page contents

Sunday, July 31, 2016

#momlife conversation. part four.

I'm often thankful I went for my Masters right away, pre-hubby, pre-kids. I'm not sure it would've happened otherwise. So when my friend Becky announced she was going to school to become a teacher, I was happy for her, albeit a little nervous. College isn't easy, especially when you add the role of dedicated mother and wife to your plate. But she did it. And she has a great story to tell!

Here's Becky:

Bio: I currently live in Earling with my husband Jeff of 16 years and two boys; Dalton 14 and Clay 11.  I experienced life outside Shelby County while growing up in multiple states.  Earling is by far my favorite place to live!  This will be my second year of teaching kindergarten at Boyer Valley Elementary School.   

Favorite family tradition: We really try to sit down and have meals as an entire family as many times a week as we can.  I love talking with the boys and Jeff about their day.  We love to drive around the countryside together, whether it’s in an ATV or our vehicle together.  We have some pretty fun conversations while doing so. 

Funniest kid story of late:  My boys have the best personalities!  They are completely opposite, but each funny in their own way.  Dalton always has something goofy to say or do and I love laughing with him.  Clay has a belly laugh that has been contagious from a very young age, and he is usually laughing at his brother.  

Most surprising lesson you’ve learned about being a mother: PATIENCE!  I have a type A personality; which really seems to hinder the fun times if I don’t put myself in check once in a while.  Having boys means messy rooms, smelly socks (or smelly anything to do with clothing), a lack for the details, and constant boy life habits.  Did I mention I have a type A personality?! I have learned that the mess can truly wait (to an extent!)  I cannot expect them to want things done the same way as I do.  Patience was not something that came easily to me.  I have learned to really take a deep breath and just simply let some things go!  I knew I would love my children, but I never imagined how much love you truly have for them as their mother.  I am blessed to be a mother and thank God for that daily! 

Opinion on work/life balance:  Last year was my first year away from my boys working full time. I was a full time college student for 4 ½ years and managed to make it to most of the boys’ activities while doing so.  I was a stay at home mom before that and made it to everything!  This year was really hard on me for the balance factor.  Jeff was amazing at picking up my slack this last year.  This is where and when I had to let some things go.  Family has always come first, but now, I had to make it a priority when my time was limited.  I am still a work in progress on the whole balance of both!

Comment: Having a supportive husband goes a long way on the work/life balance issue. And "work in progress" is a great way to describe every woman's attempt at balance!

Guilty pleasure:  I love to simply eat a bowl of cereal for supper.  Who am I kidding; it’s never just one bowl! And, it’s not healthy cereal.    

Last book you read that you couldn’t quit thinking about: I just finished to book “Me Before You.” I loved the book, but still thinking about the ending.  I can’t wait to read the sequel.  

Best family tradition:  We tell our children good-night EVERY night, whether we are home or we call and tell them good-night and that we love them.  I want them to have the last thing they hear from me every day is that I love them.

Favorite or most-used app:  It has everything from clothes, to household items.  I love to look through it and find items for a reasonable price. 

Who’s your celebrity obsession?  I cannot say I really have a celebrity obsession, but I love movies with Reece Witherspoon.  I can spend a Sunday afternoon watching Legally Blonde and Sweet Home Alabama.

 What advice would you give to new parents:  Sleep when you can!  Also, time goes so quickly, so enjoy your children while they are with you.  You may want time to go faster, but really, it goes too fast on its own. Take time for each other. Try to make time to go on a date when you can. Your children are important, but your relationship is important also. When they are gone, it’s only the two of you! Breathe! NO ONE is a perfect parent!  We have all been there and understand if your child is throwing a screaming fit in the middle of the homily at church! 

How do you recharge?  Running! I love to run and it really does recharge me.  It is “me time.” 

Anything else you’d like to add about being a working mother:  We all make mistakes and lose our patience, but it’s important to show your children unconditional love.

Thanks Becky for sharing. Love your comments on learning patience. I'm sure there's a pack of mothers out there who completely relate!

Becky and her Boys!

