New Beginnings

My very first blog began in 2003 (or so…) as an assignment in Andy Dehnart’s class.  I was a junior at Stetson University and I was new to the concept of “new media,” but I knew I liked it.  Since the 7th grade, I’ve been fascinated by the internet.  I was the first of my friends to have email, the first to start a website (geocities, baby!) and the first to use the internet to do research for projects (hotbot.com, suckas!).  Thus, I was a total DWEEB.  Whatevs, I grasped the concept of blogging in Dehnart’s class many years later and latched on.  I’m glad I fastened my seatbelt, because it’s been a bumpy ride.  The honesty I portrayed on that blog (as I continued it past the class it was required for) led to problems in my relationships, probably leading to a much-needed breakup, but also to the painful ending of a friendship.  But when I began my “stay-at-home-mom” gig, I was introduced to the “mommy blog” and I was hooked again.

I started blogging at a site that bore my name and eventually came to be titled “Not Just A…” Yeah.  It now redirects here.  I told you I know my way around the internet.  At that time, I was desperate to be known as more than my titles of “wife,” “mom,” and the biggest and at times, most burdensome of all, “Pastor’s Wife.”  That blog moved with me through many changes:  blogging conferences, working with a few small brands, moving to Missouri, and the pain and heartache that led my little family back to Florida.  When we moved back, it became apparent that I would need to give up that sweet gig as a stay-at-home-mom and become something else; something I swore I never would be:  A Daycare Mom.

And thus, Life After Daycare was born.  My intentions were to write about my daily life as a working mother of one, putting her child in day care to be influenced by others while she pursued her ambitions…and to let others know that that is okay.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:  I have a lot of respect for stay-at-home-moms.  I’ve been there and worked in the poop-filled trenches.  But for me at least, that was NOTHING compared to the work it takes to be a working mom.  I would venture to say that the average working mother gets off of work at around 5:00.  Depending on your workplace’s distance from the day care and then the day care’s distance from home, you are lucky to get home by 6.  Young children need a lot of sleep, especially if they are getting up and out of the house early to make it to day care on time.  So if your child is going to bed between 7:30 and 8:00 at night, you have at the most (in perfect conditions, if you live and work very close to your day care) 2.5-3 hours to spend time with your child, eat dinner, give bath(s), and get him/her/them to bed.  And you still have all those household things to take care of like dishes, laundry, cleaning, etc.  It can be overwhelming.

But those 2.5-3 hours?  That’s where life really happens.  Working moms, if you’re like me, you find fulfillment in your daily work in some way, shape, or form.  However, once you pick up your little one (or two, or three…) from day care, it’s like the alarm goes off, you wake up, and you’re alive again.  It’s almost as if you’ve been in suspended animation throughout your work day, and then there they are–greeting you with hugs and sticky kisses from snacks you wouldn’t dare give them at home; smelling like disinfectant from their classroom, and you can breathe and move again.  In day care land, time stands still.  And then it roars to life.  And that’s where the magic happens.

No, this does not mean that you should be expected to have the energy to complete 4 Pinterest projects with your youngster(s) between arrival at home and bed time.  What it means is that just the mere fact that you leave your child(ren) with people other than you for the day makes time just kind of…stop.  It doesn’t mean that your day was easy or that you aren’t exhausted.  Trust me, I know that you are because I am.  And yes I yell and get impatient.  But this is where we squeeze the life out of the day and get it back into our hearts.  In those precious 2.5-3 hours we have with our kids.

Tomorrow, my son starts Kindergarten.  If you had asked me, in the early days of this blog, through the haze of postpartum depression, if we would ever get here, I would have said “I sure hope so.”  If you had asked me, when my husband and I were so wounded we could barely speak of hope, if we would ever get here, I would have said “I don’t know.”  If you had asked me, when I took the leap of faith to put Zeke in day care and finish my Master’s degree, then going on to work full-time, I would have answered “I think we’re going to be okay.”  I learned that it’s not the end of the world if you have to put your child in day care; that life goes on, and for us working moms, the real life happens when we pick them up. It’s not the end of the world, because eventually he or she is going to grow into a little kid (not a baby anymore) that is going to need to go to Kindergarten.  And that’s just day care with homework.

