Christmas reflections

Merry Christmas!

We had the most glorious Christmas day and then December 26th hit.  And we went from celebrating the birth of Jesus to building Noah's Arc.  But seriously, given the non stop rain the past 48 hours, I've had some time to reflect.
   When Jack was born, Christmas was full of tons of toys, not only from "Santa" but all relatives and honestly we could have opened a toy store after Christmas.  We were so excited to watch each and every present opened, completely satisfied in the rip of each paper and smile and happiness.  Then somehow our 1000 square foot house got cramped, and we noticed that truly only some toys really mattered and we had to re evaluate.
  It's a hard thing for a parent.  I distinctly remember coming downstairs on Christmas day to a million presents under the tree and the wonderment of it all.  Yet I also remember certain gifts and not others.  There is no doubt magic to all of those presents under the tree.   But we felt it was all a bit off, and we decided we wanted to try something else.  While we have set endless rules in our house that last a minute and chore charts and consequences that come and go, we settled on a Christmas plan and it might be the one thing that had lasted, and we feel good about it, and it is what our kids know and love and appreciate.  The possibly only perfect combination in the Ullery house.
We have always told our children that there were 3 wise men who visited Jesus and each brought a gift, thus Santa brings 3 gifts as well.  Mom and Dad also buy a gift so our children get 4 gifts on Christmas morning.  That's it.  So not a huge stack of gifts under the tree, just 16.  And honestly its more like 12, because often one or 2 is something big that won't be under the tree.
And I'll be the first to say that my kids aren't perfect, they complain all the time, "I'm bored, there's nothing to do, why are you so mean...."  but this is the one thing they don't blink about.  And they are as excited and giddy as any child on Christmas morning and honestly grateful for what they receive and so happy.  And Brian and I in turn are happy about  how we decided to do this so long ago, because again, we question every little parenting decision on a minute by minute basis and most often feel like we don't have a clue.
     So 4 gifts, we really have to think about it, no room for nonsense.  But also no need to be crazy, they are kids.  She here's an example of the the breakdown.  Jack: ping pong table was big gift, paddles and balls, a new swim suit, and a pokemon DS cartridge.  He was thrilled.  Callie:  horseback riding lessons was big gift, bungee chair, monopoly game (we are obsessed, our family owns 6 different versions), clothes.... not a lot but they were genuinely so happy.
     Obviously not all families do gifts this way.  Like I said, I clearly remember getting stacks and stacks of presents.  And this is NOT a judgement call on doing things different.  It's merely a testimony on possibly the only parenting thing each year Brian and I feel good about.  The rest of the year is a total guess and we paddle along this thing called parenting.

So back to the rain..... what the heck do we do with 72 hours of downpour.  This is it.....

And lots and lots of playdates.


Christmas Card Pics 2015, a personal confession.

It's that time of year kiddos....Christmas card picture time.  The moans and groans and sighs can be heard a mile away.  My kids are such complainers.  Oh wait, maybe it's not the kids.  Maybe their mom is completely neurotic about this.  I'm not sure how that could be, I mean I'm the most laid back mom on the planet.  No type A personality whatsoever.  And pictures that about 75% of the people we send them to only see this one picture a year.....who cares??? It's just a picture.

Totally not true.   Typically the time line goes like this.   I stress like a crazy person and spend way too much time just  choosing 4 outfits that color coordinate  and fit all kids perfectly.  This takes about a day of my time, or 5  or 6 (or months but who is counting) and then I call my wonderfully talented photographer friend the week before in a panic about being ready in time.   Either that or I've been so neurotic about outfits that I call the already mentioned awesomely talented photographer  friend and ask if she has any spare time to take pics, like tomorrow,  because I just now have outfits put together and can get haircuts done immediately.  And so it goes..... and pictures are taken.  And  I spend another day or two (or 20) choosing a card and we are complete.

