Strolling down memory lane: Keeping it in check

While I was playing taxi for my son last week, he flicked his wrist to the beat of the song on the radio and I was instantly catapulted to a memory from 15 years ago: An extremely excited toddler in diapers listening to Bob Marley and doing a wrist flick with each exuberant dance move. At the time, seeing him do this brought me so much laughter, I was crying.

To this day, it still brings a reminiscent smile. When my kids ask me what I’m smiling about, I tell them these memories about when they were little.

Most times, when I remember when the kids were younger, it’s usually the positive ones. The smiles, hugs, the cute way they talked. I think what I really miss the most was when they would say, “Ok, mommy! I love you!”

As a parent of teens, when times get tough (which they often do) it’s easy for me to want to escape the current reality and romanticize the past. Back to the “easy” moments of parenting. You know, when things were simpler.

Ahhh yes, when times were easy and simpler.

Or wait, were they? (I hear you snickering parents with young kids; hang with me.)

Even though they may have been younger and smaller, I tend to forget the other details. The diaper bags, childcare, work, young parent stress, sleepless nights, and the infant puke. Don’t even get me started on how everything was sticky – or the public tantrums.

All of that still makes me shudder.

While it’s my tendency to look back on the past and say, “Oh I remember (that time in life)? Things seemed so much easier,” I fail to recognize that it wasn’t always that way. What I’ve come to realize is there are no “easy” times in parenting. There are growing pains when it comes to growing people.

Hindsight is always 20/20 and because I know more now, it only seems easier.

I can just as easily remember the cringeworthy memories. The ones where my patience ran thin, and I yelled too loudly at them. When I felt like I didn’t spend enough time with them in the day because I was too busy doing one thing or another. Those words I regret saying or not saying. The things I wish I would have done with them.

Man, if I could just turn back the hands of time and change it, right?

For me, it’s important to remember the past but I must make the conscious choice not to live there. The memories can oscillate between fond or cringeworthy, but the biggest takeaway is that they are in the past. There’s nothing I can do to change or alter the past.
Simple as that.

It’s a dangerous place for me when I continue to live in the past, positive or cringeworthy, because it prevents me from living in the now. When I’m replaying a scene over and over, wishing I could change the outcome or relive a positive moment, it doesn’t allow me the gift of experiencing the present to its fullest capacity.

When I’m living in the past, I am failing to live in the present moment.

I am reminded of moments when I wished for time to move faster. So that they could walk and tell me what they needed. Or when they could be more self-reliant. Now, I wish for time to stand still. They have lost their baby faces. One is growing into a handsome young man and the other into a beautiful young woman. Both will soon leave the nest to go make their own nests.

Time moves so fast. I often wonder if I am setting my kids up for success in the real world doing adult things. Worrying too much about the future is a whole new can of worms, which is why it is so important for me to stay in today. This moment.

Living in the moment means experiencing the journey of life as it is right now. If I don’t, I’ll miss the gift and beauty of the present. When I look back at the memories with my kids, I realize that if I hadn’t been present in that moment to experience it (positive or cringeworthy), I may have missed that memory altogether.

Even though my kids have full lives today, I choose to be present with them when we’re together. I’ve noticed that my teens have tiny windows of opportunity for when they are ready to connect with me. If I’m not living in the moment, I could miss that chance.

I’m very much aware that I will, at some point in the future, look back and say, “Man, I miss my kids. I hope they call this week.”

Today, I am choosing to live in the moment as best as I can.

After all, living in the past won’t help create memories today to remember for tomorrow.

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My battle with depression has made me a better parent (for my kids)

Editor’s note: This article mentions suicide.

On Christmas Eve 2019 I sat alone on my couch, tree lights twinkling brightly over wrapped presents, and my almost empty fourth glass of wine. I should have been happy, but there I was, staring at the text conversation I was having for the fifth time that month with Crisis Hotline.

I had two choices that night: act on my plan or reach out for help.

Beth Montgomery

I chose reaching out for help.

Both choices seemed hard at the time, but my kids saved me – again.

That may not seem like a hard decision, but in the deepest depths of my experience with depression, suicide seemed like the best idea. I wasn’t thinking straight. I felt like I wasn’t a good enough mom. I felt unworthy. I felt like I didn’t measure up. All those negative feelings repeating over and over in my mind; I just wanted it to stop. I wanted the pain of living to end.

