6 people who want to hear from you today: Why sending a card can mean so much

One of my favorite emails to get every morning is my Daily Digest from USPS with my Informed Delivery of what’s coming to my mailbox today (If you have never used it, go sign up! It’s free.) I LOVE letters in the mail. Love them. They don’t even have to be in the mail. They can be left on my bathroom mirror, my laptop, in the freezer. Don’t care. I just love words and knowing someone thought of me enough to write to me. Since it’s clearly a love language of mine, I try to return the favor and send little notes, letters, and texts to people in my life. 

To make it easy for you, I’ve got 6 people you should send a card to TODAY and an idea for what to say to each. 

💜 Your partner: Easy peasy. Grab a post-it and write a note with something you love or appreciate! For example, Thanks for letting me fall asleep first so I didn’t have to hear you snore.

🤎 Your mom or dad: Drop them a card in the mail with something obnoxious one of your kids has done recently and thank them for putting up with you and congratulating them on their freedom now!

💝 Your kid: If your kids are in school and pack a lunch, put a note in their lunchbox. If they’re not quite reading, it can be as simple as “I love you. From, Mom” or if they’re a bit older, you could write a silly joke or wish them luck on a big test.

💚 Your co-worker: Are you still remote? Just check in then to say hi. Or set up a spontaneous virtual coffee date! If you’re back in-person, grab a post-it to say hi. One time, I noticed a co-worker doing work for a more senior employee that I didn’t think she should be doing, so I left her post its on her desk saying things like “Don’t Do It!” and “Just say NO!” 

🤍 Your neighbor: Another low effort, big impact one! Is there a neighbor who always borrows en egg? I’ve had to borrow frosting before after I baked with the kids and realized we’d used all of our funfetti icing! Drop them a note with the item and say something like, “Thanks for always keeping me stocked!” Or, has a friend been laying low and you miss them? Drop them a note to say just that. Maybe it’s a bottle of wine or a bag of their favorite candy with a note that says, “Miss you! Can’t wait until we can hang out again.”

💞 A friend: I love shopping for funny cards whenever I get the chance, so I always have a big stack at my house to send whenever the mood strikes. One of those cards with a quick note to say, “Miss you so much!” is sometimes all it takes to make a friend’s day!

And there you have it. Such quick and easy things to do that can make someone’s whole day! 

5 things to do when starting the divorce process

Getting divorced can be a confusing, life-altering, and emotionally-draining time. It’s even harder when you don’t know where to begin or even what to ask. There are so many things to think about and do, and it gets overwhelming. Today, I’m sharing 5 things that may not be on your radar that you should do TODAY.

  1. Change your passwords. The two of you have a lot of shared history together. You may even have a shared email address or Facebook account! Are stored passwords in the laptop he has? Do your passwords use nicknames and special dates? I remember the first thing I changed (after he moved out) was our keypad code to the house. I changed it to something that actually had meaning to him and I had always mocked. Something about that irony felt funny to me.
  2. Create a new email address. While you’re updating those passwords, go ahead and create an entirely new email address too. If things get contentious, you’re going to want to find as much privacy as you can. With many providers, you can just have emails forwarded into the same account to view. I have multiple Gmail accounts, but when I’m looking on my phone, they all come into the same inbox.
  3. Remove your ex from your emergency contacts. Make sure that as you call up your medical professionals (Doctor, Dentist, Therapist, etc) that you remove your ex as your emergency contact. Make sure that your ex can no longer access your personal information. This one isn’t necessarily urgent, but it’s one you could easily forget about, so you’re better off doing it now. Additionally, make a note to yourself to remove your ex as your beneficiary. In most states, you cannot do this until you are legally divorced.
  4. Always write out your texts and emails as if the judge will read them aloud in court. Be as objective as possible. I don’t want you to learn this one the hard way. In the early days, we’re either very trusting and open or things are a hot mess with insults and tempers all over the place. 
  5. Get a planner. This was one of the greatest tips I got when I went through my divorce. I had a small daily planner where I notated everything: the times he failed to show up for the kids, the times I thought he was intoxicated, when he lashed out at me, comments from his friends and family that supported my case…the list goes on. Use it to log any issues that come up with your ex. Having a record of every time he bails on the kids or fails to do something he says will help you so much when it comes to court proceedings. Take time everyday to update your planner – you have so many moving parts that things will quickly get away from you if you don’t do this daily.

