Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Autumn: A Season for Second Dates and Diamond Rings

By Rachael --

Fall is a season of romance. It’s easy to be taken in by various sights and delights this time of year, from colorful leaves to homemade apple dishes to cozy sweaters. There’s also pumpkin-spice everything. 

The romance of autumn is more personal for me. My second date with my husband was at a pumpkin patch. We spent that sunny day roaming around a hay maze, meandering around an apple orchard, and enjoying apple cider slushes and doughnuts. 

Our relationship had an unusual beginning. Josh and I were matched up via a well-established dating website and corresponded through e-mail, Instant Messenger (remember those days?), and phone calls for several months before we planned our first face-to-face meeting.

We lived six hours from each other, so we settled on a halfway meeting point: the university town of Champaign, Illinois. We planned our first date at an Applebee’s restaurant on a busy street just off Interstate 57. Because Champaign was such a convenient place to meet up, we did so several times after that first date and scoured the town for things to do. We visited the local mall, coffee shops, movie theatres, and spent one afternoon strolling the University of Illinois campus.

When I think of all the time we spent in that town surrounded by endless miles of rural cornfields, that second date at the pumpkin patch stands out the brightest in my memory. I can only remember small pieces of the conversations Josh and I had that day as we sipped apple cider slushes. We talked about our families and about our jobs, and maybe our memories of fall and Halloween when we were kids.

The images of that day are what I remember most vividly. It was a kitchsy family-owned place with a Wizard of Oz theme everywhere, from the Yellow Brick Road leading to the store and café, to the Dorothy dolls and décor inside the café, to the painted characters near the barnyard. The day was warm and sunny, and I remember round pumpkins and bales of hay, roaming farm animals, and families with kids running everywhere. We spent some time wandering around a corn maze before heading inside the store and café. There were jars of local jams and honey and salsa, baskets of apples and pumpkins and squash, and the smells of chili and pulled pork sandwiches.

Almost exactly one year after that day at the pumpkin patch, on a crisp fall day in October, Josh proposed to me on a quiet street with red and orange leaves falling around us. I had just driven to his hometown of St. Louis to spend the weekend. Whenever I visited St. Louis, I stayed with the parents of one of Josh’s good college friends who had a spare bedroom and welcomed me enthusiastically. That October day, I parked on the street outside their house and Josh came out to greet me as I got out of my car. He almost immediately dropped to one knee and held out a small jeweler’s box. I said yes, and we entered the house together, where our friends who had watched from the front window were waiting with hugs, delighted squeals, and words of congratulations. 

Since our marriage, we have returned to visit that pumpkin patch twice. We stopped by a few months after our wedding when we were on our way back to St. Louis after visiting my family. It was toward the end of the business day and few people were still there. We went in the store and purchased some doughnuts and chatted with two shopkeepers, telling them our story and how we had our second date there. 

The last time we were there was when our daughters were 4 years old and 9 months old. We were passing through on our way to visit my family. I wonder what my younger self would think if she knew I would someday bring my children to this place. We watched the antics of the farm animals, and the noisy bleats from goats thoroughly frightened my younger daughter. I sat on a bench and nursed her while our oldest daughter posed for photos with kitchsy props. We explained to our older daughter our connection to the place, but she was more interested in playing. We browsed inside the store a little and then headed back to the interstate. Some of my favorite photos are of my daughters at that pumpkin patch that holds so much meaning for Josh and me.

Josh still talks about wanting to visit that pumpkin patch again. We’ll probably go back again someday. In the meantime, we take our daughters to pumpkin patches in our own area and reminisce about that first pumpkin patch. I also twist the rings on my left hand and recall the crisp autumn day when I was given that one with the diamond.

Yes, fall is a season of romance. It’s a time for hay rides and candy corn, scarecrows and harvest moons, second dates, marriage proposals and diamond rings. It will always be one of my favorite seasons. 

Rachael is associate editor for Mumbling Mommy. She previously worked as a newspaper editor and has a bachelor's degree in English and writing from Indiana Wesleyan University. When she’s not busy with her husband and two daughters, you’ll find her gardening, cooking, singing with ladies from church, or reading Charlotte Bronte novels. You can contact her by e-mailing

First time here? Like Mumbling Mommy on Facebook to continue the conversation! 

