Monday, March 23, 2015

Daily Snapshot

I've been writing a lot lately. But it's all been in my head, and none on here. You go through seasons, ya know? Sometimes I am writing about whatever comes to my mind, not being picky at all, sometimes I just don't want to write unless it's something really profound. One of the reasons I started this blog was to try to be better at documenting life, so that one day I could go back and remember. So I might now have a whole lot of profound to say tonight, but there is a lot of remembering to be done.

I paused after I wrote that first paragraph and I just read this article. Oh. My. Goodness. Truth. Truth so profound I was laughing out loud relating to being ruled by the small army of children I created to feeling the tears roll down my cheeks thinking about how this stage is already going so fast and I don't want it to ever end. (you should read the article. then come back)

I tell people all the time, this is the hardest thing I have ever done, but if I could stay here forever I would do it. When Shaun comes home from work each day the relief that sweeps over me as I see his truck pull into the driveway is like a tangible force. The reinforcements are here. The back-up troops have arrived. Sweet Lord I made it to this point in the day.

This motherhood thing has been harder than usual lately. Drew hasn't napped in almost 2 years, and now Isaiah isn't napping every day anymore either. Jaden is hit or miss... he naps four hours one day and a half hour the next and I never know what kind of day it's going to be until it's happening. We are in a weird, no-routine funk and I don't have any moment of the day to myself anymore and we are all driving each other crazy (in the best and most loving of ways.) For the last week our house has been swinging from one end of the spectrum to the other. And I'm just hanging onto the pendulum for dear life, trying to be some kind of anchor of stability, but my brain is so frazzled I literally can't remember what I should be doing next, then I remember I made a list, then I can't find my list. Then I think, oh well, who cares about the list, I just need to be the.... crap, what was the word?? That thing that is part of a ship? It holds it in place so it doesn't move??? Dang it what was the word? ANCHOR! Seriously, I lose my words all the time. (Besides telling people this is the hardest thing I've ever done, I also tell them I used to be smart.)

I totally digress.... Anyway, our house goes from well behaved little boys painting water color pictures at the counter all happy and content one minute, to three boys fighting and screaming in the living room the next. Usually the fighting starts because one boy was pretending to be a T-rex and attacking the other boy, saying that he is a long-neck, while the other boy screams that he's not a long neck and doesn't want to play dinosaurs, while the third boy just wants to be in the middle of all the action until he gets knocked down, then he glares at me from under his furrowed eyebrows while sitting on his squishy little bum like "how could you let this happen to me?!?!" And I don't know whether to deal with the boy who is screaming, the boy who is instigating, or the toddler/baby who is reaching to be in my arms first. (Speaking of instigating... they know and use the word "instigator" often... I think they think an instigator is a distant relative of an alligator, and they know that who ever is being the gator is being the bad one, and it cracks me up hearing a big word like that coming out of their little mouths...) Then sometimes, they are playing go-fish in the living room calmly and sweetly one minute, running into the kitchen to show me their favorite fish cards, giggling and talking together, and then, BAM. I still don't know what happened exactly, but I think one boy's foot brushed against another boy's card pile, and that boy is a little bit of a perfectionist, and the un-tidy card pile was apparently reason enough for a full body contact football tackle that caught the big-footed boy completely off guard. Then the boy with the feet retaliates by kicking the rest of the card pile clear across the living room floor, which leads to screaming on the part of both parties. And the littlest boy? He screams just to feel like he's part of the group. (I mean, you wouldn't want to be the only one not screaming when it's clearly the cool thing to do.... our poor neighbors.) Also a possible scenario... you send them all up the stairs to get ready for bed.... one is diligently changing into pajamas, one decides to go into the bathroom and steal his big brother's toothbrush, and one decides to neglect his pajama-changing duties altogether in favor of one more run down the hall way pushing his big tractor... only he is staring down at the tractor and his rapidly running feet so intently that he doesn't see the space heater looming in front of him, and he crashes into it with all his might square in the forehead, and within seconds he is absolutely wailing, and your husband is running downstairs to fetch a bag of frozen veggies for you to put on the big purple bump, and your oldest son is finding your youngest son sneakily using his toothbrush at the exact same time and now they are having a shrieking toothbrush stand-off and your head feels like it might explode too even though it wasn't your head that crashed the tractor into the space heater... (p.s. these are all real-life scenarios that have taken place within the last 24 hours in our home)

Welcome to my life, where things are not perfect.... I trust you can relate? Finally yesterday Shaun and I talked, we decided we have had enough of the screaming and chaos, and we developed a strategy. When the fighting breaks out, both Drew and Isaiah go to separate rooms for time outs, they can come back when they have a change in attitude. As for Jaden, he usually just picks a room and puts himself into time out with one of them even though he did nothing wrong (other than increasing the decibel levels). After all, if big brothers are in time out, it must be the place to be. Shaun encouraged me before he left today, "stay strong, this might be all you do all day, but you can do it." (It wasn't long after he got home today that I laid across our bed face down and mumbled that I was putting up my "out of office" away message...)

