Inventors Wanted

By: Lara Winburn

hulahoopAs summer is upon us there are many things I celebrate. Time outside, time in the pool, time at the beach. I love lightening bugs and snow cones and lazy summer days but there are brief hiccups in these idyllic summer days when I wish I had some summer survival inventions. When we are not Instagramming our perfect S’mores or finding the most perfect seashell on the seashore, there is the occasional short fuse and too much togetherness. For those times, dear friends, please make me one of these.

First of all, I would like a personal space hula hoop – you know, like a parent perimeter or a baby barrier. I love hugs and kisses and snuggles but sometimes I need a little space, particularly in the summer when it is hot, sticky and humidity reaches 198 million percent. I could slip on my breezy hula hoop that would prevent anyone, particularly of the toddler variety, from making contact with me. Maybe a little something pleasing to look at like a hula skirt just with a larger more rigid rim – let’s say a hoop skirt meets impenetrable force field of personal space or a mote around this fortress called motherhood.

The other thing I would like as we hit some summer boredom or one rainy day too many is a recording of my own voice. My voice repeating the phrases that it seems I say over and over again. Maybe if it was a little like the Easy button from Staples except when you push it says things like, “Keep your hands to yourself.” OR “Put on your shoes.” OR “Wash your sticky hands.” You know sometimes it is physically exhausting to utter even another word especially when it is the same word you have said 9 million times. See a squabble between siblings – just hit the “hands-to-yourself”button. Finally ready to leave the house and realize someone is still bare footed? Just slam on the “shoes-now” button! Push it 100 times without ever raising your voice. There is a chance you could look at a magazine and regulate behavior at the same time….maybe.

The other thing I would like to own, while maybe not a new invention, is just not in my possession. I would like the darkest, thickest blackout curtains known to man. You know, nothing makes bedtime easy and breezy like daylight savings time. I need these curtains to provide the pitch-black trickery necessary to put small children to bed before everyone runs out of patience. (And before the go-to-bed-now button doesn’t work anymore.)

So happy summer to all of you out there! I hope your days are filled with smiling freckled faces, ice cream sundaes and daring dashes through the sprinklers, but when things get real – I’ll let you know when these prototypes are ready!

Candlelight, a Foot Massage or a Complete Sentence

By: Lara Winburn


Sometimes when I write these blog posts I feel like I might have something to share, an observation or a tiny nugget of wisdom. Sometimes when I write them I might have an amusing anecdote or I am seeking a little advice or help with a problem. And sometimes I write something and feel like it can only end with, “Can I get an AMEN?” You know, preaching to the choir, commiserating with my people? This is that kind of blog post.

As most of you know, I have small children. I think they are relatively well-behaved for 2- and 4-year-olds. They are learning manners, saying please, thank you and even yes ma’am. But for the love, my husband and I have not finished a sentence – much less a conversation – in the presence of these two little chatter boxes since 2011.

Verbal skills are a wonderful thing. I love the conversations I can already have with these darling babies. But seriously, the stop and start of any form of communication between me and my main squeeze is truly painful! Finish a sentence? No way, no how. We are working on not interrupting. It is not going unaddressed, but I swear even if they are not intentionally interrupting, the constant peppering of “sit on our bottom, that chair will tip over” to potty breaks to legitimate requests for juice, a napkin, the Heimlich maneuver. We may never finish a sentence again, or at least not for the foreseeable future.

I see articles about “making time for each other as a married couple”, “really connecting with your spouse”, “candlelight and foot massages”. All I want is to string seven words together in a coherent manner. My husband and I do to try to spring for the occasional date night, but what about a regular Tuesday? Luckily, we have been together so long we can normally finish each other’s sentences. Mostly we finish each other’s sentences now because we have moved on to bath time or untied shoes before the sentence was actually complete. Or sometimes I think we just finish each other’s sentences in the way we deem most appropriate.

Husband:” I would really love”….(interruption)

My finishing it in my head: …”to buy you a new pair of shoes.”


Me: “You know what you should really do”….(interruption)

His finishing in his head: …”Go fishing more.”

