Kansas City’s Best Co-Working Space

Kansas City co-working space

For the past 7 years, I have worked from home. I began my #WAHM (work-at-home-mom) career as an administrative assistant for someone living in Germany and eventually grew into a role that largely has me working for myself as a digital marketing and social media strategist from Kansas City.

During these past 7 years, our family also grew and I had children’s schedules to work around. Nap time was my work time. As soon as the kids were down for naps, I got an unseemly amount of work done.

Then they grew older and grew out of their naps. So I had to work around preschool schedules and planned quiet activities for them that they could do while I worked. Working from home with kids who no longer nap was definitely a challenge. I often felt like I was working all day and doing a poor job at mothering. I’m sure neither were actually true, but it just felt like I was never as good at either of those roles as I would have liked to be.

So when it came time for all of our kids to be in school this year, I decided it was time for a change for me. You see, I’ve probably spent about 75% of the past 7 years within the 4 walls of our home.That’s a lot of time at home! I do not regret it and I wouldn’t change anything. I am glad I was able to be at home and do outside work that was meaningful to me and helped our family financially.

But . . .

Getting out of the house and joining a co-working space in Kansas City has been a game changer and I’ll tell you why.

Work-life balance: When I worked from home, it was easy to let work seep into my time with my kids and husband. After all, my desk was just a few steps away. And we all know you never really get ahead with work. There is always more work to do. It was too easy to tell the kids, “I’m going to go back to my room and work for a bit” and find myself getting sucked into work an hour and a half later when I found the kids fighting with each other because they probably just needed some attention from their Mom.

Now, after spending uninterrupted time with my family before they head off to work and school, I get in my car and drive downtown to WeWork Corrigan Station. I head up to the 3rd floor, find a space in the “Hot Desk” area and get to work. I’m not thinking about the laundry I could be doing, or the cleaning that needs done around the house, I’m just thinking about work. It’s like my brain has a dedicated spot for my work productivity. I am “at work” so it’s far easier to stay focused on work.

I’m also highly motivated to stay focused because I know that I have to leave at a certain time to get the kids from school. Once they come home, I’m not on work time anymore, I’m on family time. Having the distinction of work and home has done wonders for my work-life balance.

Networking: I am currently working more hours than I ever have so I am not able or wanting to take on more clients. But if I was, WeWork would be an excellent way to grow my business. I’ve been asked by several WeWork members if I am looking to take on more clients because I have a skill set that would help their business. I will not be surprised if I someday do this, but for now, simply growing my network is a good thing for me.

I’ve also watched countless interactions between WeWork members where one person realizes the other person may have a skill set that benefits the other. Meetings between potential clients definitely happen here.

Kansas City wo-working spaceSocializing: Anyone who knows me well knows that I love to plan parties and be with people. I planned a really informal Taco Bar potluck a few weeks ago and the turn out was great. I met a British couple who run a branding and design company. One guy brought his very own nacho cheese machine because his company is called IT Nachos. Another guy I’ve gotten to know designs countertop displays in a very niche market. Everyone I’ve met does something a little different and it’s honestly just fun to be around people doing work they love.

If you’re looking to grow your network, joining WeWork is a fabulous way to do it. One other benefit I’ll mention is that when you join WeWork, you’re actually getting access to over 100,000 people worldwide. I regularly see posts within the WeWork member app where one company in another location is looking for a website build or graphic design needs or something else entirely. You may work here in Kansas City but you get access to potential clients from all over the world. This in and of itself is an incredible resource.

Now let’s talk about some cons. While I’ve painted a very rosy picture of this Kansas City co-working space, there are, of course, some cons.

Noise may be an issue for some people. I met one couple who started as Hot Desk Members which means they get to be in any open common area. This is my level of membership, too. They ended up going with a higher level of membership so they could have a private office and less noise. The noise doesn’t bother me and if I ever need a quiet space, I find another area or utilize the phone booths. Headphones also help if I want more calming music. So consider how you feel about room noise, conversation noise, and music noise before you decide to join WeWork in Kansas City.

