Loneliness In Our Journey

I read an article the other day about the loneliness modern stay at home mothers have. They had statistics and fancy numbers, but alas, I cannot find the article. However, that is likely a good thing. As the article in question suggested some very, well, in my opinion, terrible advice. But this is something that has been on my mind lately.

mom and boys

Stay at home moms often have very little adult interaction. Our Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat feeds might give that away. But little people, while adorable and awesome, aren’t always the best kind of company. They are always demanding and give very little back. This along with the fact that our work is never done, often very underappreciated, and usually overlooked- well, it can quickly lead to feeling like less than a person. Then when you take into account our inability to shower, constantly fluctuating bodies, and not a lot of time for trivial things like nail polish and facials, well, it becomes easy to see how we get depressed. The perpetual joke of the wife who “let herself go” isn’t so funny to us because we understand and feel the weight of that. It isn’t what we wanted. But life is like that, isn’t it?

lj with glasses big

 

In our current culture, many of us find ourselves living far from family. We’re far from the free help of family babysitters who just want the joy of hanging out with our kids. Date nights become costly as we factor in childcare and pizza for the kids into the expense it takes. It very quickly feels not worth it. No support. No help. Just us organizing all of this alone.

hiking kids

As Christians, we aren’t likely to move to a commune or give polyamory a try. (Which is what was suggested in the initial article.) So where does that leave us? Just treading water until the kids go to college? I don’t think so. I think we can do better than simple survival.

beach boys

First, whether you chose to be a stay at home parent or it simply happened, it is for a purpose. Whether it is temporary or permanent, there is a reason. Knowing that you have a purpose and there is reason for your labor can make the work itself seem easier. Dishes washed get dirty quickly. But dishes provide the canvas where you nourish those in your care. There is meaning in what we do. Making our house happy for those in it provides deep benefits to those living with us. It means something, even if the work is never done.

cooking

Next, we have to build community. It is okay to reach out through virtual means. Staying connected on social media is absolutely okay. (Especially when you are keeping in contact with people you really know in real life.) Just don’t forget that what you see isn’t always the truth. I can photoshop my life to look any way I want it to look. That isn’t the real day to day in my home. That is just a peak. Just the highlight reel. Just remember that. And if the comparison trap entangles you often, it is okay to say no to social media.

pip tangeled

You also have to build your real community. Real people you can talk to and count on. The easiest way to do that is through your church. Join a small group. Reach out. Know that there are other people like you that need someone. You can be their someone. And they can be yours.

race day

Practice hospitality. I know, having people over for dinner seems like the last thing you need. More work. But inviting people into your home is inviting them into your life. These are the people you know you can call when you need emergency childcare at 2 am. These are going to be the people at your door with dinner when you need them. It is a little extra work, but it is well worth it.

peace love pip

Don’t let trivial junk drive your friends away. I know you think you wouldn’t do that, but we do it all the time. We distance ourselves from those who make different choices. Homeschool moms flock to homeschool moms. Public school moms flock to public school moms. The diapers on our kid’s butts somehow tell other moms if we are worthy of their friendship. Don’t be like that. Don’t let literal crap matter that much. Friends are people who are there for you. Choose wisely, because friends can make our lives worse. But know what matters and what doesn’t. Don’t let the small stuff keep you from getting close to people.

friends

Be the friend you want to have. I wrote a whole post on this that I decided not to post. But I think the point still needs to be made. You want someone who will bring your chicken soup when you are sick? Then take a friend chicken soup when they are sick? Want someone to babysit your kid free of charge so you can have a much needed date night? Babysit someone’s kid(s) free of charge so they can have a much needed date night. You have to create the community you want to be a part of.

zoo friends

Don’t push your spouse away. It can get so easy for us to get resentful of their adult interaction and their time not spent scrubbing bathroom walls. But this isn’t an us versus them scenario. We are all working together to make this family thing work. Don’t push away your partner in this endeavor.

ag+lj

Don’t push away from God. I know you’re busy. I know you have things to do. I know the idea of “quiet time” is laughable. But you can still find ways to seek God. You can turn on music while cleaning and praise His name. You can read devotions with your kids that will feed all of you. You can pray while doing any task. Seek Him. He is our Friend.

books

You are not alone. You are doing a great job. Whether this is for a season or forever, the time you give to your family is not wasted. Now, I think someone out there is praying for a friend like you.  

My Experience With Trim Healthy Mama

I’m sure you’ve heard of Trim Healthy Mama. It seems everyone has. I had heard about it from friends for years before I decided to buy the books and give it a try. I researched it for quite a long time before committing. I’m not really one to try diets, despite needing to loose weight. I did the Whole 30 a couple years ago with huge success. But since living that way is almost impossible for an active family, I decided to give Trim Healthy Mama a try. Everyone said it was whole family cooking and it wouldn’t leave me in the kitchen all day long.

