mrs.b and her boys

embrace the chaos

Category: Surviving the Chaos

It Takes Time

It takes time. This speaks loudly of my life right now. It has been a {long} while since I have felt like I was headed in the right direction in life to fulfill my soul {aside from being a mama}. It has also been a while since I have worked on my cookbook, written recipes and posted here on my blog. The last year has been filled with big revelations and changes here in our house.

 

I have not felt like myself not writing recipes and sharing them with you for the last year, but a lot has been filling my mind and my days since then. Last year this time I was working a job that was by far the best job I have ever had. I was a Literary Tutor at a local elementary school. I loved being in a school setting, I adored my co-workers and most of all, I fed off the satisfaction that I was working with kiddos, helping them become stronger readers. Unfortunately, although it was a 25-hour workweek, it was considered a volunteer position. I was only paid a small {and I mean SMALL} living stipend. Around this time my husband and I had been talking {A LOT} about what my next step was going to be because we could not afford for me to do this job any longer. It was heart breaking for me, I shed lots of tears, but it forced me into a soul-searching mission that was unexpected.

 

Let me take you back to about seven years ago. I was a stay-at-home mom and loving every minute of it {well, let’s be real…ALMOST every minute of it}. It was all I had ever wanted to be, a mama. We made a lot of adjustments for us to be able to afford for me to stay home, we did it and it worked. One Saturday, I had taken my children to a friend’s birthday party where I did not know anyone else there. All of the other moms were working moms. I, for the first time in my life, suddenly felt the most insecure I have ever felt. I had this panic feeling of “Holy crap! I am not enough!” What I found once I was out of that situation and able to figure out what that was that I had been feeling, was that I needed something more. I needed a purpose in life in addition to being a mom.

 

In conversation with one of my best girlfriends after that incident we had an epiphany together. We had each other and other wonderful girlfriends that we got together with to play, we went to music class and ECFE together, plus we had plenty of ladies nights out. But {a big fat BUT}, staying at home was also lonely and isolating. Would I change it, NEVER! I was choosing to do it. I wanted to be there. The reality is though, that a lot of times being a stay-at-home parent is incredibly lonely. When they are fresh babes, you have to do everything around naps and feedings. As they grow a bit you have only the mornings to do something, then rush home so that they get a good afternoon nap in so that you do not have to pay for it all night. You may go days without talking to anyone’s face except your children and spouse. When they are sick, you are stuck inside your dungeon with no hopes of getting out. Your whole life becomes about boogers and poop and sippy cups and nap times and a messy ass house and Elmo and cheesy, gaggy kids music and making healthy food {that they never eat after 2 years old!} and potty training {I sucked at potty training!} and Goldfish stuck to every inch of the interior of your car and doubting your decisions and questioning if you are good enough. Gah! You loose part of who you were before you were blessed with children.

 

My ultimate dream has always been to write and publish a cookbook. It is so important to me but somehow it is the one thing in my life that I make the least amount of time for. I am also of the reality that if it does happen, it is not a full-time gig and not quite everything to fulfill me. There was something more. What was it? So, in my soul-searching last spring, I heard this voice say, “Go back to school to finish your teaching degree.” I shuttered and shook it off. I never had any desire to go back to school to finish what I started all too long ago. Then, a few days later, that voice would creep back in. Shutter! Shake! This happened many times over about a month before I said to my husband, “I know this is going to shock you, but I think I am supposed to go back to school. I am supposed to be a teacher.” He instantly said, “Okay, let’s do it! A classroom is where you belong. It is so who you are.” Just typing it now brings me to tears. It was such a freeing, life altering moment. I felt relief that I finally had my answer that I searched for all those years. I felt nervous about going back to college at my old age. I instantly panicked that my boys were not ready for me to be gone that much and that I would not fully be the mom that they had always had. {Again with the tears!} I knew that our house would go haywire with me consumed with this. I’ll keep it real, I am not the greatest housekeeper {as I sit here looking at dirty dishes and a broken kitchen drawer} but I did not want things to get worse.

 

So here I am in the midst of it! Taking classes. Working towards my dream of being a teacher. It has been hard. Like I said, my house is a mess. I do not have time to write recipes, post on my blog or work on my cookbook. My kids have had to become a bit more independent and are doing really well with it. My husband has been my biggest cheerleader – especially on test days. {And more tears!} There are times when I am in the depths of school and life that I think, “What am I doing? What the hell was I thinking?” But it is easily and quickly shook off with knowing what I am working towards and it fills my soul.

