We’ve been trying to keep things light and simple around here lately. Life and schedules can quickly get complicated. I am guilty of being seduced by exiting plans/activities that make our days as thick as the very best peanut butter. Like the very best peanut butter, which is delicious, if you eat too much, too rich. Days become so tight, we lose free flow time. When this happens, we all get restless. There has to be a balance, and right now, for us, that means picking our most important activities and keeping time for chilling as a family.
One way we’ve been keeping it simple is by choosing basic, open-ended activities, where there is no specific outcome, the activity unfolds as we go…a hike, a snowy hill, some dirt, paint etc. We like finger paint. We put out all the pots of color. The kids empty them with their fingers one by one, and smear the colors on paper, blending, scraping and filling the space.
The pots are empty now. We hope to mix up a batch of homemade finger paint.
Little J goes to Kindergarden full time this year, and we miss him terribly. We had him signed up for karate that met 2-3 times a week and swim lessons. This didn’t seem like much compared to my friends and their families, but it was too much for us. We sometimes, take care of other kids, I work 3 evenings a week and some Saturdays. We also try to fit in exercise, date nights and managing the house…laundry, cooking, cleaning. All this combined made us feel like we were in fast forward and increasingly estranged from one another. So, we dropped karate, I’m being careful to not over schedule us with extra kids and unfortunately, the blog has taken a hit. Stepping away from the computer during family time has been a great thing for us.
When I started blogging, I had 2 small children all day. They napped, I blogged. It was a creative outlet, a way to socialize, but now, I need to carve time out of my day to make it happen. I can’t always afford the time, especially when it involves keeping up with and learning a technology, managing its quirks. Sometimes, instead, I choose to run or take a yoga class or have a sit on the couch with my hubby, or joining my kids in their play without a camera or a bloggy agenda.
For now, my posts will be sporadic.
We’re still having lots of fun making messes and will share when it’s a good one.
Comment if you can relate.
Jena @ HappyLittleMesses
I lovingly pin, plan and prepare my family’s every meal and snack every day.
We have a rotation of easy, healthy, familiar favorites like black beans and rice and pesto.
Sometimes, I want to branch out and try something different, adventurous,
a meal Big K and I might like better than fruit salad, string cheese or sunflower butter and jam sandwiches.
I’m discouraged lately, to be hearing an increase in complaints and whining over every plate.
Raise your hand if you sometimes feel bummed about your culinary efforts going under-appreciated.
It’s a common problem for the cook of a growing family.
One day, I made a beautiful home made salsa with no hot spices and no chunks, per Little J’s tastes. I shopped for the ingredients, peeled and chopped with Little K, put everything in the food processor. I made a lovely display of salsa on a plate with everyone’s favorite tortilla chips for an after school snack. Little J took one taste and proclaimed it “Disgusting!” Oh, my heart was broken.
Looking for a way to make the situation better, I googled, “how to reduce the complaints at meal time.” I found this post by Sellabit Mum. We decided to create our own list of meal rules that would minimize the negative comments, help me around the kitchen, and hand over some accountability when it comes to food and family, without meal time becoming a battle every day. We shared these rules and agreed on them; the rules aren’t meant to be militant. I’d love to keep meal time playful and enjoyable.
1. Mama is not a restaurant cook. One meal is made for the family. If you choose not to eat your meal, there will not be another meal prepared for you. If you’re hungry, eat more of your meal next time. Mommy wouldn’t be a good parent if she allowed you to have more dessert than healthy food, so you must eat a good meal to have a dessert.
2. Sometimes, you’re not going to like it, but you must try everything.
3. Negative comments are not welcome, keep comments positive or you will be asked to leave the table.
4. You say thank you when you are served and when the meal is over.
5. You should ask to be excused to leave the table.
6. Clear your place when you’re done.
7. Be polite at the table: Use utensils when appropriate
Use a napkin to wipe messy fingers and mouth
Eat over your plate so food doesn’t end up in your lap or on the floor
Don’t spit food out if you don’t like it.