I know this is just our phase of life. I love being a parent and try to remember my many blessings. But I have a lot to say to that nice man I live with and sometimes I would like to get an entire thought out.

Can I get an AMEN?


By: Lara Winburn

Columbia was not supposed to be my home. I grew up in the Upstate, went to Clemson, married a fellow Tiger and don’t even look particularly good in garnet. But here I am 11 years later.

Our bridge

Our bridge

Over the weekend, the rains came down and the floods came up. The bridge closest to our house simply disappeared. Trees around us fell to the ground, the soil so wet that they just tipped over, roots and all. Friends who I hold dear and have collected here in this town suffered devastating loss. They swam away from their homes even though they were never really waterfront before. Friends I don’t know well (more the wave-to-at-Publix variety) have left their homes barely saved by boats. The stories of devastation are too much to bear sometimes, but there is another story too.

The aftermath

The aftermath

In the days since, all I have seen has been warm and loving neighborly assistance. We are new to our neighborhood (hence my absence from the blog), but Sunday night as we all feared evacuation and the creak of falling trees, we gathered in one kitchen. I watched as a full meal for a dozen neighbors suddenly, out of thin air, appeared. Straight loaves and fishes. Once it seemed the threat had passed for us, I gathered in my cow’s neighborhood, one of the worst hit in floodmaggeden.

There, I have witnessed men ripping their neighbors’ houses apart with their bare hands. My husband and his friends have emptied houses, all worldly possessions covered in something that can only be described as insulation/drywall mud (because the ceilings gave way and the insulation ended up on the floor). We have done loads of laundry in an effort to preserve everything from winter coats to smocked dresses that still had a chance against that sludge. We have spent hours delivering lunch, dinner, cold drinks, and the occasional beer to groups of helpers- their sole purpose to serve the need…whatever that need may be. Donations poured in. We mentioned we were making sandwiches or hot dogs or lasagna to serve to those whose stove was now sitting on the side of the road, and the deliveries rolled in. “I can bring salad, I can bring bread, I can watch all 11 kids,” were the words that rung out. As we walked these streets, armed with nothing more to offer than a cold drink or a sandwich, we were called “a blessing.” We encountered gracious families who had lost everything and were watching years’ worth of photographs dry on their lawn. With a smile and a thank you, those same people would point to other homes and ask, “Would you make sure they got some?” just as concerned for their neighbors as themselves.

The aftermath

A lasagna run

I tell you all of this to say, we were not alone. This was the norm. This is what the masses were doing to serve their neighbors and town – the people of Columbia and the people of South Carolina together.

I know this is not an unusual tale. We have all seen it on Facebook and even the nightly news. But this is not a story that gets old. Community should be celebrated again and again.

And with all of this, I know these are my people, my neighbors. This is my tribe. This is my town. And this is my home.

Change is Coming

By: Lara Winburn


I am not sure if you have missed me, but I have been away. I have been drowning in change. Since June 1st I have:

  • Resigned from a job, which felt a little like a break up since I liked my little work family. There was a lot of “it’s not you it’s me.”
  • Started a new job, which is a lot like a new relationship where you want them to like you and think you are smart and funny and pretty.
  • Sold a house (in one day). We were homeless for two weeks, testing not only our marriage and parenting skills but the kindness of our friends. (Thank goodness for generous friends and my cow.)
  • Finally moved into our new forever house…which is currently a construction site and our house. I knew it was bad when the electrician asked, “Are you living here full time?”

Times, they are a-changing. If I find out I am pregnant anytime soon my husband’s head may explode. (NOT that I am trying to get pregnant – that would just be the change that broke the camel/husband’s back.)

The funny thing about change is the impact it has on some more than others. To be quite honest, I feel a little unaffected by change. Change is hard, but hard is not the same as bad. Maybe it’s because my life is such a mess – or what I what I would like to call “fluid and changing.” I do not ever consider myself organized enough for the change to be felt. (Translation: When you are a hot mess you do not feel the storm when it comes.)

