Pausing Life for a Moment: Guest Posting while I breathe

Life can become incredibly busy- it can be so hard to keep up! While projects and work keep me busy, Deirdre from J Daniel 4′s Mom gave me the perfect chance to do what I needed to do.. pause life for a moment.

I would be honored if you headed over to her blog to check out my guest post. Not only do I adore Deirdre and think she is amazing, she is also an incredible blogger who offers tons of support. Sometimes, we need to remember to take a deep breath and just pause..

Porch Swing Stories: In These Small Moments

I am so excited to bring you my first guest of Porch Swing Stories. A few months back while searching for inspiration for my blog, I had a conversation with the lovely Nichole of In These Small Moments. Not only is she an extraordinary writer, but she is an inspiring person I am so thrilled to call a friend. Read on for the first installment of many, many Porch Swing Stories- and one that will surely be a favorite. 

Of course I hold my four-year-old daughter’s hand every day.

I take it into my own when we cross the street, when I help her out of the car, when I lead her into her bedroom for nap.

As I do with all of the things that I hold most dearly, I had memorized the feel of her hand in mine, the bits of chubbiness left over from when she was a toddler…a physical reminder that she is still, in so many ways, my baby.

Last night, as we went upstairs to begin our bedtime routine, she reached for my hand and something was different.

Her hand slipped into mine so smoothly and I was struck by the way it felt so lithe.

Her fingers wrapped almost completely around hand and I was amazed by how long and lean they’ve have gotten.

How did I not notice how her hand is no longer plump, but is now that of a young girl?

Where did the chubbiness go? When did those toddler creases thin out?

Had I blinked? Had I been distracted by all of the big and little responsibilities and endless business that fills our days?

The zillion trips to ballet class, Target, and the grocery store…the endless to do list…they have crowded out this change inmy daughter.

Noticing this change makes me wonder what else have I missed. What has slipped past me, unnoticed?

If I could summarize my wish for the upcoming year, it would be to be more present.

And last night, as I held Katie’s hand, I was reminded of the weight of that committment.

Because what could possibly be more important than that?

Don’t miss any of Nichole’s posts at her blog in these small moments or over at Babble Kid Scoop! Interested in sharing a Porch Swing Story? Email me at ashley {at} myfrontporchswing {dot} com.

Introducing Porch Swing Stories

The front porch swing.

Oh, she knew that those without a true love of the South can’t really understand, but this porch swing held her heart and soul. It was where she knew she loved the man that would become her husband with such conviction, she would have married him on the spot (don’t worry, she didn’t wait long). It was the place she had waited for said husband to come from work to share wonderful news, so overcome with excitement that even their toddler throwing a stick at him on the walkway couldn’t diminish her joy.

It was the place her husband told her they would be leaving…

With one last look around, she turned to go back inside. With one last look, she realized she had truly learned to love. Not just with her husband, not just with her children, not just with her heart. She had finally learned to love with her soul.

And then they were gone..

It has been almost a year since I wrote that post (you can read the whole thing here). That post that finally captured the essence of what I want to write about when I share personal stories, and some of my most personal thoughts and feelings. 2011 was filled with many things for me; various projects, business opportunities, and a massive move. As a result, much of my writing has been put off along the way.

Now, it’s 2012. I decided that this year, along with the many ventures I’m pursuing through my jobs in social media, I would also try to ensure I had a chance to write from the heart once in awhile. I’ll call it my blogging resolution for the year (gulp). What better way to be inspired than through fabulous guest posts?

What will these posts entail? Love. Laughter. Sadness. Memories. Those moments of pure reflection, the moments when something was realized. The moments that only come to you in a time of clarity and reflection… such as those on my front porch swing.

I’m excited to introduce Porch Swing Stories, a weekly feature every Tuesday. I can’t wait to share with you some amazing stories from some amazing bloggers, starting next week!

If you’re interested in featuring a story, email me at ashley {at} myfrontporchswing {dot} com

Things You Won’t Remember ~ A Letter For You

Life is full of things we can’t understand. We don’t know why things happen, how they will turn out, or even what we can do about them. Despite trying times and stressful situations, it is so important we recognize the blessings we have and take the time to appreciate them. I’m doing just that today with a guest post at Tonya’s of Letters For Lucas for her fabulous feature, Letters for You. Check out my post, Things You Won’t Remember.


