Santa Who?

I'm just going to say it.
I don't let my kids "believe" in Santa Claus.

Now, before you inhale dramatically and prepare a care package full of "magic" for my poor, neglected children...

I'm not the Grinch, okay?
I don't shut down any inkling of wonder or mention of the big red man. I don't block all mention of Santa or forbid them from ANYTHING to do with him. They know who Santa is. They know he's a big part of the whole "Christmas Experience."

But they also know where their gifts come from. They know WHO they come from.
If you ask Jaxon who gave him his wooden farm house, he'll tell you, "Grandma and Grandpa gave me that."
If you ask him what Santa got him, he'll give you one of those, "oh honey" glances and start listing off every single thing he's ever gotten.
He's three, remember?

I'm not lazy. I don't have a vendetta.

I have 3 main reasons.

We all have them, and kids are no exception. Especially as they get older. By eliminating the "be good and you'll get all the gifts on your list" idea, I'm teaching Jaxon to appreciate what he gets and also who gifted him. I'm also saving him a LITTLE bit from the disappointment of having friends who got WAY more than you. He may not always be understanding, but at least he won't think he wasn't good enough. It doesn't really lift the pressure off me, but I'm hoping it will shift the focus from materialism to selflessness.

It's true. How can I expect my boys to trust my word and respect me enough to listen, if I'm feeding them lies about a man who flies through the night, a rabbit that drops off candy, or a tiny fairy that pays them to take their teeth? Jax already calls out my bullshit. I'm not "ruining his childhood" by sucking out the magic. I'm refusing to lie to him. He's got such a great imagination, and sees magic in all kinds of things, like baking cookies, petting a bunny or meeting Spiderman at Comicon. He's not missing out on anything, except disappointment and confusion...at least until he's older. I keep very little from him, to be honest. Of course, I keep certain truths for later. I'm not insensitive. But for the most part, I'm up front with him. Because he understands way more than he gets credit for. He remembers what I tell him, too!
Trust me, one of the first things you learn as a parent is that kids are listening even when you don't think they are. I'm still his mom, I still tell him what's up, but I'm more concerned with keeping a line of communication open than whether or not Christmas is "magical" enough for him.

I was not one of those kids that begged to sit on Santa's lap or stay up all night to catch a glimpse of him leaving me presents. I was the shy kid that avoided Santa at all costs. If he was at the mall, I'd walk behind my mom so he wouldn't see me. If I had to pee in the middle of the night, I'd hold it so I wouldn't have to leave my room and risk seeing a fat man in a red suit sneaking into my house. I was terrified of him.
And honestly...rightfully so. Think about it.
Let's tell our three year old that a strange old man (old as in like...centuries old) in a ridiculous red outfit keeps a record of them at all times (even when they're sleeping), and based on that, employs a bunch of tiny people to hand craft the toys they wrote on a list and mailed to him, where he lives...at the North Pole (which is under water, btw). He then puts all of the toys in a huge bag, loads onto his sleigh, which is then pulled by nine magical flying reindeer (one of which has an actual glowing red nose....like a headlight), ALL over the world leaving gifts, drinking milk and eating cookies...in ONE night.
Oh, and he tours the world by visiting malls so kids can sit on his lap and get their picture taken with him.
Doesn't sound shady at all. Totally healthy.

Yet I'M the one f*cking up my kids....okay sure.

Look, all I'm saying is I'd rather explain the history of St. Nick and attempt to avoid bratty demanding butt holes for kids, than force feed them the lies I was fed, just because I was fed lies. I'll hand him a Harry Potter book and show him a bunch of beautiful sunsets if he needs more magic. He'll be fine.

I am by no means saying you're the worst parent if you tell your kids Santa gave them their gifts. It probably just means you're less bitter and cynical than me. I don't think you'll "ruin" your kids. I'm in no way certified to make a claim like that, even if I wanted to.

 Just know that my kids will most likely "spoil" it for your kids at some point. You've been warned.


I Almost Made It!

Well....I was SO CLOSE to completing my streak of at least one blog post a month for a YEAR...
but I never made time to knock one out before November ended...
I'm actually incredibly sad about it. I had a plan and an idea and then Thanksgiving/Black Friday week/weekend happened and my work schedule turned insane and I forgot how to function like a sane human for a minute.

I'll get over it. In the meantime, let's do a very late recap.

I did manage to ALMOST accomplish one pretty impressive goal. That was to take family Christmas photos, order cards and send them out by the BEGINNING of December.
We actually bought "ugly" sweaters from Walmart, took photos using the tripod Josh got me for Christmas last year, in our bedroom in front of the only well lit, empty wall in our tiny house. I hung up a $1 Merry Christmas banner over our heads, dressed the kids and set the timer on my Nikon. It took us about an hour total, getting just enough good shots that we needed. The kids handled it amazingly, the lighting was perfect, I edited the photos and ordered the cards that night, and we returned the sweaters the next day.