So here is the play by play.  By some stroke of amazing luck, or moment of Zen shopping with with my Dad's friend, I secured all the outfits in one day, with little effort.  Well I thought...it's been the most beautiful fall ever.  I bet I can take pictures this year.  And today was it.  Lot's of prepping the kids, since they LOVE picture taking so much.  It's probably not the picture taking itself if I'm being honest.  It's really all about me, and the insanity I create getting ready for pictures.    Prep one, Callies hair.  Good grief that girl has a lot of hair and we spent days discussing, or possibly arguing about how it would be.  Isn't this my choice?  We are talking one day a year.  It ended up being a compromise reached at the last minute.  So she has to get ready first.  Then she was too hot with her her hair down but I wouldn't put it up until the last minute.  Seriously Callie "go outside and sit in the cool air."  I'm in my underwear mom.  "It's fine Callie, no one will see you."  What mom says that?  Me, on picture day.  Anna is next.  Hair curled, dressed, ready to go.  "My face itches."  Are you kidding, your fine, you can itch it in a couple of hours.  Good grief.  Just don't mess up your hair.  Carter, hair combed, hair sprayed.  That kid has a lot of hair too.  Do not, under any circumstances, ruin your hair Carter.  Just sit and don't move.  I told you we would go to Ande's after if everyone cooperates.  Yes I'm the mom that bribes, but only for Christmas card pictures (Ha, ha.)  Callie "you said we could go to Sugar Shack."  Anna "you said we could stay up in the dark and make s'mores at the fire pit."  Geez,  I can't even keep track of my bribes.  Come on kiddos, let's just pull it together, for mom.It   will just take a minute, or a couple, or so.  Did I mention I made Jack wear jeans?  The kid only puts them on once a year for this picture of mine, he hates them.  So I had a pair that did not exactly fit him.  When he came down the steps walking like a zombie, I just said, "good luck sitting in the car!"  I'm heartless.
And off we go to take pictures.  I can see Jack's face in the rearview mirror.  Poor kid.  And I literally grab the wheel and start laughing hysterically.  And 4 faces look at me wide eyed and intently.  Some asked "mom are you crying?"  No I say, I'm laughing to myself.  Holy cow, want to throw off your kids, use that line.  I proceeded to talk about Jack having no blood circulation to his legs but it was totally fine, he didn't need those legs for swimming, or walking for that matter.  And so it went.  And I took about 100 pictures, and then I swore I would never do this again.  And trying to be funny I told them this was not working out and we would have to try again tomorrow.  They are way too smart for that line of bologna.   No one even fell for it.  I didn't either.  And I am eternally grateful for the next 364 days we have off until Christmas card picture time again.  And most likely I will send my kids off with my friend, while they are super kind and polite and the perfect picture takers, despite being in jeans that are too small and itchy dresses.  Did I mention that Carter wore Jack's shoes  today because I didn't have any for him?


On being thankful for motherhood......

What a weekend.  A swim weekend for us.  Brian and I divided the weekend into shifts, the best way to attack these weekends.  Yesterday I was with the boys, and relied on his reports on Callie for the morning session.  And with every text I rejoiced, and felt the emotional pull of missing her swims.  But the afternoon with the boys was amazing.  Lots of great times for each.  A first good meet for Jack which in of itself was a mothers dream.  Watching him touch the  wall, hearing his coach yell in praise for him, throwing my arms up in the air in my own celebration.... all happening at the same time.  Then lots of hugs and smiles from a kid who has been ridden with anxiety for so long.  And my other  baby just at the beginning of it all, skipping along without a care in the world,  but doing great.  I was on top of the world.
Day 2:  I'm the morning mom with Callie.  Drama, I did not bring the right snacks, there is not enough time between events.  But first swim is awesome and we are all smiles.  And the morning continues on cue, love/hate, success, fatigue, hunger,happiness.  It's a storm, but do you stand at the front door super excited to watch, or run to the basement in fear.    Motherhood, you stand in the front row and watch and yell and scream and cheer for her and tell yourself you will ground her later for not nice words.
Now you rely on texts from your husband about boys.  Not quite the same day as yesterday.  Maybe they need their mom.  Would they be doing better if you were there?  Probably not, I don't know.  But girls are using every minute of your time for themselves. Which means obviously they need you too.  Motherhood....
So the afternoon proceeds.  Boys do OK at meet, girls learn to sew and perform a new song on the piano.  But at the end of the night, a group of tired kiddos goes to bed completely satisfied with their weekend.  So motherhood, it's the most amazing thing I've ever done.  And the hardest thing I've ever done.  And hands down the most emotional thing I've ever done.  And I love it.



How many times have I said this..... I am a blogger in my head all the time and somehow can't get it down here.  But I want to blog, and I should find the time.
You know what happened, Facebook.  Yucky evil, time sucking Facebook.  For so long I was able to stay away.  But then I got on.  And all the posts about kids accomplishments, the ones I didn't want to become a part of, I did.  And sometimes I feel guilty, but sometimes I don't.
But truly I want my blog not to be about  "look, this is what my kids did!"  I want it to be about real life.  And at my house, real life is not always about accomplishments, but hardships, struggles, arguments, tears, questions, doubt.  That's our reality, always.....

So on that note, my kids are still swimmers.  And it only gets harder and more competitive.  And as a parent, it only brings up more questions.  Are we doing the right thing?  is this the best for our kids?  What do we want them to accomplish?  What do they want to accomplish?  So so many questions, with so so many "not" answers.  I don't know.  I don't know.  And it stinks not knowing.  But that is our reality.

