Minimize THIS: Stuff = Stress

I bought something with my face. Yes, you read that right. I wanted to purchase something on my iPhone X, and all I had to do was look at the screen and POOF! Purchase confirmed. I have also purchased things with my thumbprint or a quick little password (which my devices all so very conveniently save for my own ease and comfort – how thoughtful!). It’s that easy.

It’s too easy. And now there is stuff everywhere and I’m drowning in it.

I’m the opposite of a procrastinator, more of a ruminator really – anything hanging over my head MUST get done before even a modicum of relaxation can flutter in. I dwell on things more than I should. I have also never been one who can relax in a mess or surrounded by clutter, so the combination of all our “stuff” (that’s putting it nicely) and the need I feel to sort and purge is becoming overwhelming to me lately. It’s not so much a need for “spring cleaning” as it is to feel like have regained control over my home and the things in it. I crave organization, and we are nearing max capacity.  We love to have fun and enjoy life, and often time that fun means acquiring the appropriate “stuff” with which to have specific said fun.  But in this life, especially with kids, we have accumulated SO MUCH STUFF that I almost cannot even stand it. It’s making this perpetual worrier even more uptight, and one weekend it came to a head…

jerry mcguire

Enter “Minimalism.” I have been reading a little bit about this concept lately and researching it just out of curiosity (and maybe a tad of desperation). I recently heard a story about a person who has one plate, one fork, one cup, etc, for each person in her family and that is it in the way of dishes. When you use your plate/cup/fork/whatever, you immediately wash it and put it away. I don’t know that I will ever achieve that level of minimal possessions, but I am very interested in the idea of filling our lives with things other than knick-knacks, plastic goodies, things we don’t really need, and plain old junk. I’m skeptical that I will ever pare down our belongings to the point that I can actually declare myself a true Minimalist, but I am sure as heck going to learn about this concept and take away things from it that I feel will benefit my family and the way we want to live on our little piece of this third rock from the sun. I want to feel like I can truly organize what we need versus just trying to find an unoccupied space for something. I want to evolve, explore, and experiment with maybe not buying that thing I want from Amazon just because I can buy it and think I need at that very second, only to have it soon forgotten and left to contribute to the mass of stuff. (Instant gratification, anyone?) I want to get real about the shame I sometimes feel about the massive collection of toys (for both adult and kids) that sometimes seem to have taken over our home. I am going to have the uncomfortable conversations with myself and my family about what it really means to feel fulfilled, and where that fulfillment comes from, and how we can start peeling back the layers to truly reveal our love-filled home. It’ll be a journey, for sure, and not something that will happen quickly at all. As I have heard from some friends of mine, “Experiences; not things.”

I’m thinking of this as “exfoliating” our house (and life), one section at a time. And I cannot wait to see the gunk that comes off her face!

So, I invite you to join me on this exploratory adventure to unburden ourselves from much of the truly unnecessary and excessive as we try to enrich our lives with the more meaningful. If anything, for entertainment value because I assure you, it will probably get ugly at times. At the same time, I’m also looking forward to the side effects of this and the things we learn as a family. I mean, there are obvious financial benefits to procuring “less,” and I am envisioning the yard sale to end all yard sales. It’s about a quality of life and living a lifestyle that is truly our “style,” not the one that we think we are supposed to have. It will truly be an adventure. There’s got to be a happy medium on the spectrum between drawers too full to close and tiny house dwellers. Please do not picture us living in our yard in tents with only a backpack to survive; that is not what this is about. I’ve never been one to rough it, but it’s gone too far.

TBH

PS – You should prepare yourself for Troop Beverly Hills references if you come along on this journey with me.

I had a small, but poignant, epiphany recently from our family vacation to Canada:  I cannot remember ever feeling so relaxed and my heart so full as I did during this entire vacation (not an easy task when trapped in a car for several hours with two young kids), and yet we did not come home with ONE. SINGLE. SOUVENIR. The thought of purchasing anything besides food, tickets to attractions, and cold drinks never really crossed my mind. We came home with two Christmas ornaments that our friends so graciously gifted to us to always remind us of this amazing trip and experience, but aside from that, nada. No stuffed animals (that would soon be forgotten), no shirts (that would fall to the back of the drawer causing a clothing clog), no tangible mementos of any kind. When I realized this had happen, I panicked at first. “Shouldn’t we have bought something for our parents?! What about something cute for the kids so they remember this trip? Oh my gosh we literally brought back nothing except dirty laundry!”

Ummmmm . . . we also brought back about gazillion lifetime memories with our kids and great friends, Holly. Geesh. Get a grip.