The good:

  • The meals were made for large families in mind. I didn’t have to double and triple recipes, which was refreshing. Most family meals feed 6-8. They do have lots of single serve recipes in the cookbook for things like breakfast and lunch, too.
  • I found some ridiculously yummy recipes that my kids love in the cookbook. Swedish Meatballs in Cream Sauce, Slim Sloppy Joes, Blackened Chicken with Mango and Black Beans, Lentil Soup, Chicken Jalapeno Popper Soup, Tomato Chicken Bisque, Nacho Stuffed Peppers, Trim Healthy Pancakes. Amazing food. Really.
  • I found most of the sippers to be awesome and I love them! Good Girl Moonshine & Singing Canary are staying. Period.
  • The Pastor lost lots of weight in the first month.

The Eh:

  • I lost minimal weight. Very minimal. Likes, in 3 months maybe 8 lbs.
  • While it was a whole family plan, you have to tweak every single meal for every single person. This meant adding cheese to kid food but not adult food. Adding an extra side for kids. So while I was only cooking one “meal”, I was having to adjust at the table.
  • While they claim you don’t have to use specialty ingredients, I found that they were necessary if you don’t want to be completely frustrated. So, you’re buying special flours and weird stuff that are really hard to find and expensive.
  • They also claim you can do the plan without Stevia. After reading their stuff, I just started using the Stevia, even though I really didn’t want to. Cutting it out is a bigger deal than they make it.
  • You can have brownies! they say. Then you make the brownies exactly like the recipe and they are gross. The online community then tells you that your taste buds are just messed up from years of real sugar. You’ll adjust. But chocolate should never taste like chemicals. I don’t want to get used to that. So these beloved desserts are apparently all acquired tastes that will eventually be okay to you once you forget what real baked goods taste like.
  • Despite saying you can be a food purist to stick to the plan or a “drive through Sue”, I found that I was having to make a lot of concessions to food purity. I was eating things that didn’t seem normal for me to eat. So, I’m sure there was a way for me to not bend on my food standards, but they weren’t easy if they were available.
  • There are a lot of rules. It takes time to understand and properly implement the plan. While there is good support through their Facebook pages and such, you have to be careful what you say so you don’t offend the plan. (Really just never critique the plan. Just watch how much hate mail will come from this post. And not all of the groups will be like this. You’ll also find a lot of encouragement and a lot of help. Just don’t complain- they don’t like it.)

The Bad:

  • My milk supply tanked, despite doing crossovers as described for nursing moms.
  • My immune system plummeted. I had eczema and then Shingles. The nutrition just wasn’t there.
  • It was expensive. The specialty ingredients are very pricey. They say you don’t need them, but over half the recipes call for them. Want to price them yourself? Whey Protein, Trim Healthy Mama Baking Blend, Stevia, Super Sweet, Gentle Sweet, MCT Oil, Gelatin, Collagen, Glucomannan, Not Naughty Noodles. Now, some of these things will last quite a while, like the Stevia and the Glucomannan. But some, like the baking blend and the super sweet will be monthly expenses at least.
  • I was eating more meat and less veggies than usual. While they say vegetarian and vegan options are available, I don’t really see how.

My Conclusions:

I have seen lots of people loose weight and have great health on this plan. I will still be using my cookbook, despite my not using the plan because some of the food is really yummy. But this plan is clearly not for me. I had so many health problems that started when I switched to this plan. I did not see results anything like I would have liked to see. And my family was just eating too many things I wasn’t really super comfortable with. So, I am going to take some of the recipes, but leave the plan. It just didn’t work for us. It certainly isn’t for everyone. It worked fine for my husband.

Do I recommend you try it? I don’t know. I don’t recommend you NOT try it. I’m just not a fan because it really wasn’t a fit for me and my family. I had really high hopes and it just did not deliver.

I also think I am somewhat biased in my attempts. I’ve never been a Stevia fan. In fact, I think I might actually be allergic. I’m not a fan of processed foods. I’m not a fan of casseroles or crock pots meals. It isn’t that I am picky. I’m just more of a whole food, clean food person. So telling me no potatoes and limit carrots isn’t ever going to sit well with me.

