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Talent

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tal·ent
noun \ˈta-lənt\

: a special ability that allows someone to do something well

I have been doing a lot of thinking about talent lately. A lot of it stems from watching my children explore the things that interest them and wondering what talents I will see emerge in them over the years. Nora, for example, is really into arts and crafts these days. Does that mean she will become a promising young artist in the future? She is definitely creative. She made this chick without any prompting or assistance from me.

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I may be biased, but I thought it was pretty good.

Meredith on the other hand is my naturally athletic one. She has an innate ability to easily control her body. Of course, this doesn’t mean she will continue to enjoy this type of activity, so only time will tell what talents she will choose to pursue.

I love this type of dreaming. In my opinion, it is part of what makes the world so interesting. Everyone has something special to offer and it is uniquely them.

For example, I love to cook. I would not consider myself a bad cook, but I wouldn’t necessarily say I am talented at it. A dear friend of mine is a talented cook and I am not even in the same league. You can put an array of raw materials on the counter in front of him and you will end up with the best hummus, bread, salmon, etc… that you ever tasted. It’s delicious magic.

The other interesting thing about talent is that you do have to have a piece of it in you already. Education and practice is certainly not going to hurt, but there are some things you just can’t teach yourself… which is where the talent comes into play. Take cupcake baking for example. I make a lot of cupcakes and they are decent, but they are not my strength.

I would however, say that I have an innate artistic talent. I can take decent pictures and I am not bad with other art materials as well. Simply handing someone a digital camera does not automatically mean that they will get a great image as my mother in-law will tell you. I have always had a natural understanding of design and composition that had served me well in this arena. I am able to look at something in a way that others can not and use a pencil to transfer that to paper. I find true joy in this process, which is why I think it’s a talent that I have continued to develop and honor over the years.

Knitting, cake decorating, sewing, soccer, singing… are all things I have tried and that I enjoy to a degree, but they are not my talents. And I am glad they aren’t. Because if everyone was good at everything, we would have nothing to appreciate in one another.

I look forward to watching my children discover their talent(s)… the things that they enjoy and they feel help to define them as special people. The possibilities are endless and even more beautiful, they are infinite. You are never too old to discover your talents.

Mommy Aches

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I should probably preface this entry by saying that I am EXTREMELY aware of how lucky I am with regards to my children’s overall health. I am so very grateful for this every day. This post is in no ways meant to elevate myself into the same realm as parents who know the true heartache of hearing that their children have been diagnosed with chronic or terminal illness. Or those who fear an unknown future made more challenging by cognitive delays. No, those are completely different experiences than what I am talking about here.

What I am calling a mommy ache is that clenching feeling you get in your gut when something – no matter how seemingly insignificant – alters that ideal you have in your head as a parent regarding your children. All parents know what I am talking about.

– The first time you witness a kid at the park say or do something mean to your child and you see their sadness and incomprehension and realize you can’t protect them from that kind of hurt anymore.
– The moments when you have to put on your brave face for their vaccinations because you know it’s in their best interest when all you really want to do is just take them home.
– Any time you are holding them when they are sick or scared and you wish you could magically make it all better.

All of these are mommy aches.

My most recent one is this.
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My youngest just got glasses. I was really surprised that this was a mommy ache for me. I wear contacts, my husband had significant vision problems at a young age. I should have seen it coming. But, when the ophthalmologist confirmed her astigmatism and near sightedness, I felt that tightening in my gut immediately.

I think it’s a combination of things. Knowing that she hates wearing anything on her head or face for long periods of time is part of it. But, that is about me and the work I am going to have to put in to get her to wear them. My sadness for her is knowing that this isn’t something I can fix and she will have this inconvenience (because I know that in the grand scheme of life that is all this is) from here on out.

My ideal for her was altered.

