Team Barnes vs. The Grocery Store

Yesterday I faced one of my parenting fears: going big grocery shopping with all four kids. Not only was it big grocery shopping, it was Thanksgiving grocery shopping. The biggest of big. We literally needed something from every aisle.

I’ve been to the store with all four before, but it was only ever to pick up gifts or a couple of items. I don’t mind doing a quick errand like that because the kids like the store and are generally well behaved. The Twins have never spent a really long time in a store before and my list was huge. On top of the time factor, I knew that we wouldn’t be able to fit the twins and all of the groceries in one buggy. Yes, they make those carts with extra seats but they are hard to come by and have zero steering. Anytime I use them I just get exasperated and wish I hadn’t.

In light of all this, I made the decision to share my workload with the big kids and show them that I trusted them. The Boy pushed a cart with The Hun and The Conqueror in it. He had specific instructions to stay close and they were told to sit down and behave. Crazy Eyes was on list duty, no small feat with my handwriting. I’d organized the list before we left, grouping them by the section where they could be found. (That part sounds like a lot but it’s a few minutes of work to help us stay on track and was 100% worth it.) I also made sure everyone ate before we went, myself included.

I was worried that The Boy would go rogue with The Twins in tow. Afraid that we’d see a meltdown or brawl from the buggy bound Hun and Conqueror. Concerned that Crazy Eyes wouldn’t be much help and that I’d be using the list myself and therefore not be able to pay as close attention to my four little ducklings in tow. All that plus the constant Mom fear that someone will take her children in the store had me tense and on edge.

It turns out though, that I had nothing to fear. The Twins held it together. The Boy stayed by my side and listened perfectly to all instructions and only hit me with the buggy a couple of times. Crazy Eyes was on that list like a champ, even offering to add unplanned items to the list so we could cross them off. We moved from aisle to aisle like a professionally trained caravan. I gave directional instructions and led the pack while Crazy Eyes let us know what was next and The Boy brought up the rear. The Twins smiled and waved at other patrons which helped ease other shoppers grumpiness and taking up half of the aisle everywhere we went.

When we got to the checkout line I took a moment to snap a quick picture of the kids together. They’d had so much fun and didn’t once ask if it was time to go or complain about it being too hard. We swapped the Twins from the empty buggy to the former grocery filled buggy as the kind girl at checkout scanned our items. The kids and I all thanked her and we went on our way. The Big Kids loaded The Twins into their car seats while I unloaded the groceries.

To people without kids and maybe even to people with kids, all of this may sound silly and unimportant. It was a huge step for all of us though. We’d worked together as a team to get our goal accomplished without argument, drama, or injury. We were all proud of what we’d accomplished when we left and none more proud than me.

It’s such an incredible blessing to be a part of raising these kids. I never thought a grocery shopping trip with my four kids would make my heart explode with love and pride.

Cooking Chicken

Alright so this is embarrassing as hell but I’m almost thirty and have never cooked a whole chicken before tonight. I hate raw meat and the idea of handling a whole raw chicken seemed gross and unnecessary for any recipe that looked appealing to me. Also, whole chicken takes longer to cook than I can usually allot for a weeknight meal.

That being said, last weekend when I saw that the amazing Imperfect Foods was offering a pasture raised spatchcock chicken, I was intrigued. I decided that since the gross parts were done already and it would take less time to cook, I’d give it a shot. Imagine my surprise when I ended up with a whole chicken because Imperfect Foods had sold out of the spatchcocked chicken. (No shade on them, I LOVE their offerings. Shit happens.) I panicked and then I did what any Southern Woman does when she’s lost in the kitchen and called my Mom. Thanks to FaceTime with my Mom and my Bonus Dad using his cell phone he caught the whole debacle on video.

If anyone thought that I had my shit together before this video they’ll know the truth now. I gagged and laughed my way through cutting up and breaking down that damn chicken. I even saved the back bone to make stock for gumbo.

