Friday, December 19, 2014

2014, The Good, The Bad, The Ugly. Our Year In Review!

I've always loved the end of the year. 

Something about its finality and the closure of a year's worth of adventure (both its successes and its failures) while simultaneously standing on the brink of a brand new beginning- entire blank calendar pages awaiting, empty planners with shiny new plans just waiting to be hatched. I just love the unknown of it all- a clean slate. 

As much as I love looking forward to a new year, there's just as much a part of me that loves looking back. On thing is for certain this year and that is the numbers don't lie. For the first time in the 8 years that I've been writing here in this space, this is the year where I haven't written nearly as much each month but that's not to say that I didn't have some pretty important (to me) things to say.   

In January, with less than 100 days to go until we would become a family of five, for the first time out loud I began to freak out at how we would survive the shift from man-on-man defense to zone defense. Looking back, I can laugh now but for the first twelve weeks, it was a blurred nightmare of mutiny and chaos, much more the angst-filled Party of Five than, say, the Brady Brunch. It was also during this month that we chose a name for our sweet boy and I discovered that in allowing myself permission to fail as a mother, I was actually succeeding after all. I closed out the month by writing one of my most widely-read pieces for What To Expect, landing myself a contract writing for them. It was the piece titled "The Wrong Reason To Try For A Fourth Baby."

I started off February by debunking several myths of motherhood, my most favorite being "a good mother never yells." I often wonder if Collins will grow up thinking that yelling is an acceptable pitch with which to hold a conversation. I'm always yelling and it's something I want to focus on doing less of in 2015. One of my most favorite pieces that I wrote this year was also written this month, as I questioned whether or not my husband would still have asked me to marry him had he known what our life would look like 7 years down the road, more specifically what I would look like 7 years down the road- exhausted, squishier, a touch more harried than the fresh-faced college co-ed he fell in love with. 

March rolled in I didn't have a whole lot to say this month. This post was sweet as it gave me a glimpse back into those final weeks of pregnancy that, often times, we are so quick to forget once baby is here. It also makes me miss pregnancy hair like whoa, as I sit here with baby bangs sprouting at my temples and bald spots that rival my 8 month old's. This month also reminded me of the first of two unexpected hospital stays I would experience for preterm labor thanks to kidney stones. How quickly I'm now reminded of how painful those suckers were- how uncomfortable I was and how badly I wished the team of doctors at the hospital would just get on the same damn page. 

In April we welcomed Collins Mason, our third beautiful boy. I opted for the extra bonus day in the hospital this time and I will be forever grateful I did. My hospital stay with him is the one I remember most clearly of the three and I'm so grateful for the extra one-on-one time it afforded me. Once we returned home to the Zoo life became a blurry mess of life and parenthood and those five days with Collins were ones I knew I would never, ever get back. I do love, however, just how much my thoughts have changed on the transition from two to three. 

By the first week of May, I climbed out of the newborn fog long enough to write down Collins' birth story. It was the most difficult of my three c-sections but reading through it brought me right back to the day. What a mix of emotions- knowing it would be our last baby but so excited to meet the precious soul who spent nine months growing beneath my heart. Life since then has only grown more chaotic but since then I've certainly learned how to manage the chaos, most days. The day that Maclane made out with a dead squirrel was not one of those days. 

I'm not sure if you know this but having three kids has made me quite the expert on the kind of crap you need to be a parent. I'm kidding, mostly, but these posts, ones in which I talk about things like "29 Diaper Bag Must-Haves" can be kind of important and life-changing all at the same time. I wrote that one in June but it wasn't nearly as interesting at the time that Carter said the F-word while riding around in the car with my husband. What can I say? He clearly takes after his mother. If you've ever wondered why my blog is called I Love You More Than Carrots, you can check that out here as well.

July was a pretty fun month, unless you happened to be my husband who certainly wasn't sharing a similar sentiment between the sheets. We're both happy to say things have definitely changed since then, just as I had written, "it's just a season," although it's often difficult to see and understand that when you're living in the moment. Carter turned four this month, we took a trip to Dutch Wonderland and I talked a little bit about how my hometown, a place I haven't lived in for over 12 years, will always be home to  me.

August. Well, even though I have a camera roll that begs to differ, August was a quiet month here on the blog. Of note, the most exciting thing I did was write about my Whole30 experience but my favorite memory of August was celebrating Carter and Maclane's birthdays with a backyard crab bash. 

I turned thirty-one in September and started watching a lot of TV. So much, in fact, that I'm sad to see all of my favorite shows coming to an end. We won't even talk about the end of Parenthood, for like ever. We celebrated my birthday at the beach house, the last trip that we would take there until next summer. I can't wait to return to the beach with our three wild and crazy boys. Speaking of lasts, I wrote a little bit about my feelings on our last little baby, something that has been tugging at my heart with every milestone we check off. It's bittersweet, for sure.

October came and went. Collins turned six months old and it was kind of like a sucker punch to the kidneys. At nearly 8 months old currently, I cannot believe how quickly these months fly by. We'll have a one year old on our hands before I know it, a thought that quickly takes my breath away. It was this month that I realized that having three kids was pretty damn cool for a number of reasons. In other words, it was the magic number of children that I needed in order to stop giving a shit as to what everyone else thinks about how I should mother.

We spent the better half of November at home with my parents in New Jersey- it's where Collins witnessed his first snowfall and we celebrated Thanksgiving this year. The month started out a little more stressful than I would care to remember as we geared up for our first professional family photo session since our wedding, nearly seven years ago. We managed to clean up nicely and pull off "The Family That Really Has Their Shit Together" look fairly well. I will forever be grateful for hard copy memories of this season in our life, even the ones where the baby is missing his shoes and our middle child is a complete blur. 