Did I mention we accomplished this within the FIRST WEEK of NOVEMBER??
Yeah, I was pumping my mom fists so high that week. 

Well, almost.
I'm still working on practicing my hand lettering/calligraphy skills addressing them all, so they haven't actually been SENT OUT yet....but I started them and now that I have all the addresses I need, it's just a matter of knocking them out, finding stamps and stuffing the mailbox.
Yeah, I know....don't count my ducks before they hatch.

Either way, we look awesome.

Both my kids love the camera, but they were extra hammin it up that day. I will honestly cherish these photos forever. I adore my perfect little family.

Speaking of family...
I may or may not have WILLED this newest addition to the Markle household with all my wishful thinking, dreaming, longing and straight up WHINING about missing having a feline in the family for 2 years.


Here's the whole story...
It all started on a freezing cold Saturday night. I had just gotten off work at what I thought was a really good time. 10:15pm. I was in my car just one street over from where I work when...
My car broke down.
I had no choice but to call Josh, who I knew had probably just put the kids to bed, to drive 45 minutes with tired, screaming children, to come rescue me.
We had to leave my car there until we had daylight, rest and a gameplan.
We managed to be able to get it to a mechanic that was located just 20 minutes from there. We had to use back farm roads to get there and all I could think about was "how are we going to afford Christmas gifts, a down payment for a house we were hoping to find come spring, and NOW possibly a new car??"

This is all vital information. Trust me.
I explained all of that because when we were on our way home from picking up the car from the mechanic, we were driving along one of the back roads, surrounded by fields and trees. Josh was in front in my car and I was in his car with the boys. 
Suddenly he stops and I watch as this TINY creature runs off the road in front of him and between a bush and tree nearby. I thought it looked like a baby rabbit at first, but it had a longer tail.
Josh immediately gets out and gently coaxes the creature out and into his arms.
He then walks over to my side of the car, opens his jacket, and there I see it.

The TINIEST little grey kitten I have ever seen. Shivering and purring and clinging to Josh.
"I found him." Was all he said.

There is no doubt in my mind that our baby Goblin {name and gender still pending} was the product of local barn cats not being spayed/neutered like they should. This baby was all alone, laying on the road in the sun trying to soak up any warmth he/she could find. Starving too. I've never seen a kitten so small eat so ferociously. 

I mention my car dilemma because, as stressful and chaotic as it always is, IF MY CAR HADN'T BROKEN DOWN, WE WOULD HAVE NEVER BEEN ON THAT ROAD AT THAT MOMENT TO MEET THIS CAT.

I refuse to think about the alternatives. There are none.
We were MEANT to find him/her.
He/She needed us. 

And now our family is complete with the best kitten anyone could ever ask for.
It's been two weeks and I can't imagine our life without this perfect little creature.

So yeah, I've been a little preoccupied with reflecting on life, purpose and the universe's way of keeping everything balanced. I'm in awe. 

I'll end this with a quote from one of my favorite movies, one that has become unexpectedly relevant a lot in my life,

"When God throws a curve ball, don't duck.
You just might miss something.."


Reality vs My Reality

I know everyone has expectations in anticipation of each season. That's honestly half the source of excitement over them. The anticipation. The goals. The nostalgia. The imagery. The feels.
The reality.
The lies.

Each season I tell myself that I'll make it all happen this time. I'll plan ahead, save money and make my kids love every second of it.
Each season I'm still not ready for the previous season to end. I still have expectations to fulfill. I still have photos to take. I still have activities to check off my impossible list.
Each season I find myself hating each season.

Want to hear/read some truth? 
The last time I was actually at a real pumpkin patch, I was probably 6 years old.
I was with my parents, my little brother, my grandparents and my cousin. We rode on a train, drank hot apple cider and posed next to massive pumpkins and everything. The whole, picture perfect shebang.
Literally TWO DECADES later, I have yet to set foot on ANY pumpkin patch, farm or yard. Know where I get my pumpkins? Walmart.

It's not like I hated them. It's not like I was avoiding the whole thing. I just never felt the need to do it again. Until I had kids, that is.

Now, I can't open instagram or pinterest without cute photos of model families and their adorable spawn holding pumpkins and selling the fake scenario that the whole photo op was spontaneous and not forced in the slightest.
Oops, is my jealousy showing?

