Friday, June 8, 2018

Happy Summer and How I am Making Time for Me

Hey guys!
It's officially summer in the 51250! Well actually, it's officially been summer for 8 days, but that's besides the point. As per usual, we've dove into summer feet first into ball games, ball games, and more ball games. 14 and counting this week to be exact. Jae and Carter are realizing quickly how little of a summer "break" they are actually getting between camps and lifting and  practices and games, but I think that nevertheless, they are enjoying a break from school. My boys are at VBS this week which has given me a little more peace and quiet than I'm used to, and while it's very nice to spend some time on me, it feels a little awkward and hard to navigate. I have no idea how I'm going to handle having an empty nest. It's super weird.

Anyways, I'm sitting out on my deck this morning with a mimosa (gasp), some chill music, and my laptop with an itch to write. It's something I never make time to do like I want to. I'm hoping to change that this summer. It really makes me happy. You know, when I was diagnosed with depression a few years ago, I remember my doctor telling me that I needed to now more than ever find ways to take care of myself- that medication was only part of the solution. I needed to find things that solely make ME happy. Like every other busy mom and dad in the world with two full time parents in the home and kids in all of the activities, it is easy to get caught up into everyone else's schedule and forget that we need to do things to take care of ourselves DAILY- not "once in awhile", not "sometimes", not every month. EVERY DAY. I know that seems extreme. Believe me. I remember thinking, "Okay....seems like you are a little out of touch with how this adulting/parenting gig works, Doc."

Turns out, she was dead serious. But I promise it's not as "out of touch" as I originally believed. It doesn't have to be a weekend away, a ladies' night out, or an evening of binge watching Netflix (although ALL of those things can be a part of your self care routine at some point). No, it simply meant, setting aside a reasonable amount of time for myself every day. That could be an early morning walk with my mom. A bath. A half hour to read my book. Listening to my favorite station on Pandora. Running to my favorite coffee place for my favorite drink. A bottle of the good wine to share with my husband at supper. Lighting a candle. Writing a blog post. ANYTHING that makes you remember that you are not defined by any single title you are called (mom, wife, teacher, insert title here...). First and foremost, my name is Mandi, and before I was all of these things, I was my own person. Sometimes I forget that.

As our school year was winding down, I realized that I was in some major need of TLC for my soul. I was breaking doctor's orders by not doing something for myself every day. Some days I was, but even on those days, it felt like a chore. I needed to regroup and get my brain back in line with my heart. So of course, summer came along and problem solved right? Wrong. Believe it or not, even a flexible schedule won't guarantee you peace and happiness unless you go searching for it. Darn. So I've been working on that in the nooks and crannies of our already busy June. I'll tell you a little secret. Come closer. (They tell you that teachers have the summers "off", but that's a little misleading. Do we have a more flexible schedule? Sure thing. And I promise you that if you ask any teacher, para, administrator, daycare provider, etc....time off to regroup and remember why you went into that field in the first place is necessary if you don't want to burn them out.) Anyways, that's another conversation entirely. So even though we've still been super busy, I've been creating my own little self care plan, and I thought I'd share it here because you don't have to be a teacher or have your summer off or be diagnosed with depression and anxiety to enjoy the perks of a little self care. Even if you can't or don't want to use my ideas, they may give you a little nudge to remind yourself to take some time for you in whatever way that looks to you. :)

One of the things I love to do in the summer is read. I never get the chance to do a lot of it for fun, so summer is a time to get out the book ideas I've been jotting down for 9 months and start reading! One of the books I started reading at the encouragement of a friend was Girl Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis. She's an entrepreneur mama (don't be scared. You don't have to be selling anything to enjoy her book. I'm not....although if you do, she's a great inspiration for you boss mamas too!). Her book is all about throwing away the lies women believe about themselves, giving us the power to leave our "I can'ts" at the door and take control over our lives. It was a refreshing drink of water that didn't let me wallow in my self pity, but rather reminded me that no one else is going to care about my dream life more than myself. No motivational quote or story can make me happy until I do the hard work to make it happen. It was a great start of the summer book for me, and actually aligned well to some of the other things I'm doing this summer too. Go get it. Read it. Highlight it. Live it.

