Songbird

It’s been five years.

On this day, five years ago, my heart shattered into a million pieces.

I’d just finished up my workout with a friend, she hugged me as we said our goodbyes, and was so excited for me and the plane ride I was about to take in just a few days. I was giddy with excitement too….the wait had been a long one.

The plane ride I was about to take with my husband and my son was heading to Russia to finally bring home our daughter.

Songbird

I exited the building and crossed the parking lot to my car. And standing at my car was my husband….

{a little back story: we had one car at the time and I had it that day. He was supposed to be at work, where I’d dropped him off earlier that morning….}

This is the part that, when I dwell too long, I can’t hold back the tears. Throughout the past five years, it’s gotten easier to talk about without crying. As long as I don’t think about it too much….but remembering this part? I cry. Hard. SO…I will continue to type through my tears at this part, so bare with me.

I remember just stopping dead in my tracks when I saw him…trying to process that he was there. HOW he was there and WHY he was there? I knew by the look on his face something was wrong. My heart sank as the words came out of his mouth. The words “Songbird is no longer available”. There were other words, but those are the only ones I heard loud and clear.

Everything just stopped. I fell to my knees and began sobbing.

I felt sick. And confused. And my heart utterly in shambles.

My husband had reached out his arm to me as I fell down….and he gently pulled me back up to standing and helped me into the car. I felt like I couldn’t breathe.

We had lost our daughter. We had lost our Songbird.

Not a day that goes by, since that day five years ago, I don’t think about her. Even with 3 additions to our family, one through adoption, I will never forget her.

For some reason this year? Coming to mark 5 years since we lost her, I’ve been apprehensive about it. I dread it every year, to be honest, but this year seems different. I’m not really sure what or why, but the sadness has overwhelmed me many times, as the day has come closer and closer on the calendar.

I have struggled greatly over the past 5 years with the questioning of WHY. Why it happened the way it did, why it was let to happen, and how could it have been different.

I’m not really sure I will ever truly have an answer I’m okay with or that will bring complete peace to my heart.

I lost a child. Not in the typical sense like through death, but lost none the less. I will never see her again, and I will never have closure. I never got to say goodbye. I never got to hold her one last time.

Part of my heart will forever be in Russia.

 

 

That Time I Unintentionally Paused My Blog….

Coffee Break

I had plans. So many.

Posts in que ready to go, scheduled out. Dreams and happenings for this little blog of mine to do some awesomeness.

Then, life happened and I unintentionally paused my blog.

I know.

I’m sometimes completely terrible at this. Okay, most times.

But, I also completely believe in being honest and transparent. And sometimes life just happens and you have to reset and regroup and decide on whats going to take priority.

And as quiet as it’s been on the front side of this blog, it’s been anything but quiet behind the scenes….

There are still posts in que and things going on and plans being made and all that fantabulousness. And hopefully, SOON, I will be sharing more about all that.

Meanwhile, I’m going to have to push PAUSE just a little bit longer….

But, until I release that pause button and go full steam ahead again, I hope YOU are doing well and amazing!! And whether you are doing amazing, or sorta kinda MEH, let me know! How ARE YOU doing??

3 Make Ahead Freezable School Lunches

make ahead school lunches{this post may contain affiliate links for your convenience}

 

It’s January. You’ve officially started the second semester of school with the kiddos and you are staring at their lunch box at 10pm wondering WHAT THE HECK are you going to put in there?

You started out the school year strong with those pinterest worthy lunches and planning a different lunch for each day only to burn out like on day 20 (or 4) and you had such great expectations and were planning to ROCK THIS school years lunches.

And you’ve just come out from the holidays and you are flat out D O N E with food things and cooking things and baking things and are contemplating just stocking up on lunchables, despite your vow to provide more whole and less processed foods in your kiddos lunches.

I get it. I think we have all been there. At least, I know I have been.

Heres a little secret I learned….you ready? You don’t actually have to have a new and different lunch every.single.day for school!

It’s true.

You might even already know that. It took me a while to stop trying so dang hard on the stupid lunches. I never cut out cute shapes or anything, but I did learn eventually that it’s absolutely OKAY to send similar, or even the SAME things, several days in a row. I’ve actually come to be a big believer that lunch time at school is not the time to insist our kiddos try all the new things. I typically save that for dinner time, at home. They’ve really got enough going on throughout the day, keeping lunch time familiar can be a good thing. For everyone.

When I was in school, I honestly only wanted a pb&j, a banana or an apple or orange, and my kool-aide and I was a happy camper.