Divorce is never easy on anyone, but having some guidance along the way can make the experience a lot more bearable. 

You’ve got this!

These tips are an excerpt from my new book Divorce: Easier Said Than Done and it comes out at the end of March.

A love letter to the brokenhearted mama

Dear Newly Single Mama,

It’s Valentine’s Day, and maybe it’s the first one where you’ve been on your own in a really long time. No one is buying you flowers. No chocolate covered strawberries or box of mystery chocolates. No card expressing adoration for you. Sorry to be that buzzkill. Was your ex really good at those things? Did they make you feel loved?

For me, I was never a big fan of Valentine’s Day because it all felt forced—especially when I had a partner who didn’t do a lot of thoughtful things like that without a holiday telling him to. My favorite part of Valentine’s Day was always the sweet things the kids would bring home from daycare, and now you may not even have that this year thanks to the pandemic.

What I’ve learned about Valentine’s Day is this: the day is as special as you want to make it, in whatever form you want that to take. I decided on my first single Valentine’s Day that I wanted the day to be about our love as a family. I wanted my kids to know how special they were and all of the reasons why I loved them so much. If I wanted their cute little hands on a canvas, well then I can drive my butt to Target or place an order on Amazon for a 5 pack of them.

And as my daughter prepares for middle school next year (and the obsession with boys and if she’s cute enough for them to like her, already seeps into her sweet little mind), I’m spending THIS year reminding her what Valentine’s Day is really about. Why it’s an expression of love. Just love. Love is love is love, after all.

We grew up in a different time, perhaps feeling like our happiness hinged on a man finding us worthy or desirable, and as we grow older, I find myself calling bullshit on all of that. Why do I need that validation to make me feel worthy? And why would I ever want my daughter to feel that way? I don’t.

And so, I create traditions that have nothing to do with romantic love. We belong to each other and have accountability to our family and friends. That is what I want to value, and how I want to raise my kids.

Mama, there’s a lot that you and I have to untangle as adults. So much to undo about how society raised us to believe in our value as women. But I’m here to tell you:

You are loved.

You are worthy.

You matter.

And you are perfection.

So on Valentine’s Day, if there’s something that you want to need: do that thing for yourself. If it’s a love letter, write one to yourself—examining all the ways you are absolutely incredible as a woman, a mom, a co-worker, friend, etc. If it’s a fancy dinner you want, order a steak, sit by the fire, and turn on a romantic movie (or comedy, or WHATEVER YOU DAMN WELL PLEASE). Buy yourself some flowers. Your very favorite, not just red roses because it’s tradition.

And lastly, write another woman in your life a love note today. Remind her how amazing she is and why you celebrate her today.

Valentine’s Day is for everyone to enjoy and celebrate love. Especially you.

New Year Resolution Check In

We’re just over 3 weeks into 2021. How’s it going for you? Did you make any resolutions or set any goals that are still kicking? I sure hope so! The odds are in your favor if you can make it even 30 days.

A few weeks ago, I shared my plan for goal setting this year. It was a new take on resolutions for 2021, and I broke my milestone goals into mini goals each month.

Overall, I’m really proud of how I’ve done so far this month. I have only missed one or two days of prayers for Josh, and even though my workouts haven’t been anything to write home about (literally, a quick 3 sets of 3 exercises before putting someone to bed at night), I’m mostly sticking to the goals.

My biggest accomplishment so far this month has been all the progress I’m making on book #2. I wanted to get my launch team restarted this month and I did that Saturday. I want to finish my draft by the end of the month, and it’s all typed up with a few gaps to fill in before the editing begins.

I’ll say this—the mini goal chunks are amazing for me. And there are so many components to a goal that if I don’t get all of them, it’s okay! They are all progress to the bigger dreams.