[This is all I really accomplished so far. Bought ONE tiny mum, too many skulls and other tacky Halloween decor. We still haven't carved or painted pumpkins.]

Sure, social media is part of the reason for disappointment and discontentment, but what did we have before that? No pressure? No false reality? More time/energy/money?
Nope. We had magazines. We had TV commercials. We had TV shows, movies, friends, family and most of all, our own expectations. It hasn't gotten harder, it's just changed hands.

The bottom line is this.
The only one who cares whether you went to a corn maze, drank a pumpkin spice latte every morning, baked your own apple pie from orchard picked apples, carved a thousand pumpkins, stacked your front steps with every color mum in existence, survived a haunted park, and sewed your own Halloween costume from scratch or not....
is you.

Sure, your family and close friends probably love seeing pictures of you and your family. Sure, it's always wonderful to capture happy loving memories in photos to show your kids when they get older. Sure, the pressure to buy, and do, and make and LIVE is so very real and it comes from every side.
But take it from someone who has to learn this lesson EVERY. SINGLE. YEAR.
You will NOT get fined for not participating in everything everyone else is participating in.
This is NOT a competition. There is NO winner except you every time you are present for your kids and for yourself. You are NOT missing out on anything. I promise.
You are not a procrastinating, lazy, poor planning loser if you don't have pictures to share of your kids carving pumpkins. You don't even have to force yourself to LIKE Autumn, if it's not your favorite season. Even if it is, you're not going to lose favor with the four season Gods if you only manage to buy a grocery store pumpkin and costume set from Amazon. 

Maybe this post is just me giving myself a pep talk. It seems oddly specific, doesn't it?
All I know is Autumn is one of the most over saturated, disappointing times of the year, and even though it's still one of my favorite seasons, I hate the unrealistic expectations and pressure I put on myself and my family to somehow show how well coordinated and on trend we are. I hate the resentment I initially feel when I scroll past photos of people doing what I wish I was doing. It's so shallow and silly and fleeting and I KNOW IT.

We actually tried twice this year to do the whole "family day at the pumpkin patch" and BOTH times failed miserably. The second attempt was when I decided it's overrated and my kids don't care about any of it anyway. They just like spending time with us. They like going on ANY adventure with us, whether it's to a renaissance fair or the grocery store. They aren't keeping a tally of all the childhood "must haves" we accomplish. They're just rolling with it, just like they always have.

So drink your pumpkin ale or don't.
As long as you're present, you'll make good memories. Besides,

 Oh, and the families in those perfect photos? They are NOT perfect either.


Plant Lady is the New Cat Lady?

If you follow my instagram (@killjoymills) at all, you already know that I have become a collector of leafy plants. I've always enjoyed plants of all kinds, thanks to both my mom's green thumb and Josh's love for all things green and sun loving, but never had the confidence to really "grow" until this past year. I borrowed my mom's book collection and added it to everything she imparted while I was growing up. It was an inevitable obsession, really. No one is surprised one bit.

I hesitated filling our tiny apartment with plants because I was afraid I'd just kill everything.
Yes, miss tree hugger here was worried about taking care of plants. 
I put it off for the same reasons I don't currently have the fur babies I also want so desperately. Because being responsible for ANYTHING living is a big thing and should be taken seriously.
(Coming from a mom of two little humans, 5 aquatic turtles, 1 dog and 2 lizards....)

Anyway, obviously this post and my instagram feed prove that I did cave. After living here over a year.

Josh actually started it for me. He got me what is still our biggest baby, Mr. Grumpy Leaves, Philodendron, for my 25th birthday.
He has a love-hate relationship with the light in our hallway, but really he's just getting too big for his britches. Literally. It doesn't help that his leaves are so big and wide that between Jax and Chet, he has to constantly grow new shoots. He's a tough guy though, he can hold his own. I was sure I was going to end up killing him, but he proved he's a fighter and I'm not the big bad plant killer I thought I was.

Thanks to that boost of confidence, I chose a hanging Spider Plant to be my first addition. Unintentionally nicknamed, Spidey (not my most clever moment, but it stuck anyway).
Since bringing him home and caring for him (an already hardy and easy to care for plant), he's gotten bigger and greener and is easily one of my favorites (of my plant babies, of course).

Next, I learned why my mom was always coming home with new plants anytime we went to a greenhouse or even Lowe's. We went in for light bulbs and I walked out with two new babies.
Meet Violet and Rex.
Violet is a fuzzy, velvety Purple Passion (Gynura aurantiaca) and she hangs out on my desk behind my makeup brushes. She has a super soft layer of purple fuzz on her leaves and her blooms are bright yellow (as you can see, she's got buds now and will probably bloom in the next few weeks) so there was no way I was NOT bringing her home with me.