Now, we have (sometimes) more guidelines for school lunches and need to be mindful about our friends with food allergies. And I am perfectly OKAY with that. I often provide nut free alternatives for my kiddos to take to school. Not because I’m trying to be all that, simply because we’ve always had at least one friend or two that has peanut allergies, so we just try to make it easier for all involved.

And, ironically, my kids sometimes get these notes that say “good job” or something of the like about having a healthy lunch packed. I wasn’t really sure what to think about it the first time it came home, made me kinda go “you’re paying THAT much attention to what my kid is eating??” Granted, where we live the school district has tried to provide more healthful options for the kiddos when buying lunch at school, which I am grateful for, but my kids still like to take lunch from home more than not, simply because they’ve told me “the apples taste funny”….

Anyhoo, along the years of two older kiddos going to elementary (and now middle) school, I’ve learned to navigate what DOES and DOES NOT work for us.

And trying to make a different awesome lunch every single day simply DID NOT work. And my second oldest likes a little more consistency. And some kiddos, like my second oldest, like predictability and sometimes don’t like something new. Some like the SAME thing each day. That’s OKAY too.

What has worked for us? Attempting to simplify the lunch making and taking process as much as possible. I’ve mentioned before how I love, love LOVE the Easy Lunch Boxes and how they have helped in the process of simplifying the lunch making and storing. And today I thought I would share with you some of our favorite make ahead lunches that add to the simplifying theme of things.

Here are 3 of our make ahead staples that you can FREEZE:

{I think the whole being able to freeze it is maybe my favorite part}

1. Avocado Turkey Roll Ups

I know, at first I was thinking it didn’t sound like it could work, but then I decided to give it a try

and it absolutely does! I can grab a pack of freshly made tortillas from the store (or you could make your own…or find awesome gluten free ones), grab some turkey, maybe some cheese and an avocado.

Here is how I do it:

-mash up the avocado with some lime juice. Spread some on a tortilla (I usually use one avocado per 10 tortillas). Place some turkey and (my kids fave) smoked gouda and wrap it up! Then I slice it in half and wrap tightly in some cling wrap. I typically make up about 10 of these, wrap them up tight and then place them all in a labeled freezer safe ziplock bag.

-Typically I choose one or two days a week {example below of what our weekly lunches look like} to grab two halves and toss them in one of the Easy Lunch Boxes the night before. Then by lunch time the next day, it’s defrosted enough for lunch time! And simply 10 of these will last one to two months for a one or two day/week lunch. And it take maybe 20 minutes tops to throw 10 together. A total win and time-saver!

2. Pizza Muffins

I use this pizza dough recipe ( or you could totally use canned dough…I won’t judge you. Sometimes we gotta do what we gotta do) and then roll out the dough and place your fave toppings on. Our faves are roasted garlic and plain old pepperoni.

These freeze awesomely well and just pop into the lunch box the night before and call it D O N E. My oldest can actually heat his up at school, so that’s a nice option too. My second oldest just eats them defrosted in her lunch.

I typically make 2 dozen of these and they last for two weeks worth of lunches for BOTH big kids and also substitute for a great grab n go lunch/snack/dinner on those busy weeknight or event filled weekends.

3. Avocado or Basil Corn Cakes

This is one of those use your favorite basic pancake recipe, and then add in extra goodness. Aaannnd, if you don’t have a favorite, here’s what I use:

-2 cups of flour

-2 tsp. baking powder

-2 tsp. each of onion and garlic powder (or to taste)

-2 eggs

-1.5 cups of coconut milk (or whatever milk you like to use)

-1 avocado, mashed up (if making avocado corn cakes) OR a bunch of fresh basil, chopped up (if making basil corn cakes)

-1 cup frozen corn

Place flour, baking powder and spices in med- large bowl. Add in eggs and milk, blend together. (I use a whisk or hand mixer for these. I prefer just by hand with a whisk, personally). Next, add in mashed up avocado (or basil), then stir in corn.

Heat up your skillet and make up pancakes as you normally would!

{PS…a more detailed recipe will be up on the blog next week!}

This is a look at how I literally make up the lunches for the week:

makeaheadlunches

I typically shop for one or two fruits for the week and prep those and place them all in the lunch boxes ahead of time, along with some crackers or goldfish. I usually do this Saturday or Sunday evening. Sometimes I have also made lunches Tuesday or Wednesday through until the following Tuesday or Wednesday, eliminating that OH CRAP! moment on Sunday at 10pm. BUT, having some made-ahead frozen options already made up and in the freezer, it takes a LOT of the stress off doing it on the weekend.

makeaheadlunches

Then I choose one of the made-ahead options and toss it in the lunch boxes. I usually do this the night before…too many days ahead could result in some soggy-lunches and nobody wants that!