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A day off…

….actually I’ve had a few. My husband was away in Nashville connecting with a team of youth pastors from across the country to start planning International Youth Convention 2014.  I, of course, am crazy proud of him and excited for this new opportunity, but was also sad to see him go.  I get very, very, VERY nervous without my husband here.  The anxiety takes me back to my days of postpartum depression/anxiety, when I cried every time he left the house.  “What am I going to do with this baby,” I used to wonder and fret.  Now my worry turned to “What am I going to do with this preschooler?”  and “How am I going to get to work and get him from church before I start feeling guilt over being a working mom?”  So my life situation has changed since those early days of Zoloft.  I made an executive decision to use almost all of the time off I had “banked,” and not have to worry about getting stuck by an emergency at work and being late to pick up said preschooler.  AND I took some ever-important “me” time.  Each day I found that I planned more than I should have and by the time I picked Zeke up, I was pretty tired, but felt productive.  I was able to share some quality time with my son, which is worth so much more to me than all the banked time-off in the world.  Keeping him in somewhat of a “normal” routine was great.  I am blessed to have a great preschool that I trust to love him and care for him while I do whatever it is I need to do.  Of course, at the end of the trip, I discovered that there was nothing to fear or be anxious about…I’ve got this.  And plus, I paddle-boarded with dolphins.  If that doesn’t give you inner peace, you need medication for realz.

SUP dolphin

SUP, dolphin? Say ‘hello’ to your mother for me!

When Josh got home, he was tired, but at the same time renewed in his mission and vision for ministry AND our family.  When we had a big sit-down talk about his trip and all he had learned, he did use the word “intentional,” but I decided to forgive him :)

Today is his birthday, also Martin Luther King Jr. day, so all three of us are off.  And I took an extra day tomorrow just to spend with him.

It’s been a great week!

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A first…

This is my very first original pin!

Aren’t you proud?!

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My husband built a loft bed….

….from actual wood…from the actual hardware store…with his own tools. And we couldn’t be more thrilled with the way it turned out!

building the bed

A work in progress…

message

A special message on the rail for Zeke

Finished product!!

Finished product!!

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MERRY!

MERRY CHRISTMAS from our family to yours!

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Why me? Why us?

I’m not sure I ever believed we were really going to Denver.  The day before the trip, my spirit was way too calm, I was way too organized.  It was only the night before, a mere 12 hours until departure, that I started to freak out.  Normally, the panic would have set in a week prior.  I’m not sure if I ever prayed for peace.  I probably should have.  Regardless, my spirit was not as restless as it “normally” is when faced with a trip away from familiarity.

Maybe that’s why I brought my running gear.  Running grounds me in a literal and figurative sense.  Each time my feet hit the pavement one by one–boom, boom, boom–I am reminded that I came from that very earth, now covered by asphalt.  I threw it all in my suitcase:  every set of work out clothing I own (for all possible weather conditions); my headbands (for sass); my arm band and headphones (for tunes), all of my socks and my shoes (for obvious reasons–a barefoot runner I am not).  Normally I would say that I brought all of that extra junk because “gosh darn it, I’m going to work out in every gosh darn hotel gym wherever the heck we stay.”  But maybe, just maybe, God told me without me even realizing it, “You’re going to need this.  I mean, REALLY need this.”

Maybe that’s why I insisted Zeke come with us on the trip.  Yes, I firmly believe that even though Josh is the only one of us in VOCATIONAL ministry, that our whole family is in ministry together; and in saying that, Zeke is an integral part of our ministry.  But I could have gotten someone to keep him for the 9 days we should have been gone.  I could have viewed his presence as a hassle (and I’ll admit, sometimes I wondered if he would be) but I chose to stick it out and brave the planned 3 day bus trip with a 4 year old, knowing that my main support would be busy most of the time with the teenagers.  Maybe that’s why I chose to come at all.  I could have bailed at any time up until the very moment when we pulled out of the parking lot.  I almost did.  “This is going to be too hard.  I can’t keep track of Zeke and entertain him this whole time.  I don’t want to feel like a single parent on this trip.  What are we going to do, stare at each other all day long?  How am I ever going to do the things I want to do while I’m chained to him?”  Shameful thoughts, I know, but that’s the real, honest-to-goodness STUFF right there.

