants of three loads of laundry.  The electrician was working in what used to be the bar area at the base of the stairs.  Owen and Blake were playing an intense game of build the fort, which required nearly every pillow and blanket in the house.  During one of their missions, Blake lost his balance on the stairs, fell off the side from about five steps up, and landed on the side of his forehead.  From the sound of it, I half expected to find a bloody, cracked skull.  Instead, there wasn't even a goose egg.  This is when the panic set in and I knew we were going somewhere. 

Of course I can't leave the other kids with the electrician, even though he seemed nice enough.  So I called Mandy, my host from the morning.  I didn't know who else could get there that quickly.  I'm so indebted to her graciousness.  She came right over.  I put Blake in the van and took off towards the Kaiser urgent care.  In route, I called the advice nurse who began asking me a series of questions.  "Did he lose consciousness?" "No."  "How long did he cry?" "About 5 minutes."  "Is he alert and responsive to his name?" "Um, Let me check."  This is where it got scary.  I began calling out to Blake who was sitting in his seat, staring out the window.  His jaw was loose; his stare a little too eerie for my taste.  He didn't acknowledge me in any way, almost like he was catatonic.  I pulled over so that I could get back there with him and try again.  Still, no response.  He just stared out the window.  It was then that the advice nurse told me to call 911, so I did.

As I'm waiting there in a random parking lot, every situation imaginable flows in and out of my consciousness.  Suddenly, I'm thinking about Natasha Richardson, who died from a head injury that didn't seem that bad at first.  I'm wondering how I'm going to get a hold of Neil, who's on a river somewhere without a cell phone, should things go awry . I think we'll remedy that phone thing this week.  I can only imagine how he felt when I recounted the events of the day at half past 10 that night. 

Meanwhile, Blake is starting to fall asleep and I am trying anything to keep him awake.  The sirens did the trick.  From this point, it all becomes a blur.  The firemen and medics poured into my van like a reverse circus act.  They stabilized his head, transporting him in his car seat, which was extremely smart because I'm not sure I would have thought to bring it with me.   They sat me down in the ambulance and began "working" on Blake.  Because of the position of the seat, he couldn't see me for several minutes.  He didn't cry, whimper, or flinch.  He just wouldn't respond.  It was during this time that I was able to send out a quick tweet updating my friends and family to the situation.  Finally, I was able to come to his side and hold his limp hand.  He still didn't look at me.  And when the medics inserted the IV needle, he didn't even acknowledge it.  The EMT's gave each other a rather concerned look, and I lost it inside.  Panic overtook me and tears began to flow.  Of course I kept my outward appearance as strong as I could, but inside I was more frightened than I have ever been. 

Arriving at the hospital was like a scene out of Grey's Anatomy.  I half expected McDreamy himself to greet us.  There were people everywhere, and every single one of them asked me the same exact questions.  And I'm pretty sure one of them was from Child Protective Services.  I'm pretty sure that's routine.  By this point, he had begun to "wake up" a little.  His eyes would dart around, his hand would at least grasp my hand though not with any sort of strength.  By the time we got into the CT scan room, he was even starting to look a little frightened himself.  I never thought I'd actually be relieved to see my child show fear.  During the scan, he suddenly blurts out, "It stopped," speaking about the machine he was lying inside. 

Scans were clear, vital signs normal.  Now it became a waiting game.  The doctor's would not release him until he passed a couple tests, one was telling the docs that he didn't feel any pain in his neck.  This was no simple task.  Whatever progress we had made while in the room by ourselves, was eradicated as soon as any person wearing scrubs entered the room.  I could tell the boy was traumatized on top of everything else.  Eventually we bribed him with Oreos and he was able to say that he wasn't in pain.  A+ Blake.  Now all he has to do is keep the Oreos and juice down for 30 minutes.  All the while, he's improving, speaking more, moving more.  The panic had subsided and now all I wanted to do was take my son home, which was not an easy task in a hospital like Hopkins. But we arrived on Hubner just before 8:00 pm, in time to put the boys to bed.  And have a glass of wine with my friend and lifesaver.

Of course, I have to give a shout out to all of you who helped.   Mandy, who watched my kids for hours on end.  Katy and Wes, who came and picked us up even though it delayed their evening plans.  Joyce and Tim who selflessly retrieved my van from that random parking lot on Rolling Rd.  My mom and sister who continually called to check up.  And all my friends and family who made sure to keep us in their thoughts and prayer.  The support overwhelmed me.  I don't know how I would have made it through with out you. 