Once I recovered from the laughing, the rest was a breeze. The recipe I used is very loosely based off of this one from The Pioneer Woman. She actually tells you how to cut up the chicken but I needed Mom for moral support and to make sure I didn’t slice off my finger or something. I used different veggies that I knew would cook at about the same rates as those she uses in her version. The produce (sweet potatoes, butternut squash, and mushrooms), some seasonings, and poultry are all from Imperfect Foods. (They aren’t a sponsor I’m just a huge fan.) It was the best damn chicken I’ve ever cooked and I’m super proud of myself for learning a new skill. Now The Hubs is talking about getting me chickens so I can raise and cook my own. That’s still way too much for me but at least I’m no longer intimidated by the idea of cooking a whole chicken.

Check out that beautiful bird!

Here’s to trying new things! Onward and upward!

Oh and be sure to use my reference code if you check out Imperfect Foods so we can both save $10 on our orders.

Dia De Los Muertos

I’ve struggled with my faith and Catholicism a lot over the years but even as a kid I loved the celebration of All Souls Day. It’s a time when we remember the loved ones who have gone before us. I remember visiting the cemetery and leaving flowers. As an adult, when I learned of Dia De Los Muertos I was immediately intrigued. To me it seemed a wonderful celebration and enhancement of the All Souls Day that always seemed to sooth my spirit.

Last year, after doing some research, I decided to make my first ofrenda. I was nervous at first because I wanted to make sure that I celebrated with reverence and not appropriation. It’s important to me that I make it clear to you all that I’m not of Mexican heritage. Im an outsider doing my best to respectfully embrace the practice and uphold the tradition in my own home. I’m not here to teach you about it. There are other people who can do it much better than me and I encourage you to do deeper research yourself. I’m just here to share the impact that the day and building an ofrenda has on me.

I had no idea how moving the experience would be for me. I spent months researching and gathering supplies. I had to make some adjustments to some of the traditional items for various reasons. For example, I used local French bread instead of Pan De Los Muertos because baking bread isn’t my strong suit and French Bread was my MawMaw’s favorite bread. I also chose to place Jack Daniels instead of tequila on our ofrenda. Most of our family avoided tequila so it seemed the most appropriate choice to please our visiting loved ones. Researching what items to include for each person gave me the chance to talk with my living family about the past. It felt good to pick out something special to honor each person.

When November 1st arrived I spent all morning building our ofrenda. It was hard spending all day thinking about all of our loved ones that were no longer with us, but it was also balm for the spirit. The act of preparing for them as if they were here in person to visit gave me the opportunity to walk down memory lane and revisit the closeness we shared during their lives. As the sun went down and I lit the candles I cried but I also felt myself relax, and some of the pain heal just a tiny bit more. I knew then that it would become a yearly tradition in our home.

Last year’s ofrenda.

In March when the pandemic started I made sure to include marigolds in my garden because they are an important piece of the ofrenda. Their fragrance is meant to draw the spirits in. I’ve babied my marigolds for seven months now in preparation for today. For seven months as I watered and pruned in my garden I thought of my family. Some days it brought smiles and strengthened me, other days it brought tears. Each day meant healing though.

My ofrenda is a little smaller this year, mostly because the Twins are into everything, but it still means so much to me. As I sit here tonight and watch the candles burn among the flowers that I’ve worked so hard to keep alive, I send my love and prayers up in the candle smoke. Love for those that I miss so very much and prayers that I’m making them proud and that they’ll stay near to me. I know when I go to bed that I’ll rest easy with the belief that they were just a little bit closer tonight.

This year’s ofrenda.

Hindsight In 2020

Well, my life as a housewife was blessedly and painfully short lived. Haha! While I did enjoy getting a lot done around the house and watching TV and relaxing, my bank account wasn’t pleased with the new arrangement. I’m pretty sure I was getting on my Husband’s nerves too. By the grace of God a friend reached out with a job opportunity and I took it. I’m now working at an Eye Surgery Center. This is my first real experience with the healthcare field so there is a lot to learn and get used to.

My new “Smurf Suit” as I lovingly call it.

I miss my old job so much, and my team, but I’m working to move on. I never thought I would grieve over a job but I definitely have and the wounds are still tender. I know it will get better. It still seems a bit surreal though. I work for years down a winding path to get to my dream job then rock it and suddenly lose it because of a global pandemic. You truly can’t make this crap up.

