Saturday, November 11, 2017

My Journey

*taps mic*

Is this thing on?

Why hello there!  My gosh, it's been way too long, hasn't it?

Life is good.  So good.  So good in fact, that I don't have ANY time to blog.  But I really miss this creative outlet in my life, so I'm going to try harder to make the time!

I've been feeling like I need to write this post for a long time, but I just couldn't figure out exactly what to say.  And I wasn't where I needed to be to write it.  This is making no sense; I know that.  Hopefully by the end, it will.

I'm about to write my entire professional life story, so hang on tight- things might get crazy (or wordy).  Or stop reading now, that works too!

For the past year or so, I've been on a journey.  A journey to find myself.  I've had this overwhelming feeling for A WHILE (like years) that something is missing in my life.  That sounds crazy, yeah?  I have everything anyone could ever ask for: A great family, wonderful husband, healthy, crazy children, I'm a stay at home mom, I even got a minivan for crying out loud! The whole nine yards, and yet I couldn't figure out the void!

Then one day my husband asked me about my dreams.  I thought about it for a moment and realized I had none.  I had no dreams!  All my dreams from when I was younger had been realized.  I always dreamed of going to college and getting a degree.  Done.  I dreamed of getting married and having children.  Check.  I knew I wanted to be a stay at home mom.  Doing it.  Outside of raising productive human beings and struggling to keep my house clean, I had nothing bigger that I was striving towards each day.

When I told my husband (who is one of the biggest dreamers I know), "I don't think I have any dreams," he looked at me like I had just told him I didn't have any arms and said, "I can't imagine a life without dreams."

That made me stop and pause.  Shouldn't I have a dream for myself outside of my home and children? A dream of my very own? I figured out that day my life was missing GROWTH.  I had become completely stagnant in my personal growth.

I always heard that as women and as mothers we need to take time for ourselves.  I always thought this meant going shopping every so often, or getting a pedicure once in a while, or letting your kids binge on Netflix while you take a nap.  While I do enjoy ALL of these things (a lot!) this is not what taking time for myself means to me.  These things don't make me feel more fulfilled or more purposeful.  What I need is self-improvement.  Taking time to grow my mind, body, and talents.

I began reading.  I have never been much of a reader, but I've read 67 books this year!  (Hoping to do a longer blog post on this soon)  I started playing the piano again!  I performed in our Church recital, which is something I haven't done in over 10 years!  I started playing volleyball again, and discovered I can still play pretty well! These are all things that I LOVE to do, but I realized became lost in the shuffle of juggling three rambunctious kids and a busy household everyday.

I started to feel better, but the void was still there.  While I was again doing things that I enjoy, finally doing something just for me-and growing in these areas-, I still feel the need to strive towards something greater.  I began to feel an overwhelming need to look for a job. What???

 -insert horror face here-

Let's back up. Back it WAAAAAY up.  Back to Mendocino College in Ukiah, CA 13 years ago.

I told you this blog might take us crazy places!

When I graduated from high school, I chose to go to the junior college in my hometown for 2 years, live at home, play volleyball, and figure out what the heck I wanted to do with my life.  When I started at Mendo, I was a political science major, with GIANT dreams of someday becoming a campaign manager and running a national campaign. Then one day I got in a very heated debate with a girl in my class over politics, something that is bound to happen when you lean right in a very left part of the world (aka Northern California).  I hated how the argument made me feel. While I totally enjoy politics, I hate the divisiveness and the contention of politics. I realized right then and there that I didn't want to do this for the rest of my life.  Naturally, that left me with the question- what do I want to do with the rest of my life?????

I had always been really good at math and I come from a long line of educators, so it made sense to go into Math Education, which is exactly what I did.  I finished up at Mendo, transferred to Utah State and pursued my teaching degree.

After I graduated with my undergrad in Mathematics and Statistics Composite Education, I began my teaching career at North Stafford High School in Stafford, VA.  I had the sweetest teaching experience at NSHS.  The teachers and staff were amazing- we went out for chips and salsa every week, I only had to teach 2 classes, and I loved a lot of my students.  I could not have had a better set up than I did at North Stafford.

Which is when I realized I hated being a classroom teacher.  What I loved about teaching- ya know, teaching, can get totally lost in a classroom.  I was terrible at classroom management.  I didn't know how to motivate unmotivated students, and I couldn't keep control of an unruly class.  While I loved connecting with students, getting to know them, and teaching them one-on-one, I didn't love teaching a class.  I dreaded going to work every day.  And that was when I knew, this wasn't what I was supposed to do for the rest of my life either.

Back to square one.

