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A Letter to Our Younger Self

Dear Self,

I know you think you know it all, but as your 40-year old self, let me tell you. You don’t.

I wanted to share a few things with you to help protect your heart. I wish I knew all these things when I was 25. And even if you don’t listen, you’ll be ok. But if you do, you’ll be ok a lot sooner.

Spend less time in bars making bad decisions and more time on yourself. It’s ok to be alone. It’s ok to go to that wedding solo, and it’s ok to stay home on a Saturday night enjoying your own company.

Start saving. You don’t need all those clothes, you just don’t need all that “stuff”. Spend your money on experiences- they’re worth the investment in the memories you’ll make.

Don’t waste your time on men who don’t matter. If he doesn’t respect you enough to call you in advance or meet your family, he isn’t worth your energy. (Read this one twice).

Tell Mom you love her and that you appreciate everything she did for you. By the time you truly realize this she will be gone, and it will be too late. If you don’t believe me yet tell her for your 40-year old self. You’ll thank me for this later.

Put away your childhood now. It’s over. 

Respect yourself. Respect your body. Eat a little healthy. Stay active. The foundation you’re building today will go a long way.

You don’t need a huge social circle. Find a few girlfriends who will become your ride or die ladies and stick with you. Don’t ditch them every time some guy calls.

Learn now that you are enough. Forever and always. Just as you are.

Enjoy this time, self. Enjoy your time. Be you and do you. Someday your time will be someone else’s. A husband and two crazy kiddos. It’s another beautiful time, but you can’t get these days back. Use them to grow, use them to change, use them to just be you.

In love,

Your 40-year old self.

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The Greatest Man He Never Knew…

My step-dad passed away when I was in my early 30’s, long before I married or had children. He met my husband once before we even started dating and I’m thankful for even that small interaction. I always knew the day would come when my boys would ask about my parents, but it’s hard to prepare for the questions that will come from their tiny mouths.

My older son is now 4 ½ and inquires about the world at large from the moment he wakes until he rests. Literally, it’s a barrage of chit chat and questions for hours on end. The things he wonders about amaze me! As his mind becomes aware of more than just his immediate world, he asks about those he doesn’t see.

Just today, he was asking about his Grandpa. It’s a hard topic. Explaining who he was, I mean. He’s more than just “Grandpa who lives in heaven.” He was a man who was virtually done raising children when we came along and loved us anyway. He worked hard and built buildings- skyscrapers! A job that I almost found embarrassing because of its blue-collar nature when I was young, and I now realize is the most beautiful of legacies. A man who preferred frozen dinners to fancy and couldn’t hear worth a darn. Who loved a simple life and his family deeply.

Circa many, many years ago…

When he asks, I simply tell him that Grandpa was a special man and father. We look at photos of the buildings he built, and I wish that Grandpa was hear to see his wide-eyed admiration. I share the pieces of him little by little, grateful that while he never knew his Grandpa during his time on earth, he has the belief to see him healthy and happy living in Heaven.

While sometimes these chats are painful- I miss him terribly myself, I find they help me too. It’s an incredible journey to share with my own child as we get to remember Grandpa together and envision him and Grandma, healthy, happy, living somewhere beyond the here and now. It helps to ease the memories of his last days on Earth and know that he is still looking down upon us.

I take the memories of the father that he was to me and work to be the same kind of loving mom. Family isn’t always who you are born with- sometimes it’s more about the people you’re lucky enough to pick up along the way.

Feed Me!

The Bestest Banana Bread Ever

My son Will loves to cook. It’s kind of a disaster- flour everywhere, constant tasting… you know- baking with a 4-year old! Since he loves it so much, I love to take the time to do it with him. I know it’s likely only a manner of time before I’m “annoying Mom” instead of “bestest Mom”, my current title.

One of his favorite things to make is banana bread. This recipe doesn’t have to include chocolate chips, but personally, besides the love I think that’s what makes it the bestest.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter, softened

3/4 cup granulated sugar

2 eggs, beaten

3-4 bananas, mashed (the browner the better! This is the key!)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

semi-sweet chocolate chips, as many as you like!

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350.

Cream together butter & sugar, then add eggs and bananas. Add flour, baking soda & salt, followed by vanilla.

Don’t overmix! Add your chocolate chips.

Bake for up to 55 minutes- I usually do less (we like our bread just a little soft). When a toothpick stuck in the middle of the loaf comes out clean, you’re good. Don’t overbake!

Slice up while hot & enjoy with your favorite tiny human.

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A Case of the Mommy Mondays

I’ve been struggling with this thing today.

A case of the “should’s”. You know what I mean. That icky mommy place where you beat yourself up over all the things your kiddos should be doing?

For me, its potty training and pancakes. Random, right? I know. But right now, we are stuck in this weird place with our boys. One is two, so he is one-part toddler, one tiny part kid. The other is four, so he is one-part kid, one tiny part toddler. Those toddler parts may be the end of me.

Take kid #1 for example. He’s four and a half and really should be totally potty trained, no?He is amazing. Smart. So smart. Which is why I know that he knows exactly how to pee on the potty. But yet he is struggling to do it ALL the time. When we’re home it’s always a little bit of a battle, but we’ve mostly got it down. At school, all bets are off. We start kinder in the fall which is leading me to have an ohmygoodnessthiskidneedstopee freak out.