While you’re here, you may enjoy these other posts: 

Reasons to fall in love with fall

Family fall traditions

What fall is like when you're not a football fan

Fall crafts to make with your kids

Monday, October 20, 2014

10 Things I'd Tell a Younger Version of Myself

Last week, my husband and I visited our alma mater. We buckled our two children in the backseat for our “road trip” and set off on the 45-minute drive. We drove through the city and cruised up and down the busy college streets, musing about what had changed. We stared out the windows, me snapping pictures of the renovated campus and both of us pointing out landmarks and places where we used to live. 

Suddenly it dawned on me that it was ten years ago that I graduated from Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. Wow. How could it have been a decade since I strolled the streets of campus and went down fraternity row? I reflected on the last decade of my life, and there are a lot of things I've learned. This is what I would like to tell the 22-year-old me:

You’ll still talk to your very closest friends.
Yes, it’ll be different than it is now; most of your friends will live hours from you, some even several states away. You won’t have much time to talk on the phone between jobs, children and other obligations. But luckily, you’ll keep in contact with those you are close with because you’ll make it a priority. High school and college are different – you get to live within a few miles of most of your closest friends. Right now, enjoy your evenings out dancing, having drinks, going to the movies and watching TV on the couch with your friends. Rest assured, ten years from now, it’ll be very different, but your closest friends will still be there for you even if they are miles away. That's one of many things to love about life: gal pals

Spending a fun evening out with
two of my best friends.
You will easily be able to keep up with friends, even those that you have grown apart from. 
You see, you’ll keep up with your friends and family on this online social networking site called Facebook. It’s genius, really. This guy named Mark Zuckerberg will invent it soon. It is a neat way to stay connected with a lot of people all over the world and a place where you can share your pictures and keep up with your friends, near and far.

You’ll marry a pretty amazing man.  
That blurred face you see in your head when you imagine your wedding day will be a handsome one. The guy who will become your husband has a great smile, likes to make you laugh, and does what he can to always make sure you are happy. He’ll be a great dad, too.

Yes, you’ll have kids – and you’ll be a wonderful mom. 
Pregnancy was made for you. While that may seem surreal now, it’s the truth. You will love feeling your little ones move inside of you. You will be one of the lucky ones who can bask in the miracle that is pregnancy. 

The children you can’t envision but know you want someday will be everything
you have dreamed of, and more.

Your little boy, he will be strong-willed. He’ll be a great big brother. He’ll have a love for airplanes and hot air balloons. He will have huge brown eyes and eye lashes that go on for days. He will make you proud. You’ll have a little lady, too. She’ll be a mama’s girl, sharp as a tack, stubborn just like her brother. They get that from you. She won’t have the blue eyes you thought your little girl would have, or the blond hair. She’ll look just like her daddy, though -- chocolate brown eyes, dark skin and lovely. Those children will make you laugh every day. They will both make you feel like the most special person in the world. They will remind you what it’s like to live life through the eyes of children.

Quit worrying about your career.  
Of course you want to be successful. You’ll work a few jobs that introduce you to great friends and experiences. But you’ll get your wish: you’ll be a mother, and get to stay home with your kids while working some side jobs that you enjoy. When the time comes for you to return to the workforce, something perfect will work out for you. Don’t stress.

You will miss your hometown.
Of course you were excited to move away and go to college. You wanted to be grown up. You wanted to be in charge of yourself, instead of having your parents tell you want to do. But Warsaw, the place where you were born and raised, is a pretty cool place. It’s the place that holds memories of tubing on the lakes on those fun summer days, of snowmobiling in the fields by your childhood home, of amazing times and lots of laughs with your best friends to this very day. Visit often. Tell your parents you appreciate them and all they have done for you. Spend time with your grandparents, too. You don’t have much time left with them. You’ll miss them something fierce when they are gone.

You will miss Ball State – a lot!
Good ole Muncie. You'd better believe you’ll miss this college town! Live in the moment. Don’t rush to get away from college so quickly. In ten years, you will look back at your college years and love the memories you have from these carefree days of making new friends and enjoying late nights out. Go ahead and dance on a stage to Outkast and Usher.  Have fun. You are only responsible for you right now, and it won’t always be that way.

Don’t be so afraid of rejection.  
Life is full of the word “no” and it’s a hard word to hear. I understand. But it is so important to give things a try. Apply for the job that seems out of reach.  Tell someone you love them. Try out for a sports team. Don’t sell yourself short. Someday you’ll look back and wish that you had pushed yourself outside of your comfort zone. It’s okay to fail. It’s okay not to be good at everything. BELIEVE in yourself. Take a second to find some ways to increase your confidence; it will take you far in life. After all, if you don’t believe in yourself, who will?