It will cost you. Obviously, you don’t get access to this amazing space for free. I pay a monthly Hot Desk membership fee of $250. This gives me 24/7 access to the building and I can use any common area that I wish. I also get access to the phone booths on floors 4, 5 and 6 which is very helpful for conference calls. I would be saving $250 each month if I worked from home. So you need to weigh out the cost of your WeWork membership. I am in my 3rd month at WeWork and on the days when I’ve needed to stay home for some reason or another, my level of productivity plummeted. For me, it’s worth it to pay $250 a month. It gives me that work-life balance I was looking for and gets me into the community right here in Kansas City.

So that is my review of WeWork Kansas City. As you can see, I’m very happy here and highly recommend it. Feel free to comment below with any questions and I’ll be happy to answer as best you can. Now go schedule a tour and visit this brand new WeWork location!

P.S. I was not paid or compensated to write this review. In fact, the WeWork staff here in KC don’t even know I’m writing this. So if you’re wondering how honest this review is . . . it’s 100% my words. If you decide you want to join, this referral link is my personal link and if you sign up, I get a small discount on my monthly membership. 

 

How to start a bullet journal the simple way

Before we dive in, you need to know that this is a doozy of a blog post. It’s not a quick read. I go into a lot of detail describing what a bullet journal is and how I use it. So if you’re in the pickup line at school, I recommend you scroll to the pictures and then bookmark this page for later when you can really focus on the content. My hope is that by understanding how I use a bullet journal you’ll know how to start your own!

 

If you’ve been around social media lately, you’ve probably seen people using the hashtag #bulletjournal, #bulletjournaling or even #BuJo. Some are posting pictures of beautifully scripted quotes and elaborate calendar arrangements. You are probably wondering what a bullet journal even is. I had never heard of it until one of my cousins told me about it. Lest you think bullet journaling is just a girly thing, the cousin that told me about bullet journaling is a dude, a body builder, and an ex-marine. So yeah . . .  it’s not just some girly thing.

So what IS it?

Don’t want to read a long blog post? Watch me explain on Facebook how I use my bullet journal.

Ryder Carroll is the creater of the bullet journal and he describes it as “an analog system designed to track the past, organize the present and plan for the future.” I tell people that basically, it’s a planner.

But not just any planner. It’s one you create yourself, making it work for you rather than trying to fit the way your mind works into someone else’s planner layout. Yet it’s also more than a planner. It’s a place where you can plan out what you want your life to look like. For example, I put my personal hopes, dreams and long term plans in my bullet journal so that I can strategically work towards those goals. They live in the same space as my weekly/daily to-do list so that I can be reminded of what those larger goals are that I’m working towards. I truly love it. Now let me tell you why.

How I Use a Bullet Journal

how to start a bullet journalI’ve always been a digital, techy person. I like gadgets. I have several Mac products including an Apple Watch. My husband knows I’d rather have something techy than a piece of jewelry. My parents bought me a Google Home for Christmas and I love it even though I didn’t ask for it. So you may be surprised that I like something so . . . non-digital. 

The reason I love it so much is that when it comes to task management, nothing beats paper. There is something about writing a task down that makes me remember it more, focus on it more, and see it as a priority. There is also something extremely gratifying about crossing a task off a to-do list. I’ve always liked tasks written down on actual paper.

With the bullet journal, I can write things down within a system that makes sense for me. And if I find something that isn’t working, I can tweak it as I go which also makes it awesome. I also love that I can easily track how I’m progressing towards various goals I’ve set for myself. It’s one thing to have goals. It’s another to actually write them down, figure out a plan for how you’re going to reach them, and then track your progress. I don’t know about you but I’m way more motivated to work towards change when I can look back and see incremental improvement, even if it’s just a little bit.