 

If you are one of those parents feeling the way I felt seven years ago, lost, overwhelmed, in need of something more, I promise you your time will come. It will come when you least expect it. Or in an answer you never thought it would be. Hang in there. Stay-at-home parenthood is hard. It is lonely. It is unglamorous. Most of all, it is worth it. And the day they start kindergarten, in your eyes will be tears, part of your heart will be gone, but you will also revel in the freedom! Hallelujah! Enjoy it! Take some time for yourself. Do some soul searching. Maybe you want to get right into something more. Maybe you want a few more years. Do what is right for you. Know that you are amazing. Know that you are good enough doing what you do. Not just anyone can raise a stubborn, squirrely child that poops their pants to be a sweet, yet still stubborn child that can finally use the bathroom on their own and go out to take on the world. It just takes time.

GIFT GUIDE 2017

I hope you are all heading into the holiday season feeling healthy & blessed! I also hope that you have some sort of giving project planned. Our family was talking about putting together lunch bags & delivering them to the homeless. We do not have a lot of money to give big, but we know sandwiches, chips, fruit, a homemade cookie & a personal note will not cost much. The joy it will bring our hearts will be priceless!

After that, I hope you are very thoughtful with your gift giving to your loved ones. Think about them & what they love. That being said, I know there are some people on our list that are hard to buy for. Or we think, ‘Our kids don’t need anything.’

 

This list will spark some ideas for your gift giving this year!

 

HOST/ESS: Your favorite hand soap & a beautiful hand towel {I actually give this hostess gift year round. So simple, yet perfect}

BABIES: Wooden toys. www.landofnod.com has some great pieces

 

LADIES & GIRLS: An overnight bag, a toiletries bag & make-up bag. If you feel like throwing in some travel size toiletries, bonus!

GUYS: A hoodie & cap of their favorite college or pro team

BOYS: A fleece hat & neck cover, wool socks, hand warmers, beef jerky, sunflower seeds & gum {Perfect for any skier, snow boarder, hunter or fisherman in your life}

 

FAMILY: Ice Cream Sundae Kit. Include: Fun sundae cups or cones, hot fudge, caramel sauce, sprinkles, nuts, praline topping, cookie crumbles, mini M&M’s, an ice cream scoop

TEACHERS: A gift card. It doesn’t have to be much. As much as they appreciate any gift & the thoughtfulness behind it…they do not need another cute mug or tree ornament!!! They just got nine last year {Ha!} $5 to a coffee shop is perfect. Or a cupcake shop, or a book store, or Thai take-out, or a specialty grocery store. The options are endless. If you feel you must give them something, how about fuzzy warm socks/wool socks? Or donate snacks & items to the classroom so they don’t have to buy out of their pockets?

THE SCIENCE KID IN YOUR LIFE: A science experiment kit or book to have your own science fun at home

THE COOK IN YOUR LIFE: Set of soup bowls, ladle & pot holder

THE MUSIC BUFF IN YOUR LIFE: A pair of nice headphones & an iTunes gift card

BOOKS:

Wonder by R.J. Palacio – If you or your children have not read it yet, you have got to! A beautiful story of a boy with a facial difference, sharing how it effects his & his loved ones lives & how being kind is most important

 

Lasso the Moon by Trish Holland – This sweet Little Golden Book is a goodnight story of cowgirls & cowboys

Flotsam by David Wiesner – A book with no words but full of beautiful illustrations allows you & your child to use your imaginations & tell a new story everytime

The Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak – As it states in the title, this book has no pictures. It does not need any. The words of this brilliant author leave children {& yourself} in stitches!

 

A BOOK & THE MOVIE:

Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

These are two of my favorites with strong, beautiful messages.

For more ideas for gift giving, check out last years Gift Guide 2016 below! It has a load of more great options.

GIFT GUIDE 2016

THE PERFECT JUGGLING ACT

Finding the perfect balance in life. Wouldn’t that be fabulous? Is it even possible? I feel that I am always struggling to juggle it all just perfectly. I hear from a lot of people in my life that they struggle too. Everyone feeling they are lacking in different areas.

 

Balancing work and life, life and exercise, eating healthy food and eating food that makes your soul feel good, every day distractions and quality time with kids, homework and play time, extracurricular activities and letting them just be kids, television and reading, family and friends, sleep and the never-ending “To-Do List”, family table dinners and dinners on-the-go, saying yes to volunteering for that project and knowing you need to say no this time. Did I mention aging relatives with needs? Yard work? Time to ourselves with none of the above?