Also, Rachel has a podcast called the Dais podcast. A lot of it is geared toward the business minded, but there are a lot really awesome nuggets for the rest of us that are worth searching for. The best part? A lot of them are 15 minutes or less, so you can listen to them in the car when you are running errands or picking up/dropping off your kids at ball practice. She has this one that is called "Do These 5 Things Every Single Day to Change Your Life", and it is literally less than 15 minutes. One of those "things" she is referring to is to keeping a gratitude journal and writing down 10 things Every.Single.Day that you are grateful for. These should be very specific to the day you are in- not vague like- my husband, my kids, my home. While those are great things to be thankful for, they are kind of a cop out, and they kind of defeat the purpose of writing them in the first place. The purpose is to search for happy in your day. It is almost impossible to be anxious or down if you are making it a priority to find your 10 happy things. It's been a really positive addition to my daily routine.
Gratitude Journal

The other thing that I'm doing this month is participating in this group called "Ordinary Magic" started by one of my favorite bloggers, Kelle Hampton, of Enjoying the Small Things or Etst on Instagram. It's supposed to be a class that is soley focused on us as women and our dreams. What we want out of life. And how to keep that at the forefront of our minds in the middle of our crazy, busy lives. It's a community that has been such a blessing even within this first week- a great reminder that I am not alone in my thoughts or the stumbling blocks that are preventing me from getting there. We've been doing some explorations this week that are preparing us for the fun ones to come. In order to do that though, we need to sift through some of the hard parts of ourselves to make room for the things we want in our lives. I've reflected a lot on what holds me back in life, and too be honest it's been a truly eye opening experience. I've even had the opportunity to name my inner critic (her name is Susan by the way. Not after a particular critic in my life, but because telling her off is so satisfying. ;) ). It's been a great way to keep my mind and soul in check. I'm looking forward to the next few weeks.

For those of you who have any varying level of anxiety and/or depression, I'd dare bet that you have certain times of the year when one or the other is activated ever so slightly higher than other parts of the year. For me- anxiety tends to take over the nine months of the year I'm in school, and if I don't have a handle on self-care, depression can take over pretty heavily in the summer when I have more time to think. The problem has been that I've been allowing my inner critic to run the show for far too many moments, and I'm realizing that it has been clouding my happy for many years. In order to prevent that, I need to continue to make time for me. I need to acknowledge that my critic is there, and then move on in spite of her. She's never going to go away, but knowing how to keep her at bay will be a vital piece of the puzzle to keeping the depression/anxiety away as well.

I'm not going to spend so much of my time setting lofty goals and aspirations. Instead I'm going to settle for being aware of my inner critic. Grab hold of the things that I want in this life. The things that make me happy. The things that I need to do because I'm a mom and a wife and a teacher, and I'm going to just do the next right thing. Whatever that means for me. And when I forget to do that, I'm going to give myself grace, brush off my knees, and move onward. I have to stop waiting for the next break, the next bit of relief, or I'm going to spend my life wishing all of it away. It's okay to be excited for things to come, but I can't forget that there is good in this day. Today is a day to be thankful for. The cliche that "not every day is a good day, but there is good in every day" is absolutely true. My aim is to find that every day. To make time for myself every day. To find balance in all parts of my life, even when summer ends and a new school year begins.

Strive to find some "ordinary magic" in your life. What does self-care look like to you? Find it. Embrace it. Be okay with it looking differently than another woman's self care. The best thing we can do is be a beacon of grace and love and kindness to each other.

I'm going to sign off with a couple of affirmations I've made for myself.

"I believe in the me I'm becoming."
"I choose to be happy."
"I love my life."

I'll keep saying them, even when I don't believe them. Even when I truly feel they are the biggest liars. This is how I choose to make peace in my life. I hope you are finding yours, and if you are having trouble, talk to me. Or your mom. Or your best friend. Or your husband. Or your therapist. Or anyone you trust. One of the best antidotes to breaking through your stumbling blocks is to plow through them with someone who has been there or is going through junk too. Happy Friday friends! Enjoy your weekend!! Hope to see you back in this space soon!