Rex is pretty interesting too. I didn't have to give her a nickname because Rex IS her name. And it fits her perfectly. This feisty lady has tripled in size already and absolutely loves being outside showing off to all the other deck plants. What makes her unique is this waxy, wet looking top layer that covers her already beautifully painted looking leaves. She feels and looks fake. It's impossible to fully capture through a camera, though, but I tried. Bugs like her too, but she defends herself pretty well.

No green plant collection is complete, however, without a Snake Plant.
The toughest, slowest and most metal house plant in my life.
This badass was a must have that made me officially enthralled with green plants. I enjoy all flowers, plants and trees, obviously, but leafy, dark green plants with designs that look painted on are my forever favorite. I will never get tired of admiring their impeccable patterns and textures.
Snake plants in particular tickle my fancy. They grow super slow but are the easiest house plant because they prefer low light and only an occassional watering. They also benefit the air (duh, it's a plant) and are just wonderful to look at.

As a plant mommy, having a partner who not only shares your appreciation for Mother Earth's gifts, but chooses to add to your collection, is pretty much the best thing ever.
My biggest plant babies are also some of my favorite gifts I've ever received.
Mr. Yuccdrio is actually a trio of Yuccas trimmed to look like crazy exotic dinosaur trees and I love it to bits. He's outside for now because now that he's in his new pot, it takes two people to move him and I still need a pan for him to sit on so he can be inside. He's loved being out there, but Winter is coming.

These last two are my latest littles, other than my herb and fruit plants.
I haven't named this little guy yet, but doesn't he look handsome in his little purple pot? It really brings out his red veins. (I know, I'm becoming borderline creepy. Sorry.)
He's a Nephthytis. Maybe I'll dub him Nephy.

And my current pride and joy,
Baby Black Beauty.
My first (but certainly not last) Elephant Ear plant. She's going to get MASSIVE if I let her (more like, whether I like it or not), which I absolutely will. She's also the official start of my future Goth Garden, which I will build once we have a real yard and eventual greenhouse. Until then, she's my precious baby and I adore everything about her. She's perfect.

As I mentioned above, I do have a few other plants not shown here. Between the dude and I, we also have a couple basil plants, a little mini oregano, a fern awaiting a new basket, a pineapple plant I'm babying and a tiny little baby banana tree. We also have a couple succulents, of course, but I have left the caring of them up to Josh because I have a major problem over-watering them and I refuse to be responsible for their demise.
We do have a window sill perfectly set up for a few babies though.....

If you didn't already know, plants are super beneficial and important. They improve air quality, help heal and calm and are just wonderful to look at and be around.
I am far FAR from being an expert and am FOREVER learning, but one thing I know for sure is there is NOT SUCH THING AS A "GREEN THUMB."
You're not born a plant magician. You BECOME one by reading, learning and trying. Start with something sturdy and easy (like a snake plant, spider plant or even mum). Gradually add as you feel comfortable. Don't rush yourself, and don't overwhelm yourself. Plants require just a few things; Sun, water, and PATIENCE. 
But you CAN do it, trust me. You are not a plant killer. Just a plant beginner, like me.

So....got plants?


But...Your Kids

"But you feed your kids chicken and dairy, right?"
-Literally every person that's just found out that I don't drink cow milk or eat meat.

In all honesty, up until very recently, I have always answered, "Yes, of course."
Why? Well, because it's true, and it usually satisfies their questioning and sets them back in their comfortable reality after being slightly shook for a second.

However, more and more I'm beginning to question that stance. More and more I'm beginning to feel uncomfortable and even phony about it. 

Why am I feeding my kids products that I personally don't consume anymore? Why am I making a decision for them without their full understanding and consent? Why is it okay to buy and feed those products I am against on many levels to my kids, but not okay to feed them what I eat?
Why do we keep the truth from our kids?
I suppose it's on the same plane as Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy.

Despite constant debate, there really IS NO argument FOR meat and dairy. There is nothing in them that we can't get anywhere else. Their protein, calcium, vitamins and iron ALL originally come from the PLANTS they consume. Even the B12 that most meat eaters claim as their reasoning, is originally plant based and because of the way we grow and treat so many plants, it's not near as concentrated as it should/could be. Regardless, the only reason B12 is in meats at all is because the animals were pumped with medications, and modified feed with added B12. So B12 should be supplemented REGARDLESS of your diet. Meat is NOT a multivitamin.