Here is what has worked so far this school year:

Monday: Avocado Turkey Wraps

Tuesday: sunbutter, honey and jam sammie {we call these honey-butter and jam sammies}

Wednesday: avocado corn cakes

Thursday: curried egg salad ( I make a batch of this up and it’ll keep for a few days, so sometimes it makes it’s appearance on Tuesday AND Thursday in sammie form the same week)

Friday: Pizza Rolls

Here is what a a few days worth of lunches looks like all done up:

makeaheadlunches

I try to vary the extras more than the “main course”, so to speak. Like, one week it might be Oranges and Apples, or Apples and Cherry Tomatoes…another week it might be Oranges and Grapes. Sometimes it might be sliced bell peppers and cherry tomatoes, or carrot sticks. Really, whatever works best and your kiddos like.

Since doing it this way, it has seriously helped to simplify things and I now have a lot less OH CRAP moments. And, I think, we could all use a little less of those….

How about you? Do you have any tried and true lunch ideas that have rocked your world?

 

 

 

When Validation Is What’s Really Needed

validation

A scenario for you:

A new (or newish….sometimes not so new) mama says something along the lines of “this is so freaking hard!”…..

And someone might say something in response like “we’ve all been there!”.

And you sometimes think, was that supposed to be encouraging or make me just want to crawl into a corner and cry some more?

I say this because it is often times (not always, I know) followed up with statements such as “get used to it”, “it gets worse!” or “just wait until they’re teenagers!”.

There are more varied responses, I know. Those are just a sampling of what I’ve personally heard, or have heard others say to the new parent on the playground.

I do believe the intention is there to be encouraging, but sometimes those responses or “advice” statements seem to be opposite of that.

It kind of goes along with things like “sleep when the baby sleeps” (not that that’s all that bad of advice), and the “oh, enjoy this time because it goes fast!”.

And it so very much does. They are not lying. Being a mama of 4, the oldest and youngest two being ten years apart, I get it. You just blink and they are heading toward tweendom and buckle up! Because, holy moly!

I know….I know these 2 year olds are going to be there faster than I’d like, but I also know how very hard the early days/weeks/months….years….can be!

Absolutely, I have been a mama that has said “we’ve all been there” to a new/new-ish mama. And I have absolutely intended it to be encouraging….kinda like “we’ve been there, we totally get it. It’s hard”. But I have found myself in this season of life being more mindful of how I respond. I will often try to follow up the “we’ve all been there” with, “you are not alone, us mamas that have been there before get it, we’re here when you need to chat”.

Because, let’s face it, it’s freaking hard, this parenting thing!

I know I’ve been guilty in a quick response of saying “we’ve all been there”, only to wonder later, when someone has said it to me, if the person I’ve said it to before took it as encouragement, or just a “yeah, we’ve all been there…join the club!”.

Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve not found that entirely encouraging when dealing with tiny humans and feeling like I’m losing my mind. I have found myself wondering “I am supposed to just suck it up and deal with it? Am I doing something wrong? Why do I feel more alone than not?” And yes, there are times we definitely need to suck it up and deal with it. Life happens and you gotta roll with it.

What I have found helpful? When a fellow mama or, more seasoned than myself mama, has said “we get it. It’s hard….we’re here for you, you are not alone”.

Followed up with statements such as “and you are doing a fantastic job!”, doesn’t hurt either.

Sometimes? Sometimes a mama just needs validation that it’s HARD. And it’s okay to hide in the bathroom or a closet, or the pantry or laundry, with some chocolate and cry.

We have ALL been there at some point! And it helps soothe the rough day, even if just a little.

I think it’s easy to compare….to the mama that has 3, and you wonder why you’re having such a hard time with only one!

{by the way, I totally hate the word “only” when used like that….}

Or the mama with 2, three years apart, looking at the mom of twins thinking “and I thought I was having a hard day….I only have two, not the same age!”.

Or the mama with 3 that can’t figure out how that mom over there with 5 is managing so much better! She should be able to handle “only 3″…..

And it becomes easy for those thoughts of  “they’ve all been there, I just need to deal” to pop into our heads, making us doubt if we’re even cut out for the parenting thing.

You are. We are.