Your life and heart will be more full than you ever could have imagined. 

Despite your younger days with fewer responsibilities, little worries and fun with your friends, you’ll be happy in ten years. You just wait and see. No, you won’t eat lunch every day with your friends. No, you won’t spend your Friday nights putting on belly shirts and glitter. However, you will eat lunch next to your toddlers. You will spend your Friday nights playing “restaurant,” then watching movies with your husband once your kids are in bed.  You’ll hear those little voices say, “I love you.” It will be grand. Will you miss the old days? Of course you will. But you’ll have the memories in your heart forever. I promise, younger self, in ten years you will know that you’re right where you are supposed to be. Life is funny like that.

Lori is a work-at-home mom living in Noblesville, a suburb of Indianapolis. She is mom to two children ages 4 and 2 and enjoys watching them grow. Lori also enjoys taking walks, shopping, spending time with her husband, reading, decorating, photography and traveling. Leave her a comment below or email her at

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Win a Family Trip for Four to NY or San Diego

By Katie --

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Atlantic Luggage. All opinions are 100% mine.

I absolutely love to travel with my family, but since there are seven of us it doesn't happen as often as I'd like. Our trips are often limited to visiting family, which is awesome, but doesn't allow much room in our family budget for exploration trips -- which is why I went ahead and entered the most recent sweepstakes from Atlantic Luggage and Delta Vacations for a trip for four to New York City or San Diego.


Atlantic Luggage is ideal for traveling with family, especially kids in tow. The company's products are lightweight and have a pretty broad selection of styles. As parents know, when you are flying with kids, every opportunity to make the transport of all their stuff less cumbersome is more than welcome! Atlantic Luggage does that for you -- in a stylish, affordable and family-friendly way.

What can you win?
  • A family trip for four to New York or San Diego, courtesy of Atlantic Luggage and Delta Vacations
  • Trip includes round trip airfare to either New York City or San Diego
  • Trip includes hotel accommodations at a participating Delta Vacations hotel in New York City or San Diego,
  • $300 allowance to spend on Delta Vacations Tour or activity packages
  • You also get to pick out four Atlantic® carry-on sized suitcases

So here's how you can enter too:

Enter to win a family trip by filling out this sweepstakes form between now and November 15, 2014.
The winner will be chosen within 7-10 days following the close of the sweepstakes.
The grand prize trip must be booked by 9/30/15 and travel must be completed by 10/31/15.

Tips for family packing:

Our family has flown all together, and also taken LONG road trips, and I like both for different reasons. In both cases, though, I have learned a bit about the packing process.
  1. Roll, don't fold, clothing. It keeps it from wrinkling and saves you space!
  2. Pack two sets of clothing and underwear for each person in your carry-on luggage. You do not want to be stranded without clean clothes, waiting for your suitcases to arrive.
  3. Start with a lightweight suitcase. It's amazing how quickly the pounds add up when you are throwing in shoes, clothing, toiletries and other travel items. Most airlines only allow up to 50 pounds for checked luggage, and anywhere from 15 to 70 pounds for carry-on luggage. Check with your airline -- but if you start with a suitcase that is lightweight, you can pack even more.
How do you save room when packing for your kids?

Here's the fine print for the sweepstakes:

Enter to win a family trip by heading over to the official site.

Grand Prize package trip certificate is valid for: (a) round-trip economy air transportation valued at up to $450 per ticket for the Grand Prize winner and three (3) guests from a major U.S. airport serviced by Delta Air Lines near to the Grand Prize winner’s home (as determined by Sponsor), to a major U.S. airport serviced by Delta Air Lines near New York City or San Diego, CA (as chosen by winner and determined by Sponsor); (b) hotel accommodations at a participating Delta Vacations hotel in New York City or San Diego, C; (c) four (4) Atlantic® carry-on sized suitcases; and (d) $300 allowance to spend on their choice of Delta Vacations Tour or Activity packages.
Trip is to last three days and two nights.