And P.S. My dry January is still going strong. This has been an insanely hard month, and we got a puppy last week that has turned my world upside-down in a way I wasn’t prepared for at all. And with the scary, the exciting, and the stressful moments this month, I’ve done it all with water, lemonade, and some soda. I’m so proud of myself to know this can be done even if there’s no baby in the belly. But that said, I’m so excited for February 1st to sit down with The Bachelor and celebrate my kids’ 1st day back to in-person school (for as long as it lasts).

Activity: A Daily Valentine Love Note

Original heart project from 3 years ago still going strong
(PS – the black cross outs are from times her pre-teen angst came out and she wrote things like “LIAR” or “NOT TRUE” on them! And then she felt bad and crossed them out)

Over the last 5 years, I’ve grown more and more into a words of affirmation love language gal, and it’s pretty typical that the love we want to receive is the love we tend to give as well. I love writing little notes in my kids lunches and post-its on my husband’s bathroom mirror. And this little craft is the pinnacle.

A few years ago, I decided I wanted to make the kids (and my new husband) feel really special for Valentine’s Day. But not on Valentine’s Day. I wanted them to feel special the whole month leading up to the day. Think of it as my take on the 12 Days of Christmas (although that technically starts on Christmas and runs until January 6th). Each morning I put one heart on their door frame inside their room so it was one of the first things they saw in the morning. By the 3rd day, they couldn’t wait to see what I was going to write because now they knew it was coming!

This is such a simple project, but it does involve a lot of thought if you want to do it well, so I suggest mulling over each “I love you because” fact for a few days to get you to 14. I might also suggest that if you do have another parent in the home, they could take 7 and you take 7! My husband isn’t the best at expressing himself to the kids, so having these daily visual reminders means a lot to them!


  1. Scissors
  2. Sharpie or other fine point marker
  3. Construction paper (I like red, purple, and pink for variety)
  4. A list of all the things you love about someone

My hearts are a mix of serious, funny, and personal thoughts—same with my husband’s. The intention behind it (particularly for my kids) is for them to know that Valentine’s Day is an expression of love, and it has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not someone in your class likes you or has given you flowers or chocolate. My oldest is about to hit middle school, and next year, things like Candygrams and other cute deliveries will become a reality to her. I want her to always know that her worth isn’t determined by things like that, and Valentine’s Day is an excuse to tell everyone you love how you feel about them—mom, brother, grandma, best friend. You name it! There’s a reason we did Valentine’s for our entire class as children. Sharing the love and kindness to many is what the day is about. And while it’s nice to get some flowers or chocolates, it’s more important to feel loved. And that is the point of 2 weeks worth of affirmations that they keep up in their rooms for months.

These hearts have seen better days, but I love that they are still hanging 3 years later.

Sustainable Goal Setting for the New Year

It’s a week into 2021! I know some people talked about canceling their free trial and giving up on the year already, but what a waste that would be! We’ve got an entire year ahead of us to dream and drive things forward.

In some years in the past, I’ve set resolutions. In others, I’ve set a word for the year. This year, I’m blending the two. I’ve been fairly consistent for almost a year now doing Rachel Hollis’s Start Today journal, and that led to how I set my goals for the year in a way that feels attainable and I wanted to share my process with you this month so you could hopefully give it a try too!

Step One: Identify your long term goals

With the Start Today journal, I write down the same 10 dreams every single day. 10 things I want to see happen within the next ten years. These aren’t things that will happen tomorrow (eg. Own a vacation house we don’t rent) and some of them are things I will always work on (eg. Spend time in the bible daily). In the journal, you are supposed to end each entry with some short term goal you want to accomplish that gets you one step closer to your dreams.

So if you happen to already keep a Start Today journal or have some similar manifestation in place, then you’re ready for step 2. If not, take some time to think about what matters to you and how you want your life to look 10 years from now.

Step Two: Choose 2-3 goals to advance this year

Now, two of my 10 year goals are to work out every day and spend time in the bible daily. Those are not specifically a part of my goal setting this year, but they are things I aspire to and continue to work on. By no means do I work out every day yet, but I do try to be consistent.

