Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Living For Sundays & Somedays

With 3 kids and a very busy schedule life tends to feel like a runaway train some days. It is easy to get discouraged by all the things I "should" have done on any given day.  I constantly have a mental to-do list running and all I ever manage to do is feel defeated and deflated at the end of each day.  I think as moms, this struggle is probably not unfamiliar to you either.  We all go through seasons of change and growth, however imperfect it may be - and sometimes those seasons last MUCH longer than we'd like.

Here is what I'm learning. It's OKAY.  Profound, I know. Learning my limits and not being able to do it all - all the time is no reason to melt down or freak out.  I am learning more and more how and when to say "no" to things that will only wear me out more and also to accept help. I still shudder at the never ending pile of laundry and unfinished home improvement projects, but I choose to believe my husband when he says it doesn't bother him.

I am relying more and more on finding a place of rest in the midst of my day because it is the most important, if not the most urgent part of it.  Loving and living from a place of rest are not easy, but it has completely changed the environment in my home.  My kids don't care or notice if I accomplished a certain number of tasks during the day but they most certainly notice if Momma is running around like a Banty Rooster (thanks, Marla) and melting down over every spill and mess.

I believe there are days meant to rest and not all days will be as productive as I'd like but that is no reason to become idle or defeated into laziness. It is all too appealing some days to feel like if I can't do it all, I shouldn't do anything which would only lead to more frustration and guilt.  I am striving to work hard during the week, keeping balance a priority but never over-extending my strength, patience or abilities.

For us, that day is Sunday.  For far too many years, I have used Sunday as another chance to catch up and get ahead.  Squeezing every spare minute of production out of it and missing the chance to really enjoy my family and a slower pace.  There is nothing quite like a nap on the couch with my sweet-hearted, snuggly six year old or 30 minutes lounging in the hammock with my handsome hubby.  I have traded thousands of Sundays bonding with my family for a clean(er), tidy(er) house and shorter to-do list.  Striving for perfection as a wife and mother has left me weary and empty.  An immaculate house isn't a worthwhile trade for a thriving family with a Momma whose heart is happy and at peace.

So, I'm living for the easy pace of Sundays and saving my to-do list for Someday.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

7 Things I Love About Fall {& A Few I Could Live Without}

Fall is finally here, and admittedly is my favorite season but as with anything, there is always room for improvement :) Here is a list of my 7 favorite (& a few not-so-favorite) things about Fall.

Love #1:  School is back in session!
I can't tell you how much relief the school year schedule brings to this household. We all know there are some great things about Summer, but overall I love the structure my kids have during the school year as well as the opportunities they have to learn & socialize.  Not to mention I actually know what day it is :P

Love #2:  Mom Time
Now, I don't mean time alone although that would be nice from time to time as well, but I mean time with OTHER moms.  It seems every Summer break starts out well intentioned and full of play date plans but somehow, Summer morphs into this time sucking monster and I rarely see other adult humans for the better part of 3 months. In the Fall, all the organized "mom groups", Bible studies and small groups seem to pick back up and it is a welcome change.

Love #3: Cooler Weather
By now, you all know I am not a fan of the heat and although this week has been a bit of an exception, we know that cooler weather IS on the way and I am thrilled.  I can wear sweaters and boots and not worry about dying of heat exhaustion. I can go for an evening run without drowning in sweat and the pressure for that "bikini ready" body is off the magazine covers for at least a few months.

Love #4: The Food
And since we don't have to worry about that bikini body just yet, can we take a minute and appreciate all the yummy goodness that comes October - December? I mean, really.  The crockpots get dusted off, comfort foods are in high demand and it's almost time to start baking Christmas goodies.  I am a sucker for caramel apples, hot apple cider, hearty soups and rich pumpkin breads (with cream cheese frosting of course), and who doesn't love a Pumpkin Spice Latte?