I remember on one specific summer day in 2019, the sun was shining and everything seemed to be going well. I should have been happy but I wasn’t. I was driving and came up over a hill and saw the sign: “Don’t Give Up.” It was one of hundreds of signs in Central

Pennsylvania put up by Chronically Strong, a nonprofit started to raise mental health awareness at a community level and advocate for mental health reform in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. (https://www.chronicallystrong23.com/ FB: https://www.facebook.com/chronicallystrong23)

“Don’t Give Up.” Those simple words carried me through that day, and the signs popping up all over in yards kept me going.

The outside world could have never guessed how much pain I was experiencing internally. Yes, I put on a front that everything was OK. No, I wasn’t honest with those closest to me. I had this preconceived notion that sharing my struggles with others was weakness.

Asking for help was the strongest, most courageous act I have done. As scary and fearful as I was, I knew I had to reach out.

So, I sent my therapist a message and we got back on track with sessions. I also started an intense inner healing journey like none other and slowly, I climbed out of that dark pit of despair with the help of others. I can’t tell you exactly when the turning point was, but it happened.

Things got better.

But wait, how does this make me a better parent for my kids?

My daughter is 14 and my son is 17 and they both have experienced multiple classmates who have committed suicide. Multiple.

In sharing my story in an honest and authentic way, it allows that often hidden door to open. I have struggled with deep, dark depression for many years. They have experienced mom “going away” for a week twice because of it, so they’re aware. Instead of pretending it never happened, I made another choice.

I decided to talk to them about it.

My thought is: If this discussion doesn’t start somewhere, where else will it start? I have worked really hard at keeping an open and honest line of communication with my kids ranging from budgeting to sex. I do this because in the event they feel like they have felt how I did on Christmas Eve 2019, they have someone they can turn to.

I know what signs to look out for. And more importantly, where to turn to get them the help they need if that need arises.

During the pandemic, mental illness has been at an all-time high. A lot of people of all ages have been suffering, some in silence.

If that person is you, know that you are NOT ALONE. KEEP GOING. It WILL and DOES get better. Reach out to someone, reach out to me, reach out to Crisis Hotline (https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/) or text HOME to 741741 to connect with a crisis counselor (https://www.crisistextline.org/).

If you know someone who is suffering, check up on them, often. There are resources out there. Check out the links above for tips on how to help someone you love.

Courage means acting in spite of feeling fear. Picking up the phone and asking for help can feel like picking up a ton of bricks (I get it) but be courageous. Someone on this earth needs you here.

Here’s the hope:

Today, I sit as a member and committee chair of Chronically Strong in hopes of breaking the stigma surrounding mental illness, suicide specifically. On a personal level, I’m able to identify my feelings and reach out for help more quickly, before it gets to the crisis stage. I can pick up the phone and tell someone I trust how I’m feeling and know they will listen because they care. I know I have purpose and meaning.

I’m able to say that I’ve lived in the darkness but have clawed my way to the light.

I can be happy and grateful. Just for today.

I am worthy of life, and so are you.

If no one has told you yet, you are SO loved and deserve to feel that love.

To connect with Beth, she’s on Facebook and Instagram. You can also check out her “Dear Diary” series and send her a message at www.singleparentsproject.com.

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5 ways to revamp your money habits for a better 2021

(BPT) – While the past year has been rough in so many ways, one positive result is that people are focusing more on saving money — creating a silver lining to the cloud that was 2020. A new survey from Coinstar found nearly 3 out of 4 people (74%) say they are likely to set aside an emergency fund in the future due to COVID-19. The survey also revealed that people who had savings said they dipped into it more than twice over the course of the past year, highlighting just how important a savings account or an emergency fund can be.

The survey also found people reexamining what they spend money on, ways to plan for the future and how to be more conscious of their overall financial picture as a result of the events of the last year. Almost half (46%) of those surveyed said they plan to “tighten their belt” by actively spending less.

If you’re one of the many Americans looking to improve their financial situation and emergency-proof your finances, here are some tips to get you started.