December. How quickly we've arrived here. We've been so busy this month that I plan to take the next few weeks to decompress and be present with our band of crazy. I've been pretty good at doing just that these last few weeks which explains why things have been a bit quiet around here. I'm realizing more and more that we're only given this life once- my kids will only be 4 and 2 and a baby before I blink and they're getting ready for Kindergarten, first years of preschool and gaining enough momentum to run, let alone walk their first steps. We've been decking the halls, baking the cookies and making even more memories to sustain us through what is bound to be a very, very long winter. 

What a year it's been. Full of new beginnings, embracing the status quo, growing, laughing, learning and looking forward to another year of adventure! 2014, you've been more than good to me but I'm ready to see what 2015 has in store for us! 

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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Making Family Memories. Or Something Like That.

We all have those things we do for posterity's sake, especially around the holidays. Whether it's wrapping twenty-five books in preparation for the days leading up to Christmas, delivering cookies to neighbors because your Advent calendar told you to or traipsing through the freezing cold to cut down a Christmas tree, there are some things we do for the sake of family, friends and memory-making. 

For us, it's imperative that we cut down a Christmas tree. Neither my husband nor myself grew up with a fake tree but apparently in the Book of Being Married To Someone Else that alone means that for the rest of your lives together, you too, must also always have a real tree. (Unless by the grace of God you somehow convince him, with an Excel spreadsheet mind you, that you need a second tree and that one must be fake. Not like I would know anything about that). But the fact still remains that there must be one live Christmas tree in your house during the Christmas season and it must be cut down with your own two hands. Because, duh, memories.

And so, every year, whether we're a family of two, three or five, we meet up with my brother-in-law and his family and head out to a relatively nearby tree farm and seek out the perfect M Family Tree. Lest you continue to think this is an easy process, let me be the first to tell you that it is not. Especially if you're me and your married to my husband and you both have very differing ideas as to what your tree should look like. Soft needles versus prickly, tall and skinny versus short and fat. Blue Spruce versus a Douglas Fir. The list could go on. And if you happen to be married to a husband like mine, it's imperative that you inspect nearly every tree on the farm (and every needle on the tree) to be sure it's the perfect tree for your home.

All of this occurs while your eyeballs are freezing, you have a baby strapped to your chest and you're trying to keep tabs on two other children who are just the right height to take a tree saw to the face and/or get viciously lost among rows (and rows) of 8-9 foot trees. Again, not like I would know anything about that last part. On a positive note, much of Mt. Airy Maryland now knows my kids by their entire full names. 


"Mom, we need a big, BIG one like this!"

Even though it's freezing cold and muddy and the boys are drawn to the mud like moths to a flame, I look forward to this adventure every year. When we first started doing this, Carter was barely toddling around. Now, nearly five years later, he's running between the rows of trees without a care in the world, encouraging his much less coordinated brother to do the same. Last year, my sister-in-law and I were so pregnant that we hitched a ride in a golf cart in order to make it back to our cars in one piece. This year was extra special, not only because we're celebrating our last first Christmas with baby Collins (don't even get me started on last first's) but also because it's Talia's, my niece's, First Christmas, too.

Could he look any sweeter?
If nothing else, it gives us all an excuse to throw on our cold weather boots and make some good ol' fashioned memories. What began with two sets of carefree feet has morphed over the years into to five sets of feet, some exhausted, some just learning to walk, some darting between trees and others bounding over leftover stumps. To think, next year the babies will be toddling along and perhaps our families will be growing once again. (Don't get any ideas, this baby maker is closed for business).   

from left to right
Columbia Women's Boots, Kids Feet UGG Lookalike, Boy's Tamarac SimilarTamarac Weather Boots
Our noses may have given Rudolph's a run for his money, our ears and fingertips stinging with cold but our feet were toasty warm thanks to Rack Room Shoes. Our entire family was outfitted with the perfect cold weather boots for this year's Tree Cutting Adventure. From toddler styles to little boys' styles, women's trendy boots with the fur to men's work boots, Rack Room Shoes has styles that are not only on trend but also made to fit the whole family. Even Collins found a pair of baby boots for himself but was much more comfortable in the thirty-four degree winds with a cozy baby bunting. Whether we were hiking up and down the fields of Christmas trees or back home playing in the snow flurries that started to fall, Rack Room Shoes had us doing so both in style and in comfort. 

The Rack Room Rewards program allows customers instant savings while other perks include discounts, coupons as well as $15 in rewards for every $200 spent. If you're looking to save big on today's popular styles in footwear, be sure to check out Rack Room Shoes. Their everyday BOGO 50% promotion on ALL styles always keeps me coming back for me. 

I did not receive financial compensation for this post. All opinions expressed above are honest and my own. I did receive free product in exchange for my opinions. 

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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Bloggers Holiday $1000 Giveaway!

I am teaming up with some of my favorite blogging friends to bring you a fantastic holiday giveaway! Whether you've finished your shopping or you've only just begun- I think it's safe to say that any one of us could use an extra $1000 dollars in their pocket this Christmas season!  
Holiday Giveaway Graphic
Your hosts for the giveaway are:

Use the Rafflecopter below to enter!
No purchase necessary to enter. 
This giveaway is in no way endorsed or sponsored by anyone other
than the individuals who are hosting. Good luck to all those who enter!

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