Thursday, March 25, 2010

We've Been Invaded

I love Spring, the sun shining down and making even a chilly day slightly warmer; the daffodils popping up almost immediately after the snow melted; the ants making their way towards my freshly baked cookies.  Stop! I don't like that last part.  They must be on the same schedule as the daffodils, popping up everywhere right after the Great Thaw.  "We survived the winter down in the ground.  Now we're starving.  Let's eat."  And poof, they're on my bookcase, counter, and Owen's lunchbox.  I'm telling you.  We're been invaded.


Of course, we're not new to this.  No matter where we live, ants always seem to be a problem. I'm starting to think that the same colony follows us everywhere, like they declared war on us 8 years ago in Atlanta.  They probably breed their armies just to make sure they win the war: full-on annoyance.  I wonder what would happen if I just surrendered.  Do you think they'd understand if I waved a teeny tiny white flag.  Or better yet, does anyone speak ant?  Maybe we could start negotiations.  Is Jimmy Carter still available for that? Scratch that, he'd probably be more willing to work for them. 

Owen and Blake have already enlisted themselves into the battle.  Yesterday, while I'm packing up Madison, the boys on sitting on the front porch marveling at the little beings.  Then Owen starts pounding them with his finger.  First of all, gross.  Second of all, "Owen, if they're outside of the house, then it's neutral ground.  You shouldn't be smashing them." Then Owen says, "But Mommy, we have to kill them."  Oh boy, considering the boy can't even fathom death yet, where did he pick that up?  I'm picturing a school yard, several boys, an ant hill, and a magnifying glass.  Wait a second, Owen isn't in school yet...at least not where there is a yard.  Hmmm!  I guess he gets it from his role model parents then.  Yikes!

Still the battle ensues, one that has just begun and will most likely continue until the snow falls again.  Never thought I'd be ready for another Snowmageddon.  Maybe that's all part of God's amazing plan. 

Monday, March 22, 2010

Crossing the Line

I'm about to do something I said I wouldn't do post last September, but this time I can't help it.  I have to share this with all of you.  If you're as angry as I am over this whole Obamacare debacle, please consider getting involved in some form or fashion in your local political circles. 

Most of you know that I've been working on a local County Council race for the last 6 months.  Being a Republican in Maryland is difficult in it of itself, especially when you're attempting to replace a Democrat seat with a Republican.  However, I have to say that I've never felt so invigorated.  I was so tired of yelling at the TV when those dopes in Washington said this or passed that.  Finally, I feel like I can actually make a difference in my own community.  I know that most of the people that read this blog aren't actually from my area, and many of you might consider yourselves apolitical, but regardless of where you are, whether it's a red state, blue state, or truly purple state, there is always something that can be done. 


I just posted a blog entry on the PVRC site that I would love each of you to read.  If you're interested in getting involved, whether it's in Maryland or wherever you live, just send me an email and I'll hook you up. 

Thanks for putting up with me. 

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Spring Flinging; No Bitterness Lingering.

I've spent the better part of the day clearing, cleaning, and organizing. Slowly, I'm digging through the muck of winter and changing over to Spring. It's freeing, almost, being able to let go of "too smalls" or the "too bigs" or even the "too uglys". The more I clean though, the more there is to do. It really is an endless cycle. Honestly, I can't wait for our annual Yard Sale, coming up on May 1. Finally I'll have the use of two closets that have been taken over by unwanted stuff. If I wasn't so selfish and greedy, I'd just donate it all to charity. Of course, that's where most of it will end up after all is said and done, but I'd like to have some kind of return on investment.

I've been setting up an office in one of our spare rooms in the basement, reclaiming it from the boys. It's so nice to have a place to gather the four corners of my life, campaign, church, mom's group, and neighborhood association.

In the process, I've also been digging through old picture frames. Keep this, chuck that, hang this...pause, who's that handsome man in that photo embracing that fabulously young and rather skinny girl? Oh yeah, it's my Dad. I love that picture, taken just months before Neil and I relocated to Maryland. All was well then. No one was sick or hurting. That picture now hangs on the wall next to my desk, along with a montage of old and new friends, early pics of Neil and me, and even my Dad's first magazine cover. I feel surrounded by love and good memories.

