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]


More Like a Candle Box

I'm about to get a tad personal. Probably too personal, in all honesty.

So let me start right off with a little disclaimer:
I am aware how the internet works. I am aware of the full definition of "PUBLIC". I fully understand and even fully support the variety and diversity of beliefs and views outside of my own.
I would never claim to know everything there is to know about anything there is to know, so I am in NO WAY saying that my personal beliefs are the be all, end all, ONLY way to live.
However, I have very good reasons, based on experience, to see things the way I do and because of that, I'm pretty sure if everyone else WAS to believe what I do, the world would be WAAAAYYYY less hostile, destructive and evil. Just throwing that out there. You know, as a theory.

Whew! Okay, that's out of the way. Good.

First things first, I believe Jesus was a real person. I believe in a creator of all life and existence and light. I believe in purpose, not accidents, as far as value of life goes. I believe in the life examples and teachings of Jesus and I believe in the significance and existence of the Holy Spirit.
That being said, I also believe in Nature and the power and balance of the Universe/Cosmos. I believe that true peace is only found through a perfect balance, and that conflict, confusion and pain are a direct consequence of imbalance. I'm not talking about tip toeing, living a luke warm, grey life or any kind of apathy. Apathy does not equal balance or lack of imbalance. Apathy seems safe, but is actually incredibly destructive.
Now to attempt to be a bit more clear, when I say I believe in a creator, and the Holy Spirit, I don't necessarily mean in the EXACT biblical sense. What I mean by THAT, is I don't believe in HUMANIZING a supernatural, omnipotent being the exact way the Bible does. So, in other words, I recognize the Holy Spirit in all forms, including sensing/seeing auras, judging character based on "gut feelings", connecting with the spiritual world as a medium, or even "mother's intuition." It's ALL the "Holy Spirit" to me. It's what gives us clarity, discernment, revelation, translation, which is why I believe in the importance of it/him/her/them. I fully believe in a spiritual, supernatural, physically invisible plane that we live among, but not always in (kinda like alternate dimensions and timelines portrayed in comics and movies, if you're confused). I believe some of us are more sensitive to it and aware of it than others and I believe that, as humans, it is impossible to fully comprehend it all, and to picture God as this human looking, emotional, relational (in the human sense), sort of being, is a little....belittling, honestly. At least to me. Even if He is all powerful (which I have no reason to believe He isn't), He has pretty much relinquished all control to us. So where you stand with Him/Her/Them/It, is completely between you and Him/Her/Them/It. I believe that humans are imperfect and flawed from the start, which is why I believe life is about growth and improvement.
THAT is why I cannot believe ANY book, ANY practice, ANY organized religion, or ANY human-touched ANYTHING 100%. Does that mean I think the Bible is crap? Absolutely not. Does that mean I think all religions are the same and lead to the same things? Nope. Does that mean I think going to church, praying, studying and listening to sermons are a waste of time? Of course not.
It means, I am OPEN. I am LEARNING. I WANT to learn. I WANT to grow. And it means I am FAR from knowing enough to close myself off completely to everything else.

Don't confuse my openness with ignorance, confusion or complacency. I am quite solid in my spiritual foundation and even more firm in my views and intentions. If you ask me how I feel about something particular, I will give you a straight, honest answer (most of the time, unless it's a loaded question in which case, you literally asked for it so prepare yourself).

Do I think you are an idiot if you faithfully attend church, or think God is dead? No, not for those reasons ;)
I'm kidding. I only think animal abusers, child abusers, anyone who thinks harming anyone for selfish reasons is okay, anyone who is too set in their ways and refuses to change even after they are shown a better/healthier/loving/less harmful way, anyone who judges/harms/hates based on shallow factors like gender, race, age, etc, anyone who blindly claims climate change is a complete hoax and fossil fuels, animals and slave labor are God's gifts to us to exploit, and anyone who leaves their shopping cart in the parking lot are complete idiots.

And even then, I would never harm, insult or choke you with my "counter" beliefs, even if I did have the energy.

I believe in LOVE, HARMONY and BALANCE. And living in a way that tries to achieve that without harming anyone in the process, all while understanding that it is a process, and that I will fail more often than succeed, which is all part of said process.