That being said, I started talking with other people about change and there are some folks with really strong feelings about it. Take my best friend – she is very “Type A.” She is tidy, organized and keeps notepads for making lists everywhere – in the car, kitchen, next to her bed and probably the bathroom. When she mentioned she hates change, I was not surprised. Her ship is always on path, so a change in the winds would be difficult for her.

But my husband is not “Type A” at all. Let’s call him “Type Z,” or whatever the opposite of A is. He also started talking about his struggle with change. It made me wonder about the man that carries as many clothes in his car as in his closet…why does change bother him? Maybe he is not the mess I am. He has always maintained that although he may look disorganized, he knows where everything is. After 16 years, maybe I believe him.

Does change bother you? Or will someone out there just admit that they, like me, have gotten quite good at rolling with change because they always seem like they are rolling along in a pinball machine of life. One thing I hope to change is my absence from the blogging world. I have so much to tell you about, as all of these changes are also many new adventures.

Flex Your Muscles

By: Lara Winburn

With the approaching Mother’s Day weekend, I know there is a lot of talk about how there is no greater love than a mother’s love. There are probably Hallmark cards and Publix commercials that could make me weep. I love all of that sappy stuff and gifts made with Mother's Dayhandprints. But I think Mother’s Day is also about some fiercely strong women.

Think about it. For me, the mom strength started early in pregnancy. I threw up every day I was pregnant – even the day my daughter was born. I could puke, brush my teeth, smack on some lip gloss and get back to work. Not to toot my own horn, but I was a bad mamma-jamma. I watch moms tote those leaden car seats, which we affectionately call “buckets” at our house, not to mention the diaper bag, pocket book, and breast pump they might have in their other hand. As our kids become toddlers, there is the physical strength of carrying a flailing 35-pounder that does not want to get in the car because the sky is blue and you chose the wrong color sippy cup. I am telling you that requires super human strength.

Then, there is the strength of restraint. When you hear a playmate say something like, “Let’s not play with so-and-so today.” And it takes everything you have not to tell said playmate that you are so-and-so’s mother and so-and-so is the most wonderful, kind precious child in all the world. There is restraint when you know that a good mother would discipline the child that has discovered a word like “shut up” and you bite your lip not too laugh because even though it is not a nice word, out of a toddler mouth in rapid fire succession, it IS funny!

Letting go also takes strength. I was recently talking to a new mom and we were discussing those first days of dropping a tiny baby off at daycare. There is strength in trusting caretakers with your most precious gift. My daughter recently wanted to sit with her friends at a play and not with me. It took strength for me to wave as she proudly sat a few rows back and beamed with independence. (Luckily, she returned to sit with me because I “had better seats.”) I can only imagine the strength it will take to let them go to kindergarten, their first sleep over, or GULP…

So moms everywhere, I hope this Mother’s Day you feel special and loved, but I also hope you flex your muscles and feel strong.

Helicopter or Ambulance?

By: Lara Winburn

With spring, we get pretty days, yellow pollen and a lot more time to play outside. We head to every park in town after work and on the weekends before the heat of summer is upon us and those slides burn baby bums. But with that park time, to me, there comes a conundrum.

When my daughter was 2, she was Captain Cautious. I would hold her hand as she carefully and slowly climbed equipment and I caught her at the end of every slide. I hovered because she wanted me to. I kept her safe.

Cut to my little Wildman, my 2-year-old, who climbs everything with no fear, no trepidation. He giggles and he goes. So are you a helicopter that hovers around every monkey bar trying Helicopter parentto save teeth and limbs OR do you just let them learn on their own and risk a trip in an ambulance?

I may have mentioned before that I broke my arm four times before I was 18. I was a bit of a daredevil so the helicopter hovering would have been to no avail. I needed to try… and fall… and break… in order to learn that some tricks WERE a bad idea. But what is the right balance? I want my kids, whether it is in the park or on the ball field or in the classroom, to be independent and brave but I do not want to watch them fall if hovering could have softened the fall. I do not want them to be afraid to try new things or climb to new heights and explore what their little bodies are capable of. I do not want them to be whiny and dependent because I was that mom that held a safety net under the swing set. It is a balance indeed.