I have to say that for the better part of two years, I've been hiding my Dad. Anything and everything that reminded me of him, I placed inside a box. It was just too painful to look at. And even today, as I glanced upon his face, tears would fall, but it felt different...peaceful. I smiled. I chuckled to myself as I remembered that very day at my sister's house. Maybe the bitter times have passed and I can now remember him for who he was...my Dad, who once again hangs on my wall, greeting me as I pass by, reminding me that I'm his little girl. I truly think he would be proud.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Pee Pee in the Potty

After months of hinting and begging and all but forcing Blake to go potty, it finally clicked. The boy apparently just needed his Daddy. While I was away Saturday, working on the campaign, Blake decided it was time to transcend into boyhood. By lunch he had put his pee pees in the potty three times. Like any parent, I was prepared for this to be a fluke, an accident of pee pee proportions. Or maybe Neil was the magic key? Would his return to work signal a reversal? Low and behold with the exception of a few minor accidents, mostly my fault, and of course #2, Blake has been in underwear all week long.

For those of you without kids, you must know, on some level, that this, my friend, is no minor feat. Potty training, in it of itself, is a full time job, and I already have several of those. You have to plan more time into everything, especially when venturing out. As I found out yesterday, there is no such thing as a quick run to the store before picking up Owen. In other words, I set Blake up for failure. You simply can't tell a 2 year old, who a few days ago peed at will, to hold it, even if it is just for a few moments. Yes, yes, I've been through this before, but that was a year and a half ago. I can barely remember what I did last week.

The good news is that I see the light at the end of the tunnel. Having two potty trained children means being able to go to Ikea and letting them play in the Smaland while Madison and I wander aimlessly through the store with Katy and Bekah. Yep, that actually happened. I'm thinking that Ikea might become a weekly trip for us. But probably not...like I have time.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Why Is Everybody Always Picking On Me???

It seems that my high school bully has reincarnated herself in the form of three monsters named, Owen, Blake and Madison. Seriously, you don't believe me? Honestly, it's actually fairly genius. In fact, I could make a fortune if I could market this strategy to high school bullies everywhere. Or better yet, maybe I was a bully to someone else and this is my payback. Regardless, I have a whole gang of bullies living under my roof and I have become their target.

What? You can't see how such sweet and innocent children can torture me so? Let's start with a for instance. Earlier this morning, I'm sitting in my reclining chair attempting to read my Bible when Blake comes pummeling towards me, throws himself into my lap and tosses my Bible onto the floor. Moments later, I hear Madison screeching from inside the confines of her lair. I carefully remove my first leech and head into her room with a smile plastered on my face. As soon as I open the door, I'm greeted with another ear piercing screech and a stuffed animal flying towards my face. At this point, I realize I am under attack. I duck and roll towards the crib and spring up. I grab the bully baby, sweep her into my arms, and head towards the kitchen. Bullies are always a bit nicer when they've had a bite to eat.

As I round the corner, I find Thing 1 and Thing 2 hovering over a box of donut holes. When they see me, their eyes widen like deer caught in headlights, mouths lined in white powder. Owen smiles coyly. "Hi Mommy," he mutters while drooling crumbs onto the floor. A quick "mom" look from me and the two scatter, fleeing to the table, where Owen asks, "Mommy, may I can I have a donut please?" There I stand surrounded and completely speechless.

I little while later, I ask Owen to get dressed and Blake to pick up the toys he'd just dumped all over the floor. Guess how long it took them to accomplish said tasks? I'll let you know when they finish.

Maybe I'm over exaggerating a bit, and maybe the events of this morning weren't as extreme a picture as I've painted. Maybe my kids are just kids and I'm border lining on conspiracy theorist, but sometimes I swear it's a calculated take down of the "Mommy."

Could there be some sort of underground school where children go and learn just what buttons to push? I'm quite positive there is and that it is taught my high school bullies.