Thursday, July 28, 2016


There's rarely a day I don't have at least one fleeting thought about vacation. Where to next? Should we go there again? Kids or no kids? These questions have been frequenting my mind more so than usual lately. Maybe it's because...I just got back!

The fam dashed off to Kansas City where we 1) witnessed an MLS soccer game for the first time in 150 degree weather, 2) cheered on the unlucky world champions known as the Royals, and 3) took a sprint through the Plaza that could hardly qualify as shopping. While the trip was short, it was meticulously calculated to ensure a little something for everyone. For the most part, we achieved that goal. And I found myself contemplating how to ensure a successful family vaca. Here are some thoughts:
  • Mediators (aka moms) are a necessity and must have the skill set to offer quick and multiple options for recreation. E.g, bar with cold beer, theater with funny movie, the modern jazz museum. (Always throw in that one thing you know your family will reject. It will make other options seem grand.)
  • Kids have vastly different room standards than parents. Apparently in the eyes of the youth, all hotel rooms are penthouses, no matter how much hair decorates the bathroom.
  • Shopping, even in its most basic form, can be achieved as long as the following statement is issued with conviction: "Ooh. I need to stop in Sephora. I'm out of ________." Fill in the blank with any phantom product. (zitsbegone. makemesmellgood. mickjaggerlipbalm.)
  • You can never have enough phone chargers.
  • Sleeping in the closest of quarters is one of the greatest tests of a family's love for each other. And love doesn't reflect itself as you stake your place on a bed made for 1.5 people.
  • Workout clothing are appropriate for any event. THIS IS THE BEST FOR SURE! As a GenXer, I still require my kids to bring one set of nice clothes. For Cole, this means a shirt that isn't from a sports camp.
  • You will never, ever pack everything you need. But pack your necessities first: migraine medicine and Breathe-Rights.
  • Immediately locate the Best Buy when you need to purchase a new phone charger. Pokemon Go alarming amount of juice.
  • Someone is going to get cranky. In the words of Elsa, let it go. Let it go quickly and don't forget that oh-so-important bar option.
  • Make sure everyone has the Snapfish app, so you can all download the pictures each of you took on your separate phones. (Wow! A real tip.)
  • Vacation is the best time to allow nostalgia to set in. Listening to your kids retell memories of past trips gives you just a wisp of comfort in that perhaps you aren't such a bad parent.
I do love vacations. But I must confess. One of my favorite parts of traveling is coming home. I love the security of our comfy abode, and the fact I will undoubtedly sleep comfortably in our king-sized bed. I love picking up the dog from boarding to discover he does have the ability smell good. I love coming home and realizing how much I love coming home.
Siblings on vaca now.
Siblings on vaca then.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

#momlife conversation. part three.

Every family has those "go-to" friends, which are really an extension of your own family. When Doug and I were first married, we began to chum around with Amy and Pat Hoffmann. We've had memorable vacations together, only fearing for our lives one time. We've frequented the best and worst bars together, if there is such a thing as a worst bar. We've revived disco at each others' houses a few times. And we've laughed. A lot, we have laughed.

Amy is one of my best friends. She's like the person who can send me a one-word text which will crack me up. Her sense of humor and energy are really a feat when you consider well...five kids.

Here's Amy:

BioMarried to Pat for 19 years. Currently work as an RN at Little Flower Haven. We live in Earling with our 5 children, Lexi 18, Dave and Will 16, Mike 8 and Charlie 6.

Favorite family tradition: Going to the zoo with my husband and kids for Mother's day. I love going to the zoo and Pat isn't a huge fan so I have figured out a way for us all to go as my Mother's day present.

Funniest kid story: I wouldn't even know where to begin. With a houseful of comedians we laugh a lot at our house.  I would say all my kids have a bit of their dad's personality and it's wonderful.  They are very witty.

Since Amy couldn't commit to a story, I'll pitch in with one of my favorite Hoffmann stories. When Amy found out she was pregnant for a third time, Lexi was 10 and the twins were 8. They sat the kids down to announce the good news. The kids were excited, thinking they were getting a puppy. When they were told Amy was having a baby, the kids burst into tears.