Yes, I am that tree hugging, animal loving, snowflake shaped hippie.
Even if you eat meat.
Even if you drink milk or eat cheese.
Even if you hunt.
Even if you don't recycle.
Even if you drive a diesel guzzling, smoke spewing, confederate flag boasting, ear deafening, lifted and "suped up" monster of a truck.
(Which seems oddly specific, but around here, it's actually not. At all.)
Even if you bought your dog from a pet store.
Even if you spank your kid (though I recommend trying a hug and calm voice next time, just to rule it out)
Even if you believe in multiple Gods.
Even if you believe in only one God
Even if you don't believe in any God.
Even if you're a Republican.
Even if you're a Democrat.
Even if you're neither.
Even if you voted for Trump.
Well....yeah even then.

We're not robots. We're human. We feel. We think. We learn. We change. We grow. We try. We really, really try. Through all the blood, sweat, tears, urges and emotions, we try.
And with great humanity, comes great responsibility.

And that's just how I see it.


Not Bad, for a Third Year

I knew I wouldn't be able to post the annual "Jaxon is a year older" post anywhere NEAR his birthday because I have a tendency to be overwhelmed by a pile of unfolded laundry. I also was waiting to be able to post the family photos we had taken on Easter. Still working on it.

But enough of the excuses.

Let me start by saying, he is ME through and through. Every day he proves it in new ways.
And I don't just mean because he loves pickles, lemons, punk rock and the Kratt brothers. I mean, he reacts the EXACT way I do when I see a cute animal, he is unfazed by peer pressure, he loves broccoli, old bay and sushi [obviously not together], he already has a witty sense of humor and shines when he's able to do things on his terms. Those are just things on the most basic of levels. There are mannerisms, looks in his eye, facial movements and attitude changes that are more than just learned. He is 100% my child.

Don't get me wrong, he is also 100% his father. But we'll save that for another time, for Daddy's sake ;)

I want to tell you a little more about this amazing, challenging, genius child of mine.
Jaxon knows all his colors, all his letters and can count to 20 with his dad. He knows different ways to tell you his food tastes good, what his plans are and exactly what he wants to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner and what his favorite foods are from his favorite restaurants [Montezuma's, Buffalo Wild Wings, Saga and Dawg House]. He can completely dress himself, from socks and shoes to hat and sunglasses. He can quote and sing along to every catchy tune from Blue's Clues, Zaboomafoo, Veggie Tales and Octonauts. His favorite movies are The Iron Giant, Finding Dory, Zootopia, Cars and The Lion King. His imagination is unlimited and he loves to pretend to talk on the phone with his grandparents, his friends [Dylan and Rachel] and his cousins. He also loves to grab one of his lunch boxes [he calls them backpacks] and his toy keys and tell me he's off to either work or "AwMart" for juice and chicken and daipers. He loves telling me which way to turn when I'm driving [already the BIGGEST, most literal backseat driver to ever exist]. He absolutely LOVES to boss people around [he's still working on grasping the concept of consent and being polite when it comes to making friends ha] though he hates being told what to do himself [I'm sure we don't all know anyone like that...].

He also loves his baby brother and is becoming possibly the best big brother in the whole world. He tells me when baby is crying [just in case Roran's shrill screeches don't alert me] and will give him the nearest toy to try to soothe him, even if it's his own toy. I can't claim that he ALWAYS shares, but he does most of the time. He loves playing peek-a-boo, giving him his snacks and making funny faces at him to make him laugh. He asks me every time we pack up to leave somewhere if baby is coming too, to make sure we don't forget him, and tells me "baby's okay/sleeping" when I ask for his help when I'm driving if I can't see him through the mirrors. And when I ask him if baby Roran is his friend, he always says, "YEAH!"

Just because I've mentioned all the ways this kid blows my mind, certainly doesn't mean he is some superhuman cyborg child from an alternate timeline that never does anything wrong or never throws a fit. Just in case you were beginning to believe that. I gotta clear that up too, I guess.
He DEFINITELY throws fits. Loud fits. Painful fits. Angry, demonic fits. Unavoidable fits.

Ironically, he also hates when I remind him to stop and take a breath, even though he tells me to EVERY time he thinks I'm getting frustrated [I mean, he's usually spot on, but still...having a 3 year old tell you to chill is something I'm still working on reacting to properly].