Disclaimer: I, in no way, feel that my children are in fact monsters. I love them dearly.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Standing By Strangers


Every once in a while, someone posts a comment on my Dad's blog.  Normally though they're just spam, but today I got a post that literally broke my heart.  I've been thinking about Dad a lot lately, being reminded of him in the whispers of life, but this was more of a slap in the face (and not in a bad way).  We're coming up on two years, you know?  That just seems unbelievable.  I honestly think that the more time passes, the more I miss him, the harder it is to imagine he's gone.  Maybe I never really dealt.  Maybe I just avoided and put off the pain.  Either way, a loss is a loss is a loss.

Here's what Jeanette wrote to me on the his blog:



"You probably weren't thinking this blog would ever get checked again but I wanted to say thanks to you, your mother, and your father for sharing your journey. My father was diagnosed with terminal kidney cancer 4 days ago and I'm learning everything I can, everywhere I can.  Some people prefer ignorance.  For myself, if this disease is going to take my father, I am going to know every last stinking detail about it and read every story I can.  Your father was a special man.  God Bless all of you.  Jeanette"

And here is what I felt compelled to write to her.  I hope you, as my friends and confidantes, will keep Jeanette and her father in your prayers.  It is not an experience I would wish on anyone. 


Jeanette,
I’d like to say that I can’t imagine the horror you must be feeling right now, but I still vividly remember the day my Dad told me he had cancer.  I was at lunch with a pseudo-friend, someone I knew but wouldn’t necessarily lean on.  Seeing as my Dad rarely called, I simply had to answer.  I could tell immediately that something was wrong.  Dad certainly tried to cover his pain and confusion with a few light hearted jokes and heavy sarcasm, but it wasn’t working.  At first we had no idea how serious it was.  They didn’t even know what type of cancer he had, but they were thinking it might have been lung. 

He went to see the radiologist on the same day my husband and I were scheduled to find out the sex of our baby.  I can’t tell you how surreal it was to walk into the Radiology Department knowing that I was getting good news and he was getting bad.  A few hours later, he called to tell me that it was Stage 4 Renal Cell Cancer.  I didn’t even know what a renal cell was, much less that it would take my Dad away from me.

Dad lived for just over three years post diagnosis, and I was there was the last 5 weeks.  If you’d like you can go to my blog, www.hillsofchaos.blogspot.com, click on Dad under the Tags, and follow along my journey.  I didn’t even start blogging until that February 08, just a couple months before he passed, but I chronicled my time with him up until the end.  I don’t know if it will bring your solace or not. 

I would also suggest befriending Manual Lopez on Facebook.  He is a warrior in this great battle and was a good friend of my Dad’s though they never actually met.  There is a great network of people out there waiting to support you and your Dad.  Please let me know if you need anything.

Hillary


Sometimes we're called to embrace strangers, to stand together, to support one another, to lift one another up.  Who needs you today?  Who could use a hug?  Or a prayer?  Or a hot cup of coffee?  


Thursday, February 25, 2010

Pajama Day

Sometimes you just need a day to lounge around in your PJ's.  Apparently this is going to be one of those days. Of course, I didn't plan it that way.  Who does?  Right now, I should be leaving to take Owen to school and then it would be all about running errands, some real and some contrived, until it was time to pick him up.  Once again, it would have been a jam packed day ending with a rushed sweep of the house to prepare for yet another evening of guests.  Apparently, God had a different plan.  Yesterday, as I was returning from a busy morning, I cut the corner too close, hit the wall in my driveway, and popped the tire.  Consequently, Neil had to take the van to work this morning so he could get new tires put on the car.  I made a small effort to get Owen to school, but then just decided to declare this Pajama Day.

As I type this, Owen, Blake and Madison are sliding down a make shift slide made out of an old sturdy shelf and the ottoman, each of them donning their PJ's.  Funny, but they don't seem a bit concerned about my daily agenda put on hold.  At this moment, neither do I.  In fact, I'm seeing it as a blessing, an expensive one, but a blessing none the less.  Sometimes I need to stop, take pause, and just enjoy the freedom I've been given.

This has been an insane week.  Sometimes I don't even know how I do it.  With three kids, a husband and a dog, More than Moms, the Whisler campaign, the Neighborhood association, and Fusion, I'm never sure how I manage it all.  But somehow God gets me through, and I know that hidden beneath the surface is a purpose, to glorify my Maker.  Somehow, all of these things are intertwined.  Sometimes it feel like a game of Connect the Dots, and I've so enjoyed the process.  I would have never put myself here, not in a million years, but I love every minute of it, and it's never, ever boring.  But I do need to take a break sometimes, even if it's forced, to be still and know that He is God (NOT ME).


