Monday, December 1, 2014

Siblings: The Ultimate Love/Hate Relationship

Mill River Redemption Book Club FL2W

Siblings are something else. There are really no good words to describe the relationship. For the first half of my childhood I had a brother, for the second half I also had a sister. The torture they put me through! We had our good times, but what really sticks out are those incidents when they tortured me. The worst was when they Duct taped me to a work out bench in the hot tub/work out room and then left me there. Totally not joking. They got in HUGE trouble though so it's all good. I'll admit that mostly they ignored me since I was the youngest. That could be just as bad though. When our parents would go out of town they would tell my brother and sister to stay home with me.  Did they? Nope. They shot out of there as fast as they could, leaving me all alone. Some teens would love that, but not me. I was one of those kids who were afraid of their own shadow. Not to count the fact that our house had at least one ghost.

Flash forward to MY kids as siblings. Oh man, sometimes it's unbearable for ME! I think part of the problem is that my oldest two kids are 100% opposite in nearly every possible way. The fact that Noelle (7 yo) feels the need to torture her brother (Adam, 10 yo) at every opportunity doesn't help. Adam has finally learned not to just put up with her and can really dish it out. Until recently my girls were actually getting along pretty well. They have quite a bit in common, despite the 5 year age gap. All of a sudden though they fight something awful! Lily (2 yo) is always fussing and screaming about Noelle playing with "her" toys. Now, they ARE toddler toys, but come on kid! She just can't seem to share at all right now. I'm actually curious what will happen when Liam, who is due December 10th, is old enough to play with toys. Lily is really sweet and shares great with other kids her age and younger right now so I'm hoping she keeps that up.  The times I try to remember are the ones when they are all playing LEGOs together or rough housing. I love that my kids have siblings to play with, even when they don't appreciate that themselves.

As adults my siblings and I get along great. I know that I can call on them and they will be there for me no matter what. Just last week we had a drain pipe come loose and spill all that nasty water down through the wall into the basement. I called my brother and he was at my house the next day to fix it. In return we mailed him cookies, a gift card, and a hand print turkey.  He didn't ask for any sort of payment even though he had to disrupt his paying work to come out of his way to help us. I hope my kids can grow into such an easy relationship as adults.  Some day they will need each other and hopefully want each other.

This post was inspired by the novel The Mill River Redemption by Darcie Chan, about two estranged sisters who are forced to work together in order to uncover the hidden inheritance by their mother. Join From Left to Write on December 2nd as we discuss The Mill River Redemption and enter to win a copy of the novel. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Nature vs Nurture

The Underground Girls of Kabul From Left toWrite Book Club

I grew up as a tom boy. It's hard to say if that is how I was hardwired or if "nurture" played a bigger role. I was raised by my Dad from the time I was an infant. The only other person in my house was my brother who is only 15 months older than I am. Activities consisted of camping, hunting, baseball, playing in the know, the typical "boy" stuff.  Even our next door neighbors were boys so that's who I hung out with. My Dad had a girlfriend when I was about 5 that would dress me in dresses and do my hair pretty. It didn't stick. By the time my Step-Mom came into our life I was in the 3rd grade I was completely uninterested in looking "girly". I loved my baby dolls and barbies, but I had zero interest in hair and make-up. I STILL have no interest in wearing make-up and feel downright tortured when I have to wear a dress or skirt. Wait, I don't even own a dress! I very reluctantly wore a dress on my wedding day. I would have been much happier in jeans and a t-shirt.  Even the fact that I'm having to wear yoga style pants through this pregnancy is bothering me. I just want my jeans!!

Now I have 2 little girls of my own. I have always dressed them like girls, preferring for a stranger to be able to look at them and say, "What a cute little girl" instead of "boy".  We have always had both "boy" and "girl" toys in the house since we have both genders. What is interesting to me is how vastly different my girls are in their likes/dislikes when it comes to gender stereotype things.