So this is a big swim meet weekend.  And I was trying to talk to my oldest last night.  And he was scared, and we are scared, and I  did not have the words.  And the parent in me failed.  I felt awful.  So I wrote this letter to my son, e mailed it to him, because he is 13 and I knew he would look at his phone this morning.

This is our reality......

Dear Jack,
I tried to talk to you about swimming and I guess I failed.  What I
didn't say is that you are still a child,  participating in super
competitive athletics like an adult.  And we, dad and myself, cannot
possibly tell you, "don't worry about it, times don't matter, it's
OK," because you practice like a maniac.  You only go to school and
swim.  And the bottom line is in your world, times matter, and define
you, and your self worth.  And I get that, I really do.  And it breaks
my heart, because you are so much more than a swim time.  You are my
Jack.   And we see you as a person, completely unrelated to times.  We
see you as a brilliant, kind, sweet, compassionate, driven kid with
everything in the world ahead of him.  Swimming or no swimming, you
will be amazing.  You are  your own worst enemy and adversary.  But
truly your coach will see you as more than a meet time.  He will see
your dedication, positiveness, energy, and he will know your
So matter what happens, you hold your head high, and know how
wonderful you are, and how much you are loved.

So all I can do is hug my child, say I love you and yell at the swim meet like a crazy parent that I am.



Pride is a funny feeling.  As a parent, I find it hard to differentiate between pride and bragging.  I hope I'm not one of those parents that is talking about my kids all the time.  But as a mom, I am one of those parents that is talking about my kids all the time, because in reality, what else would I talk about?  At this stage in the game, I pretty much am with my kids 24/7 so their stories are my stories.  And I find  them interesting, comical, and let's face it, sometimes boring, but since they belong to me,   I live, listen and record these adventures at all times.  And when I share them it can be a fine  line between bragging and just being proud.  I guess it depends on the audience.  But I can't erase my pride or a I would be taking a big piece away from my kids.  Because when they achieve something wonderful, or something minimal, or just make a good decision, they deserve my accolade and praise and passing on the good news.
 So onward......
Tonight all 4 kiddos had a swim meet.  And my bragging is that they did great.   What this means is that they gave it their all, kept going when they were cold and tired and feeling defeated.  And this is how my kids swim, day after day after day.  And I am proud of them. Very, very proud.
They are amazing!



It's been how many years.....
And what have I been doing.....
Being a mama, cooking, cleaning, loving,  laundry, homeschooling....
But the truth is I miss my blog.
I script a post nightly in my head, and hope to get it on the blog,
But life gets in the way.

So recently I got on Facebook, and hoped it might be like the blog world, but it's not.  And what my blog was is not what Facebook is.  So Facebook actually inspired me to get back on the blog. As a mom first and foremost, and a writer and just an outlet  of myself.

So  for all of those who left, I'm back.  And those new, thank you for coming.  And those that inspired me to get back into writing the honest and brutal truth (Jen M, whom is my true inspiration) here is goes...


Have  you ever been in a public place, and you hear the child crying and wonder what is going on.  Then you learn this child is lost... somehow their parent lost them, and you think "how can  a parent lose their child?"  I've been a mom for 13 years, and I've been the mom thinking "how can this happen, just watch your child."  You know what's coming.  I took my kids to the Science Museum today.  It was raining so the museum was packed.  Everyone knows the rules.  I was talking to Callie, the little kids were together, I was in the middle.  Then they were gone.  For the first time in my life, all 13 years of being a mom, I lost my kids, truly lost them.  I looked everywhere, tried not to panic. I told Callie to stay put and ran around like crazy, cried, then went to the front desk after realizing I could not find them.  And there they were.  The 2 of them.  They had stayed together like they always do, thank God.  And I wanted to yell, scream, act like the moms I always see and question.  Because I was mad.  But Carter's tears increased my tears and I scooped them up and then lectured them.  And I became the mom I have judged in the past.
Holy cow, perspective can bite you.  And coming off a week of teaching vacation bible school makes it all more intensified.  But I just spent an  awe inspiring week teaching, singing and dancing with my church about how God has the power to do so much.  And those adorable preschool faces looking at you, taking it all in, and believing in His word.  So here I am, a mother that judges, and yet I made the biggest mistake today, and am asking for forgiveness, and not to be judged.
As mothers we watch from afar, compare, rate, gossip, and do so many things that we judge.  And I wish I could say that I am not one of those people.  But the truth is I am.  I crave companionship from other moms, advice, guidance, and I truly seek to improve my parenting daily.  But I still judge.  So in my moment of my worst fear  today, and the evening after, I'm humbled.  I hope to judge less, accept more, and recognize that we are all in the same boat.  We are all doing our best, and rather than judge, we need to lift each other up.  So tomorrow is a new day with new aspirations, new hopes, less judgement and more acceptance.