Most surprising thing I've learned about being a mother is how I feel about them growing up.  I have told them all many times I wish I could make them all little again and start over.  My greatest joy in life is being a mom. It's something I always knew I wanted to be.  I would have 10 more kids if I was younger and if I could talk my husband in to it.

Opinion on work life balance: I hate to say it -- I wish I was a stay at home mom.  I usually feel like I spend all my energy at my job and leave little left for my family.  I enjoy what I do and people I work with but just my thoughts on it.

Guilty pleasure: So many...  Time for myself-  OR even better time with a friend getting our nails done and having dinner or shopping. 

Note:  Amy and I often try to "schedule" girls' days. It isn't easy. We're lucky if we get 2-3 of these a year. But they are totally worth it. Even if you have to endure a bleeder during the manicure.

Go-to movie:  Many-- I love watching movies.  My all-time favorites include Pretty Woman, One Fine Day, A lot Like Love, Love Actually, Sleepless in Seattle, You've Got Mail, Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility.  I could go on and on. 

Advice to new parents: Enjoy every minute.  Snuggle lots, rock them to sleep, and relax. It's very easy to get overwhelmed, but everything usually works out. It goes way too fast so savor every moment.

How do I recharge:  Different than how some answered -- Stef will understand.  (See Ann Heithoff spotlight...) Reading, Baking- I love to bake and eat sadly.  My waist does not appreciate this.  Time with family and very rarely but a date night with Pat also helps.  I love to spend a day or afternoon with a friend shopping or seeing a movie.  Sitting on our deck with friends with drinks and great laughs.

Note: Love the parties on the patios that probably rock the entire town of Earling.

The Hoffmann's, awesome people...even in Cyclone gear.

Friday, July 22, 2016


Last weekend, soccer parents from all over Iowa escorted kids to the Iowa Games. We had the joy of cheering on the U14 boys. This also meant monitoring the actions of boys with a penchant for mischief who consider themselves on the brink of manhood.

I'm not sure how many times my particular 14-year-old said, "Got in trouble again." Hotel management, store clerks, other parents, etc. After I confirmed that no one was harmed during any of their escapades, I shrugged my shoulders and thought, oh well.

That wasn't always my attitude. There was a time, in a galaxy far, far away, when I intended to be the parent who would hold my kids to very astute standards. Early bedtimes. No pop. Ice cream only on Sundays. No R-rated movies until they're adults. That mom took a dose of reality pills and held dearly to the advice her own mother told her. "Choose your battles."

As it turns out, rule-breaking isn't the worst thing for your kids. I came across this article in the Wall Street Journal this week: The Joy of Bending Rules, which offers a refreshing perspective for parents who second guess their propensity to give in. Case in point: me. Perhaps the next time I get that call from the principal, maybe I won't break out in a sweat.

My favorite quote from the article is this:

"Rules are good to a point but if you keep them around too long, the child isn't going to learn to set his own limits."

I think there's some profound truth in this. After a weekend of testing the boundaries and navigating into just a bit o' trouble, our boys managed to take the gold. Hmm.
Oh yeah. This mom is totally boasting.

Monday, July 18, 2016

#momlife conversation #2

We all need peeps whom we can share thoughts and challenges with. This is especially important at work, where we all spend so much of our time. I have the pleasure of working with Ann Schwieso, our Head of Retail at the bank. Ann and I have had many-a-discussion on women issues. Maybe someday all of our colorful insights will be published! In the meantime, enjoy Ann's perspective and take on life.

Quick bio (family, current job, where from):Ann Schwieso, wife of Chris; we are both natives of Shelby County (rural Harlan & Defiance).  Mom to three girls (Aubrey 9, Mia 7, Kendall 3).  Community Banker at Shelby County State Bank in Harlan, IA.  Proud Iowa State Cyclone fan and alum. 

Favorite family tradition:  Some of my favorite family memories are when we travel to Ames to cheer on the Cyclones, we like to attend football games, basketball games, and show our girls around campus.  That time spent as just the five of us is special and I hope those are memories that our girls look back on fondly in the years to come. 

