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Goodbye Harrowed, Hello Halloween!

Fall got a late start, and sometimes it feels like the weather these days is reflecting the state of my home. Unpredictable, too hot, and, some days, just plain weird. And, like Mother Nature, this mama is playing catch up to bring my family into fall. Translated: we’re in a mad dash to get Halloween costumes together and throw up our motley assortment of decorations!

Let’s talk about Halloween. (Don’t worry, this blog isn’t going to be an historical analysis about the day with religious or pagan descriptions. It also isn’t going to be a tirade against candy. I’ll leave that to the dental blogs.) Love it or hate it, Halloween is approaching, and, bear with me, I believe it offers A LOT for kids and grown-ups alike. I believe it can bring out the best in us. And, if you ignore Halloween, it can make you a bitter, seething adult. 

Halloween, for me, was an opportunity to forget everything: every emotional hang-up, every deadline looming, every thought I have and just focus on fun. The fun of assembling a costume you can’t wait to put on for a party you can’t wait to get to. The fun of thinking about how that character/object speaks and will I want to speak in an accent this Halloween to be fully thematic? The fun of getting candy (I’m partial to Twix), and ripping it open to eat the first one mid-trick-or-treating. The fun of making brain-shaped Jell-O and seeing my friends’ reactions to it. The fun of looking like someone else for a day. 

But I haven’t done any of that in a long time. I’ve focused on my kids and their fun. Between running Listed Treasures and being a mom I sometimes find Halloween to be a chore. Another thing I have to do. It seems I forgot about the brain Jell-O. I stopped celebrating Halloween for me

My neighbors have reclaimed their Halloween fun. They decorate like the ghost of Vincent Price is coming to town, and throw adult get togethers in the cul-de-sac with adult beverages and Halloween-themed snacks. We recap the trick-or-treating and costume making debacles, we tell our kids “No more candy!” while we sneak Reese’s ourselves, and, most importantly, we laugh. We laugh so much. And usually, I do it all in my regular, boring jeans and sweatshirt.

Before kids, I really went all out on my costume. I have a long history of extraordinary costumes, including dressing up as early career Britney Spears. I even performed a lip sync for a gymnastics gym full of kids! I also have a tradition of dressing up like the person that invited me to the party when I do go to a Halloween party.  It’s REALLY fun to see the looks on the hosts face when they see me in character as them! I act the part too!

I haven’t dressed up in a few years. It’s been a big enough task to get my kids into the costumes of their dreams. But this year, I’m reclaiming my right to have fun on Halloween. Don’t happy parents make happy kids? And if that’s not a saying I’m going to start saying it and make it one. 

This year, I’m going to dress up. I can’t tell you what my costume will be because it’ll probably be an eleventh hour effort. But I’m making the commitment! 

Let’s reclaim Halloween and have a real night of fun for ourselves. Come on and dress up, too. Tell me your costume–or send me a pic! Happy Halloween!

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I Want You To Go Back To School (but it’s not what you think)

September has always meant “back to school” for me, and I’m certain it always will. Even when my kids are done with all of their education, I will always feel excited about fall’s promise of getting to start over. 

For kids, ‘back to school’ is, of course, about new teachers, opportunities to grow and change, and making new friends. When I was a kid, I was excited about the first day of school, ironing my clothes to look just right. But, I was also nervous–what if no one wanted to sit with me at lunch? 

To my kids, who have their own hopes and fears about going back to school, I try to fortify them with courage and love. I pray that when I drop them off that, in those classrooms and playgrounds, on story mats and in circle time, someone there loves them, challenges them and sees them for who they really are. And, I hope they make friends they can giggle with.

I want these things for myself, too. I want that same giddy feeling of wondering what will happen in the new year. I want to question what I’m capable of, stretching to be more creative, more athletic, more inquisitive and curious. I, too, want to make new friends I can giggle with. 

And, it looks like I’m going to get all of that. Let me explain:

My kids are finally at the same school and on the same schedule. They get dropped off and picked up at the same place at the same time.  This is a GAME CHANGER for me! Previously, I had been running Listed Treasures from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. each day. I then had to pick up and parent my preschooler while still running Listed Treasures–sometimes from the car! Then, at 3:25,  I then picked up my older daughter from school and really truly tried to be present with both of them, while still (you guessed it!) running my business. Evenings were about homework and after school activities and Listed Treasures and dinner and bath and stories and bed. Following all that, I immediately flopped on the couch and fell asleep before I could even look at my work schedule for the next day. I was cramming a full-time job into a part-time schedule, and I struggled to get everything done.

As I prepare to let go of my youngest and send her off to Kindergarten (with both excitement and melancholy) I look at the day stretching out before me and, like a back-to-schooler, I am both nervous and giddy about what’s possible. I can now devote a full workday to my business. Where I was stretched thin trying to take care of everyone else, I can focus on realizing my dreams. I can see where my potential will take me.

For adults, even those who haven’t set foot in a classroom in decades, the ‘back to school’ mindset can be a catalyst for reinvention. I could choose to focus on my back-to-school fears (What if I miss my kids too much? How much of my identity is tied up in being a mom? What if I get overwhelmed? What if running the business full time is too hard?). Or, I can iron my shirt, get on the bus and see where the year takes me. 

How will this “school year” be different for you? Let me know!

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An august August

Usually the word August in Washington conjures hot, restless days. Maybe swim team is finally over, and there are a few weeks stretching before school and “real life” begin again. Maybe you’re headed for a much-needed vacation, or maybe you’re languishing, wondering what to do with your time. 

But it turns out that ‘august’ has another meaning, and that secondary one describes something or someone impressive or respected. So I gave some thought to who, or what, impresses me. Sometimes I might say I’m impressed with highly organized homes because I desperately want to have one. Or maybe it’s something embarrassingly material, something like a shiny, new car or a luxury leather chair. Those things are impressive. Sort of.