My 7 year old is definitely not a girly-girl.  She is also not a tom boy in the same ways I was/am. She would love to live in sweats, but enjoys wearing play in the mud and dirt.  LOL! She cares greatly for her baby dolls and wants to play baseball again next season.  She could care less if her hair gets brushed, but enjoys having her nails painted.  She's a quirky one, that's for sure.

My 2 year old is a completely different story. She is ALL girl!  Twirling, dancing, playing Mommy. She even has the hair flip move down already.  She hates jeans with a vengeance and would be perfectly happy in a dress every day.  She even loves princesses.  She's a hugger and very compassionate towards others. I'm still not sure what to do with this sweet little girl, but I sure am enjoying her.

I believe "nature" shaped each of these little girls into who they are today, even though I hold fast to my belief that I fall more in the "nurture" category. It just goes to show you that you never know what you're going to get until you get it.

This post was inspired by The Underground Girls of Kabul by journalist Jenny Nordberg, who discovers a secret Afghani practice where girls are dressed and raised as boys. Join From Left to Write on September 16th as we discuss The Underground Girls of Kabul. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Keeping The Sanity

Parenting is hard!  You know what's even harder?  Parenting through your own struggles.  In my case that is depression.  My journey through depression started about 6 years ago.  I wasn't diagnosed with a true "clinical" depression, rather I needed help keeping my cool due to parenting a very strong willed 18 month old.  Being on medication allowed me to parent without "losing it" constantly.  It helped me feel calm and controlled.  Parenting her only got harder as the years went on, but being on depression meds helped me to feel like I still had some control over my life.

After becoming pregnant with my 3rd child 3 years later I knew I would need to eventually wean from the medication before giving birth.  Although I was able to wean about a month before her birth it wasn't long after she was born that I was back on it.  This time I felt I was truly depressed.  I was having a hard time enjoying anything in life, aside from my new baby.  She was my sunshine and kept me going on the really hard days.  Maybe I was also dealing with postpartum depression?  Who knows.  I ended up on a higher dose than I had been on while pregnant.  I can truly say it was a life changer for me.  I began to enjoy my family again and I wanted to spend time with them.

Here I am today, pregnant with my 4th child.  Due to being on a much higher dose this time I began to wean down early on in my pregnancy.  I am 25 weeks now and on 1/3 my starting dose.  I actually went lower but had to admit to myself that it wasn't going well.  I feel comfortable on this dose.  I feel sane...most days.  Most importantly I feel I am enjoying my life and family, even if it's a struggle sometimes.

My strong willed girl is now 7 and recently diagnosed with Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD).  Her mood disorder is my undoing.  I honestly feel that without it in my daily life I could try to wean off my depression medication for good.  I have to be honest with myself though, for the sake of myself and my family, and admit that I CAN NOT parent her without that medication.  There are no words to explain parenting a child with ODD.  The only people in this word that can truly understand what my life is like are my husband and the other unfortunate families who are in the same position as us.

I have developed ways of coping when I become overwhelmed.  I'm fortunate to have a supportive husband who understands what it is like to parent in our home and allows me to use my coping strategies.  I frequently take Mommy breaks by either locking myself in my bedroom or leaving the house altogether.  I make sure the time I have without my children, whether they are sleeping or gone from the home, is not filled to brimming with chores and obligations.  I allow myself to relax and do nothing.  I don't let myself feel guilty for this because I know it's one of the ways I survive.  I also lose myself in books where I am transported to another world, one where I don't have to think of ODD and what tomorrow will be like.

Some day I really hope I can live my life without the help of medication.  Until that day I accept that this drug allows me to be the Wife, Mother, and Friend that my family deserves.