**This post contains affiliate links.**

Large Family Grocery Shopping

the crew

We barely have a large family. We are like a small, large family. But most people cannot fathom having a few more kids than they have. And they are curious! Boy are people curious about my family. And that is really fine. We don’t mind curiosity. It is interesting. We know. I’d be curious. I’m sometimes curious about families larger than mine. One question we get a lot is about groceries. Most people see six kids all they can think is, “How on earth do you feed them all?” I feel like Costco was built for me! And when you are buying multiple Costco sized packages of things, well, you are aware that you are an anomaly. Most people see a Costco sized butter pack (4 lbs.) and think, how long will it take me to use that? It isn’t Christmas right now! I see it and think, I sure hope 2 packs lasts me through the month!

Here are our usual food purchases for a month. A couple notes before I list all this. (1) I have no teenagers yet! The six lovely children range from 8 months to 9 years. I imagine I will have to double this in a few years and then triple it a few years after that. (2) This isn’t everything. These are just our base staples. I meal plan and we buy what is needed for those meals. I usually go with whatever meat is on sale. And we eat vegetarian half the time, so I buy a lot of bulk beans and use my Bean by Bean Cookbook. This also doesn’t include any canned goods. (3) This is just an average month. Some months my kids will get on a yogurt kick and we’ll go through more yogurts and less bananas. It happens. This is just an average month when they are spreading their likes around. (4) These are per month totals. And some are a combination of bulk and regular grocery store purchasing. (5) I also buy household items each month like toilet paper and paper towels, those things aren’t included. This is just food.

Bananas  –  4 dozen

Apples  –  6 lbs.

Gogurt  –  72 pouches

String Cheese  –  96

Mozarella Snack Cheese  –  36

Granola Bars  –  96

Popcorn  –  2 lbs. unpopped kernels

Lemons  –  3 lbs.

Onions  –  10 lbs.

Garlic  –  2 lbs.

Sweet Tea  –  45 gallons

Bread  –  12 loaves

Tortillas  –  88

Applesauce  –  48 pouches

Oatmeal  –  2 lbs.

Peanut Butter  –  80 oz.

Raisins  –  24 snack size boxes

Milk  – 8 gallons

Almond Milk  –  8 gallons

Eggs  –  4 dozen

Butter  –  8 lbs.

Sour Cream  –  4 lbs.

Cottage Cheese  –  3 lbs.

Heavy Cream  –  3 quarts

Shredded Mexican Cheese  –  3 lbs.

Pretzels  –  3.5 lbs.

 

**This post contains an affiliate link to support this grocery habit of ours. **

 

Birthday Cake

Today marks 8 days since my first, and only, C-section. Lots of emotions in that sentence. 8 years later, I’m still mad about the whole thing. I have come to have a gratefulness about the whole situation, it lead me to where I am today and brought new friends into my life I wouldn’t have met otherwise. It opened my eyes. But it was still painful. And it still sucked. And it is that bring glaring example of how messed up our system really is. Doctors making decisions based on malpractice insurance coverage rather than individual patient care. Not that my doctor wouldn’t have done the same even if her insurance had let her. She wasn’t skilled in breech birth. We both knew that. So, maybe she put the blame on her malpractice insurance company when the reality was that it was a skill she didn’t possess. And few do- because no one is teaching them- because no one is doing them- because of those insurance companies. I really wish I had never been cut. But I was and that is my reality. I have a scar. I was left without choices. Funny how that “woman’s right to choose” bit only applies to whether you will or will not continue a pregnancy.

aidan 6

P9150092

I let my kids pick their own cake each year. We don’t have birthday parties every year. But cake is a birthday necessity. I don’t care how much sugar, butter, lard, whatever is in there. On your birthday you get cake! Or pie. Whichever you’re into. So, I have one kid who wants grocery store cakes. Those super sugary, questionably decorated, cakes. Cookie cakes on occasion. The rest of my kids usually want mama made cake. Well, there was that one year one of them made me get a cake made with his picture on it of him as a zombie complete with frosting pumpkins- and his birthday is in July. You get looks at the store for that one. But usually, they want something homemade from mom. I am a decent baker. Terrible decorator, but decent baker.

aidan

Aidan and the cupcake

My new 8 year old poured over my cook books trying to find the perfect cake. He had plenty to choose from. I have quite the collection of cookbooks (I’ll post links below). Unlike his younger brother who simply requests banana cake every year, he is a little more adventurous. He wants a unique and fun cake each year. What does he choose? Grasshopper Cake.

mr. bean

IMGP0361

So, here I sit, thinking about this day 8 years ago when I briefly considered just getting lunch instead of heading to the L&D unit for my C-section. Sitting here thinking about how unprepared we were for that outcome. Thinking about my little baby born and having to wait 5 days to hold him. Remembering the panic and fear and pain that came along with his birth. Sitting here now while he runs around the neighborhood with friends while I bake some weird mint cake thing because he thinks it is cool. Laughing at the memory of him being born male parts first, after I was 100% convinced I was having a girl. My second baby. My first son. Eight. Time has healed most wounds with the help of God and friends. I don’t feel forsaken like I did on this day eight years ago. Today, I feel blessed.