During one of the earlier time outs of the day I was working in the kitchen, and Isaiah was sitting on the steps, and I could hear him talking... "I'm getting ready to be in a different attitude. I am almost done my bad attitude. Mommy, now it's my good attitude coming!" And I was cracking up. In the most un-likely of times these boys make me laugh hysterically. Sometimes against my will. When they would come out of time out I would make them show me their smile so I could see their good attitudes. Isaiah would give me this totally cheesy, squinty eyed, close lipped smile, Drew would be smiling genuinely, but trying to hide it behind his hands because he's not so open with his emotions, and the smile was getting the upper-hand despite his best efforts to stay serious. 

Can I just say though, while the time-outs were innumerable, and at times I felt like I was stuck in a repeating loop over and over, I think maybe we got somewhere today? Shaun had worship practice tonight, so I was by myself for bed time routine, and after all three of their little bodies were changed into jammies, and their teeth were all brushed, and they were all tucked into covers, and Drew had chosen the bed time story of how Nehemiah re-builds the wall, and we read together and everyone relaxed into quiet, all three of them clinging to me in some way, Jaden nursing, Drew wanting my arm around him, Isaiah holding my hand and giving me kisses... Oh my word. These boys. I can't get enough of them. Someday I will have to let them go. As they were falling asleep I was praying for their future wives. It hurts so bad to think of giving them up, but I know it will be right when the time comes, and it only makes me all the more thankful for these days that I am the girl in their life. That they whisper that they love me, that they kiss my hands, that they come to me for their hugs and want to snuggle, the way I nuzzle my face into their soft little cheeks and necks more times in a day than I can count, that they are learning what love looks like, and that I get to be the one to show them their worth... it is more than I can handle. The preciousness of it all overwhelms my heart. What in the world was God thinking when he put these souls into our home, all together, and saw me fit to raise them up? He sees more in me than I know is there. Because somehow even when I feel like I am "out of office", all it takes is one little hand to reach for me and I just can't resist.

As I scan my memory and the details of the day flash in my eyes, I see so many sweet moments scattered in amongst the crazy. Drew waking up in our bed this morning, rolling over to see me watching him sleeping, his sweet little smile coming into his face as he looked back at me. Isaiah asking me to help him pick out his clothes, choosing the red shirt with the lion emblem on it, getting himself dressed and so proudly showing me he remembered to put underwear on today. Isaiah taking the juice cups to the breakfast table for everyone. Painting canvases at the counter together. Picking Jaden up and setting him down about a million times, shifting his baby weight onto my hip, the familiar feel of his little hands holding onto my arm. Drew's fruit-on-the-bottom cherry yogurt at lunch being turned into a volcano in his imagination. Holding them on my lap watching Peter Pan in the afternoon. The hundred smiles, their eyes looking into mine, their beautiful little faces so full of life.

I'd stay here forever if I could.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Last of winter fashion

Winter is almost over, and spring is almost here!!! My favorite season is tied between fall and the change of seasons. Anyone else feel me? Part of the thrill is the anticipation of the new. I even get excited for winter when it's almost here. (although that excitement is the shortest lived.) But I truly love every season and the things that belong to it alone. This has to be one of the most dramatic winter-to-spring-changes I can remember. On my birthday (March 5th) we had the biggest snowfall of the year. It was beautiful (and we took some really sweet pictures in it) but it kinda felt like winter was never going to end. Then just one short week later the snow is all but melted, it's in the 50's, the birds are chirping, and you can just feel that spring is about to break forth at any second. In these last few cold weeks I've still needed the layers, but I keep reaching for florals, or at least a little color, to incorporate in when getting dressed. 

This first outfit was my fav. Floral leggings with a sleeveless black tunic top under a faux leather jacket.  The black was all winter, the floral was all spring. :) (The first few photos were before I got my hair highlighted, my roots were really grown out but now looking back I kinda liked it.) 