And it seems to me, this is just the beginning of this whole helicopter/ambulance parenting dilemma. I may not survive elementary age, pre-teen, or, heaven help me, the teenage years – when you have to choose to be a helicopter about friends, boyfriends, girlfriends, and academics. Or when you have to just wait and become a paramedic when the heartbreak happens.

What do you think? Helicopter or ambulance? Seems you run a risk either way.

Lace ‘Em Up

By: Lara Winburn

Many years ago, I ran the Chicago Marathon. Bucket list=check. My husband and I trained with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Team in Training. Though we did not run it together-he is more of a gazelle and I am more of a polar bear-we ran the race on the same day, with very different times. It was a great experience, but after the race, I pretty much hung up my sneakers.

Running shoesI like to work out, especially once I get over the 5,002 reasons that I need to do something else more than I “need” to work out. I spend time at the gym, on a yoga mat, on a spin bike and most recently at the barre but running has been out of my routine. The only running I do now is chasing small children or trying to escape the clutches of those same small children. (Can I have two minutes alone?) But starting this week, I am lacing ‘em up to train for the Lexington Medical Center Heart & Sole Women’s Five Miler.

I must confess, with the winter temperatures, my feet will hit the treadmill first. I will crank up my old playlist- Dr. Dre, Kelly Clarkson, Pink, and Billy Idol-those were my running buddies years ago. Who knows maybe I will even introduce them to the Queen B and Bruno Mars? There is even a schedule to ease back into this.

I’ve got ten weeks to get moving. I’ll let you know how it goes, where it hurts, and how far I have to go. The last time I ran regularly this body moved a little differently and had a few less miles on it. (Hee hee see what I did there?) Bring on the spandex, the double stroller and let’s lace ‘em up! Wanna join me?

Give Thanks for Leggings and Salsa (And Some Other Important Stuff)

By: Lara Winburn

Thick-and-Chunky-Salsa1I am very blessed, and I am thankful every day for my life’s many gifts. I am thankful for the best friend and partner that I am married to, the precious babies that call me “mommy,” a best friend that keeps me sane, a good job with good people, a roof over my head, and many sweet friends strung around the world that keep me updated with their many “statuses.”

But there are a few things that I am thankful for that are a little less traditional. Maybe they’re even a little trivial, but worth giving thanks for all the same.

In the World of Fashion

I am thankful…

…for the wedge. I am 5’4 and have no tolerance for uncomfortable stilettos.

… that leggings and tunics are still on trend (not just skinny jeans). I am especially thankful for those this Thursday around 3 p.m.

…for the long and flowing maxi dresses (see craft beer and chips & salsa below).

In My Mommy World

I am thankful for…

…that time between 8:30 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. when both kids are asleep and truly look like cherubs.

…the “sleep sheep” (though I will never understand, nor be able to explain, why that sheep can make a whale sound).

…more modern technology: DVD’s in the backseat on long road trips.

In Some Space and Time

I am thankful for…

…when I can visit the restroom alone, not necessarily for any particular reason, just to grab a moment to be alone.

…the ride from daycare to work when I am quiet and optimistic that today will be the day that I am organized, thoughtful, and full of grace….before reality sets in as I realize I have on different shoes or forgot to sign a permission slip.

In the Kitchen

I am thankful for…

…chips and salsa, salty enough to make my hands swell.

…caffeine to help with the less-than-cherub times – normally between 2 a.m.- 4 a.m. –with my one-year-old. Sometimes he hates sleep and me.

…the emergence of craft beer (see forgiving fashion trends above).

…the occasional cold Diet Coke, so fizzy it burns. Please do not tell me how bad they are for me; it falls on deaf ears and the damage is done.

I hope your Thanksgiving is filled with all of the big things: love, family, and time together. I also wish you a side of quiet time with long naps, stretchy sorta-pants, and a craft beer –  or at the very least, a quiet trip to the bathroom and enough caffeine to keep you going.

Happy Thanksgiving!