For me, I actually thought about some of the things I wanted to accomplish this year, and I worked from there. Which of my dreams did they align to?

I know I want to publish my second book this quarter, and “I wrote a second book” is one of my 10 year goals, so that was an easy one to ladder back to. (And it also means that I need to decide if I want to change that dream to “third” book, or if I want to replace it with something new entirely.)

For my other two, I had one work and one personal., which I’ll elaborate on in a moment.

Step Three: Identify short term goals for the next six months

My personal goal was to work on my marriage. I have a 10 year dream that says “I have an exceptional marriage” (taken straight from the example page in Rachel’s book, because who doesn’t want an exceptional marriage??). But of course, I can’t just decide I’m going to do that, right? That doesn’t magically happen. It happens daily, in the little moments, coupled with the big ones. I am obsessed with Love Languages and my husband swears he doesn’t have one. He’s wrong, of course. I’m 75% sure his is acts of service (which sucks, because as a mom working at home, I feel like all I do is serve, and I’m freaking tired), but I’m still going to experiment this year.

Like so many of you, quarantine has been hard. We have had the best time together this year, and as an introvert, being home with just him has been amazing. But the stress of having all of the virtual school on my shoulders, the distractions of them at home while I work (he goes to an office), and let’s not forget that the baby’s daycare was closed from March until September. It was a hard year for me, and I didn’t have a ton left to give.

I turned my goals into a powerpoint broken out by month, with a column for each of my “big goals.” Here’s what I did for January:

I know, a lot of those don’t specifically look like they are about my marriage, but one thing I know about myself is that when I feel good about myself, I’m nicer, more thoughtful, and more engaged with my husband, so by caring for myself, my hope is that is what manifests—and that it may inspire him to work out too (hence, working out consistently on the weekends when he’s home!)

I gotta say, I’m most excited about the prayer circles. He doesn’t know I’m doing this (and I don’t think he even knows how to read my blog), but I’ve spent the last week saying specific prayers for him in places like his closet, the shower, his side of the bed, etc. The idea comes from Mark Batterson’s book Draw the Circle if you’re interested! I did it with my church several years ago and loved it.

Step Four: Print out your goals where you can see them

Personally, I’m taking this one month at a time, so I have only January printed off in my closet where I can see it every single day. But I built out six months to start. Particularly with my work goals, they really require some specific things to happen each month, so it was easier for me to write them out for six months. Six months gives me an easy way to evaluate how it’s going in June, and I think by then, we’ll also know a lot more about how the rest of the year will play out as it relates to COVID. If I will be working from home all year, my goals may shift versus if I have to go back to the office starting in June.

Step Five: Follow your goals and re-evaluate in 3 or 6 months

It’s as simple and as difficult as that. You have to actively work on yourself every day. What I like about having so many mini goals is that I think I’m going to be less likely to “fail” with this plan. I may not check off everything on my list, but I bet I achieve a few of them. And every thing I put on my list takes me one step closer to my ten year dreams.

Shoot me an email or DM on Instagram and let me know how it’s going! Wishing you all the success in the world!

Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat

With the holidays here, the giving spirit permeates the air. It’s the time to shower family and friends with gifts. But how often are you expanding that giving outside those you know?

I feel like I’m in a constant state of busy-ness, and I have been good at seeking out organizations to support if they don’t fall in my lap. I think that’s been one of the best things about social media over the last few years. I love seeing birthday fundraisers on Facebook or #GivingTuesday posts on Instagram, and I’ve found countless ways to give through people in my neighborhood supporting organizations.

Since you’re probably really busy too and may not have found a way to make giving back a priority, I thought I’d share a few ideas from places where I donate and things that you probably have in your towns too.