Which brings me to a side note. ANY adult that you hear say "I would never let my kid throw a fit like that" or "they must be crappy parents if they can't control their kids" is either SINGLE, does NOT have children, FORGETS what raising a young child is like, or is flat out LYING. Because let's just make this very clear, once and for all...
EVERY child throws fits [some more/less than others, depending on the day]. EVERY child is learning what emotions and urges are all about. It DOES NOT MATTER what approach you take, your child WILL throw a fit in a public place, out of nowhere, at the most inappropriate time in the most inappropriate way and there is absolutely NO WAY to avoid it. 
The ONLY "secret" to raising a human is this: YOUR CHILDREN WILL LEARN BY YOUR EXAMPLE.
Spanking them, threatening them, intimidating them, out screaming them, WILL NOT teach them anything EXCEPT how to hit, threaten and intimidate others. If you want quiet, reasonable, polite and patient children, YOU must FIRST show them how quiet, reasonable, polite and patient YOU are.
And let me make you another promise.
It will show you just how loud, demanding, rude and impatient you didn't even know you were.
There is no such thing as "winning" at parenting. It is a learning and growing experience for you just as much as it is for them. You will fail but you will also learn how strong, smart and resilient you can be. And so will they. That is what makes parenting worth every insane, exhausting, tear inducing second.

Now back to my real point.

Jaxon is my favorite 3 year old in the entire universe. He makes every tear I've ever shed, every painful heartache I've ever felt, every beautiful and every ugly sight I've ever seen and every failure I've ever learned from worth it. He is my shining star and calming focus. He is my reminder that everything alive has a purpose, including me. He is my superhero and I still believe that I never truly existed before him. Raising him and being alive knowing him is like meeting my true and complete self for the first time, every day. I am aware how strange, exaggerated and borderline obsessed I sound, but I cannot make you understand any further just how much he has saved my broken, dark, anxiety riddled life and continues to make it bright, satisfying and whole.
Goodbye, Terrible Terrific-Two's.
Hello, Terrifying-but-even-more-Terrific-Three's.


Mirror Mirror

When I was about thirteen years old, I went grocery shopping with my mom. During that trip, I witnessed an exchange between a mother and child that has seared itself in my mind. The boy was no more than 3 years old. He was visibly tired and moody, crying and screaming, dragging his exhausted little feet behind his mom and her boyfriend/husband. His mom was probably close to my age now, possibly younger. She was trying to ignore him and probably just wanted to get what she needed and get out, since they didn't have a cart or basket with them. His crying was impossible to miss and hard to ignore. When he caught up to her, he stretched his arm out and began to call out, "mam-" when suddenly she spun around and pulled her arm back ready to swing full strength but faked him out. She didn't hit him, but the motion and threat of being hit made him spin and fall on his face and start crying harder. He was only a toddler, but he looked humiliated and terrified.

My heart still hurts for him, 13 years later. I'm not accusing anyone of anything. I'm not claiming to know anything about him, her or their life at home. But that flinch was learned. His fear was too, from experience. How dare he cry out of exhaustion. How dare he be moody and unable to control his emotions after 3 years of being on this earth. How dare he cause others in the store to judge her for not "controlling" her child.

I'm going to just say it.
I am not a fan of belts, paddles, spoons or even hand spanks. I am that mom.

But before your blood pressure spikes and you flex your fingers preparing for a keyboard battle, let me explain to you why I feel this way and what conclusion I've come to regarding it.

My brother and I are 4 years apart in age. We have always been polar opposites (except for about a year and a half during our teen years). I was generally quiet, obedient and tended to internalize everything. I was sensitive, gentle and more of a "thinker".
My brother, on the other hand, was hyper active, hands on and fearless. He demanded his way and let his emotions run rampant. He was angry. Always so angry.
He was also exactly like our mom.

When I was 8 years old, I did something I knew not to do, and my mom made my dad spank me with a massive wooden paddle. I wept the entire time. My dad said nothing and kept the same emotionless expression. I could tell his swings weren't the only thing being held back.
I was never spanked again. I'm not saying I never again misbehaved, but I was never punished with a paddle after that.

At the time, my brother was 4. He was still in diapers and had probably his 100th paddle by that same day. He laughed. My mom told my dad to pull his diaper down, but he didn't. It wouldn't have mattered anyway.

It wasn't long after that my parents did away with spankings altogether and "controlled" us in other ways. They learned that I just wanted their approval and to be like my dad. I was humiliated by any sort of correction. I was easily crushed. "Hyper-sensitive" I think they call it.
My brother required rewards and trophies. Instead of punishing him for doing wrong, they gave him "incentives" to do good. He still did plenty bad, like any kid, but he learned what to do to get what he really wanted. Like my mom.