1. Establish a post-pandemic budget

While you might not be going out much right now, it’s possible that the future could once again include more fun options like eating out, entertainment and travel. Developing a workable budget now, that includes room for discretionary spending, will make it possible to do those things you look forward to doing in the future, when you feel comfortable.

2. Create an emergency fund

This year made it clear that even people with stable jobs can have their livelihoods upended by unforeseen events. No matter how you earn a living, it’s a good idea to have 3-6 months’ worth of expenses set aside in an account for emergency use only, so you aren’t tempted to dip into it for splurges. Start small by setting up automatic deposits from your paycheck into a special savings account, and save up change that you accumulate daily to add to your emergency fund once a month.

3. Consider selling personal items

In the survey, nearly one-third (31%) were considering selling personal items to help boost their finances. Spending more time at home has made everyone reevaluate clutter in their homes, and to reassess what is really necessary or useful. Decluttering by selling items you no longer want or use is a win-win — you get a tidier home, along with a little extra cash to save or spend. And thanks to the internet, there are many platforms available to post items you want to sell.

4. Look for the right side hustle or investment opportunity

Over half of those surveyed (57%) have considered picking up an extra job or side hustle. And fortunately, today’s gig economy is full of options for taking on extra work. From being a shopper or rideshare driver to creating items for sale or caring for someone’s children or pets, it’s important to choose a side hustle that really works for you. It should be something that fits your current schedule, and earns enough cash to make the extra effort worthwhile. And if cryptocurrency is your thing, consider making small investments and watch how your investment might grow. You could even have fun dabbling in this new area.

5. Be purposeful with collecting spare change

Make a special place where you keep extra change that piles up. Then you can use those coins to pad your emergency fund, or to pay for extras in your post-pandemic life (such as movies, dinners or gas). It’s easy to save up and use your spare coins, which you can convert to cash or to a no-fee eGift card at a Coinstar kiosk.

You can use some or all of these strategies to help support your financial goals moving forward. With a new approach to budgeting, earning and saving, you’ll feel more confident about whatever the future may hold.

How to keep medications safe from kids of all ages

(BPT) – Prescription medications have many benefits, including managing pain, regulating chronic conditions, preventing disease and more. Despite numerous positives, medications can be dangerous to others in your household, especially kids.

As routines have changed and people are spending more time at home, parents may be unintentionally leaving medications out and accessible to children. Babies and toddlers may rattle medicine bottles like a toy. Curious kids may think the contents inside are candy. Child-resistant caps aren’t enough, as many children can open them easily.

Every eight minutes a child goes to an emergency room for medicine poisoning, according to Safe Kids Worldwide, and three out of four ER visits for medicine poisoning are due to kids getting into parents’ or grandparents’ medicine. Unintentional injuries including poisoning are the leading cause of mortality among infants and children in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Research from the American Association of Poison Control Centers shows the vast majority (90%) of poisonings occur at home. That’s why it’s important to look at how you use medications in your household and adopt safer practices that include:

Never leave medications out: When busy multitasking, you may leave your medication out on a counter or toss it in your purse or backpack. Leaving it out even for a minute could be enough time for a child to access and open it. Don’t leave medications where kids can see them or where they can easily be found, such as in drawers, on nightstands or in bags. If the medication is for your child when they are sick, never leave it in their bedroom.

Store medicines out of reach: Choose one storage location for all medication that is out of reach of children. This can be anywhere throughout the home that is high and out of sight. Get in the habit of putting medication back in its safe storage location every time.

Use a locking container: Even though most prescription containers have child-resistant caps, children can find ways to open them. Consider using Safe Rx Locking Pill Bottles to secure medications. The convenient portable containers require a four-digit code aligned from bottom to top to open. When you are done, you simply replace the cap and mix the numbers to lock the bottle securely.

Talk with your children: Be honest with kids about the dangers of taking prescriptions. Adjust your conversation based on your child’s age, stressing that medications are only meant for the person the doctor prescribed them for and can be harmful to anyone else. Tell them to never take a medication without checking with you first and if they find any pills or bottles to bring them to you right away.

Dispose of unneeded medication properly: Check if your community has a drug disposal program for any unneeded medications. Many pharmacies offer take-back programs as well to properly dispose of unused prescriptions. If nothing is available near you, dispose of medications at home by mixing the pills or capsules in a container with an unappealing substance like dirt or cat litter before placing in the trash.