I'm thankful that I've had the opportunity this week, more like made the opportunity, to spend time with God each morning. It's been a while since I've had more than one quiet time in a week, much less in a row.  I've been going through this book that my friend, Clare, gave me last week called Praying for Purpose.  Each day covers a new topic and surprisingly (why I'm surprised by God, I don't know) it's been just what I needed to hear.  I've noticed my patience level go up, my awareness of what God's doing around me increase, and the chaos within me calm.  Why don't I do this more often? Seriously!

On a lighter note, I just found out that our friends, Noe and Amanda, are moving back to the States from Africa.  They were the ones that we bought our house from and became good friends of ours over the next year.  They've decided that it would be best for them to come home.  They can continue to run the ministry from the States and this way, they can adopt a 4th child.  I hope you guys with join me in praying for their transition back to the States.  For more information, read their Newsletter.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Writer's Block

For a while now, I've literally come to complete stop when I think about updating my blog.  I vividly remember the days when I'd write 5-7 blogs in a week.  Of course I do, it was like 6 months ago.  Ever since my life turned upside down and split off into 14 different directions, it's been more and more difficult for me to find the words to put here.  On a day to day basis, I am a wife and a mom, a community activist and a connection point for other moms, a friend and a church planter.  Obviously, a completely inactive, boring life, right?  To be honest, I'm still trying to find that balance.  Most of the time I'm flying from one thing to the next without a second to slow down and get a quick whiff of the coffee. 

This week alone, we have meetings in our house every single night (except Friday & then it's prayer meeting at Sarah's).  Last night was the Whisler cabinet meeting, today is playgroup, and then tonight is our street rep social for our neighborhood.  Tomorrow is the Whisler communications meeting and Thursday is Bible study.  Don't get me wrong, I love every second of it, and happen to have the most supportive husband who allows it all to occur.  What would I do without him?

Even with all this commotion, I still can't find a single thing to write about.  Right now, I want to backspace to the beginning and start over.  Where is my mojo?  Normally I sit down and start typing and it just all comes together.  But maybe with the lack of direction comes a lack of motivation.  The reason I haven't been updating often is that I'm not really inspired to write anything.  And when I am, I suddenly get really busy, time passes, and then it just doesn't seem so inspiring after all.  Have you guys ever been there?

I thought maybe this would get me over the hump.  You know, like when you work out.  You dread it, make excuses, eat cake instead.  Then finally, you force yourself into your gym shorts and onto the Elliptical (or the Expresso Recumbent Bike Experience in my case) and you just do it.  At the end, you feel invigorated, energized, and ready  to go again.  That's what this entry is about for me; I'm pushing through hoping that at the end, I will feel invigorated, energized and ready to go again.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Difficult Day

It never ceases to amaze me that I can be online several hours a day, checking my email, updating political blogs and websites, working on More than Moms stuff, and still neglect my own personal blog.  I wonder if it's because I try to keep my personal stuff here, segregated from the politics and such.  However, after I've written a sarcastic and opinionated piece for the PVRC and a couple deals and steals for More than Moms, there really isn't much more to talk about...or I'm too pooped from the rest of my life (you know, the three kids, husband, and a dog). 

But today, I've hit a wall and need to vent.  It's been one of those days.  You know of what I speak, right?  One of those days you wish you could replay over and over again until you got it right.  That's the day I've had.  It would have worked better for the blog's sake if this day had actually happened yesterday since it was Groundhog Day, then I could pun off the movie.(If you don't know what movie I speak of then you're most likely under 25 and are not up on your 80's classics...sorry) 

It's not like the week started great though either.  I spent most of Sunday and all day Monday feeling completely awful.  I'd prepared myself for a full out onslaught of goop and gunk, but yesterday morning, I woke up feeling...well, better.  Aunt Flo had come to town (if you don't know what I'm talking about, then you're a guy), and the first day she's here is just bleh.  So I decided we'd stay home and chill out.  Next time I have that bright idea, someone please throw a pie at me.  Three kids cooped up in a house all day plus "bleh" mom equals breakdown.  Thankfully it was Chick-fil-a night which brightened my spirits.  The kids went down easy for bed, and then Neil and I enjoyed 2 full hours of Lost bliss. 