Visit Sponsor's Site

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Five Ways to Get Involved

Breast cancer is found in 1 in 8 women. 1 in 8. This means 3 moms in your child’s school class. This means in a family of sisters, moms, aunts, and grandmas, chances are one of them will have it. It is virtually impossible to escape from it. Cancer attacks our lives like a demon no one could have ever predicted. It is no surprise that with so many of our loved ones suffering from such a horrible disease, it makes sense to have a massive marketing month to bring awareness to the cause and hopefully find a cure.

My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer in July of 2010. There is absolutely nothing that can take away that feeling. I remember the silence. The hug. I remember the expletives I typed on social media. I remember completely falling apart at work. It happened to us. Since my mom’s diagnosis, she has had two surgeries to remove the growth and several rounds of chemo and radiation. She has now been in remission for 4 years. Prevention and awareness mean a lot to us.

Here are five ways you can get involved:
  1. Donate financially to organizations researching the cure. There are many options including Susan G. Komen, The Breast Cancer Research Foundation, National Breast Cancer Foundation, Cars to Cure, Living Beyond Breast Cancer, Breast Cancer Network of Strength and American Cancer Society. Do your homework on these organizations and give anything you can to the one you are most passionate about.
  2. Acts of kindness. For friends and family affected by breast cancer, consider being their support person. Sit with them during chemo. Drive them to appointments (there are a lot!) Bring them fresh fruit or home-cooked meals. Offer free babysitting.
  3. Be active. Our family walked many Race for the Cures together. When I started running, the first 5k I set my sight on was in support of breast cancer. There is nearly nothing more moving than seeing literally thousands of people in a sea of pink all together to fight the same battle. Other events include bicycling, flag football, volleyball and softball tournaments and more. Many national sports leagues also change their uniforms and even donate a game’s worth of pay throughout the year. (Mother’s Day is another big breast cancer awareness moment for obvious reasons.)
  4. Talk about it. Do your monthly self-exams. Go to your annual checkups. Let people know you did so. Is it TMI? Maybe. I’m not saying to post pictures of it. I am just saying the more it becomes commonplace to do your due diligence in early detection, the more women will get on board and the less deadly this cancer will have to be. You never know. Maybe you post a short little quip about being all clear again this month and your friend from high school will realize she forgot to do her own exam.
  5. Pink is powerful. These days, pink is everywhere. Do more than just wear pink. Choose products that donate a portion of their proceeds to research. These sales can be on anything and everything: jewelry, clothing items, electronics, and even beauty products. (Just because a product has a breast cancer symbol or phrase on it doesn't mean that any money will go to breast cancer research. Check the details before jumping in.)
Cancer awareness and research need everyone. No matter how little or much you can do, everything matters. We have to fight this killer together. What are some other ways you have supported breast cancer awareness this month?

Heather C. owns and writes for the blog Our Magical Chaos. She uses the lessons her kids teach her to take each day at a time and embrace the twists life throws at her. Being a parent is what she knows best. Our Magical Chaos features stories, product reviews, and tips for parents just trying to make it through. You can like Our Magical Chaos on Facebook or follow Heather on Twitter. Heather is also a freelance writer and runner. She specializes in parenting girls, all things twins, and keeping her family happy.


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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Thursday Three: Classic Family Movies to Watch with My Kids

By Rachael -- 

Photos via
Some of the best movies are timeless. They delighted us when we were children, and they evoke a sense of nostalgia when we watch them with our own children. Many movies deserve honorable mention, including The Sound of Music, Pete’s Dragon, Escape to Witch Mountain, Pollyanna, and Bedknobs and Broomsticks. The following are a few of my childhood favorites that get the most play time in our house these days, at the request of my two daughters.

Mary Poppins – We own the soundtrack in addition to the 1964 movie. It’s common to hear strains of A Spoonful of Sugar drifting from my oldest daughter’s bedroom while she plays with a plush Mary Poppins doll she received last Christmas. My oldest daughter also marvels at Mary Poppins’ special effects created in an era before computer-generated effects. (Yes, that’s a robotic bird on Julie Andrews’ hand.) It’s an opportunity to explain green screens, along with the old practice of using wires or strings to make things “fly.”

The Wizard of Oz – My mom tells me this was one of my first favorite movies as a young child. Both of my girls love this Judy Garland film as well, and again it is an opportunity to talk about how movie makers in the 1930s created magic, like when the Wicked Witch of the West “melts” through the use of a hidden trap door.

