31 August 2016

motherhood, back to school, and my paradox of emotions

The last two weeks of summer vacation felt crazy. My kids were in desperate need of structure and routine and I was too tired to give it to them. They were tired of playing the same games, it was too hot, they were too loud, there was too much laundry. We had school supplies and uniforms to buy and one last birthday party to throw. I longed for the first day of school, for the promise of quiet. Don’t get me wrong, we had a great summer. We even mostly enjoyed each other’s company. We had some super fun adventures, lots of good conversations, but we were all over all the togetherness.

My fourth grader was wearing his backpack around the house for a week.

farmers market adventuring with our pals

So you’d think all we’d feel was elation and joy as we drove to school that morning, I’d planned on doing a happy dance when I got back home. I asked my kids if they wanted me to drop them off in the carpool line or walk them to the door like so many other parents were doing.

“Just drop us off, Mom! We’re fine.”
I felt kind of grateful for that response. Proud of them, even, for being so independent.
But then we circled into the school lot and from the back of the van, Eddie quietly said, “Mom, can you walk me up?” 

“Oh buddy, we’re already in line. I’ll give you a big kiss as you get out.” 
But then, obviously, you’re in the rush of the carpool line and teachers are looking at you for efficient departures. He looked a little forlorn, but gave me a quick smile and they all hopped out. My heart sank as I watched them scurry off to the first and the fourth grade lines and the van door shut.

I swiftly pulled into a spot in the parking lot and made my way to their lines. Eddie’s face immediately brightened when he saw I’d come back. Big squeezes, a few kisses, and letting them know I would genuinely miss them and they were off. I shocked myself when tears suddenly appeared in my eyes and I realized summer was really over. And that even though it can be mass chaos with six kids all day, every day, and that I didn’t have one quiet moment to myself for twelve straight weeks, I was actually going to miss these little men who all of a sudden didn’t seem very little.

But now, here we are. Two days in and to God be the glory, my girls are all napping at the same time. It is so quiet I can formulate actual thoughts. During the day, when the sun is up. Miracles do happen, and sometimes they are tiny, but they are awesome.

My to do list, my catch-up-from-summer-madness list, currently has twenty two items to check off. But it still seems manageable because I have the hope of time and space to do it. Not only that, if I want to, I can even sit down IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DAY and relax with a cup of coffee, and maybe even my Netflix list. It’s been known to happen. So feel free to hit my up with suggestions on what to watch next. I’m currently obsessing over Marcella (if you liked the Killing, watch this. You will thank me.) and catching up on the second season of Madam Secretary, which I told you about before. If you haven’t seen it, start today, trust me.

And now I am off to do whatever I want for thirty more minutes. I mean, I don’t even know where to begin. And I know life is about to get crazy and the warm fuzzies from summer will soon wear off, but I’m even kind of excited to go pick up the rascals.

15 August 2016

meet our new bestie for the restie

don't you garden in sandals? really letting you guys glimpse real life here. 


It’s summer and I’m pretty sure my floors have never been messier. We discovered that the popcorn ceilings in our living and dining room had asbestos, so for the last three weeks, they’ve been scraped and refinished and painted. I was actually thrilled to find out because we could get them removed without my husband telling me “they’re fine” in all their yellowy dinginess. While all the dangerous stuff is gone, there is still dust from the repairs. I also decided (brilliantly) that we should simultaneously bulldoze the front yard. So, as we slowly give the yard a makeover, I track dirt into the house about seventeen times a day. 

Oh, and Eloise just started crawling. 

When my oldest was my only, I swept at least twice a day. Not a stray crumb in sight. The irony is that there wasn’t even anyone around to make a mess. As we’ve added to our family, and are now six kids deep, I don’t have as much time for sweeping. And even if I did, I would probably have to clean my floors eleven times a day to keep up with seven sets of feet and snack crumbs being trailed all over. I am not kidding, I’ve considered getting a dog just to clean under my table three times a day. 