In short, I use my bullet journal to keep on top of daily/weekly tasks and keep an eye on long-term goals.

How a Ton of Other People Use the Bullet Journal

how to start bullet journal

Now, if you were to head to Pinterest and search for bullet journal ideas  you would find loads of blog posts that showcase gorgeous and elaborate drawings on every single page of their journal. Take a look on Instagram by searching the hashtag #bulletjournal.(Go here, here, and here to see the pics above). Do you see what I mean? I swear some people spend an hour a day making their bullet journal look like a piece of artwork. That’s fine for them. But if you’re a busy mom with a job and . . . you know. . . STUFF to do, you’re probably thinking . . .

 . . .”Ain’t nobody got time for that.”

That’s right. I DON’T have time for that. So let’s dive into MY bullet journal. You’ll see that you don’t have to do all those artistic drawings. My daily/weekly log is really quite plain. I add a few flourishes on my other spreads, but overall . . . it’s just meh.

How to Start a Bullet Journal the Simple Way

bullet-journal-2Ok. Now that we have the foundations for a bullet journal laid out, let me show you my actual bullet journal. Obviously, some parts are blurred out. But I hope you get the gist of how I use it so you can decide if it’s the right system for you.

I use a Leuchtturm1917 (pronounced loy-strum) dotted notebook. You can find them on Amazon for around $20. Please note that you don’t have to buy a special notebook to start bullet journaling. In fact, when you first start, I almost don’t recommend you buy anything because it takes a bit to figure out how exactly you’ll use your own bullet journal. I started out with a $5 Wal-Mart notebook that was lined. I switched to the Leuchtturm notebook because I wanted a dotted notebook and it made sense to start a new one in January. Truly. Any notebook will do. Any notebook.

The Indexhow to start a bullet journal

The index is pretty self-explanatory. The Leuttchrum1917 comes with an index and numbered pages all ready to go for you. If you don’t have an index, just designate one of your first pages as your Index, then label each page in your notebook. This goes faster than you think. I had to do this for my first bullet journal.

The purpose of the Index is that you will be adding spreads and logs to your journal throughout the year. It’s useful to have them indexed so that you can easily reference a spread later. For example, I was watching a webinar yesterday and created a spread between my January and February weekly logs so that I could take notes on the webinar. I glanced at the page number I was writing on, then wrote that page number on the index with the appropriate level. Now I can easily reference those notes later by using the index rather than flipping through the entire journal.

The Calendarhow to start a bullet journal

After the Index is my calendar. This is kind of my year-at-a-glance spread. I created a far bigger and more detailed calendar in my first bullet journal and found I never used it. I still use the calendar on my iPhone for all of my events, appointments, and meetings. So this time, I only used two 2-page spreads to create my 2017 calendar. It’s nice to see 6 months all in once place with key work events and various birthdays and holidays.

My Various Spreads

Some bullet journalers call these “collections,” or “lists.” For whatever reason, I’ve settled on the term spread. Each spread takes up at least 2 pages while some repeat that same 2-page look over multiple pages. Think of your spreads as the place where you track long-term projects and goals.

For example, you may have a writing project that involves research, writing an outline, writing chapters, book promotion, etc etc. Each aspect of that project has various deadlines and mini-tasks to get the entire project DONE. If you keep them all on one spread, you can use that spread to drive your weekly tasks. Sometimes we know we need to do X, Y, and Z but X doesn’t need to be done until July while Z has some tasks that need to be accomplished next week.

My spreads are a mixture of projects and goals. Most of them are at the beginning of my bullet journal, between the calendar and my weekly logs.