Aidan Butt Face

P4180050

My Baking Cookbooks:

Baked (this is where the Grasshopper cake is from)

Sweet Chic

Bell’s Best

The Treat’s Truck Baking Book (this is where the favorite Banana Cake is from)

Milk & Cookies

Desserts in Jars

Splendid Spoonful

Perfect Bundt Cakes

kitchen ljI love baking. I have tried recipe after recipe in pan after pan. I find that some recipes aren’t quite large enough for a layer cake while other recipes could easily make a triple layer cake. I like making Bundt cakes. I like a cake that doesn’t require icing. And they are so easy to serve! Today, I am giving you my two favorite Bundt cake recipes.

Amazing Banana Cake

1 stick butter (I always, always use unsalted)

2 eggs

3 or 4 very ripe bananas

1 teaspoon rum, bourbon, or Southern Comfort (My favorite rum to cook with is Kraken.) (Just pick whichever liquor you have or want.)

3/4 cup white flour

3/4 cup wheat flour

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

Blend butter, bananas, and sugar. Add rum, bourbon, or Southern Comfort and eggs. Mix in all dry ingredients.

Spray your Bundt pan like a crazy woman. I wish I could tell you that there is some all natural, cheap alternative to cooking spray but I can’t. Just buy the spray. (Pam for Baking is my favorite. Baker’s Friend is my runner-up-if-it-is-on-sale choice.)

Pour batter in. Bake at 325. It is done when it smells done. What? You can’t smell a done cake? Okay. It is going to be about 30 minutes, use a toothpick to check if you need to.

(This recipe is also awesome in mini bundt pans and mini loaf pans.

chocolate cakeChocolate Cake

Now, this one is the most awesome chocolate cake ever. Be warned. If you’re wanting a layered cake, double this. If you’re wanting to do a bunch of cupcakes, double it. This recipe is just enough for a Bundt.

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

3/4 cup cocoa powder

2 cups sugar

1 cup grape seed oil (You could also use vegetable oil.)

1 cup hot coffee (No, this cake does not taste like coffee. Yes, it needs to be hot.)

1 cup milk

2 eggs

1 teaspoon rum (I use rum instead of vanilla extract. It is cheaper and has the same flavor. If you’re buying, Kraken or Tattoo by Captain Morgan are the best rums for baking.)

Blend in this order: flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cocoa powder, sugar, vegetable oil, coffee, milk, eggs, and rum.

Spray your pan like a crazy woman. (See above on banana cake about spray.) Pour batter into the pan. Bake at 325 until it smells done. Okay… about 30 minutes. Use a toothpick to check if you need to.

You can serve this hot out of the oven or cooled down. I prefer it cooled down.

Chocolate Ganache

It only sounds fancy, but it is unbelievable easy. Heat about half a cup of heavy cream in a small sauce pan. When it is hot (not boiling) stir in about 4 oz. of chocolate. (Chips or chopped bar.) When it is mixed. you’ve got ganache. Spoon it over your Bundt cake. The better your chocolate, the better your ganache.

Enjoy!

 

 

Garden Party

I only do parties for my kid’s odd numbered birthdays. It saves me from having to do 4 parties a year and it saves birthday parties from becoming a huge chore for everyone else. Even numbered years, the kids get a family outing of their choice on their birthday. (zoo, museum, botanical gardens, movie, etc.) They equally love even and odd birthdays. So this year, I only had one party to do. (Praise the Lord!) Imo decided she wanted a garden party. Not a tea party. But a digging in the dirt garden party. She asked her friends to bring plants for a “friendship garden” instead of getting her a gift. It did rain on and off, so we had to move the food indoors, but they were still able to do all their gardening activities.

GnomeFirst, we found a gnome. Gnome shopping was difficult for Imo. She liked them all. She finally decided on Bob. We had a photo shoot with Bob and used him to make our invitations. We made postcards. They are super simple and cheap. You just make a 4×5 image, then you create a postcard template, take both files to Staples and have them printed 4 per page with the image on one side and the postcard stuff on the other side of cardstock. Use their cutter to cut the paper into fourths. And ta-da! Postcards.

