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.

Socks.

Simple.

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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Monday, January 27, 2014

Boy Room

My poor three year old son is about to help welcome his 3rd sister into the world. Bless his little heart. He is all boy and is surrounded by girls most days. I really wanted to make sure that his room is really his room...a place where he can pretend he's in a rocket ship or driving a race car, building a skyscraper or conducting a train without Cinderella or Snow White showing up. Don't get me wrong, boys can do girls things and girls can do boys things, but sometimes a guy just wants to play with his Legos with no interruptions, ya know?

When we moved here in mid 2012, I decided on a neutral green for the walls because I wasn't sure if this would always be a boys room and we planned on having another baby. I started decorating with a sort of, kind of nautical theme without getting too literal and realized right away that his room would probably get finished last, as he was very destructive. He turned over his chair on a daily basis, so it was removed. He pulled all the drawers out of the old bureau I added so it found another home for awhile. He pulled things off the wall so they were pretty bare.

When we got his bed, I knew I wouldn't be able to get it at an antique shop or garage sale. I basically needed a tree trunk with a hole carved out for his mattress. This bed fit the bill and has a built in trundle he will get more use out of as he grows with the room.

He managed to yank the drawer pull off of the side table, but I'm learning he is pretty normal as boys go and he has earned back the rest of his items, plus some. He really loves this room. Now if we can just figure out how to get him to stay in it past 6:00 am.

I still have a couple of items to add, but for now, enjoy Colby's room tour. If you are interested in where I found any of the items you see just leave a comment and I will be happy to provide a source list.






 








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Monday, January 6, 2014

How do I do it?






People ask me all the time, "How do you do it?" and my quick answer is, "Not very well."

They usually laugh and tell me I'm a good mom or maybe they think I'm joking, but the truth is this Holly Homemaker gig ain't all it's cracked up to be! It's hard. Really hard!

I know some of you may be thinking, "If she doesn't think she's doing very well, maybe she shouldn't have another baby," but hear me out.

First, I love my children more than I can possibly convey within the tiny confines of this blogasphere.

Second, I had no idea how totally difficult being a parent to a pack of toddlers was going to be. If you know someone who tells you parenting is the easiest job and being a stay at home mom is a piece of cake, well, I want their name and number because either they are doing everything right or everything wrong.

Third, I would love to tell you that I have it all figured out, but I just don't. That meal planning is the answer. That an organized entryway is the answer. That I have any of the answers you are looking for...I probably don't.

But, I can tell you that I'm with you. That I'm on your team...team momma! That I haven't found balance either, but I know I will so I just keep puttering away, because I have to and because I want to. 

And if you know me well, you know I don't manage things alone. I have an incredible husband. If you haven't read the post I did on him, you can take a look here. I have a nanny who comes four days a week who is wonderful and who has taught me things I never thought I could learn from someone in her position. She is truly a modern day Mary Poppins...and on top of that, my children adore her. Then, I have someone come every other week to clean our home.

Does that make me a fraud?
Does it change your opinion of me?
I certainly hope not. I am here to keep it real. I realize that if I were with my children all the time every day, I would lose my mind.
No, seriously.
For real.

I'm not a morning person.
I don't like sand.
Getting finger paint out of tiny clothes is not my favorite activity.
Play-doh gives me anxiety.
I yell.
I cry.
I question my ability to parent every day...every day.
I don't like noise just to make noise.
I don't like temper tantrums.
Potty training is my nemesis.
Breast feeding is a pain...literally.
Momma guilt is something I didn't count on.
And they have actually given me gray hair. Gray hair!

But, I love my children dearly and I don't have a nanny so that I can spend all day writing this rinky dinky blog or sitting in a bubble bath eating bon bons. I have help so that they will remember me spending time with them, each of them. Alone.