Tunic: Victoria's Secret
Faux leather jacket: Target
Leggings: AE
Initial Pendant necklace: AE
Turquoise ring: Buckle (Christmas gift from my sister in law) 
Black Boots: DSW

This next one was what I wore to go out to Philly for the night. I had fun playing with lots of textures, from the knit sweater to the tulle to the floral leggings and leather boots. Victoria's Secret used to sell a long sweater dress with a pleated skirt, all one piece. I created my own version by layering this long sweater over a tulle dress I already had. 

Sweater: AE (gift from my mama) 
Tulle skirted dress: Target ($8 clearance a few years ago) 
Gray floral leggings: AE
Brown boots: Steve Madden 

The next outfit was actually two different occasions. One before highlights, one after. One before I got my ipod (and was still trying to take the awkward DSLR shots) and one after. When I find an outfit I like I wear it way more than once. Sometimes I change a few things up, but I usually keep it mostly the same. Here I wore the same polka dot tunic and cardi, but changed the necklace and the shoes, and also wore white pants in one and cream leggings in the other (the leggings were more comfortable!) 
Polka dot tunic: Forever 21
Cardi: AE
White pants: Target
(Cream Leggings: Victoria's Secret)
Necklace: J. Crew 
(2nd Necklace: Pearls and Joy etsy shop) 
Both pairs of boots: Steve Madden

Post-highlights... Just an errand day. (Can I say again that I am super amazed at the ease of documenting outfits with an ipod.... ) 

Stripe Top: Ross
Cardi: AE
Black Moto Pants: Victoria's Secret
Boots: Steve Madden 

So excited to be able to pull out more and more spring patterns and colors as the days keep warming up and getting longer.... !!! 

Friday, March 6, 2015

Don't just eat your veggies, love them too!

When I was growing up there were some veggies I knew I didn't like. Then there were veggies that I had never tasted, and didn't plan to. Then there was that small window of veggies that I actually liked. But how many times can you eat broccoli with cheese sauce and mashed potatoes and green bean casserole in your life without starting to get bored? (and eventually realizing that those aren't really the healthiest presentations of veggies anyway??)

This past year I have grown to LOVE vegetables. Like, love them so much that if I reach for seconds of something, it's likely going to be the veggies. Like, love them so much that half my cart is filled with vegetables every time I leave the grocery store. Love them so much that I plan my meals around my "sides" rather than my "main dishes"... love them so much that I don't think a veggie exists anymore that I don't want to try. I want to shout it from the rooftops, because I actually enjoy eating healthy food and don't feel one bit guilty about feeling full when I leave the table. So I thought I'd share some of my revolutionary, life-changing, full of deliciousness ways that I prepare vegetables now. Hmm... where to start, there are so many good ones! 

[One disclaimer before beginning... my main problem in becoming a food blogger is that I live in real life. Which means that I am typically preparing dinner at dinner time. In not ideal lighting conditions for those pretty, natural light food photos that make all our mouths water. And with four dudes waiting with hungry stomachs for whatever it is I'm preparing. It's really not cool with them if I pause to style a plate, take it to a natural light setting, and give it it's own mini photo session before sitting down at the table to pray and eat together. So, please understand my lack of pretty photos and just trust me that you want to try some of these things without the mouth-watering photo specifically of the dish I am talking about to convince you. I've instead chosen to include random photos of healthy things-taken in broad daylight and not whilst preparing dinner-as eye-candy only. Thanks for understanding. ;) ]

Let's start with cabbage. 

Honey Mustard Roasted Cabbage to be exact. 

1/2 head of cabbage
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon yellow mustard
1 tablespoon honey (orange blossom honey if you have access to it!)
1/2 cup bread panko crumbs 
sea salt + pepper

In a small bowl, combine 2 tablespoons olive oil with the honey and mustard. Whisk to combine. The remaining 1 tablespoon of oil can be used to coat your baking sheet.Slice the cabbage into thick wedges. Brush the wedges with the honey mustard glaze. Sprinkle on the bread crumbs. Then season with salt and pepper. Roast at 400°F for 35-40 minutes until the edges begin to turn dark brown and look crispy. [This recipe is adapted ever so slightly from A Beautiful Mess]

You guys. This recipe is amazing. It is so delicious and so, so easy. 

If you need to use up the rest of the cabbage I highly recommend this recipe for warm cabbage and noodle salad, also from A Beautiful Mess. I understand that ramen noodles aren't your most nutritionally loaded food or anything, but I am ok with that since you're adding all that cabbage, carrots, cilantro, peanuts, lime etc. It's like homemade lo mein only better. 