Then we have kid #2 aka if he was kid #1 there would be no kid #1. I barely mean that, but on rare occasion he does cause me to curl up in my bed and hide, playing his brother’s favorite game “Tell everyone I ran away!”. He is so stubborn and can outlast any 40-year old mom (aka me). Right now, his stubbornness carries over to food, namely pancakes or in Ben-speak, panpan. The kid is eating panpan three meals a day with no sign of stopping. Yes, he should be eating at least a little more green things.

So, these two child-sized “crises” coupled with the fact that it’s a Monday led me to a mommy meltdown. What kind of mom am I, letting one kid dictate the laws of potty and the other nosh nonstop on pancakes?

The surviving kind. The at least they’re eating and someday they’ll pee kind. The I’m going to meet you where you’re at and love you through it kind. And the I’m not going to fight it because some hills aren’t worth dying on kind.

Because you know what, friends? This too shall pass. We will prevail over the potty and I’m pretty darn sure no one ever lived on pancakes alone for too long.

Photo by the amazing Ashlee Burke Photography.

Feed Me!

Springtime Shrimp Bowls

It’s still kind of chilly here in Colorado, so I made these springy shrimp bowls this week for a quick, colorful, healthy dinner.

I make a base of brown rice, pile on all the yummy veggies and top it with a tasty mango salsa. For an even faster salsa, you can use a salsa mix. I love Wildtree’s Fiesta Salsa Mix.

MAIN INGREDIENTS:

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 Tablespoon lime juice

1/2 Tablespoon olive oil

12 ounces shrimp (peeled and deveined)

1 avocado (sliced)

4 cups spinach

1 cup shredded red cabbage

2 cups cooked brown rice

2-3 Green Onions (chopped)

MANGO SALSA:

  • 1 large ripe mango (diced)
  • 1/4 red onion (diced)
  • 1 Teaspoon cilantro
  • 1 Tablespoon jalapeno or red pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon lime juice
  • pinch of salt

Mix ingredients for mango salsa in a small bowl and set aside. The longer it sits the stronger the flavor will be. Chop cabbage & avocado and put in the fridge until you’re ready to eat.

Cook brown rice and set aside until you’re ready to assemble the bowls. Mix the garlic powder, chili powder, lime juice and olive oil together and add shrimp. Marinate for 30 minutes, then cook shrimp until they are pink and opaque.

Assemble bowls with a base of brown rice & shrimp. Pile on the spinach, avocado, green onion and cabbage, topping with mango salsa. Enjoy!

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When Love Takes Time

When my first son was born, it took me awhile to love him. I have to pause now and sit with that for a minute. I didn’t feel love for my firstborn son. It shocks me now to type those words because I love my son with every fiber of my being, but it wasn’t always that way.

Very soon after he was born, I knew something was wrong. It wasn’t even that I didn’t feel love, I didn’t feel anything. I was disconnected from him. I remember when I tried to explain to my husband and his response was, “you don’t love him?”, and so I stopped talking.

I sunk into a deep depression very quickly after he was born. It was like all the excitement and happy feelings left my body almost immediately after he did. When I was alone, I would curl up into a ball in my bed, cry and then fall asleep.

Fortunately, I knew something was wrong almost as quickly, and I called my OB who put me on anti-depressants. That was a great thing- I was on the path to getting better, but as someone who has been on and off medication much of my adult life, I knew that it would take a while. And so, I waited.

While I did, I sat, alone, and didn’t tell anyone what was going on. I knew I was depressed, but what I didn’t realize was that there was more to my depression than I thought. I now know I should’ve sought more help and that I was struggling with postpartum depression. I wish I would have talked to someone, found support. Instead, I dropped out of my prenatal yoga group and stayed alone, struggling to take care of myself and my newborn.

People tell you that while the baby sleeps, you should sleep too, but I ignored that advice and instead filled my days with any mundane task I thought needing attending to. I cooked, cleaned, watched TV. I became so tired that when I would step into the shower, I would imagine my son crying. There was one time I thought I had left him on the couch in his Boppy pillow and had a panic attack when I walked into the living room and it wasn’t there. I thought my newborn son had fallen when in fact I had left him safely on the floor.

I didn’t tell anyone because I was scared and ashamed. As a mother, how could I not love my child?

I cry now, typing that sentence, those emotions flooding back. But let me tell you (and me). I am not a bad mom. And neither are you. Pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood are the most beautiful and some of the hardest things we will ever experience. We are good mothers- great mothers- just trying to survive.

If you have a child and you don’t fall in love immediately, it’s OK. If you’re sad, it’s ok. But listen to your heart and mind and take care of you, mama. We will get through these days together. That mama tribe everyone talks about? It’s right here, waiting for you. Embrace it and let it pull you in. Taking care of your baby is not your only job. In fact, I would argue it’s not even your most important one.

You are important. Your health, your body and your mind, they are so incredibly important. Take the time, take the help and take care of yourself. You’re going to love that baby, and that baby is going to love you. But first, mama, love yourself.

My son is now four and a half years old. He is the light of my life. In fact, if he could read, he probably wouldn’t believe my words here. But I struggled to get to this place, and I wish I would’ve gotten help sooner so I could find my joy again. But I did, and you will too.