Annie – Made in 1982, this movie is on the younger side but still a classic and a great introduction to musical theatre and dance. It’s also introduced my daughters to the talented Carol Burnett, whose character is both villainous and comic. We have to overlook some of Daddy Warbucks’ occasional colorful language, but so far my girls haven’t seemed to notice.

I’ll throw in one bonus movie I didn’t discover until I was an adult: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. My girls and I watched this 1968 movie about a magical car for the first time a few years ago, and now they frequently request to watch it. It’s longer and not as popular as some other family-oriented musicals – probably because it wasn’t produced by Disney – but it’s plenty likeable and stars Dick Van Dyke. My oldest loves seeing how actors can appear in multiple movies, such as Van Dyke’s roles in both Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Mary Poppins. Also, whenever we talk about Chitty Chitty Bang Bang with friends young and old, they usually say something like, “That child catcher. He’s so creepy.” Yes, indeed.

What are your favorite childhood movies? Do your kids now enjoy those same movies?

Rachael is associate editor for Mumbling Mommy. She previously worked as a newspaper editor and has a bachelor's degree in English and writing from Indiana Wesleyan University. When she’s not busy with her husband and two daughters, you’ll find her gardening, cooking, singing with ladies from church, or reading Charlotte Bronte novels. You can contact her by e-mailing

First time here? Like Mumbling Mommy on Facebook to continue the conversation! 

While you’re here, you may enjoy these other posts: 

Studio Ghibli: An alternative to princess movies

Children's books I want to reread with my daughters

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Sunday, October 12, 2014

Nine Months of Crazy: When Pregnancy Attacks

By Katie --

In less than five weeks, my third child is due to be born. To say that this pregnancy has been surprising, challenging and a whirlwind would all be understatements. It's been a trip -- let's just say that.  

Here's a synopsis of how my pregnancy has gone so far:

  • Week 4: Two days before I plan to enter the lottery for the Chicago Marathon, I learn that I'm unexpectedly pregnant (with a due date that falls 5 weeks prior to the race). I cry. I get angry. I feel bad for myself.
  • Week 6: I suffer debilitating morning sickness that lasts until week 14.
  • Week 13: A breast lump appears that is not officially declared benign until week 33.
  • Week 14: I am declared Vitamin D deficient and start on an uber-supplement.
  • Week 17: My husband and I travel to Boston so he can undergo testing to donate a kidney to his brother (he was declined as a donor; my father-in-law donated his kidney at week 32 and all are recovering well).
  • Week 20: I am told that I'm having another little girl (yay!) but that I have placenta previa that could prevent her from safely making it out of the birth canal. (that diagnosis is later reversed at Week 28)
  • Week 25: A lice outbreak infests all six of the heads in our household and takes just over two months to eradicate completely.
  • Week 27: After several days of my clear, watery discharge, my husband and I spend a long evening in the emergency room. A nurse initially tells us that she is sure my amniotic fluid has ruptured, only to follow up later to say that it is actually just an infection that is easily treated with an antibiotic.  
  • Week 28: I fail my one-hour glucose test.
  • Week 29: I fail my three-hour glucose test and immediately begin a gestational diabetes diet (read: protein, veggies... and yeah, that's about it) that will last the remaining 11 weeks or so until my delivery.
  • Week 30: I'm told that I am anemic. I begin an iron supplement alongside my Vitamin D one.
  • Week 30: A rapid growth on my upper thigh balloons above my skin, turns bright blood red and sends searing pain through my entire leg every time I pull up my shorts or underwear. It is removed during week 34 and declared a benign granuloma during week 35.
  • Week 35: My toddler contracts hand foot and mouth disease, spikes a fever of 103 and stops eating or drinking for about 48 hours. Just as we are discussing when to take her to the emergency room, she starts sipping juice and asking for pizza.     
There are at least three other situations still a little too raw and personal to list here, too.

During the early weeks of this pregnancy, when I was still feeling like a victim of my own circumstances, I comforted myself with the idea that perhaps this pregnancy was a blessing in disguise -- one that I had not expected but one that was going to bring me all sorts of warm and happy moments. During my first pregnancy I was a single mom, working two jobs in an area where I knew very few people and had zero family nearby. During my second pregnancy, I was overwhelmed with the pressures of combining a family of three kids (all under the age of 5) and starting my own writing business, with a less than comfortable family income.