Love #5: Shorter Days
As a wife whose first wake-up call comes at 3:30am, I am so thankful for shorter days. This time of year, my husband leaves in the dark and gets home after dark which isn't necessarily a good thing but it is so much easier to convince my littles it is time to wind down at 7:00pm when the sun isn't still beaming in through the windows.  With 3 kids, I find it takes the better part of an hour to get through our normal bedtime routine.  We start after dinner and by 8:00pm it is plenty dark  to be tucked in and lights out without too much resistance.

Love #6: Pumpkin Patches
Truth be told, my amazing Mother-In Law grows pumpkins for my kids in her garden every year but the experience of taking them to the pumpkin patch is so much fun!  Our favorite local event is held at Brosi's Sugar Tree Farms and is being held on October 11, 2014 from 10:00am-4:00pm.  They have hay rides, bobbing for apples, a corn maze, cake walk, crafts, a petting zoo and some delish food.  It's been a few years since my kids have a had a school field trip to Brosi's, but their Harvest festival is a must on our Fall bucket list.

Love #7: Costumes
We actually don't celebrate Halloween, but all of my kids love to dress up and this time of year is so fun for costume hunting.  We spend hours rummaging through second hand stores and like to hit up local big chain stores for after Halloween sales on costumes and accessories. We have scored some real gems over the years that continue to be used year-round for imaginary play.

Not-So-Much #1: Rain
We haven't seen much of it yet and in all honesty, I do hope we get a good dose of it this year; however, it is not my favorite part of the season.  Sitting inside watching and listening to it fall is peaceful and enjoyable at times, but knowing we have a good 8 months or so of it coming up here in the PNW can be a bit daunting.  Cabin fever can start to set in and I can be sure the inside of my car will never look the same after a season of football with 2 boys. 

Not-So-Much #2:  The Frenzy
We are encouraged this time of year to slow down and be thankful. To count our blessings and enjoy the bounty of life we have been provided, but it seems to be more of a fight with each passing year. Christmas aisles appear to pop up sooner every year and before we even get to Thanksgiving I am burnt out from battling 3 kids and their misunderstanding of wants vs. needs. Teaching kids to be thankful and appreciate all they have is exponentially harder when everywhere they turn something "bigger and better" is being shoved in their faces.  It's me against the retail world and they have a better PR person ;)

Not-So-Much #3:  Hunting & Football
Now, I could get in trouble for this, because I actually DO like both of these things.  The thing I don't like is the amount of time and energy they take up.  My husband and I both enjoy hunting and I appreciate being able to provide food for my family, but am I the only on that runs out of cooking ideas before I run out of meat?  As for football, with one kid on the Middle School team, one kid on the flag football team, a nephew playing in college and all the non-stop coverage on TV, it just gets to be a little much you know? 

So, there you have it.  My take on Fall and all the things that make it so great!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Crockpot Chicken Tacos {For Breakfast, Lunch AND Dinner!?!}

Well, here we are...School has started, football season is in full swing, and I am happily back together with "Old Faithful", my crock pot.  If there is one thing I love more than an easy, inexpensive set-it-and-forget-it dinner, it is one that can be used to feed my growing family any time of day. This recipe is one of those rare treasures. Not only can I start it in the morning and finish it up in about 15 minutes at dinner time, it is a favorite with everyone in this household. And let me tell you, that is music to this Momma's ears.

I serve this dish at least once a week, and I always put the leftovers to good use.  I intentionally make a little extra each time to throw on top of my eggs in the morning with a little salsa and sour cream or whip up a quick batch of nachos for lunch the next day. I have also used this recipe to make yummy nachos for game day.

Crockpot Shredded Chicken Tacos:

Ingredients:

2-4 Boneless, skinless chicken breasts (I use 3 and it there is plenty to feed my brood and then some)
1-15 oz. Jar of salsa (any kind)
1 Packet Taco Seasoning

Combine all ingredients and cook in crock pot on low for 6-8 hours or high for 4-6 hours. That's it! The chicken shreds easily with a fork and I don't even thaw my chicken breasts before hand. 

