Monday, July 29, 2013

Monday's Menus (Week 3)

 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
All right, I'm going to level with you. Not all of the examples here are things we are eating this week. We've had a couple birthday dinners out on the town, and a couple meals from last week got bumped. So I've improvised with things I would be eating (in fact, things that I wish I was eating) this week. Like individual chicken pot pies. Do yourself a favor, get a rotisserie chicken from Costco and make that deliciousness happen.
 
Bon Appetite!

Week 3 Menu

Monday
Tuesday
Turkey Tacos with Crockpot Refried Beans
Wednesday
Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Macaroni Salad
Thursday
Rustic Tomato Tart with Spring Mix Salad
Friday
Saturday
London Broil with Spinach and Roasted Potatoes
Sunday

Friday, July 26, 2013

Happy Birthday, Darling.


There's something to be said about growing up with the person you love. It's something you can't plan. Something that happens only by chance, every once in a great while, and I have been so lucky.

Today my husband is 25 years old. And while it's lovely to spend this milestone birthday with him, it's made even more special by all the ones that have come before it. This is the ninth birthday I have spent with him, and I am overwhelmed by the transformation from the long-haired, grunge-loving teenager I fell in love with to the man I love today. He has left no part of himself behind, but has built upon all the traits I first fell in love with. When I look at him now, I see all that love, from the moment we first held hands in the lunchroom of Dayton High to these nights where he walks in circles waiting patiently for our baby girl to fall asleep in his arms.

At an age where most guys are still clinging to adolescence with only vague notions of what it means to be man, my husband is a force to be reckoned with. He is a man I am proud to be with. A man I respect just as much as I love. A man, in every sense of the word, who has dedicated his life to myself and our family. Who has worked harder than most men would dare, in order to give us the world.

Between school and work and two babes and myself, it is a wonder he wakes each morning. But he does, without failing, and gives us his all. All his support. All his love. All his patience, and then some.

He is exactly the kind of man I want my son to be and the kind of man I hope my daughter someday finds. I hope they both aspire to be like him, because it is a worthy aspiration. He is strong and kind and faithful. Loving and supportive and hardworking. Intelligent and forgiving and funny.

And more, so much more.

Happy Birthday, darling. Here's to the next quarter century of growing up and old together.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Faithful Life



You know, I'm just going to come right out and say it: I don't know what to think about raising my kids in regards to religion. I think about the way I was raised - the Christian school I attended and the Bible camps I went to over summer breaks and the excessive number of youth groups I took part in - and I feel a lot of trepidation about passing that sort of lifestyle down to my kids.

Now don't get me wrong, I loved my adolescence, and all those experiences are an integral parts of the person I am today. I can't imagine that Jesus-centric world not being a part of my story. I wouldn't want my life to not include the sometimes over-the-top Christian upbringing, because I think in the long run it has given me great insight and empathy for those whose opinions differ from my own.

But the fact of the matter is, I am a failed pet-project of those institutions. My worldviews don't align with what I was taught, and free-thinking isn't exactly the cornerstone of religious order. I'm not a good Christian kid turned horror story by any means. I'm just not the success story that they can tout. I never fulfilled my prepubescent dreams of being a powerhouse worship singer married to my God-intended, granola-crunchy, youth pastor husband. And I sometimes call the church out for its flaws. That sort of thing.

You see, if I had stayed on the sort of path my life was supposed to follow (according to well-meaning camp counselors and youth pastors and teachers and mentors), I would be a very different person than the one I am today. And I'm not okay with that. I like the woman I have become. I take pleasure in thinking for myself and engaging in thoughtful debate and asking hard questions that I don't know the answers to. I don't mind that life is complex when you don't just chalk up the difficult concepts to faith or God's mysterious will. Life is better, more fulfilling, when you don't take the easy out.

I don't want to give my children an "easy out" with indoctrinated naivety. I don't want them to live in the same sort of bubble I did, for fear they may not burst out. For fear that they will someday enter the world with good intentions and no grasp on reality. Those are not the kind of people I want to put out into the world.

But at the same time, I enjoyed those places and experiences in spite of their flaws. I was lucky enough to be surrounded by people who had good hearts, who were kind and fun and loving at their core (for the most part, at least). There were still plenty of good things to take to heart from those years of Biblical teaching, and plenty of people who touched my life. I want those experiences for my children.

And I guess it's the same in all areas of their life, not just religion. I want to give them the good and spare them the bad, and that's not always possible. And though I don't want to admit it or think abut it or accept it, the adverse experiences are the ones which will teach them the most. The ones that will expose the fiber of their beings and force them to grow, even if they aren't sure they want to.

I'm still uncertain on exactly how we will navigate the choppy waters of faith with our babes. I suppose we'll figure it out as we go along, adjusting when necessary and doing the best that we can to give them balance and love and knowledge. We'll encourage them to bring their questions to us, and admit when there is no easy answer. Let them grapple with faith in their own time, on their own terms. And let them know that it shouldn't be easy.

