Friday, July 6, 2018

I want to remember: July 4th Edition

Fourth of July is one of my absolute favorite holidays- mostly for purely superficial and indulgent reasons (so much delicious food, fun outdoor activities, great music, and themed fanfare!), though I can get into the meaningful side of patriotism as well. (Show me a reunion between a soldier and his kids...I will bawl).

Having little ones makes the holiday even more fun in so many ways, but also even more of a hassle in so many ways (on Fourth of July, as in life). I've come to terms that these little-kid years might not be prime for firework watching (I'm pretty sure we haven't gone since Piper was born...) but I'm learning to appreciate the special little joys that come with this season as well.


These days, I don't really blog the way I used to...meaning, I don't blog very often, but also, relatedly, I don't blog they same way I used to. I try to carve out time for big posts that are burning on my heart (or seem like they could potentially be helpful to others) but I don't typically make it a priority to do smaller, more routine documentation. Partly that's because I don't have the time anymore (much to my chagrin, raising three kids trumps documenting the raising of three kids) but also partly because we now have a lot more tools in place for recording memories (Instagram posts and stories, Chatbooks, my Five-Year-Journal, 1 Second Every Day100 day challenges...) so long-form blogging feels a little antiquated. And actually, typing out that list of all the ways I'm documenting things makes me feel much better about how I'm doing as the "family historian" (which is often about as glamorous as the "family secretary" a role in which I also serve.)


Since I do so much "micro-blogging", posting and saving little snippets, it's harder for me to also commit to a more thorough write up of things that I perceive as more "mundane". But as much as I love looking back on the big stuff- vacations, milestones, birthdays etc.- I don't want to miss the tiny magic that happens in the day to day (even when that day is a holiday). I don't want to remember the forest, but forget the trees. (or perhaps a more accurate metaphor: forget the way that sweet little ladybug felt on my toes as I stood at the base of the trees.) Childhood is a long season, but it's also a million micro-moments that are easy to lose sight of in the present. We don't always make much of these little markers, maybe because we're so tired, maybe because we assume there are a million more coming just like them, maybe because they don't seem special until they're gone.

So as I went to bed last night looking back on all of the events of the day, I replayed little snippets and quotes in my mind. Nothing earth-shattering...just the sweet stuff of who my kids are right now that I want to hold on to.




I want to remember:
  • Miller's free and sincere (and sometimes inaccurate) compliments: "Mama, these are great Lunchables that you made."
  • The way they eagerly collected every, single flyer the parade participants had to offer, only to hand them over to me immediately without a second glance. Desperately wanted it; cannot be bothered with it. 
  • How they found every "act" of the parade equally impressive- LOOK! A dog!/police car!/drummer!/old lady wearing a hat! What is he?...oooh a basement repair guy? Cool!
  • Fin practicing handstands with me, reassuring me that she has trouble getting that second leg up too. Watching and taking turns, encouraging me, "That was a good one mama!"
  • How excited they were for all the "gear". They wanted to wear all of the necklaces (except the "itchy" flower leis), they fought over the visors, tried to make the headbands fit over their bike helmets, and wanted confirmation that the glasses made them look "supa-cool". (They, in fact, did.)

  • The toddler belief that spray bottles are good for misting yourself, each other, your mom, but mostly yourself, and specifically in your mouth. 
  • Miller's snow cone flavor request: "I want blue. (long pause)...And red, and orange and green and purple."
  • How fast a 32oz Coke Slushie goes when three baby birds think you brought it back to the nest for them.
  • The noise their feet make on the hardwood floors (so loud, so fast!) as they run around with their friends playing a made-up game I'll likely never understand.
  • That they are still young enough to buy my selfish lies about how the fireworks might be cancelled due to the rain (and rescheduled for when you're like, 8 and won't be such a nightmare if I let you stay up late). "Mama, when we get home will you look on your phone to see if it's going to rain because I've never seen fireworks before!"
  • Miller saying "watch me, Tine!" x100 as he throws a ball almost to the ceiling (just a couple feet shy!) again and again to impress his older friend.
  • Pop-its, smoke bombs and sparklers are just scary enough to be a thrill, and just safe enough to be fun. 
P.S. Quick little rundowns of our "4ths" from years gone-by: 2009 and 2008.