Preparation:
I serve ours with warmed tortillas, sour cream, guacamole, shredded cheddar cheese, Mexican flavored rice and pinto or black beans, but there really is no limit to what you can do with these. Top as desired and enjoy!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Why I Write (& Why I Don't)

I have a love/hate relationship with this writing thing. I have days that I feel the pull to sit down and put the proverbial pen to paper only to shy away out of fear. Words have weight and most days I don't feel strong enough to bear the burden of it all.  I can't say what scares me so much exactly - the vulnerability & responsibility of it I guess.   

And then there are days that the words in my heart are so heavy that I think my heart might actually stop if I don't get them out. I write on those days, despite my fear.  God uses my ramblings as a way to help me sort out some of the mess that goes on in my head and turn me right side up again.  I have wrestled with the whole idea of blogging for more than 3 years and every time I walk away, convincing myself it's not my thing, I am pulled back. 

I haven't really written much in about a year and a half, and it feels good to finally put some words down.  My life started to feel a bit sideways a few summers ago and I wasn't sure how to walk through it or what I could or should share so I closed down my blog and Facebook so I could take some time to reflect and learn without distraction. It was good for me I think, but it's time to come alive again.  Time to try new things, reach out and believe that God will help.

Being offered the opportunity to write for Douglas County Moms and connect with other local women has really been a lifeline of sorts.  It has given me structure and deadlines and that little push I needed to jump back in.  There are seemingly endless topics to write about and I am encouraged by how each one is broached and delivered daily by women with same Momma heart beating in their chests as mine.  It seems that everywhere I turn these days, I am being reminded that my story matters...and yours does too.

There are whole writing communities like (in)courage and superhero mom writers like Lisa-Jo Baker all cheering us on to share our stories. On paper, online or in person. With our kids, neighbors and friends. It's all about relationships and understanding that our stories - even the ugly parts - are meant for glory and growth. They are necessary. They are needed. They are ours.  So we write - I Write. I write to remember where I came from and give glory to the One who got me here. Some stories are really cautionary tales and others are simply testimonies of God's faithfulness, because truthfully I need those to be remembered.

I need them for the hard days when I feel life going sideways again. I need them like an anchor for my soul. And I am learning that as much as I need to write them, to declare them as Truth to the world, someone out there may need to hear them. Maybe my friend, maybe a stranger, maybe my daughter.  There are countless women whose words have strengthened my heart and given me bravery for another day. I am so thankful they shared their stories with me.  I am so glad I have a story to share. 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Kindergarten Blues

So, here we are just 1 week away from school starting and I find myself with so many conflicting emotions. Usually, I look forward to this time of year. School is starting back up, routines are kicking back in, football is just around the corner and I can almost taste the homemade apple cider & pumpkin pies.

As you all know by now, Summer is not my favorite season. I am not really a warm weather gal and the long unscheduled days of Summer can feel a bit daunting to me.  So why the change of heart you ask? I only have 1 week left at home with my soon-to-be Kindergartener.

Yep, that's right. This Momma is fighting the back to school blues over one blue-eyed blondie and how much his life (and mine) are about to change.  He is so excited packing his backpack and picking out his first day outfit and I am still trying to convince him that I'd homeschool him if he wants me to. He doesn't of course, but assures me he'll miss me and I assure him I'll cry the first (and maybe second) day of school. 

We have lots of conversations about how long 8:00am-3:30pm are (Yes, we have all day Kinder) and whether or not he'll ride the bus and does this mean he can start sports now and all I can think is we may as well be filling out college applications because I know that's just around the corner.  I know..."It gets easier.", you'll say - and you'd be right. This isn't my first experience with the Kindergarten blues, but I blinked and that round faced little boy walking into his first day of school is about to walk into his first day of MIDDLE SCHOOL!  My Momma heart aches at how quickly these days can go by.  I don't always slow down enough to realize it, but when I do it makes my head spin.