So that I can occasionally treat my "big girl" to a Starbuck's date, really being able to listen to her every sweet word. So that I can take my son to karate class and actually make eye contact with him as he proudly gives me a thumbs up. So that on Friday, known as "Momma Day" around here, I can feel grateful and thankful instead of frazzled and fried when I take all three kiddos to the pet store or on another field trip. Or so that when we have a play date on said Friday, I can get through without thinking of my constant "to do" list. Because yes, I do all the laundry, and 99% of the cooking...and we eat breakfast lunch and dinner at home almost every day. I do the grocery shopping, the gift buying, the activity planning, the school pick up, and the list goes on and on and on...

I am neurotic.

I have spent countless hours over the past five years (since becoming a mom) searching the internet, the shelves at Target, blogs etc. for ways to become more organized. I have tried everything. But, then it finally occurred to me that I AM pretty organized. I kind of DO have my stuff together. In fact, I have enough T's crossed and I's dotted that I am constantly coming up with other ways to spend my time. Time that I probably don't really have when I really think about it. There's always a party at our house, a social thing to put together, a decorating project to finish, A BLOG TO WRITE. I've had a lot of "what were you thinking?" moments, moments of doubt, moments of feeling like a failure because I am not writing enough or I didn't make a mental deadline or I realize for the 10th time that I'm just not that tech savvy. I don't have an editor, writers, contributors, sponsors, etc.

But, I am type A. And an Aries at that. So I press on because I know no other way. Because my best isn't good enough...for me. Which is why I actually started this post on December 5th and am finally finishing it a month later. I didn't know how honest I should be.

And then, over this Winter break, we had a kid friendly get together at our place with some friends and one of them brought me a gift. I won't embarrass her by saying her name, but she brought me a simple necklace with a pendant that reads, "Find joy in the journey."

Exactly what I needed to hold in my hand.

This year has been extremely difficult on me for several personal reasons. This pregnancy has been painful, but I have tried to be thankful and remember how fortunate I am. But, that's not the same as finding joy in the journey. I know I will have to slow down in a few short weeks and that I will surely feel joy with the birth of Baby M and the completion of our beautiful, healthy, thriving family, but slowing down isn't the same as finding joy. Now. Right now, today.

So, how do I do it? How did I come to the decision to have 4 children in less than 5 1/2 years? How do I keep it together? The truth is I don't always. The truth is that I am a good friend and listener; I give great advice, but I don't usually follow it and I don't always listen to body or my hubby when they say, slow down, take it easy, enjoy this day.



But, I will work on finding the joy in the journey. And I hope you do, too.









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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Meyer Lemon Dressing

Ruby Red Grapefruit. No photo enhancement needed here. So pretty!

My family and I feel incredibly lucky that since moving into our new home we have had the room to grow a lot of yummy things. Most of the garden has been pulled up at this point, but we still have kale, lettuce, arugula, bok choy and various herbs. Believe it or not, we just cut the last of our watermelons this past week...one of the many advantages of living in Southern California I suppose. We have several varieties of dwarf citrus trees including lime, grapefruit, mandarin, orange and lemon. But, the two trees I have been keeping my eye on all year are the Blood oranges and the Meyer lemon. These are festive little fruits that are unassuming from the outside, but pack a punch once they are opened.

If you aren't familiar with Meyer lemons, they are a sort of hybrid between a lemon and a mandarin so they have a more rounded shape, thinner, smoother skin and sweeter, heavier juice than say, a Eureka lemon. I love using them for chicken and fish. Later this week I plan on making Meyer lemon preserves, as I hope to enjoy this little gem all year. You can find more info on them here.



Meyer Lemons on the left, Blood Oranges on the right.

If you peeked at my Feeling Inspired Dinner Party post, you may have noticed that the menu included a Meyer Lemon salad dressing. Well, let me tell you, there were requests for a few recipes that evening, but dessert and the dressing were certainly the most popular. The problem was, I sort of free handed the dressing so I didn't have a recipe per say, to share.