I decided to go back to school again and get my masters degree while Daniel was earning his law degree.  Sticking with my love of math, I earned my master's degree from Cleveland State in Mathematics with a Statistics Emphasis.  Then I began my career in the corporate world.  I worked for a major insurance company as a product analysis: writing code, running queries, and analyzing data. And I LOVED IT!!  I had finally found a job I could do for the rest of my life and be happy!!! Until............

Logan was born.

Suddenly my dream job turned into my nightmare. The long hours at the office made it hard to spend a ton of time with my new baby.  I cried on the drive to work at the thought of the hours I would be missing that day.  I lived in fear that I would be missing out on some of his first milestones, and seriously worried about the future.  While I loved my work, my heart wasn't in it.  When Daniel graduated from law school, I quit the workforce completely to raise our growing family, absolutely convinced I would NEVER go back to work again.

Which brings me to today.  If you're still reading- kudos!

I love being home with my kids.  Like really love it!  I completely, 100% think I have the best gig in the whole world.  Outside of what my kids have going on, I have no schedule and no commitments.  If I want to turn on the TV and lay on the couch all day, I can totally do that.  I spend my summer days at the pool, the park, the museum, getting ice cream, and lounging in my PJs. I spend my school days watching the kids' soccer games and running them to piano and dance class. This really is something I could do for the rest of my life.  Or at least the next 18 years! It's a sweet life.

But it's not a very mentally challenging life.  Oh, it's challenging... don't get me wrong!  Raising young children is very challenging in its own way.  But I don't feel like I'm being stretched or growing personally from my day to day grind.

So here I am, feeling inspired to go back to work.  With 3 small children, how on Earth am I supposed to do that?  I fell to my knees to pray for guidance.  I really felt God was guiding me on this journey to grow personally, but how would it be possible?  The answer I kept getting was: "You'll know it's right when everything is perfect."

With that faith, I started applying for jobs: jobs in my old corporate wheelhouse, where I had found the most professional fulfillment previously.  And low and behold, I got a call back almost immediately.  They wanted me to interview, prepare a presentation, and research a topic and write code to analyze it.  I should be happy and excited, right?  Yeah, no.  I felt the most overwhelming sense of DREAD and ANXIETY, maybe more than I have ever felt in my life.  I felt inspired to ask the recruiter about the flexibility and scheduling of the job.  I was told it was definitely an 8 am to 5 pm job and coming in early and staying late is "highly encouraged."  With 3 kids under 6, I knew immediately that this wasn't going to work.  I quickly withdrew my name from consideration with the thought of "Maybe in 5 years I will revisit going back to work."

Then, scrolling Facebook one night, I saw an ad that would change my life.

It said something crazy like:  "Make $2000 a month working from home.  Work 3 hours a day and make your own schedule!"This immediately made me think: SCAM!

But then I saw the ad again.  And again.  And again.

"Become a VIPKID Teacher"  the ad said.  Over and over and over again.  For weeks, I saw the ad.  Facebook is good like that, aren't they??

So I began to research becoming a VIPKID teacher.  Here's what I found:

1.  VIPKID teachers are contractors who teach students in China age 4-12 English one-on-one for 25 minute lessons at a time.
2.  You make your own schedule- work as much or as little as you want.
3.  The hours you work are typically very early in the morning or very late at night.
4.  There is little to no prep work- just show up and teach.
5. Requirements are a bachelors degree in any subject and teaching experience in some regard.
6.  It's a legit company which employs over 20,000 ESL teachers in America and Canada, and is valued at over $1BIL!

After learning this, my thoughts were:  "Wait, you're telling me: I can work online, from home, while my kids sleep, doing something that I'm trained to do, in a setting where I would actually enjoy doing it?  And I can make pretty decent money while I'm at it?"  SOLD.

"You'll know it's right when everything is perfect."

For my life right now, it doesn't get any more perfect than this.  And it is totally right.

I've been a VIPKID teacher for 2 weeks now, and I'm happy to say I am LOVING it.  The kids are adorable, the schedule is ideal, the hours are as flexible as they come, and I'm feeling inspired and challenged everyday.  It's so nice to have something that is just for me, and doing something simply because I want to improve myself- and help others at the same time. (bonus!)  I don't miss any time at home with my kids.  I can still take Reagan to dance and preschool, and Logan to school, piano lessons, and basketball try-outs.  I'm still the one making everyone's lunch and putting Ansley down for a nap everyday.  The only thing I do differently is put on my teacher hat for 2.5 hours every morning before the kids get up.  Yes, it's early... but I'm hoping my body will eventually adjust.  Until then, I've got my kid's stash of Halloween candy to keep me going.  Most importantly, the void has finally been filled.

