5 Things I learned in 2020

When many of us look back at 2020, it’s hard for us to see anything but the negative experiences the year left for us, but if you really sit back and take a long, hard look at the year, there were actually some lessons that came out of the past year…well at least there were for me! Each year is a learning lesson to prepare us for our future and 2020 definitely dished out a few lessons worth learning!

Family is everything!

I have always cherished the time I get with my family and have always held family as one of the priorities in my life. This year though really knocked me and my family on our feet when my uncle passed away at the end of February. He was someone who had always been a constant figure in my life and someone that taught me so much growing up…whether it was about finances, how to drive a car or just those random life facts you never thought you needed to know, but it always came in handy one way or another!

His funeral was the weekend right before the world turned upside down and everything locked down! Quite honestly, it was the last time that my family would gather as a complete family. This past year has made me grateful for our family’s health, safety and the time we get with each other. It’s made me realize even more how short life is and how you shouldn’t take these simple moments for granted.

It’s okay to say “no”

I have gone through life always wanting to make sure that those around me were happy. I always had this mindset that the opinion of others mattered and that if someone was unhappy then I hadn’t done something I was supposed to. This was such a toxic mindset and honestly an exhausting one! In 2020, I decided it was time that I did something that made me happy and follow what I had always wanted to do. With the support of my husband, I walked away from my job outside of the home and followed my dream of being a stay-at-home, work-from-home mama.

As hard as it was to walk away from my students and my teaching career, I knew that my heart was at home with Bryan and Kennedy. Our babies grow up so fast and it’s time that we can never get back with them. I didn’t see the point in missing out on this time just to advance in my career…even if it’s what society says is the “right thing” to do.

Yes, everyone is entitled to their opinion, but everyone is also entitled to do what makes them happy! Just because your parents or society tells you that you have to go to college or you have to get a good 9-5 job doesn’t mean that it’s the right thing for you! It’s okay to say “no” to the things that aren’t serving you or making you happy! This life is so short, why are we exhausting ourselves doing things just because it’s what society says is the way things are supposed to be done?

Asking for help doesn’t mean you’re weak

This was a hard pill to swallow. Say it again with me mamas… “Asking for help doesn’t mean you’re weak!” Just because we’re “mama” doesn’t mean we always have to have all the answers or that we always have to have it altogether! We’re allowed bad days, to need a break.

This year I learned that it’s okay to lean on the support of others and to rely on those closest to you when you need help! Just because you need help doesn’t mean that you are weaker or that you’re not a good mama. It means that you’re doing all that you can to provide the best for your babies! I’ve relied on my husband more and more (especially since this 3rd pregnancy has left me more exhausted than ever before)!

Find your tribe mama. Those that you can rely on. Those that never judge you for the decisions you make! Do you know who they are? Don’t really have anyone you can rely on? Message me and I’d be happy to listen (IG: @lifewithswank)!

It’s okay to not always finish things

If the last one didn’t put you on your butt…this one surely will! I have always been big on to-do lists, checklists and finishing things by the end of the day. With the last year of grad school, working from home, two toddlers running around the house and making sure the house is cleaned and fully stocked with food… mama was exhausted by the end of the day!

I had to fully accept on some days that it’s okay that I didn’t finish things on my lists. There were days when I felt unaccomplished because I left those few tasks unchecked. Or when I felt like I wasn’t doing half the things I normally do because I’m so tired… Tory’s had to remind me quite a few times in the last few weeks it’s okay because I’m growing a human inside of me that’s literally sucking the life out of me!

Give yourself grace mama! We’re doing all that we can! As long as by the end of the day our babies are going to bed happy, fed and cleaned, we’ve done our jobs!

You can’t please everyone

Say it again for the people in the back… “YOU CAN’T PLEASE EVERYONE!” As much as I want to make everyone in my life happy… I know that’s not always going to happen! This year when I walked away from my “stable” jobs to pursue a life as a stay-at-home mama and start my own virtual assistant business, there was a lot of push back from those in my life because I was “wasting my degree” or “not working a stable 9-5 job.”

It took me a while to get over this hump but when I did, I realized that at the end of the day, those whose happiness mattered most to me were the ones under this roof. My babies were happy, my husband was happy and I was happy. Not everyone is going to be okay with the decisions we make but the ones that really love and support you will understand that the decisions you make are what’s best for your family and you.

Those who understand your worth mama, will understand that the decisions you make may not always please them, but are the right ones for you!

What are five things 2020 taught you?

A Child’s Love in an Uncertain Time

The last 4 weeks have been a whirlwind of emotions for our family. We have been hit with career changes, loss, job closures and pandemonium. We are in an uncertain time as a country and it’s scary as a mother and wife to think about raising our family with as little disruption as possible in our daily lives.

Career Changes

At the beginning of this month Tory received the news that he would be transferred to a IMG_4689different Sam’s Club that’s located 45 minutes away from our home. That meant an added hour and a half to his day commuting to and from work on top of his already 10+ hour work day. Disappointment didn’t even begin to explain how I felt when we received the news.

Since then, we’ve accepted the changes to our schedule and have made the adjustments we needed to make sure that our babies’ schedules are changed as little as possible.

Loss

On February 29, 2020 I received one of the worst phone calls I have ever gotten. My sister called me at 7:15 AM to let me know that my uncle was at the ER after he had suffered a heart attack earlier that morning.

While we were on the phone, the doctor came out to let my family know that they had done all they could but he was gone. My uncle, who had lived with us for years, who had taught me how to drive, who was one of the pillars of our family, was gone…forever.

FullSizeRender

I have experienced loss before, but this loss hit me harder than the others and hit me in a way that I felt like I was losing my two other uncles all over again as well. We spent the next week in Houston with the entire family. The amount of stress and frustration that we experienced this week was enough to last me a while…or so I thought.

IMG_4733I’m still grieving today and it’s hard to talk about at all because so many of my family members seem like they’re perfectly fine now after we said our final goodbye so I’ve kept how I’ve felt to myself. There’s been at least once after the funeral that I found myself breaking down in my car because of a worship song I’ve listened to many times came on.

Job Closures and Pandemonium 

Last week Thursday when Governor Whitmer (Michigan) called for all K-12 schools to be closed in light of the growing concerns for coronavirus, I thought that my life was just in for a little bit of a curve ball, however, what transpired in the following 24 hours would put my “plan ahead, have everything organized,” mind into a tailspin. In the following 24 hours I would find out that not just 1, but all 3 of my part-time jobs would be closed due to the pandemic.