That's the whole point.

Monday, July 22, 2013

When I Grow Up


Today is my 25th birthday. Something about that milestone, that quarter of a century, unsettles me. It seems unreal to me that my twenties are halfway over. Hell, it seems unreal to me that my teenage years are over. Or my middle school years for that matter. It amazes me that I'm not still chubby cheeked with a mouth full of braces, wearing roll-on glitter and platform sneakers every time I look in the mirror.

I'm 25 years old. I have a lot under my belt. I have a husband, a house, two kids, two pets, a car, a responsible budget, a degree, a budding career - a life. A life that is full and accomplished and by all means "grown up." But I don't feel like an adult and I never have.

I'm 25 years old. I thought I'd feel grown up by now.

How far into adulthood do you wade before it starts sinking in? That you're standing in the big shoes. That you embody "grown up" to your own tiny little people. That you're in that season of life you imagined when you were a child. When you used to say "when I grow up."

When does it become real?

That you're not just playing dress up with dolls or house in a cardboard box. That you're here in that unfathomable world of adulthood - breathing it in, living it out - shaping and molding it with each passing day. Making it your own.

How do you ever feel grown up?

I don't know. Ask me in another 25 years, when my babies are scrambling to feel like grown ups themselves. Maybe I'll have grown up by then.

But then again, maybe not.

Monday's Menus (Week 2)

As per your request, dear readers, here is the second installment of Monday's Menus, where I give you a peek at our menu in order to inspire you to not make meatloaf for the umpteenth time in the same month. 

We're trying out quite a few new recipes this week and I'm pretty excited about it. Check out the links (especially that Cajun Shrimp Pasta one, for reals you guys) and make sure your weekly menu does not lack zazz

Week 2 Menu

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday
Red Wine Braised Pork Chops with Corn and Potatoes

Thursday

Friday

Saturday
Moroccan Fish and Couscous with Sauteed Squash

Sunday

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Summer Bucket List

Go to the Ocean: Check.

Summer is already halfway through, but there is still so much to be done! Today I'm over on Reno Moms Blog sharing my Summer Bucket List (and an awesome little link to some 90's nostalgia).

And in case you missed it, yesterday my body image piece ran on Role/Reboot. Me in a too small bikini and all my one month postpartum glory. You can check it out here.

xoxo

Monday, July 15, 2013

Monday's Menus (Week 1)




Sometimes I fall into a rut when it comes to cooking. Even though I love making meals, and I consider relatively good at planning our weekly menus, all too often the same dishes start showing up week after week. Figuring out what's for dinner gets boring and sometimes frustrating. I think it happens to the best of us.

So I figured I would try to help some people get out of that rut (and keep myself accountable for putting different dishes on the table each week). Here is the first installment of Monday's Menus, where I share with you our weekly dinner plans, and link you up to some great recipes. If you need some help with weekly meal planning, check out my tips here.

 Week 1 Menu

Monday
Quinoa Cakes with Poached Eggs over Spring Mix Salad

Tuesday

Wednesday
Slow Cooker Smothered Steak with Mashed Potatoes and Broccoli

Thursday
Spaghetti Bolognese with Salad and Olive Garden Breadsticks

Friday
Panko Crusted Salmon with Spinach and Mashed Potatoes

Saturday
Chicken with Tomato Herb Pan Sauce and Mushroom Couscous

Sunday

 Stuffed Artichokes, Roasted Red Potatoes and Corn on the Cob

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Too Much Love

photo by Lemaire Photography
There's been a change in the tides of my life ever since Avery was born. It's to be expected, I suppose, when a new babe enters your world. But this wasn't at all what I was prepared for. I spent a great deal of my pregnancy bracing for bad experiences - another frightening birth, another battle with depression, a difficult baby. I rarely stopped to think about the warm little body wriggling into bed for a late-night feed, or the way their eyes look when they first smile with intention. The small wonderful things that make new motherhood worthwhile.  

I spent so much time worrying about all the things that could go wrong that I was completely caught off guard when everything went right. A peaceful birth, a calm babe and a new journey where depression has not been an issue. A story that seems too good to be true, too good to be mine.  

Now I find myself overwhelmed with this motherlove. It's filling up my heart and spilling over the edges.I have so much love for these babies of mine that there aren't enough hours in the day to dole it out. There aren't enough words to write it out. It's too much love. I don't know what to do with it all.

At night when they're tucked in bed, humming and cooing in their sleep, that motherlove wanders. It reaches out to hearts not yet beating; little loves that are still just "maybes."

Is there such a thing as too much love?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Forgiveness


I will be the first to admit that forgiveness is not instilled in my nature. I held a grudge against my middle school principle for years for making me write an apology letter in which, coincidentally, I had to ask my aggressor for forgiveness. I mean, I hated her even after she had left the school board. Over disciplinary action that I knew, someplace buried deep within in my preteen mind, I deserved (there was injustice here to be sure, but I can see how easily the he-said she-said could have left me looking guiltier).