So maybe that’s why the bus broke down; why we came literally within inches of our lives.  But maybe that’s also why were were spared the accident that might have seriously injured (or worse) us all and were able to get to safety before anything serious happened.  Maybe that’s why I was able to run the Peachtree Road Race for free, when I should have been turned away: “people have been on a waiting list for this race all year…there are no more numbers available,” they said.  Maybe that’s why they were wrong.  Maybe all of this is why I had an amazing time of connecting with a homeless mother and her two children.  Maybe that’s why she was the only mother with children at the homeless outreach that day–because we needed to connect with each other and feel something human, raw, and real.  Maybe I needed this trip to re-focus on what is truly important to me and my family, and how important we are to just the three of us.

Maybe my world, my faith, my belief, and my love were all way too small.  Over the past few days, I have grown.  I look back at my attitude and the person I was last week in all spheres of my life–work, church, and home (not necessarily in that order) and I don’t recognize myself.  Honestly, I am ashamed at my own negative attitude.  I consider myself a positive person–but have I been lying to myself?  Maybe.  Effort is needed, but I hope and pray that I am never the same as the person I left behind at home.  As we head for home today, I hope I can catch up with her on the way and tell her that maybe, just maybe, she can be different.  Fuller, bigger, stronger.

There is no “maybe”–I am better for having traveled to Atlanta instead of Colorado.  I hope Atlanta is better for my being here.

Photo Credit: AJ Abney

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Lessons Learned

My husband, along with some of his friends, has been planning a trip.  It’s been in the works, in total, for almost a year:  The International Youth Convention for the Church of God (Anderson, Indiana–we don’t handle snakes).  It would take us a little bit over three days to drive there, and three days to get back, and we were PUMPED.  I mean, who wouldn’t be excited to go to Pike’s Peak and hang out with a bunch of cool kids in Denver?!  I even planned a few things to keep Zeke and I busy during some of the things he would find not-so-interesting.

This past Saturday, we started the journey we’d been planning.  So the best youth group in the entire world, along with myself, Zeke, and some adult volunteers, drove down to Lake Wales to pick up some other youth groups at Warner University.  Josh and I were particularly excited to show Zeke his daddy’s alma mater!

Moving Zeke into his very first dorm :)

Walking on campus with daddy <3

And then we drove…and drove…and drove.  We watched movie after movie after movie…and we only stopped ONCE to use the bathroom before lunch.  Can you believe that?!  A bus full of 43 teenagers and a few adults, including one four-year-old and we all held it until an official stop!  We stopped for lunch at about noon at a wonderful McDonalds in Cordele, GA.  When we pulled out of the parking lot to complete the day’s journey (Memphis or Bust!!), we actually busted.  To make a long story short, we’re a little bit stuck.  More than a little bit.  We’re actually stuck.  The bus is non-operational, and quite frankly, we are lucky it didn’t roll over with all of us in it.  We’re lucky to be alive and to have found a great hotel to put us up for the night (possibly one more night).  There has been a change of plans, to say the least.

Unfortunately, we will not be going to Colorado.  We are bummed.  I am particularly bummed because I was SO looking forward to exploring Denver with Zeke as well as going to the convention.  I was also looking forward to good hair days and low humidity.  Let me tell you, I am NOT getting that here in Georgia.  Let’s re-name Cordele “Frizzy Town,” shall we?