If that wasn’t the only thing to make my mind go crazy, the way people were acting in IMG_5195stores was even scarier. I went on Friday morning after our final tennis practice at 7:30 AM to the northside Meijer in Holland and it was PACKED! PACKED! Where are these people on a regular day?! Not at Meijer that’s for sure! It happened to be 10 for 10 weekend, so not only were things going fast, but they were flying off the shelves and the lines at checkout were going back through the frozen section. People, this was 7:30 AM! Meijer is usually empty at that time!

The stories Tory has come home with haven’t been any less crazier either since he’s still working during all this craziness and things are still flying off the shelves as if people haven’t gotten enough already.

What I’ve Learned 

IMG_5197My family’s life has been turned upside down, right-side up and upside down again so many times in the last month. But one thing hasn’t changed, the unconditional love and innocence that pours out from our children.

In a time when I was most broken, Bryan, not understanding why Mommy was crying, knew that all I needed was a hug. As we laid our uncle down in his final resting place, I remember Bryan looking me in the eyes, hugging me as tight as he could and rubbing my back. He may not have understood what was going on, but I needed that more than anything in that moment.

During this last week while we’ve been home with no where to go and we’ve gone a little stir crazy, when I walk away from the living room just for a little breath from the mess, Kennedy will run over, hug my legs with a little giggle and just run away.

While the rest of the world seems to be going a little crazy right now, remember to take a moment and embrace the memories with the little one(s) running around your living room. While the rest of the world seems uncertain, these precious little ones are looking at us for normalcy.

All of this change and upheaval happened at the same as Bryan turning 3 years old! I IMG_4896can’t believe he’s already 3! He has grown up so much in the last year and has shown so much maturity and love for his age! We are so proud of the little man he’s growing up to be!

 

Living Our Best Life

So it’s been quite a few months since I’ve actually had the time to sit down and write or even sit down for that matter! Life with two babies in diapers is definitely no joke and the days sometimes run together between naps and bedtime!

Bryan…Language Barriers? 

1adc3279-6fb7-4e66-909c-9d15fffc25dbSince we last updated, Bryan is now 2 years old and starting to talk a little more. For a while I was concerned because people kept asking me why he wasn’t talking yet or why the words he was saying wasn’t as clear as others his age. I was constantly making excuses for him and telling people that he was at the stage that if you weren’t around him enough you weren’t going to understand him.

Why was I making excuses?! My 2-year-old son wasn’t behind! He may not be speaking clearly, but the more I thought about it and watched him in his daily routine, the more I realized that Bryan was communicating with us.

He was telling us when he needed a diaper change, when he wanted something from the fridge or when he just wanted to go to bed. It may not have been verbally but he was using all of his nonverbal gestures he’d picked up since birth to let us know he needed or wanted something.58456616812__d294d7ee-0440-4d75-8358-e00efdf6091f

Even more so, he was learning two languages…TWO!! It’s not like he’s only learning one language and wasn’t picking it up. I’ve noticed that half of his sentences are mixed with English and Vietnamese words. He understands when we speak to him in both languages.

I finally realized Bryan wasn’t the problem, him being compared to other children was! As a teacher I know that every child is different and learns differently at their own pace, I needed to realize this as a parent.

While he’s still learning, he’s also shown us that he is an AMAZING big brother to Kennedy. He’s constantly trying to show her love {much to Kennedy’s dismay…she’s not a cuddler like him}! When she cries he’ll go find her pacifier or her bottle and give it to her. When we’re changing her diaper, if the dirty one is in his reach, he’ll throw it away. The only thing that he hasn’t really grasped yet is sharing his toys {but we’ll get there one day}!

Kennedy…Two Toddlers Under 1 Roof! 

img_2752Kennedy is already a year old! We cannot believe how fast time is flying by!

She’s the sweetest little girl, but she’s got quite the sassy attitude. Recently, she picked up screaming at the top of her lungs when she doesn’t get what she wants {we’re working on putting that in check}!

She’s already standing on her own and we’re hoping that she’ll walk in the next few weeks! Kennedy learns so fast, but I’m pretty sure it’s because she has her brother to look up to.

When the two of them are getting along {which happens a lot more than not}, they are constantly getting into EVERYTHING! We can’t keep our eyes off them or leave them alone for a second! We’re constantly joking that when the two of them and their 1.5 year old cousin are together, the three of them are like little tornadoes {Kennedy will definitely be the one calling the shots}!img_2374

It’s crazy how careful we were with Bryan when he was her age, the second he fell or cried we ran right to him, but with Kennedy, although still very cautious, we’re not as “helicopter” as before. I guess that’s what always happens after the first child, you start to pick up the differences between a fake cry and a real one!

Tory…Moving on Up! 

It’s been quite a year so far for Tory too! He’s finally in a management position after years of trying to show he has what it takes but his previous managers just not seeing it or not giving him the chance! I’m so proud of him and all that he’s accomplished this year!

He started as the overnight manager for the last couple of months, but he just recently transitioned back to days {YAY!} and is the new Merchandising Manager at Sam’s Club {I hope I have that title right! I know for sure that he’s in charge of Center and Hardlines, which is what he was a team lead for before we moved back to Michigan}.

img_2377He works so hard to provide for our family! He’s been so dedicated to getting us into a newer, safer home to raise our kids and we finally did it! We moved into our dream home and have finally had the time to settle down from the madness of selling, buying and moving homes and Kennedy’s 1st Birthday party! It’s been a crazy few months!

Me…Multitasking Like a Boss {HA!}!

Life has never been on the slow path for me. Things have always been on the fast track and have always been constantly busy. Busy may not even be the best word? This year I’ve managed to juggle 3 part-time jobs, being a full-time mom and here’s the kicker…GETTING INTO GRAD SCHOOL!!!

I’ve wanted for so long to be a Spartan and it’ll finally come true this Fall when I start my Master’s degree program at MSU! I’m so extremely excited and even more so blessed that I have Tory’s support through all of this!a919824e-6eeb-4971-b98d-aa33f80c2139

In the last few months since all of this has been happening, it’s the quiet moments, like now, when all of the house is still and I can finally sit down to write or even to catch a breath, that I realize how much things have changed. I have lost friends and I have gained some.

