Sunday, August 31, 2014

Summer's Last Cocktail: Watermelon Mojito

One of the things I love most about living in Southern California is that I get to have a garden nearly year round. I spent the better part of last weekend planting our fall crops and tending to raised beds, cleaning them out, adding compost and checking out all the worms, beetles, spiders, snails and lizards with my biggest little lady. For me it was bliss. Even though I get dirt under my nails, I smell like chicken poop (Momma, what stinks out here? Uh, yeah, that's not me, it's the chicken poop. Ewwwe, that's gross!)  I get giddy when I walk out in the morning and see tiny pea shoots or asparagus heads popping out of the ground like itty bitty miracles.


But we are still harvesting the last of my favorite hot weather fruit, watermelon, no contest! So, we've eaten a lot of watermelon, made watermelon popsicles, watermelon smoothies, watermelon salad, watermelon aqua fresca, and yes, Hubby and I have indulged in a watermelon cocktail or two. And since we will soon be into apple cider season, I couldn't let this Labor Day weekend pass without sharing this yummy recipe inspired by what's already growing in our backyard. 

I have two types of mint growing in my garden. I use it in everything from fruit salad to coffee to ice cream to cocktails, of course. And one of the varieties I have is actually called "mojito mint"...umm, you don't have to twist my arm. 

MMM, I love the smell of lime leaves. Actually, one of my very favorite scents ever is the combination of coconut and lime. Just makes me think of vacation, drink in hand.

So, that's it! 

Your watermelon mojito recipe goes something like this:

Watermelon, about 5 cups cubed
Mint, about 10 leaves
Limes, 2
Malibu Coconut Rum, 4oz
Soda Water, to top off

*makes two tall drinks with enough to top off

Technically, a mojito includes sugar, but I love the taste of coconut rum and find that it makes it sweet enough. If I don't have to add sugar to something I don't, but that's just me and this recipe is only a suggestion.

If you are hosting a party or you wanna get all schmancy, you can make these per glass, muddling and all, but I enjoy throwing everything into my Vitamix. 

First, I remove most of the seeds from the cubed watermelon and throw it in with the juice from 1.5 limes. 

Give that a good mix, then add the rum and mint.

Let it go until the mint leaves are torn.

Squeeze a lime wedge into a glass filled with ice and drop it in.

Fill glass 3/4 of the way with yummy mix and top with soda water and a straw.


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Friday, August 29, 2014

Entryway Locker Style Built In

We made a lot of changes over the summer and this is one of my favorites. It wasn't in the plan, but it has been in my head since we moved in two years ago so when I had the opportunity to add to the chaos that was our home a couple of months ago, well, I took it.


And boy, am I glad I did because this momma has yet to get the whole back to school morning routine down pat. But, this built in is a huge help!

It has a space for each child so that backpacks, karate clothes, dance shoes, hats, and even Molly's diaper bag all have a spot to call their own. Having your own space is huge when you have a big family!

The bench and shoe cubbies at the bottom are actually what's left of the triple set of cabinets that were there before. I thought I took a before photo, but can't seem to find it anywhere so I guess while juggling everything else this summer it slipped my mind. I did however, take a cell phone pic of the landing at the top of our stairs with a similar set up. Just imagine that the other one was wider and deeper. I did this because I want to show you that if you or your fella are handy, you can totally do this yourself. 

On the other side of the hallway I left the wall as it was before. There's a chalkboard/bulletin combo for notes and reminders. I also have a couple of mounted file folders for Natalie and Colby for things like sight word lists, fundraiser paperwork, etc. that don't need to go in backpacks, but need to have their own spot.

The door on the left leads out to my garage, the one we use everyday, so this makes the perfect entry drop zone.

I got the wooden letters at Vintage Marketplace several months ago and was just waiting to spy the perfect spot for them.

I thought I might want to add a little pink or something to the girls' initials, but once they were up I thought they looked just right.



I have to say that even though we have only just begun school, I am so ready for this three day weekend. And I'm happy everything will be right here Tuesday morning.

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Friday, August 15, 2014

My Secret Not So Secret Struggle

This summer was full of lessons. Lessons in parenting, lessons in forgiving, lessons in accepting what is, lessons in loving, lessons in growing up (yes, I am still doing that at the age of 33, 34, okay, fine, 35.)