Moving on to more cabbage goodness, how about some sweet sesame lime cabbage salad? 
mmmm.... :) 

For the salad:

12 oz. shredded cabbage

1 cup shredded carrots
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
large handful of fresh cilantro, chopped
(also good with kale or raw broccoli florets added as well)
For the dressing:
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons diced sweet onion
2 tablespoons honey, or to taste
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon of toasted sesame oil, or to taste
Combine all of the dressing ingredients in a bowl and whisk until smooth. Adjust flavors to taste.Combine the salad ingredients in a large bowl, and toss well with the prepared dressing. (I like to shake it together in a sealed glass tupperware.) Allow to marinate for at least 30 minutes in the fridge before serving. 

Ok, well I think I'll give cabbage a break and move along to: 
Roasted Root Vegetables

So many variations and flavors you can play with here. :) 

What you'll need: 
Assorted root vegetables (Start with carrots, onions and potatoes- red or sweet or both- then add in any other root vegetables you like... celery root, parsnips, beets, radishes, etc.) 
Olive oil (I use organic extra virgin) 
Seasonings (fresh herbs are best... rosemary, thyme and minced garlic and sea salt are my go to seasonings. I use fresh in the summer when I have them in my garden and dried in the winter) 

Chop chop chop. Spread your veggies out over a cookie sheet in a single layer. Drizzle olive oil over all. Sprinkle seasonings on top. Roast at 375 degrees for approx 45 minutes. Do not flip during cooking time... you want them to get that nice seared layer on the bottom, they will release from the pan once they are nice and hot. I usually make at least two cookie sheets full of this... We eat a whole one for dinner and then I love to warm up the leftovers for lunch the next day. 

And my other new favorite vegetable... 

brussel sprouts!! 

It is possible to quarter them, saute' them in olive oil with some diced onion, add a little minced garlic and top with crumbled bacon.... quite yummy... but my favorite way is as follows. 

Rinse, halve and spread brussel sprouts on a baking sheet. Chop 1 head of cauliflower and spread with brussel sprouts. Drizzle with olive oil, honey, minced garlic and sea salt. Roast at 375 for 45 minutes. If you want to turn this into a meal, you can also add cooked gnocchi and sprinkle with chopped pistachios. MMMM... (it's on my menu for the week!) 

Can we talk about 
in a post about veggies? I know they are technically a fruit.... but lets just include them here too.

In the summer I love to slice them, spread them in a glass dish, drizzle with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, top with mozerella cheese and fresh basil and top with a sprinkle of garlic salt and italian seasonings. It's fancy name is Caprese. 
My other favorite, and very similar, way to have them is to chop up tomatoes into bite sized pieces, mix with chopped mozerella, and add the same seasonings (balsamic, olive oil, italian seasonings and garlic salt) and let it marinate in the refrigerator. The only thing different from above is that there is no fresh basil in this and that because it is finely chopped it can be stored in a container and used on salads or lettuce wraps or as a dip as you see fit. 

If you like green beans 
but need a new way to try them, saute' them (I use the thin whole green beans for this recipe) in olive oil with diced onion and minced garlic, when they are soft enough transfer to serving dish and top with slivered almonds (and pomegranates too!) 

Sweet potatoes... 
So delicious just wrapped in some foil with a little sea salt and butter and baked at 400 degrees for 2 hours. But if you want another fun version, chop them up, boil the pieces for about 5 to 10 minutes until they start to soften, then transfer to an iron skillet and saute' in olive oil with onion, minced garlic, rosemary, sea salt and a bit of brown sugar until it all begins to caramelize together and the potatoes are nice and soft. Oh my goodness... sweet potato heaven in your mouth. 

Lastly... We love to juice here. If you have a juicer I HIGHLY recommend using oranges, apples and a lime as your base, then adding some carrots and/or spinach. You can't taste the vegetables at all, and the orange/apple/lime juice is simply divine. Our kids love to help make it (and drink it!) too. :) 
I realize that was a highly disorganized post as far as layout and there was a lot of different recipes I threw out there. The ones I mentioned are as follows, if you missed them somehow you can scroll back through and find them :) 

Honey Mustard Roasted Cabbage
Warm Cabbage & Noodle Salad
Sweet Sesame Lime Cabbage Salad
Roasted Root Vegetables
Sauteed Brussel Sprouts with Bacon
Roasted Honey Brussel Sprouts & Cauliflower (with gnocchi and pistachios) 
Caprese (and it's refrigerated caprese salad version) 
Sauteed Green Beans with Slivered almonds and pomegranates
Baked Sweet Potatoes
Sauteed Rosemary Sweet Potatoes 
Orange Apple Lime Juice (with fruit and veggies) 

Hope this gets your ideas going for some new ways to start preparing your veggies so that they become your new favorite part of your meal! :)