We also have a family tradition of celebrating ½ birthdays with sprinkle pancakes for dinner.  Sometimes we go so far as to put a candle in the pancakes and sing.  It is fun celebration to look forward to.

Funniest kid story of late:
I have so many memories of my girls that make me smile as I recall them.  It is so fun to see life through the eyes of girls at 3 different ages. 
Most recently my funny stories involve our 3 year old, Kendall.  She is at the age where she is adorable, witty and funny in one second and on the floor mid-tantrum the next.  It is amusing that my older girls get to see how ridiculous the mood swings can really be.

Most surprising lesson you’ve learned about being a mother:  I continue to be amazed at how different my children can be.  They have the same mother and father, are all the same gender, and are being raised in the same environment, but yet they are so very different.  It reminds me that God is amazing and creates each of us just as we should be.  But it also baffles me as a mother when they are motivated by such different things, and their personalities can be so different.  It keeps us on our toes.
Opinion on work/life Balance:  This is a daily struggle for me.  I have guilt when I am not with my children, but when I am with them for extended periods of time I have a pull toward my career and work.  That comforts me that I am doing the right thing, I don’t think I have the patience to be a stay-at-home mom (god bless those that do).  I love my children, I really do, but patience has never been one of my strengths.   I also enjoy the satisfaction of my contribution to my employer.  In my mind I think working 4 days a week sounds perfect, not attainable in my current role/career, but it sure sounds great.

Guilty pleasure:  Chocolate, bad TV, and me time.  Speaking of me time, I am protective of my lunch hour, it is a dedicated time when I get to decide what takes place.  Some days I spend it folding laundry and unloading the dishwasher, and other days I just sit and do nothing.  I appreciate that I get to make that decision without interruption and without others schedules to consider.  I also realize that in 10-15 years this will sound ridiculous and selfish that I enjoyed an hour to myself, but for now, it is precious.

Last book you read that you couldn’t quit thinking about: I have 2.  Bloom by Kelle Hampton and Carry on Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton.  Both books are written by bloggers that I enjoy following.  And both gave me great insight about life in general as well as perspective on parenting.  Perspective is such an important part of parenting in my opinion, just to know that others have the same thoughts and challenges, and to see how they navigated those things can shed a light on my current happenings.

Who’s your celebrity obsession?  I have had a thing for Matthew McConaughey for many, many years.  It’s okay, my husband is aware of this and somehow isn’t concerned.

What’s your go-to movie?  I love the older Disney movies (Aladdin, Beauty & the Beast, Little Mermaid) I can recite every word and sing the songs and my children only seem to mind slightly.
What advice would you give to new parents?  There will be days when all that you can do is get from one dirty diapers to a feeding and then back again, you will feel alone, and you will feel like you haven’t accomplished anything by the end of the day.  But there are days when you look at this precious being(s) and realize that you did this, you created this person and you get to experience life (all of it, the ups and downs) with this amazing gift.  That is when you will think back to the hectic days and remember that in midst of diapering and cleaning up fluids you DID accomplish something, and your something is incredible.
Anything else you’d like to add about being a working mother:  I am acutely aware that my “daily” routine will change as my kids grow.  What I consider busy now will be nothing compared to the busy that comes with 3 teenagers (pray for me).  And that as quickly as this all changes, that means they are growing up and needing me less.  I know it is coming and I know that realization will be bittersweet. 

Lastly, I think all moms (working in the home or out of the home) need a network.  Other moms, sisters, friends, coworkers, just a group pf people that you can talk to, vent to, and laugh with.  Having that sounding board is truly therapeutic.      

Wise words Ann. You could find Ann's blog at Be prepared for some darn cute pics.

The Clan of Schwieso

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Fear, Faith and Fresh Skunk

Despite the cranky storm signals blasting our phones, the boys and I lingered a bit long at a McDonald’s in Council Bluffs the other night. (No french fry was wasted.) Besides, the weather seemed fine...there. Even after we left, the sky was blue. It had been a fine day and my stomach was full, rolling from the fast food frenzy.