Here are my GOAL spreads:

reading-list-spread

My Reading List is where I write down books I’m reading or want to read. I color them in on the bookshelf once it’s completed. On the left side of this spread, I have a space to write book recommendations. There are 3 different categories of books I’ll read this year: Business/Marketing, Spiritual/Health, and Fiction. I read fiction before I go to bed each night but want to read various non-fiction books throughout my week. I have a very low goal to read 12 non-fiction books this year. Don’t judge me. It’s a recent discovery of how much I enjoy reading non-fiction.

how to start a bullet journal

My Financial Goals spread is what we used to do some fun dreaming for the future. At the beginning of this year, Jesse and I discussed some practical 2017 goals (pay off debt, save for a vacation etc) as well as some life-long/long-term goals we would like to shoot for. I use Google Sheets to manage our monthly budget and an app to manage our monthly spending. So this is really a “dream” page. It was fun to write down our goals and it’s gratifying to color in the goal trackers on the right page. In my last bullet journal, I drew 2 different “cones” like you would see in a fundraising poster. Each of these cones represented 2 different debts we were working on paying off in 2016. I was seriously giddy to color both of them in all the way to the top as we knocked those out last year.

how to start a bullet journal

My Fitness Goals spread is where I laid out 2 different fitness goals, and how I was going to get there. I’m tracking both my weight and inches this year. I’ll record those measurements at the beginning of each month. I gave myself 3 different levels of goals: gold, silver, and bronze. If I reach the gold goal that would be amazing (and would mean I would look almost as good as I did on my wedding day 12.5 years ago) If I reach silver, I was even more successful than I thought I could be. If I reach bronze, that means I did what I’d set out to do. I laid out a basic plan for how I’m going to work towards those goals on a daily basis on this spread as well.

how to start a bullet journal

My Family spread is a new spread this time around. I haven’t filled it out yet because this one also involves Jesse. We are going to sit down and talk about each child, what their strengths and witnesses are, and some areas we want to really work on with them this year. I’m not talking about their own areas to work on, I’m talking about things we need to work on with each child as it relates to our relationship.

For example, I relate better to our middle child and struggle with our oldest. Jesse is the opposite. (The youngest is pretty easy for both of us to relate to.) So there are certain things we can do to work on that with each kid. This is where I’ll lay those ideas out for reference later and also because once we talk about something and write it down, it’s easy to remember that we have a goal we are working towards with those relationsips.

I have some things I want to work on as a wife too, this year and I’ll fill that last square out soon.

Here are my PROJECT spreads:

I won’t go into a ton of detail on these since they are super specific to me and my job. But I wanted to show them to you so you can get an idea for how to create your own spreads based on what projects you have. I have already added a few more since starting this blog post a few days ago. I simply made sure they didn’t divide up a month of weekly logs by counting out the pages I hadn’t yet made.

how to start a bullet journal

social-media-campaign-spreads

After all of the goal spreads and a few project spreads comes the bullet journal’s sweet spot: the weekly log.

The Bullet Journal’s Sweet Spot: The Weekly Log

I begin my weekly logs with a month spread. Below you can see that I have a January spread where I listed a few tasks. I will add to it as the month goes on. Sometimes, I simply need to quickly write down a task from a meeting and I don’t have a specific day in mind yet that it needs to get done so I’ll write it here. It will get moved to a weekly log later. As I add more tasks here, it will help drive my weekly log.

In my last bullet journal, I used this place to write down each day of the month per the recommendation of Ryder Carroll. However, I found I never used it or referenced it so I turned it from a calendar function to a task function. I also added a new feature by including a spot to write down memories and celebrations. I thought it would be fun to be able to look back over the year and see what cool things happened both at work and personally. This may be anything from “Sammy lost a tooth!” to “That one campaign totally bombed and I wanted to crawl into a hole and die.”

how to start a bullet journal

Next, comes the actual weekly log:how to start a bullet journal

A few components of my weekly log are unique to me. Before I get into those, let me explain the basic gist of my weekly log.

You can see I have a day for each day of the week (Mon-Fri). The top portion of the page is for work related tasks. The bottom is for personal tasks. In those personal boxes, I also have a place to track 3 things each day: weight, calorie burn and if I’ve done 50 push-ups or not (Again, don’t judge me for my weak arms.) I’ve seen some people track the amount of water drunk, steps taken, etc.

