Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween!


Happy Halloween, Everyone!

We've all been a little under the weather this week, but nothing short of deathly illness would stop me from celebrating Halloween. We still managed to carve and or glitter seven pumpkins, roast some pumpkin seeds, and even got a reasonably good Halloween photo all dressed up this morning. Now we're all resting the afternoon away in preparation for the main event (trick or treating, of course!).

I'm over on Reno Moms Blog today, sharing some tidbits about how we celebrate Halloween. However, it's a travesty that they don't have a photo to go with my best Halloween outfit ever story. So here you go:

Oh yeah, you're welcome.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Autumnal Love

We've really been enjoying fall so far. The weather has been the perfect combination of crisp cold air and beautiful sunshine. We've been playing in leaves and going to the pumpkin patch. Making warm, spiced baked goods and pulling up our teeny little carrots from the front yard. Going for long walks and coming inside for Halloween crafts
Oh, it's a beautiful season. Hope you're enjoying yours too! xoxo

Monday, October 21, 2013

Seen and Heard and Felt

I'm still reeling in the wake of another school shooting. One in our own backyard. In the city where my husband works, where I take my babies to play at the park, where I had my first writing internship, where countless friends and their families live. Sparks might as well be Reno - truth be told I don't even know where the boundaries lie when I'm driving down the road from one place to the next - it's just an extension of the place I call home.

For those of you who may have only glanced the headline in national news, it's a story much like many we've already heard. A gun slides into a school with a middle school student and maybe we'll never know why, because that baby is dead now. He opens fire and a teacher lays down his life. A couple more are wounded but alive, and we breathe a sigh of relief, because it could have been so much worse. We breathe a sigh of relief because two lives seems like so little after all we've seen and heard and felt.

There's a numbness where there used to be shock. Instead of taking a tone of solemnity, we comment without tact. We pull in politics where there should be empathy. Newscasters swoop in like paparazzi, shoving cameras and microphones in the faces of traumatized children. Sensationalizing tragedy like Hollywood movie and acting as if they're following a noble calling. The same dialogues are spewed by two dueling sides and soon forgotten. Saved for the next blood raining day.

And we send our thoughts and prayers, like we always do, because we cannot promise change. We cannot say that it will never happen again, because we know it will. It always does. The blood of a hero and a child aren't enough to satiate deep pockets of those who make the rules. Heroes and children have died before and heroes and children will die again. Cries for change will be ignored. Cries of injustice will be smothered.

We hold our babies close and love them and pray over them and hope it will never happen any nearer to our hearts than this. We hope angels will watch over them when they're out of our sight. We hope evil will pass them by. Because hope seems like all we can do after all we've seen and heard and felt.

But I'll tell you, some days mere hope feels hopeless.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

DIY Glitter Pumpkins

If there is one thing in the world that my toddler loves it is glitter projects. Combining glitter projects with Halloween? Even better. He's had a real love of Halloween ever since he got a full-size Twix bar while trick-or-treating around the neighborhood last year. Favorite holiday spot sealed. It's been almost a whole year (which is like eons in toddler time) and he still talks about that big huuuuge candy bar. 

But aside from the candy aspect, he's just really into Halloween. He likes helping me out with all the fall baking. He loves reading his collection of Halloween books. He's over the moon about going back to the pumpkin patch again this weekend. And currently, we can't get through a grocery trip without him reaching out of the cart to grab little pumpkins to take home.

We've been coloring pumpkins with markers, but yesterday we decided to do glitter pumpkins and this craft was most definitely a winner. We simply applied a little craft glue with an old paintbrush and used some little glitter shakers to decorate. We rolled the pumpkins around in the extra glitter, and patted a little more on with the paintbrush (because there is no such thing as too much glitter).

It was tons of fun and I picked up a few extra mini pumpkins at Trader Joe's last night so we could make even more glitter pumpkins today. It's such a simple, fun craft I have a feeling it's going to become a Halloween tradition. xoxo

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Fall Food Bucket List

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins are now crossed off the list!

