Jackson and Alice really enjoy helping me in the kitchen whenever they can, so I try to involve them as much as possible. I always think to myself, "Wouldn't it be great to send the kids out into the world knowing how to cook?!" It's a dream of mine. Self sufficiency and all that jazz.
So here we are in the kitchen making pumpkin muffins, which are one of the simplest things that I know how to bake. Plus? Pumpkin, ya'll. If I could deem it "Pumpkin Season" all year 'round, you bet your tush that I would. Pumpkin is quite possibly my favorite smell and flavor.
So I drank a mug of pumpkin spice coffee, lit 2 pumpkin scented candles and wrangled the kids into the kitchen to help me make these yummy muffins. Here's the recipe, and the video to follow:
Jackson & Alice are here with their very 1st segment of "Cooking With Kids", in which they show you how to make oatmeal protein balls (with a little help from mama). A healthy and fun snack for the whole family.
This is the recipe we very loosely followed, making adjustments as needed to get the correct consistency for our Oatmeal Protein Balls!
Grocery shopping used to be one of my favorite things to do. Meandering the aisles, drifting away in my thoughts. Being able to read food labels and basically taking a leisurely stroll like it was the most interesting place on Earth. Throw kids into the mix and it becomes one of my least favorite things to do. They run. They touch things....EVERYTHING, really. They pick things up off the dirty, dirty floors. Sometimes I'll catch Alice randomly kissing baby dolls if they somehow trick me into entering the toy department.
No beuno. Make it stop.
However, I typically find myself with both of the kids at the grocery store because of how our current household work schedules happen to fall. Once in a great while I will have a moment to sneak away alone (read: Bliss! Freedom! Get me a Starbucks and watching me OWN those aisles) or take just one of my littles along with me for the adventure.
Jackson and I did a mid-week run to Aldi and Meijer to grab some things we were running out of. He fell asleep in the van right before we pulled into Aldi's parking lot, because why not? It never fails that one or both of my kids will fall asleep for a car nap just before we get to where we need to be going. After he groggily opened his eyes and realized we were at the "penny cart store" (because you need to put a quarter into the cart mechanism to use the shopping carts at Aldi, which he things is greatly amusing), he was eager to climb up into said cart and prepare for our first leg of the shopping adventure.
Next up was Meijer, because I needed a few things I cannot get from Aldi (and the produce at Aldi wasn't looking too hot this trip, so figured we'd see what looked good elsewhere). Jackson had a good time looking at all the produce and declaring that the apricots & pluots were, "So cute!" before I let him pick out a few peaches and help me locate the cucumbers. The kids LOVE cucumbers and I've gotten into the habit of slicing one up as a mid afternoon or pre-dinner snack while I'm prepping dinner. I just put it on a plate on the kitchen table and they graze on it as they see fit. Because of this, I try to have a few on hand at all time. (They also like sliced up roma tomatoes and baby carrots for raw veggies.)
I really wanted to look for some new spoons to give us a boost to the current supply. Somehow, despite having TWICE as many spoons as any other silverware of choice in our silverware drawer, we always run out far sooner than is time to run the dish washer. Oh! Wash them by hand, you say? Yeah, I could do that. Orrrrrr....I could buy more. Problem solved.
So, while we browsed through the housewares aisle, Jackson found some cool Thermos Funtainer flip top straw cups that caught his eye. Specifically, the big Batman logo caught his eye (if you don't know my family, we are self proclaimed obsessed with the Caped Crusader). They caught MY eye because they claimed to keep beverages cold for up to 12 hours, which is pretty convenient when you have kids like mine who like to sip and drink sporadically throughout the day. So Batman and pink Thermos went into the cart. That was, however, short lived as soon as we somehow found ourselves in the toy aisle. "How did we get here?!" I asked myself, bewildered. My child is a magician. Oh! That's right, he had to use the restroom while we were browsing the kitchen silverware looking for new spoons. So off we went to the back of the store to the nearest restroom...right next to the toy department.
One quick potty stop and a squirt of hand sanitizer later, we were standing in the toy aisle that featured all of the toys guns. Jackson is obsessed with toy guns (and weapons of any sort, really) almost as much as Batman. Close call on some days, really. He insisted on just "trying them out" and wanted to take one home. I settled on a small (like, THE smallest one they had) Nerf gun to add to his growing collection of Nerf toys. I gave him the choice between two of them ($5.99 and $6.99) and he chose the smaller one, but we would have to put the Thermos cups back. He was somehow ok with this.
I told him we would have to pick sissy out a surprise as well, especially since she would be upset when she woke up from her nap to realize we had gone on an adventure without her, leaving her home with daddy. He picked out a Shopkins assortment for the same price of his Nerf gun that he just knew she would love (and she did).