When I really took the time to write about what was impressive to me it was much more substantial than that chair. People I’m impressed by are:

  1. Those who naturally do the right thing, even when it’s not what benefits them the most.
  2. Those who remain patient, sometimes through the most trying experiences!
  3. Those who understand that they can do hard things.

After I had identified the august criteria, I thought about actual people who encompassed that. Immediately, I thought of my team! I’m regularly impressed by them.  It baffles me every day to see them work hard to learn new systems, stay on top of the sales and deliveries, and when I fuss about something, it’s obvious it means something to them to keep improving.  They remind me we are doing difficult things already, and to be patient with our own learning curve.

With the days of summer we have left, why not think about what’s impressive to you? Create your own August list of august traits and let me know what you come up with!

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A Better To-Do List

My daughter’s school participates in a program called The Positivity Project. Every week there is a new theme, and a recent one, “Cheering Others’ Success”, really caught my eye. The messaging was, “when other people succeed, you are happy for them and cheer them on. Making a commitment towards cheering on other people’s success can be a great way to improve our own health, happiness, and relationships.”

When I read that blurb in the school newsletter, I considered how many people had cheered my success, and wondered if I had demonstrated that same behavior. I started to think about all the women who had cheered not only my successes, but applauded the growth that came from struggle, and bolstered me when I felt like I was failing.

There are so many mompreneurs I look up to because they cheered me on even when they needed support themselves.

One of these spectacular women is Laura Jane Cohen. LJ co-founded and runs her business, Belle Jar Designs, but has also decided to run for FCPS school board so she can continue to improve the lives of all of our children. How amazing is that?

Have I shown LJ the support she’s shown me? Have I relished her success as if it was my own? If I haven’t, I’m starting here, right now.

LJ is so successful because she is a great listener– to her customers, coworkers, and to her friends and fellow business owners. She is generous, hard-working and creative. Her business has grown and prospered, and I couldn’t be happier for her!

It’s true: devoting time – and blog space – to extolling LJ does make me feel happy. In my relentless pursuit of being the perfect mom, and the perfect wife and the perfect business owner, acknowledging someone else’s success makes me feel more relaxed and happier. It alleviates stress–I’m not alone. There are others like me! And, their success is my success!

We can so easily get caught up in crossing things off our to-do list that we can forget to congratulate each other. But maybe what we should be doing is adding things to our lists that will actually improve our lives.

I would like each of us right now to add “Congratulate a friend on her success” to your to-do list. That means you’re going to call, text, email, or send a letter to your friend to tell them how happy you are for them. Be sincere. Their happiness IS your happiness.

Here’s mine:

  1. Text Rachel Kraft and tell her how unbelievable she is at her job (‘cause it’s true!)
  2. Call Nicole Dash to support her in her new endeavors
  3. Send Marcia Sheehan an email, congratulating her on a successful Connector Conference.

Whose success will you cheer? Let me know! Katy@ListedTreasures.com!

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Interview a Mom!

Mother’s Day is approaching, and it seems like an obvious time to talk about motherhood. Although, every day of my life is about motherhood. Like most moms I know, every business decision, every social event, every endeavor is tied to being a mother. It’s that integral to our identities. And yet, talking and writing about motherhood is really difficult.

The struggle, as always for me, is about how much time I work vs. how much time I’m with my kids. I feel like I’m shortchanging both, almost all of the time. Another Listed Treasures Mom said we should stop calling it work/life balance, and start calling it what it really is: a juggling act. Keeping everything, and everyone, afloat at all times, coupled with the fear of dropping something, is so exhausting. It’s hard to remember to put everything down, assess what all is in my hands, and give myself credit for even attempting the juggle.

I started to think about how I struggle with motherhood, and how I can feel guilt, pride, joy, and, yes, resentment, all from the same role.

A friend suggested I put together a Mother’s Day fill-in-the-blank, sort of like a MadLib. I found the questions made it easier to think about what being a mom means to me.

Would you please fill it out, too? I would love to hear about your experience as a parent–dads, too! Maybe if we share these answers, it will get less difficult to talk about this big part of our identities. And, we can celebrate each other more! Mother’s Day isn’t just for my kids to make me breakfast and homemade gifts (though that’s really nice). It’s also for me to celebrate the other mothers in my life, my business, my community.

So, print out this blog and take the following questions with you to your next book club or girls-night-out. Ask your friends with kids these questions. And listen to your mom friends. Really listen. I’m listening, too.

Here are the questions and my responses:

1) What did you think motherhood would be like vs. what it really turned out to be?

I saw myself as a football mom with a bunch of rowdy boys on some sort of field every day.  I saw myself as the “hot mess” mom type which actually came true, because that’s been me all along.  That I ended up raising two little girls has been the biggest and best joke the universe ever played on me and I’d never change it for anything.

2) What’s the hardest thing about being a mom? Easiest?

The hardest is having to be the bad guy when I know it’s for their own good.  My girls are super good kids so coming down on them stinks, but it is necessary at times.  Also, being attentive when I’m just plain exhausted. The easiest…..well, I don’t think there is much that’s easy, but when they wrap their little arms around my neck or find heart-shaped things and hand them to me for the hell of it, it makes it feel easy.

3) Complete these sentences:

I’m proudest of myself as a mom when...other parents compliment their behavior or character.

I’m proudest of my kids when they….do hard things, or choose the right thing under pressure when no one is looking.

I want my kids to understand that I am….trying as hard as I can.

I try to make our home safe so that my kids can feel secure to be themselves, ask questions, and seek our help navigating through life.