When I had an “only” for 8 years, I often doubted myself. Then I went from being a mom of ONE to a mom of FOUR in less than two years and I REALLY began to doubt myself.

Here is what I have learned….

When it is ONE, it’s hard because it’s all you’ve known. You are caring for a tiny human and they cry and are super needy and helpless in the beginning and you are just trying to figure this whole thing out! There was a time, when my oldest was itty bitty and I was crying, he was crying…it was bad. I looked at him and said, “I’m new at this whole mama thing, and I know you are new at this being in the world thing, so let’s bare with each other and figure it out together, k?”….I gave myself grace. I didn’t know it all and I had to learn a whole lot. I am STILL learning a whole lot since I am about to embark on the teenage years with that one.

When I had TWO? I had NO IDEA what I was doing. I was a brand new mama all over again, but this time through adoption to an almost 5 year old, that I’d missed the first 4 plus years of life with….talk about figuring things out! I’m still learning on that, too.

Then, SURPRISE! Add some twin babies to the mix and It was, again, like starting all over! I’d not had twins before, and they were new at this whole life thing!

I’ve learned that it’s OKAY not to have all the answers. And it’s okay to give yourself GRACE in the learning process and curve balls that will, absolutely, head your way.

So, fellow parents, will you join me in being more mindful and thoughtful in our responses to the new parents on the block?

I don’t know if you do resolutions or not, but this year I want to be more mindful, THOUGHTFUL, and intentional with how I speak or respond to others.

How about you?

 

 

 

2015 {one little word}

Here we are. Coming to the end of another year.

2015

Oh 2015, you were a rough and rocky road for me. I’ve learned and overcome much in your time, but I am not necessarily sad to see you go.

2016…..

I am not entirely sure what you hold and will reveal in time….and I am not too sure I really want to know. If it is one thing that 2015 has determined for me, is that nothing is promised and life is so, so fragile, yet incredibly strong.

My word for 2015 was E N O U G H

And I have truly loved this word. It has helped me focus more on what’s really important in our lives. We have continued to simplify and work at it more in all areas of our lives.

It’s not been the easiest, but I’ve enjoyed the process of the challenge of  E N O U G H.

Through the crazy and unpredictable year that 2015 has been, focusing on “enough” has kept me focused on living life. Living now and being present.

It has helped me focus on simplifying more around the house and our lives to help us be more present.

It’s still a constant work in progress, but that’s okay. I’m still learning what E N O U G H looks like, and I am willing to keep going with it.

Now in year seven of choosing my One Little Word, it’s interesting to look back and see the varied words chosen, and how their meanings have woven through the weeks, months and years.

2010 {grow}

2011 {embrace}

2012 {nurture}

2013 {surrender}

2014{gratitude}

2015 {enough}

And now this New Year emerging, my One Little Word is…..

T H O U G H T F U L

Back in October, I started looking forward to what this next year might look like. Choosing E N O U G H in 2015 has really helped me focus and refocus.

In 2016, I want to be more T H O U G H T F U L. Thoughtful about my interactions with people, with plans, with goals and aspirations for the future. For my family’s future.

I want to focus on what “thoughtful” looks like in all the areas of my life. How it will change my perspective on what I see and how I see it.

I want to be more thoughtful with my loved ones close to me, and with people I meet and interact with day in and day out.

I want to be more thoughtful. Mindful. Intentional.

Life brought some serious bumps and bruises along the journey of “enough”. There has been loss and sadness and learning to see life in a completely different setting. New normals once again shifting around and settling themselves into our lives.

And yet, there have been AMAZING moments of new friendships and growing as a person and a mother and wife. All things I hope to share more with you about in the coming year.

So many things.

So, here we are. 2016 will happen. Here’s to a New Year full of many possibilities.

Life will happen, as it always does, and I hope through it all I will continue to focus on what’s important. 

How about you, have you chosen your word for 2016? I’d love to know about it and the story behind why it’s your word! Please feel free to share about your word for 2016.

Meanwhile….HAPPY  {almost} NEW YEAR!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pizza Muffins {make ahead meals}

PizzaMuffins

Life can be crazy busy and chaotic and not always leaving much time for NOT eating take-out or heading to the drive-thru.

The past few years, as we’ve been working to simplify things a bit more, I’ve become a BIG FAN of make ahead, freezable meals and decided I’d share one of my family’s most favorite ones!

Pizza Muffins.

Super easy and completely make-ahead and FREEZABLE! Have I mentioned how much I LOVE freezable?