I have learned that even the closest friends can become complete strangers. I’ve learned that the people that matter the most are the ones that have made an effort to be a part of my kids’ lives and have been supportive of both Tory and I…and, unfortunately, that circle has become smaller and smaller as each month has passed.

Was I hurt? Yeah, at first. But then I realized that my time was better spent with those that wanted to be a part of this journey and path that my family was on. Tory and I are both working towards living our best lives for our kids and our future.

img_2660If it means that we lose people on the way, then I guess that it’s something we have to learn to deal with. Having friends is nice, but having friends that are supportive and love our kids as much as we love them is even more important to us.

We are extremely grateful to those who have stuck around for this adventure with us! New home, two toddlers, grad school and two working parents… We can’t wait to see what this new chapter brings! Hopefully you stick around to see!

 

Two Years and a Lifetime to Go

“One of the most amazing things that can happen is finding someone who sees everything you are and won’t let you be anything less. They see the potential in you. They see endless possibilities. And through their eyes, you start to see yourself the same way. As someone who matters. As someone who can make a difference in this world.” -Susan Colasanti

wedding

Year One

Growing up I was raised with images and the understanding that a “perfect” marriage, the best kind of marriage, is one that you spent the first year or  couple of years, traveling, getting to know each other as husband and wife, and supporting each other’s careers. These notions were presented to me in movies, books, and very few married couples in my life that actually chose this lifestyle.

If anything, our honeymoon phase of marriage lasted all but 4 months (that’s not to say we haven’t been happy since, we’ve been even happier)! 4 months before we were thrust into a married life as parents.

Many people probably don’t agree, and have actually made us aware that they don’t, with our choices, but would we change it? ABSOLUTELY NOT! Our first year of marriage blessed us with our son. Even though we had to stop thinking of ourselves, we have loved every part of putting Bryan first!

Happy 2 Year Anniversary

The honeymoon phase has faded and the realities of life, family, careers and responsibilities have set in. If anything our first two years have been anything but ordinary! If you think year one threw us a curveball, year two was even  crazier!

As if being newly weds and new parents wasn’t enough, this last year we’ve learned what it meant to sacrifice our needs to put the needs of our kids, yup I said it, kids (plural), first! We’re now 2 years into married life with 2 under 2!

In our first 2 years together, we’ve encountered a cross-country move, several career changes, opposite work schedules and 2 babies in diapers.

Your “Person”

“If you’re lucky enough to find this person, never let them go.” -Susan Colasanti

I was lucky enough to meet my person 4 years ago and just didn’t know it then. Tory made me believe I was worth it! He made me believe that I was special and meant to be treated in such a way. He encouraged me every time I doubted myself and supported me in everything I set out to do.

Happy 2 Year Wedding Anniversary to my best friend! He changed my life in so many incredible ways! I’m so thankful for him for always being my constant support, love and care! He gave me the world (and more) and he means the world to me!

Here’s to 2 years, 2 kids and a life time to go!

A Four Year Lesson

Heels clicked and clacked quickly against the marble floors; you could smell the coffee img_4925brewing in the staff room as we quickly grabbed our morning jumpstart and snacks before heading to the ballroom to begin another 12-hour day of pageant duties.

Everyone has a memory that’s connected to certain smells and sounds.

Every time I hear someone in heels walking quickly or smell the first cup of coffee (these days it’s my only cup of coffee) brewing at my Keurig, I’m reminded of where I was in my life 4 years ago.

Not in My Plans

Four years ago if you had asked me if I ever thought I’d settle down, get married and have kids I would’ve told you “No way!” I was at a point in my life where I had no idea what my next step would be.

img_4922It was August 2014 and I was 2 years post college. I had a degree in Communication and no plans to pursue the Journalism/PR career I had worked so hard to get to the 3 years I spent in college.

I had just finished my 2nd year as a staff member for National American Miss. I was traveling around the country, involved in an industry I loved and had helped shaped most of who I was growing up (check out my first post “Tiaras to Diapers,” of my journey from pageantry to motherhood). I was the Chief Officer of Operations for The Pageant Planet, the largest online coaching system for pageantry, and managing several interns, helping them build a foundation for their careers. How could it get any better than this?

I was in New York City visiting my baby sister, contemplating my next move. Was I going to move to NYC and begin that journalism career? One I had imagined would be like the movies I loved- How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days and The Devil Wears Prada (Ha! I was young and naive!). All I knew was I wasn’t going back to Houston. There was nothing there for me. img_4923-1

When One Chapter Ends…

Earlier in 2014 I had just gotten out of a serious relationship. A relationship that I thought was my future (anyone who’s really been close to me knows that this has been a long time coming).

We had been together for 5 years (all of my college career and then some). We had been really good friends before we started dating too. It was only natural that it would lead to the idea that we were meant for each other, right?

There was a 2-year difference between us. I was at a point in my life where I was deciding what my future would be and thought I was ready to settle down, he was not. It wasn’t obvious back then, but years later as I look back at it now, we were never on the same page. 

We never really agreed on things when we talked about the future. One of us always seemed like we were giving into the other (that would’ve been a disastrous future together).

Towards the end of this relationship I was spending weeks on end traveling for work and the only communication we really had was via text. We rarely called each other and when I was home, I was spending my time with my family or my two God kids. The relationship was over even before either of us could realize it.

I have been bitter for so long when I would think back to that relationship and the way it ended. Looking back now, one of us needed to be the one to walk away first, otherwise we would’ve been stuck in a future neither of us was truly happy with.

It was a relationship that taught me who I was and what I truly wanted in a relationship. It was one that once the door closed, it remained and still remains locked, sealed and never to be opened again. There were good times, but when I think back at how much we couldn’t compromise and one of us was always giving in- it was a toxic relationship.

Funny, how this relationship had sprouted at church and through our time in youth group together. We spent many years as students and eventually both of us became leaders. In these 5 years, instead of growing in my faith, I had seemed to lose my way and lost any faith I had in God’s plans for me.

Another One Begins…

cf29a61c-5e25-4f93-b933-0cfb1d8a4280-799-00000095ee3853a7As that chapter ended and I was making plans on what I would do and where I would go next, I knew returning to Houston wouldn’t be an option.