Do I feel a little ridiculous doing a little mourning for this little loss? Sure. But, it is what it is. She is incredible adorable in them though. I am also extremely grateful that she chose the ones she did, as opposed to one of the neon pink pairs she could have chosen. The stars on the sides are super cute.
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This I Know

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Growing up I was incredibly lucky to have several circles of family and friends around me that I knew I could count on no matter where life would take me.  I grew up with amazing cousins and in a great neighborhood where we were routinely around a few special families that to this day I view as an extension of my own.  These people are part of who I am today.  I still see them as surrogate parents and siblings even though we don’t cross paths with the same frequency as we used to.

Recently, one of these families was hit with some news that is absolutely heart breaking.  I am mentioning it here only because the family has decided to be very open and public about the situation in the hopes that an inundation of prayers and support will make a positive difference in a situation that could use all the positivity that it can get.

The long and short of it is this: Emily, a young mother of three young children, was diagnosed with a rare form of liver cancer.  For more detailed information, you can read here:

http://www.gofundme.com/getemilywell

I grew up with Emily’s husband and I don’t know Emily that well, although we have certainly met.  But, here is what I do know.

Mothers are strong.

You have to have an incredible amount of strength to be a mother.  Most of the time it is a quiet, persistent strength that gets us through the daily challenges.  But, when it comes to the well-being of our kids… that strength becomes super human.  No one messes with our kids.

And in my opinion, that is exactly what is going on here.  Yes, Emily is the one who is sick, but it’s not just about her anymore.  Any parent can tell you that.  This is about her family and she will fight this for them.

If anyone has a chance to beat this thing, it will be a mother… it will be Emily.

Prayers.

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Realistic Expectations

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There is a unrealistic demand on us in life to give 100% of ourselves to everything we take on.

My job expects 100%.  Actually, if I want the best raise I can get each year, they expect 110%

My home requires 100% of me.  Between daily upkeep and ongoing work on the yard and inside from purchasing a foreclosure, there is never a shortage of things on my to do list around the house.

My marriage requires 100%.

My kids definitely require 100% of me.

And what about me?  How much of myself should I devote to myself?

So, if you do the math… I am trying to cram more than I have to give into every aspect of my life.  This is impossible, which results in the dance.  If you think about it in term of glasses full of water, I (as do most of us) end up continually transferring the water from container to container.  Today, my job needs me to be 100% present, but my kids are sick, so realistically I have to keep some water in that container.  Actually, I always have water in that container, even when they aren’t with me. 

Then when I get home, I pour the water back into the home and kid’s containers, maybe borrowing a little throughout the day to apply to one of the other areas as needed.

The end result, we never actually have 100% of the liquid anywhere and inevitably some of it ends up spilling.

Depressing when you think about it that way.

I have been struggling with this a lot lately.  I have such high expectations of myself that the pressure I put on myself to try to fill all of my glasses consistently is exhausting.  I think the key is to try to get other people to add their water to your glasses.  I think that truly happy people figure out a way to tap into and contribute to some sort of communal well.  This is something, I will admit, that I struggle with.

When it comes to my kids, I am slowly learning to ask for and allow other people to lend me some of their water from time to time.  I am immensely grateful for grandparents and good friends (you know who you are).  And hopefully, I can do the same for them when they need it.

I am not good at asking for help.  I have always been independent, opinionated and stubborn.  I know this about myself.  Mostly, I value it as I feel it is part of why I am also strong.  But, while I can easily see where others might need help and am usually more than happy to offer that when I can, I am not as good with this with regards to myself.  Usually, I realize I am completely overwhelmed only after I spill my hypothetical water all over the counter.

I also want to be clear that I am not writing this in an attempt to have a pity party for myself.  I genuinely do love my life.  I have a job I enjoy and feel like I am pretty good at.  I love living in Anderson Twp and Cincinnati in general.  I have pretty amazing kids and a loving solid family.  I have a husband who I enjoy being around, when we get the time.  I also signed up for this.  Lately, there have been a lot of posts on social media about motherhood and not getting a break, etc… and while true… this is what I wanted.  I knew there would be sacrifice.  I didn’t know how great the reward would be.Image

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But, just because I am blessed and I am eternally grateful for the gift of my life and my children… does not mean I don’t get frustrated.  Or that I don’t need to continue to work on finding a healthier balance among all of the demands in my life.  So, really I am writing this for no other reason than to simply be honest.  If life were easy, we would never learn or grow.  If parenthood were easy, everyone would take it for granted.  If success was easy, it wouldn’t hold any meaning.  Above all else though, I think I need to learn to keep it real – or realistic as the case may be.  Easier said than done, but I like to think I will come out on the other side with a smile on my face and some great things to show for my life.