On any given day, I create a task with a bullet point. When the task is done, I make an X through the bullet point. If I don’t get it done, I write a > over the bullet point which means I’m migrating it to another date. I then re-write the task on another day. If I find myself migrating the same task over and over again I have to stop and ask myself, is this really worth my time? Or I ask myself if I’m prioritizing my tasks appropriately. This method is all explained in the original bullet journal video by Ryder Carroll.

I also have a slot for “Memoires.” This is another place to write down something I want to remember from the week. I may migrate these to the monthly memories/celebrations or I may leave them as they are and flip through it occasionally to remember the year’s happenings.

One aspect unique to me in my weekly log is that I track our various social media channel’s growth. That’s what that extra box is on my Monday work column.  I also have this info online but I do it here simply because it forces me to pay attention to that each week and helps me focus on where I want to take our social media as we continue to improve.

I build out my weekly logs a month at a time. So I currently have all of January’s weekly logs created AND I went ahead and made the February month spread and the first week of February just because I was feeling ambitious one day. Towards the end of January, I’ll make the rest of February’s weekly logs. This takes me maybe 30 minutes each month.

So that’s my bullet journal. 

I told you it would be a doozy of a blog post, didn’t I? If you made it here I congratulate you! Like I’ve said, what makes the bullet journal so great is that every single person can make it work for their unique needs. And . . . you can tweak as you go! In my last bullet journal, I did that often. I found myself changing my weekly log as I realized I didn’t need or want to track certain things.

It really is a great system. However, I will say it’s probably not for everyone. My husband is NOT a planner. So I figured this would be a great system for him. He tried it and couldn’t really get into it. He and I are about as different as they come when it comes to how we get things done. I’m a feeler and a doer. He’s a thinker and a processor (which is why he’s a great a counselor). I think that if you’re goal-driven, task-driven, and like long-term planning, it can be a really useful tool.

So that’s a wrap! I’d love to hear how YOU use a bullet journal. If you have any questions please comment and I’ll try and answer them as best I can. Happy bullet journaling!

If you liked this post, you may want to subscribe to my email list. I’ll make sure you get each blog post sent directly to your inbox. I’m more of a “how-to” blogger. I mostly write about 3 things: how I plan and organize my life, how I parent and how to blog. Subscribe here!

That time I got cussed out at the grocery store

My trip to the grocery store began innocently enough. It was a busy time of day, right before supper, so the aisles were filled with shopping carts and kids as many parents tried to make a quick stop at the store. As the lone cash register lane got longer and longer, the woman behind me heard another line was opening up and asked me if I wanted to go first since I was next in line. I thanked her and made a beeline for the next available register.

It soon became apparent that no one was coming to open another register, and the kind woman behind me apologized and told me to come back and get my original spot in line. I had my three children with me and was eager to get home after a long day. As I began unloading my groceries on the original register, a third woman noisily began to berate the woman behind me for what she felt was cutting in line.

As a lifelong avoider of conflict at all costs, the stress level in me instantly began to rise. It was clear there was a misunderstanding, and I went out of my comfort zone to apologize to the angry woman and explain that the woman behind me had just moved out of line in order to let me back in.

It was then that expletives and harsh name calling began. Not toward me (or by me) but toward the original woman who had tried to help me. Things escalated from there, and my stress quickly turned to what I believe was righteous anger. It was as if things came into focus, and I saw the situation for what it really was. One human being felt it was OK to treat another human being like she was nothing more than a dirty piece of trash. In fact, that’s exactly what the first woman was called, just with more expletives. I knew I had to speak up.

“No. You cannot talk to her like that. She is a human being! She deserves to be treated with dignity! Her children are here, and my children are here, please do not speak like that. She was simply trying to help me.”

