A Little Bit of Brandy

Hello, loveys. How's it going out there?

I've been scrolling through Instagram, looking at all the mom posts of what people are doing while currently home with their kids. So many good ideas on ways to keep the kids learning while they are out of school. Nature walks. Online tutorials. Chore lists. Schedules.


So . . . I literally just clicked off my phone and came upstairs with a Cadbury egg and crawled back into my bed.

I figure we all have different parenting styles. Mine is eating all the Easter candy early when we're living in high stress situations.

Seriously, the last few weeks--before COVID-19--my kids had been going nuts. Spring break over here is about fifteen minutes before school is out for summer (who knows why) and my kids have been desperate for a break. Maybe next week I'll feel differently, but this week--this week we are chilling like villains. This week we are staying in pajamas and playing video games and watching Netflix and taking a little break because we can. I need it like my kids need it.

These are strange times. We've never experienced something like this before so it's hard to know the right way to react. But here we are. I already miss normal life, and I really hope hunkering down helps slow this virus.

Still, there are good things too. As my Lily points out, there are signs of spring everywhere. Last night my kids were playing outside in our yard and it was starting to feel chilly, and I was thinking of how I'll be so happy when summer gets here. I'm ready for lots of warmth. And I'm hoping, by the time summer arrives, we'll be closer to getting back to normal life and the virus being contained.

While I'll be glad for all of this--the fear of catching the virus, the fallout of the economy, the worry about what comes next--to be behind us, I think slowing down can be good. I'm one of those people who likes a slower pace of life. And for someone like me (who's prone to anxiety), a little breathing space from homework and after-school activities and pick ups and drop offs is an opportunity to take a moment and breathe.

It's not the same for everyone of course. My husband works in finance, and right now is a really high-stress time for his line of work. I know for so many people, their situation is even more frightening--worrying about jobs, childcare, maybe loved ones who are sick, then there are the nurses and doctors and police and everyone else who don't have the option to work from home.

I keep thinking, this virus is new and different and scary. But it won't be like this forever. And as long as we have each other, we're okay. 

There's a Rich Mullins quote I love so much that says, And everything that could be shaken was shaken. And all that remains is all I ever really had.  

Those words have always reached all the way to my soul.

Things feel shaken right now. I feel shaken, to be honest.

It will get better.

Every family is different. We do what works for us over here. Loveys, I've never been an over-achiever. I know I'm not turning into an amazing homeschooling mom overnight. I also know I'm not suddenly becoming someone who is arts-and-crafty. My goal for my kids is happy and healthy and alive. Honestly, I'm anxious enough without adding any more pressure.

So we'll take every day as it comes.

I love being close to my people. This is very close--you're probably feeling the same. But still, the Jeffster and these kiddos are the loves of my life. We can do close when we need to.

And maybe we'll throw a big party when all of this is over.

In the meantime, it seems like a good time for hobbies. One of my goals for this year was to put more time and effort into my Instagram account. I really enjoy Insta--especially book feeds and travel feeds--and wanted to be more intentional with what I post. If you're on Instagram, come find me @alittlebitofbrandy. (https://www.instagram.com/alittlebitofbrandy/)

You guys know that last year I turned forty. Forty seems like a good age to worry less about what other people think, and spend more energy enjoying what we love. For myself, I really enjoy pictures. I love scrolling through Insta and seeing books people are reading or places they've gone or even seeing their fashion style. (My own fashion style is 99.5 percent pajama pants and sweatshirts.) Who knows why, but seeing pretty pictures of books and coffee and pastry shops in Paris makes me very happy. :)

There's something special about all of our different ways of self-expression and it's awesome how social media let's us explore our own and appreciate others. It's a great way to keep connecting with people, even when we're quarantined.

Even for someone who doesn't mind time alone (like me!), I start to feel lonely after this much time cooped up. I picked up lunch at a drive-through yesterday just because I needed to see more humans! My kids seem to experience so many different emotions all throughout the day--so do I. We're all going through this together. All feelings and emotions are valid. 

One thing is for sure, when this time has passed, I will be so incredibly grateful for things like getting together with friends and family, or running to Target, or going out for coffee.

For right now, I'm grateful for home, health, love, my people . . . and Cadbury eggs.

How are you doing, loveys? What's it like over at your house?

Living Whole in the New Year

Loveys, I'm a dessert kind of girl. You know this about me. I love cheesecake and chocolate pie and brownies. The holiday season, of course, brings gingerbread cookies and pumpkin pie and  peppermint kisses. All of which make me so happy.

Then came January first. I decided to try Whole30. Really, I had a feeling I could do with a reset from my deep love of all things sugary.

So here I am. (I've never eaten this much fruit in my life.) And I confess I'm thinking of turning Whole30 into Whole21 and stopping early. Seriously. All these fruits and nuts and eggs and All Things Healthy are somehow making me gain weight.

The goal wasn't to lose weight, but certainly it wasn't to gain. So. I might slowly reintroduce a piece of cake into my life soon.

Food is such a part of togetherness. There's something about sitting around the table with close friends, eating something delicious, pouring glasses of wine, talking late into the night--those moments are some of my absolute favorite. For me, they are life-giving. But equally life-giving is the need for less after indulgence. A cup of coffee and a quiet morning, time for reflection. A clear mind and a helpful to-do list. I need both. Connection and the beauty of food and wine together. Then a break.