Our last event before that Damn Rona ruined everything.

I will say this, I’m more relaxed and find myself being more creative at home than I have in a long time. My last job took so much out of me. I happily gave my time and creative energy but I’m starting to think that while I enjoyed it, it wasn’t necessarily the best thing for my overall being. I used to write a lot about how I didn’t feel like myself or have time or energy for hobbies. I blamed it on a busy schedule and exhaustion. Looking back I see that it was more.

The museum I was at was a start up. There were constant problems to solve and it demanded the use of creativity seemingly all the time. I enjoyed the rush of it but it was wearing me down. By the time I solved problems and came up with new ideas I didn’t feel like I had any more creative energy left. I wasn’t doing it all on my own by any means, but it was still a lot to work through on a daily basis. By the time the weekend rolled I was so exhausted and drained that I’d waste the day Saturday doing nothing then get stressed and upset because I’d done nothing. To make up for Saturday I’d work my butt off on Sunday and then be exhausted for Monday again.

It wasn’t all the job’s fault, I still get Mommy burn out, but I feel like I’m more relaxed and creative at home now. I’ve made jewelry and soaps. (I even sold my biggest order to date! 40 soaps!) I’ve been reading again. I’ve laughed more and been less cranky most days. I’ve made more time for my husband.

Imagine that, I start working for an Eye Surgeon and suddenly I can see my past more clearly. Here’s to more clarity and a brighter vision of the future! Onward and Upward my Dears!

A little Halloween fun with the family.

Unemployment Day 2: Slowing Down

Since we’re getting hit by a hurricane all of the kids are home. It’s easy to forget that you’re unemployed when it just feels like a very windy and gross long weekend.

Going from working remotely to being unemployed brings with it some weird side effects. First, because I’ve gotten used to being at home and working, it hasn’t 100% sunk in that I’m done with my old jobs. Second, I’ve gotten into the habit of checking my work email about a thousand times a day. Even though I can’t anymore, I still find myself randomly thinking that I need to check my work email. Or suddenly feeling like I’ve missed a meeting by accident. Or waking up thinking that I have a webinar to watch. Or reminding myself that I don’t have a job to clock into anymore.

I guess you don’t realize how crappy your work life balance has gotten until the work goes away and you have to figure out what your life is without it…

I feel less stressed by my life right now. That seems wrong. I should be freaking out because I have no job and our health insurance runs out soon. Right? It’s not that I’m not worried. Its just that in this brief moment that I’ve let myself take there are no deadlines to make. No obscure work problems to solve. No job to worry about losing. Releasing the burden of stress about losing my job that I’ve been carrying around for 6 months has been freeing.

I’m doing my best to enjoy this time. To reconnect with who I am and who my family needs me to be. I’m taking time to laugh at my Husband as he obsesses over the storm. I’m slowing down and playing with my kids.

Today I washed dishes, made breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I made jewelry to sell and taught The Boy how to do it. I snuggled my babies. We watched movies. We turned off the TV and played a really fun game where the kids asked us questions about themselves and The Hubs and I had to see if we could guess them right. We played the reverse as well. The amount of answers we all got right was pretty awesome.

As shitty as it is to be out of work and in a hurricane, I’m thankful for today.

The Hubs In His Hurricane Gear

Unemployment Day 1: Housewife

I’ve decided to give myself a couple days to breathe and take care of some stuff around the house. On Monday the job application festivities begin. Before then I’ve got a big soap order to make and I’ll be cleaning the house some too. Oh and we may get hit by a hurricane.

I didn’t completely bum around today though. I woke up and got the big kids ready for school. I got The Twins dressed and brought them to daycare. Then I helped a friend pick up his car from getting repaired. I cleaned out my van. (That took up a whole hour lol.) I took a much needed nap. (Hello stress insomnia!) I had lunch with my (now former) bosses. (Third day in a row of salad for lunch. Go me!) I stopped by to visit one of the Ya-Ya’s and convinced her kiddo to help me with the kids tomorrow.

It was a really great day overall. Obviously, not every day can be like this. I’ve got to start working and making money again soon. It was nice to slow down for a day though.