The beauty of the lives I have blessed to care for leaves me breathless and I have to admit that at times, I am afraid for them and all the ugly that this world can spew.  More often than not, I wish I could freeze these days. I wish I could keep my little guy "little" and that he wouldn't have to face mean kids, broken families and the lack of morality that abounds.  I wish young girls still dressed like ladies and that 1st graders didn't care about being "hot".  I wish we still used and taught manners, that we didn't accept disrespect or foul language, and that the future for our kids looked a little brighter than the news portrays these days.

And for now I guess, that's all I can do. Wish and pray.  And so I will, I will pray for my kiddos and yours. For the ones down the street and across the globe. The ones who are afraid and hungry, the ones without parents, the abused and forgotten. I will pray for them all and I will keep praying until I feel a little less powerless and a lot more brave. 

Mocha Truffle Cookies

Like it or not, fall is on its way and that is my favorite time of year to do some serious baking.  I came across this recipe a few years back and it instantly caught my attention. Why, you ask? Two words - Coffee and Chocolate. That's always a winning combination in my book.  These cookies have quickly become my go to treat for open houses, potlucks & house warming parties. They are also a staple of my Christmas goodie baskets.  These cookies aren't too sweet, and almost have a brownie like texture to them which makes them even better. The recipe is super easy to follow and one batch makes a ton of cookies. Like I said, winner all around. Enjoy!

Mocha Truffle Cookies - Taste of Home Magazine
Ingredients:
1/2 cup butter, cubed
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided
2 to 3 teaspoons instant coffee granules
2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup baking cocoa
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Recipe yields about 5 1/2 dozen


In a small saucepan over low heat, melt butter and 1/2 cup chocolate chips.  Remove from the heat; stir in coffee granules; cool for 5 minutes.


Stir in the eggs, sugars and vanilla. Combine the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt; fold into the chocolate mixture with remaining chocolate chips.


Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls 2 inches apart onto greased baking sheets.  Bake at 350* for 9-11 minutes or until tops appear slightly dry and cracked. Cool for 1 minute before removing to wire racks to cool completely.


 Enjoy!
 








Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Caution: Work in Progress

I recently turned 30 and in all honesty I have been looking forward to it for a while now.  I never quite understood women who struggled with this age.  I've always looked forward to it thinking, "I will finally feel like a real grown up when I reach 30."  As if 3 kids and more than a half dozen years of marriage hadn't quite qualified me as an actual grown-up adult.  And besides, your 30's can't possibly be worse than your 20's right? ...Right? 

I have been a 30-something for all of 2 weeks now and I can testify that I don't feel any different.  My days are still long and sometimes hard but my life is full of joy and blessings. The same joy and blessings as I had a year ago, but also the same difficulties. I guess what I am starting to realize is, we are all a work in progress. There is no magic age or stage of life where I will finally have it all together. I will always be in progress. I'm not sure my control freak, perfectionist self is okay with that but I think I am. I mean, think about it - what are we if not "in progress"? Stagnant, stale, decaying or dead.  No thanks. Progress is where it's at. 

The struggle I have as a wife and mother - heck, as a woman in general - is that I want progress to equal perfection. Or the possibility that I can attain it. Truth be told, I can't and neither can you. Can we grow? Absolutely. Mature? Of course.  Be better today than yesterday? You betcha.  But that has to be enough for me. I have to be able to wake up knowing that all I can really do is be a better wife, mom, employee, sister, daughter - whatever - than I was yesterday. That I have to keep on keepin' on and know there will be times when life feels like 2 steps forward and 1 step back.  SOmetimes progress is slow, but it's still progress.

For so long, I had this idea in my head of what perfection was and in fact, I can think of so many women that I have given this title to in my own mind. Truth is, they're not. They struggle just like me, but unlike me they have allowed themselves to fail (and move on) instead of just labeling themselves a failure and giving up. My life will always be in progress. We will not be made perfect and complete until the day the Father takes us home and declares His work finished.  I can rest assured that my relationships, finances, fitness, emotions and spiritual health will always be in progress and that Christ will always be there to guide my way if I let Him. To me, that is the true measure of success.

And hey, if the 30's don't work out, there always 40 right? ...Right?  I hope I am blessed enough to find out.