Then, as we edged closer to home, the memory of the storm signals haunted as ominous, black clouds swirled over the sky. I even closed down Facebook to watch the weather.

As we drove deeper into scary, I did a sign of the cross and a hasty, heartfelt prayer. Once we hit Portsmouth, I suggested to my hubby we take cover at Charlene's. Do you even know where Charlene lives? Not exactly, but...Hubby shook his head and communicated his intent to avoid hail bullets on the car.

Doug's pedal floored the metal and we clipped, clipped, clipped as lightening approached us. Raindrops didn't just patter, they pounced the windshield. I felt my heartbeat speed up. I continued my conversation with God, explaining how I didn't really care about hail hitting the stupid car. I just didn’t want us to get swept away in the storm. Please God, I said, just get us home.

I had just begun to consider how impressed I was by my son, who was quietly sitting in the backseat not saying a word. Perhaps he had grown out of his fraidy-cattedness! That’s just about when I heard, “Whoa! It's storming! I've been napping!” Fear took hold–of two of us anyway.

As we turned on to the last leg of our road, I saw two bright lights from Westphalia in the distance. Whenever I see two bright lights together, I'm always overcome by a sense of calm. Because it's my sign. They are the eyes of my guardian angel. We were going to be fine.

So on the last stretch of the trip, as Doug raced full-speed ahead, we hit a bump. (I thought I had seen something on the road.) Then after a few seconds, it was sufficiently clear. We had hit a skunk. The car wreaked. And I had gone from reveling in my faith, thankful for our safety, to shallow disgust. My new car smell had been eradicated in mere seconds. Then I slapped my cheek. Hadn’t I just been telling God how I didn’t care about the car? I only wanted us to be safe! I swear I heard God laughing at me. Then I laughed at myself. Such a human.

Anyway, skunk still wafts a bit in the car. But I can handle the smell. My family is safe.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Blog Premiere of #Momlife Conversations

Today I'm starting something new. With all of the amazing mothers I know, I decided this would be the perfect platform to publish a series of spotlights. The intention is to offer you all some insights to improve your life and, of course, make you laugh.

It's with great pleasure to introduce you to Ann Heithoff, a third grade teacher in Harlan. I got to know Ann after our sons struck up a friendship in middle school. Ann and I have commiserated on many lost, Nike teenage boy sweatshirts. Isn't it wondrous what can bring people together? Anyway, with no further adieu, meet Ann:

I'm really just a small town girl from Westphalia. I met my Carroll county Catholic boy, married him, and became an Air Force wife. We've been together 18 years.  In that time, we have moved 5 times, had 3 kids (Michael 14, Kate 13, Alex 9) and lived on 2 continents.  Then after Chad got orders back to Offutt, HE suggested we move and settle to my hometown, AND he offered to commute to work. 

Now, we live in our forever house. We go with our family to church in the same church where me, my parents, all 4 grandparents & some of my great grandparents were a part of. Our kids will graduate from my high school. And all of our kids are happy, healthy, and have great friends. How lucky can a girl get?

Funniest kid story of late:

Alex (age 9) wore Chad's desert goggles to the baseball game last night. 
Michael (age 14) told me he loves driving a tractor but isn't good at backing it up when it has a trailer. He was very concerned. OMG - who is good at that??
Kate (age 13) wants another dog cause our current dog, Molly, needs a friend. 

Most surprising lesson you’ve learned about being a mother:

Most nights, our teenagers come find us for a before bed hug. That is the best part of the day. Hugs from teenagers - the hugs that they initiate - are the best!!
Also, my 9 year old still loves being sung to and tucked in at night. What a treat!

Opinion on work/life balance:

It's hard balancing the two, but find ways to make it work for you. I am not afraid to admit that I have a cleaning lady for my bathrooms & hard floors. I pay Kate to vacuum. (Is that bad?  It's her way to earn money, right?  It's like her summer job.) 
Make time to hang with each kid - just the two of you. 
Always stop to get ice cream. Life is too short to count the calories in ice cream.   
Shop on-line!!! It saves time. 

Guilty pleasure:

Peanut buster parfait with hot fudge AND caramel 
Chips & guacamole
(Maybe not all in one setting.)