I spent two weeks in NYC, seeing whether or not I could see myself living there- definitely could not; I couldn’t stand the crowds! I knew I wanted some family around wherever that led me. My only options at that point were to move back to Michigan or Dallas, where some cousins lived. If I moved to Michigan, I had my entire extended family but my parents would be too far.

So I took a chance, went to Dallas for a few interviews and a week later had all my things packed up in my little Kia Rio ready to begin a new chapter.

In this chapter, I wasn’t going to go looking for love. I wasn’t going to go looking for anything. I was just going to take it one day at a time and see where it would lead me.

God’s Love and Work

I was always taught that God works in mysterious ways. When I had the least amount of faith in Him and His plans, He worked in ways to bring my life together and rebuild my faith. 

I came to Dallas broken and lost. I had no faith left in relationships or in myself. I had img_2100started to accept the idea that I would be single forever and that my journalism career would never happen (I was right about my career).

I had spent years teaching my youth group students that God works in mysterious ways, but I never really believed it myself.

When I least expected it, God began to show His plans for me in the most unexpected ways. He brought someone into my life who would teach me what it meant to love someone unconditionally (outside of family), he would teach me what a real relationship could endure and overcome and he would introduce me to things I never dreamed of doing (having a stable group of friends that hung out every weekend, going to softball games and being in a relationship that faced real adult obstacles).

img_4861When I thought I wasn’t worth much or capable of being loved by anyone (outside of my family), God brought a man into my life who would become my best friend, love of my life and future father of my children. When I was at what felt like the lowest point in my life, Tory came into it, and in so many ways throughout the past 4 years, my faith was being restored. 

If you had asked me 4 years ago if I saw myself married to an incredible man with two beautiful children, I would’ve laughed at you. I never could’ve imagined my life would have a chapter with me as a wife and learning to be a mother to two under 2 (years old).

Here I am… in the greatest chapter of my life!

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways- For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”
~Isaiah 55:8-9

2018…a Year of Growth

I can’t believe that we’re nearing the end of the second month in 2018! Time sure has flown by already this year! Quite a few things have happened for our family since the last time I’ve had the time to actually put thoughts together {between working full-time with a now 11-month-old at home, who’s got the time to sit down and write}!

A Quick Update

The last time I had the time to write, I wrote about how 2017 had been a year that actually broke me. It was a year that I learned a lot of hard lessons and a year that made me question myself quite a bit.

I wish I could say that 2018 has been different, but it hasn’t changed too much. I continue to question my abilities and even more so now.

Tory and I announced on New Years that we are expecting again. That’s right! The Swank family will be welcoming another baby in July!

In January, I accepted a part-time job as Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church’s Preschool/Elementary Ministry Coordinator. Tory’s returned to Sam’s Club and has been doing really great with all the experience he brings with him.

Bryan- 11 monthsBryan is 11 months old now {ahhh time can just freeze right here} and standing on his own! We’ve tried to get him to walk, but he’s just not having it. Last night was the first night he slept in his room since he was born {don’t try to say anything to us about the negatives of co-sleeping…we understand everyone has their own opinions}.

We’re currently gearing up for his 1st birthday party next month {that’s right people…our little boy is going to be 1 YEARS OLD}!!!

Finally being able to sit down the past couple of days and just gather my own thoughts around everything that has happened in the last couple of months, makes me realize how fast things are actually changing {and to be honest, at times, makes me question whether or not I’m capable of handling all of it}.

 

…as a Teacher 

I am in my fourth year of teaching and sadly, this is the first year I’ll actually finish a full school year from beginning to end {and at times it’s really made me feel like I’m not capable of teaching}.

My first year, I started teaching preschool in January after realizing that the Marketing 25507694_1282126521933732_3688136156996654844_nworld was just not my thing and I couldn’t do the retail or corporate world anymore. Year 2, I entered as a 4th grade teacher after being a long-term substitute for the class for a month and didn’t fully come on as a teacher until November… My third year as a Kindergarten teacher, had me done in March since I went on maternity leave and decided not to come back {yeah, I took the 12 weeks instead of 6}. And here I am…my fourth year…no longer in a classroom… an EL teacher who pulls small groups of kids to work with them.

I have been teaching for 4 {school} years…if you can even count them as years… and I still question my ability to be a teacher… {Read “It Takes a Village…“}

Not only is teaching a job that doesn’t give you 100% feedback right away on your results {it could come years later when those students aren’t yours anymore and have probably forgotten all about you}, but it’s not a job that you clock in an clock out of.

You’re constantly wondering if you’re doing enough for your students, if you’re teaching the way that works best for all 28 {in my case 51} students in your class, if you’re following the curriculum but at the same time making sure you’re taking time to teach those life lessons that don’t come in the books. It’s a never-ending cycle of questions.

It doesn’t help when an exam {or two for me} tell you that you’re just not good enough… {Now I really know how our kids feel when we have them take standardized tests or we’re constantly testing them on different things we expect them to remember}.

I’ve been trying for months to transfer my Texas teaching certificate up to Michigan. I had to retake the SAT {yup…9 years out of high school and I had to retake the SAT}…and missed the mark by 10 points, making me feel like I was the stupidest person in the world. If I can’t even pass the SAT, what makes me think I’m capable of being a teacher?! I had to retake the English as a Second Language teaching exam {passed the first time I took it in Texas}, missed it by 20 points… now I really have no right being a teacher.

I have gone back and forth in my head asking if I was meant to be a teacher. Am I capable of shaping future minds or am I that teacher that’ll steer them in the wrong direction, only to have the next teacher have to steer them back…

Just because I’m a teacher, doesn’t mean I won’t make mistakes…doesn’t mean I’m done learning…

…as a Mother 

Expecting

Oh, how I wish I didn’t ever question my abilities when it comes to my son…and soon-to-be another son or daughter {we’ll find out March 19}… but I’m only human…

Am I doing enough for him {Dear New Parent, You’re Doing Great}? Am I taking care of him the best that I can? Am I doing it right {honestly though, is there even a “right” way}? Is he happy? Is he healthy?

Well, the is he healthy question can be answered every time we go to the doctor’s. But even then that doesn’t make me feel much better. Bryan’s only gained 10 lbs from birth {our last visit was in December and he was only 16 lbs}. The last two visits we’ve been told that he’s only in the 2-4th percentile for both height and weight… those numbers don’t make me feel great as a mother…

Instead, they made me question if I was feeding him enough, feeding him the right things or if something else was wrong. I couldn’t seem to wrap it around my head that he was healthy regardless of how small he was… {have you guys seen me…I’m not exactly the tallest person}

As a parent, you’ll always be worried about your kid(s). I just have to remind myself to look at that sweet little boy’s smiles and listen for his laughs to reassure me that I am doing all that I can to the best ability that I can to provide for him {even when people are telling me otherwise}.