But then, as timing aligned perfectly with the repairs and the yard makeover and the crawling baby, we got a bObsweep PetHair vacuum cleaner. It’s my kids new best friend - they are seriously obsessed. Can we talk about how this is the perfect invention for our family? It cleans the floors (we don't actually have a pet, but this model vacuums AND mops and sanitizes, you guys), it can be automatic or you can control it by remote. So, I can set up a timer for it to clean while we’re gone, or I can “let” one of my kids control it and my floors are so clean, ready for the baby, and I did NOTHING. And my boys have just occupied themselves for 20 minutes. Another bonus: it’s not very loud, so my two year old doesn’t flee the room and hide with her ears covered, she actually thinks Bob is kinda cute. I am pretty sure this little gift was sent to me straight from Heaven. 

The boys keep correcting me. 
“You can’t call it ‘the vacuum’, Mom.” 
“Don’t say ‘it’! His name is Bob.”
He really is becoming part of the family. In fact, at this rate, he might be my favorite. 

There are a few different versions of bob available on Amazon - check him out here and here. And of course, you can get all the details from the bObsweep store!

09 August 2016

when the summer gets crazy, girls night in

The last couple of weeks have been kind of crazy around here. We're having some work done on our house and a five day project is now on day fifteen. We're all hanging out in two little rooms with most of the furniture we own most of the day and it's starting to wear my patience a little thin. Add in my kids' desire to reenact all the Olympic gymnastics they've been watching, and... help me.

So, my friend and I decided we needed a girls night in last week. After all the kids were in bed (we have ten between us), she came over and we went out on the back patio and had a couple of drinks and some snacks and sat under the twinkly lights and had a normal conversation without being interrupted 98 times. Complete thoughts with other adults is a treat these days.

I was excited to mix things up (literally) with some delicious cocktail mixers from Stolen Fruit. I have to say, I wish I'd had these when I was pregnant. They are seriously delicious, and have no alcohol in them, so they would be the perfect way to drink something a little more exciting than sparkling water when you're hanging with your girls. But, neither of us our pregnant, so ours were... enhanced. The possibilities are endless with these, and they are all natural, and made from grapes right in California wine country. You don't need to add much to create something amazing, so you'll immediately impress with your mixologist ways. I am already dreaming up what to use them in next! I'm thinking Blood Orange Sangria.

Here's what we had for girls night:

Blackberry Hibiscus Margaritas
serves 2
3 ounces silver tequila
2 ounces Stolen Fruit Hibiscus Grenache
1/2 cup fresh blackberries
sparkling water
fresh mint (optional)

Divide ingredients between two glasses. Swirl, serve, enjoy!

Grab a couple of girlfriends, a bottle of Stolen Fruit, and your favorite enhancements, and take a break. You deserve it!

02 August 2016

the thing about summer

This is a repost from the summer of 2014, because it still rings true today, and I hope it brings some encouragement to you!

Here we are in the throes of summer break. The free schedules, lazy afternoons, late bedtimes, otter pop hangover mornings. The warm air wraps itself around your shoulders, noses covered in newfound freckles, the smell of sunscreen and sunshine and play lingering on your skin as you slip under the sheets and fall into summer sleep. It's dreamlike at times.

But also, I'm going a tiny bit crazy. 

I feel a little like a pendulum, waving between the bliss of abundant family time, a whatever the day may hold wonder and an oh my goodness if these children ask me for one more snack I will die attitude. 

I love my kids. So so so much. I would die a thousand deaths for them. I would walk through fire, jump in front of a moving vehicle, swim every ocean, and whatever.
I look at each individual little face and I nearly cry over my love for them. 
But together? My three boys are either in a murderous rage toward one another, huffing around because of some brotherly injustice, or crying as though someone has just run over their dog approximately every hour of every day. There are small snippets of time where they are playing harmoniously, exploring some corner of the yard, quietly building their legos, riding their bikes around our quiet street. Snippets, people, snippets.
I have asked them 47 times in the last 12 minutes to please stop asking me for snacks and shows and treats. I just want to eat my second meal of the day at 2pm without having to jump up and do something for someone else. I promise it will only take me ninety seconds to eat if you just let me sit down and eat.