It was then that the angry woman turned on me. My children heard the venomous words spewed toward their mother and the first woman. I remained calm but was thankful a security guard stepped in and asked the woman to leave. My oldest daughter was visibly shaken and close to tears.

The entire front of the store observed the exchange. Heads were shaking as the woman left. We all tried to proceed with normalcy. But I could not shake the feeling that I needed to speak up again to the woman who had verbally been attacked. The woman tried very hard to contain her emotions, but I knew she couldn’t possibly be alright. Her face was covered in some kind of birthmark that no woman would want to look at in a mirror each day. She looked tired and haggard as she held one child in her arms. Her husband didn’t speak up or defend her. I turned back to face her and said, “I am so sorry that woman said those terrible things to you. They aren’t true. You are a human being created in the image of God and should not be spoken to like that. Thank you for helping me.”

We ended up walking out to the car behind her and her youngest child. I said “thank you” one more time as I pushed my cart of groceries and kids past her car. She turned to look at me, and I could see tears were streaming down her face.

Embracing the teachable moments

The kids and I quietly unloaded our groceries. When the doors were closed, I began to help our children process what had just happened.

“Why did I tell the angry woman to not speak like that to the woman who was trying to help me? Why is it not OK to treat another person like that?” It brought tears to my eyes to hear all three children answer, “Because they are made in the image of God.”

You see, lately, we have been trying to help our children, ages five, seven and nine, understand this very concept of being created in the image of God.

  • When our daughter uses her words to hurt our oldest son, we remind her that he is a human being created in the image of God. He deserves to be treated with dignity.
  • When our sons fight over a game or a toy, we remind them that their brother is more important than an inanimate object. Their brother is a human being, created in the image of God.
  • When we watch movies or shows that show a person being cruel or mean to another person, we point out that every human is created in the image of God and deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.
  • When we’re around the dinner table, we sometimes talk about treating the elderly and those not yet born with the same kind of dignity that we should give to each other.

I believe this random altercation at the grocery story helped attach roots to these seeds of truth we’ve been trying to plant in our children. And it also became a teachable gospel moment. While my oldest accused the angry woman of acting like a five-year-old (and she was), I was able to talk about how I often act selfish and angry. “I am no better than that woman who was mean to the other woman. She needs Jesus to save her from her sins just like I do,” I told my children as we drove out of the parking lot. We all left the grocery store a little shaken, but I left with a deeper faith in the God who finds value in every human being created in his image.

I encourage you to use today—and every day—to teach your children about the dignity of all lives. It is a gospel issue. Teach them to see that all human beings are worthy of respect and all human beings are in need of the wonderful saving grace that comes from Jesus alone. It will change how your family interacts with others, how you speak to your children, and it will remind you of your own need of the gospel.

I originally posted this on ERLC.com. I am resharing it here on my blog in an effort to talk about what it means to be pro-life. Being pro-life means more than speaking up for the unborn. We MUST speak up for the unborn. Hear me say that. But we must also speak up for life as a whole. This woman in the grocery store was being treated like she wasn’t even human. This is not ok.

If you want to learn how to be a voice for life in your community, as well as participate in the annual March for Life in D.C, please consider joining me as I will be attending the Evangelicals for Life conference on Jan. 26-28, hosted by the ERLC and Focus on the Family. Speakers include Matt Chandler, Russell Moore, Eugene Cho and many others. Save 20% off your registration cost with this code: EFLJM

Being pro-life is more than a march

Next January, I get to participate in the annual March for Life for the first time ever. As an evangelical Christian who believes that all people are made in the image of God, I am definitely pro-life.

This will be a unique experience for me because I’ve never done something like this, but also because I get to represent the organization I work for on social media. If you’ve followed my blog for any amount of time you know that I’m one of the biggest social media geeks out there. I’ve helped women use social media to start their own blog, I’ve written about why MLM people fail on social media and much more. So to do social media for an organization I love during an event I believe in, well, it’s kind of a dream come true!