Also, I’ve decided that rather than call myself unemployed I’m going to start calling myself a Housewife. It sounds much more dignified than unemployed. I thought about Trophy Wife but I’m not fancy enough for that. Calling myself a Homemaker seems a bit extreme considering I’m awful at keeping a clean house. So if you need me I’ll be over here being a fabulous Housewife searching for a new career.

Onward and Upward!

I got laid off Thursday. As my regular readers know, it wasn’t completely unexpected but it still stings. I wasn’t alone in the layoffs although I wish I was. Some of my dearest friends are leaving with me. One brought cupcakes Thursday because she knew it was coming, so we cried and laughed and ate cake.

My heart is broken. I worked so so hard to help build a beautiful thing and now it’s been taken away from me. All my hard work…gone. I’ve cried for myself, and work family, and my family. Life is changing for us all. It’s the end of an era. I take solace in knowing that it’s not based on my performance or a personal vendetta. The business side of my brain gets it 100%, but my heart hasn’t caught up.

I’ve been overwhelmed by the love and support that people have shown me during all of this. My in laws understood when The Hubs had to go into work late so he could stay with me. They even bought us lunch. My Aunt took care of our dinner so I didn’t have to cook. My coworkers checked in on me and those closest to me even cried with me. The most impact came from my former team. When my boss and I called to share the news they all expressed shock and disappointment. They showered us with love and even offered to help us find new jobs. Can you imagine that? Many are looking for jobs themselves but they still care enough to help us. Their kindness brought me to tears. I’m so honored to have led a team of such wonderful and generous people.

Oddly enough, with the uncertainty of my situation comes a feeling of freedom as well. I’ve spent 7 long months with a knot in my stomach worrying about losing my job. Now the worry has become reality and suddenly the fear has given way to excitement over new possibilities. I’ve always dreamed of working in a museum. I loved it. It was such a truly life changing experience for me. But once you’ve lived the dream, once you’ve achieved the goal, where to next? What new adventure lays ahead? Where can I take my skills and grow them? Where can I do the most good?

It’s time to find a new dream to tackle. I’m not sure what I’ll do yet. I know from my experience at the museum that I want to work with people. I love training and building up teams. It’s something I care very deeply about and I’d hate to give that up. I trust that God has a plan for me and I’m here to hold up my end of the bargain.

So here’s to the next adventure! Onward and upward my Dears!

Why I Share My Story

My two year blogging anniversary is rapidly approaching. It’s hard to believe that it’s been this long. I talked about writing a blog forever but it took a long time to muster up the courage to do it. We’ve come a long way since that first post. You can read it here. My second post is hands down one of my favorites and one of the most ridiculous experiences I’ve had in my life. I still laugh my butt off when I think about that story.

When I started writing I had a different vision for the blog. It would be a funny escape for people. A way for Moms to see that they weren’t the only ones struggling. It has evolved into so much more for me and for my readers. Together we’ve delved into topics like mental health, racism, and religion. I never ever thought that I’d share my mental health journey so publicly. I’m a super open person but I didn’t think I was THAT open.

So why do I share? Why let people in? The truth is I would never have had the strength to keep going and sharing without the support of all of my readers. I run into old friends and acquaintances all the time who read my blog. People who haven’t seen me in YEARS stop me and say Oh my gosh I love your blog! That part is awesome but the follow up is what keeps me going. So many people open up then and tell me how they can relate to what I’m going through. Can relate to my message. Find strength in my words. Find strength in my words? It blows my mind and is incredibly humbling.

The idea that sharing my journey has the possibility to make just one person’s day a little better makes all of the awkwardness and nervousness and work that I put in so worth it. We all need to be reminded that we are not alone sometimes. You guys have been that for me and I pray that I can continue to return the favor.

Thank you so much for being such a loyal and amazing audience. Thank you for hopping into the Mom Van and sharing your triumphs and tears and laughter. I feel blessed to be on this journey with all of you and look forward to the miles of road that we’ve yet to cover.

Our Lady of Perpetual Chaos

Birthday Adventure!