And as much as it shames me to say it, this grudge-holding, vengeful nature didn't disappear as I became older and wiser. I still kept more tallies of wrongs than rights. In the earlier years of our relationship and marriage, I would hold on to the pain from fights Rob and I had, even though they were few and far between. I would struggle with forgiving him, even though his mistakes were minor. Even though my poor communication skills probably held more blame than his actions. Forgiveness just doesn't come easy for me.

Especially when it comes to forgiving myself.

My default when things go wrong is to blame myself and subsequently to get angry and begrudging over my failings. This has been true all my life.

I cannot clearly remember any of my dance recitals except the one where I made one wrong move and came home crying and gorged myself on McDonald's apple pie. I cannot remember any of the times I first landed a difficult move in gymnastics, but I remember falling off the beam during a routine and hating myself for it. I cook like a champion, but one ruined dish will have me cursing like a sailor and berating myself while throwing dishes in the sink.

It doesn't matter that I've done many things right; I always hone in on the wrong.

Nowhere has this been more debilitating than in my journey through motherhood. You know how many days go by without making a single mistake as a parent? Zero. You know how many days go by with less than twenty things going wrong? Next to zero. Think I was ready for that when Lucas came along? Not a chance.

This lack of forgiveness for myself factored heavily into my postpartum depression. It fostered an inability to recover from mistakes, of which there are many when you're navigating through the difficult, ever-changing phases of infancy. A difficult feed in the morning could darken my whole day. And if I lost my temper and yelled (yes, it happened, and the thought of it makes me cringe), forget about it, I was ruined. I had no reset button; I just spiraled from the moment of my first misstep each day.

I still struggle with forgiving myself for all the mistakes I made in the past. There's a lot of pain there still. A lot of reparations I feel I owe to my family. Forgiveness still doesn't come easily, but I'm getting there, slowly but surely.

More importantly, though, I am learning to forgive myself for all the mistakes I am going to make. I am learning to hit that reset button when we have a rough morning. I am moving forward without hating myself. I can say to myself, "it's okay," when something goes wrong. I can forgive. For the little things and the not so little things. For the mistakes I made two years ago, for the mistakes I made this morning. I am beginning to find peace.

I am forgiven.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Did I Do That?


Photo from Dove Real Beauty campaign
I received some exciting news over the weekend. A piece that I worked very hard on, and that I'm very passionate about has found a place on a site I love and read religiously. It's going to be making it's way onto Role/Reboot in the next couple of weeks. I'm thrilled.

If I'm honest, I'm also a little darn terrified.

This isn't my run of the mill article with which any number of fabulous stock photos can be used. It's a piece about body image. My body. And there's a big up close picture of me, in the teeniest swimsuit you ever did see, sitting on my couch one month postpartum. Engorged breasts and stretch marks and that extra 25lbs still hanging all over the place, all in plain view.

Did I seriously just agree to have that posted on the internet forever?

Yes I did. Even though it gives me a really awkward, horrified feeling in the pit of my stomach, I'm standing by it. And I'm standing by the words I wrote, because I love my body and I'm thankful for how it pulled me through Avery's birth with such amazing strength and sacrifice.

But good Lord, you guys, you're going to get an eyeful. Just a heads up.

Monday, July 1, 2013

When Only Angels are Watching



There are times when great tragedy reminds us of what we already know. That we are blessed, deeply - and we vow never to forget, but then we do. The stories fade from the news. The terror fades from our hearts. We become annoyed once more with the whining and neediness and general wearing down that our loves do on a daily basis. We forget how fragile life is, and how cruel the world can be.

Until something reminds us, and we start at the beginning again.

The other day Avery was laying on the floor beside me while Lucas and I looked at a picture album. He moved, just barely, and knocked down his vacuum. It tumbled, so slow yet so fast, straight towards her little head. Landed with a heavy thump, not one inch from her unfazed face. And I cannot tell you the terror that enters your heart when you see the world nearly take your baby before your eyes, but it's a feeling I've known before.

When Lucas was maybe six months old, my mother took him for a walk. She left him for a moment to open the door, and from the couch I watched as the stroller rolled backwards down the concrete steps and fell back with that same terrible thud. It was silent save my screaming. He wasn't crying. Horrified and imagining the worst, I ran outside, only to find him staring up at the trees, unhurt and unfazed.

I remember the feeling well, a mixture of sickness and relief and gratitude. A promise made in my heart to never forget how close I came to losing him. A promise to be grateful for every day, every moment - even the bad ones.

Those experiences, sickening and scary as they were, have truly made me more grateful. I think of those moments sometimes, when we're playing simple games or reading books or any number of ordinary things, and that gratitude washes over me again. I think of those moments sometimes, when they are crying or whining or not eating or not sleeping, and I am reminded to be patient. And when I don't think of those moments - when my back is turned, when I slip into complacency - I am grateful still.

When only angels are watching my loves...goddamn, am I grateful they're watching. 


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