I do.

Makes my life THAT much easier.

You can make these up, freeze them, and when you’re going to be out and about, or sporting events/practice and whatnot, grab some of these and heat them up and GO. Simple as that.

Other than helping to simplify life a little more, this recipe also requires no fancy kitchen equipment and gadgets.

I KNOW. I love that. I don’t have time to take out big mixers and the like and then clean it all. I need quick, easy and SIMPLE.

{After all, I have hot coffee to attempt to finish…}

SO, here they are!

****************************************************************

Simple Pizza Muffin Recipe:

For the dough:

(makes enough for 24 “muffins” or 2  12-14in pizzas)

-2 1/4 tsp (1 packet) of active dry yeast

-1.5 cups warm water

-4.5 cups all-purpose flour

-1tsp salt

What to do:

Place yeast in large bowl, add warm water. Give it a gently stir and let sit about 5-ish minutes. Add in flour and salt. Using a spoon, mix together until combined, but still a little sticky.

Once combined, turn out onto clean, lightly floured surface. Knead for about 5-ish minutes. I don’t usually knead it much longer than that. Shape into a round.

pizzamuffins

pizzamuffin2

To keep things simple, rinse out the large bowl you just used to use again for this next part. Dry it out and add some extra virgin olive oil to the bowl (approx 1-2 Tbs), place pizza dough in bowl and turn it, roll it around, to fully coat it in the olive oil. Cover bowl in plastic wrap and place in on the counter (or way up high on a shelf in the pantry so that, if you have toddlers like me, they can’t get to it). Let it rise until doubled in size, about 1-2 hours.

Once doubled, uncover and PUNCH the dough down.

{that’s kinda fun, right?}

Divide dough in half and now you’re ready to make the pizza muffins!

For the Pizza Muffins:

{Pre-heat oven to 450}

Take half of dough and roll it out until it’s a decent rectangle approx 12″ x 15″, like so

PizzaMuffins

Then, this is the best, add WHATEVER sauce and toppings you want!

I went more traditional with these, since it’s my kiddos fave, and stuck with pizza sauce, pepperoni and some Monterey jack cheese.

pizzamuffins

pizzamuffins

This part is completely up to you. You can go as simple or fancy as you’d like. Homemade sauce? go for it. Freshly grated cheese your preference? Go for it!

{Another favorite, that my husband likes, is roasted garlic and alfredo chicken. Sounds complicated, but totally not. Leftover shredded chicken, some alfredo sauce and some mashed up roasted garlic spread out and then a little shredded cheese on top and VOILA! }

After adding your toppings, roll it up like so, slice it and place in prepared muffin tins.

pizzamuffins

pizzamuffins

pizzamuffins

I’ve started using my silicone muffin cups for these. I used to use baking papers, but they’d stick to them a bit and it got to be a pain to unwrap them for the kids. You could simply use the muffin tins without, but I LOVE the silicone cups, because no prep required, I just pop the sliced up muffins in and pop them in the oven. DONE! Then they simply pop right out, no hassle.

Now just pop in the oven for approx 10-12 minutes. Let cool and serve immediately, or freeze them for later!

How To Freeze:

Place in single layer on foil lined plate. Place another layer of foil if needed, add another single layer of pizza muffins.

Place in freezer for 1-2 hours (or overnight, won’t hurt them), then place in a labeled ziplock freezer bag with instructions how how to reheat.

To Reheat: place a couple muffins in microwave, heat in 20 second intervals until heated through. Eat!

NOTES: another awesome option, take frozen muffins out, place in lunches in fridge the night before, by the time lunch time hits the next day, VOILA! Completely thawed and ready to eat Pizza Muffins! Yay!

*****************************************************************

What are some of your favorite time-saving parenting tricks that help make things a little less chaotic?

 

The Christmas Book Basket

ChristmasBookBasket{this post may contain affiliate links for your convenience}

 

It happened so unintentionally, our holiday book basket we put by the Christmas tree each year.

When our oldest was just a tot and into ALL THE THINGS, we decided not to even attempt putting gifts under the tree until Christmas morning. It really helped keep everyone a little more sane.

So, instead, I opted to put a few of the holiday books we had in a basket and placed it by the tree.

The next year I did the same thing, and just like that, it became a tradition!

Now, however, I’m a bit more intentional about it and the books that go into it. We like to add one or two books each year, or rotate them out, depending on the year and ages of the kiddos.