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Friday, June 29, 2018

How Whole 30 Changed My Life Forever (and Why I'll Never Do it Again)

Whole 30…have you heard of it? Well, it’s a diet plan that is all the rage with the Fitness/Trendy/Healthy Lifestyle communities. Now, don't get confused...I'm not actually a participating member of any of those groups...but that doesn't mean I didn't want to still at least attempt to jump on the bandwagon. If only for the cliché Instagram pictures of my food.

Kidding. Mostly.

It's been almost two years since Dustin and I attempted (and completed!) our first Whole 30, so while this isn’t the most timely post I've ever written, Whole 30 was a total game-changer for me, so I feel it's worth it to document my experience.

So I present, a post two years in the making:



How Whole 30 Changed My Life Forever and Why I'll Never Do it Again
First of all, if you've made it this far already and don't know what Whole 30 is, let's fix that right-quick. We can get in super deep, but the gist is it's an eating program designed to be followed for 30 days. It's "clean eating" incorporating basically just "whole" foods. The main rules are:
  • no grain
  • no dairy
  • no alcohol
  • no sugar (or artificial sweeteners)
  • no legumes (including peanuts)
  • no fun (unofficial rule)
Outside of that restricted list you can pretty much eat anything you want, whenever you want, however much you want. (That's right! Unlimited carrot sticks!! Binge on raw almonds! One time I ate an entire cucumber like I was on some sort of wild vegetable bender!)

There is a zero tolerance policy for concessions, cheats, substitutions, or "slip-ups". The basic philosophy is that if you want to change your life, you have to put in the effort. No compromises.

So why in the world did I want to do this?

Simple: I was getting plushy.

And by that I mean, I am vain, didn't like the way my Summer body was looking, and wanted to do something semi-drastic to change that (but not as drastic as like...exercise...I'll leave that to Dustin). I've never been great with the whole willpower thing, and tend to do better under strict rules, with copious accountability. So Whole 30's high bar, and tough love sounded nearly impossible, and likely just what I needed. I figured I'd do a month of clean eating, lose a few pounds and enjoy the ease and luxury of buttoning my shorts without having to lay down on the bed first.

I expected it to be hard, and annoying, and another thing to chalk up in my long list of Stuff Courtney Doesn’t Think Through All the Way, but Ropes Dustin in Anyway and Then Refuses To Back Down Thereby Ruining Both of Our Lives…And I was pretty much right about all that.

But also- I really did come away from this challenge feeling changed. And not just my dress size (because…here’s the bummer…I’m not sure that actually changed at all). I know that sounds a little bit ridiculous, but I was truly surprised at what I learned. Like most things, the value wasn’t in the results, it was in the act of going through the process. Unfortunately, I can’t transfer all the enlightenment I found directly to you…but I can at least share what I uncovered about myself through a month of whole eating.


My main takeaways:

1: I Might Have a Problem
Now, I don’t want to make light of addiction, so I am saying this in all seriousness... Whole 30 shed some light on some unhealthy relationships I have with eating and drinking. Want to know if you have a drinking problem? Try to stop drinking. You'll see really quickly the role it does (or doesn't) play in your life, and how easily (or not) you're able to cut it out. I don't consider myself a heavy drinker by any means...honestly I didn't even consider myself a frequent drinker, but all of a sudden when the option was off the table (literally), I realized how much I liked it. And looked forward to it. Maybe not needed it? But a liiiiiitle too close.

And honestly for me this even extended to (just) Coke Zero. I had a very steady 1-a-day habit with it. Harmless, maybe (or maybe not...I'm aware the chemical cocktail that is diet soda probably isn't the best choice) but it had become nearly mandatory for me each day. Without that shot of caffeine in the afternoon, my head hurt and I struggled to make it through the rest of the day. It had also become synonymous with "me time". It was something I could treat myself to, a little break, a ritual and something I strangely felt I deserved. Again, not the worst thing I could be "indulging" in, but also just not necessary. (and not at all helpful in regulating my sleep patterns, or fighting off sweet-cravings).

And there were a lot of these messy correlations with emotions and food too. This new way of eating and forced me to examine the ways I had been relating to and relying on food without even realizing it. TV watching was always paired with a snack. Spending time with friends centered around food. Rewarding my kids meant having a treat. Food was wrapped up in my social and emotional life. And while I don't think it's bad at all to share good conversations over good food, or to celebrate your kids' achievements with ice cream, it crosses over into shady territory when someone suggests going out with friends, or having a party, or taking the kids somewhere, and you think: Why bother if I can't even have _______? At that point, you might just have a problem.