2AM at Cat's Pajamas FL2W Book Club Banner

This post was inspired by 2 A.M. At The Cat’s Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bertino, a novel about hope, love, and music in the snow covered streets of Philadelphia. Join From Left to Write on August 28 we discuss 2 A.M. At The Cat’s Pajamas. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Long Meadow Farm Tour - Feldpausch Family

Noelle, Lily, and I were lucky enough to go on a dairy farm tour today.  It was sponsored by LiveWell Colorado and Western Dairy Association.  We met at the WDA office in Thornton and rode a bus to the Long Meadow Farm run by the Feldpausch Family.  It was so much fun!  The Feldpausch family was really welcoming and friendly.

Riding on a charter bus!  Lily wasn't nearly as excited as I hoped/thought she would be.  She was such a stinker both going there and coming back.

Such an amazing view!  Very stinky though.  

Cows getting milked.  These particular cows are brand new to this farm and still getting used to their new environment.  The cows are milked robotically.  The machine cleans the udders, milks the cow, and then cleans again.

The milk is gathered and measured in the "basement" below where the milking is going on.

This vat/container holds fresh milk.  There was only a very small amount in it when we looked.

CALVES!!  The kids just loved the calves.  Most of them were afraid of us, but a few were very friendly and wanted the children's attention.  This one thoroughly slimed Noelle.

Lily found a friend.  She wasn't scared of them at all.

On the farm the calves are taken from Mom immediately. They never nurse from a cow, but instead are bottle fed for a short time until they can move on to feed and water.  Each calf has it's own little pen.  The majority of the male calves are sent from the farm early on and are usually used for ground beef.  Apparently dairy cows are not high quality meat.  My understanding is that they keep a few bulls around to "finish the job" when a sire brought in for that purpose fails.  LOL!

Me and my girls!  Also, the 20 week baby belly.

Lily tried to run right into this cow pen.  No fear from this kid.

The Feldpausch family was nice enough to allow us to eat lunch in the yard of their home.  LiveWell Colorado provided us with cold water, various flavors of milk, and an ice cream sundae bar!

Noelle LOVED her sundae!

Hanging out in the hammock with the Feldpausch girls!


One exhausted little girl!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Charlie and The Chocolate Factory

Charlie & Chocolate Factory From Left to Write Banner

Adam, Noelle and I just read Charlie and The Chocolate Factory for From Left to Write.  It was lots of fun to share the story with them and talk to them about the differences between the book and the Johnny Depp movie version (the only version they have ever seen).  

Back in May we toured Hammond's Candies with Noelle's Girl Scout Troop.  Reading the book reminded me that I never got around to blogging about it!  Adam, Noelle, and I had been before, but this was the first trip for Justin and Lily.  When you step inside the lobby it smells great.  First you get a colored sticker so you know when it is your turn.  Once they call your color you are led into a room to watch a video about Hammond's.  The video covers just about everything from when it was founded to how it is currently run.

Girl Scout Troop 4526 - As per usual for one of my children, 
Noelle is the only child's face you can't clearly see.

Don't Justin and Lily look excited?!  LOL!

After the video you get led back where all the action takes place.  You can see the workers going through every phase of candy making.  On this day they were making candy canes of various flavors and colors.

Noelle and Lily watching the action.

As you go down the hallway there are these placards that give a timeline of Hammond's Candies.

Watching the workers package and box up the candy!

At the end of the tour they let everyone have a sample, on this day it was a chocolate marshmallow candy.  It was a bit rich for me since I haven't been a fan of chocolate with this pregnancy, but the kids loved it.  After you get your sample you can browse the factory store and buy all the candy your heart desires!  They have a ton of very cheap stuff that is considered "seconds" since it is broken, close to expiring, or other such things.

Adam, Noelle, and Lily

Noelle, my 7 year old, says, "Reading Charlie and The Chocolate Factory made me want to live in a candy factory because then I would have all the sweets I want.  The book made me think of all the sweets, and new sweets, that would be made.  If I could run the candy factory then I would make a candy called "the water lemonade" and it would taste like lemonade with extra water and would be chewy."