Now, this is not a common occurrence. My husband and I typically refuse to enter the toy aisles if at all possible, let alone let them get a new toy. They have so many toys already, that it just seems silly to add to it unless it's a special occasion or in celebration of something. So this truly was a treat for him to walk out of the store with something of his own. I asked if he had money to buy a new toy and he said, "Well, yes. In my piggy bank at home!" which is technically true. I, however, did not dig through and find $6 in change for each of their toys and we'll chalk it up to a celebration of him starting preschool next week.
It was about this time I got a text message from Will letting me know that Alice was awake and sad. I knew this because he attached a photo of her with one very big alligator tear in her eye, hair all a mess and looking straight through the phone and into my eyes. The only thing that would appease her was either my presence OR that daddy build a castle with her out of Legos. When Jackson and I walked in the door from our own personal adventure, they were both on the ground building a castle as she requested. Daddy for the win!
GUYSSSS....I forgot the spoons. They are sadly still residing on my grocery list for a future trip.
Here's a fun little video of our little shopping trip (and Alice's excitement over her new Shopkins). Don't judge too harshly, I am VERY new to this vlogging thing and I'm working with very basic (read: FREE) software to edit video taken on my phone. Shhhh.
(Feel free to head over to my YouTube Channel and subscribe! I have plenty more ideas for the future of both this blog and the vlog as well.)
I always somewhat considered myself a writer. Not in the "Hey, guys! Check out my newest novel!" sort of way. More in the write from the heart and see all my flaws sort of way. I tend to get the urge to write as a form of release when I've got lots going on and things weigh heavy on my mind. In high school this was nearly every day...because, come on...being a teenager is the most dramatic and trying thing we'll ever experience, right? Or at least it felt like it at the time.
Now I still get the urge to write, but not nearly as often. I miss it during the long gaps where I feel my words will all come out wrong or have zero impact. Until I remember who I'm writing for, and sometimes the answer is: myself. Sometimes we have to release for ourselves and if the words fall on deaf ears, that's ok.
((Repeat to self: that's ok.))
I find myself caught up in what I can only chalk up to a mid-life crisis of sorts. Just as I was finding my groove as a working mom, things took a turn. This came in the midst of me questioning myself as a working mom to begin with, which doesn't help things. I went into work last week and was given somewhat of a promotion...a stepping stone to move up in my current position. Excitement was short lived, as the very next day we got the news that some saw coming, but nobody wanted to believe.
Our jobs will be extinguished as of 9/30. Less than two months...the contract will be pulled earlier than it's renewal date. I will be out of a job. Way to knock the wind out of my sails!
Since getting the news, you can imagine that the morale at work has shifted drastically. We are all in the same boat of trying to figure things out and asking ourselves, "What's next?" The company has offered to send in a team of recruiters to filter us out to other projects, but I'm not sure that's the direction I want to go. Not to mention, I don't think I even can since most of the other projects are day shift. This would be more than ideal if Will didn't work early shifts...but I refuse to get childcare just so I can go to work. It doesn't make sense financially or emotionally for me.
So, here I am. Reflecting. Praying. Searching.
I'm a firm believer that the Universe and God will provide and lead me in the direction that I need to be. The whole mantra of "everything happens for a reason" has always sat true with me. I am my happiest when I follow the Laws of Attraction and just simply let go.
That being said, it hasn't been EASY to let go. I find myself reflecting and getting scared because I don't know where my passion is. I don't know what I want from here. I'm not one of those people who has a hobby or a talent that I can turn into something more. When I voiced some of these concerns recently, I had many people that I respect give me bitty chunks of wisdom in response.
I think going back through your life and your Facebook page, it's pretty obvious what makes you come alive is your babies. You are a REALLY good mom. Everything else is just extra for you, and you'll find the right spot that makes life even sweeter. I know you will because you have a good heart and you're not afraid to try new things. You're very brave!
You are a brave person! Brave people make choices out of hope and not fear. Stay open to the universe and great things are headed your way!
And the first thing I thought was, "Me? Brave?" and laughed a little at the sheer thought of it all. But then it hit me. If these people that I admire and respect think I'm brave, what if maybe I'm capable of so much more than I give myself credit for? What if being a SAHM/WAHM truly IS my calling and passion? Don't I owe it to myself (and those I love...and really those who also believe in me when I don't believe in myself) to explore that?
So I'm exploring. I'm opening my heart and trying to let my mind go a bit. I've been focusing much too hard on what I need to be doing at this exact point in my life that maybe I'm forcing it. I don't fully know where that will take me at this moment, but I do know there will be changes ahead. I know that my heart breaks each time Jack or Alice cry because I have to leave for work. As much as I love the independence and value that being a working WOMAN has given me over the past few months, nothing compares to the value that being home with my family gives me. It truly fills my love bank.
