~ Note to Self ~

Note to self : Someday be the mom who has it all together.

I love being a mom, mothering is in my nature. Taking care of little ones, feeding, diapering, loving, hugging, all of those things just bring a wash of peace over me. I feel like it's one of the only things in the world that makes sense and feels natural to me.

Truth be told I am petrified of the day these kids don't need me anymore. When they can tie their own shoes, take their own showers, and (gulp) drive themselves places. I start to have a mini-panic attack just thinking of not having a baby in this house.

I told Jimmy we should just keep on going and get our own reality show- "Jim and Kel plus 12" has a ring to it, right?

Last week I took my kids to a park. It was a gorgeous day and the park was packed. Luckily, there was one baby swing left vacant and I quickly plopped Libby Lu down so I could give her some pushes while trying to keep an eye on my 2 older ones who are dodging and weaving amongst about 20 other kids.

Next to me on the swing is a mom who only has 1 child. How do I know she only had one? You can pick out these mamas a mile a way. She has her adorable daughter in the baby swing next to Libby Lu. Her baby is carefully guarded, sitting on one of those huge covers to make sure no swing germs are getting on her baby... She has an adorable little bonnet to keep her little face from the sun... She has some kind of pack around her waist armed with sunscreen, organic baby snacks and some sort of sanitizing wipes.

I'm not discounting mothers who only have one child as if it's easy, it's not easy, at all. Sometimes I think having one was harder than 3. But I definitely had a little more control of my life back then. I can't help but smile as I remember those days so well, when it was just me and Rocky and how badly I strived to be the perfect mother and how proud of myself I was to waltz around fully prepared for anything.

I have to break from my daydream momentarily to notice Libby Lu nearly going blind from the direct sun in her face. She is missing a sock and sucking on the nasty metal swing chains. I can only imagine what this woman thinks of me. But actually, she was very nice- we had great conversation and she said many times "I don't know how you do it," as I would multi-task pushing the little one in the swing, retying Luci's shoe, and breaking up an argument between Rocky and some other boy.

We had been there a whopping 5 minutes when Luci ran up and begged me to go to the bathroom. The bathroom is within walking distance, but not close enough where I could just leave my other 2 there and only take Luci.

So I round up my troops, with Libby Lu on my hip because if I strap her back in she will freak out and think we are going home, schlepping along our stroller with a wonky wheel, all while the underwire of my bra is poking into the side of me trying to drill a hole in my boob.

We get to a bathroom and it's locked...with a big sign that says "CLOSED." -
What?!?! Closed?!?! Are you crazy?!?! That's it! I start to get mad...We are NOT leaving...we just got here... "Luci, pull down your pants behind this bush" I command to her. There, with all 3 of my kids, Luci "popped her very first squat." Rocky and Luci both thought it was hilarious. Luci was laughing so hard I am almost sure she peed on herself somewhere.

Crisis averted... bladder empty... back to the park. I had to do the "walk of shame" past some of the moms who knew exactly what I just did. But one of them gave me a wink like "You gotta do what you gotta do."

Fast forward 20 minutes later, back in the baby swings with Libby Lu, and the nice perfect mom and her perfect baby. Mid-conversation about God-knows-what, the woman says "Um...that's your daughter, right?" She pointed to the corner of the playground where I spot Luci...pants and underwear at her ankles, teeny tiny bare buttcheeks in the air and grunting.

I shreik, "Luci... WHAT are you doing?" (Bad idea to ask that out loud) - she replies "I'm Pooping in the bush" only she is not in a bush... she is ON THE PLAYGROUND with a rubber matted floor!

I sprinted to her as fast as I could, picked her up in one swoop, and thank you sweet baby JESUS she hadn't actually "gone" yet. I mean, it's one thing to poop scoop after your dog in the park, but your kid? Come on...

So I threw in the towel- "Manno Kids, let's go!" No one listens except Libby Lu who has no choice, and Luci is now in a heap on the ground crying because she can't poop in the bush. Rocky is acting like he can't hear me, so I try the big dramatic stomp off: "I'm leaaaavingggg youuuuu!" That doesn't work, but somehow by the grace of God I got all 3 kids loaded up and we made it home.