Adam, my 10 year old, says, "Reading Charlie and The Chocolate Factory made me think about how some people don't have very good food and how I should eat my food instead of complaining about it.  Such as saying, "I don't like this!"  Also, that I should not disobey what adults say like the kids did with Willy Wonka's orders.  Otherwise I might be hurt or be in big trouble."  So far as liking the book he had this to say, "This was a very good book.  I wish I could read it again and again and again.  My favorite part was in the beginning when they introduce you to Charlie and his family.  They are very poor and it made me sad to think about it."

This post was inspired by the classic Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. To celebrate, Penguin Young Readers Group, in partnership with Dylan’s Candy Bar, the world-famous candy emporium, and First Book, a nonprofit social enterprise that provides books for children from low-income families, is launching a year-long international celebration.

Head over to From Left to Write to learn how you and your child can have a chance to win the Golden Ticket Sweepstakes where the grand prize is a magical trip to New York City plus much more! For every entry submitted, Penguin Young Readers Group will make a donation to First Book. Then, join From Left to Write on July 24 as we discuss Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. As a book club member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Say what?

Parenting is a crap-shoot.  You just don't know what will happen from day to day.  And the second you think you have it figured changes.  Something I can always count on though is laughter.  Whether I'm laughing at my kids, them at me, together, or at something one of us said I know it will be there on a daily basis.  Thank goodness for that, because parenting is hard work!

Here are just a few funnies I can remember:

Noelle telling my Dad, "Mind your own business Grandpa!"  
He had asked her to stop pestering her brother.

Said by me just last week, "Lily, stop rubbing your sandwich on your belly button."  
The kid is obsessed with her belly button, but that was taking it a little far.

A couple weekends ago we were attending a fairy gardening class.  The instructor was naming 
off berries and you were supposed to raise your hand if you liked them.  I didn't, even though I 
like raspberries.  Noelle turned to me with wide, piercing eyes and sternly says, 
"Moommmeee, raise your hand.  You like raspberries."  You would have thought I was 
embarrassing her.

I can't seem to think of any about Adam right now.  Usually his are because he says a wrong word or misunderstands what a word means.

What is the funniest thing you or your kids have said lately?

This post was inspired by the novel Dad Is Fat by comedian Jim Gaffigan who riffs on his adventures co-parenting 5 kids in a two bedroom Manhattan apartment. Join From Left to Write on April 22 as we discuss Dad Is Fat. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Reasons Lily is Crying

It has come to my attention that Lily is very serious about dessert.  Seriously, in going though my Instagram feed I came across these 3 pictures of Lily crying.  They are all over dessert and were all taken since November.

She ate all the creme from the middle of her Oreo and I wouldn't give her another one.

She finished all her ice cream and knows we won't give her seconds.

She REALLY wanted more ice cream...again.

This post was inspired by the novel Reasons My Kid Is Crying by Greg Pembroke who captures frustrating yet hilarious parenting moments through perfectly captioned photos of unhappy kids. Join From Left to Write on April 15 as we discuss Reasons My Kid Is Crying. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

*This book is awesomely hilarious.  Your entire family will enjoy it, including the kids.  I highly recommend you get a copy for your family to enjoy.*

Monday, April 7, 2014

...then comes baby in a baby carriage.

Justin and Charlotte sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G. First comes love, then comes marriagethen comes baby in a baby carriage!  Yup, that's how it went.  Except it wasn't THAT easy for us.  Adam, our first was an 18 month process.  We ended up at the Endocrinologist's office and had lots of tests done on us.  I was diagnosed with PCOS and put on Metformin to regulate my cycles.  3 months later we were pregnant with Adam!  That first pregnancy was a breeze!  I swear that had we not been actively trying I never would have known I was pregnant until I started showing, or he started moving around.  LOL!

Adam Ronnie was born in April 2004 at 8 1/2 pounds.