…as a Wife

You thought I only question my abilities in my career and my role as a mother?! HA! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt like I had dropped the ball since becoming a mother on my marriage or how many times I felt like I wasn’t doing my part for our family. {Check out our post “Not Good Enough.“}

weddingThey say the first year of marriage is the toughest…hell yeah it is!!! …Tack on becoming a mother, moving cross country, becoming a home owner and switching careers and you pretty much have what my first year of married life was… a series of never ending obstacles…

But when you find that right person, every obstacle that comes your way can only feel like a small bump in the road.

There have been days when I’ve fallen apart because I felt like I wasn’t doing enough and I could lose it all {I’m not sure if the hormones had any part in it}, but I’m so thankful to have a husband {even though we have our bad days…what marriage doesn’t} that will always remind me of my worth and how much I do for our family.

No different than any other role I hold, this role also changes as our family changes, but it doesn’t mean that I’m going to slack on it…it just means that I’ll be growing into it as the years go by and I’ll be changing with it.

Growing as a Person

I’ll be 27 years old in 5 days and there are days where I still question who I am…

There’s that infamous question that many people {if not everyone} gets at any job interview or any professional development meeting…”How would you describe yourself using {enter amount} words…”

I’m going to be honest…I have always wanted to say “I HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA!” Why? I’m constantly changing as a person. I’m constantly learning about myself and I don’t want to come off as conceited or over-valuing/devaluing myself.

I had to really think about the words that described me the other month because of an assignment I was doing with my students at school. I was teaching them all about adjectives and how we use them to brighten up/spice up our writing. We also use them to describe ourselves or others.

So what 7 words described me… I had a rather difficult time coming up with them…

I had been in pageants since the age of 12, countless job interviews and even more professional development seminars…how could I not answer this question?!

Simple {is it though?}, I’m not the same person I was when I was 5, 10, 15 or 26. Sure, some things probably stayed the same but there were things in my life that were different which in turn made a part of me different.

My 15-year-old self never would’ve described me as “motherly,” because I wasn’t a mom, nor did I know how to be one {I’m still learning by the way} and my 26-year-old self wouldn’t say that I’m athletic…sure I played tennis and danced in high school and college…but I haven’t since then…

So what am I getting at? We’re all constantly in a cycle of growth and change. Our lives would be so boring if we were all so “step-ford” and did the same thing day in and day out. 2017 may have been a year that broke me, but 2018 is going to be the year that I let myself grow and take the risks I need to help myself and my family do just that {even if it does have me falling flat on my face at times}.

Goodbye Texas, Hello Michigan

file4

So it’s been a while since I’ve had the time to update what’s been going on for our family! Many of you know that we decided back in February that it was time to be around more family {after my baby shower was a complete failure} and that we wanted Bryan to be raised around a big family the way both of us had been raised {and of course the SNOW!! Many people have had their opinions about our decision on that!}

Most of May was spent packing up our, what seemed like a tiny, apartment- I had no

file1-4
Living room/dining room

idea that a 2-bedroom, 2-bath apartment could fit so much… Since Tory was working overnight for Sam’s and spent the days- sleeping, I took on the responsibility to pack everything up. I’m pretty sure I had a burst of energy as I packed most of all our stuff up in two days! So for the next month, we had boxes on boxes in every room!

Surprisingly, I wasn’t the one who had the most stuff! It was Bryan! Who knew a baby could have so many different boxes filled with so many different things!

file1-6
Kitchen

So as I sit on the floor {Bryan is in his bouncer and doesn’t fall asleep without being bounced for a while} this Sunday morning, I can’t help but be grateful and astonished at how much has happened to us the last couple months.

It hasn’t been all sunshines and rainbows though, Tory and I have definitely learned some hard lessons in “adulting” and parenthood. Owning your first house- not easy. Being parents to an infant son- not always easy, but surely rewarding. Moving cross country- not easy. One of us changed jobs and the other is only part-time- not easyfile3-2

With all these hard lessons, we have learned the strength of our relationship and have learned that the love we have for each other and for Bryan will get us through every obstacle thrown our way.

Bryan:

Our sweet little boy is now 4 months old and as aware as they get! He is so curious about the world around him and it’s such a blessing to be able to witness him learning about things. The way his face lights up with the biggest smile when he hears or sees a familiar voice and face, the way he coos {loving the baby talk with him} to himself as he watches cartoons each morning as Tory and I get ready for the day or even the way he cries for a bottle.

file2-1
Bryan loves watching TV with Daddy

When Bryan hollers…he hollers!! I used to fear that neighbors would hear us and be concerned about what was happening, but I’ve learned to catch it right before he starts hollering now. I can feel him moving at night; as soon as I feel him turning his head back and forth I know that it’s time for Mommy to haul her butt downstairs to heat up his bottle {those 3 minutes are the longest 3 minutes when Bryan is screaming and hollering}. Poor Daddy, though, is still learning when to catch him at that point. But we are getting there!

 

In the last couple months Bryan has become more aware of his surroundings. He now recognizes when I come home from work and his face just lights up {best feeling in the world}! He could be on the couch watching TV with Daddy, or even his great-grandparents when they’re watching him, and as soon as he hears my voice it’s over people!

file3
Loving his new bouncer/walker

He’s starting to become attached to things. He’s learned to roll over, although, he still has one arm that doesn’t always come out from under him. When he does get both arms out he’s trying very hard now to start crawling-it’s only a matter of time before he’s mobile! He laughed for the first time a couple weeks ago and now when he’s talking to his daddy, he giggles and laughs so much {Tory’s really great at getting him to laugh}.

These first 4 months have been such a life changer with him in our lives and we are just so blessed to be his parents.

Tory: 

file1-3
Trying so hard to crawl

Daddy is home every night now!!! Yay!!

After 5 years with Sam’s Club, Tory weighed his options and decided that it was best to explore other opportunities that would give him a chance to advance faster and be home with us at night.