Three

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April 26, 2014

Dear Meredith,

Three. Three going on fifteen, if your sassy little attitude is any indication. But, you are undeniably Meredith. You are challenging, but absolutely wouldn’t be the same without that feisty little personality. You have a temper and you are opinionated (like your mother). But, your smile lights up the world and people around you. Passionate is a great word to describe you. You are passionate in everything you do. There is no middle ground with your emotions. It is amazing to see how people are drawn to you. You make friends everywhere you go. We even had a complete stranger give us $100 to put towards your education when he saw you out at dinner one night around Christmas time. You have this way of making people feel special when you give them your attention.

You have a great imagination and can amuse yourself with your Lalaloopsy dolls for quite a while. Your favorite princesses are “Snofia” and “Tapunzel”. Your favorite movie at the moment is Lilo and Stitch, favorite cartoon is Peppa Pig. Your favorite color is yellow. You absolutely love yellow. I am not sure why, but it’s not just a phase… you are certain about how much you love yellow.

You also absolutely love being outside and will climb just about anything. You love riding your trike and throwing the ball for Charlotte in the backyard. We have discovered the Cincinnati Nature Center and it’s one of your favorite places to go. You are fearless. You started gymnastics this past year and you are also proving to be quite the athlete. Your favorite things are flips on the bar, the trampoline and the beams. You are even in the class without me now. We had your birthday party at Jump & Jacks which was perfect for you because you got to climb their giant indoor playground and jump in the bouncy house for four straight hours. It was little 3 year old heaven to you.

You are still a Daddy’s girl. So much so, that lately you have started insisting that you are a boy like your Daddy. You love wearing dresses, pajamas and playing with Play-doh. Your favorite place to eat is Chik Fil-A, but at home you live primarily on fruit. You gave up your naps this year when we made you get rid of your pacifier. I miss your naps. You are also potty trained now. Your sister is actually the one who was your biggest cheerleader in this accomplishment. She was the one who really started encouraging you to go on the big girl potty. But, once you did it, you ran with it… as you have done with most major milestones in your life. I am so proud of you.

I know that this next year is going to bring even more changes in your life… starting preschool in the Fall for example. Each day I watch you growing into such an amazing little person, but I still love when I get those glimpses that mean you are still my baby – for a little while anyway. I treasure every sweet snuggle and Mommy moment I get with you. You are my heart.

I love you,

Mommy

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Our Incredible Backyard

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This was circulating on Facebook today.

http://www.forbes.com/pictures/eddf45edgee/no-9-cincinnati-oh/

I was born and raised in Cincinnati and have to admit that I am really enjoying raising my kids here as well.  I think all of us Cincinnatians go through a period of rebellion in our teens when all we want to do is complain about living in Cincinnati and dream about getting out.  I was one of them.  And I did “get out” for a while in college, an experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything.  But, like all good Cincinnatians… I also moved back.  This city, while imperfect, is also pretty amazing.  And such a fantastic place for families.

I often joke that it is unfortunate that Cincinnati is not exactly a vacation destination, because it would actually be an amazing family vacation spot.  I am not going to attempt to list everything Cincinnati has to offer in this one post, but I do want to talk a little about the butterfly exhibit at the Krohn Conservatory.  This is one of my all time favorite activities to do each year with the girls.  Part of this is because Nora has an absolute obsession with these beautiful winged creatures.  But, even without that, it is such a fun and unique experience.

I had been to this event when I was younger, but I don’t remember it being that big of a deal.  Then, I had Nora.  Nora has always had a love for butterflies.  My Mom and I took her to see them for the first time when she was two years old. (Meredith went too, but at her age, she didn’t really care about the event itself.)