The next few days I’m going to be writing about what I really think it means to be pro-life, because it IS more than just a march in Washington, D.C. It’s also more than standing up for the rights of the unborn as I hope you’ll see. Please follow along with me and tell me what it means to you to be pro-life!

evangelicals for life

If you are a follower of Jesus and you believe that all people, from the unborn to the elderly, have value and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, I highly encourage you to consider joining me in Washington, D.C next month. Evangelicals for Life is a conference that takes place ahead of the March for Life and it’s put on by the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and Focus on the Family. You’ll be able to hear from Matt Chandler, Eugene Cho, Russell Moore, Albert Mohler, Kelly Rosati, and more. I can save you 20% off the cost of registration with this code: EFLJM. I would love to see you there! Register here.

Saying good-bye to the little years

Tonight, I tucked in my 4-year-old for the last time and as I left the room, it felt like I had tucked away an era of parenting.

Tomorrow our youngest and last child turns 5 which means I’ve become quite sentimental lately. What is it about the age of 5 that makes a child seem so much older than age 4? I can’t quite put my finger on it.

Perhaps it’s because a 5-year-old can go to Kindergarten while a 4-year-old still qualifies for story time at the library with other preschoolers.

Maybe it’s because 5-year-olds can express themselves with words more easily than a 3 or 4-year-old who is more likely to throw a tantrum if things don’t go his or her way.

age 5 is an end of an eraAs I began reflecting on why I’m sentimental about my son’s 5th birthday, I noticed some things in our house. Or rather, I noticed some things missing from our house that had at one time seemed so permanent.

Our kitchen no longer has baby spoons and bibs shoved into a drawer with old rags and kitchen towels. I threw away the sippy cups when we moved a year ago. The lids were dinged up and I could see chew marks on almost every cup. Around the table, the absence of high chairs and booster seats is a fading memory.

Tucked away in a closet that used to hold a pack n’ play are games like Sorry, Chutes and Ladders and Connect Four. That stroller I used for our first child is long gone, as is the double stroller I replaced it with when our youngest turned 1.

Our car has booster seats where complicated car seats were once strapped in with hooks, buckles and a forceful test by my husband to make sure everything was secured correctly. If grandparents want to take the kids in their own car now, it’s a simple task to pull the booster seats out.

In the bedrooms, we no longer have a changing table full of diapers, wet wipes, creams, snot removers and extra burp cloths. The bins of clothes divided by months are long gone. I remember how full my 0-3 month bin of girl clothes once was. The bedtime songs have begun to fade away as well but they still creep up every once in awhile.

The bathroom is missing a potty chair and the toothbrushes on the sink look much older than the cute little baby toothbrushes we used to scrub at their tiny little baby teeth.

Don’t get me started on our books. I have entire shelves of board books that we haven’t read in over a year. You better believe I pulled one out to read tonight just because I’m the Mom and I can do what I want. And yes, I have “Moo, Baa La-la-la” memorized. Currently, my oldest  is reading Harry Potter books, our middle child is reading basic chapter books and the almost 5-year-old would rather look at an “I Spy” book.

With my youngest turning 5 tomorrow, I truly do see an end of an era in our parenting. I’ll never forget the day a few months ago when I was standing in the back of church watching a young mom hold her first and only child. It suddenly struck me that I wasn’t her anymore. I was no longer a “young mom” with a baby on her hip. I had moved beyond that phase in parenting.

While I knew the phase of endless diapers, sleepless nights, crying babies, potty training, and constant discipline would one day come to an end, (and there were days I hoped it would come sooner rather than later), I didn’t realize it had already snuck up on me so quickly!

I tried really hard to treasure the baby/toddler/preschool phase of parenting because that’s what every mom who has gone before has told me to do. And every mommy blogger guilts me into that same sentiment, too. So believe me when I say I tried.

