Word of the Year

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Chaos, never ending to do lists, constant demands have taken me away from this space. Writing here for awhile became a chore and just one more thing to take up brain power.

As with every January, there is a refreshing push to start anew.

I want to get back to this space and my free writing. It has been so much for me in the past from my time as a military spouse to my first days as a new mom to learning my way as a professional.

I have missed it and the outlet it provides me.

So here I am putting some thoughts down on the page about how I want to approach the year.

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Many people do a word of the year or resolutions. I have done both in the past, but as I have thought about what I want this year to be focused around I couldn’t get two words out of my head. And one of the biggest mantras of “goal setting” is to share with others to keep your accountable, so here we go!

Gratitude and Connection

I am trying to be more grounded  going into this year. My job is very stressful right now. There are a lot of things as a director that they do not prepare you for. There are a lot of challenging months ahead for me, so the gratitude is definitely something that I need as reminder of the great opportunity I have to make an impact.

I am being intentional about my devotions moving forward. I highly recommend the YouVersion app. You can really tailor to what your needs are. And my first day with my most recent plan was already a big reminder about not being grumpy. “Maybe part of my grumbling came from my desire to feel powerful while truly feeling powerless.” I am extremely guilty of this. I think we all fall into the trap of complaining. And seeing this statement about grumbling being that grasping effort to have some power really resonated with a change I need to make internally. My anxiety really ramps up when I feel like I have lost control. I need to stay grounded and humble, and I believe that reminding myself of all the blessings will keep me from circling around the drain in a sense. It will also help me to not just focus on what is happening negatively and being consumed by the toxic nature of those thoughts.

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I know I am not perfect though. And just because I put these words out there, doesn’t mean it won’t be work. Just last night I lost it on my kids more than once. I have this unique opportunity to mold them, and I don’t want them to get a sense that I am not happy about the time that we get together. I want to be grateful for their neediness and constant touching because I know these days are numbered where they want to hang on me or find immense joy in playing together. I also need to walk the talk when I tell them about appropriate emotional output. I want to be more mindful about the environment I am building, and I feel that gratitude is the center of that. (This was made even more apparent after this past month with my kids attitude towards presents…but another topic for another day.)

One of my closest friends recommended a gratitude journal for me to take a minute every morning to start my day fresh. This will be so vital in beginning my day with positivity and centering. It is also a good reminder that every day is a new day to forgo the negativity from the day before and move forward instead of sitting in the junk. Thanks Jeannette!

Then we look at Connection.

I will be honest making friends has not been easy for me here. We have lived here for five years, and I would say only recently do I feel like I am starting to create my circle. Having young kids and the fact that we live outside of town has made it hard to really cultivate friendships.

Tom also has gotten our basement to a place where entertaining is a little more feasible. There are so many memories to be made, and we really want to focus on bringing a community together. Now that the kids are a little older and Tom’s job has completely changed, I am hoping for a little more freedom for us to take the time to connect with others. We redesigned the spaces in our house to allow them to be filled with activity, and we hope to do that more and more this year.

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I have grand plans at work to increase connections at the college. I won’t bore you with all my ideas, but one that I do want to work on is starting a podcast of sorts for our institutional staff. I want to hit on our stories and show how we are all inter-connected in helping our students write their own stories. This idea is the most scary on my list, but also the one I feel most convicted to carry out. Hearing about people’s stories is what keeps me going to work every day, so I want to find a way to harness that for our institution. My hope is that by creating this platform we can find connections and similarities which in turn create more bridges with our stories instead of continuing silos. (This is me speaking a goal into life…the more people I tell right?)

And of course I want to connect more with this family of mine. Tom changing jobs has turned our world upside down in the best ways. And the kids, while wild, are at such a fun age. We have so many plans to connect as a family, especially with this being the last summer before George is officially in school. We have several trips planned, and we want to start new traditions in our weekly schedules. I know this is the age where I started remembering large chunks of my childhood, and I hope to establish routine opportunities for us to connect.

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Lastly, I want to connect more with myself, which is why I want to come back to this blog. This last year, I have gotten lost in what is expected of me and trying to be all the things. Putting my thoughts and feelings out in this blog is a therapeutic thing for me. However, it has been hard since my brain is on overdrive all day, and the last thing I have wanted to do is to get in front of another computer when I get home. I have found though that I miss this outlet and little space I created years ago. I also need to do a better job connecting with my faith, so I want to center myself more with my devotions. My prayer life has been lacking, and connecting my soul again is definitely something I need to focus on. And since I know the stress is only going to come at me with even more fervor in the upcoming months, I need to keep connecting with my core so I can be my best self instead of just trudging along waiting for the next expectation to define me. Through continued prayer and introspection, I hope this connection will just come more naturally.