Friday, May 11, 2018


  1. a strong desire to travel.

Okay. Okay. So this is who I am, but for now those desires will have to settle for the Black Hills, Hidden Acres, Minneapolis, and Kansas City. Maybe they aren't treks across the globe, but for now, they are doing a good job of filling up some memory buckets and creating permanent laugh lines, creating new friendships, and keeping other friendships alive. We are in survival mode folks. T-11.5 days left of the school year, and I am so ready. Ready for ball caps and flip flops, slow mornings, spending June on the diamond, at the swimming pool, on the lake, and on my back porch reading my books. I'm ready for memory making in the Black Hills, Denver, and loving up children at Royal Family Kids Camp for the 5th year in a row. Yes, it's time to relax and give my teacher brain a little rest. Maybe I'll even cross off some of my bucket list items- teach myself photography perhaps? Learn how to play the guitar? Start a garden or blog more?! Stay tuned (probably for disappointment...but the thought makes me happy. hahahaha) I'll catch you up to speed on all of our happenings this past month. It's been busy to say the least, and we are finally happy to be home for awhile despite having such a great time away. Now we dive into birthdays, graduations, and yardwork! Hurray!

Cashing in on some Christmas present fun! We did AR Workshop for both moms for Christmas, and it was such a fun time! A little bit of a splurge, but you walk away with some killer decor and a great time!


Dan became part of the RFK leadership team this past Fall, and one of the opportunities I got to experience was heading to the Black Hills to spend a weekend with the team. While they planned camp, I took advantage of the alone time to do some soul searching, coffee drinking, and podcast listening. Some of my favorite things. Then off to Deadwood we went to have some fun! A quick 36 hours, and a very white knuckle drive home, but it was worth it!

As a TIC sponsor (JR RCYF) sponsor for church, I got to attend the Middle School retreat this year. This is hands down Jaedyn's favorite place, so it was fun to see it through her eyes and watch her enjoy it. It reminds me of being in middle school when I experienced all this fun stuff in church. Lots of fun times bonding with the girls and getting to know her friends in a different light. Blessed.

Jaedyn's spring dance- Another night of getting ready in every room of the house with 4 of your friends. Lots of bobby pins, curling wands, make up brushes, and perfume. Oh yeah, and all the moms and a very sweet aunt who came to join in the fun! The cherry on top was the sweet car Dan's boss let him borrow to take her to the dance in.....we got a bonus date out of the deal as well! Yay us. :)

Annual shopping weekend in the cities. With growing children and busier schedules, this time with the four of us is spread few and far between. Always cathartic and therapeutic. Minus leaving three pairs of shoes, 4 necklaces, 3 pairs of earrings, and my favorite hat.......Alzheimer's much... :( At least they found the shoes.

Finally, Kansas City! We had a wonderful time with some of very good friends. We stayed in the most perfect little cottage in the most picturesque part of the city. We dreamed about buying our own homes there that had that kind of charm. We enjoyed a little Top Golf, a stroll through the Plaza, an art museum, dining at Coopers Hawk winery, playing cards while laughing until our sides hurt, and a slow morning with my book, a bagel stop, a surprise invasion by what seemed like 47 Star Wars characters in an outside seating area next to a fountain, and all amongst the perfect 90s music playlist. Perfect relaxing weekend for sure. 

Currently I am locked in my room while six twelve year olds run amok in my home shooting each other with nerf guns and swearing up and down there is an intruder on our front lawn. Oh to be a kid again. Here's to conquering another month of shenanigans! Happy weekend friends!

Friday, March 23, 2018

Stay in Your Own Lane

I'm not sure about you, but I can't even believe that it's the second half of March right now! Where did the time go? Sometimes I feel like winter drags on, and believe me, I'm ready for it to be over, but I just feel like I blinked and suddenly it's the first week of spring. I couldn't be more ready for sunshine and 50 degree weather. I'm over this "wintry mix" crap.