Now that THAT is out of the way, I can get to my main point.
There is NO reason that my kids can't eat the way I eat. They already like their veggies and they trust and even enjoy my cooking [for the most part haha]. There are SO many options that are delicious, balanced and animal free, it is NOT like it used to be. As a mom, I have really no excuse not to try to expose my kids to alternative diet options. My kids are thriving, they have no allergies, they get regular check ups [and yes, are vaccinated]. I have tried enough and looked into enough that I am officially accepting the challenge to feed my kids a balanced plant based and delicious diet. We're not cavemen with no other option. We are in a fantastic plant based era that is constantly giving us new and even better alternatives. There are [and have been] amazing humans that have lived lives proving that meat and dairy is not only unnecessary but limiting and backwards. There are even fad diets claiming to fight cancer and heal chronic illnesses and guess what, they are ALL plant based.

So the question is NOT "can my kids thrive on a plant based diet?"
The question IS "what is stopping me from helping them thrive?"

I WISH my mother would have at least showed me there were other options. I WISH she would have been honest with me sooner about where my food comes from. I certainly don't BLAME her one bit. She was doing the best she knew how. Both my parents still showed compassion and empathy for wildlife and all of "God's creatures."

But when I'm no longer ignorant to the truth, why would I lead my kids blindly toward a direction I no longer believe in? At this point, if/when they make a decision to keep a plant based diet, they would honestly have every reason to blame me for any regrets they may have. Because the truth is, I AM in control. I DO know better. And above all else, I LOVE MY KIDS. Despite my many faults, I do my best to stay honest with them about everything. They know where their Christmas gifts really come from, they are told exactly why I get frustrated and exactly why I want them to do and act certain ways at certain times. I make it a point to NEVER claim "because I said so" or "because I'm mommy" because I know they are more understanding and capable than anyone gives them credit for. I want them to trust me. But trust is not trained, pounded in or lectured. Trust is EARNED.

And I take their trust very seriously.


What A Fine Life

I realize it's been quite a while since I promised family photos. Sorry.
Although, we all know my excuse[s].

That being said, I have been struggling to find something both appropriate and relevant to write about, which is really why there has been such a gap in posts. Don't get me wrong, I have many subjects worth sharing my opinion and experiences on. No doubt.

More important than that, though, is the fact that Roran, my second and babiest baby...
Turned ONE YEAR OLD on the first of the month. Already. I know. He was just born yesterday, I swear.

So will this post be a letter to my about-to-not-be-a-baby-anymore baby, a recap of life, vacation and current events, or another rambling about a side of parenting I'm just now learning about?
To be honest, while typing this out....I still don't really know. So I guess we'll just have to find out.

I actually feel incredibly guilty that I don't think I have enough to say in a full sized letter to Roran about his first year and existence in general. I feel like I have so much more to say for Jaxon. I suppose that is mainly because Jaxon used to be my one and only so he was all I had to write and think about.
That's not to say I have nothing to say about my littlest duckling and all his quirks and traits, though his dimples alone could pretty much say it all.
It's just that I couldn't really say much at all without mentioning his big brother. These two are already the best of friends and mortal enemies all at once, and Roran can't even talk yet.

I could say a million things about them together or separately, about being a mom of two, about raising boys and about the hopes I have for them [and me, as their mom].
But I'm honestly overwhelmed by it all. I adore every minute. I wouldn't change a thing, except maybe our living situation, but that will come soon enough. I will keep saying it, regardless of who's will is behind it, I believe everything in my life happens for a very important, specific reason, even if it takes years to realize it.
All I know is my boys are as imperfectly perfect as their 'rents are, and I can't imagine life without them consuming it.

Every day I learn something new about life, motherhood and my sons.
During our trip to Nags Head, NC, I learned that Jaxon is restless but incredibly cautious, just like me. I also learned that he is confident, social and independent just like his father.
I learned that Roran is both a massive lover and volatile fighter.
I learned the importance of forcing myself to let things go and how to allow myself to relax.
I also was reminded of the definition of gratitude and art of consideration.

Roran had a small birthday part at our tiny apartment and even though it turned out great and basically exactly the way I expected, I really hope he doesn't feel neglected when I finally collect and display the few good photos taken and memories made that day. I consumed and stretched myself farther than I thought I would for just a small get together with family and close friends. I feel like I failed, honestly. But you know me and my guilt. It doesn't take much.
He had a blast, of course. He always does.

As for the present and future, I'm trying to savor every bit of summer I have before it goes as fast as my babies' first years. I'm trying to cherish every moment with them, the good, the bad, the beautiful and the ugly. I'm trying to both push myself and treat myself in every way so that I stay sharp. Because with boys like mine, Lord knows I'll need all the mental, physical and spiritual help I can manage.


[photos taken by my lovely SIL, Lindsey]