I feel like I've truly found the best of both worlds.  (Cue the Hannah Montana theme song).  ;)

Do you feel like VIPKID might be the perfect fit for you???  Follow this referral link and I will help you get hired!  I'm happy to answer any and all questions you have!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Thankful

This past Monday, I went over to a friend's for girls night. It was hard getting out the door, because Reagan insisted on stories strictly from Mommy, which went on a little later than usual. 

Getting myself to bed after arriving home was even harder, though. Sort of a comedy of errors, if you will.

It was late, nearing 2 am, and I quietly urged the door open and tried to sneak inside the house, like a teenager trying to break curfew. I felt a little bit like a teenager, too, having spent the night gabbing and snacking with my girlfriends. The abrupt sound in the quiet house, immediately made Cuddles come galloping down the stairs, yapping with all his might. This started a chain reaction, starting with my eldest. Logan awoke and wanted a drink of water. While trying to fetch the water in the dark, I tried to turn the flashlight on on my phone, but accidentally dialed my mother in law. Panicking and hanging up before she answered, I gave Logan his water, but then stumbled in the dark as I answered my mother in law's text that "I am fine, I just accidentally called you while getting Logan a drink of water." This of course, woke up my sleeping baby. If you've ever seen Ansley you'll know that she wanted nothing else than to eat. 

After nursing my youngest back to sleep, I was finally able to crawl into bed where my sleeping husband's warm embrace was waiting for me, even in his sleep.

It was no monumental event, not even anything out of the ordinary: a typical Monday night. But that night I lay in bed feeling extra grateful. My prayer as I drifted off to sleep sounded something like this:

Thank you for a miniature sized princess who wants to read fairy tales before bed with me. Only me.

Thank you for friends new and old who will laugh and cry with me until late into the night.

Thank you for a dog who although he is small and fluffy, cares enough about my family to bark like a dog who is big and ferocious when he thinks we are in danger.

Thank you for a son who will call for his mother when he needs help. 

Thank you for a family who will answer my mysterious calls at 2 am to make sure I am ok. 

Thank you for a baby who is fat and adorable and for a body who made her that way.

And thank you for a husband who wraps his warm, strong arms around me to welcome me home, even when he is asleep, and I've been gone watching The Bachelorette.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Logan Turns 5

I've made a goal for 2017 to blog at least once a month.  Well.... here it is March 29, and I've got not a lot to say.  So I decided to finally recap Logan's 5th birthday party from back in August.

Only 1 problem.  I have exactly 2 pictures from that day.

Here they are in all their glory:








Back in October, we switched our cell phones from Verizon to Sprint, and got new phones and got a big headache and in the process I lost all photos from beginning of August to Halloween.  I had my moment of grief, and it is what it is.

So I'll just have to describe the party in such detail, it will feel like you're looking at pictures of the day.  Ready?

Actually, here's all you really need to know:

It was absolute chaos!!!!

Let me set the scene for you.

Ansley was about 2 weeks old.

My parents were visiting.

Our house was still on the market.

Daniel was at a week long conference in Indianapolis the week before.

And Logan wanted Star Wars everything, but most of all....

He wanted to invite every, single, boy from his preschool class and have a water fight.  And almost all of them came.

Which was really fun.

But really crazy.

I'm still amazed this all came together.

He also invited all our relatives and all his teachers and all our friends.  It was such a fun day!  Looking back I'm especially grateful because we moved a few short months later and this was the last time we saw a lot of our friends, so I'm really glad they got to come meet the baby, and our kids got to play, and we got to visit and have one last hurrah!

As per use, I got all my ideas from Pinterest.  Here's my board.

You can kind of see in the picture that we made a light saber "cake" which was really just cupcakes, but turned out super cute.  Here's the blog it came from.

So I guess there's not really much more to say!  I made Wookie (no bake) Cookies, and Yoda Guacamole.  We froze Logan's toy Han Solo in Jello Carbonite, and ate grape lightsaber skewers.  We  feasted on Edible Ewoks (teddy grams) and had a veggie tray that somewhat resembled Bobba Fet.  I got all my party supplies from Party City, and it really wasn't hard to find decorations.  Star Wars was everything that summer!

At the end we let the kids loose with these water squirters and these water balloons both from Amazon.  It was madness and everyone got soaked, but had a great time.

All in all, this was one of the easier parties to plan, because there's just SOOOOO much Star Wars stuff out there.  It was perfect for our little boy!