  1. Food banks: There are so many ways to donate food. You likely have a big food banks and some smaller ones in your county or in local churches.
  2. Adopt A Family: I don’t think Angel Trees are a thing this year, but just the ones I’ve been a part of recently are through my son’s daycare, a woman on my neighborhood Facebook page adopted TEN families and has been asking for donations, and it can be gently used items like clothing and toys, so it’s a great way to clear out things at home too. Especially the baby stuff that either went unused or barely touched!
  3. Church: My church does a Christmas missions project, and this year, they’ve decided to give the money locally. There are several organizations they’re working with, and we can either donate to the general fund or a mission close to our hearts.
  4. Teachers: This year, I upped my teacher count and added people like the reading specialists who are working with my kids virtually and doing an incredible job. And I gave to those who may be sucking through this too. It’s HARD. I’m choosing to give grace even if we’ve got one dud who doesn’t seem to give it back. My kids’ teachers have also set up a Teachers Pay Teachers fund to help pay for virtual resources that are worth every penny to make their experience better!


  1. Compassion International: I discovered this organization about 5 years ago while attending a Christian concert. You “adopt” a child and each month $36 is pulled from my account. It’s a great way to donate a little bit throughout the year, and I love the set it and forget it aspect of it. We have 2 children right now, and I guess I need to add one more because the intent was that we adopted one for each of ours. We get sent regular letters and photos, and if I were a better sponsor, we’d send letters back more often! But it’s a great organization and has excellent ratings.
  2. Comfort Zone Camp: Based in Richmond, VA, CZC offers overnight grief camp for kids ages 7-17 in multiple locations around the country. My oldest daughter has been twice, and it’s such a powerful weekend for these kids. The “Big Buddy” that they pair with each child is a big deal and they work so hard to make it a great match. We have stayed in very close contact with our second one and she’s come to visit for Peyton’s birthday, treating her to a special night out last year and then a special necklace and treats that she dropped off this year. This is a FREE OVERNIGHT CAMP for kids who have lost a parent or sibling, and that’s all done because of generous donations.
  3. Heifer International: Admittedly, this is the first year I’ve donated to this one. I got on a mailing list somehow and received their mini catalog a few weeks ago. I’ve heard of this type of program in the past—your money goes toward buying livestock which supports families for the longterm so they can get milk, sell cheese, etc. It’s the whole idea of teaching a man to fish, which I love. They make it fun to donate to this one too by offering various packages with price points ranging from $50 for a “share of an animal” to $5000 for “Noah’s Ark.” My family has a running joke about goats, so we purchased a goat for each child this year at $120 each!

And when in doubt:

  1. Your school: I have always donated to my college, our athletic foundation, and our alumni association. A little bit to each group.
  2. Organizations with meaning: cancer, homelessness, education, domestic violence, etc. I recommend checking out Charity Navigator if you want to make sure your money is being used well! I’m partial to charities that help kids so that we can make impact early and often.

At the end of the day, it’s our job to give back, to tithe, and to recognize how blessed we are. Having a lot of money doesn’t mean you’re blessed just the same as not having enough money makes you less blessed. Give where you can, however you can.

Merry Christmas to you and your family, and may this be a special and memorable holiday for each of you. This will be my last post of the year as I unwind with my family for two weeks without school or work. I look forward to taking on 2021 and seeing all the amazing things bound to come our way.

xo, Ashley

An Interview with my 10 year old

Last month, I wrote about my interview with my seven-year-old son, Ryan. My family spent the first two weeks of November at a beach house while I worked remotely and they continued virtual school. It was a perfect change of scenery for us and the weather was unseasonably warm. When I told the kids I wanted to interview them for my blog, they were super excited.

The first post was actually supposed to be this one—my daughter’s interview, but when I started asking her questions, she couldn’t answer any of them with conviction. Contrast that with my 7 year old who was excited to hop up on the barstool and talk to me endlessly about anything I asked. It was my first glimpse of how aware of others that my daughter was already becoming. At just 10 years old, in the fifth grade, she was nervous to give me a straight answer. Everything I asked her that forced her to look introspectively was “too hard” for her to answer. It was a short interview, but beyond the words, I still learned so much from her.

Some things were easy for her to answer. Like, her favorite things about me and her dad, Josh (when I rub her back and belly at bedtime and when he plays Roblox with her). And her least favorite—my cooking (gee, thanks) and when he yells.