Right now we're having the perfect fall weather in Reno. The trees in our neighborhood are a mixture bright yellows, oranges, reds, browns and deep greens. The air is cool and crisp, with plenty of sunshine to balance the chill. Evenings and early mornings call for coats and boots and scarves. And each day begs for hot drinks and food to warm your soul.

I haven't made a fall bucket list, though I we've been having our fair share of autumnal bliss these past couple weeks. I always squeeze in the activities I love throughout the season: pumpkin patches, jumping in crisp leaves, decorating, carving jack-o-lanterns, hosting a Thanksgiving for friends.

But sometimes fall comes and goes without me making all my favorite fall foods. I was remiss to miss quite a few dogeared recipes last autumn, and this year I wanted to right that wrong. So this year I made a bucket list for treat baking, soup simmering, pie baking and more...

  Tell me, do you have any favorite foods that make the season complete for you?

Monday, October 14, 2013

Mama Needs You

There's a sadness swelling up in me knowing that my baby is starting preschool next month. He's nearly three now, though I still find that hard to believe. He is so independent, so ready to take on the world already, that some days I already feel like I'm trying to wrangle a defiant teenager. Those days when he would fall asleep on my chest, wrapped in warm blankets while Christmas music played in the background are long gone.

But there is something more trying on my heart than the fact that his baby days are over. I pour over photographs of those first days and months, and I realize that so much of his infancy is all gone. Even the memories. Especially the memories.

I cannot, even when I look at these pictures, remember him being so achingly tiny. Although the cries of newborns in the hospital fill me with nostalgia, I cannot remember that first fumbling night with him. Though I remember how he used to hum while he slept, I cannot hear the sound of it ringing in my ears anymore. It's as if that time has been erased from my memory, and the only memories I have are those supplemented by images, videos, stories I tell myself to keep from forgetting.

Then as if he knows that my heart is aching for him, for memories that I can cling tight to, he stumbles into the hallway wrapped in his blanket as I'm getting ready to go to bed the other night. He says, "mama needs you," which is what he says when he wants to be picked up and loved. Never, "I need mama." Mama needs you.

And it's true, my love, I do need you. I need to scoop you up and carry you back to your bed. I need to sing you those old lullabies until you fall asleep. I need to stroke your head and stare are your face in the low light of your teddy bear nightlight. Remembering how you used to look lying in my arms, because tonight you look just the same.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Young and In Love: Q+A with Staci Cook

I'd like to introduce you all to Staci Cook. She is a 29-year-old mother of four, who met her husband when she was sixteen. She and Will had an on and off relationship during their teenage years, and fell apart under the pressure of an unexpected pregnancy when Staci was a senior in high school. But ultimately their story had a (very) happy ending, as co-parenting led to friendship and friendship turned to love.

Now, they have been married for 7 1/2 years. They have two biological children and are in the process of adopting two girls after being foster parents for the past two years. Though they've had their ups and downs it has truly been a journey they wouldn't trade for anything.
Here's a bit of Staci's story in her words:

Photo Courtesy of Rebecca Small Photography

1.       Tell us about your journey to motherhood. How old were you when you had your first child?

I was 18 and had just graduated high school when my first son, Logan, was born.  It was quite different the second time around, I was 23, in graduate school, working full time and married when my second son, Landon, was born.  It always makes me laugh because my sons personalities are as different as the situations that surrounded their births.

2.      How did your family and friends react to the news of your pregnancies?

The first time around it was shock and surprise. I don't think it is in any parent's plans or dreams for their child to have a child. It is difficult to be a parent, sibling, friend or boyfriend when a new and unexpected baby is in the picture. I lost a lot of my friends because of my situation My boyfriend, now my husband, Will and I took a break for a while. In some respects it made parenting the baby easier, in others harder. My family was shocked at first, but in the end very supportive.

The second time around it was more expected. Will and I were married, we wanted more children and the time just felt right. Everyone we've surrounded ourselves with was happy for us. I think our friends and family were the most shocked when we told them a few years ago we were going to start fostering in order to adopt a daughter to complete our family.

 3.      What were some of the challenges you faced as a teen mom?

Most challenges were similar to every new mom, how do I balance life and a newborn, but there were lots of other challenges that came with having my son at 18. I had to navigate college and working part-time, all while putting my son's needs first. There were, of course, late night feedings instead of parties. 