Logan's 4th birthday
Logan's 3rd birthday
Logan's 1st birthday
Reagan's 1st birthday
Reagan's 2nd birthday

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Teenagers

I got a new calling at church last week to work with the 12-18 year old girls in our congregation. Today, instead of going to my regular meeting with the women of our ward, I attended class with the young women.

It was a surreal experience to be with young girls again. It hit me how far removed I am from their lives and their problems. My life is so incredibly different than it was back when I was in their shoes just over a decade ago. And I've got to say, I will take my issues over their issues any day.

I had almost forgotten how hard those teenage years were. Boys and friends and parties and homework all swirled around me clamoring for my time and attention. Drugs and alcohol and temptations of every kind lurking about, begging me to take part. 

Yeah, being a teenage girl was no picnic. Thank goodness I don't have to go back there again.

But then, like a thunderstorm raining on my parade of relief, it dawned on me.....

I do. 

I do have to go back to that world.  But this time, I have to go back with my kids.  And I am totally, completely, 100%, unapologetically unprepared.

I am unprepared for my kids to grow up.

I'm not talking, I don't want my kids to trade baby teeth for big teeth, or learn how to drive a car, or graduate from high school. I'm not talking the cute, "Hey Logan, don't turn six, ok?" or "Reagan, don't ever stop believing in princesses and magic, ok?"  I'm talking, I'm not ready for my kids to be offered drugs or see pornography. 

I realized, I was ready to have babies, to have toddlers, to have kids, but I'm not ready for teenagers. I may never be ready. 

Thank goodness I've still got some time to figure out a game plan, right?

So for now, I'm going to soak up these innocent days. Days where our biggest problems are not sharing that exciting scrap of paper they found on the floor, or giving them the wrong colored plate with their Eggo waffles at breakfast. Days where I've played Legos and princess kitty so many times I want to poke my own eyes out. Moments where I am so sick of watching Paw Patrol I want to throw my TV out the window. Nights where the baby just.won't.sleep and I'm so exhausted I'm digging my fingernails into my hands and desperately checking Facebook again at 3:30 am hoping someone posted something in the last hour that can keep my attention so I won't fall asleep and drop her. Laundry piles that are never ending and stuffed animals that seem to be reproducing in the night and making permanent homes in my living room. 

Because something tells me these problems are NOTHING compared to what's coming!
Don't grow up, ok? No seriously, don't do it!!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Roots

I'm coming to you tonight from my iPhone, because we moved 2 months ago and I still can't find my computer! Normally, going long stretches without blogging, doesn't bother me (clearly) but for some reason, I've felt the need to write.

We are settling in here, in our new corner of the world. Logan is doing great in school, Daniel continues to love his job, Reagan and I are both starting to make friends at church. Baby sleeps, eats, and poops on schedule. 

Life has gone on. 

We have a new dry cleaner, dog groomer, pediatrician, and grocery store (Kroger I love you, where have you been all my life???) 

Gah, how did we end up here, again??

I remember way back when Logan was a babe and I started this here bliggity blog, we were preparing to take our first job out of law school, make our first move out of Ohio, and start our new life in Washington D.C. My dream of being a stay at home mom and "mommy blogger" was becoming a reality.

D.C. was like a dream. We all made good friends quickly, enjoyed exploring the fun sights, loved having family and friends visit, Daniel loved his job, I loved being home with Logan, and baby number 2 was on her way. Life for a moment, was perfect.

But then (as they say in Tangled) that moment ended. Daniel's year long fellowship in D.C. ended, and our hearts were broken when our seemingly dream job slipped through our fingers. We were forced to leave D.C. at the last minute, to move back to Ohio and regroup.

I remember feeling like I was being forced to move against my will. I wanted so badly to stay. So badly to put roots down in D.C. To cultivate what had begun to sprout. But my little plant of a life was being violently ripped out of the ground with its shallow little roots to be "replanted" in seemingly "poor soil".

Our little area of Northeast Ohio is known for being depressed and run down. Sort of a "where dreams go to die" kind of place. And when we got there, that's exactly how I felt. 

However, I knew in my heart of hearts that Warren is where God wanted us to be. He is not cruel. He doesn't dangle things in front of our face, like a carrot on a string, just to string us along and never bless us. He had led us here, and He would help us grow.

And grow we did. Daniel lucked into a wonderful job, which at the time was exactly what we needed to get us back on our feet. We bought a house next to THE nicest and greatest friends and neighbors in the world. We flourished in our Church community and for once, really felt needed there. We loved being close to family. I made friends in our little community and it really started to feel like home. I remember thinking if God wanted us to stay forever, I would be more than willing. 