For me, gratitude and connection will be highly intertwined, and I hope that having these words as my focus will help me to grow but also to remain grounded in my faith and who I am meant to be.

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So tell me, what do you want for 2020?

Lego Birthday Party

It only seemed natural to have a Lego birthday party for our boy this year. He is obsessed with all things Lego and building is his favorite past time.

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It was one of he easiest parties we have put together mostly due to the fact that Legos are so popular. It was simple to find all the things I needed, and usually at a great price because I could actually shop around.

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We brought all of George’s Legos and used them for all kinds of decorations. We put a handful at each table so kids (or adults) could DIY the table centerpieces.

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I got the tablecloth and balloons from Amazon. My sister-in-law made the sign. It’s handy to have artsy people in the family!

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These cute little crayons were our party favors. The boxes I got a the Dollar Store, and then the crayons I got on Etsy and Amazon.

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I got the cake and cupcakes from Hy-Vee. And then these little sweet-tart Lego candies from Amazon. We still have tons of these candies!

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George picked out the candles himself at the Dollar Store.

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Whatever Legos weren’t being used for the centerpieces, we just had them out for everyone to create.¬† I used extra tablecloths on the walls for more decoration in the Lego creation areas. We had everything from Mega Blocks, Duplos, and little Legos. The kids seemed to really love it, and I loved watching George with his friends and family making things.

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Not to toot my own horn, but the pinata was the best idea I had for this party. Amazon had a Lego one, so it was perfect. The pinata itself came with little toys and then we just bought big candy bags to stuff the pinata. The pinata also came with a stick and a blindfold.

One of the “birthday packs” on Amazon that came with the balloons and tablecloth also came with these party bags which were perfect for picking up the guts of the pinata.¬† This was so fun, and great for all ages! Watch the video at the end for snippets of it!

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Daphne’s shirt actually came from my in-laws when George was her age. So it was the perfect hand-me down for the event!

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George’s shirt was perfect for the event with its Lego stitching. I am sad that he has already outgrown it! I got it on Etsy.

This was also the first time we opened gifts in front of people, and George’s reactions delivered!

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This kid’s spirit only grows as each year passes. It was so fun to watch him with all the things and people he loves at his party.

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Here is a fun video recapping the day.

And to keep the videos going, here is a recap of his fifth year!

To My 2.5 Year Old

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Daphie,

Today you are half way to three. You have grown so much in the last six months.

First of all your vocabulary has exploded. You used to say bangkock for blanket and potholes for Paw Patrol. While there are still times, I am not sure what you are saying, you get clearer by the minute. Your sentence structure amazes me most days.

You are in love with every stuffed animal that crosses your bath. You have a zoo in your crib, and you make me tuck everyone in before kissing you goodnight. And then every morning, you pick out a bow for yourself and your bunny friends. This makes me think that you will have your own rescue shelter in your adult life. Rarely are you without a stuffie to love and hold.

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You are a complete puzzle master. You are able to keep up with your brother on finding the next piece. You love putting the pictures together, and you rarely need guidance anymore.

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You love to create art. Painting is your favorite, but you love working with play-do and crayons. Every night you direct us to look at the wall of art that you have created with so much pride. You could sit at the kitchen table for hours with your art.

Much to our dismay, you have become a picky eater. You hardly eat meat, but love carbs and fruit. But you also know how to bribe your daddy to give you treats in secret by taking him to the pantry and saying “shhhh.”

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While you don’t stray far from your people, you can tell you will be fierce and are not afraid to try new things. You love to test your physical limits to keep up with the big kids. I know when you commit to something, you are all in.

You know exactly what you want out of your day, and I feel that you will always live every moment to the fullest. You don’t let much get in your way. And I love and admire that about you.

You refuse to go to the church nursery, and you love to try to add a little color to the hymnals and talk to the pastor all through the sermon.

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You also love your brother fiercely. I think you push yourself to reach his level, which has been amazing to see you try to catch up to someone who is three years older.

At the same time, you are a force with him. While most of the time you are George’s shadow, you put him in his place when he is being ridiculous. For being half his size, you hold your own against that big brother of yours. I pray every day that your relationship makes you stronger and give you the skills to command any room that you are in.

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Your laugh and smile light up the room, but you definitely make people work for them. You don’t give up your love for free (unless it is for a stuffie) which is something I hope that you continue to expect when you get older.

I knew having a girl would make me grow, but I never knew how much it would change me. Being around you Daphne is a constant reminder of how I hope to be as a woman and as a mother. It has helped me with my own self talk, because I never want you to hear the things I used to say to myself.

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I love our daily mantras:

  • You are brave.
  • You are smart.
  • You are strong.
  • You are kind.
  • You are funny.
  • You are capable.
  • You are Daphie.

You are my perfect little girl, and I love every bit or your toddler self.