2: Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail
AND/OR
Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Poor Performance

(Somebody put that on a letterboard)

You can't just do Whole 30 on a whim. Well, actually you can start Whole 30 on a whim; I totally did. But you won't finish a Whole 30 unless you get your act together real quick. I don't know what your life/pantry is like, but I'm not typically just overrun with hordes of vegetables, non-dairy ranch dressing and sugar-free nut-alternative butters. Eating "clean" required me to think about things. And plan them. And buy them. And prep them. And cook them. And store them. And pack them. And do it all again about 50 times a day oh my gosh how is it time to eat again already I'm so hungry and so tired this so much work when are we done herrrrrrrrrrre...??

For a month, our entire lives became about what we were going to eat. We spent our evenings choosing recipes, and prepping yet another pan of chicken + sweet potatoes + brussels sprouts. We had to plan ahead before we went to a friends' house, or out to eat...what would our options be? How would we compensate? How much longer can I really survive on a Larabar and a LaCroix?

The truth is I hated this part. It was just so much dang work. Some of it was kind of fun (making zoodles! I still love my spiralizer big time!) some of it was daunting (how do you go to the fair all day without cheating?) but most of it was just the tedious repetition of adulting, day in, day out.

But...surprise...that was good for me. Being forced into meal planning helped us avoid the lazy/unhealthy/expensive habits of eating out constantly, and created a rhythm where we put more effort into what we put into our bodies. It was mandated discipline, and it showed me that a little (/lot) more effort now, really does pay off later.

A post shared by Courtney Bowden (@bowdenisms) on

3: Public Accountability is My Friend
I already said I’m not really a willpower person. But I am a stubborn person. And someone who thrives on achievement. And a person who very much cares about what other people think. So making a promise to myself is probably not going to stick. But if I make a promise out loud, involving other people, I’m going to be much more hesitant to break it. Not because I don’t want to let them down...it’s more that I will do almost anything to avoid being wrong or looking dumb. It’s a pride thing, and while that’s probably not my best character trait, I figure I might as well harness it for good if I can.

I told basically everyone I know that I was doing Whole 30 (like veganism, or Crossfit, oversharing to hordes of uninterested people is practically a program requirement), and while I am sure that no one cared, the idea that if I cheated, everyone would know was super helpful in keeping me in line. I didn’t want have to admit my weakness, or explain my inadequacy, so I stayed super strict. There were no real consequences at play, (after all, it was a self-imposed challenge) but my aversion to failure provided the extra motivation I needed whenever I was questioning the whole dumb thing.

4: I Can Do It

This is a biggie. 

There are a lot of areas in which I believe in myself. I’m good at a fair number of things, and as a general rule, I tend towards the self-confident (or at least blissfully naïve about my own limitations) end of the “Can I Do This?” spectrum. But for some reason, I don’t think that about wellness. I tend to think of health and fitness as “other peoples’ thing”. Isn't that so dumb? Like everyone else has the market cornered on making good choices? But that’s what’s in my head.

Exercise isn’t really my thing.
I could never diet, I just love food too much.
The healthy food world is too hippie-ish and complicated.
I'd never make it through the entire month, what's the point?
Before I even tried Whole 30 my brain was filling in blanks in a thousand self-defeating ways:

I could never...
give up caffeine/stop eating ice cream/go to bed earlier/cut out alcohol

because I...
have an 11 month old/love it so much/have so much to do/love it so much

But the truth is I CAN. I COULD. AND I DID.
I stuck to the plan for all 30 ding-dang-days. I made my own mayonaise, declined fried-cheese-on-a-stick, managed to hold down a job + raise children without even a drop of the sweet nectar of the (soda) gods...and did a zillion other things that I didn't know I could do.

It may not seem like a big deal. It's just food, after all. But setting a goal in an area that you don't think you can succeed at and then ACTUALLY DOING IT is powerful. I don't want to get too dramatically self-congratulatory and "I can do hard things" about it...but this meant something to me. It meant that all of the reasons I couldn't do it, all the ways I thought I would fail, all the inadequacies I saw in myself were wrong. 
------------------------------ 

So I learned, and I grew, and I changed. But not just that month. It has stuck with me.