I drove home thinking about those early days when I was the perfect mom...or at least I thought I was... I tried to be. With Rocky, I read those baby books front to back. I did every single thing they told me to. I was determined to be the mom who "had it all together," but really what does "having it all together" mean?

When people ask me how I balance everything...the kids, the husband, the business...I always say I don't balance...I juggle. We all juggle. We all have a handful of balls that are always in the air, things that are important to us...for me it's my kids, my husband, my faith, my friends, my business...sometimes a ball drops, and that's okay, you gotta pick it up and get it back into the rotation.

So maybe that day I didn't have it all together. I didn't bring any hand wipes or organic cracker snacks. Libby Lu's clothes didn't match and Luci tried to take a dump on the floor. But we lived, we survived, and I did better the next day. That's the greatest gift of motherhood, kids are resilient forgiving, and there is always tomorrow.

~ This and That ~

Spring is coming! Yay! It's almost here...can you feel it??? Which means a couple of things in the Manno house... # 1) We will be be spending alot of days barefoot in the driveway with sidewalk chalk and bubbles, but it also means that Hockey season is coming to a close.
Which is bitter sweet because we love Hockey but it's also nice to have a little break and spend time on other things. I am so proud of Rocky and his team this year. They carried themselves so well through wins and loses, and even us moms behaved all year ;)
Luci had a blast this season as well, she is an "official" cheerleader, don't ya know? I think she looks forward to his games more than he does

I think little Lydia is trying to steal my photography thunder...
But it's okay, Luci will pose anytime, anywhere, any camera.

Libby Lu is getting bigger and bigger and louder and louder her personality is starting to burst at the seams. She is soooo close to walking, she can take about 2 steps and then tumbles. We all cheer her on and she loves the attention.
We've been outside constantly. When the sun is out the Manno's are busy who cares if my oven is dirty or my floor is sticky, the house can wait...I'm gonna play with my kids.
Maw Maw's birthday called for a special day on the Grafton River Road which required fancy matching panda bear outfits for the girls.
Luci has been asking to play Hockey for about year now. And you know me... I am Queen of the "Bloom where you're planted" speech and letting your kids be kids and make decisions on their own. But she is so little and gets her feelings hurt so easily, I just don't see her being a hockey player..... So I may have had ulterior motives when I explained to her that she could NOT fit a princess dress over hockey gear...But that she COULD wear it if she was a figure skater ;) She's been in lessons about 6 weeks and loves it, no mention of Hockey at all.... 2 points for mom ;)This post was brought to you by Mommy and her helper Libby Lu!

~ Stories from Mom ~

Yesterday, as I pulled in my driveway I saw a perfectly square box on my front porch. I knew immediately what is was and nearly jumped out of my car before I put it in park. I struggled for years thinking of ways to preserve memories for my kids. I take so many of photos of them, but I am terrible about printing them out, getting them in albums and organizing them. When they grow up I don't want to just hand them a bunch of burned CD's and computer hard-drives and say "Here kids, here are your memories"So I started "Stories from Mom" - a book I will do for them every year. This is actually a fairly easy process for me because 70% of this book are just my blogs. I add in other things as well, but it's mostly just a huge "copy and paste" job.I also wanted to encourage other moms to do the same. You don't have to be a professional photographer, or a fancy writer. The software I used for this is a consumer website (not for professional photographers) for 2 reasons, #1) Those fancy professional books get really expensive and # 2) I have to order 3 of them... every year.
I used a company called Shutterfly - you can too! They have pre-made templates that you drag and drop the photos into.  It's easy I promise.
 It's only February you can start your 2011 book now and work on it all year.

For Example : Drop in some photos of you and your kids at the zoo and write a few lines "June 1st we went to the zoo. Susie loved the Penguins and Jack loved the bears, they both fell alseep on the way home" SEE it's that easy :)

It's Coming....

So it's that time of year. I am in the baby stages of planning the 2011 Shot Party....because we had so much freaking fun last year!

I need your input, I need to hear from the people! You know I can make things happen, so speak up! What classes do you want? What speakers do you want?

Or, if you're a skilled photographer or business professional and think you have something to offer or knowledge to be shared "pitch yourself" to me, I would love to hear from you KellyManno@yahoo.com

P.S. I do not have a "date" yet, it will be in August again, as soon as I have a date I will let you guys know so you can Save the Date!