When little bitty, more board books made their way into the basket. It’s definitely not a “put all the super cherished books you don’t want mucked up” in kinda basket. The last thing you want to do is add books in that you’ll stress about…nah, this is a meant to be read and re read many times, pulled in and out of basket multiple times and, occasionally, a torn page that gets taped up kinda thing.

This year, I’ve actually added a few more non board books, since we’re mostly past the tearing all the pages stage….mostly. Hopefully.

One of the main things I love about this, is it encourages “reading” and discovering of new things and learning more about the winter season and holidays.

I love how the youngest kiddos will just wander over, sit down and start reading. Sometimes the basket gets picked up and carried around the house, but usually finds it’s way back by the tree and I will occasionally catch a glimpse of 3 out of 4 kiddos just sitting and reading and looking at the pictures.

These are some of our favorites:


Mortimer’s Christmas Manger


God Gave Us Christmas


The Tale of Three Trees: A Traditional Folktale


One Shining Star: A Christmas Counting Book

Another thing I love, is the family time it helps to create and reminds us to focus on a little more around, what can be, a very busy time.

It’s definitely become a loved tradition and one the bigger kids have looked forward to each year. And as the littlest ones become more familiar with it, I’m hoping it stays a well loved tradition.

What are some of your most loved holiday traditions?

Once Upon a Crafty Time { a Stocking Story}

stockings

Once upon a time, I used to be known as a creative crafty person. I still fall into the creative category, but I jokingly said when I was pregnant with the twinnies, that they were draining all the craftiness outta me!

And I honestly think they kind of did.

Not that I don’t have a creative moment here and there. I do. And I still create and dream and design and plan out projects, just not like I used to. And most of that creative energy it seems is focused towards the kitchen with baking and cooking, along with taking photos of my kids, writing, and house renovation stuff.  More recently, though, I have been adding in some fun craft time with the littlest ones when the bigs are at school.

In my once upon a crafty person time, I used to sew jammies for my older two kiddos, starting when my oldest was 1 year, EVERY christmas. I loved it. Sometimes they were christmasy, sometimes just something they liked a lot and were interested in like guitars, owls, etc.

Last year was the absolute last year I decided I would do that. Because there are four of them now. And they keep growing, which means new patterns have to be drafted or bought….and well, I no longer have a dedicated sewing and crafting room to myself. So yeah, just no. It became more hassle than fun and I had to start in like October and my kids would surely grow between the time I started and finished them. As much as I once loved making them, I decided it was time to let this tradition go. At least for the time being.

{Even though my oldest STILL wants me to make him some….this year though, he agreed to let me surprise him with actual store bought ones}

I’ve become really good at hunting for awesome things and clicking the “buy now” button when I see a great deal or find an awesome handmade item that would be great. And I am all about supporting small biz and mamas and dads in the handmade community.

With all that being said, this year I did manage to pull out enough craftiness to design and make our new family stockings.

It was time and something I’d been wanting to do for a few years now. Especially for my oldest girl.

You see, our last set of stockings? With the exception of adding two more when we found out the twins were to join us, they had been picked out and bought for a different family.

{stay with me….let me explain}

When I had chosen them, we were still in the adoption process and were literally waiting for the call to go back to Russia and complete the adoption of a child we’d already met and fell in love with. She had been expected to join us before Christmas of that year, so I wanted to have a stocking for her.

Well, Christmas came and went, and we were still waiting. It wasn’t until 5 months later, we’d learn that she was never officially going to join our family.

{You can read more about our adoption story HERE}

So, the next holiday season was approaching, and fearing the same would happen, I couldn’t bring myself to pick out a different stocking. I convinced myself, since it had never been used, that surely it would be OK for our newest family member to use. So we did.

By the time we’d arrived back home on Thanksgiving Day that year, and hunkered down in our little family cocoon….I’d never gotten to picking out a new stocking….so we used what we had.

I didn’t think it’d bother me. And that year we were too in the beginning trenches and post adoption emotions to really think about it, so I packed the stockings away with the rest of the Christmas things that year and didn’t think much about it.

Until…..

The following year when I took the stockings out, I burst into tears. I was caught completely off guard by my emotions. I felt devastate and heart-broken all over again.

{Sidenote: this is something I know will never go away. Loss is loss….I will always miss this child. Always.}

We used those stockings that year, but I could hardly ever look at them. And, honestly, I felt so stupid about being so emotional about it.

The following year I decided I’d make some! Uh…yeah, that was a comical thought. I had itty bitty baby twinfants…..totally didn’t happen. And we’d decided to put the house up early-ish the next year, so we hardly did anything for Christmas decorating that year.