No, I don't still eat clean, or paleo, or whatever. Well, sometimes I do. Lots of times I do-ish. And most times I don't. Since we completed that Whole 30, we've done another month of a modified (aka loosey-goosey) plan dubbed WholeIsh 30, and then more recently I came up with completely original (and utterly random) month-long healthy eating challenge. I loved Whole 30, I learned from Whole 30, and I frankly, don't need to do it again.

I realized I love cheese more than I'll ever love being thin, so for me, living my best life is going to include dairy.

I confirmed that trace amounts of sugar in my balsamic salad dressing are not the reason I'm not meeting my fitness goals, so there's no reason to be a label-Nazi.

I know that clear, non-negotiable rules work for me- they take the constant decision-making (and cop-out compromises) out of things and simplify my process. BUT- I don't have to do so many rules at once. It's not all or nothing. And giving myself grace doesn't mean allowing myself to fail.
 
A post shared by Courtney Bowden (@bowdenisms) on


So I'm not going to be doing another Whole 30 diet any time soon. But doing the diet again doesn't even matter, because food isn't really even the point. These four lessons impacted in ways that have nothing to do with eating.

I have learned that as I approach any significant challenge:
  1. I need to be honest with myself
  2. I have to have a plan
  3. I will need help
  4. I can do it (even when it's really stinkin' hard)
Probably a lot of "no duh" in that list at first glance, but knowing something in your head, and knowing something from experience are two very different things. These lessons became truths for me that I embedded in my heart. And now when I embark on a challenge, I sub-consciously reference them.

- Do I want to stop looking at my phone so much? Well first I probably need to face the fact that I've got a problem, and it might go deeper than just a mindless habit. Am I avoiding something? Seeking validation somehow? How would it feel to give up my phone? What does that mean?

- Am I trying to get in shape? Let's figure out a specific exercise regimen and think through how I'll manage the inevitable obstacles. Where will I look for motivation? What "hacks" can I employ to make consistency easier? Is there a way to make it more fun? 
- If I'm thinking about trying a 100 Day Project... I better commit to it, tell people about it, and post publicly along the way if I want to go the distance.

And most important:
Is what I'm going through right now (whatever, and whenever that may be) hard? Yes.
Can I do it? Also yes.

I am sure of that...and sure of myself...with my Whole heart.

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Thursday, May 24, 2018

Unexpected



On two separate occasions within the last month, someone has accused me of being pregnant. Not asked if I was pregnant...actually put an assertion out there, seeking immediate and public confirmation. “You’re pregnant!..You must be!...I knew it!” And then, after hearing my denial, they followed up with an even more emphatic, “Yeah right…You’re pregnant.”

 And what did I do to earn this line of “questioning”? I drank a sparkling water at a party when everyone else had wine. That’s it. That’s all it took for my reproductive status to be put on blast. (Well, that, and maaaaaaaybe that I looked a little chubby in my outfit that day but I’m not really interested in entertaining that explanation).

On one hand, I understand the curiosity. I understand that it potentially comes from an excited, eager-to-celebrate kind of place. But on the other hand: no thank you. No thank you to the questions and the pressure and the expectations and the feelings and the justifications that come with a personal question forced on me in a public setting.

Maybe I am pregnant. Maybe I’m not. Maybe I wish I was. Maybe I don’t want to be. Maybe I used to be. Maybe I can’t be.

Maybe I’m doing a cleanse. Maybe I have a drinking problem. Maybe I ate too many tacos. Maybe I’m wearing an unflattering jumpsuit. 

Maybe it’s complicated. Maybe it’s sensitive. Maybe it’s not. But you don’t know. You don’t know how your comment might make me feel. You don’t know how I might hear it based on a thousand other things that you don't know. Slapping a presumption on me...especially in front of others, forcing me to process my thoughts with an audience isn't fair.

Please though...care about me. Take an interest in me. Ask me questions. I'm about as open as they come, and live to dive deep with people. So by all means...

Let's talk about babies, and how they're the most lovely version of impossible.
Let's talk about fertility and infertility, and how we had no idea how nuanced and miraculous and heart-wrenching it all can be.
Let's talk about balance and other such unicorns.
Let's talk about motherhood, and how it breaks your heart a thousand times and puts it back together in a way you didn't know was possible.
Let's talk about self-worth, self-care, and self-love, and how to cultivate them in all of our circumstances.
Let's talk about opposites living inside of a single body and soul; how you can want and not want something at the same exact time; how you can feel anxious and hopeful, terrified and ecstatic, longing and fulfilled.