I told myself that this time -- THIS TIME -- I was in a position to just enjoy being pregnant. I had a loving husband, a strong parenting partner, by my side who I trusted completely to be there on delivery day and after. Three of my kids were basically self-sufficient and in school for 6+ hours each day, and my toddler was a handful but gaining her own independence too. I was making a decent living, working at home, spending nothing on childcare costs, and enjoying the flexible schedule that being self employed allowed me. If I wanted to kick my pregnant feet up in the middle of the day, or take a nap when the toddler did, I could do that. I could spend an occasional $30 on a pedicure with a girlfriend and it wouldn't mean coming up short when I went to the grocery store. I could indulge in a pregnancy craving here and there and know that I'd have the time to dedicate to a workout routine after the baby had arrived and I had recuperated.

And I have enjoyed these things (well, the giving-in-to-cravings stopped at week 29 but they were fun while they lasted). But it hasn't been the glowing, euphoric and comfortable period of time I talked myself into during those early days of doubt. It's been a time frame filled with stress, and self-doubt, and realizations about my own and my family's mortality. I've cried so much that I feel like a hormonal cliché.

But you know what? No matter what was happening around me, or to me, my child continued to grow right on schedule, with no effort on my part. She passed from the size of a pea, to a pinto bean, to a Temple orange, to a cantaloupe, to the watermelon consistently applying pressure to my bladder today. Oblivious to the outside world, or the health concerns taking place just outside her pool of fluid, she has continued to grow and develop and prepare to enter the world. I don't care what belief system you subscribe to - that is pretty darn amazing. 

So perhaps instead of expecting the pregnancy to bring anything to me, or do anything for me, I should have just been awed that it was happening at all. I should have counted that positive pregnancy test as one more blessing, one more amazing life to add to the charmed one I'm already leading.

I can't guarantee the crazy will end with the birth of my daughter but I'm okay with that. Just her being here is all that matters to me now -- and we will have one hell of a pregnancy story to share with her one day.

      Katie Parsons is a freelance writer who lives with her four children, husband and the sound of the ocean nearby. Before she was a freelance writer, she worked in news media in Chicago, Orlando and Shelbyville, Indiana. Before that, she earned a Creative Writing degree from Ball State University. Katie is writing a memoir about the time when she was single and pregnant. She owns a content creation company and you can contact her by emailing her at

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Sunday, October 5, 2014

Introverted Mom Musings

By Rachael

“ … make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.1 Thessalonians 4:11-12

The verses above are some of my husband’s favorites in the Bible. We are both introverts according to Myers-Briggs, and we find great enjoyment and meaning in living a “quiet life.” We like having time at home with family. We enjoy having a small circle of close, deep friendships. We like to talk, to read, to reflect on the past, to dissect what is happening in the present and imagine possibilities. Being rushed or overly busy does not allow us time to thrive.

However, in some ways this past year went by like a whirlwind. Our oldest child started kindergarten last fall and our youngest started preschool. I spent time volunteering at both of their schools. My oldest also attended a few months of beginning ballet and tap dance classes. I joined a weekday community Bible study that meets in my church. In the midst of it all, I struggled with a bout of insomnia for the first time ever.

Life picked up more speed during the summer, and I joked that I needed a vacation from my summer vacation. We began the summer with a hastily planned trip to attend my grandfather’s funeral. After that, we went to various family reunions, stayed in a string of hotels, and camped at several state parks in different states. We hosted family and stayed with family. It was mostly a good time for our family, although as a mom, coordinating back-to-back trips with young children left me feeling worn out at times. 

This fall, I have pulled back. These days, it often just feels good to be home. I keep a limited number of outside commitments. Now that my teacher husband and my oldest daughter are back in school, my 2-year-old and I can sometimes go days at a time without going anywhere in the car. School was back in session for a month before we went on a playdate to a friend’s house. I have several reasons for staying close to home this fall:

A schedule that isn’t jam packed gives me time for projects that are important to me. I didn’t re-enroll in Bible study this fall. I miss the learning, but I no longer have to choose between completing study homework and working on writing or editing projects during the limited quiet time I have each day. My writing helps me keep one foot in my field of work, which will be helpful when both of my children are in school full-time in a few years. I contemplated trying a Mothers of Preschoolers group that wouldn’t leave me staring at homework pages each week, but snuggling at home with my quickly growing toddler seemed more appealing.