And being able to tell me what actually makes someone a good parent? When you care about your kids and don’t send them to the orphanage. They feed you and give you clothes and a bed. They teach you responsibility and bake and put you to bed at night.

I pressed her a bit more on why she’s so hard on Josh, so unforgiving after he punishes them (vs. me, who gets forgiven quickly). I discussed this a bit in last week’s blog, but there are definitely some leftover scars from Jeff that I’m beginning to see. She told me that dads are supposed to be fun, and Josh used to be fun so I called him dad. Now he’s not so fun, so I call him Josh. All she really remembers of my ex are the happy stories I tell her. I’ve never wanted her to think badly of Jeff or have sad memories from him, so we’ve always focused on the great things about him and how much he played with her, how much she laughed with him. But she was three. It’s a little different than dealing with a growing, hormonal ten year old. And it’s heartbreaking that she ties fun as what makes Josh worthy of the title dad. I think it’s also hard for her to fully let Josh in without feeling like she’s betraying Jeff in some way.

She’s grown up learning about alcoholism in age appropriate ways too, so I asked her about drinking. These were also easy for her to answer:

What would you tell someone about drinking? If you drink too much, you get drunk and go coocoo. 

What would you do if a friend offered you alcohol? I’d take it and say “Thanks” and then smash it on the floor. (A bit of a flair for the dramatic, that one.)

She’s so funny living in this hybrid world where she can be totally concrete and innocent in her logic, and then other times, she tip toes her way into teenage land and knows way more than I’m prepared to handle! That’s been the biggest perk for me this year—she’s maintained her innocence way longer than she would have had she been interacting with other kids at school.

She’s boy crazy and always has been, since pre-school. It makes me super nervous and leaves me hoping and praying that we are equipping her with all the tools to make the best decisions she can.

What makes a good boyfriend? They care about you, spend time with you, and they don’t cheat on you. Cheating is dating another girl secretly. 

Do you want to get married one day? Yes. I want kids. Well I do, but BLECK—the penis in your V. (and she makes a face) Yes, that’s a direct quote.

Do you want to kiss a boy? YES. (A very enthusiastic yes) I’ve never had my first kiss.

What are you most nervous about for middle school? Cotillion. And I’m excited for it. (Cotillion is a southern tradition where sixth graders get all dressed up once a month and go to some fancy place and learn manners and dancing. I remember hating it, but good for her for being excited about it.)

Why are you excited about it too? You get your first kiss. You just hold hands, meet, and then you just do it. It’s weird, I know. (I don’t know where she got this information, but I corrected her immediately.)

And if I had any doubt that she was becoming aware of her body too, then her next answer about why she’s so obsessed with certain clothes erased all that:

I like crop top hoodies because they show your belly. I want to look cute… and look stylish. I want ripped jeans too. They’re cool.

Oooof that one stung. I hate that she’s already aware that girls “show their body” to look cute, and worse, that she’s interested in doing it! She’s so clearly stuck between two worlds right now—one of childlike innocence, where she plays all day with her little brother and is the biggest Santa and Elf believer there is, and one of growing up and falling for the pressures of society, where she worries about the hair on her arms and which boys think she’s cute or who thinks she has a small head.

She’s got so much ahead of her to discover. So much to break her heart and so much joy to uncover. With the insanity of 2020, I am doing all I can to equip her with the skills she needs to face these adversities without letting it break her.

I’m honestly not sure which will be worse—when she discovers that her elf doesn’t actually fly and report back to Santa or when a boy breaks her heart for the first time.

As always you can follow along our family journey on Instagram @theothersideofmotherhood

Example #1 of sweet innocence: She’s crying actual tears that her Elf was so thoughtful and brought her a Santa gift early.

Checking in on our blended family

A lot of times people forget that we’re a blended family. We don’t have custody issues to contend with. I don’t have an angry or vindictive ex. And my husband’s family loves on my older two kids with reckless abandon.