We are so happy to have him home every night now {he works 4 am-12:30 pm instead of 9 pm-5:30 am}. He gets to spend more time with Bryan and has so much more time to do things than before.

Coming home to my hometown has been a disadvantage for him since he wasn’t so familiar with the place before we decided to come back here, but he’s made such a big effort to make us a home here. He’s been working really hard to make our house {which needed a lot of TLC when we first moved in} a place that we love being in.

file2-7
Master bedroom

I’m really hoping that as he becomes more comfortable with Holland and gets to know more people {let’s face it, it’s easier for Tory to make friends than it is for me at times}, he will jump back into things that he used to love doing- like playing softball on the weekends.

Megan: 

Since we’ve been home, I’ve had to learn how to juggle being a mommy and going back to work {it wasn’t something new to Tory, but I’ve had 3 months at home with Bryan}. It was definitely hard to return back to work after being so used to just spending my days with Bryan and making sure that he was taken care of {being a parent is a full-time job..with no breaks}!

file3-3
Master bedroom

I’m currently working at Hope College’s CASA {Children’s After School Achievement} program teaching 5th graders- who are incoming 6th graders. I forgot how much I loved teaching.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved my time at home with Bryan and I miss it a lot, but the last 4 weeks I’ve spent with my students have reminded me why I went into teaching in the first place.

It was a rough start at first- these kids were learning those infamous middle school attitudes {and there are times when those attitudes will surface during class and I have to deal with it}- as soon as they learned that I wasn’t there to make their lives hard, things started to roll smoothly each day. I’ve been able to see these kids thrive in Reading, Writing and Math {ugh, Mrs. S is learning to thrive in Math too- HA}!

file-23
Bryan’s room

I’m still hoping to find a job for the 2017-2018 school year, but for now I’m just enjoying my time with these kids while I still have them for the next 2 weeks.

The Swanks: 

We are slowly making our home feel a little bit more like our own place and learning all the ins and outs of being homeowners. This adventure has taken us on a roller coaster ride that at times we were completely prepared for and others we felt like we were walking blindly, but it’s been a ride we are grateful to be a part of.

michiganWe do miss some parts of our life back in Texas- like our best friends and the little apartment we started our life together in- but we are loving the new things we’re experiencing and learning about ourselves in Michigan. Thank you Texas for being the part of our life that helped us come together as a family and helped us learn who we are. Goodbye big city life in Texas and hello small city {I still think of it as a small town} life in Michigan- we’re here and we’re ready for whatever comes our way {next experience: Fall and Winter}!

file-14

Newlyweds to New Parents

Today our sweet little boy is exactly one week old! While celebrating this tiny, but exciting milestone with my husband, it has me thinking about how much life can change in just a blink of an eye, or in our case, a week.

file2-1

Last week Monday {03.13.17} at 12:26 p.m. Tory and I went from being newlyweds {from our wedding that just happened back in November 2016} to new parents. Although, we had been ready for the last weeks of our pregnancy for our little guy to make his appearance, I don’t think I was ready for the rush of emotions that would come with it {when they say that your hormones are still out of control they really mean it}.

Please don’t get me wrong, I’m so excited and so happy to be a mommy now to my incredibly handsome little boy, and I know that throughout his life my love for him will continue to grow immensely. But what I wasn’t prepared for was what has become a constant worry in the back of my mind that my marriage has taken a backseat to my new responsibilities that come with parenthood.

Finding a Balance 

file3I recently read a post of a newspaper article entitled “Your kids should not be the most important in the family,” that really gave me a “wow, this is absolutely true,” kind of moment. After finishing the article, it made me realize that this is something that my husband and I had talked about but I still hadn’t really grasped where our balance was. I mean can you blame me? I’ve only been a wife for less than 5 months and a Mommy for a week! As much as I would like to say I have a grasp on things, I know that I still don’t (and I’m definitely not afraid to admit it).

Now, I know that this is definitely a hot topic for most parents and some even avoid the conversation with other parents, but it’s something that I’ve struggled with in just this week alone. How can your kids not be the most important thing? Afterall, you are their legal guardians, their protectors, their providers, shouldn’t their needs be a priority?

A priority, yes… but that doesn’t mean it should consume your life. Just because you became a parent, doesn’t mean that you stopped being a wife or a husband. In my opinion, I completely agree with the article. Our parents, their parents and generations before them all had successful marriages because they didn’t forget to set out time for each other, among the other responsibilities that parenthood brought on.

I have seen both sides of this issue (I guess it’s an issue?)- one where the husband and wife just let themselves become completely consumed by parenthood and stopped talking to each other unless it had to do with the kids and one where the husband and wife continued to make time for each other regardless of the constant hassle of sports practices, band rehearsals and such.

This first week, Tory and I have definitely learned that it’s going to take a lot to balance what we want to do vs. what we need to do. Just because we’re parents now, doesn’t mean that we should be forgetting that we are also husband and wife. We have also learned to balance our responsibilities as parents to help better take care of Bryan.

It’s just not one person does everything and the other is kind of there for the ride. Or each of us has a certain thing that we do that the other doesn’t. Tory and I have worked together to balance our son’s needs and have taken turns-like if one of us needs to rest the other will be pick up the slack.

I have seen more successful marriages with kids than those that have failed because they made their kids the important part of the family instead of each other. For some reason though in this week alone, I have struggled with this and have felt that my marriage had taken a backseat and because of this I have found myself in a quiet, constant panic that the most important, loving thing in my life could be gone in just a blink of an eye.

I guess it may also be a result of Tory going back to work overnights again and we’re finding ourselves on completely different schedules…I’m up during the day and he’s up during the night and that we haven’t exactly found a moment to ourselves. We went from spending every night with each other for the past month (when he was working days) back to spending what couple hours we have in between our sleep schedules.

Postpartum and Talking Things Out

After witnessing some of my moments where I have just shut down because of the fear that our marriage wasn’t important anymore, my husband pointed out that although our son is very important to us and that his needs have to be attended to more than ever during the first couple of weeks as we get into a routine that we’re comfortable with, I needed to remember that Bryan is the product of the love we have for each other and without our strong relationship, he wouldn’t be here.

file4I love that little guy with all of my heart and so much more and I’ve already felt those guilty mom moments because I felt like my son was more important to my husband than I was (am I going crazy for having these feelings?).

