Thursday, September 11, 2014

Happy Birthday to My Biggest Little Lady

My apologies in advance. This is wordy and the pictures were captured on my cell.

I've been trying to get this post finished for days. Natalie turned 6 yesterday and for her birthday we went all out. But not in the way that you may be thinking. No jumpy house here, no way. My hubby discovered the Frozen Sing A Long movie showing at The El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood and suggested it may be a perfect gift for our little drama queen. I agreed and was excited to have the morning for just us big gals to enjoy, as I don't get a ton of time alone with her these days. The more I thought about it, the more it made sense to go the night before and stay somewhere within walking distance. If you know LA traffic, you know what I'm talkin' about.

So, that was her gift.
A girls night, just us.
In Hollywood.
At a fancy hotel. 

And as a bit of an insomniac, it sounded dreamy to have no monitors to listen for, no dog in the bed. Natalie has recently taken on a roommate, as well. Not the one we intended when furnishing her room, but more on that in a later post. Her roommate has a bit of trouble settling at the end of the night and often pretends his bed is a rocket ship floating through space.

Nattles has done her best to be patient, but the girl needed a night away, just her and momma.
So that was that.

  We took the elevator up to the 19th floor and swung open our door to see the Hollywood sign outside our window. Natalie was thrilled, but ready to settle into our room and get her toes painted and just hang out. I convinced her to come down to Hollywood Blvd with me, see the glitzy theater we would report to the following day, and perhaps watch a street performer or two. Of course we saw the stars as well and when we found Julie Andrews (she loves The Sound of Music) we had to get a pic. Actually, I took pictures of nearly every move she made. Don't worry , I didn't include them all. I used my cell phone so they aren't the best and the one of her beaming over Julie Andrews' star didn't even make the cut. She would say, "Mom, another picture? How many do you need?" 

It was as though I was trying to capture the last few days of her tinyhood, as though 6 is so much bigger than 5. Because it is. As though 1st grade is so much different than Kindergarten. Because it is. 

It was blazing hot and we eventually made our way back up to the room where we both discovered we were hungry. The conversation over whether to go out or order room service was very brief, as I decided she could finally relax, put on comfy clothes, paint toenails, take silly pictures together, and indulge in an early dinner including one giant brownie sundae.

She was in heaven.
I was too.

People always comment on her white blonde hair and gray blue eyes and often ask if I'm her mom when it's just us out and about. If you've followed my blog you know I don't often make an appearance. I'm not much of a "selfie" taker and not a huge fan of myself on camera. (I'm working on that) But, looking at those fun pics we took together two things struck me. 1) I have giant teeth and a big smile. She has my mouth. I hope she doesn't get my giant teeth. And 2) I would have taken her to the Himalayas to get a photo of the look on her face in the third picture. She adores me. I'm so grateful for that. But with it comes responsibility. 

You see, she isn't me. She has a lot of me in her, but she is not me. And she is still little. Small. A baby really. (Don't tell her I said that) After we had dinner and hung out, it was still early enough to go back out, explore a little more. See something new. I suggested Ripley's Believe It Or Not. She said it might be too scary. Then I convinced her otherwise. She stayed in her comfy sweats and t-shirt...and boots. They were the only shoes she brought. I asked her a couple of times if she wanted to put her dress back on and she nonchalantly said, "No, Momma, this is fine. I'm comfortable." She isn't me. We got to Ripley's and bought tickets and when it was time to go through the turn style she freaked out. No, like really freaked. I was familiar with this behavior and sort of brushed it off, though after a couple of loud, frantic minutes I was keeping myself from making eye contact with the 40 onlookers. Then I picked her up with a smile on my face and lifted her over and into the first display area. She kept her fingers in her ears for at least half the time we were there. She isn't me. By the time we left she was smiling, but ready to head back to the hotel. On the way there, she asked me for the 3rd time whether I thought the Cinderella she took her picture with earlier in the day was the real Cinderella. I couldn't bring myself to remind her that Cinderella doesn't have a Russian accent. She hesitated as the Harry Krishna guys sang and drummed and asked if we should go another way. She isn't me.

After a good night's sleep she wanted room service again. No going out to breakfast for this gal. We watched an animal show as we got ready to head off to our Frozen adventure. She wouldn't take a shower because the shower head looked too complicated. She didn't want to brush her hair, but wanted it straightened, then wanted it curled, then didn't like the way it wasn't curled from the root and told me she looked like George Washington. I had to remind myself that she is small. 

We walked to the theater hand in hand, stopping to get her picture kneeling down at another famous star. We headed up the staircase for our VIP popcorn and drink and took our seats in the center balcony. I had never watched Frozen all the way through and actually got choked up a couple of times. We held hands, snuggled and sang together.


But somehow, as so many parenting moments go, the gift I gave her was a teaching moment for me. Yes, she's dramatic. We will butt heads from time to time. Yes, she's independent. She won't agree with all of my views on life. She's emotional. She's curious. She's careful. She's amazing. She isn't me and my job is not to tell her who I want her to be. My job is to guide her, to encourage her, to listen to her, to comfort her. To enjoy her. Not to tell her to hurry up or to act like a big kid or even remind her for the 3rd time this week that she is an example to her brother and sisters. Just to enjoy her right now. Just to encourage her to make good choices, but to give her choices. Just to tell her for the 3rd time this week that I'm proud of her, not because of the example she is to her siblings, but because she is Natalie.

I can't believe my baby is growing up. 
So, for now, I'll let her stay small.

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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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