Let's talk about all of it. Maybe with some sodas, after the party.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Little Pip-Speaks: Volume 30

I know I'm not the only one who thinks Kids Say the Darndest Things, but man...my kids really crack me up. That said, these posts are 95% for me to print for their baby books, and 5% to share with anyone else who thinks this nonsense is funny. Feel free to mosey along if quotes from my special snowflakes aren't your thing. (but if you get a kick out of how much four-year-olds like to say "boogers" and "nipples"...well then, you're in for a potty-talk treat)

http://bowdenisms.blogspot.com/search/label/little%20pip-speaks


Pip-speak #1: 
*Crow cawing*
G’mi: *makes the same noise back*
Piper: Be careful! You might end up having a crow in love with you and then you’ll have a big problem!


Pip-speak #2:  
Piper: I will never be unmad at Finney. 

Pip-speak #3:  
Piper: I only want two things, and one is to have great parents but I already have that so I can check that off my list. And the other is a couch I can bounce on forever. 

Pip-speak #4:  
Piper: Phoenix is my cousin, right? So I can kiss him?!
Mama: Technically he's your second cousin. So you can marry him. But probably don't. 

Pip-speak #5:  
Piper: I’m never leaving this house. Unless my boyfriend has a better house! Like with three bunk beds! (For my kids). 

Pip-speak #6:  
Piper: We played a new game at church. I think it was Apples Apples Japples? {Apples to Apples?}

Pip-speak #7:  
Mama {at a new restaurant}: Hey, they gave me a jar to drink out of instead of a glass!
Piper: They’re treating us like ANIMALS


Pip-speak #8:  
Piper {looking in the mirror}: I like everything about me!

Pip-speak #9:  
Daddy {referring to the placemat Piper made}: If it gets wet it'll get ruined.
Piper: We should eliminate it! {Laminate!}


Pip-speak #10:  
Piper {walking into the grocery store}: Well, now I know the 2 coldest places in the world...the North Pole, and Kroger.  

Pip-speak #11:  
Mama: I heard you’re studying France…what do you know about it?
Piper: They have an Eiffel Tower and they listen to spa music. And wear art hats.
 

Pip-speak #12:  
Mama: Look at those blue poinsettias. Aren't they beautiful?
Piper: You mean blue point-SEVENS?


Pip-speak #13:  
Piper {to G’mi}: If you could have anything in the world it would probably be us, right? That’s what mommy says and you taught her!
---------------------------------

And some choice quotes from our second little spit-fire (the spittiest, firey-est)
  
Finnish #1: 
Fin: Boys don't have eyelashes. They don't wear eye-scara

Finnish #2:
Fin: Is space way way up there? Like, is it past the day? Is the day under space?

Finnish #3: 
Fin {watching a Barbie movie}: Daddy, wouldn't it be amazing if you had the Jeep and we had the van and the Pilot but instead of mommy coming to family dinner she was looking at a camper and you didn't know and then she bought a camper and it was pink? …I hope it has a bathroom and a pool. 

Finnish #4: 
Fin {hearing me singing after school}: If this was the morning you could sing that song all day! 

Finnish #5: 
Fin: That’s Miller’s bunny. Mama: How do you know?
Fin: Because it smells like Miller. Like boogers.


Finnish #6:Fin {referring to her stuffed bunny}: I am good at keeping bunny secrets, especially when he uses potty words. I am not very good at keeping people secrets. 

Finnish #7: 
Fin: That happened yesternight.

Finnish #8: 
Fin: No, his name is Jesus Price  

Finnish #9: 
Piper {pretending to be different animals}: I'm a beaver! I’m a prairie dog! I’m a hippo!
Daddy: I’m a flamingo!
Fin: You could be a pineapple! Or... a loaf of turkey!
 

Finnish #10:
Fin {seeing one of my bras in the laundry}: Mama, I really like this nipple thing.  

Finnish #11: 
Mama: Fin, what do you want to be when you grow up?
Fin: A...foster...umm...A mommy or daddy.
Mama: You want to be a mommy?
Fin: OR a daddy!