I have time to rest, play, and be with family. I have breathing room. I write, garden, play the piano, and find ways to be creative. My younger daughter and I pass many of our weekdays in our yard or in our home’s bright sunroom that looks out on our back yard and garden. We make zucchini bread – with zucchini picked from our garden – together in the kitchen. Rather, I make the bread while my daughter flips spoonfuls of flour out of the mixing bowl and calls it helping. We putter around the neighborhood where my daughter practices riding her tiny two-wheeled bike with training wheels. Sometimes we end up at the park a few blocks from our house or the nearby dollar store. 

Our home is a nicer place when my days are not overbooked. I’ve cleaned the neglected corners of our basement and packed away the pile of camping gear dropped down there after our summer trips. I have purged outgrown playthings and household items by donating or selling them online. I found a cleaning schedule with lots of flexibility and forgiveness and have been implementing it, although on some days I temporarily ditch the cleaning to spend time tickling my toddler on my big bed, reading library books together on the couch, or talking on the phone with my grandmother.

We put our days to good use. We are living slowly, savoring the small important moments, and it is refreshing for this mom who enjoys thinking and reflecting and withers under an overly full schedule.

Our family is unusual. I am surrounded by friends and acquaintances who live busy lives. Their schedules are filled with school and church committee meetings, multiple extracurriculars for multiple children at the same time, and homework that is squeezed in during spare moments between activities. They pick up their kids early from gymnastics so they can head to soccer practice. They routinely show up carrying McDonald’s bags, eating quickly before they have to be somewhere else. They commute 30 minutes both ways to their kids’ athletic practices and remark how they live out of their cars. Their kids sometimes act out or have poor focus during activities, and I wonder sometimes if they are just burned out.

Some parents do all this stuff because they feel they’re enriching their children’s lives, or perhaps building their kids’ resumes in preparation for college. A few admit they want to be less busy, but they don’t know how to say no – to their kids, to friends, to employers, or to fellow PTA or moms’ club or church members. I wonder if some people stay busy because they don’t know what to do if they aren’t constantly on the go.

It can be hard for me to look past the introverted lens through which I view the world, and I understand some families are extroverts who truly do enjoy their fast-paced lives. For our family, I believe something would have to give if we kept such a busy schedule. There aren’t enough hours in the day for it all. We would end up with a messy home, many processed and fast food meals, sleep deprivation, decreased functioning in careers, lack of patience with the kids, little time to help with homework, little time to read to kids before bed, and little time for spouses to spend together.

Our family chooses to be different. Our first grader participates in one extracurricular activity at a time. This fall it’s gymnastics. I am home every afternoon so my 2-year-old can (attempt to) nap or have quiet time. We eat dinner together just about every night, and my girls learn simple but valuable life lessons when they do their part setting out napkins and clearing the table. I sit down at our keyboard after dinner and teach my oldest the basics of piano. My husband and I sit together in the big swing on our patio in the evenings while we watch our daughters do cartwheels in the yard. We don’t cram our kids in the car and drive around to stuff every evening, and we don’t have to hurry through homework. We read to our girls every night, and our kids go to bed on time and get enough sleep.

Being at home doesn’t mean we sit around feeling bored. When we remove all the enticing distractions the world offers, we find we still have plenty of things to do. Important things like asking our children about their day and really listening, or getting down on the floor to play with a pile of Little People toys, or teaching our oldest how to ride a bike without training wheels.

We also have not completely withdrawn from the world. I volunteer at both of my daughters’ schools. We go to story time at the library almost every week. We are active at our church on Sunday mornings. We have dinner with close friends and go to play dates, birthday parties, and local festivals.

I enjoyed a slower-paced day when I went to the home of good friend and fellow blogger Elizabeth the other week. While our littlest ones played together, we donned aprons and spent the day tackling the tedious task of peeling and slicing basketfuls of apples from her grandparents’ farm. These weren’t perfectly shaped grocery store apples, so they didn’t fit well on those handy crank devices that peel, core and slice them in one swift arm movement. We peeled and sliced most of the apples by hand and felt a domestic connection to our female ancestors who did things the old-fashioned way. We saved some apple slices for pies and crisps, and others we mixed with cinnamon and sugar and cooked down into applesauce. The house smelled delicious and our hands were busy as we chatted about books and family and faith. I love living slowly and savoring the moment.