So I wake up this morning to 5 inches of snow and Owen's school canceled, which I was mostly prepared for since it was snowing all night.   I decided to have a different attitude than normal, a good one.  I pulled out my journal and Bible and spent some good time with God, for the first time in at least a week.  So far, so good.  Then I encountered a certain email that just set the tone for my day, an email from a difficult person who operates like a thorn in my side.  From that point on, I chose to allow this person's remarks to shape my day.  Of course the events themselves could not have been avoided, but my reaction to them could have. 

Let's start with my plan.  With it being a snow day, I thought it best to get the kids out of the house.  Why not the gym?  They can play and I get a break. So we get there, I drop off the kids, and go to change.  Not even 2 minutes after I walked out of the locker room, one of the child watcher's came to me and said Blake had a runny nose and I had to come get him.  A couple of deep breaths later, I walked back into the locker room, changed clothes, and went back to pick up my kids.  Okay, plan B.  Owen needed a new coat since he'd lost 2 this season.  Why not head to BJ's?  I'm sure they have a jacket at a reasonable price.  I'll pop in, get the kids a hot dog, pick up a couple minor things, get the jacket and be home by 1.  Yeah, not so much.  I should have known better though.  Who can really pop in and pop out of BJ's, especially not with so many great coupons available?  Needless to say, I was there for nearly 2 hours, and the kids started breaking down around the 1.5 hour mark, and I still needed to get the jacket.  Really, I do this crap to myself.  Then after I checked out, I realized that the jacket I picked was in the wrong place and was $10 more than I thought it was.  By this point. I'm ready to pull out my hair.  Blake is literally climbing on top of the car cart.  Owen is hanging out the side.  Madison is simply fed up, and I can't see straight.  But still I trudge to the clothing section to save a few bucks, and get the heck out of there.  In the process, I learn that my business cards for Team Whisler actually won't be ready until Monday...even though I was told 3-4 business days which would have been today or tomorrow.  I get a response from my difficult person of the day and it was even more petty and trite than before.  By this point, I'd forgotten all that had come from my deep and focused time with God.  I was done, at the end of my rope.  After I loaded the kids in the car, I just prayed for quietness for the ride home.  Thankfully, I got it.  Deep breath. Deep breath.  You would think that in those moments of silence, I'd regroup, spend time praying for my day and the people I'd encountered, but no, I chose to wallow in it.  Am I any better off now?  Not so much. 

I'm thankful that God doesn't just toss me to the way side when I neglect Him, that His mercy and grace have no expiration date.  I can always come back to the right path, make the right choice, the one that will glorify Him,  Granted, there are still earthly consequences to my actions, like I might have to apologize to my kids for losing my mind, or I've wasted precious time on ridiculous junk that I can't get back.  It's so easy to point fingers, to play the blame game, to throw a pity party, but what good are these things?  What do I stand to gain from them? 

At this moment, I chose to filter the rest of my day through God's eyes. 

On a side note: Could you all pray that the snow holds off this weekend? (maybe not entirely, but just long enough to not mess with the Women's Breakfast planned for Saturday morning) Thanks!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

I Dove In and Survived!


I can't tell how you scary it is to put the first drop of dye on your hair.  Never before have I dyed my hair a shade darker than my natural color.  I figured it was time for a change.  It is Winter, right?  A time when brunette's shine and blonde's dull.  Don't be offended blondes, I am in fact, one of you at heart, which was precisely the problem.  An hour ago, my hair was all naturale, no dye, no highlights, no nada, and it was absolutely driving me crazy.  And even productless, I still had roots.  So I decided.  I was going to make a change, one way or the other.  Now, given my lack of confidence and self-esteem, I had to poll my audience.  They chose brown.  Of course, I was already leaning that way anyways.  I think I just wanted to make sure I wasn't about to ruin the next 8 weeks of my life, at least cosmetically.  The rest follows in typical Hillary suit, went to Target, picked out a color, bought it, brought it home, put whatever kids would take a nap down, and dove in.  For the entire the 25 minutes that I had to wait, I mouthed various obscenities under my breath.  "What was I thinking? No turning back now.  Holy Camoli!" (The PG version).