I’ve written here before about one of my best friends, Hillary. She’s great. She shares her crayons with me and appreciates the fact that I’m a total dorky weirdo. She rocks and so does her family. Unfortunately, a couple of months ago, out of an abundance of caution, her Mom had to quarantine herself right before her birthday. They were all understandably upset about not being able to see each other. That’s when my super friend had the awesome idea to drive to her Mom’s house after she’d gone to bed and cover her yard and porch with birthday decorations to surprise her. It was a fantastic idea! Fortunately for me, she was kind enough to ask if I’d go along for the ride. I made arrangements with The Hubs and eagerly awaited our departure time.

Clearly the first of my Red Bull’s have kicked in.

Because it was meant to be a surprise, we had to leave late in the night to make sure her Mom would be asleep. Did I mention that her Mom lives about an hour and a half away? Yep! I was heading on a mini road trip with my bestie to decorate her Mom’s house at 10:30 at night with NO KIDS. I was beside myself with excitement! I even made sure to wear my “Chaos Coordinator” hat as it seemed appropriate. Unfortunately I also decided to wear sandals, but more on that later. My other preparations included putting on stretchy pants and a panty liner (because my kids ruined my body and you never know when you’ll sneeze pee), buying three Red Bull and some candy for the trip, and stealing my husband’s head lamp. She loaded up her car with presents and decorations and picked me up for our wild ride.

During our drive the conversation ebbed and flowed between serious discussion and laughter. It felt so wonderful to spend time with another adult who I’m comfortable with but not married or related to. I’d almost forgotten what that felt like between the demands of work, motherhood, and The Rona. There were a couple of moments of excitement along the journey there as well.

First, we were almost run off the road by two jacked up trucks racing down the road to get to the nearest bar. (Open clearly in violation of COVID rules.) Then she drove me across a pontoon bridge that looked like something straight out of a slasher movie. The whole thing shook as we drove across and I kept waiting for her to tell me about some scorned lover who hung themself from it. It was a one lane bridge that allowed two way traffic and you couldn’t see over it. The full moon made it even scarier.

Next, she drove me past a gorgeous oak tree lined drive. She told me the story of a wedding that was held there. In 1800’s St. Martinville a wealthy man’s daughters were to have a double wedding under the oaks. has it that a man’s daughter was set to be married under the oaks. He was determined that the wedding decorations be unrivaled in their beauty. He had one million spiders put into the trees and they spun webs all through the branches. Then he covered the webs with gold dust. It’s a really sweet story even if you don’t like spiders. You can see the children’s book made about it here.

After that we drove by the town square where you can see the memorial to the Acadians. We didn’t get to go inside (because it was midnight by this point) but we could see some of it with our flashlight. I plan on going back one day when I can see it and take a better look around. You can learn more about it here. She also showed me the tree where the real Evangeline from Longfellow’s Evangeline waited for her love.

I was so excited to see the Evangeline oak.

It was finally time to decorate her Mom’s house. The Red Bull had 100% kicked in along with the excitement of what we were doing. We pulled up to the house and got to work. Within the first five minutes I realized that sandals were a mistake and that I was not good at sneaking quietly. My feet got wet from the dew on the grass. After I nearly walked through a GIGANTIC spider web I regretted the shoes even more because I just kept thinking about spiders crawling on my feet. It made me super jumpy.

I swear it wanted to eat me.

Thank God her Mom slept through all of our giggling and running around. I was sure that I was going to completely blow it. We hung streamers from the trees and put an awesome bee hive that the kids made on the front porch. About this time things started getting a little uncomfortable. You remember that panty liner I put on? Well it’s made by a company called The Honey Pot. It’s an awesome brand and the liners have aloe, lavender, and mint on them. They are the best. At least until you realize that sweating profusely in July Louisiana heat is really bad when combined with moisture activated peppermint. Suddenly my entire crotch was both frozen and on fire at the same time. I finally had to admit to Hillary what was happening and we couldn’t stop laughing.

Sassy Hillary and our awesome decorating!

We were almost finished when my dumb ass decided that jumping the fence to wrap her Mom’s car in crepe paper was a good idea. It seemed like a good idea right up until the point where I was straddling a giant wrought iron fence with spikes on it WAY higher off the ground than I thought I would be. Of course, by that point there was no going back.