So the plan now is to hang out in Georgia!  We’re going to make our way to Atlanta, which is an amazing city with TONS to do.  Six Flags is on our agenda now, and the Coca Cola factory is an option as well.  We will be coming back a few days early, and to be honest I am okay with that.  I think we are all learning a very important lesson.  I’m taking my cues from my precious four-year-old son, who described his dorm bed at Warner University by saying “Mommy, THANK YOU for this bed!  It is the nicest bed I’ve ever had!”  Let’s face it people, if you’ve been to college, you know what those beds feel like.  As we were leaving that morning after Josh and I got NO SLEEP at the college (do you remember hearing EVERY SINGLE FOOTSTEP above you in college?  I had forgotten about that part), Zeke’s comment was “that hotel was so nice!  I hope we go back there again some time!”  And as we rode for hours on the bus?  “Mommy, I love this bus and all these movies!  This is the best trip!”  As we were checking into the hotel in Georgia, “Momma, this is SO NICE!  These people are so awesome!”  Waking up from his nap in a strange hotel bed, “I LOVE this bed and this hotel room!”  The positivity exuding from my four year old child, who by anyone else’s standards would be totally justified in having multiple tantrums and melt-downs, is refreshing.  It is keeping me on track and showing me how I SHOULD be looking at things.

Thank GOD we are all okay.  The bus seriously SHOULD have flipped.

Thank GOD for a hotel that had 13 rooms available, and people it is NICE!

Thank GOD one of the churches in our group knows a higher-up at Golden Corral, so they gave us an AMAZING deal at the restaurant right across from the hotel.

Thank GOD I have my family with me.

We are going to have a great time.  This leg of the trip is going to force me to break out of my recently-acquired type-a personality traits.  It is also going to force me to face some very old fears from over 10 years ago (I can tell you about those later…that’s for another time).  But I am hopeful and holding onto the positivity of a child who is just excited to be here and gives thanks for every moment of every day we are together.

We could all learn a lesson or two from this little guy.

Smile more, whine less!

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Mom Blog FAIL!

Today, I decided to try a recipe some mom bloggers have been raving about:  Crockpot Chicken Marsala.  It’s been pinned, re-pinned, and whatever else you can do on Pinterest to show you like something.  Well, I put it in the ‘ol crockpot this morning and this is what I got:

What.  The.  Heck.  Is.  This.  Nastiness?!  It smelled bad, it looked bad, and I can only assume it tasted bad.  So moms in the blogosphere, please forgive me for maiming your new favorite Crockpot dinner.  I only tried it so I can be just like you guys…can you accept me into your crew WITHOUT Crockpot Chicken Marsala?  Check “yes” or “no!”

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SheCon ’12 Re-Cap

So…..almost 2 weeks ago I attended SheCon ’12!  I am officially a SheCon “Founder,” meaning I was present at the very first conference, held last year in Miami.  When I found out it would be in Orlando in 2012, my first question was “Where do I sign up?!”  Because of my work schedule and my need to save up days off (working moms, those personal days you earn each paycheck are more valuable than gold, no?) meant that I couldn’t go to the Friday conference, but Saturday?  No problem.  Friday night, of course, is when the parties happen.  It really kills me to miss the parties because that’s where you really network and get to know other bloggers.  You can’t hide anything when you’re Karaoke-ing.  Just sayin.’

Aaaaaaanyway…I enjoyed the sessions I attended on Saturday.  The first session, on Pinterest and all things Pinning-related was a little bit weird for me, because I don’t quite understand Pinterest.  To me, it seems like you’re just copying a whole bunch of other people’s stuff.  Now, I am on Pinterest, but I rarely use it.  Aliza Sherman is a genius when it comes to Apps like Pinterest.  Sometimes I wish I could quit my job and be like these awesome bloggers who can really dedicate time to their niche.  Really, all of the speakers were awesome.  Another great session was a panel put on by Time to Play, which included an awesome blogger I met a few years ago at Blissdom, Christine Young of From Dates to Diapers.  The panel focused on how to work with brands.  Since I clearly don’t work with a whole lot of brands, but would like to, it was really great to hear from these bloggers, and an exec from Time to Play, how to put your best foot forward when doing any sort of review for a brand.  I also need to give a shout out to their PR girl, who was ADORABLE and SO STYLISH I could barely handle it!  A standout break-out session I attended was the discussion about monetizing your blog.  The information was valuable, but let’s face it.  The main ways to monetize your blog are similar, if not the same, as they have always been.  So I’d heard the information before.  The connections I made were WAAAAY more valuable than the information!  First of all, I ran into my old (by length of friendship, not age!) high school friend, Lindsey of The Zesty Lemon!Yeah!  I had no idea she was going to be there!  I just turned around and there she was!