We live in a world that runs at a faster pace than ever. There are endless opportunities for entertainment and recreation – perhaps too many opportunities – and these things are more affordable than ever for average families. We feel driven to seek recognition, to be important and visible, to leave our unique mark on the world. People devote their lives to their careers and find their identities in jobs that demand long hours. Technology keeps us always connected with little time to take a breath and reflect. Everywhere I go, I get bombarded with the message that I should be doing more, whether it is at church, in my larger community, or even online where Facebook or Pinterest highlight all the cool things I’m not doing. But do we need to do it all? At the same time? It’s more important now than ever to set boundaries for our personal lives and our families. 

All that is why you will most likely find me at home if you go looking for me this year. Balance, rest, and reflection help me keep my sanity. These things make me a better wife, mom, and friend. This fall as the air grows chilly and the holidays draw near, I’ll be at home with my family. Maybe we’ll bake some apple crisp, rake some leaves, and read a few chapter books together. That type of quiet life sounds just right.

Rachael is associate editor for Mumbling Mommy. She previously worked as a newspaper editor and has a bachelor's degree in English and writing from Indiana Wesleyan University. When she’s not busy with her husband and two daughters, you’ll find her gardening, cooking, singing with ladies from church, or reading Charlotte Bronte novels. You can contact her by e-mailing

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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Surprising Way our Family Grew Closer in a Bigger House

Eight years ago, my husband and I bought our first house. It needed some work but was heavily discounted. It had a nice-sized yard, a large kitchen, two good bedrooms and an extra bonus room. It had potential. We made it our home. When our daughters were born, we brought them home and remodeled multiple times to accommodate our growing family. I love that house.

This summer, though, after years of living below our means and sticking to a loose budget, and after years of being teased for our frugal ways, we found what we can only describe as our dream home. After carefully weighing the options, we took a leap of faith and put an offer on the house. Here I sit almost three months later in my new home, and I’m extremely thankful for what our family has become.

Living minimally is a pretty big trend these days. When I peruse Pinterest for home decorating ideas, I come across several posts about just how small of a space you can live in comfortably. I love the idea of being more environmentally friendly and reducing my carbon footprint and I hate having a mortgage, so I definitely understand how some of these homes (500 square feet of space with a family bed loft, anyone?) can seem appealing. In fact, our old house was just over 1,000 square feet with five of us living in it, all sharing one very small bathroom. Our living room tripled as our family room and play room (quadrupled actually, as it was also my office.) Our kitchen was also our dining room and typically where we did homework, too. It was quaint. It was charming. We are a very close family, so it worked.

I absolutely love our new house. Awaiting our closing date, though, I often had anxiety attacks late at night after tucking in our girls. I pondered if having more space (we have almost 2,100 square feet now) would cause us to drift apart. In the new house, I have an actual office, so when I work I’m no longer on the couch alongside my husband. Our girls now have an actual playroom, so when I’m cooking dinner they aren't giggling by the fridge. I worried. I fretted. I cried. I almost dreaded losing the closeness that we had.

And then, we moved. And something very, very surprising happened. We are an even closer family than we were before. Sure, we have a bunch more space, but what that does is allow us to not be on top of each other anymore. Each of us can use the restroom without being interrupted. The girls don’t have to stand in the hallway to brush their teeth anymore. Instead of taking two hours to finish my work because I'm distracted by whatever my husband is working on, I have space to think and develop ideas, and my blog posts are done in just 30 minutes or so. Now I spend time with my husband without my laptop interfering. Everyone needs their moments of personal space. And now we can all have those moments without stealing them from each other.

This past week as I was cooking dinner, I stared out the giant window above my kitchen sink. The window was open and fresh air was pouring in. I heard gleeful screams coming from our private backyard and I watched my girls dance and run and slide and swing. I shouted out, “Boo!” and they fell to the grass in a pile of shakes and laughing. (Not every moment has been this good.) I realized that a close family doesn't come from a small house or a big house; it comes from the people in the family. All my worrying was for nothing because no matter where we end up, we are home right by each other’s sides.

Heather C. owns and writes for the blog Our Magical Chaos. She uses the lessons her kids teach her to take each day at a time and embrace the twists life throws at her. Being a parent is what she knows best. Our Magical Chaos features stories, product reviews, and tips for parents just trying to make it through. You can like Our Magical Chaos on Facebook or follow Heather on Twitter.  Heather is also a freelance writer and runner. She specializes in parenting girls, all things twins, and keeping her family happy.

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