I don't think a Psych 101 class is required to understand that children learn in different ways. There are endless factors that go into why we are the way we are. Some require learning hands-on, and are punished for not having the patience for reading from a book. Some retain everything read and told to them, and struggle to communicate through painting or other artsy crafty things. Some are great communicators and love performing, and still need a tutor for math and science.

I can already tell that Jax is more like me and Roran is very similar to my brother. They are only 2 years apart and are both male, but they are uniquely them. I don't want to fail them by creating this illusion that they are basically the same.

So what IS my plan?
I've said before that children, especially toddlers, are mirrors of us. They show us aspects of our personalities that we didn't even know really existed. We can sing the alphabet with them 10,000 times a day with them, but they'll remember a phrase your mother used to say when you were a kid that you HATE now. A phrase they heard maybe once that day.
I can tell Jaxon to say "thank you" and to share and be nice all day, every day, but if he doesn't see ME doing those things, he won't care to do any of them. And why should he?

Children learn by EXAMPLE. Jaxon doesn't just say please, thank you, and you're welcome. He says them just like I do. When he was first learning to talk in phrases and sentences, he said the things he heard us say the most, first. He gives me attitude in the EXACT form that I give him. He didn't start hitting me until I smacked his hand for getting into something. I'm not saying he never would have if I didn't hit him first, but it definitely triggered something new for him at that moment. I saw it in his eyes.

My oldest son will be 3 in May. I am still VERY new at this parenting thing.
But I refuse to believe that if I DON'T spank him, he'll become an ungrateful, selfish, manipulative menace to society by the time he reaches adulthood. I refuse to buy into the belief that spanking my own flesh and blood will ensure that he is respectful, obedient and trustworthy.
If respect is EARNED by others actions and examples when it comes to your adult relationships, then why do we demand it from someone who has only been around for a few short years, regardless of the amount of respect we've shown them? If we don't spank friends with a belt when they yell at us or share a secret you trusted them with because it's frowned upon and society considers that assault, then why do we cause physical harm to a younger human who has even less control of their emotions and urges? Because we think it teaches them about consequences? If that were true, then why don't we get spanked when we screw up? We get reprimanded, we get humiliated, we get fired, we get heartbroken, we get fined.

I get that adulthood is very different from childhood. Duh.
But aren't we as parents supposed to guide and prepare our children for adulthood?

Don't misunderstand me. Jaxon does things DAILY that make me want to smack the devil out of him. My mother's intensity and impulsiveness comes out in me more than I'd like to admit. There are things he does over and over and over and OVER again that I wonder if pulling his diaper down for a full handed slap wouldn't correct at least for the rest of the day. But I then remember my brother. I remember my mother's frustration and exhaustion. I remember her crying from him driving her to her wit's end. I remember her standing up and walking to her bedroom, mumbling something about him being possessed, leaving him there, continuing to slam the back of his head onto the floor, his face red as blood from screaming at the top of his lungs. I remember the tiniest irritations would throw her into a screaming frenzy herself, as we got older. My mother rarely spoke to us in a calm, "inside" level voice. Conversations with her almost always escalated quickly to hisses and growls and dramatic stare downs. If looks could kill, neither of us would have made it past 2.

So yeah, maybe I feel the need to go against my mother's extreme to an opposite one of my own.
Maybe I've read too many hippie mom articles. Maybe I'm just being my usual "hyper-sensitive" self and can't stomach my kids being in any sort of pain, especially inflicted by me.

All I know is I have SO much faith in my child. Jaxon is so smart. He is so gentle. He is so aware. He's fearless. He's sassy. He's clever. He's thoughtful. He's strong. When I cry or look sad, he asks me if I'm okay. He stops what he's doing out of nowhere to hug me. He points things out to me that I missed because everything is new to him and old to me. Things that I never expect him to see or even understand. Enough to prove to me that they are capable of SO much more than we think.

I explain everything I can to him. Everything. Even if I doubt he's listening or even able to comprehend what I'm saying. I talk to him about it anyway. He surprises me daily with his empathy and knowledge. He retains things I don't expect. So I just put it all out there and let him hold on to what he can. And he does.

I don't expect him to stop coloring on the walls because I asked him to nicely and explained to him why I don't want him to. I tried to make him clean it off and he still does it. That's because he's still a two year old. A HUMAN two year old.

I know ADULTS who still do the same annoying shit, no matter how may different ways I try to stop them. My son doesn't need to be taught how to be perfect. He needs to learn how to live with being imperfect.