This is going to be one heck of a journey.

keep throw away

National Lampoon’s Trip to Backyard Pizza & Raw Bar

Setting: Early on a Friday evening. Planning to leave later that night for a weekend getaway. Must pick up kids and feed them. (*sigh* Fed them yesterday, but whatever.) Decide on Backyard Pizza & Raw Bar as dinner locale. Princess agrees that this is a winner. Head to pick up Little Man.

5:03pm:  Arrive at day care to get Little Man. He is curiously wearing the shirt I sent him in, but not the same pants. Hmmmmm.  Today’s “Day Care Potty Training Pants of Shame” are Mickey Mouse Clubhouse pajama pants that are too small for him and therefore look like capris and come nowhere near matching his shirt. #pottytrainingsucks

5:10pm:  After wrangling both kids into my Pimp Mom Van, I become wary of my decision to attempt a meal out alone with the two of them, realizing I have forgotten any kind of pee-barrier for Little Man (translation: no extra pull-ups). Should these pants become soiled, we are royally screwed. They are literally the Last Frontier tonight.  Question this dinner decision out loud; Princess will hear none of it. We are GOING to Backyard. I then ask myself how the heck this power shift between me and 6-year old occurred. Promise self to download book on parenting that will go unread.

5:18pm: Score a great parking spot, albeit across a busy street. Threaten kids within inches of life to hold my hands as we cross. (I’m talking clenched teeth threats in Batman mom voice.)

5:20pm:  Text Grandparents to see if they would like to join us at “backyard.” SURE! Comes the reply. Yay! Reinforcements.

5:23pm: Realize as we are walking to our table that my children look kind of like disasters. One has pool hair and the other, well, he’s his own man. I think people might be staring. Hipster host makes comment about Little Man’s cool wardrobe choice. Oh well. No turning back now.

5:30pm:  Have booth in back and message Grandparents our exact location. Response from Grammy? Ohhhhh, they thought we meant we were eating dinner in our actual backyard. My mistake was not capitalizing the “B” in backyard. Teachers are such sticklers.

text convo.png

5:31pm:  Lied to my mother. It’s actually not funny. Crap. Realize I’m on my own. Promptly order (small) beer.

5:32pm:  Order chips and cheese for kids, but “not the spicy cheese.” Where did these divas come from? Cheese is cheese. Maybe I will read that parenting book after all. 🤔

5:33pm:  Look at our young, carefree waitress with a touch of envy as I try to connect to restaurant WiFi so kids can watch something on my phone. (Don’t judge. You know you do it too. And did you not see that text from my mom?! They’re NOT coming.)

5:37pm: Beer arrives, and not a minute too soon. Chips and cheese also arrive. Little Man immediately spills cheese down his shirt, but quickly remedies that by simply scraping it off with a chip and shoveling it into his mouth. “Waste not, want not” is his motto.

5:40pm: Little man has to pee. Oh joy. I leave Princess to man the table, again employing the Batman mom voice regarding strangers and leaving the table for any reason at all. I’m such a good mom. I don’t need that parenting book.

5:41pm:  In the restroom, solidly plop a little pale butt onto the toilet seat. Distracted by his oohing and aahing over the trees in the bathroom (they are pretty cool), I fail to notice that he is not, ahem, appropriately “aimed” and pee squirts all over the back of the aforementioned Day Care Potty Training Pants of Shame. Luckily, I think I catch it in time to avoid too much damage. Doesn’t matter anyways. He has no other options besides total bottom-half nakedness, which is frowned upon in public places, even hipster joints like Backyard.

5:46pm: Hands washed and back at table, I quickly realize that the pee damage is a little more extensive than I thought as a wet trail is left behind Little Man as he scoots across the booth. No worries, we have lots of napkins. After years of mothering (six = Expert Level), I now know to ask for extras of these absorbent miracles. I smoothly wipe it up and throw the napkin aside on the table. Totally zero need for parenting book.

5:47pm:  Princess lets me know that, in my absence, she summoned our lovely, young, carefree server over to the table. Why? Just to let her know we didn’t need anything. Note to self: I shall tip server well.

5:50pm: We have food, we have wifi, all is right in the world! Parenting book be damned.

5:55pm: Little Man spills more of something all over the place. Again, I shall tip well.

6:10pm:  We are wrapping up, and Little Man crawls over to me. I grab the napkin that I had tossed aside earlier and dabbed it in my water to wipe off his shirt a little better. He goes back over to his seat. I gulp down some water as my beautiful and angelic children sit quietly side by side as we wait for our bill, silently gloating and congratulating myself on a job well done. We are on the home stretch. Perhaps I shall write my own book on parenting; I’m that good. 👏🏼

6:11pm:  Like a bolt of lightning, it hits me that the same napkin I previously used to mop up pee with is the one that I just dabbed into my water to clean off my son’s shirt, and then I proceeded to gulp down that same water. So, I guess I ingested some pee. Great. #pottytrainingsucks

6:15pm:  Bill paid. Server well-gratuitized for her patience and the phantom pee on the bench, etc, etc.