But mostly in just really living. Living in the moment, even if it means I might be uncomfortable for a minute, living through my children, who embrace life with all they have because they don't know any better.

I learned a lesson in teaching. This may seem silly coming from a stay at home mom. I mean, of course I teach right? ABC's, 123's, potty training, table manners, how to grow a garden...but what about growing a positive self image? This is something I have not always had and I still struggle with depending on the day of the week. 

After Molly's birth I began recognizing the signs of postpartum depression, but continued to try to work through it until I got to such a low and hopeless point that I said to my husband something along the lines of, "You and the kids would be better off with someone else. I'm a terrible mom, don't know what I'm doing and I don't deserve you and our children. It's okay if you find someone else." I only vaguely remember this evening, as I was obviously in a pretty tough place. The following day I made an appointment with a therapist and eventually started a low dose antidepressant. I have taken this in the past, after baby 1 and 2, but this is half the dose I used before.

Why am I telling you this?

Because starting therapy was the best thing I've done for myself in a very long time and frankly, I wish I'd done it years ago.

Because I am me again. Or, I'm getting back to me I guess. I don't have overwhelming anxiety that traps me into thinking about projects I have started, but never finished and fearing the casual drop in from a friend because my floors aren't clean enough to eat off of. I can stop, be still, snuggle my kids or read them a poem and not feel like I should be folding laundry...because laundry isn't as important as time with my children.

Because depression causes you to dwell in failure instead of focusing on triumphs. Being a mother is overwhelming. Trying to be everything to everyone is overwhelming. Cutting yourself some slack is hard. Cut yourself some slack. You are doing your best!

Because I know that I'm not alone. Nothing is worse when you are going through something than feeling like you are the only one. We are constantly telling and teaching our children about teamwork, but it seems like once we become grown-ups, we aren't allowed to ask for help.

I want my children to see what I tell them. I tell them to be patient, to take a deep breath, to try again, that they aren't going to be great at something right away, that they need to work as a team, that life has obstacles, but they can do and be whatever they want. I tell them they are special, each of them in their own way, that they are smart or clever or creative, that they are beautiful, that they make me smile. I tell them I am proud of them. 

Sometimes I think I'm not cut out to be a stay at home mom. I mean, it's not like I left some high powered position as a (fill in the blank with your dream job). And I wasn't forced to stay home. It was a choice that my husband and I made together. I am still trying to find the balance between being momma, wife, house manager, etc. and still feeling like I have some of the old me left at the end of the day. The me that still has ambition and talents to share. The me that knows I can be successful in whatever I really want to achieve. The me that knows life is way too short to have regrets. 

Someone recently told me that I can't have it all. 

Oh, yes, I can. 

I will never again tell my children something if I'm not willing to let them see the lessons I teach them in action.

I am in love with all of the people in these photos. I am so very blessed to be able to stay home with our four amazing kiddos. But, if I don't take care of myself, well, I am doing them no favor. I hope they remember the wonderful moments from this summer, the things summers are made of. And one day, when they feel challenged with something, I hope they come to me...because they know that I will allow them to make mistakes, to be vulnerable, to be challenged and ask for help. And that there is no shame in any of that.

 Natalie: A Leader, Creative, Compassionate


Colby: Smart, Sensitive, Funny

Ashley: Independent, Sweet, Helpful

                                                 Molly: Happy, Active, Easygoing



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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Unofficial Start to Summer and Backyard Sneak Peek