The butterflies were super attracted to my Mom this year, so Nora got to see a lot of them up close as they landed on her Nana.

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Meredith enjoyed the benches (look how little she is!).

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Nora refused to leave until she was FINALLY able to hold a butterfly herself.

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The next year, we made it a family event for Meredith’s second birthday.  She was much more interested at the age of two.

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It is definitely still Nora’s thing though.

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I can’t say enough great things about this event.  It’s true that Nora is probably more interested than a lot of kids her age.  I had to drag her out of there today after two hours because Dave and Meredith had left us quite some time before.  But, even for the average kid, (or adult) there is something magical about having a butterfly land on your shoulder and seeing those fragile, but amazing creatures so close.  There is something calming about being in a room, surrounded by them.  Today, we got to see a butterfly actually drinking nectar from the inside of a tiny flower petal… so cool.

The best moment from today was this one.

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This little guy started off on Nora’s hand and then flew to her shirt and proceeded to climb up her neck and into her hair where he camped out for a while.  I kept waiting for her to freak out, but every time I asked her if she wanted me to move him, she said no.  His little legs tickled her, but she stayed so still so he wouldn’t leave her.  I think she is going to remember this experience for a while.  She became determined to “catch” one of every different type of butterfly she could find and even started helping some of the other kids get them onto their little flower papers.  Adorable.

Meredith on the other hand got this little guy and stuck with him.  She named him “Fruits” and talked to him for a long time while sitting on this log.

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She eventually sat him down next to her and wouldn’t let anyone else near him until Dave finally made her give him up.  The differences between my kids make me laugh.

Bottom line: I highly recommend this event.  It’s free for kids 4 and under and you can get $1 off coupons online for the adults and older kids.  It’s a great time, educational and something everyone in Cincinnati should take advantage of.

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Indulging My Inner Artist

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I love arts and crafts.  As a kid I took art classes from a young age.  First, out of someone’s basement and later from an artist in a studio.  I thought I wanted to go to art school and be an animator for Disney.  I ultimately love sketching, especially charcoal and pencils.  It has been years since I have picked up this medium to actually sketch though.  Part of me is afraid that I will no longer have the ability in me to create something out of the nothing of blank paper.  I later also discovered a love for composition and art through photography.  I do the occasional photo shoot for friends and family.  It’s a lot of fun for me.  I also get these ideas for little craft projects in my head and these are a lot of fun for me as well.  (To give credit where credit is due, I stole the idea below from this site: http://sawdustsanity.blogspot.com/2011/03/springeaster.html)

My life currently (as it should) belongs to my kids.  But, everyone needs an outlet and this is mine.  Fortunately, I can also involve my kids in my creative passion when it suits me, but sometimes, it’s just my project in my quiet time once they go to bed.  I love this time.

This past weekend, my niece was in town for a visit and she is very similar to me with regards to her artsy side.  I think Nora is going to be as well, but she is still at that age where it isn’t possible to involve her in some of my more complicated projects.  But, my niece and I had a good time working on this one together after the girls went to bed.

This project was actually pretty simple, mainly because I had most of what I needed for it already… scrap wood, paint brushes, acrylic paint, and scrapbooking stickers.  But, first I had to tackle my fear of this:

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The table saw terrifies me.  But, I did it!

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We used the scrapbooking stickers to spell out the phrase HAPPY EASTER on one side of the wood blocks and WELCOME SPRING on the other.  We then painted over the entire blocks of wood to make them cheerful and bright.  This was one of those great activities that requires very little thought and allows for your mind to wander or for a lot of great conversation to happen.

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After letting the blocks dry overnight, we then peeled off the stickers revealing nice crisp letters.

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Then, it was time to add the finishing touches to the blocks and letters.  I wanted mine to remain fairly simple.  The final step was to coat lightly with Modge Podge to give it a protective shiny layer.

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The finished product is a fun, versatile decoration that cost me well under $10 to make.

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