If my kids grow up to be compassionate, logical, respectful, creative gentlemen, I will be ecstatic.
But first, I'M the one who needs to be compassionate, logical, respectful, creative and strong. I need to show them how it's done. Because they're going to learn from me whether I like it or not.

I want to smile when I look into my mirror.


A Lot Happens

I just thought about it for the first time a few days ago, but I've only been a mom for about 3 years.

I feel like it's been for a much larger chunk of my life. I guess because it's such a drastic change going from being newly single to starting a completely new and wonderful relationship with Joshua...
to staring in terror at the two little lines on the third pregnancy test used that night...
to somehow both surviving pregnancy and managing to not scare Josh away..
to driving over an hour to the hospital in disbelief that I was in even labor..
to Jaxon being handed to me and falling head over heels harder in love than I ever imagined was possible.

If you have read enough of my previous posts, you understand what I mean when I say that
motherhood literally saved my life.

But back to my actual point, I have become a mother TWICE within the past 3 years.
Anyone else think it sounds insane when phrased like that?? I mean, it's the truth. After you turn 21, a year flies by faster than you even considered possible. If I didn't understand it before, I truly believe it now, that a-freaking-lot can happen in a year. A lot. Yet it still comes and goes so fast I can barely take it all in.

Just a short 5 years ago, I was in a relationship with someone entirely different. I was working at an entirely different restaurant. I looked different. I thought different. I dreamed different.

Just one year later, I was betrayed, newly single and had plans to move in with a friend of mine. I had just met Josh while I was working and planned our first date. The first legitimate date I had ever been on in my life at that point. [By that I mean it was with someone who actually had a car, a job, his own money, and therefore came to my door with roses, drove us to a movie and paid for everything. Until this point, I had the car and if I wanted to go out with my ex, I had to drive and pay. Yeah, I know.]

Anyway, exactly one year to the day after that date, Jaxon was born.
It's pretty much the definition of life changing. There wasn't much that didn't completely change during that year. Or ever since, honestly.

I don't regret a thing. I have truly loved every single moment of this transformation. I absolutely love everything about my own little family. I have been able to watch myself grow, blossom and rise from ashes in a way you only can when becoming a mom. I am closer to actually being the woman I dreamed of being for so long. The woman I all but gave up on becoming. I never knew that nurturing life, giving birth and being responsible for a brand new person could show me so much about myself and what I am capable of. Motherhood seriously brought out the best in me. It pulled stuff out of me from places so deep I didn't think they existed. It forced me to use strength I never thought I was capable of. It proved how big, full and desperate my heart could be for another human being.

Motherhood also showed me a lot about teamwork and mommy and daddy relationships.
I know having kids before marriage is typically frowned upon and seen as irresponsible. I understand how rare and even crazy it is that I not only am still very much with Jaxon's dad, but we went ahead and had a second one together this year. I am fully aware how abnormal the creation of our family has been. Even if I didn't get reminded daily how out of order we did things, I've understood this whole time, believe it or not.

I'm going to go ahead and say something even crazier.
I credit my love, trust, understanding and all around solid relationship with/for Josh to having both our children before conquering the marriage adventure.
Which is how we've approached all of this together; as an adventure. Not a mistake, not a burden. A brand new and scary, but promising adventure. And we've grown closer and stronger through it. We've come out more wise, more aware and yes, mature, from it. We have a long way to go and millions more adventures to go on, but we have every intention of journeying together for every single one.

I'm not saying this is the way to go for everyone. I'm not trying to sell you on any sort of relationship advice or #goals. I certainly wouldn't recommend this exact journey to anyone else because it wasn't meant for anyone else. All I could ever tell you is to stay open, stay smart, don't fear all change and don't let anyone tell you how to feel when it comes to your heart and happiness.
Because just as I don't necessarily encourage you to "do what I did", I also truly believe, with all I have in me, that I did what I was meant for, that I'm with who I'm meant for and that I've got a lot more adventures and transformations to live through.

I mean, hey. Someone had to be the black sheep, right?
We all know I've never been the most "traditional" of the bunch, anyway...
One thing is for sure; I have never felt so happy and so whole.
So if you're looking for #goals inspo, there it is. That's it.
Now go get yours.


The Guilt Trip

We all have our demons. Memories, habits, characteristics, faults, struggles that we've lived with for so long that they pretty much define our entire being. Whether they were developed from our childhood, introduced by relationships with toxic people, or just formed from our current chapter in life, we all have them and they can either fuel the fire of our souls or suffocate us until we drown in our own shortcomings.