Next year. I was determined to make them!

{I’ll save you a long story there….didn’t happen}

This year, I decided I was going to set out early in the year and get to work on them. I had designed them with each family members personality in mind, searched pinterest for fabrics and ideas. Decided, at one point, I was nuts and should just go and find some that would be perfectly acceptable.

Told my husband I should totally just find a handmade shop and buy them. Oldest overheard and pleaded I make them.

{he really likes mama made things…}

I had found this awesome matryoshka fabric the year before that I’d snatched up and planned to use for Sunshine girl.

This year. I was determined. It was GOING TO HAPPEN.

I really wanted a brand new especially made JUST FOR HER stocking for my Sunshine girl. She deserved it.

SO. FINALLY, I decided on the design, found the fabrics, found an awesome and easy to follow free stocking pattern {found HERE}, ordered fabric and got started.

I did a little chunk here and there like an assembly line.

My goal was to have this accomplished BEFORE Thanksgiving. And I finished BEFORE Halloween!!

{I’m honestly still in shock about it}

When I finished my Sunshine girls, I cried.

{caught off guard by those emotions again….}

I love love LOVE that she has one. JUST FOR HER!

And my kids? The oldest ones anyway, LOVE that they are mama made. I thanked my oldest for encouraging me to make them. I’m really glad I did.

And I love that each year, no matter the crazy, they will always have something handmade from their mama in the form of their stockings.

{the rest of the handmade love will have to come from all the awesome handmade greatness shops out there}

Do you try to add a little handmade into your holiday gift giving?

How Not To Lose Your Mind Over Advent

AdventBox

It went it little bit like this…..

I decided to try and tackle some of the {very} simple holiday decorating for Christmas.

We’ve been slowly leaning towards simplifying the holidays more and more each year, and this year is probably the first I felt like I truly had a decent handle on.

For at least two seconds.

I found the advent candles, and mistakenly, put them down within reach of two busy and very curious toddlers.

Before I could even blink, they swiped them and decided to have a tot sized fencing match.

Yeah. Candles are broken. I don’t have backups.

I searched Pinterest to see what quick and simple DIY ideas there were and could maybe assemble something together before Advent was officially to begin.

Let’s laugh together, shall we? Because. Seriously.

I did, indeed, find some awesome and amazing ideas…..that I plan to use next year.

This year? I’m letting it go. We are doing a modified Advent.

I did manage to get our Night Before Advent Box put together with new pjs for each kiddo, coloring pages printed out for each day of Advent, colors and our Unwrapping the Greatest Gift.

A day late. Because that’s just sometimes how life goes….

And, in an effort of keeping things real and full disclosure, a little confession:  The day we were to do our “day before advent” loveliness, I was in a no good grumpy mood.

No idea why really. Just a funk and mama bear was more like grumpy bear.

By bed time, it was literally, EVERYONE GO TO BED LIKE NOW. But without the yelling {I know, impressive isn’t it?!} And I put myself in time out.

And by time out, I mean I plugged in my earbuds, put on some Sufjan Stevens {holiday edition} on Pandora and started painting.

What did I start painting? Why the Night Before Advent Box, naturally.

An hour later, when my husband walked into the kitchen, I’m pretty sure he thought I’d lost my mind as I was painting and adding some touches of glitter. Because, GLITTER.

Or he just knew that I was processing and this is how I seem to do it best.

So, those advent candles? Not gonna happen this year. Even though my oldest commented that he really missed seeing them. I agreed, but was all “NOPE. Next year though….next year”.

And because I really mean it, I created a pin board JUST for a little Advent inspiration . I’m really loving some of the more modern and simplistic set ups some have going on.

So, all this to say….our best intentions can go completely wrong. And LIFE happens and candles get broken, and the ideas you might have had are just not.gonna.happen this year. And I am here to say, it’s absolutely, completely OKAY.

Sometimes, taking a more simple approach during the holidays is really whats best. And sometimes, depending on what season your littles are in {like underwater toddlerhood…}, it means maybe not so much with candles, but more with reading the Advent story. And having a simple advent calendar.

And enjoying the time we do have with family.

Our Night Before Advent Box and evening happened. A day late, and more simplified.

And if you’re one week in and are going “crap! this advent thing is kicking my butt! and I totally forgot XYZ!”….it’s OK. And you still have three more weeks to turn it all around.

Lets say it together…..

It’s ALL going to be OKAY. Really.