(yes, I’m a guest posting nut this week. sorry.)

Monster Mommy Menu Plans

Mommy of a Monster

Do you sometimes feel like you are kind of losing your mind? Not in the literal sense, but more of the crazy-school-activities-soccer-toddler-tantrumy-kind of way?

Yeah. It’s been a few weeks of that here. Determined not to continue on with the chaos (or at least have somewhat of a handle on it all), I am trying very carefully to introduce new ways of organizing each week so I can avoid Monster Mommy moments.  So far, I have nailed down the clothes-laid-out the night before routine, and have stayed on track menu planning. It’s the little things people.

I plan to add a new organizing tactic each week to my menu planning, so stay tuned. For now, here is this week’s meals. After you get organized, head over to Mommy of a Monster‘s to read all about my Mommy Monster moment (remember the whole losing your mind thing?)

Monday: Pasta with Sausage and Tomatoes (55 mins)

Tuesday: Chicken and stuffing bake (found at Once a Month Mom) (55 mins)

Wednesday: Spaghetti with my delicious Crockpot Spaghetti Sauce and garlic-herbed rolls (30 mins prep, 10 noodles/veggie)

Thursday: Creamy Chicken, Vegetable, Potato and Orzo Soup (from A Picky Palate) (30 mins)

Friday: Crockpot onion meatballs served over rice(15 mins prep + 10 for rice/vegges)

Find hundreds of menu plans at http://www.orgjunkie.com! Then check out my Monster Mommy Moment at Mommy of a Monster (say that 10 times fast!)

I’m in the Hot Seat!

I hope y’all have had a great long weekend! While we’re hiding out from tornadoes here in the Atlanta area, you can find me over on Four Plus an Angel  answering questions from the Hot Seat and naming next week’s victim selected blogger!

Bonus? All you have to do is leave a question for next week’s hot seat. The two best questions (as chosen by Ashley and Tim from Soge Shirts) will win one of two prizes.

Either one of these fabulous new blogging-themed shirts:

 

Or your choice of a shirt from the Soge Shirts Outlet.

The winners will be posted next Monday, so go check it out! http://fourplusanangel.com/2011/09/the-hot-seat-and-a-prize

Why Now? When I Just Started Liking You? by the Empress

Today, I have the honor of featuring one of the most genuine, caring, thoughtful bloggers I have had the pleasure of getting to know. Her encouragement and support reaches beyond blogging, beyond social media, and has had such an impact on so many people, myself included. With her gift of saying just the right things at just the right time, it is truly an honor to feature The Empress from Good Day, Regular People on my blog today for my final guest post- and I am truly grateful.

Life is a funny thing. Life is a funny thing, Mama.

Look at any random magazine cover, and they all scream “Like yourself better!” and “Be awesome in 10 days or less!”

Self help and self improvement books threaten to bust the shelves at any book store from the weight of so many titles. All screaming for you! you! to buy and become a better you. A you that is different from what you are.

It is a good thing to take stock, yes, and to set your sights on honing a skill, or learning a new hobby, or trying something new, or improving on something you’ve let fall to the wayside.

But to become a different, improved, better, more likeable you?

Why?

Since I can remember, I have been loyal to the screaming headlines of how to be prettier, have a better body, make more friends, get a new personality, become more alluring and magnetic and irresistable to man, woman, and all things living and breathing.

And, now, in this last half of my life, I have turned off the noise. I became tired of it. What is wrong with being who I am?

I no longer want to fight what is natural and what is me. Since the 8th grade, I have been stretching and pulling and snatching myself baldheaded in pathetic attempts to have straight, swingy hair. The kind that girls can toss across their shoulder and hold in one hand while they delicately take a drink from the water fountain. I wanted the hair from the Long and Silky shampoo commercials. What I had instead was short and nappy. I don’t want to fight it anymore.

For years, I have wanted the small, pert nose that is everywhere. What is on my face instead? Well, my nose is strong enough to hold a 2 ft thick eyeglass prescription, were I ever to need that.