These steps will help significantly reduce the chances your child will access your medication. However, in case of emergency, call poison control immediately. Program the poison control center at 800-222-1222 into your home and cell phones. You may want to add this number on a sticky note or other label in your medicine storage space as well.

Finding love on the path back to me

Ahhh, love. It’s a basic human need. One Google search about single parents will yield abundant dating sites and advice. We are lookin’ for love!

On top of that, February brings images of roses, chocolates, and romantic candle-lit dinners with magical moments with that special someone.

So, you know the topic of love is heavy on your girl’s mind this month.

In the beginning, I knew that re-entering the dating scene after divorce with children would be challenging, but my inner romantic wanted to find love again. I’m not going to sugar-coat it; it’s been a wild ride. It’s enough to make even the toughest people run for the hills.

While there have been some beautiful moments, there have also been some heart-wrenching experiences. I’ll spare you the war stories or the goopy love moments, but they all led me to choose deliberate singlehood.

Yes, deliberate singlehood.

As cliché as this concept is, I knew I had to love myself wholly and completely before I could open my heart in the way I desired. How could I truly love someone without truly loving myself first?

I’d like to say that I had an “aha” moment where I gracefully accepted this deliberate singlehood lifestyle and every step of that journey was full of self-loving moments full of butterflies and rainbows, but it didn’t. It came in the form of a gut-punch break up that came out of nowhere and had no proper closure.

Yeah, it sucked. But out of the suckiest moments comes the biggest victories. Hear me out.

In those bitter moments, I banished dating because I didn’t want to hurt that deeply again. Over time, that bitter commitment shifted to an intentional inner seeking mission. Think: Eat, Pray, Love-esque without the international travel.

As counterintuitive as it sounds, that break-up was the best thing to ever happen to me.

Because of the space I created, the transformative inner healing that followed was beautiful. It allowed me the space to find the root of the suffering I had experienced and really dig deeper to discover more about the ideals I had surrounding love, and not just the romantic kind. It allowed me to come to the realization that I had been trying to find love from an outside source instead of finding it within.

Simply put: it helped me find the path back to me. Accepting those positive and negative qualities that I have within me allowed me refine what love means to self, friends, family, and towards humanity in general.

Does it mean that I’m unshakable and have no insecurities? Absolutely not. Show me one woman who has birthed children and has no insecurities. Go on. I’ll wait.

We all have insecurities and weaknesses but accepting those parts of self is the key. This is an ever-evolving journey, it won’t come overnight and there will be no final destination. And it isn’t a linear or necessarily pretty one either. The pathway to love is one riddled with emotions, fall down’s, beautiful realizations and a whole lot of ice cream. Like, a LOT of ice cream.

So, with that, here’s my takeaways from this experience so far:

1. Self-acceptance is a must. I know I’m not perfect, and that’s ok. Perfection is too great a burden to bear and my imperfections make me who I am: A fun, awkward, loving woman who pours her heart and soul into making the best out of every situation. It also means that I’m continuing to learn to love myself, so I can quit hurting myself.

2. Connection to self (and others) is important. The really cool part of getting connected to myself is that it has deepened the relationships of those around me. Since I know more about me, I’m able to seek out friendships and bonds that are more meaningful. Love isn’t just about romance, it’s all encompassing and extends to all relationships.

3. Weird meditation practices have the biggest impact. Yes, I’m serious. Try this for 30 days and tell me it doesn’t do something inside: place one hand over your heart and one over your stomach. Take a deep breath and exhale, then say, “I love you. I’m listening.” Do this 3 times and then go about your day. For me, this was truly impactful. Even if it made me feel like a weirdo the first few times.

Ok, ok… I know what you’re probably wondering: Has this single parent found someone special? Well, of course! I think I’m pretty darn amazing. All jokes aside, I can confidently say that finding love is as simple as looking in the mirror or calling a friend or having a candle-lit dinner

with that certain special someone.

Speaking of, I’d love to connect with you! Follow along on www.singleparentsproject.com or find me on the socials.

Until next time, be good to yourself. You deserve it.