Do you celebrate Advent? What are some of your favorite ways to keep things more simple during, what can be, chaos and crazy of the holiday season?

7 Tips to Make Baking With Toddlers Awesome

baking with toddlers

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Baking with tiny humans. This either sounds insanely awesome to some or just plain insane to others.

And I am going to go ahead and admit, I’m in both camps.

But if it’s one things my kiddos love to do, is help me in the kitchen with ALL THE THINGS.

And with the holidays coming upon us at lightening speed, I thought I’d share some of my tried and true ways of having your tinies “help” you while you get your holiday baking on….

First things first….those expectations that this is going to be amazingly fun and your baked product is going to come out looking like all those delicious pics in a magazine?

Let those go right now.

I’m not saying your confections are going to be hideous, but letting go of the “perfection” or simply wanting it to look “pinterest picture worthy”, will make a HUGE difference in how you set out to make this whole thing work. And fun will definitely happen along the way, especially when you simply set out to enjoy your time together.

So, without further ado, here are my 7 tips to help baking with your toddlers this season {or anytime, really} more enjoyable for ALL involved:

1. Have a game plan 

Make sure you’ve planned out what it is you’re wanting to make, take inventory to make sure all ingredients are indeed in your pantry/fridge, etc. Trust me on this…theres nothing like being in the middle of batter/dough/whatever you’re making and trying to keep little fingers out and BAM, realize you don’t have the number of eggs needed. Or sprinkles. Or cupcake liners (if you use those)….

2. Have baking supplies/utensils/measuring cups/spoons and the like available that THEY can use.

baking with toddlers

I actually took a trip to our local dollar store and grabbed some measuring cups and spoons and even some pot holders that are theirs to use for pretend play, and for when we bake together as well. And they LOVE that they get to have their very own things to “help” bake or cook with. This year I also added a couple smaller sized rolling pins for them to use.

3. Plan for a time of day that works with them, as well as you.

Starting something right before nap time might not be the best option. My twinnies still take a nap after lunch, so we typically bake mid morning. But, do what you know works best for you and try to work around your littles schedule. Nothing like cranky toddlers and flying batter to make a mama want to run screaming from the kitchen! Uh….not that I’d know anything about that….

4. Along with making sure to plan for a time of day that works best for your kiddos, also make sure to allot enough time for the “helping”.

baking with toddlers

Recognize that what might take you 10-15 minutes to mix up and toss in the oven, is going to take easily 20 minutes plus with “helpers”. It’s okay. Embrace it and breathe.

5. Let them help. For real.

baking with toddlers

I am a total type A-ish person and I’ve learned to let go of a LOT since having children number 3 and 4. My twins have helped me see the joys in the “oopses” and the learning that can happen. So, let them help measure out, or dump the flour into the bowl. A little flour on the counter won’t hurt. I promise.

6. Have kid friendly items they can use.

If your kiddos are anything like mine, they love to use the real thing. So, sometimes having a less breakable bowl for them to “mix” their own ingredients in is super helpful and makes the process fun for both of you. This little tip has helped me be able to get my bowl mixed up faster, while still allowing them to help mix up all the ingredients and them continue to work on their bowls while I then transfer the batter (or dough or whatever I’m making), to the pan/cupcake tins or whatever you happen to be using for baking.

7. Be positive and offer up encouraging words to your littles.

And if you are making something that requires decorating, don’t try and “fix” how they’ve done it. Leave it however they put the sprinkles on…they will be PROUD of their work and will look to see if you like it too. It’s okay if it looks like the green sprinkles vomited all over the sugar cookie snowman and he looks more like the hulk than a snowman. Or if the gingerbread ninja got a happy helping of pink sparkly and flower sprinkles and looks more like its from Whoville, verses the stealth ninja that it seemingly is supposed to resemble. It’s perfectly and awesomely OKAY. Promise.

Now, turn on the light in the oven and sit down on the floor with your littles and watch the awesome and amazing goodness bake, while you attempt to drink your sorta hot coffee. There’s just something about watching those cookies or cupcakes (or whatever you decided to bake) rise in the oven and turn into deliciousness.

Once those baked confections are ready to come out and cool off, go outside or play an activity while they cool down, to help distract the anxious toddlers that want to EAT ALL THE THINGS RIGHT THIS MINUTE.

Once it’s ready, grab a cookie, sit at the table and enjoy the sparkly ninja and green monster snowman. Or pumpkin bread.

Do you love to bake with your kiddos? What other tips would you share that help make the process awesome?