~ Downtime ~

Work for photographers usually slows down this time of year. That's actually a good thing, it give us time to re-charge our mental batteries and do a few things for ourself.

One of the things I have been working on is my cookbook! I am so excited! It is not a cookbook to be sold, but rather a cookbook for our family. It will be a nice, hardback book to be kept and passed down. Not that my cooking is anything special, but I do like to do it, and I hope that one day my kids will make a few of these recipes for their families one day.

Some of them are recipes passed down from my Grandma Sally, some are from friends and a few I made on my own. None of them are fancy, or trendy, or loaded with weird crap nobody wants to eat. We eat very normal stuff here in the Manno House.

We, like most families have about 20 meals we rotate over and over, I thought it would be nice to have them all condensed in one space.

Here is one of our family favorites:

Bowtie Alfredo with Meatballs

1 stick of butter (room temperature)

¾ cup shredded parmesan cheese (not grated)

1 cup heavy whipping cream

1 box bowtie pasta

1 bag of frozen meatballs (Swedish, Italian, or home-style are the best)

Italian seasoning

Boil and cook noodles in a large pot and set aside.

Cook meatballs according to instructions on package. ( I use about 32 meatballs when making this dish)

In a medium size bowl mix butter, cheese and cream into a “blob” of stuff.

Add the cooked meatballs and your “blob” to the noodles in the large pot. Stir around on a low heat for about 5 minutes until your blob is totally melted.

Garnish with Italian seasoning and some more parmesan cheese and serve.

*Notes – for a more “saucy” alfredo add more cream, for a stickier alfredo add more cheese.

I will share more once the book is done!

~ I just want one more day ~

Being a mom is my life, I dove in head first and never looked back. But once in a while on the right day, driving with my windows open and a good song comes on I just want to go back for one day, one single day... with these girls, and that youth, those perky boobs, and no responsibility.

I never had a sister but this is about as close as it gets. These girls are my heart and soul, they have been my best friends for almost 20 years, they know me inside out and upside down. We were all pom pom girls together and you can bet when the weekend came we were together every single second of it. Literally from Friday after school to Sunday evening, we were inseparable We lived at each others houses.
Now, we are spread out all over the country, literally all 5 of us live in different states, and all the stars have to align ever so perfectly for us all to get together again. But over the holidays we did, (and yes we are all in the same order as the photo above on purpose :)
From L to R we have :

Mandy : She was the good one, the smart one, the responsible one. Made straight A's, never partook in our fondness of strawberry wine coolers and Marlboro lights but she loved us anyway. She works in Law in Chicago and spends her days keeping people from making stupid decisions. In High School she was voted "Most Likely to succeed"

Kelly : Hey that's me, no need to talk about myself but for the record I was voted "Most likely to be a stunt woman in Hollywood" - let's just say in my youth I had balls the size of church bells and I pray to God my kids don't find out half of what I did.

Tracey : The funny one, holy crap this girl will make you pee your pants with her impressions and stories. Also talented one...you name it she could do it. Dance, Act, Sing - she was voted "Most likely to have their name in lights" she is currently living the dream in New York with her adorable husband. She is part of a popular improv group called "Candy Slice" you may have seen her in this video here she is the Lady GaGa.

Stefanie : Well she was voted "Class Hair" but dang it, she's got it back it a ponytail...just trust me... it's gorgeous. She was the loyal one, the tough one, the strong one. The one we all leaned on for support and hid behind if anyone wanted to beat us up. She has been married for 4 years, I was the maid of honor at her wedding and she has a beautiful little boy named Keithan, whom Luci is very fond of.

Julie : Another talented one, you should hear this girl rock a piano and sing. She was voted either "Always Late" or "Sleeper" I don't remember which one, but she deserved them both. Julie is the most self-less person you will ever meet in your life. She would do anything, literally anything for her friends. If my car breaks down at 3am she would be the first person there to help. She was the Maid of Honor in my wedding. She lives in Arizona now and I miss her all the time and my kids adore her.

So yeah, it takes a freak of nature to get us all in the same state every few years, but when we do it's magic. I love this girls with everything I have.

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