I feel like I need that in so many ways--not just a reset from sugar. I've been a little bit of a homebody this month. Some of it has to do with the fact that if I'm going to eat somewhere, I pretty much need to bring my own food. But also, I've slowly been organizing cabinets and drawers. The terrible part of this is that things always seem to get worse before they get better! Still, afterward, I breathe easier. Yesterday, after chaos for weeks, I made myself organize Lily's room (well, as much as I could before I fell over from exhaustion). It was time. Too much chaos makes me start to twitch until I have to do something.

Balance is hard to come by, especially in the thick of family life. This is definitely true for me. But whether I'm over here re-setting for 30 days or 21, I think it's good to just know ourselves. To be in tune with who we are and what we need.

Do you ever feel the need to explain or apologize for the things you enjoy?

To enjoy dessert. To enjoy food. To enjoy music or dancing. To enjoy TV and movies. Or maybe to enjoy taking pictures. Or shopping. Or clothes. Or being alone.

I think sometimes we feel we have to temper down who we are or what we enjoy, maybe so people know (or assume) our lives are balanced. The older I get, the more free I feel to just enjoy what I enjoy. To strive for balance always (and make a change when I know I need to, like this month), but to be okay with the fact that the things I enjoy might not be what someone else enjoys and that's okay. It doesn't invalidate my feelings. It just makes us all more interesting.

There are a lot of difficult things that come with getting older--but the freedom that comes with age is, to me, one of the good things. I think living whole is more than just the food we eat. It's embracing who we are meant to be.

For this year, I want as many life-giving moments as possible, for myself and my husband and my children. What about you, lovey? What are you passionate about? What needs more time this year? What needs less?

Let's get to it.

Beautiful Moments During This Holiday Season

This week I had a group of women around my table, eating breakfast, drinking mimosas and coffee, and talking about all the things. You guys know that those are my favorite moments. And Christmas makes it that much more special to me.

I love Christmas. Truly. And hosting a little Christmas gathering has been part of my life for going on nine years now. I still remember the first time I decided to see if some friends wanted to get together for a little party and maybe exchange ornaments. The day after the party was the day I took a pregnancy test and found out I was pregnant with our second baby (Lincoln!).

Every single year has been special to me, though friends have come and gone (and always some remain, for which I'm grateful). The night before the breakfast party this year, I was thinking of Colorado. I looked at pictures from years past. I missed my old friends and thought about the new ones who'd be coming over in the morning.

As the door opened the next day and my mom came in, bringing with her extra mugs and hash browns and pastries and quiche, I remembered that last year she'd just had surgery for breast cancer and couldn't come. This year her hair is growing back, she shared stories as we sat around the table, and having her there was a gift.

Time goes by so fast, as we all know. How has it been a whole year since her surgery last December? We've lived hours and minutes and days since then, and now Christmas has come back around.

At breakfast, we read quotes around the table from the book Little Women, and this one stuck with me: Such hours are beautiful to live, but very hard to describe.  

It reminds me of last year. The very difficult moments of watching my dad's health deteriorate as he battled cancer, then the moments of packing and moving and saying goodbye and closing a chapter of our lives, then even still, the day we heard that my mother had cancer.

It's a privilege to go through such things together. To have people we love that much.

And this year, I watched my mom from across the table and felt the same way I often feel when I'm talking to my dad--just relieved that they are here. Thankful for a little more time, knowing it's not promised to any of us.

I start this next decade with new friends around the table, and old friends forever in my heart (and not too far to visit!).

Last night, Jeff and I and the kids ended up all downstairs on the couch. We watched a movie and ate popcorn and laughed and were all cuddled up and tangled together . . . and there was this moment. Lincoln's head was on my shoulder. Lily and Ash were snuggled up on Jeff, and I was watching my family, not the movie, thinking, I can't be happier than this.

Because such hours are beautiful to live.

Not because anything spectacular is happening, but just because we're surrounded by people we love.

These are my favorite moments of the holiday season, because these are the hours that, to me, are beautiful to live.

Conversation with friends.

My children and Jeff all around me.

It's never perfect and never needs to be. It's enough for me.

Tonight is like every other night at the Bruce house. My kids suddenly have one million things to talk about and are as thirsty as camels at bedtime. Jeff and I can finally take an hour to watch TV together, but I'll probably fall asleep. After so many loads of laundry this weekend (and still not finished. Good grief), the sock pile is like Pike's Peak in my bedroom. And we've got another very busy week ahead of us, inching closer and closer to Christmas Day.

Some of those beautiful hours are stored away inside of us, and we carry them with us.

Here at Christmas especially, I start reminding myself of the things that don't matter and the things that matter so much.

My kids might not remember every present, but I hope they carry with them the nights we spent together and all the love.

I know I will.

(And for my mom and dad, I carry those things too.)

Merry Christmas, loveys. I hope this season is filled with beautiful moments for you and your family.

And for all my reader friends, I'm super excited to share with you that I'm releasing a holiday e-novella! I hope you'll hop over to Amazon and download this short, Romano family Christmas story.