---------------------------------
And new to the game this time around: Miller. He was a little slow to speak in the beginning (I think two big sisters pretty much had it covered). But he's been talking up a storm recently, so I've tried to document some of his funnier "isms". Even just the little day to day things and funny pronounciations of his are so precious to me. Have anyone figured out a way to freeze time yet? If not...I'll just keep recording these things and hoping I always remember his sweet little lispy ramblings. 
Miller Musings #1:
Miller {every time he counts}: 1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 14, 16, seven-an-teen, 18, seven-an-teen, 18, seven-an-teen. 

Miller Musings #2:
Mama {a Rihanna/Kanye song comes on in the car}: Awww kids, this is my jam.  
Miller: Why it not daddy’s jam?
*Kayne starts singing*
 

Miller: NOW it daddy’s jam?

Miller Musings #3:
Miller: I wanna stay at ours house. {All things are "ours" or "yours" plural. Which is only correct about half the time because English is hard}. 

Miller Musings #4:
Miller: You give me a puggy back ride?

Miller Musings #5:
Mama: How was your day? 
Miller: Good. I had fun wif my friends. We play legos.  

Miller Musings #6:
Miller {every single night}: Fank you for making me dinner, Daddy.  

Miller Musings #7:
Miller: Night night mommy. I wuv you. See you in da morning. We make blue waffles.

Miller Musings #8:
Miller: Mommy, I want a sad song because I sad.
*Air Supply's "I'm All Out of Love" comes on the Spotify playlist*
 

Fin: I don’t like this song  
Miller: It is for ME.

Miller Musings #9:
Miller {every night in his booster chair at dinner}: Bluckle me out, please!

Miller Musings #10:
Mama: Is that crazy or what?
Miller: That is what. 

 Miller Musings #11:
Mama: How much do I love you?
Miller: Super much!



---------------------------------

And not to be outdone...ever...here are some quotes from our five-year-old former foster daughter. (I could have probably written down everything she ever said because she was a TRIP. Here are just a few that were too good not to share).

Kid-Quip #1: 
Miller {playing with the nativity set angel}: It’s a princess!
A: No, it’s not a princess. It's a person that woke up in God and got wings!


Kid-Quip #2: 
A: Mama, is nuts a bad word?
Mama: Depends. Use it in a sentence... WAIT. Nevermind. Yes, nuts is a bad word.

 
Kid-Quip #3: 
Mama: {talking to A about her bio-dad}
A: Which dad? You mean the dad I live with now?…Oh, the one that lives super far away like almost to penguin-town? {Cleveland!}


Kid-Quip #4: 
A: Mommy, when I grow up will you go on a rocket ship with me? We can look at the stars and the earth. And do you know that on the bottom of the earth there are penguins? I think that before the sun goes away, it slaps the moon’s hand. And then the sun takes a turn and then the moon takes a turn. 

Kid-Quip #5: A: {praying at dinner a couple days before they moved out} Dear God, thank you for this night. Thank you for P {her sister}. Thank you for we have to move away because this is too many sisters for us and too much talking to me and is sometimes a little bit annoying. Amen.  
(Bless her. You just have to laugh.) 
---------------------------------
Last but not least...you can imagine how ridiculous it gets when they tag team...

Dynamic Duo #1:
Piper {while driving by the local cemetery}: When I see this place it makes me think of God.
Fin: When I see this place it makes me think of dead people.


Dynamic Duo #2:
A {our foster daughter...looking around at church at Christmas Eve}: Mama, there are lots of white people. No black people.
F: Well Daddy is black...ish.  


Dynamic Duo #3:
{Piper and fin explaining how our house would run if they made the rules}
Our rules:
Yes to jumping on couches
Only clean up on Wednesdays
Watching TV for our whole life
Not going to bed at bedtime
Reading books only when we want to
Make your own breakfast
Nobody has to take a bath 




P.s. If you just can't get enough, check out the last round...or all 30 installments.

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Thursday, May 3, 2018

Orlando Magic: A week in seconds

The last time Dustin and I went on vacation JUST US was when I was pregnant with Miller (is it really "just us" when a fetus is present? Debatable). And that was a 3 day trip to a hotel in Pennsylvania (a fancy-schmancy hotel...but still). Outside of that, our last vacation as a couple was in 2014 (a trip so epically lovely, it's a wonder I'm not still talking about it). So, I'm not complaining...just saying, after 3-4 years without an adults-only get away, we were due.