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Finding pockets of happiness in the chaos: take a minute with me before you break

I realize 2021 just started, but doesn’t it feel kind of like we’re extending a yearlong experience of a toddler who raided the snack drawer, missed their naptime and probably has a stinky diaper? It’s been chaotic, loud, and WHY is everything so sticky?

I may not have toddlers anymore, but life with teens can be just as chaotic. Just in different ways. No matter how hard I try, I can’t ignore it.

I used to hide a lot behind my smile. Life can be really difficult and from my experience, being a parent is nothing short of organizing chaos. Schedules, changes, work… And on top of that, adulting is a lot to juggle.

Queue the “mommy’s happy hour” posts and comments.

For a while, that worked for me. Until it didn’t. It’s no secret that I made a decision to step away from the “wine mom” culture in the middle of this pandemic, so I’ve really had to lean heavily on finding pockets of happiness and peace to keep my sanity in-tact.

Looking back, I had pushed my own needs to the bottom of a never-ending list… until I broke. Because I had a life-changing emotional and physical breakdown in 2014, finding pockets of happiness has become an especially important part of my daily life. Even more so today.

Finding pockets of happiness throughout each day started as a writing prompt I stumbled upon in 2014 when I was rebuilding my life (pretty sure it was from my therapist). This simple nightly prompt has sustained me for close to a decade and has become an unconscious competent act of self-love.

What those pockets are changes from day to day. One day it could be my hammock bed, the next could be the sunrise. Even though it could be all over the map, there is ONE thing that is consistently on my pockets of happiness list… the quiet moments between breathing intentionally.

The best part: It takes less than a minute.

So, take a minute with me. Sit back, get comfortable, and relax those shoulders. Unclench your jaw. Place your hands on your lap or to your side and notice your breath. When you’re ready, take an intentional deep breath in, expanding your stomach until you can’t bring in anymore air. As you exhale, pretend you’re blowing out a candle, bringing your bellybutton inward to your core, exhaling everything.

Allow your breathing to return to normal and say (or think) “Thank you.”

Do this three times. Eyes closed or open, in the office or in private, wherever, whenever. Don’t overthink it and if it doesn’t work, no big deal. This is what has worked for me.

Someone once told me at my lowest point that I could intentionally make my life into a beautiful and happy one. How? One day at a time. Sometimes, one moment at a time.

If, at the end of each day, I say it was a happy and beautiful day, I will look back and say it was a happy and beautiful life.

I can say, without a doubt, that my life is happy and beautiful. Sure, there are ups and downs, even the occasional derailing’s, but one thing is certain… I’m still here, and so are you.

Life isn’t going to go the way we planned, and that’s ok. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” (taken from his April 1960 address at Spelman College)

Keep going, friends. Find those pockets of happiness and enjoy them. Please know, you’re not alone.

I’d love to connect with you on the socials or through www.singleparentsproject.com.

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Beth Montgomery: The (Not So) Scary Truth About Being A Sober Mom; A Continuation

I had my last drink on July 11th, 2020, smack dab in the middle of a global pandemic while most of my peers had an increase in their alcohol consumption. Since it’s “Sober October,” I thought it would be appropriate to follow up with a continuation of that first sober article I wrote in August, which you can read here: http://www.centralpennparent.com/2020/being-sober-in-a-wine-mom-culture/

Since this summer, I have been asked if I was crazy for quitting at such a time. Maybe I am. I mean, it is a terrifying thought for many. Drinking is a way to escape and helps you forget the frustrations of the day – ESPECIALLY during a pandemic! But I doubted my decision waaaaay before that night in July, and since becoming sober, there have been some scary realizations. 

Scary Realization #1: I don’t drink, anymore. 

Sobering Truth: As scary as the thought was to be sober (even if it was just for a month), I knew my drinking needed to be examined. My aspirations and path were too cloudy for my liking, and it didn’t align with how I envisioned myself in the future. Alcohol is a toxin and literally wreaks havoc in the mind and body. A simple Google search will bring up countless articles to sift through. Now that I’m over 100 days in this new lifestyle, it has me FEELING good and appreciating early mornings again. Simply put… I don’t want to drink anymore. 

Scary Realization #2: Taking away the drink left a void. 