I was officially divorced from my first husband over five years ago. He was an alcoholic, which was the reason for our divorce. He had no custody rights and only supervised visitations—which he hadn’t used in months. My youngest turned two during this period of absence and my oldest was about to start kindergarten. She was heartbroken over her absent father, and thankfully my youngest knew no better.

Two months after our divorce, he died. His girlfriend came home and found him passed out on the floor, and she had to be the one to call 9-1-1 and his family she’d never met.

It was an odd time of peace in my life. I spent hours crying and praying before he died wondering what my future would look like with him, and with the finality of death, there was no more wondering. The kids would grow up with a parent who died, not a parent who abandoned them. I knew that if I was to date and marry someone again, it would be now while they were young. I didn’t want to put them through the added strain of a new man once they were older with more complicated feelings.

So when I met Josh four months later and we became serious, I knew that it was either going to be him, or it was going to be no one for a long time. My kids adored him. They begged me to marry him and make him their dad. It was actually quite embarrassing. I naively thought that we would seamlessly transition into this picture perfect family where they called him dad and everyone lived happily ever after.

Our wedding day 3 years ago

You’d think I would know better by now to think of life as a happily ever after. Life is full of the most incredible highs and our days are filled with so much joy, but nothing is ever happy forever, all the time.

So where are we today, three years later? Generally great. Josh never misses their sports, and he’s a den leader for Ryan’s scouts. He’s home for dinner every night, and we take turns putting the kids to bed.

But the kids still don’t call him dad—something that always surprises me. Especially Ryan, who has had Josh in his life since he was only 2 and a half. But when they are around their friends or other adults, they always refer to him as dad. I’m sure there’s something there for a therapist to uncover. Trying to keep up the idea of ‘normal’ already?

For us, the kids idealize their time with Josh before he was dad. When he wasn’t responsible for discipline and they were small enough for be tossed in the air and thrown on the couch. They long for those fun times, and it’s hard for them to understand why things shifted as they got older (not because we got married).

Josh and I are generally aligned with discipline which has been helpful, but perhaps the hardest thing for our family is how quickly they will turn on Josh and how much longer they take to forgive him when he yells or disciplines.

My kids have always valued our snuggle time together, our hugs, and our bedtime routines, and that’s what Josh just hasn’t quite mastered. He’s not great at speaking in someone’s love language that’s not his own—which for my daughter is a combination of words of affirmation and touch. She’s particularly drawn to touch—hugs, having her back rubbed, sitting side-by-side—and as she gets older and hormones are starting to come into play, we’re watching her self-confidence fade and seeing the need for affirmation be front and center in how we talk to her. For my son, he values quality time the most—and he gets a decent amount of that from Josh thanks to Cub Scouts and a new love of fishing.

A few months ago, when we set our goals for the start of the school year, one of Josh’s goals was to dedicate 2 hours each week to each kid, doing something of their choice. He was good at sticking to it for a few weeks (playing video games, watching Liv & Maddie, etc), but I could tell he was getting dejected when it wasn’t quickly resulting in a more positive response from them. They loved that one-on-one time, but it was novel and hadn’t reached the levels like I’ve earned with them over the years. I can get away with the yelling or the impatience because they are rooted in my love for them. They feel safe and know it’s not going anywhere, even when I’m mad. We’re realizing now that Josh hasn’t earned that with them yet.

He has to keep scratching his way under their skin and into their hearts until they know he’s not leaving them. Again, something about which I’m sure a therapist would have lots to say! But until that day, I’ll say this—everyone shows up. We’ve got each other’s backs, and we all love each other. I can’t ask for more than that.

You can always follow along with our family over on Instagram. I’d love to have you here for the ride.

How I’m prepping to prevent the holiday weight gain

You guys. 2020’s COVID-19 weight gain has been no joke.

I know it’s not just me, but I’m really aware of it now and have hit that motivated zone where I’m ready to make a change. That’s partly because I hated every adorable picture I took with my family on Thanksgiving and partly because Christmas is all about getting cozy indoors with red wine and sugar cookies. I can’t survive a month of that PLUS another quarantine.