But as I was about to step into the shower to rinse it all out, I thought to myself, "this is what I do."  I get tired of the norm and I change it.  I'm not an idle person.  I thrive under stress.  I'm most productive when I'm busy.  If something's not being done, I do it myself.  In other areas of my life, I seem to dive in without fear, so why should I care about the color of my hair?  

Regardless, it's done.  I can't change it, at least not now.  And bottom line, I don't hate it.  If you hate it, just don't tell me. 

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Lovable or Terrible? Or in my case, both?

Disclaimer:  I love all of my children deeply.


I have three children, two boys and a girl.  My middle child, Blake, is 2 1/2 going on 6 months.  If I wasn't losing all of my hair from postpartum hormones, I'd be pulling it out in chunks.  Scratch that, I'd already be bald.  It's almost as if he was born knowing he'd be the middle child. The incessant whining coupled with the bull headed resistance would be enough to drive any mother (and father, for that matter) insane, but with Blake, I get the added bonus of the absolute sweetest smile in the world.  No matter how mad I get, he flips the switch and I find myself falling for his charm every time (well, almost).  It's like an endless cycle.  Oh please, let it come to an end soon. 

As much as I want to cherish these moments, to hold onto their youth, by 5 pm every day, I'm at my wits end.  I catch myself often saying, "if only I could get him past this stage, I'd be good."  But is that really the truth?  Doesn't "if only" get us into more trouble in the end?  We build up expectations that are doomed to disappoint us.  You know, the grass is always greener on the other side.  The problem in the this situation is that Blake has an older brother, and I've seen the 3's...not too much better than the 2's.  Trust me.  Right now, he's learning to communicate better, or at least more, and certainly repetitively.  Next he'll be testing boundaries and asserting his independence.  By four, it will all be about defiance, or at least attempted defiance.  Of course, we all know he gets all of this from his dad.  They all do. :)!

Today, Blake started swim lessons.  Now this is a Mommy & me class.  He can't be on his own until he's at least 3.  Trust me, he would have done much better if I were not there.  What is that about?  Since when did I become a hindrance to my own child?  Regardless, I've learned several lessons, the first being to not tell him what we're doing until we do it.  From the second he woke up, all he could talk about was swimming (or should I say whine about.)  "Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, I waaaant to go swimming.  Mommy, I waaaannaaa go swimming.  Mommy, MOMMY, I wannnnnaaaaaa go swimming.  I waaaaannntttt juice. Mommy, I waaaannnnaaaa go swimming." You get my point, right?  It didn't matter how many times I gave him the agenda for the morning, it literally felt like I was listening to a broken record of nails on a chalkboard.  It's just flat out incessant.

Then we walk into the pool area, equipped with swimsuits and towels.  The boy freaks out.  "MOMMY, I don't waaannnnaaaa swim.  I don't wannnaaannnaaannnaaannnaanann swim.  Mommy, MOMMY! No!"  Of course he's saying all of this as he's walking closer and closer to the pool. 

At this point, I figure it's best to just get it.  Sure, we're a little early, so we'll use the time to adjust.  So I don't sound like a broken record myself, keep in mind that he's continuing to tell me how much he doesn't want to swim.  He steps on the first step, freaks out, then steps on the second step.  Then he wants "up," to which I said, "If you take one more step, I'll pick you up."  Insert whining here.  He steps down onto the third step.  This pretty much went on for the entire 30 minutes.  He basically was a stellar student, kicking, jumping, going under, and even cracking a smile.  The only problem was that he never stopped whining.  When it was all over, we climbed out of the pool and wrapped ourselves in our towel.  Then he starts up again, "Mommy, I'mmmm cold.  Mommy, I'm cold.  MOMMY, I wannaa go swimming. Mommy, I wanna goooooo swimming."  And so on and so forth.  Hence is the story of my life, all day long, everyday. 

It's not like I give into him.  I don't.  He doesn't get what he wants unless he asks for it.  The whining doesn't work with me, and he knows it.  It's almost like he does it just because he knows I don't like it, almost as if he doesn't really want anything except to annoy me.  Of course, I understand that a 2 year old doesn't have the capability to scheme like that, or at least I hope not. 

Hopefully, he'll learn that it doesn't work and move on soon.  I honestly think I deal better with defiance then whining.  Although I will say that it's already starting to kick in.  Try asking Blake to go potty.  Oh man, that's a whole other can of worms, one that will most assuredly drive me to baldness.