Adorable, as ever!

I also connected with Jill, one of the panelists at the session.  She is fabulous, and we have so much in common.  For me, that’s what a conference is about–finding your people.

I’m almost embarrassed to say that I thought about leaving before Miss Lori’s closing keynote.  I was starting to feel run-down and began to dread my long drive home.  I am so glad I stayed.  Miss Lori’s speech was so inspiring!  She has come from some pretty serious adversity to become an amazing presence on PBS as Miss Lori (duh) and has launched Miss Lori’s Campus and Musings from my Minivan online.  She is doing amazing things for children and their parents, and that makes her a friend of Life After Daycare.  Lindsey and I had eaten lunch with her and she cracked us up the entire time.  She is just as wonderful off-stage as she is on it.  I loved what she said about really owning, becoming, and living your brand.  Right now I am struggling with balance, so my brand has to take a backseat.  BUT one thing I can do is engage.  Her message about engaging everything and everyone in your world really spoke to me.  She told us to find as many ways to engage others on as many platforms as we can.  Wow.  Sometimes I feel like I can’t handle writing and social media anymore because it overwhelms my already-overwhelmed mind.  But engaging other people?  That, I can do.  I left after Miss Lori’s session and didn’t do the scavenger hunt at Downtown Disney.  I heard it was really fun, but I was beat!

Overall, SheCon ’12 was a good conference for me.  I walked away a little bit disappointed.  Like Jennifer, I encountered some other ladies who were not very inclusive.  One seemed to even hesitate to give me her business card.  Me?  I just hand those things out like it’s nothing.  “Hey.  You want one of my cards?  No?  Okay here, have one anyway.”  You know, part of me really wants this blog, this brand, to grow.  But another part of me wants it to stay the same, so I can just “make it rain” with my business cards and talk about liking hard rock with other like-minded individuals.  If being a “big blogger” means not paying attention to the “little guys” like me, I’m out.  With that being said, there were not many “big bloggers” there.  Last year, as poorly attended as it was, this year was worse…and that is a shame.  I feel like there was more big-name attention paid to last year’s conference and that none of those people showed up this year.  I ran into a few familiar faces, but just a few.  I am super grateful to the sponsors and brands who helped out, like Playskool and Real Mom Media, and I really enjoyed connecting with Bona and Produce for Kids (who supplied me with lots of bananas and apples to snack on during sessions!).  But the list of sponsors on the website, or at least the graphic representing the sponsors was much more extensive.  I was looking forward to re-connecting with some people I had met last year, both brand representatives and bloggers…and I just didn’t.  What should have been a really intimate, exciting conference was still great for me, but was missing some key connecting moments.  There were also some vague references to the conference coming together at the last minute because of people who stepped in to help.  With that being said, I want to make it clear that I will continue to support this conference, and would like to throw it out there that I will help in any way possible for next year and the years to come!  I think SheCon has great potential and no matter what, I WILL have fun because that’s just the kind of person I am.  I just wish some of my fellow “Founders” felt the same loyalty I feel to the Little Conference that Absolutely Can and Will Rock.

SheCon, I believe in you!

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Thoughts Before Work 2

Here it is…1 minute past when I need to leave for work and I’m chomping cereal (it REALLY should be egg whites, I know!).  I love cereal.

I had an amazing weekend, how about you?  I hope you were able to take Monday off, like I did.  Because of a big trip we are taking the first week of July to Colorado, Monday was the only day I’ll be able to take off until then.  That may not seem like a long time to work without a day off, but trust me…it is.

SheCon12 was fun!  I’ll be preparing and organizing my thoughts in the next couple of days so I can give you the review/update you’re waiting for.

Toodles, friends!  I hope you have a wonderful day whether you’re working outside the home or inside.

~~Rach

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