But we actually didn't have a trip on our radar...We've gotten to take AWESOME trips with our kids over the last few years- with family, visiting friends- and we're slated for another beach trip with my mom's side of the family in a month. So it didn't really occur to me to plan something for Dustin and me. It just felt a little unnecessary...or selfish...or both.

Now, in order to tell this story, I have to make a hard segue from self-centered frivolousness into some serious stuff for a minute... In February of this year, Dustin's step-mom passed away. I haven't shared much about it publicly, but we are broken-hearted to have lost her so soon, and equally broken-hearted to witness the pain Dustin's dad is going through. Most of it doesn't feel like my story to share, so I will just say that she was so very VERY loved, by us, our family, and so many others, and she is, and will be, dearly missed.

So now I have to pivot back to vacation, which, again, feels insensitive and clunky...but it's the true context, so here we are. Shortly after she passed, Dustin's dad told him that he had one week remaining at a timeshare and it was expiring in April. He wasn't ready to travel, but didn't want it to go to waste, so he offered it to us. We hemmed and hawed over the whole thing for weeks, but in the end decided it would be a good thing for us to do. And after looking into the (nearly endless) options for destinations, we settled on Florida's Friendliest Hometown: The Villages, Florida.

It's been Dustin's parent's home for the last decade, and a favorite spot of ours. I could go on and on about how much I love it there (if I wasn't already ready to retire, that place would convince me in a heartbeat). We have made such great memories there over the years, so it felt like the perfect choice to spend the first half of our trip with Dustin's dad. We took care of a little bit of family business, but mostly spend the time talking, reminiscing, and just being together...in the sadness, and the joy and the love. For the second half of our trip, we drove up to Orlando and enjoyed a few poolside days a deux. I did almost no planning, no stressing, and it was all wildly better than the humble expectations I put on the trip. Just the chance to be together for a bit, with nothing more to worry about than what chain restaurant booth to choose each night was a gift. (Truly...a gift from his dad, of course, but also a huge gift from my mom who was holding down the fort with all of our kiddos).

I of course adore my kids, and I'd be lying if I said we didn't talk about them at least 85% of the trip (seriously...you can't be in that close proximity to Disney and not have your toddlers on your mind). But oh- the sweet freedom of doing ANYTHING I WANTED...FOR DAYS ON END was bliss I didn't fully remember existed. We did wild things like eat an entire bag of skittles ourselves (no sharesies!), and fall asleep next to an open body of water, and read books that had no pictures, no rhymes, and no mentions of poop. It was terribly unfamiliar, and intoxicatingly awesome. I woke up each day at an hour my cell phone alarm has never heard of, showered without interruption, and forgot the password to my laptop. The weather was perfection, the itinerary was delightfully open, and my travel companion is my absolute favorite.

I always know how lucky I am...but sometimes it's extra awesome to feel it so intensely at once. Oh- and I don't hate having a tan to show for it. So here's a goofy little video of a couple of nerds who don't get out much, having just the best time. 55 (and older), we're comin' for ya (and I'm bringing my shuffle board cue).




P.s. The app I use is called 1 Second Everyday and yes, I am obsessed. You can see more of our video posts, our last vacation in seconds, all of our 1 second every day videos.
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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

My name is Mom

Over the last ten months, we’ve had nine different kids stay with us...and one thing they’ve all had in common that shocks me every time, is that that they all called me mom. Doesn’t matter if they stayed months or days- if they were old enough to talk, they identified me as mom.

Some of them probably chose it because Ms. Courtney was too hard to say/remember, and some were likely just copying our other kids, but regardless of how I introduced myself, I soon became mom to them.

For all of these kids I was a temporary solution, and so mom was a temporary title. In some ways it was more indicative of what I did, than who I was. I was the woman of the house. The lady who would get them snacks and read them books. The one who would wipe their faces (and bums), remind them “we do NOT jump on the couch” and smooth their hair and kiss their cheeks at bedtime. I did mom things, and so...I was mom.

Some of these kids have never had a “real” mom...some have several. Some totally understand their circumstance and some have no idea. But they all KNOW; They know what a mom is, and they know they want one.

We are created for family. Our hearts need it. Our souls long for it. When these kids’ families are broken, they search for pieces to put together to make a whole again. They see me mothering my kids, and instinctively they know- that is what they need...that is what they’re made for- to love and be loved. To be part of something and cherished by someone. I can never take the place of their moms...but I can at least mom them for a bit. And that is a gift to me as much as it is to them.