Having seen it from both sides of the stay-at-home vs. working mom coin...I know that I am personally better suited for one much more than the other. And it is my mission to make that one of my values once more.
When my mom said she would like to take the kids for two weeks this summer, Will and I quickly agreed, knowing we would miss them but also aware of what a great time they would have. My parents live out in the country in the house I grew up in and between the pontoon, boat, camper, bikes, scooters, tractors and bonfires...I knew the kids would love it.
It's been just over a week since I've held them in my arms and the house has been so quiet. There are no little feet running down the hallway in the morning to wake me up with their hushed voices and wet kisses. No refills on milk or help making snacks. No requests to cover their feet while they lay on the couch near me or the random confessions of, "Mama? I love you" in the midst of what they're doing. No toys to pick up or Legos to step on. All those little things that we often take for granted as they become a part of our daily routine...the days turning to weeks, the weeks to months.
And then you blink. I blinked.
When they aren't under my feet all day, it really makes me stop and think how much my life revolves around being their mother. On one hand they are still very dependent on me and their daddy...but then I blink and Jackson is standing at the side of my bed exclaiming, "Look what I did! All by myself!" as he holds a "jelly sandwich" in his hands, a big smile plastered on his face. Upon seeing the large amount of strawberry jelly piled onto the center of his piece of bread, I could've freaked out about how he walked through the house and up 16 stairs with JELLY about to drip all over.
And had I done that, you can bet I would've also witnessed the light leave his perfect brown eyes because he was SO proud of himself. In his mind, he had done ME the favor of not waking me after a long night of work and made himself what he felt was a truly acceptable breakfast (hey, it's almost like toast & jelly, right?!). So I smiled and told him how great of a job he did as I seamlessly crawled out of bed and escorted him back down to the kitchen to put it on a plate (and scrape half the jelly back into the jar while he wasn't looking). He was so excited that he wanted to text daddy to tell him. The pride he felt over something so simple made my heart burst with love.
In those moments, it's like a slap in the face how quickly they are growing up. And don't let me lead you to think that Alice is still just our little girl. Nope, I've sure as heck blinked with her as well.
Whether it's her learning how to use the potty all on her own from start to finish (yay for not having to get up and help wipe bottoms!) or how she insists on walking next to the shopping cart rather than riding in it when I take her shopping. She's very opinionated on what she wears, how I do her hair and even what shoes she will leave the house in. She marches around the house with a shopping cart of play food, cooks in her play kitchen and will quite literally drop everything if one of her baby dolls begins to cry across the room. To see this unfold is truly adorable as either her or Jack are the ones making the baby "cries" in a high pitched crying sound. They act alarmed every time, rushing to the baby and picking it up to calm it.
So yes, the house is quiet. My feet are free of painful missteps on and around toys. I can sleep in and lounge around and not have to drop what I'm doing to break up a fight, kiss a boo boo or find a healthy snack so they aren't eating Poptarts all day. But my goodness do I miss it. All of it.
We are so blessed to have great family on both side that love our babies and treat them well. Now that we don't live in Michigan, I was feeling mommy guilt about the kids missing out on all the family activities. Summertime was always full of things like camping, road trips, cookouts and time on the lake. So, of course, when my parents offered to take the kids...it was a no brainer.
In fact, today they are spending the afternoon walking around Mackinaw City after having spent the night at a hotel (with a pool, which is where the picture above came from) to help watch my nephews while my sister took her NCLEX nursing exam. I remember walking the streets of Mackinaw City as a child, the smell of fudge and fresh saltwater taffy in the air. It felt magical. I hope that the kids feel that same magic in the area as they walk hand-in-hand with their gramma and papa today. My heart smiles just thinking of it.
In the meantime, I'm enjoying the time with Will. We're both still working our regular schedules, so the time together is still minimal. We've had the chance to eat at a great brunch place, go to the movies, get milkshakes (twice!) and have a lazy night of pizza. We're heading out for a sushi date here shortly and have a couples massage scheduled for tomorrow morning! So things are good on this side; but you can bet that I've been texting my sister and mom on the daily asking for photos of the kids! It helps to satiate that spot in my heart that is missing their crazy antics and sweet cuddles.
I blinked. I will continue to blink, as will other parents from every corner of the Universe, and we will quickly grieve the little pieces of our children's personalities that disappear as they grow older along with the loss of their chubby thighs and uncoordinated chubby hands reaching for our faces.
I've noticed recently that Jackson is morphing into the features of a big boy (from that of a toddler), thinning out to show his lean but muscular frame, his cheek bones peeking out from where his face used to be more rounded. I blinked and the baby features were gone...and I fear it's happening with Alice already as well, sweet girl.
At times like this, I find that sometimes we blink to fight back the tears and emotion of watching our babies turn into such wonderful and caring little people.