 

I know I struggle with most of the above {all.the.time}. Especially with wanting so badly to have time and energy to try new recipes, write new recipes and blog. It’s strange that the thing I love to do the most is put to the back burner behind all of life’s other happenings.

 

How do we perfect it? Can we ever? Or is it just always a juggling act and no one can do it all flawlessly? {Oh boy! That sounds a little Carrie Bradshaw-esque}

 

By the time I feel I have time to sit down with my laptop to write it is 9:00 at night, I am mentally and physically beat by then. All I want to do is collapse on the couch and veg out with some mindless show.

 

I have spent time over the years trying to find the magical answer on how to do it all. What I have to come to find, is there is no magical answer. We just need to do our best. And know we are not the only ones that struggle with juggling it all flawlessly. There may be times throughout the year that some things are better balanced then others. Then it shifts. We need to be aware when there are areas of our life where we are slacking and give that our energy. We cannot be perfect but we can still do a really great job trying to be.

 

One thing that helps me feel okay with not being able to do it all is my girlfriends, sister, cousins – and having real, open, honest talks with them. We are able to trust one another to be vulnerable to speak our truth and not feel we have to pretend our life is perfect. Because it is not really. And if she says it is, I’ll have what she’s having. {Ha!}

 

We cannot beat ourselves up because of the areas we lack and let it consume our mind. We need to adjust life’s needs accordingly and be at peace in our mind that it will all be okay in the end. We need to be satisfied and proud that we got five things done today and not beat ourselves up that we didn’t get to all twenty-one things on our to-do list. We must embrace the chaos of life and know we are doing the best we can.

 

“Some days you eat spinach and go to the gym, some days you eat ice cream and refuse to put on pants. It’s called balance.”

GIFT GUIDE 2016

Everyone is in the depths of gift shopping right about now as the holidays approach. There is always {THAT} one person who is hard to buy for and has you stumped. My list is full of ideas for everyone on your list. These are some of my favorites this year that I hope spark an AH-HA! moment for the loved ones on your list.

GUYS: Spices & dry rubs from local shop with a grill mitt, masculine apron or chef hat

LADIES: Subscription to The Magnolia Journal with a beautiful baking dish or Charcuterie board

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BOYS: Baseball Cap along with an item of the sport {i.e. Twins cap & a baseball, Carolina Panthers cap & a football, skater brand cap & Converse High Tops or a skateboard}

GIRLS: Sleepover Kit {Any combination of: paper lanterns, pinwheels, fun paper straws, matching cups, iTunes gift card for dance music, soda pop, chips, candy & bubble gum, ice cream sundae ingredients, Mad Libs, items for manicures & facials, scavenger hunt list}

BOOKS FOR KIDS:

Bear Stays Up for Christmas by: Karma Wilson – Sweet story of Bear and his friends celebrating Christmas as Bear fights to stay awake in the midst of his hibernation

Say Hello by: Rachel Isadora – A story of beautiful diversity as Carmelita walks through her neighborhood and teaches us Hello! in 8 different languages

The Mitten by: Jan Brett – A classic about wild animals finding warm refuge in a child’s lost mitten full of delightful illustrations

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A Series of Unfortunate Events series by: Lemony Snicket

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The Puppy Place series by: Ellen Miles

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Start a Lego Christmas Village: Giving a piece each year. You can find {limited time only} items online. I got this idea from my sister and her family. Note: Keep pieces together and in a bin off season – that way you don’t have to go through the pain of putting them back together every year.

Christmas PJ’s: For the kids each year. I buy them for my boys and nephews every year! Perfect photo ops!

Something to Wear, Read, Want & Need: A lot of people are liking this new idea that someone {not me!} came up with for kids. My oldest is to an age where he doesn’t want much for toys but not old enough for more electronics. My youngest wants toys but doesn’t need any. So, this is a great way for us to give to them this year. The idea is that they each get 4 gifts to open – one for each category. Works out nice with a perfect balance for all.

P.S. The gorgeous, incredibly soft blanket scarf in my photos above is from Target in the “Dollar Spot” for $7! Perfect for any teen or lady in your life!

DON’T GIVE UP!

Surviving the years of picky eaters seems near impossible. It’s so maddening! It feels as if they will never {NEVER!} eat anything other then chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese, or crackers. I promise you, if you keep at it, they will come around. They will eat delicious, healthy food one day. You will be able to go out to eat somewhere other then a restaurant that serves “American food” options only.