I have many, to be completely honest. Some I've been able to keep securely incarcerated so that they are but echoes in the distance, and others are known to consistently break free and wreak havoc on my emotions, thoughts and even body. They are dark, traumatizing beasts with no master. No shackles or chains. No disguises or any sort of limitations.

But my biggest and scariest?

I am constantly in a state of guilt. Yes, a state of guilt.
Guilty for letting Roran cry long enough at 5 in the morning that Josh was forced to get up to make a bottle even though he has to work in the morning.
Guilty for not getting to bed at a better time.
Guilty for not getting up earlier.
Guilty for giving Jax a handful of cereal instead of making him a real breakfast right away.
Guilty for sitting down for too long when I could be cleaning or organizing.
Guilty for spending too much time on my makeup when I don't plan to go anywhere.
Guilty for yelling at Jax for playing with the dog and making noise.
Guilty for giving in to Jaxon's whining and demanding.
Guilty for forgetting to eat.
Guilty for not working out more.
Guilty for not making enough at work.
Guilty for not working enough.
Guilty for not being a better homemaker.
Guilty for not being able to fulfill basic adult tasks, like using the phone at all, because of anxiety.
Guilty for having 2 kids before even getting engaged.
Guilty for even considering an abortion almost 3 years ago.
Guilty for dropping out of college.
Guilty for not going back like all the other moms.
Guilty for still being a server.
Guilty for wasting oxygen.

You get the idea. The kicker, though, is that not one of those is exaggerated.
And I am plagued by them every minute of every day.
I'm not sharing this to get you to actually comment on my post for once, to compliment me. I'm not offering this information in exchange for sympathy or attention of any kind. I am ashamed of my dark side. We all are, I know.

I'm putting this out there to understand. So I can see it written out. So you can read it and maybe either understand my spirit a bit more, or understand it for yourself.

Where does this void stem from?
I don't think this is a demon you can credit to just one person or event. This is something that is learned; either from repetition or by example. In my case it could be both. My mother had a gift for unintentionally burdening me with guilt since I was pretty much old enough to communicate, but I've since seen for myself that I believe that it stems from her own struggle with guilt. I also believe I have always been sensitive to all emotions and therefore susceptible to long term guilt. I feed off intense energy; positive and negative, dark and light. It's why I am considered an "introverted extrovert." Because, depending on the type of energy, I either thrive or overload. It also should be noted that my mother has always been an intense person, whereas my spirit tends to try mirror my father's which is deep and more internally focused. So you can see how my spirit has become such a empathetic mess. I've been fighting with my contrasting influences, along with my biology, since the beginning.

We all have to. We all are a product of the complicated combination of every single detailed aspect of our existence. I'm not claiming to be unique in any sense. I'm one of billions. Just like you. Just like them.

The reason I'm shedding light on this dark corner of my world is because I'm tired.
I have good moments. Really good moments. I do. My life isn't a total miserable ball of depression, anxiety and darkness. I have a pretty impeccable sense of humor, I always look for the good in everyone I meet, I am the first to encourage someone struggling, I am capable of embracing change, I can adapt and I've learned how to let petty and unnecessary negativity roll off my back fairly easily.
But all those qualities have developed over time, from overcoming mountain after mountain of struggles, setbacks, challenges, devastations and breakdowns. And, as you have discovered through my blog posts and social media activity, I am far from impenetrable. I will be battling my vicious demons until I take in my final breath on this Earth, just like you.
But I am not a mighty warrior, spiritually or otherwise, and I am worn thin.

This winter season has been possibly one of the hardest and longest I have ever endured in my 25 years. So many things have gone wrong. I have come up short more in the past 3 or so months than I have in probably my entire life so far.
I'm not going through a depression. I would never patronize the precious souls who survive such a true darkness. I have just lost more battles than I won. I lost sight of the light guiding me through the darkness a few times. I can see it again now, but I'm not getting comfy.

I want you to know that I'm still here.
I have given up on a few things, and I've had to back away from others. I have been a non existent friend to everyone I know except for the 3 boys that live with me. I have distanced myself from my blood family for reasons I will probably never share. I have lost my way and have broken myself down to bare bones more times than I'd like to admit. I have failed miserably while thinking I'm exceeding expectations.
But I'm still here. I still see you. I still feel you.
Even if you haven't seen, felt or heard from me in a long long time.

Spring is coming.
The time to celebrate new life, fresh air and warm sunlight.
It's time to be resurrected. It's time to awaken.
It's time for me to come alive.