Getting pregnant the second time around was actually easy.  I don't even know how long since it wasn't a big deal.  I don't think I went back on Metformin, but I honestly don't recall.  This second pregnancy was awful for me.  I had a little nausea, but so long as I ate very, very frequently it wasn't too bad.  I was working FT Nanny hours (50+ hours a week) taking care of 2 two year old boys and an infant.  My body would hold up all day, but the minute I walked in the door at night I would practically collapse.  The worst though were the varicose veins.  Yeah, NOT in my legs.  No, No, No.  For the last 3 months of the pregnancy, or so, it seriously felt like I had just given birth, vaginally.  It was not fun.  The girl never moved up!  She stayed low the whole pregnancy.  Thank goodness her birth was completely uneventful and downright fast.  :)

Noelle Justin was born in January 2007 and was my tiniest at just 6 1/2 pounds.

When we finally got around to wanting a third child it was once again not easy.  Metformin wasn't helping this time.  We decided to try an actual fertility clinic, but ended up canceling the initial appointment.  I figured that we had two children and maybe that's all we needed.  It seemed like the money could be better spent elsewhere.  Well, wouldn't you know we ended up pregnant a few months later!  15 months after we had started trying.  Even though I was working FT throughout the pregnancy I wasn't working as many weekday hours and they weren't nearly as tiring.  I was only caring for 1 baby and he was super easy going and happy.  I was still tired from the pregnancy and taking care of my other two children though.  I can remember coming home from work many times and falling asleep on the couch while life went on around me.  Baby #3 had to be induced due to gestational diabetes.  Her labor was my hardest and the only one I asked for an epidural during.  I technically got that epidural, but she "dropped" when I sat up for it and then was born within minutes.  

Lillian (Lily) Fae was born in February 2012 at 7 1/2 pounds.

Adam, Lily, and Noelle - January 2014.

This post was inspired by the novel  The Opposite of Maybe by Maddie Dawson. At the age of 44, Rosie finds herself suddenly single and pregnant. She tries to hide in her grandmother’s home, but meets two men that will change her life forever. Join From Left to Write on April 8 as we discuss The Opposite of Maybe. 

As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

*I really enjoyed this book. It was a little slow to start, but once Rosie moves into her Grandmother's house the story really took off for me. It was an enjoyable book that was easy to read. I would LOVE to know your thoughts if you decide to pick it up!*

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Homemade No Bake Chewy Granola Bars


For about a month now I have been using this recipe to home make granola bars instead of spending a ton of money on prepackaged ones.  They are fairly easy to make and allow you to put whatever you like in them.  I found the recipe on Pinterest linked back to My Kitchen Escapades.  She has the recipe listed at the link so I won't bother writing it out here.  I also have it pinned under both "food" and "Pinterest Ideas I have used/done IRL".  The only thing I changed up is I use 1/2 agave and 1/2 honey.  The pure honey was WAY too sweet for us.  Only agave didn't hold the bars together very well.

I did take some pictures of the process though, just so you can see how easy it is.

The ingredients, minus the add ins.

First you combine the dry ingredients.  Oats, crispy rice cereal, coconut.

Melt butter, add honey, brown sugar, salt, and vanilla.  Boil.

Pour over dry ingredients and mix.

Add in your add-ins!  If using chocolate you want to let the mixture cool just a few minutes first.  Tonight I made a pan of mini semi-sweet morsels/chocolate covered raisins for the kids AND a pan of Almond Joy candies for J and I.  This pic is of the "Adult" ones.

Press into a 9x13 pan.  I spread it with my spatula and then use a piece of wax paper and my hands to really press it together.  You want it nice and packed so they don't fall apart when you cut them into bars.  Refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Loosen and dump on a cutting board.  This makes it a lot easier to cut evenly.  Just go slow.

We used a pizza cutter tonight to cut them.  We went with 3 rows of five and I think the size turned out perfect.

Baggie up in order to grab quickly when packing lunch/snacks for the day.

Let me know what you think if you try out this recipe!  And a HUGE thanks to Carole Jones for this amazing recipe!