Last book you read that you couldn’t quit thinking about:

Goodbye Def Leppard (I'll Miss those Jeans) - I love that it takes place in Shelby county.  

Disclaimer: The author of this blog did not pay Ann to say that. But I'm feeling lunch is due.

Best family tradition:

Christmas Eve mass with just us 5, then lasagna afterwards. On Christmas Day going to the Goetz and Heithoff Christmas celebrations.

Favorite or most-used app:

Teamsnap - it has all my kids' practice and game schedules.

Who’s your celebrity obsession?

Bon Jovi, of course.

What’s your go-to movie?

What advice would you give to new parents:

Never wake a sleeping baby to feed it!
Get a dog!

How do you recharge?

Hanging with Chad whether it's a date, a 4 wheeler ride or a landscaping project.
Morning workouts on my eliptical.

NOTE: The last response was edited to maintain the PG-13 nature of the blog. Next time you see Ann, ask her how she really recharges.

Anything else you’d like to add about being a working mother?

It's a tough balance. But it's worth it. 
If you screw up a drop-off or pick-up time, your kids will survive. 
It's ok to sometimes to put yourself first and tell your kids no because you want to go do something. They will survive. 
Grab your kids and hug them everyday - even the teenagers that try to escape your grasp. They will survive. 
Find a working mom friend or group of friends to hang out with and laugh. We are all in the same boat. I'm shocked at how many times they screw up too! It makes for a night (or afternoon) full of laughs!

 Great insights Ann. Thanks for your poignant thoughts and, of course, the laughter.

The Heithoff Tribe

Peace out.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

For Parents Wanting to Raise Kids Right

I've devoted much of this blog to thoughts on parenting. This week I was struck by a poignant article from Dr. Alison Gopnik who challenges the current mindset of "parenting." (Should we continue to think of it as a verb?)

Here's my favorite quote from the article, from this weekend's edition of the Wall Street Journal:

"Love doesn’t have goals or benchmarks or blueprints, but it does have a purpose. Love’s purpose is not to shape our beloved’s destiny but to help them shape their own."

Here's a link to the entire article:

Have a great week and love your kids.

Saturday, July 2, 2016


I’m not sure when it began, but something tells me it has to do with Pippi Longstocking. Or Cindy Brady. But for as long as I can remember, I’ve had a penchant for pigtails. Now that my hair has grown out again, I’m asking myself…well? Gonna do it?

The option of pigtailing my daughter’s hair was stunted early in my motherhood. Her tender scalp and vociferous objections made brushing nearly impossible. Anything beyond a gentle finger comb was received with a scolding from a very articulate 3-year-old. Obviously, this was disappointing. I mean, all of those years of practicing on my Crissy doll were basically a waste of time.

Periodically, my now college-age girl, will let me play with her hair–as long as she has no plans of going out or seeing anyone worthwhile, which I don't understand because the pigtails are simply smashing on her. Hardly any difference in the cute factor when comparing her toddler days and now.

I did that hair.
I did that hair.

Yet, the jury is still out how the pigtails projects on a middle-ager. At one time, I know I rocked it:

One of my more photogenic moments.

But what about now?

Once when I was in college, my mother had taken me shopping and I was on a mission to purchase a pair of Keds tennis shoes. As we sorted through style options, Mom excitedly pulled out a pair of red ones. Red ones? I specifically remember telling my mother I was much too old for such ostentatiousness. And I was at the age when you can get away with ostentatious! Twenty-years old? I should’ve been wearing those red tennis shoes with a bikini. Sure, I've always leaned on the conservative side, but I think back to that story (and many others) and realize how early insecurities are formed. And it obviously wasn't coming from my mother who was pushing the red shoes.

Thus, the debate of my pigtailed-self continues. Should I or shouldn’t I? Maybe I should fast-forward forty years when I’m 87. I’ll think back to that day when I was 47, and I’ll say, “Of course you should’ve done the damn pigtails! You were only a kid then!”

Okay. Maybe. At least, around the house for a start.

Pippi, eat your heart out.