Sobering Truth: Life can be overwhelming. When I quit drinking, I noticed there was a huge void to fill, and I couldn’t use my normal outlet for escape. Well, how do I cope now? I’ve picked up the (digital) pen and started writing on my SingleParentsProject.com blog daily. I started exploring new hobbies that involve like-minded people. I’ve even gotten back into TikTok-in’. I’m learning who I am all over again and it’s a beautiful thing. This world is a wonderfully diverse place with countless pockets of joy, it all depends on what I choose to focus on.

Scary Realization #3: FEELINGS.

Sobering Truth: Ohhhh, all the feels on the feeling wheel. When I put away the escape outlet, I put away the mask and numbing powers that came with it as well. I could be laughing and the very next minute I’m crying. Then angry, anxious, or depressed. All within a 5-minute timespan. Here’s the down-low: I covered up many things when I escaped them so I’m bound to experience them in one way or another. The best way to get better is to, well, experience them. Sure, some days are bad, but according to my journal and others who shared their experiences with me, most days are good (or “meh” as I affectionately refer to as a “normal level feeling” day). I know without a shadow of doubt, those “bad” moments will pass. Always. 

Even though I’ve had other realizations, these three have been the most impactful in my over 100 days sober. I’ve always wanted to participate in a “Sober October” and now, I can say that I have. If I’m truthful, it’s not as scary as I thought it would be and I’m actually looking forward to “Dry November.”

My last Sobering Truth thought on this continuation article is life is way too short to spend anymore time under the influence only to miss out on any experience life has to offer. 

If you’re struggling or would like to join me in “Dry November,” reach out! I’m on Facebook, Instagram or shoot me a message at https://singleparentsproject.com/contact. I promise, it’s not that scary.

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Beth Montgomery: Quitting perfection can be quite perfect

I’m done trying to be the perfect mom

Yup, I’m done, I quit. That load is way too heavy for me to carry, and I will never live up to the expectations. My own or someone else’s.

Notice: I’m done trying to be the PERFECT mom. 

She doesn’t exist. Seriously, hear me out.

For way too long, I’ve compared myself to other moms who seemed to have it all together. You know the type; always on time, perfectly crafted cupcakes from scratch, homemade costumes, and always has their home clean while homeschooling their kids with a full-time career. See also: “Pinterest Moms.”

What I thought a “perfect mom” should be like only existed inside my head, in the little snippets I saw on social media, and sometimes in person with other parents. 

If you’re anything like me (especially as a single parent), I worry that I’m not doing a good enough job with my kids or parenting them the right way – whatever that means

In one moment, my day can go from “wow, life is great” to “oh man, my kids are going to need therapy.” 

Or more commonly: “I’m not doing enough for them.”

Ultimately, it’s robbed me of so much happiness, love and peace.

From what I gather, I’m not alone.

While it’s easy to be preoccupied with how much I messed up or how I didn’t do a good enough job, I have to remember that this isn’t a constant reality. We’re human and humans mess up. That’s how we learn.

I have to consistently repeat the top 3 most important values (to me) of being a parent means, and they’re simple.

I’m here to guide them through life, make sure they stay alive, and love them. That’s it.

I’d like to say it’s that simple but I have to keep up with some bad habits – that I’ve learned to stay on top of – with the comparison monster that lives inside my head. These rules include:

  1. Stay off or limit social media consumption. I deleted the apps from my phone, and I can’t even tell you how much this has helped. The more I see snapshots of other parents who seem like they have it all together, the more I compare myself to them. Turns out, life still goes on even without the apps, and I’ve even noticed my mental health getting better.
  2. Stay realistic. Even though some parents can seem pretty transparent, I have to remind myself that there are moments that no one else sees or knows about. Just like me.
  3. Compliment or appreciate them. When I stopped thinking that this parent was better than or more proficient than me and turned the inner dialogue to one of appreciation or complimentary, there was no room for negative comparison to sneak in. Bonus: the positivity always brough in more positivity, so I’ve noticed my life has changed for the better. 

The world needs more love in it. If that means I have to stop trying to be a perfect mom in order to spread more love, then I gladly quit. 

And if you haven’t heard it today, you’re doing an awesome job. Your kids love you, and so do I.

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