And, flat. I am as small breasted as is humanly possible. I remember hunting for a bra at Victoria’s Secret, in my size. The perfect Barbie came over and asked how she could help. I told her I couldn’t find 28AAA, to which she laughed and said, “no one makes that size. The smallest we have is 32B.”

Well, that would be bigger than I’d ever need. In 3 lifetimes.

Anyway, I’m tired of it. This year, I just let my hair curl and go. I turn sideways and let my European profile stunningly cut a picture, and the bra? I just wear double layered T shirts.

But, the thing is, now that I am OK with what I am, my body is giving out.

I have to hobble for a few seconds when I first stand up from a cross legged position, when I bend over, you hear more crackles and pops than a bowl of Rice Krispies, and my energy? Am I the only one that loves red lights because they allow mini naps?

Why now, Body? Why now when I just have decided that you are the one for me? The only one? That I love you curly, flat, big nosed and all? Why?

It is such an irony…I’ve had the love of my life here all along, I could’ve been enjoying it, not cursing it. And now, sigh, it’s starting to go.

Just when I began to see it’s beauty.

I hope it forgives me and allows me at least ten more years, to treat it right, and appreciate it for the glorious uniqueness that it is.

We Wear Many Hats

My guest posting series is almost complete! The new year will bring new posts and hopefully some new changes for Just Another Mom of 2. Today, Melissa from Peanut Butter in my Hair is guest posting. I met Melissa early in my blogging days and I am so happy to have found and connected with her. She is one of those people whom I connected with instantly and felt like I have known all my life. Below, she shares some of her beautiful writing.

Photo Credit justmakeit via Flickr Creative Commons

A new school, new house, new neighborhood, new state. Whenever you have a big new experience or move to make you frequently hear people say “It’s a chance to reinvent yourself!” Reinvent yourself. Makes you wonder if they thought there was something wrong with you to start with? Something to be changed? It’s like an underhanded compliment.

I played that game. As I moved to a new high school, college, career, new, different, (?) better mes emerged. What I have learned since becoming a mom (or maybe it’s with age), is while those experiences of re-invention we’re important for helping me discover who I really am, finding the ability to be myself was way more fulfilling.

As a women I feel we are forced to fit into more molds than a man. We are told by the media to be alluring, sexy, beautiful, but not too beautiful or sexy, not trampy, (a slut in the bedroom a lady on the street). We are told we can have it all, do it all. Work! Mother! Wife! Volunteer! Friend! Self! We eventually learn that we can either be all things to all people or we can be true to ourself.

I made my first move with kids two years ago. We moved from an urban area to a very suburban (edging on rural) area. I had no intention of “re-inventing” myself on this move. I felt I had come into my own skin as a mother and a women. I had become comfortable in my skin and I had/have no intention of changing that.

Did I hit it off right away with all the new suburban mommies I was surrounded by. No. It took longer to find people I fit in with and who accepted me for who I was. I’m okay with that, because those friendships are true friends. The ones that I don’t have to worry about dropping an f-bomb in front of. The ones that won’t roll their eyes when I walk into a school function in knee high, 3 inched heel boots and the ones that understand that there is no good Italian restaurant for 30 miles because, no, Olive Garden is not Italian.

I hope that this lesson, that took me 30 years to learn will rub off on my children and they will learn it’s better to be yourself, than to try to mold yourself to fit a time and place in your life.

You are forever, your surroundings are temporary.

Thank you Ashley for allowing me to help hold down the fort while you move to Alaska! I wish you smooth journeys and the strength to just be yourself (which is awesome!) when you get there!

Melissa chronicles the good the bad and the sticky on raising two (soon to be 3 kids) with an urban heart in the suburbs all while navigating the waters of miscarriage, pregnancy and no ability to cook and clean. You can join the adventure at Peanut Butter in my Hair (http://www.peanutbutterinmyhair.com) or on Twitter (http://twitter.com/PBinmyHair)

Cookies and Presents

Today I am bringing you a double-feature by two more of my favorite bloggers. I met Momma Kiss through Liz on Twitter and quickly grew to love chatting with her and her great sense of humor. I met Tina when I first started blogging and have loved getting to know her and am now lucky enough to get to work with her! Enjoy their wrapping & baking tips!