At the same time, I'm feeling like the "busy" of my life never really stops. It ebbs and flows a bit, but I don't think there is ever a moment where I actually feel chill. Right now, I'm feeling the pull at work with the end of the quarter finishing and report cards being due, trying to get kids reassessed and finish standards that need to be taught. Having Friday off last week was a well needed breath of fresh air. With Easter coming early, I have a feeling that April on will be a killer!

If you know me, I tend to be a procrastinator. I don't know if it can really be helped a whole lot. Looking ahead doesn't do much other than remind me of all the things on my to do list, so sometimes, I just have to look at my week and say, "what needs to be done today?" However, when I looked at the calendar this week, I got this all to familiar pang of dread that sweeps in ever so slightly around this time of year. The one that reminds me that I (again) didn't "find my beach body" or at least take care of it like I should. It reminds me that another summer is coming- one where I probably won't shop for a pair of shorts for the 4th year in a row. One where shopping for swimming suits literally makes me sick to my stomach. One where I will forget that this body made three beautiful children when I look in the mirror and instead will add another mark of failure on her imaginary check list for not taking care of it like I should.

I hate that I feel this way. I hate that I feel guilty for the body I've been given. I hate that I can't see past the stretch marks to the children that God has blessed us with. I hate that I constantly critique my double chin and love handles when choosing an outfit to wear. I hate that I forget to be grateful for a body that is capable  to do whatever I ask of it. Some people would only be so lucky. I hate that I let comparison of my friends, family, and strangers rob me of my joy when I feel like I've failed myself for the millionth time. I hate that I don't have the self control or where-with-all to meal prep and stick to a plan.

Friends, I've come along ways on my journey with depression and anxiety. I'm learning to take better care of myself all the time, but this is an area I really struggle with. Those thoughts^^^^^ are all too familiar in my head. They wreak havoc in my brain on the daily. One of the gals I've followed on Instagram for quite some time says this a lot. "Stay in your own lane". It's not my job to compare my part of this journey to anyone else's. Everyone has different starting points, and most definitely they ALL come with their own struggles and ugly self talk at some point. I'm not where I want to be, but I'm making progress in small baby steps.

 I'm trying to remember that I have a daughter who is watching me. A daughter who is starting to feel the societal pressures of looking a certain way. It's terrifying because I know too many people who let that voice that told them they weren't good enough, skinny enough, or pretty enough rob them of their joy as well. In some of them, it manifested in the form of eating disorders, or like me, depression and/or anxiety. So I'm hoping to let those fears propel me forward. Jae and I are talking about staying fit together- trying out new recipes, working out together. I don't want this to be a taboo subject. I want her to be able to share her feelings and feel validated when she does. I want to be able to tell her that I too feel that way sometimes. I hear a lot of moms sharing about how they watch how they talk about their bodies when they are around their girls/kids. That's a great start, but I want to make sure I'm not ignoring the subject altogether. Instead of having her hear me say "I'm fat" or "I need to lose weight" or "I hate the way I look", I want her to hear me say "I want to feel strong", "I like how my body feels when I eat good foods", "I like this outfit because it makes me feel confident". Reframing how we talk about ourselves will hopefully do more than be a good example for our kids. I hope that it also helps us see our own bodies in a different light as well.

We are all made differently. Nobody's body reacts the same way to food and exercise. It's not fair for me to compare myself to anyone else even if our workouts and meal plans are similar. Staying in my own lane is definitely a challenge yet a goal for me all at the same time. On most days, I feel like not only am I not making progress, but I feel like I've gone so far backwards that it's hard to gain the momentum to move forward.