Head lamp plus phone boob light.
Here’s where I realized yet again that sandals were a mistake.

Jumping the fence turned out to be worth it. I got the car decorated and somehow managed to get back over the fence without impaling myself. (God looks out for fools right?)

Her Mom was so surprised that she cried. I was so happy to be included on such a special caper. It’s not every day that you can commit vandalism with your friend and spread joy at the same time. It was definitely one of the high points of 2020 for me. I’d even jump that fence again.

My Failures

I have been struggling to write. Somewhere along the way a crippling anxiety about my writing and myself in general took hold of my heart. “My life is not interesting enough.” “Why would anyone read about the storm that I’m trudging through right now?” “People come here for funny and inspirational and I have no humor or light to give.” I have started and stopped this post six times since August. I have tried and failed to capture what it is that I want and need to say. As I sit on my bed tonight frustrated with tears pouring down my face I know that the time has come.

The anxiety and lack of confidence I’m feeling is no ones fault. The people around me have shown me the same amount of support they always do. The change is in me. I see myself struggling and living a more fearful life than I have in a long time. My soul has become corrupted by worry. How can it not be? The worries pile up and threaten to drown me.

I’m working still but my job feels incredibly insecure because of the economy. I’m struggling with my identity in my position because we’ve had to lay off all but one person from my staff. Staff that I’ve worked hand in hand with nearly every day for almost three years. People that have watched my children grown and made our organization the wonderful place that it is today. People who have made an indelible mark on who I am as a person and as a manager. My heart is broken because I know that while some will return when things reopen, not all will. They should have left on their last day with celebration and fanfare as thanks for all of their hard work and I can give them none of it. And what of me? Who am I without my team? I’m here to guide and lead and advocate for them and I feel as though I’ve failed miserably even though there is nothing that could have been done. I’ve kept my job when I couldn’t save theirs. That feels awful too even though I know it wasn’t in my control.

I really spent a long time thinking that I’d adjusted well to this whole “new normal” thing. (Except the work part I mean.) I ignored all of the things that I missed and pretended I didn’t miss them. I was so wrong though. Another failure to add to the list. It hit me like a slap in the face the other day when I saw a video of people dancing at Mardi Gras. I completely lost it. Ugly cried. It sounds so stupid. Crying over a video of watching people dancing. There has been so little of that this year though. Festival season is my favorite time of year. I love seeing all the beautiful art, hearing the live music, eating all the fried food, and watching people dance together. In a time where we are more divided than we ever have been in my lifetime, it would do everyone some good to dance again.

I miss being able to go places and not worry that I’ll bring the virus home and hurt someone that I love. I miss leaving my house without feeling fear in the back of my mind. The stress of this new lifestyle is taking its toll on my marriage and motherhood too. I’m short tempered. Quick to cry or yell. I’m struggling to focus even more than normal. I vacillate between wanting to hold and snuggle my children all day and feeling like one more touch will literally make my spirit fly out of my body. I’m not really sure how to do self care right now. I wasn’t awesome at it before but now leaving the house isn’t really a thing unless I’m going to the three stores I go to, work, or visiting my parents. It’s impossible for me to not feel guilty about working on crafts or reading a book when I’m surrounded for most of the day by a house that reminds me of all of the chores that I haven’t done. All the reminders of where I tried and failed. I feel like I do a lot of that lately. Try and fail…Fail again and again.

This morning as my family slept I decided to stop scrolling Facebook and open my TED App. The first suggested video was called The Beauty of Being a Misfit by Lidia Yuknavitch. I found myself moved by her story. I watched it twice. It helped me to find the courage I needed to share my feelings with you today. So this is me sharing the story that I know how to tell. This is me giving voice to what’s written on my heart. It’s not profound or inspiring but, at least for me, it must be written. This is where I’m at right now. A little broken. Wobbly legged and unsure. Ill fitting in this current phase of life. Failing. I can only hope that, like in Lidia’s story, these seeming failures of mine can become “weird ass portals to something beautiful.”

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