Like I said earlier, these hormones postpartum are crazy (if anything they feel like they’re much worse than pregnancy hormones)! The problem I have is that I have always become a quiet person when something bothers me and I have always let it bottle up inside.

Tory has become so good at picking up on my signs that he has constantly been asking me the past week how I’m doing and how I’m feeling just to make sure that I haven’t started to shut down and bottle things up. There have been times when I have caught myself just tearing up and not talking about how I’ve felt about feeling less important or that our marriage took a backseat-the worst thing I could possibly do is shut down at those moments and let it bottle up.

The next couple of weeks, or even months, will definitely be a learning experience as I

file1-1
Our little guy has quite the personality!

continue to learn my role as wife and now as a mother. It’s all about finding a balance and of course having a strong support system.

I can’t say enough how blessed I feel to have not only a strong, loving and caring husband (also a supportive family from both sides). Although there are times when I feel like I’m not the most important anymore, I know that I’m not in this journey alone. I just have to remind myself that I married my best friend and not many people are lucky enough to be able to say that or even experience it.

I know that this next year will be quite a journey for the Swank household as we continue to learn what marriage and parenthood are like and the obstacles that may come with them, but I’m definitely ready to experience every up and down, twist and turn with the two guys in my life!

 

 

The Waiting Game

“Good things come to those who wait.” 

I’ve heard this so many times growing up and I’m not sure why I’ve just now realized that the last 3 years of my life have been full of waiting and having patience for God’s plans to unravel themselves. 

I waited 4 months before Tory asked me out on our first date. We waited 50 days before we could make our engagement public. We waited months for me to officially become a certified teacher. We waited weeks for Tory to receive some good news about his job. Now we’re waiting for our first born son to come. 

A Dragging Week

Posted by @teacherthings on Instagram

This last week of pregnancy has been nothing short of agonizing and frustrating as we watched our friends who had due dates after us welcome their little ones home and we continued to wait for ours to make his appearance. 

I feel so bad with the amount of frustration I’ve felt this week. Frustration that I can’t do things on my own anymore because my joints and hands have become so swollen. Frustration that our doctor’s appointments have been less than satisfying with the answers we’ve gotten. 

Last Friday {3.3.17} we went in for our weekly doctor’s appointment knowing that we were on our 39th week and we were nearing the end, only to be disappointed in the news that our due date had been changed for yet a second time without us being told. 

When we went in 9 months ago for our first appointment we were told that our due date was March 14, however, two weeks later during our first sonogram we were told that our due date was actually March 10. So we made our plans. We set the date. We told our family and friends. On Friday, both Tory and I were disappointed, confused and frustrated with the news that we weren’t as far along as we thought. 

“On your 39th week, we’ll set a date to induce if he isn’t here already,” we heard our doctor say. 

The confusion on our faces were clear as day. What?! We’re already on our 39th week. As we waited for the nurses to come back with an answer, I could feel tears welling up in my eyes. Why was I so frustrated to the point of tears? After all, it’s just an estimated date. I knew that… 

Our doctor either never changed our date from the second visit or she changed our date again without letting us know. Our waiting game continues for our sweet son to make his arrival. 

God’s Plans vs. Our Plans 

Posted by @jcluforever on Instagram

As much as Tory and I keep wanting to call our doctor just to schedule a date to induce, I know that our doctor {as old school as she has shown us through the few obstacles we’ve had this pregnancy with sickness and medications} will just tell us to wait it out. 

Our moms could tell that our frustration levels have hit their points and that we are ready for this pregnancy to end {I feel like such a terrible mom for not enjoying the rest of my time carrying my little boy}. The other night my mom told us something that really resonated with me and has been a constant reminder for me that Bryan will come when we least expect him to. 

“God has a plan for you guys and in his plan he already has Bryan’s birth date set.” 

As we anxiously wait for Baby Bryan, as stubborn as he may seem, to come, my mom is right. How could I forget that His plans have always been far greater than the plans I had for myself? 

After so many disappointing and heartbreaking relationships in the past, Tory and I both never really saw ourselves getting married. We never planned to be expecting our first child only months after being married. I never planned to become a teacher. But God has worked so mysteriously in both our lives to show us that He has amazing things planned for us as husband and wife, partners in life’s journey, our career paths and now as future parents. 

As agonizing as it is to constantly be waiting for things to unfold in life, the best things are worth waiting for and we just have to keep reminding ourselves that although we may have plans for the things we do or want to do, God has an even bigger plan for each of us that is far more incredible than we would’ve ever set out for ourselves. 

My mom sends us daily food for thought texts and during this Lent season she has sent quite a few that have really summed up the obstacles we face each day with our careers, this pregnancy and just things that occur each day. She sent this one text the other day that really just set things into perspective for me for everything that has happened in the last couple of weeks: 

“Life Is Messy

Focus:

Everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle and carrying a heavy load.

Act:

Be gentle with the people who cross your path. If someone is grumpy or rude, if someone makes a mistake or does something wrong, give them the benefit of the doubt. You never know what they are carrying around inside.

Pray:

Jesus, thank you for giving me a hope nobody can take from me. Give me the courage to confront my own mess and share that hope with others.” 

As I continue to hope and pray for the safe and healthy arrival of our baby boy, I can only remind myself that everyone is going through their own obstacles but in the end, it’ll all be worth it as God’s plans for each of us reveal themselves. 

Isaiah 60:22: 

“The least one shall become a clan, the smallest, a night nation; I, the Lord, will swiftly accomplish these things when the time comes.” 

I Do Always and Forever…For Better or For Worse…In Sickness and In Health

It’s been quite a week in the Swank household; both Tory and I have been fighting the flu-it’s no fun being pregnant and sick, let alone with the flu! Poor Tory had it so bad, our house has never been so quiet; we really learned that he’s the talkative one in our relationship!

file3
Posted by Godly Dating 101 on Instagram.

I Vow…

This week really made me think about the vows that we made to each other 4 months ago when we got married: “in sickness and in health, for better or worse, for richer or poorer.”

Not only have we been dealing with germs and all the other lovely symptoms that come along when you’re sick, but we’ve also had a rough week figuring out where we both would be career-wise when our precious baby arrives.

People always say that the first year of marriage is the toughest, but I had no idea that it would hit us all in the same week.

I have never once doubted the strength of our relationship or our ability to work together through every up and down that may come our way. This past week has truly made me appreciate everything Tory and I have gone through since the day we met!