I tried to treasure each squishy baby hand, toddler kiss, and late nights of nursing. I committed to memory (or my phone) as many toddler language mishaps as possible. With every “first” I tried as hard as possible to soak it all in.

But still, it all had to end.

Tomorrow I step into a new phase of parenting. One of my sister-in-laws told me that I’m entering the “golden years.” Tomorrow I will have a 9, 7 and 5-year-old. They are young enough to still enjoy being around their parents and old enough to be able to do a lot of things we can all enjoy together. Because let’s be honest: there is nothing to enjoy about Caillou if you’re 5 or older.

I’m excited about phase 2 of this parenting gig. I am grieving the loss of phase 1, but I am ready for phase 2. I know there are many more phases to come . . . oh my do I know this. And if you’re a mom a few years ahead of me, do a sister a favor and give me some pointers and advice, ok? Please tell me all those things no one told you about parenting elementary age kids. While we’re at it, I’ll take any advice from any mom who has successfully raised human beings to adulthood.

Someday, these 3 precious kids of mine will actually leave my house. It’s hard to imagine but I know it’s true. Now that I know these phases really do end, I can’t help but wonder how my mom did it. During my first week of college, I remember her either emailing or calling me to say how hard it was for her to go in and clean out my room after I’d moved out. I pictured her boxing up my things with memories of my childhood running through her head.

This is what I’m mentally doing now. I’m boxing up as many memories as possible of the baby/toddler/preschool years. I’m going back and rewatching videos of those cute toddler voices and funny baby faces. I will grieve the end of this season of life, but I will grieve with joy. It’s healthy to say good-bye to a hard but good season. They were good years in so many ways.

Ok. I think I’m ready to transition into phase 2 of parenting. Good luck to all of you parents out there still in phase 1. I won’t tell you how fast it goes because you already know fast it is going. Plus, you may want to punch the next person who reminds you of this and I’d prefer it not be me. I will tell you this, though: you can do it. Literally, millions of moms and dads have gone before you and come out ok. You can do this!

 

Thank you, America.

I almost cried at the polling station today with my three children standing near me.

All around me stood people who were most likely voting differently from each other.

There were elderly citizens using walkers to get to the voting booth. A high school student in front of me was voting for the very first time. I wasn’t the only mom with kids taking it all in through their small eyes.

Outside the polling station, a black man passed out political flyers for his Missouri state candidate. Nearby, a female Trump supporter held a sign near Clinton supporters.

Everyone waited patiently in line. Everyone followed the rules. The polling station volunteers were kind and helpful.

As I stood in line observing everything I saw, reflecting on this very crazy 2016 election, I really did become emotional and almost started crying. In my mind, I envisioned a bolder version of myself standing atop a table a la Robin Williams in “Dead Poet’s Society” and saying to everyone in the room:

Will you all look at this? How beautiful is this?
We are all exercising our right to vote for our leaders. All of us. The young and old, the educated and uneducated. Black and white. Male and female. All of us.
And we are doing it peacefully.

I would, of course, then climb down from the table to the shocked and embarrassed children I brought with me. But I would still believe everything I said.

It really is amazing. Please don’t miss this about our country. We have such a deep-seated belief that every adult citizen has the right to vote that we would never dare interfere with that.

If we didn’t truly believe in equality in American, perhaps we would become violent every 4 years to stop “The Other” from voting his or her conscience/preference/political stance.

But we don’t.

Every 4 years, we all calm the heck down on election day and patiently wait in polling lines with people who will vote differently than us.

This is amazing.

Thank you, America, for already being great. Thank you, America, for already being strong together on election day.

thank-you-americaFellow citizens. Because you were strong and great today, I get to vote. And my children watched me vote amidst a very calm environment.

Which is awesome because I want them to look forward to the day when they get to cast their own vote without fear.

Thank you, America. No matter the outcome, I’m genuinely proud of you today.