But then Daniel for real was offered his dream job. And he was offered it 3 hours away.

So we began to pull up those roots once again. Only this time, it wasn't violent and it wasn't shallow. It was deliberate and it was deep. Friends, and teachers, and schools, and dry cleaners, and dog groomers, and church family, now all friends, all part of an intricate root system, to painstakingly detangle and lovingly, gloomily carry away to replant in seemingly "better soil."

So here we are, trying again to grow. And since God has planted us here, I know we will. 




Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Ansley White (Part 2)

White

Picture courtesy of Gianna James Photography
So now that we had decided about naming our girl Ansley, we had the challenge of coming up with a middle name to go with it.  Both our older kid's middle names: Carl and Brooke, are family names from my side; we figured it would be easy to find another family name to use.

We searched our family history for any sign of a potential family name.  But nothing really felt right, and none of the random names we looked at had the significance or meaning of our other two middle names.  Defeated with the idea of a family name, we decided on Madison.  A pretty name that we both liked, one of Daniel's favorite Presidents, (so she would be named after a President like Reagan is) that would give her the same initials as me, AMD.  Ansley Madison it was.

Enter Daniel's subconscious.

One day I got a text message from Daniel, "What do you think of the name Lina?"

-pronounced "Line-Uh"-

I apologize to anyone who likes this name, is named this, has family named this, or anyone else who might be offended by what I'm about to say:

I do not like the name Lina.

Daniel had had a dream, in which he was given a clear message that he needed to name this baby after his Great Great Grandmother, Lina Lee White.

A little history on Granny White.  It was the late 1800's/early 1900's, everyone in her area had left the Church, and her daughter was going through a very rebellious stage, threatening to tear the family apart.  Needless to say it was a very pivotal time in her life and the lives of her family.  She raised Daniel's grandma and siblings, remained faithful, kept the family together and active in the Church, and to this day is known as the rock of faith in the Dew family.  Even after her death, several members of the family have had dreams that Granny White has visited them in trying times.  The night before he had the dream, Daniel had read Granny White's patriarchal blessings and really felt a closeness to this wonderful woman.

After learning more about Granny White, I knew we were going to have to make this name work.

With Lina out, we were left with Lee.

Obviously Ansley Lee doesn't work.  To me, that put us right back at square one.  And I felt so sad and so defeated by it.  I had felt so strongly about Ansley, and now to have it taken from me was a hard pill to swallow.  So we talked and talked and talked about names that would go with Lee as the middle name.

But nothing seemed right and nothing fit the way that it should.  Until finally it hit us.... Lina Lee had one other name: White.  And it fit just perfectly with Ansley.

So we decided right then and there she would be our Ansley White.  The search for a name was finally, FINALLY over!!

And just to make sure Daniel didn't change his mind AGAIN, I began getting Ansley stamped and embroidered on basically everything I bought for the baby thereafter.  And now she's here and perfect and her name is perfect, too!  Thank goodness!!!!

See part 1 here

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Happy Birthday Logan

Last night, was the last night I would tuck you in bed as a four year old.  After I had put your sisters to bed, and we were alone, we sang "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" (aka the Dorothy Song) together.  As I listened to your sweet singing voice, and looked down at your Junior Ranger vest you insist on wearing 24/7 these days, even to bed, tears welled up in my eyes.  4 has been a great age.

4 has been the age of Star Wars, "spooky things", and Legos. The age of tricks, playing tackle with Daddy, being silly, scaring me before bath, and climbing on everything. It has been the age of learning.  Learning to read, learning how to control your emotions, and how to sit still in circle.  How to make new friends, and how to treat old ones.  4 has been the age of standing out.  From your light up robot costume at Halloween, to your loud renditions of The Phantom of the Opera, to stage jumping to fight Darth Vader at Disney World, you always stand out in a crowd.  Your passion, enthusiasm, and determination set you apart as someone special.  4 has been fun.  Adventures with Superman, fighting Darth Vader, getting purple donuts, swimming with friends, snowball fights, and being a different character every day.  You have definitely learned more about love this year.  You learned to love friends like family, even telling people that you have a brother named Vincent.  You began to truly love Reagan, to teach her things, and become her best friend. You loved a baby that you had never even met and gave Ansley the biggest and most loving welcome into our family.

Logan, you are amazing and such a joy.

So as I kissed your head and hugged you tight for one last time as 4, and I reflected on the past year, I couldn't help but think about the blessing it is to be your mother, and how you've made the past 5 years even better than I could have imagined.  I knew being a mother would be a wonderful adventure, but I never knew that being Logan's mother would be the MOST wonderful adventure.