 

The key is to not give up. You have to stay on it. You need to have them try something new about once every 3-4 weeks . It starts with fresh vegetables. When they are babies, they eat all kinds of pureed vegetables then they all tend to boycott any vegetable of any kind. And you’re standing there with your hands in the air freaking out that they are not getting any vegetables now. I am not a doctor or a trained dietician, but I say it is okay. For now. If they are getting some fruit and calcium, hide their vegetables in other dishes. You can slip sweet potato or carrot puree into spaghetti sauce, macaroni and cheese, sloppy joe’s, etc. {Thank you Jessica Seinfeld for making this easy for us}

 

Although my rule is, once they turn 3 years old, they have to make a vegetable choice. They will have a veggie on the plate at dinner every night. If it’s the same every night, oh well! It’s a start. My oldest only ate carrot sticks and cucumbers with the occasional steamed broccoli. My youngest only ate avocado and carrot sticks.

 

Then, two summers ago when they were 5 and 7, I threw Strawberry Salad into the mix. They HAD to eat it. But they did not fight me on it too much. They love strawberries. The poppy seed dressing is sweet. The hardest part was getting used to the texture of the spinach. I learned to chop it into smaller pieces for them, then its easier to get down. Now they LOVE Strawberry Salad, they prefer spinach over lettuce AND they both asked at one point to try different kinds of salads. Now, they both eat Caesar Salad and regular veggie salad. This is major people {MAY-JOR!} I’m talking, my youngest used to get so worked up at dinner time {no matter what was on the plate} that he would puke. Every night! To the point that his brother would chime in, “Oh! Here we go again!” And now, he asks to try new things – like a Moroccan chicken kebob or crab legs. So, I can truly say, it works, don’t give up. Just keep at it – slowly.

 

Another rule I had, more for myself, was that I rarely made a completely separate meal for the kids. Even if I made stir-fry which I knew they wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole, I would give them the meat from the stir-fry, raw carrot sticks (instead of the cooked ones in the stir-fry) along with a piece of buttered wheat bread. That way they are seeing similar things on their plate. Or before they would eat enchiladas or tacos, I would give them a cheese quesadilla. Again, the same ingredients, just in a different form. When I decided it was time for them to eat real tacos, I just started with a soft shell, the meat, cheese and sour cream. Simple to start off. Now, I put spinach in them as well. It eased them in so slowly that there was little complaining or fighting it.

 

There will always be things they just are not going to like, but the options you will have will widen. My boys are still not crazy about many vegetables – raw or cooked. And strangely, neither of them like any kind of rice or potato {weirdos!} But I can put Enchiladas or Turkey Feta Meatballs on the table and they will eat. We can go out for Thai or Mexican and they find something on the menu. They are very open to trying new things now. I can sing “Hallelujah!” and dance a happy dance! You will too.

Don’t Stress Over Teacher Gifts

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I am here to tell you that there is no need to stress over what to get your kids’ teachers and coaches – or finding the time to do it. They do not want another mug filled with something gourmet, they do not need another Crayola framed picture {But they are cute, aren’t they?}. What I have heard from teachers in my life is they enjoy gift cards to treat themselves to something special.

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Think restaurant, coffee shop, bake shop, salon in your area. It does not have to be an extravagant amount, just a thoughtful $5, $10, $15. Then, I just got these cute holiday tins and buckets at the dollar store. Fill them with filler and candies and place the gift card in there. Ribbon, no ribbon, it’s still cute.

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That is all it takes. It’s about being thoughtful, not slaving hours over it.

MORNINGS

Mornings…are so…hard. Getting kids out of the house and off to school is difficult at times. It can bring yelling, crying, not to mention the rushing. One person’s funky mood can make everyone else funky, too. But no matter the moods in our house, and eventually the car, I always try to leave my boys in a great mood and feeling loved before they step out of the car onto curb at school. If it is me who is in a bad mood, {Just keepin’ it real!} I have to consciously turn it off. If it is one of the boys who are having a bad morning, I do my darndest to get them out of it so they can head into school with a smile on their faces and looking forward to the day.

 

One way I love to change things is to blare a song really loud – a song that we all love – and get everyone singing and dancing in their seats. This morning it was “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson & Bruno Mars. By the end of the song, we were rolling into the school parking lot and there were smiles {& giggles} on every face.

 

And every day right before the “Have a great day, I love you so much!” I always, always, always say to them, “Be kind & respectful to everyone.” Then, as they head into school {even though at times I still have a pang in my heart that they are getting old and independent} I know they are fueled for the day – ready to go into the world feeling loved, guided to be good human beings and carrying a smile on their sweet little faces.

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