Mom. What a big and beautiful name to answer to. 
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Monday, April 2, 2018

The 100 Day Project: #the100dayofdays

Happy Spring (even if it doesn't feel like it)! And Happy (late) Easter! And Happy Monday!
Tomorrow is a big day...and not just because it might reach a temperature above 50 degreese (seriously?!! with teh April snow showers? I can't take it anymore!) It's the start of The 100 Day Project!

If you're not familiar, The 100 Day Project is a creative challenge where you do/make something...anything...every day for 100 days in a row (and then share about it on Instagram, obviously). It's become wildly popular, with artists, writers, and creators of all kinds joining in each year (check out #the100dayproject to see- or follow- all the fun).

Last year I participated for the first time- my "theme" was #100daysofshowyourreal (just sharing something real from my life every day- through words and pictures). And I fell in love with the project. It pushed me to create more, reflect more, share more...I felt inspired, and stretched, and loved the sense of community that formed as others were willing to get vulnerable along the way too. At the end of 100 days I had a collection of thoughts and memories (which I made into a book), so it was not only a fun exercise while I was in it, but it lead me to create a meaningful record of my work, and my heart.

So when the project came around this year, I knew I wanted to do it again- I just had to figure out my idea. I only had a few stipulations...Whatever I landed on needed to be:
  • Easy- 100 days of anything is lofty, and I didn't want to get burned out just because I set the my expectations or perimeters too high. I'm an eternal "bite off more than I can chew" kind of girl, so with things like this I'm working on setting reaaaaaaally reasonable goals for myself, so that I can be pleasantly surprised when I exceed them rather than constantly frustrated that things are more overwhelming than I thought.
  • Meaningful- without passion and a purpose behind it, I know I won't be able to stick with the project. Feeling like the output matters- for any reason, and even just to me- is key in helping me push through the creative block or struggles with keeping up. Yes, there is absolute value in doing for doing's sake, so I don't want to get caught up in making every single day a masterpiece, but at the same time, if I'm going to devote this much time and effort to something, I want to feel like it there's a larger point to it all in the end. Doesn't have to be life-changing...just something tangible to look back on with pride and gratitude.
  • Portable- the time period overlaps with a couple vacations, and work trips etc. so it has to be something I can do on the go. This is helpful even on "regular" days too, because it means I can get it done anywhere, vs. having to carve out dedicated space/time to do it.
  • Fun- or why do it, right?
What I loved about my Show Your Real project is it was basically a journal, with a loose theme; enough structure to give me a purpose, but enough leeway to not feel too confined with my ideas. The fact that it was just photos and captions meant I could do it anywhere and anytime. And while it didn't really push me to pick up a new skill (like drawing or hand-lettering etc.) it did encourage me to express myself more often, and devote more attention to hobbies- photography and writing- that I really enjoy.

Since it worked out before, I more or less just wanted to repeat my approach from last year, with a new "creative hook". And after a week or two of mulling it over, I found my inspiration- Days! (it was right there in the title all along!) But specifically- I'm thinking of those crazy "official" daily holidays that someone somewhere made up, and the whole internet just goes along with. You know what I'm talking about: National Kitten Day, Craft Beer Day, Hug a Newsperson day (joke..but it's real, and it's coming up). I'll use those days as a starting point (I downloaded an app so I can keep an eye on the upcoming days)...but from there it's pretty free-form. Sometimes I'll participate in the actual holiday (anything with a food theme, probably), but more often I plan to use it as a jumping off point for musings...a writing prompt and inspiration to share some related memories, viewpoints, or ideas. Many of these days are pretty silly, so I'm excited to embrace some of that, and just lean into the cheesy simple pleasures of it all. We can all use a few more reasons to celebrate, right? How 'bout 100 more reasons? But at the same time, I'm hoping to also take it a little deeper than just executing 100 random tasks. I want it to be more about reflection than endless action, so I think it'll be a good stretch for me to focus on a different topic every day, and see what thoughts and emotions it stirs up.

A post shared by Courtney Bowden (@the100daysofdays) on

So...that's the plan. Plan-ish. Loosey-goosey. Feels good.

I'll be posting on @the100daysofdays using the hashtag #the100daysofdays. I'd be delighted if you'd follow along. And please let me know if you join in the project as well...I love following other folks' creative endevors!
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