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Extending the Season

I have been changed.

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I have always loved Thanksgiving. It is by far my favorite holiday. I was one of those purists who insisted on waiting until after Thanksgiving to start spreading Christmas cheer. I wouldn’t dare infringe on turkey day’s significance.

Key word in that sentence is “was.”

I have been changed.

George has been talking about Christmas since we put away Christmas last year. He truly wanted it to be the next holiday after every other holiday and birthday. He just couldn’t wait for the excitement of the season. Goodness, he even believes it is its own season in the calendar year.

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Watching his little body get filled with joy at just the thought of Christmas persuaded me to just embrace the holiday. Why wouldn’t I want to do something so simple to bring him the greatest joy he has ever known?

He loves everything about the season. He had to touch every single decoration that came out of the box. He wanted to put the lights on his own tree, and I am pretty sure he was inspired by Clark Griswold. We went to the Christmas section so many times to look at every possible layout we could have in our house. He loves the music, the movies, and just the general spirit of the season. Buddy the Elf is his spirit animal. He is just enamored by it all.

I just kept asking myself this…

Why wouldn’t we want to celebrate Christmas longer?

The decorations are so joy filling when I walk into my home.

The music is beautiful and calming.

There is just an air of happiness. Just read this for more proof.

I always end up with a long list of Christmas movies to watch, so why not start spreading that out more…never mind that it may also mean that the list gets longer.

There is always such a busyness that occurs during this time, so decorating early allows for some peace to occur. We can be in the moment a little more to enjoy all the spirit.

It’s a constant reminder of God’s love for us, which is something we need a whole lot more of in our house. It makes Christmas more than just the one day. It really is a season for us.

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So here we are after the first week of November with our house fully decked with all the twinkle and greenery.

And it is all worth it to see George get pumped about turning on the tree every morning.

Why Professional Development can be Magical

Maybe it’s because I am watching the Disney episode of Dancing with the Stars, or that I spent some time this week at a Disney attraction, but conferences can be magical.

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The past six months have been difficult for me at work. The duties have increased, and it seems that there is never a slow time to catch my breath. I feel some days that I am drowning in meetings and there is never time to do the tasks that come from those meetings.

I have always been firm that I don’t want to work from home after hours, and once I get home to be strictly about my family. But I have found more and more days where I have pulled out my computer after the kids go to bed, or I stayed late to cross things off the to-do lists. And I am always in early to get a head start.

I try to build times into my schedule to do the tasks, but to be honest they often get scheduled over. I hate to think that this will become my norm as a Director, but it has been my current reality. I also feel like you can’t really talk about it or complain about being busy because everyone is and there is the expectation to just get all the things done. I also think it can be difficult to talk about this at your own campus so you don’t let others see you feeling like you aren’t measuring up to your role. Imposter syndrome at it’s finest.

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So I very much needed this conference. I needed a break.

The thing is I love the work that I do. I really find value in what my office is doing, and feel that our initiatives are extremely valuable. I also love the collaborative nature of my role. Reaching across all the tables to see how we can make improvements for the student experience is fun for me. I love to strategically talk through what is happening and brainstorm plans to make things better.

However I was starting to get tunnel vision and worn out from my schedule.

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Professional development is often forgotten or not prioritized, but it is so important. I try to take advantage of things that happen around campus or free webinars, and I have been strategic this year about building intentional PD into my staff dynamic, but there is something about going away to a conference that can bring life back into your work. It does some magic to my soul.

  • When I explain all the things that come from my office to other schools, I am reminded of how proud I am of what we accomplish which is no small feat.
  • It provides an opportunity to hear from leaders in the field and be inspired.
  • It helps you to not feel so isolated in your experience.
  • You are just free to think and brainstorm, which can be magical.
  • I am in my element taking notes and outlining, so it always grounds me.
  • It allows you to not directly look at a problem but take a side view with some outsiders helping you process.
  • I am not expected to be an expert or have to respond. I can just truly be in the moment and soak it all in.
  • It is an opportunity to not reinvent the wheel. There is something about the element of sharing that I get jazzed about. As higher ed institutions we are often in competition, but at these conferences there is a sense of care to help each other, and we share our struggles and wins so we can learn from one another. Again something magical.
  • The chance to engage with colleagues across the nation in general is a surreal experience. I am always amazed at all that we do in Higher Ed. We are changing the world and improving lives.
  • It is a very intentional time to be consumed with my work but not consumed by my job.

The root of it is returning to my why and the intention of this profession. I get all nerdy about all the things. And whereas I was definitely ready to put my out of office up last week, I am ready to get back to it this week and move forward. I don’t have a magical wand, but I am ready to help create a whole new world.

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And having a bed to myself and eating meals at my own pace wasn’t bad either for this worn out soul.

Why do you like conferences?