“Hey What’s Up”

file4
February 14, 2015-first day we officially started dating

It’s crazy how 3 words can change so much. No, it’s not those 3 infamous words with 8 letters, but the lives of 2 people changed completely with 3 words and 10 letters, “Hey, what’s up.”

We didn’t meet in a movie-like, cutesy, automatic love at first sight kind of way. We met on the first night I started my new job in Dallas when Tory opened the doors to the store for me. At the time Tory was working overnight at Sam’s Club and I worked for a direct marketing firm for Sam’s members.

Although we didn’t speak the first night, Tory strategically made his move the next 4 months, or so he says, with a simple “Hey, what’s up,” each time he saw me at work. No conversations were had, no dates were made. My attention was caught when Tory walked right into a pole while pulling pallets to the back after one of his many “Hey, what’s up,” exchanges (it’s a lot cuter than it sounds).

The Night That Started It All

file5
January 1, 2015

After our many brief encounters, our “relationship,” went nothing further than just those 3 words. Unfortunately, Tory was on vacation when I quit my job, so all was lost right? Not quite, I took a chance and went back to Tory’s club to go grocery shopping {there are much closer stores} to see if he would say something more than “Hey, what’s up,” and hoping that he was working that day. 

As I walked around the store, I wasn’t really sure what to say or do if I did bump into him. I was just about to walk to the registers to check out when Tory walked up and what does he say? “HEY, WHAT’S UP,” and just walked away. 

Now, in Tory’s defense, he says he was nervous and he was just working up the courage to say more than just those words. 

I was about to give up, but Tory came back around and asked me to spend New Years with him and his friends at a party. 

file1
Ringing in 2016 together…a year after our first date.

When the night of our first date came around, I had just pulled up to Tory’s place when I wondered if I should really go on this date. It would be better than ringing in the New Year alone, right? As if things couldn’t get more interesting, Tory texted me to let me know he had lost a bet a couple days before and would have to spend the first part of the party wearing a dress! 

Our first date was the first time we ever really said more than just those 3 words to each other, it was the night Tory wore a dress for the first time, the night I learned that tequila was not my friend and the night we shared our first and last first kiss

New Years Eve 2014 was the beginning of our forever. 

Our Forever

Rings, engagement, marriage… These subjects had always been something we talked about throughout our relationship.

file2
May 7, 2016…the day Tory proposed

What type of ring I wanted. What type of ring Tory saw himself buying for me. How long we would be engaged for. What our wedding would look like and when it would happen.

It was no secret that Tory was planning on proposing this year. He was very much open about his plans and I was very verbal about asking my parents for permission and the Vietnamese traditions for the engagement and wedding.

In October 2015, Tory had actually sat down with my parents and asked for their permission.

The weekend of Mother’s Day {May 5-8, 2016} had come and the we had planned a trip back to my hometown of Holland, Mich. for my 3 cousins’ graduations, Mother’s Day and for Tory to meet the rest of my family.

On the way back home, I was very curious about why Tory wouldn’t check in his bag so that he wouldn’t have to walk around the airport with a heavy bag, but he told me some story about how he had lost a bag once and didn’t want that to happen again {Okay, babe… Later turns out that he had the ring in the bag}.

Throughout the weekend, Tory had asked me to take him to all her favorite spots in my hometown. I showed him my old house, high school and we walked down to Kollen Park, where I used to spend the Fourth of July watching the fireworks with my cousins and friends. Overall though, my favorite spot was my grandparents’ living room, where the entire extended family spent every Christmas together since I was a little girl.

On the morning of May 7, we sat down with my mom, aunt and grandparents to eat breakfast before the graduations and Tory asked my grandparents for their permission to marry me IN VIETNAMESE {Tory had to use his cellphone to read the pronunciations}!! After many questions, my grandparents said “yes.”

file8
June 25, 2016- the day of our traditional engagement ceremony

Throughout the day while driving to, attending and driving home from my cousin Juliet’s graduation from Michigan State, Tory kept asking me to marry him and my answer each time was, “This is not how you’re asking me.”

When we had come home and we’re hanging out in the patio with the family watching TV, Tory took me by the hand and brought me into the living room.

“All weekend I’ve been asking you where your favorite spots are in your hometown and you said that your grandparents’ living room was your favorite. I love you so much, I cannot wait to spend the rest of my life with you and showing you and I wanted to add another memory here. All day today I’ve been asking you to marry me and you’ve said no, {Tory reached behind a lamp in the living room for the ring and got down on one knee} so I’m going to ask you one more time, Megan Quynh-Nhi Viola-Vu will you marry me?” 

“YES! OMG!”

Of course, based on Vietnamese tradition Tory couldn’t put the ring on my finger until we had our engagement ceremony, when the two families came together as one. So for 50 days, the ring stayed in the box until our parents had announced our engagement on June 25, 2016.

Happily Ever Swank…with a Twist

Originally, Tory and I had talked to both of our families about getting married in a year (from June 25). We had told a lot of people and were making plans for a wedding on June 24, 2017…but like we’ve learned several times in the past, God had a different plan for us.

file7
Traditional Vietnamese Wedding Ceremony

 

In July 2016, we found out that we were pregnant and would be expecting our first baby in March 2017. Obviously, our plans for a June wedding would need to be altered…drastically. The wedding date was moved up to November 5, 2016 and plans were in full gear for my custom made gown by my little sister to be done just 5 months after we had announced our engagement.

Not everyone knew about the news of our pregnancy and why the sudden change in wedding date. Not only was I experiencing a lot of morning sickness during this time, but I was also worried about things that many brides never had to worry about while planning their wedding (What if my dress doesn’t fit the day of? What if people can see my bump?) and thins that a mommy-to-be never really had to worry about while planning for the arrival of her first baby (Where do we register for the wedding? Where should this guest sit?)

Our wedding day, as chaotic as it felt at some moments-having to do the traditional Vietnamese ceremony in the morning, the church ceremony and then a reception hosting 500 guests, was as magical and full of love from our families that we could’ve imagined.

file10Tory is seriously my knight in shining armor. Not only has he had to deal with my changing hormones, but he has also had to deal with the stress of being a bride and all that came with planning a wedding.

I couldn’t have gotten through those months without him and I can’t imagine going through any obstacle life throws our way without him. He’s my best friend and has shown me that he’s an amazing husband and will be an incredible father.