But, today I finally had a few moments to try to recreate it and if you ask me, it's pretty darn delish. This is a bright dressing that goes well with any salad, but especially holiday salads including ingredients like persimmons or candied walnuts. And, guess what? Hubby and I even used a little to marinate fresh salmon and I'm not lying when I tell you it could have faced off with many fish entrees I have ordered in highly regarded restaurants.

I guess I should let you be the judge. It's easy to make. I just put everything in a mason jar and shake. Let me know what you think and enjoy!

Ingredient List:

  • juice of 3-4 Meyer lemons
  • 1 tsp lemon rind
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp chopped garlic (jarred)
  • 1/2 C olive oil
  • 1/4 cup mayo (trust me)
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 3/8 Grey Poupon ground mustard
  • 1 heaping Tbsp dried Tarragon
  • salt and pepper to taste

Okay, so that's it. You put all of these ingredients into the mason jar and shake, shake, shake! Voila! It will last in the fridge for a few weeks.




Things to note: 1) I had green onion at the time I made this several weeks ago. If you want, replace 1/2 Tbsp of the garlic with the white part of the onion, minced. 2) If you don't have tarragon you could probably use thyme. It's a little common so you probably already have it in your spice collection. But, the tarragon taste really yummy...just sayin'. 3) The color is not very bright, kinda brownish. This is from the balsamic vinegar and the stone ground mustard.







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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

No Penis at the Breakfast Table.

Yes, you read that correctly. This actually came out of my mouth not long ago. "No, no, Colby. We don't pull our penis out at the breakfast table. Put it away please, thank you."

There were no other adults around when I said this, not even my hubby who was upstairs preparing for work. What?! I thought to myself. I wanted to laugh a little bit. I mean, my husband doesn't have the most impeccable table manners, but I've never had to utter, "Honey, please leave your penis in your pants" at a dinner party.

Of course, this would be one of our three year boy's tamer offenses of the day so I didn't allow myself to laugh.

Is this what it's like to raise a boy? The noise. The lack of attention span. The constant pushing of limits. Did I mention the noise? Why do boys do stuff like this? I mean, my girls are not perfect (and Lord knows I'm not either), but yelling "Poop" at the top your lungs isn't normal, right? He must be defective. I must have done something wrong.

Nope.

I was in Target earlier today and guess what I heard? A child, a boy, about my son's age saying, you guessed it, "Poop, poop, poop." His mother was so annoyed with him and kept telling him to stop and cut it out while gritting her teeth.

Phew. My son is normal. Whatever normal is I guess. 

He says weird stuff and is fascinated with his body parts and needs a little extra attention from time to time. And he doesn't seem to care what form that attention comes in.
Have you heard of potty training regression? I have.
Seven full days of accidents every single day. Right in front of me. I thought I was going to lose my mind, but then I talked to other moms and found out this is normal. Especially when a baby is on the way.
Normal.
Our oldest child didn't do this. 
She's a girl...

I am really trying to understand this whole mothering a son thing and I know this stuff has to be a phase because right up until his 3rd birthday he was pretty much perfect. It's a phase, right? Right?








But, then I remember that he is still perfect.
He is healthy and happy. 
He is funny and smart.
He is sensitive and handsome.
He is him, not me...and that's what I truly want for my children.
I don't want mini versions of myself.
I want independent thinkers. Leaders. Teachers.
I would much rather have children who push the limits and stand their ground than, well, what? I don't have anything else to compare them to.
They are all challenging in their own way.
And yes, that's perfect.
I am learning patience. It's not one of my natural talents. 
 

Then, we have days like yesterday when he held the door for me and said, "After you, Your Majesty." And today when he told me out of the blue that he was excited to meet his new baby sister for the first time and he was gonna give her 5 kisses when she came out of my belly.
Heart melting.
Three year old boys aren't so bad I guess. Maybe it was me who needed a little time out...to ponder, to think, to appreciate.

PS-Photos courtesy of the beautiful and talented Chelsea of Chelsea Anne Photography in Oceanside, CA.











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