Just last week, I was praising myself when I got on the scale and it was only 6 pounds higher than it was in March. But something was way off when I stared at my stomach in the mirror. Normally pretty flat and strong, I could see it was much softer than it had been even 9 months ago when I was still working off baby weight.

You see for me, I lost all regularity of working with a trainer twice a week when COVID hit. It was one of the greatest perks my company offered, and when we could no longer go into the office, that meant no more on site gym or trainers. Trainers keep me accountable. I never bail on my sessions with them unless it’s an emergency, so even if all I got in was two 30 minute sessions with them each week, I GOT IN TWO THIRTY MINUTE SESSIONS WITH THEM EACH WEEK.

It’s taken me months to realize how important that consistency was. Not only the consistency of workouts, but the strength training. That’s where I’m getting soft. I can still knock out a 15 minute HIIT workout or go for an hour walk several times a week, but I’m not lifting the way I did before—and it shows.

So what am I going to do about? Well first, I’ve not-so-subtly encouraged my husband to get his lazy butt in gear too. He has had an unbearably stressful year at work, and it’s shown. He hasn’t made time for himself to work out in months, and his late nights and early mornings have taken a toll on his diet. Just as I try to give myself grace for the insanity of 2020, I’m trying to give him that too.

But the excuses can’t keep on like this. Especially as we’re entering a slower holiday season than normal. We don’t have endless parties to attend, work is slow, and sports are done. We have no excuse other than wanting to stay in bed longer in the morning or watching one more game show on tv while we have another beer. All bad habits I’d really like to break.

So starting today, here’s our plan of attack for the month. I can’t control how much my husband will stick to it with me, but I know the more successful he is, the more successful I will be!

  1. Back to Macro tracking. My premium membership to MyFitnessPal has lapsed, but I think I can do without it now. My protein number is 130 grams per day (omg, so much!), so if I use the percentage goals, then I can figure out my carbs and fats from there. The reason macros (aka. macro nutrients) are so important for me is that I used them (plus intermittent fasting) to lose the weight from baby #3, and the pounds literally fell off. I was back to my pre-pregnancy weight in less than five months. It was unreal. And other than the discipline in tracking, it wasn’t hard and I felt satisfied.
  2. Workouts in the morning. Admittedly, this is the biggest point of contention with my husband. I’m an early bird and he is not. But if he doesn’t wake up, I don’t have a good place to go and work out since our gym equipment is in our bedroom. The other challenge we have is that our youngest, who is only a year and a half, still isn’t consistent with his wake up time. Sometimes it’s 5am and other times it’s 7. We’re going to try out a 5:30am wake up and try to get in 30 minutes, and we’ll see how that goes.
  3. No more “covid drinking” You know what I mean. So many people, us included, have fallen into this weird drinking pattern where every night feels like a weekend, or we’re so stressed after the long day being at home that when the kids finally go to sleep, I’m dying for a glass of wine or a beer. But kind of like how everyone baked cookies and sourdough bread back in March and April, our waistlines knew that wasn’t sustainable. Now we really need to reel it in and stop this nightly habit. One or two drinks may not seem like a big deal, but I was reminded in a health seminar a few months ago about the boiling frog phenomenon. If someone drops a frog into boiling water, it immediately feels the change in temperature and jumps out. But if the frog is playing in a pot of water and you slowly turn up the temperature, it never realizes it’s in danger and the frog slowly gets cooked to death. I’d rather not slowly boil to death.
  4. No eating after 7pm. I may not completely commit to doing intermittent fasting again this month, but I am committed to not eating after the kids go to bed. It’s just a lazy time where calories just don’t get counted, and I know it has a big impact! Instead, I’ll stock up on Crystal Light pink lemonade because I find that it helps me hit my water goals for the day, and it’s so sweet—which I find incredibly satisfying as a food or booze substitute.

Getting back on track doesn’t magically happen. It takes the right timing and motivation. But if you have an accountability buddy who can do it with you, your likelihood of success increases like crazy.

Here’s to a healthy and motivated holiday season. Come help keep me accountable this month, and I’ll do the same!