On the flip side, I feel like I'm learning to be more aware- aware of when I eat poorly (for the record, it's when I'm feeling overloaded, so pretty much almost always), aware of how sleep patterns and exhaustion affect my hunger levels and my ability to work out effectively, aware of how stress dictates the course of my day. What I'm finding is not new news. I do poorly when I don't plan because my life is a giant ball of chaos and disorder. I tend to hole up and ignore any responsibilities when I'm feeling stressed and overwhelmed, and those responsibilities include taking care of myself. It's easier to make myself a bowl of mac and cheese or ramen noodles because they are easy and I love them then it is for me to make something more nutritionally sound. It's easier for me to say no to my morning walk when I haven't gotten enough sleep, and I'm exhausted. It's easier for me to have a glass of wine when I'm stressed then to do something more productive. So while the physical evidence doesn't quite show that I'm making progress, being aware is a very small step in the right direction. Remembering that I can't change it all in a week is the next bridge I have to cross. Taking every decision as it comes and trying not to allow myself to live in judgement or guilt will really be a giant step in the right direction into helping me make better daily life choices. I have a lot of trouble with the "all or nothing" concept. I want whatever I do to be healthy to be sustainable and maintainable, and because of that, I know this will be a longer journey than it is for some. I'm learning to be okay with that. The final piece of this puzzle that is mandatory in my opinion, is that I need to learn to love myself as is. I need to be okay with the journey even if I don't "see" progress. I'm committed to staying in my own lane, and while I know I'll need reminders, it already feels like a load is off my shoulders.

Those are my epiphanies for the day. I hope that if you find yourself in the same position I am in, that you will remember you aren't alone, and that your journey is far from over. There is no "too late" for anyone until we're dead, so keep putting one foot in front of the other, and don't be afraid to share your story with others as well. When we are able to see others be vulnerable and authentic, it creates space for the rest of the world to do the same. That's really what this world needs more of #amiright?

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Just Another Day in Paradise

I've been back in the frozen tundra for a few weeks. My fingers are frozen, and I'm counting down the days until spring is here for good. But for five seemingly short days, I was able to escape this place for a small sliver of paradise with one of my favorite people.

Shelley and I have been friends since high school. She's been around since Jae was tiny. She's seen me through some pretty happy times but also some very dark ones. She holds a very special place in my heart. And even though adulting gets in the way a lot in the stage of life I'm in, the moments we do get to spend together are never dull. So when she asked me to tag along on the trip she worked very hard to earn in her company, I couldn't say no for many reasons. I mean, c'mon. It was -11 degrees here. There's not much that you would need to do to convince me to go to a tropical locale for 78 degrees and sunshine. ;) But more than that, I was excited for some uninterrupted time to focus on a very important friendship that often gets pushed to the side while I try to be a mom and a wife and a teacher.

Our trip started off with a very snowy drive to Sioux Falls to spend the night in a hotel so we could be up at 2:30 in the morning to get ready to head to the airport. We stopped to grab supper at Applebee's and then a plethora of snacks at Hy-vee before we turned in for the night, crossing our fingers that our flight would not be delayed the next morning due to weather. Thankfully it was not, and we were off for a few days of sunshine, laughter, and relaxation.

We stayed at the Majestic Elegance in Punta Cana. It was a great resort with lots of entertainment to keep us busy for our stay. We spent lots of time in the sunshine by the ocean and the pool playing volleyball, engaging in activities put on by the resort staff, trying different restaurants, and just enjoying each other's company.One of the best parts was getting to know all of Shelley's people. I love meeting new people. I loved learning a little bit about their stories. They were all truly great people, and I wish I had more time to get to know them more.

I'll let the pictures do the talking, though, as they are typically better story tellers than myself.

I've never won anything in my life. 50 bucks richer after this night. :)

Japanese steak house on one of the last nights!

The drink of choice in the Dominican. For the record. Ew.

One of my favorite past times of the weekend.

They may have to rebrand with the new spelling. :)

Thanks Shelley for letting me be your plus one. My absolute favorite part of this entire trip was getting to see you through the eyes of others. I always knew that you put everyone else above yourself, but to see that the people in this company truly love and respect you and talk so highly of you was such an awesome experience. One that I'm honored to have witnessed. You are one of a kind. You have a heart of gold, and I'm truly blessed to be your friend. Thanks Rifly!