I waiver between feeling sad that there are only 33 days of summer left and seriously contemplating making a countdown chart to the first day of school. And then feeling really guilty that there are moments during the day that I am not reveling in the joys of my children's presence, but rather praying for the grace to not tear my own hair out as I clench my teeth at the sound of yet another battle. 

Here's the thing. You are still a good mom if you feel spent. If you feel like you've run out of patience and you need a break, and you don't enjoy every minute of the day, you're still a good mom. I really believe that this motherhood business is the most sanctifying thing that could happen to a person. It is hard. Some days it is damn hard, and that's just reality. It's beautiful and messy and terrible and amazing and glorious and awful and every single gamut of emotions you can possibly experience in a 24 hour period. Heartbreaking and mind boggling and completely fulfilling and not at all fulfilling and guilt inducing and full of love. It doesn't even make sense, so maybe don't try to make it.

What I want is for us to collectively let go of the guilt. Because the thing is, that guilt just shows that you care. You are pouring your life out. I'm pouring my life out. And sometimes it's hard. But it's also all I could ask for. When I sneak in their rooms at night and watch them sleep and they are soul crushingly peaceful and cute and I can't even deal with the amount of love in my heart. Or I see Ivah jumping up and down with joy when I get her in the morning, or when George sings to me, or Frances spontaneously wants to snuggle, or Eddie asks to sit on my lap after dinner, or Lute wants to tell me every detail of the story he just read. Those little moments are the ones that remind me that at the end of the day, we've really got it good. 

So, settle into that. Let go of guilt, and pray for grace in the moments that you need it.

01 July 2016

kids and food and cooking shows

My kids love food. Not that they aren't picky, because they are. But they, the boys especially, love trying new foods and experimenting and talking about recipes. My second oldest turned seven yesterday and requested "a vanilla cake with layers of strawberry ice cream and actual strawberries, and like, kinda frozen." Birthdays are my favorite and I welcome whatever cake challenge they want to throw at me. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't, but it's always kind of fun.

This summer, my friend and I are teaching our kids to cook and doing crafts once a week to beat the summer boredom and hopefully gain some useful skills. Also on the list is teaching them to brew a proper pot of coffee, but that's another lesson all its own that hopefully their wives will thank me for later in life.

I credit their culinary curiosity to some of the cooking shows we've watched together. I applaud the parents and grandparents who can sit through Curious George and Wild Kratts and enjoy them, but I am not that mom. The day my kids started to appreciate the Food Network and cooking competitions was a day I will cherish forever. Truly, most reality cooking shows are a little too PG-13 for my crew, but we have found some that we all enjoy and spark a lot of interest in getting in the kitchen to create. My husband can have the endless baseball games (seriously, every night. why?), I'll take a kids' cooking competition any day of the week. 

Want to bond with your own little baker or future chef? A few of our favorites are on Netflix now! The Kids Baking Championship is super fun and inspiring. The first season of Beat Bobby Flay is a family favorite. It's not a kids show per se, but my boys love choosing who they're going to root for and planning what they'd make if they went up against him. They also love watching the crazy combinations and ridiculous amounts of food Adam Richman attempts in Man V. Food. And not on Netflix, but probably streaming somewhere: Chopped Junior, MasterChef Junior, and Rachael Ray's Kids Cook Off.

George has already promised me that he is going to become a chef and live with me and cook for me for the rest of my life, so I think it's all paying off. And if that doesn't work out, at least they have a deeper appreciation and a little bit more of an adventurous spirit when it comes to eating!