7 Party Mud Pie

 

Instead of cake, I made individual mud pies. I put them in 3″ terra cotta pots. (If you’re serving food in terra cotta, just make sure the terra cotta isn’t made in Mexico. I found these Germany made pots at Joann’s.) To make mud pies, you make chocolate cake (just make a sheet cake). Let it set in the cool over overnight to dry it out a bit. Cut the cake into 1″ cubes. Place the cake cubes in a bowl and pour some liquor over them. (You don’t want them soaked, just a little moist.) You can use kahlua, cointreau, irish cream, or whatever you think works with chocolate. If you want a non-liquor option, you can use espresso. I made 2 batches of cake to fill 24 terra cotta pots (and I did have some cake left over) and soaked that cake with about 1/2 cup of liquor- so it isn’t much at all. I then made chocolate mousse (2 batches) and chocolate fudge sauce (1 cup cream heated with 2 T butter and 2 T light corn syrup in a double boiler then melt in 16 oz. chopped bittersweet chocolate).

Once everything is made, it is assembly time. Plug the bottom of the terra cotta pots with a mini marshmallow. Then add a couple cubes of cake, mousse, cake, and fudge sauce (in that order) into the pots. Crumble some cake on the top and add a mint leaf to garnish. Stick the in the fridge until you’re ready to party.

7 party fruit

 

7 party table

 

7 Party mini gnome

 

7 party drinks

 

7 party candlesWe had the party in the morning, which is my usual choice of party time. (You can offer a much more limited food selection, which makes planning much easier.) In addition to the mud pies, we had a fruit tray and a veggie tray. We also had snow cones before the kids left. (My friend got me an awesome snow cone maker  as a gift since I’ve been craving snow cones and slushies like crazy. I just premade 24 cups of shaved ice, then added the syrup of the kids’ choice as they asked. The kids seemed to prefer the Jelly Belly syrups I picked up at Kroger and the adults preferred the Monin syrups. If you’re buying Monin syrup- try the Lavender. It is amazing! And the Cupcake is nice, as well.) We had sweet tea, lemonade, and bottles of water to drink.

7 party sign

 

Before the party, The Pastor prepare a garden space for the garden. He also made a sign for the garden. (Tip: when you are painting something small or grabbing paint for a craft- try getting a sample of wall paint from your home improvement store. They cost a little over $2 and you’ll have more than enough paint for your project. One sample of paint is enough to cover about 5 of these signs.) He used Sharpie instead of paint for the lettering, which bled a little in the rain.

7 party planting more

 

I picked up trowels at the Dollar Tree for the kids to use. I grabbed several watering cans, as well, but they ended up not needing those thanks to the rain coming and going.

7 party girl

 

7 party emery

 

7 party bend

 

The kids had fun planting a garden. And it actually turned out really nice, despite not having “planned” every plant. Each child brought the plant of their choice, so there is quite a variety, but the garden looks really nice.

7 party boys runningI made little gardening aprons for the kids as a party favor. (Tutorial to come.) So each kid had a little apron to wear and take home. Boys and girls all seemed to like them.

7 party little pots

 

After they ate their mud pies, we washed out the terra cotta pots. The kids went back outside and each planted some seeds in their pot to take home. (They planted lavender seeds, because I had a few unused packs lying around.)

7 party outfit

 

Apparently I have set a standard in Imo’s mind. She now feels she needs an outfit made by me to match her parties. I didn’t realize I did this, but apparently I do. That is how most of our traditions around here get started. I don’t realize I do the same thing over and over until the kids tell me I do it and that they expect me to continue. Since it was a gardening party, a dress wasn’t the most appropriate choice. So we made ruffle bermuda shorts and a gardening apron. (Tutorials to come.) I didn’t get a picture of the outfit clean, but you get the idea. 7 party addison and imo

We also grabbed some extra paint stirs at Lowe’s and the kids decorated them with their names to mark their plant in the garden so Imo would remember who gave which plant.

7 party birthday girlAnd now she’s 7!

 

 

 

 

Milk and Cookies- A Review

Hands down one of my new favorite cookbooks. I know you’re thinking, “Why do I need a whole book for cookies?” Well, this isn’t JUST cookies. You’ll find recipes for cookies, brownies, biscotti, and a few other baked goods. Now, the cookies themselves are AMAZING! Most of the cookies are built off a base dough (vanilla, chocolate, oatmeal, peanut butter) and then you further customize each cookie. Measurements are in standard measurement and also in weight, so whichever you like to use is there. You’ll find very basic cookies (chocolate chip- though they’ll blow your mind), fancy cookies, unusual cookies, and unexpected cookies. Believe me when I say this is a fabulous cookbook! I have made most of the items in the book and every single one has turned out perfectly every single time.