6:18pm:  Batman mom voice as we cross the street again back to the van with bellies full, and I  make peace with the fact that I definitely drank some pee. Will definitely need that parenting book. Will skip right to chapter on potty training.

Into “The Wilds”

I’m starting with our most recent adventure first since it is fresh in my mind and is really what served as the tipping point for me wanting to start this blog. My niche tends to be these quick 1-3 night trips that aren’t too far away. After all, whoever said “getting there is half the fun” clearly never drove 12 hours with two kids under the age of five. That being said, my kiddos really are troopers at traveling. Start ’em young, I say!

I also find a lot of joy in planning travel, and not just for us. I love it when people come to me for travel advice. Being a former “frequent flier” and “road warrior,” I am quite familiar with the in’s and out’s of the travel industry, and I get a lot of satisfaction out of putting together an itinerary. The one drawback of my planning obsession is that I tend to fixate too much on what I think the adventure should look like, and sometimes build up an unrealistic picture of how the whole thing will play out. But then again, don’t we all want that picture-perfect experience? I assure you, our adventures are anything but perfect, but the memories are made in the imperfections that make up the adventure.

Case in point: This past weekend, our Magic Mini Van took us to “The Wilds” in Cumberland, OH. “The Wilds” is a private, not for profit safari (yes, a safari in Ohio) that focuses on conservation. It has a pretty cool backstory as well. We left Saturday afternoon and made our way about 3 hours north of Huntington to Cambridge, OH, where we stayed at a Hampton Inn. I’ll go ahead and issue this disclaimer now: When I travel, I stick with 3 vendors… Hilton, Delta, and Hertz. It’s a matter of personal preference, and those are mine. This particular Hampton Inn was clean, safe, quiet, and it had an indoor pool (that no one else seemed interested in). Score! So, we flipped on the Marshall game and went for a family swim. Has anyone else ever noticed just how freaking exhausted swimming makes kids? That was an added bonus for us parental units. We got a queen suite for a little extra space. Pro Tip:  We have found that instead of traveling with fancy toddler bed solutions, we opt to pull the mattress off of a pull-out sofa and put it on the floor for the floppy little dude to sleep on. Who needs a pack-and-play anyways?

After a fun night of getting assaulted in our sleep by small kicking feet, we awoke refreshed and ready for breakfast. We hit up Denny’s right down the road for easy in and out and fun kid options. There are plenty of restaurants around this hotel. Nothing fancy, but all reliable.

Next… onto The Wilds! The day prior, I had made the mistake of mentioning we were going to see animals to Leo and the poor little guy must have said “Animals?!” at least 20 times. Lesson learned. Keep it a surprise next time. I started to feel bad lying to him by saying “just a little bit longer” knowing full well we were a solid 24 hours out.  But, alas, the time had come for ANIMALS!

It’s a bit off the beaten path, but then again, it is a safari. In Ohio. I keep having to wrap my brain around that. My expectations were not high, if I’m being honest. But I can honestly say it was amazing with hints of Jurassic Park (picture double gate systems locking around you before you can move onto the next section). You park at the bottom of the park and a cool khaki-colored bus shuttles you to the top. It is $6 to park, and right across from the parking lot is a free butterfly sanctuary you can walk through. We did not get to partake in that as by that time, my dear sweet Woodland Creatures were ticking time bombs. (Mandatory family fun is hard people!)

Once you get to the top, there is a little concession stand-like area, a small gift shop, and a kid center and building where you can see what I would consider the stuff of nightmares, The Hellbender. We played in the kids area for a little while (a cool little classroom setting area for kids to explore) and admired the view. Then, our open-safari bus picked us up! We had made reservations ahead of time (highly recommended!) and the tickets were $30/person. Again, I was skeptical about this being worth the drive and the money, but I’ll try most things once.

We boarded the bus and went to the back. There are NO bad seats on this bus, so sit anywhere. Warning: If you sit in the back, it is very bumpy. Do not sit in the back if you have any issues with being jostled (neck/back problems or pregnant are two that come to my mind based on our experience). Leo went airborne at one point. Jeremy caught him. Such good parents, we are. We even dressed our kids in adorable identical sweatshirts! Just kidding. I forgot jackets and it was cold so I had to buy the sweatshirts at the gift shop.