12 Days of Christmas Gifts

One year, I actually had my shit together and did the 12 days of Christmas for Mr. Kiss. Not the kids – my Husband!

Nothing major, like I’ll get him an 8 pack of Guinness and 3 pack of gum and 4 pack of socks.

So I made some tags to go on each gift…Cute huh?

I had a hard time deciding on starting w/ 1 or w/ 12?? Like is it a count down or a count up?

anyway – I went w/ 12 because it’s more fun – and here’s some of the gifts all wrapped & tagged.

He totally loved it, especially because I got creative and didn’t spend a ton of money.

If anyone wants help with tags or ideas, just ask. I’m all about sharing :)

~mommakiss

Be sure to visit her fabulous blog at http://mommakiss.blogspot.com

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Ashley probably doesn’t remember this but she was the very first person that helped me when I started blogging. At that time, I was trying to figure out WordPress on my own and because I am not a real tech savvy person, I was getting frustrated with the whole process. Ashley and I had “tweeted” a few times, so I decided to reach out to her and ask for advice. Without hesitation, she spent time helping me walk through the issue I was having on WordPress.  I was completely shocked by how sweet she was and I knew we would be fast friends.

So of course when she asked me to guest post for her during the move to Alaska, I was thrilled! Finally a way I can repay her for being so helpful to me in the past.

I am going to share something with you that I haven’t even shared with my readers {so feel really lucky}!

First let me say, I’m not the baker in the family.  In the past, I’ve tried to make cookies that came out extremely dry, a cake that wouldn’t rise and pies that turned to mush. Three years ago, my husband decided to try his luck at making chocolate chip cookies for our family’s holiday party.

To my surprise they were fantastic and the best chocolate chip cookies I ever had! Usually I won’t admit this to him, but they are that good. There is a key ingredient that makes a world of difference and that is the instant vanilla pudding mix. They are soft, gooey and yummy delicious!

Warning; you won’t be able to eat just one and they can be very dangerous to your waist line. I have to hide them from myself because last year, I ate an entire dozen in one day, no lie!

Now its my husband’s job to be in charge of cookies every year. We play holiday music, let the boys help and make tons of cookies that keep us full all season long!

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/3 cup butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • 3/8 (3.4 ounce) package instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 5/8 eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Sift together the flour and baking soda, set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, and white sugar. Beat in the instant pudding mix until blended. Stir in the eggs and vanilla. Blend in the flour mixture. Finally, stir in the chocolate chips and nuts. Drop cookies by rounded spoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.
  3. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes in the preheated oven. Edges should be golden brown.

Tina blogs at Life Without Pink- go visit her today!

Dirty Little Christmas Secret

Today’s fabulous guest blogger is Shell who is the amazing blogger behind Things I Can’t Say. Not only is she one of the sweetest, most fabulous bloggers around, she is also my roomie for Blissdom next month! Today, she shares her dirty little Christmas secret..

Christmas is almost here. And I talk a big game about how Christmas is about more than just the presents.
My boys DO get gifts from Santa so don’t go feeling bad for them. But there isn’t a crazy amount of gifts for each one. They each get a lot of gifts, but you won’t see thousands upon thousands of dollars spent for toys for them. It already looks like Toys R Us exploded in my house, so we don’t see the point in doubling that each Christmas.
But, I have a shameful confession for you. My dirty little Christmas secret.
One year, I would love to be spoiled at Christmas. To have a huge pile of presents under the tree just for me! Sweaters and jeans and scarves and boots and heels and books and a laptop and a camera and a video camera and jewelry and the keys to a fancy new suv…OH, MY!
I want it all! To open package after package, one better than the next.  A Christmas to put the Who’s down in Whoville to shame…at least, before the Grinch came along. What fun that would be.
The kids come first, though. And then there are all the practical things that we need, bills we have to pay.
But, as my kids made their Christmas lists this year, writing to Santa, it was fun to pretend that I still believed and what I would ask the big guy for.
So, there’s my shameful little secret: the same girl that will get up on a soapbox and tell you that Christmas is not all about the presents is the same girl who secretly wishes Santa were real and that he could bring her a whole sleigh-full of presents.
If he could bring you anything you wanted, what would you ask Santa for?