I think the most challenging part was finding a place where I was accepted, being a teen mom made me feel isolated at times; that no one understood me or my situation. 

4.      Tell us a little about your love story. How have you and your husband evolved over the course of your relationship?

My husband and I met when I was 16 and he had just turned 18. We dated on and off over the course of the next year, and then I found myself pregnant. It really put a strain on our relationship, and we took a break for a while.

As we co-parented together we became good friends again and our relationship evolved again into a romance. We moved in together and shortly after bought a house together. May 20, 2006 we were married in a beautiful outdoor ceremony. It has not always been easy, but it has been an amazing journey that I am so lucky to have shared with Will.

5.      You and your husband are foster parents who are now in the process of adopting two girls. Can you tell us a little about how that came to be?

I always wanted to adopt, even before I became a parent. When I first brought up the idea of adopting, my husband had a lot of reservations. Together we did a lot of research about international and domestic adoption, which opened our eyes to how many children are in the foster care system in the United States and in our local county. It took a lot of talking about it with each other and our children, then reaching out to our local coordinator and other local families.

Every place is different, but in our county there are many rules, lots of paperwork, and special training you have to complete in order to become foster/adoptive parents. Completing the process brought my husband and I closer together. We have had a few placements come through our house, either returning home or moving on to other adoptive homes.

Currently we are in the process of adopting our daughters, Eva (10) and Averi (1), and we could not be more excited to be completing our family.

6.      What has been the most challenging part of parenthood so far?

That is a tough one, I think a big part of the challenge is changing and adapting to parent for your child’s unique needs. My children have different personalities and are at different stages, which means they need different things from me. I am always trying to figure out how I can be a better mom, but it is hard and very challenging.

Another challenge is making our relationship a priority while parenting. So much of our life is focused on the kids’ activities and the happiness of our children. My husband and I have prioritized spending time on our marriage to make sure it lasts. It is so easy to put your relationship (and yourself) at the bottom of the list when you become a parent. If you take the time to move it closer to the top, it will amaze you how much easier some things become.

7.      What are your aspirations right now? How have they changed since becoming a mother?

I always wanted to have a career where I could be creative and make a lot of money. Isn't that every one's goal? I do have a job where I am creative most of the time, it also offers flexibility which is something that I value more since I am a mom to 4.

I have always had aspirations to travel and explore the world. Some of those aspirations have been put on hold because I am a mother. Though for many of my travelling dreams, my husband and I have just brought the children with us. We may not be going to dangerous or exotic locals, but we are exploring together, which makes it just as amazing.

8.      What do you most love about your life right now?

I love that I am at a place where I am comfortable with myself. I have spent so many years uncomfortable, so to be at this spot is a great gift that I have worked very hard on. I am also just so in love with my husband and children, for the amount of chaos there is just as much amazing love. It is all so worth it.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Finding My Place

First of all, thank you to everyone who reached out with kind words and encouragement in the last week or so. Even if I didn't respond, the sentiment was deeply appreciated. I'm still not doing great, but I am doing better.

Honestly, I'm having a bit of a quarter life crisis. In all sorts of ways. I'm a quarter of the way into my 25th year, and I feel like I'm struggling to find a vision for my life. I thought I would have a much clearer view of my professional future at this point, and the fact that I don't have that clarity of purpose and singular driven focus is bringing up all sorts of doubts and negative feelings.

I have the family I want, I've surrounded myself with people who make me happy and inspire me, we have a lovely home and comfortable lifestyle, we even have enough money to feel secure - I have a very blessed and wonderful life. And yet, I'm yearning to find that niche in the world where my voice, my education, my passions find value outside of the home.

In other words, I'm still trying to find my place in the big picture. I'm trying to figure out who I want to be, outside of being a mother and wife and family member and friend. And I know, for me, it's going to involve being a writer. And I know it's going to be hard. And I know this isn't the first or the last time it's going to get me down. 

But I'm going to keep searching. Keep writing. Keep working until I find that spot in the world, because I know it's out there if I just keep looking.
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