I know some of you have heard me mention the "pool project" referring to the final phase of our backyard.
Yes, we started it the day after Molly was born.
No, I do not recommend that.
I just knew that if we waited until we were all settled in with her the pool wouldn't be done in time for summer. And as it is, this project has taken longer than expected and instead of the projected 10-12 weeks, we are looking at more like 16 to be totally done. It has seemed like forever at times, but finally this past weekend we were able to let the kiddos swim for a little while during the hot 3 day weekend and two things happened.
First, I realized that a dream was fulfilled. We will spend most days during the summer (and most of the year around these parts) enjoying this backyard my hubby and I worked hard to create for our family.
And then I relaxed. This may seem like a no brainer, but in fact, it has not been easy for me to relax over the last couple of years, but especially the last couple of months as I have tried to fend off the lurking postpartum depression I knew was a possibility. 
When I worked in the garden Monday and the kids ate strawberries and tomatoes right out of the dirt before I could get to them I didn't beg them to let the fruits grow. I watched juice roll down their chins and asked who wanted to help dig the holes for watermelons. Then I thought of eating green beans right out of my own mom's garden.
When the two older kids climbed up the outside of the tunnel slide and got stuck when they couldn't find their way down I didn't scold them as I ran across the yard because I had to stop what I was doing to come to the rescue. I walked quickly, hoping my son didn't fall and break a bone as I told him how brave he was to climb so high, then thought of myself at Natalie's age climbing trees twice as high as our play set barefoot in my own backyard.
Molly was there too. When she became fussy I didn't make everyone go inside, but instead brought her outside, her little legs kicking as she enjoyed the breeze and the sounds of the unofficial start of Summer while bouncing in her seat. 

This is what I wanted for my children. Freedom. Fresh air. Fun.

I'm so excited this project is almost over, but for those that have been curious, here's a sneak peek.  

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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

All I Want for Mother's Day is Simple

I remember when I was younger and Christmas would come around. I would ask my mom what she wanted and she would say something like, "Oh, nothing. You don't need to get me anything." After asking her question again and again she would finally appease me with this answer: "Socks. Just get me some socks. I can always use new socks." This literally went on for years...Christmas, her birthday, whenever I would ask the question the answer was the same. I didn't get it. What? You don't have anything on your wish list? Just sitting in a file in your brain waiting for someone to ask the magic question...What do you W.A.N.T.? I chalked it up to parents being a little weird and went on with life.

Now I have my own family. A chaotic, often dramatic, sometimes sticky, but oh so squishy and lovable  bunch of little humans I get to call my own. Oh, and let's not forget my hubby. The man behind so many well intentioned moments that often quickly go south. He loves and appreciates me so much. And I love and appreciate him for that. But, going to brunch on Mother's Day is not always so relaxing for this gal. It usually involves a lot of sweating (that's just me getting ready), at least two breakdowns (again, at least one is me) because someone decides wearing crocks with her dress is more her taste, somebody forgot their blankie or pacifier, one or more little people have to go poop as soon as we pull onto the freeway, etc. It doesn't help that we always end up going to brunch at a location my husband presides over so all the employees know we are coming and there is no anonymity. We get a family pic (sun in our eyes, shoes or no shoes) with a pretty fountain or golf course in the background, enjoy wonderful food, (in between bathroom breaks and cleaning up spilled milk), have a couple of embarrassing moments because our honest children sometimes talk too loudly in the buffet line, then laugh about it all when we get home. It actually makes for some fun and funny memories I suppose, but this year I have hinted that I would love to stay home and just hang out. Just keep things simple. I mean, I just had a baby and by the way, we started our pool/outdoor kitchen project the day after she was born. I've told you before I'm not much of a relaxer.

So, I get it.



Happy Mother's day to all my momma friends. However you and your family choose to celebrate your day, remember to enjoy it!

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Monday, April 14, 2014

Baby M Has Arrived

I am so sorry to keep you waiting for this. I won't bore you with all the details, but we have certainly endured some tough times since our new little lady joined the mix. I knew having four little ones wasn't going to be easy, but I hardly had time to blink before things got crazy here. But that's a post for another time. This one is to simply and proudly celebrate Molly Charlotte Zaruka. She was born February 13th. We spent her first Valentine's Day together in the hospital and then it was off to meet her siblings. It's hard for me to believe that that was 8 weeks ago. If you have children you know that time is funny like that once they are born. She is so tiny and new and yet, it feels like she has always been with us.
She arrived with a head full of dark hair, something we had never seen with our previous kiddos who all resembled some version of Charlie Brown at birth.

It happened fast.
No Epidural.
One push.
Not the plan.
But, oh so perfect.

I like taking photos of our children at one week of age. That time is often so tough that it is easy to forget these perfect little moments of new everything for these humans we've created. 
These were taken by the very talented Chelsea of Chelsea Anne Photography.
I will be happy to give you our whole birth story if the masses desire, but for now enjoy looking at the newest addition to our complete family of SIX.

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