We wove through the park with a fun tour guide/driver named Jeff. He was the King of Dad Jokes, and Jeremy bowed down in his presence. We had a fun little checklist of animals we would see, and we did indeed see all but two of them. One of those was a beetle that laid its eggs in dead carcasses, so I didn’t feel like I missed out. The animals are roaming free (with the exception of the carnivores like the cheetahs and dholes), so they can come right up to the open air bus. We were within spitting range of camels, almost touched a wild horse, and had a family of rhinos come right up to us. We learned a lot and had a lot of fun checking the animals off our list!

wilds map

The ride has two stops: one to feed fish and parakeets and the other stop to see things that would like to feed on you (carnivores). First stop: Highly recommend springing the $1 to get a seed stick for the parakeet house!  You basically get attacked by these adorable little Australian parakeets. Birds aren’t really my thing, but my son loves them and they were pretty cute. The second stop was at the carnivore area where they have a little grill/concession area. I very much recommend bringing your own drinks and snacks! You can’t eat/drink on the shuttle because you might choke, but you can eat your own stuff at the stops.

The adventure terminates at the gift shop (of course, right? It is owned by a zoo, after all) and another grill/concession area. The view here is AMAZING! For adults/older kids: they have a lot of other activities such as horseback riding and zip lines. Oh…. and they have yurts! It is on my bucket list to stay in a yurt, so this Glamping experience opportunity is definitely on my radar.

We left the park refreshed from the beautiful weather and exhausted from a whirlwind trip full of fun. I always bask in the happiness of my kids when I know I’ve shown them something pretty darn cool. Have you ever heard of a Sichuan Takin? Interesting creatures. Don’t forget to tip your guide! They really are a wealth of knowledge and entertainment on this tour.

On the way out, I asked the kids which animal was their favorite. My daughter said “giraffes!” I agree. Cool creatures.

My son’s response? “Cows!” (Ya know, the ones we saw on the way TO the park because it is in the middle of Ohio.) Asked him again what his favorite was, and he responded slightly more adventurously with “hippopotamus,” which would have been great if we had seen those.

All in all, well worth the quick 26-hour turnaround trip and another fun weekend adventure in the books!

Weekend Worrier: The Beginning

Hi, my name is Holly and I’m obsessed with weekends.

“Hi, Holly.”

(But really, who doesn’t love the weekends, right?)

I’m jumping on the Blog Wagon with this new adventure in technology and sharing, and I’m so excited to see how this goes! My inspiration comes from the things I love the most: my friends, my family, and adventures! Whether at home or out seeing the sights, I love every part of travel and adventuring and trying new things with the ones I love most.

Except unpacking. I could do without that.

But where did the name come from? It’s kinda a long story, so buckle in…

I used to travel for work a lot. As in, at one point I had about 500,000 frequent flier miles to my name and reserved parking at many a-Hilton property. But that meant my weekends with my family were spent recovering from these work trips, which was kinda a bummer. I also suffer from what I discovered to be called “Sunday Blues.” (It’s a real thing. Look it up. Seriously.) This is where a person gets kind of anxious/antsy for the work week to start. I’d like to think of it as “Monday-Eve Anxiety” wherein I turn into a bit of a nut, so any distraction is welcome.

Oh, and did I mention I’m a mom to two young kids? First of all, no one can fully prepare you for the anxiousness brought on by the constant feeling of vigilance that is required to keep these crazy kids happy, healthy, and safe.These kids are the absolute loves of my life, but dang they wear us out sometimes.

Never one to wish time away, I admit to occasional yearning for the stage of life where we can just throw some stuff in the van and go without packing 100 diapers, 2 strollers, a million bottles/nipples/rings, a pack-and-play, a bottle warmer, a breast pump, a gazillion safe toy options for baby, 3 changes of wardrobe for each day of planned travel (you get the idea ….. Parents: Can I get an AMEN?).

Well, I think we are getting to that point! While we still have to pack some diapers (potty training is the WORST) and the occasional extra change of clothes, I am happy to announce that this past weekend, our entire family of four packed in one bag.

Yes, it was only for 2 days/1 night, but still. How is that for easy?

To bring this whole word-vomit full circle, I no longer travel for work, which frees up the weekends to take some seriously quick, easy, and fun adventures with my family and friends! Admittedly, I’m also from the school of thought that adventures and getaways should occur regularly; not once a year. Occasionally, we will plan a “big” vacation (i.e. a Disney Cruise), but most weekends, you can find us just scooting off to someplace new and fun, or sticking around here to try something fun and new or tried and true. It keeps the mind and body busy, while creating new memories with the ones we love.

My hope with this blog is to share some of these adventures to inspire readers to take on some new adventures themselves! Many of these posts will be geared toward families/younger kiddos, but I also have a handful of AMAZING girlfriends with whom I like to go a little crazy with as well sometimes, so the occasional Adventures with Mommy Juice (wine) will make an appearance. You’ll also see some info about little activities and great gear that makes my life easier and more enriched so I can focus on what matters most.