8. Food and drinks stay in the kitchen so we don’t have spills and plates and old food all over the house.
I have a great soundtrack when I run.
It’s like a cheerleader in my ears.
One of my favorite tracks is a slow song, go figure,
a song that might be normally considered a ballad, Holding out for a Hero by Ella Mae Bowen.
The song is from the (most recent) Footloose Soundtrack. But my inner feminist dedicates the song to me.
Sorry in advance if you are offended by my taste in music.
Take it to task…make a self love soundtrack to yourself with your own music.
Some of the best self love advice I’ve received is to dedicate a love song to yourself.
So here is a self love soundtrack, for all of you.
Gimme That Girl by Joe Nichols
Fix You by Coldplay
The Scientist by Coldplay
Girl on Fire by Alicia Keys
I Feel Pretty/Unpretty by the Glee Cast
The Way I am by Ingrid Michaelson
True Love by Pink
Holding Out for a Hero by Ella Mae Bowen
Turn Your Love by Jack Johnson
Look at Me by John Lennon
Firework by Katy Perry
Awake My Soul by Mumford and Sons
Wonder by Natalie Merchant
Unwritten by Natasha Bedingfield
Titanium by Madilyn Bailey
I’ve been working as a page at the library 3 evenings a week for about 4 months now.
I re-shelve books,
help patrons find what they need,
prep craft projects for story times
and some clerical chores.
On some nights, when I haven’t been in for a while. There are mountains of books to be put away. On those nights, I touch 100s of books.
In this way, I get to explore.
These are the Hanukkah books that are HappyLittleMesses approved.
Some are traditional tellings of the Hanukkah story.
Some are silly, more modern takes of families celebrating the holiday.
Hanukkah Oh Hanukkah is full finger plays, poems, instructions on how to play dreidel, and to dance the Hora.
Letter on the Wind by Sarah Marwil Lamstein
The Trees of the Dancing Goats by Patricia Polacco
The Runaway Latkes by Leslie Kimmelman
Confused Hanukkah by Jon Koons
Hanukkah Oh, Hanukkah: Songs and Games to Share
Inside-Out Grandma by Joan Rothenberg
I have 2 little friends that celebrate Jewish holidays at home.
They spend some time with my Christmas celebrating family during the week, and they’ve gotten caught up in the story and magic of our “Elf on the Shelf.”
They ask over and over again to tell the story.
For the holidays, I bought an “Elf on the Shelf,” and covered the red clothes with blue felt, by simply wrapping the new felt over the red and sewing it on.
I don’t have a tutorial and didn’t take pictures of the process, but I don’t have a high level of sewing skills.
I think any one could figure this one out if they’re interested in converting an elf.
Taking it one step further, my friend Paul, wrote up a little story to go along with the made over elf.
Every year round December
Something magical begins.
The nights grow longer
And leaves fly off with the winds
As the days get colder
And snow begins to blanket the park
Candles in windows begin to brighten the dark
Hanukkah is celebrated all over the world.
This is the time, I come to your home from mine in the north.
Where the skies are full of light, a lovely land.
I bring my light to you.
And to parents and elders, I lend a hand.
I count children’s good words, every thanks and Shalom.
I watch children’s good deeds (and make note when you’re bad)
And cheer when you are kind to your mom or your dad.
This season is for memories, and feelings to share
I’m around to remind you how much we all care.
Menorahs and candles, and stars made of blue and silver paper and felt
I can hear children excited for family time, good food, presents and gelt.
I’m excited for the season, and my chance to help.
But, I need your help first!
I have no name; it’s just the worst!
People call me “hey you” or sometimes “that guy”
Sometimes they wave, or just point and sigh.
Can you help me please? Any name would be fine–
Ottomer or Zed, Kizzy, Heese, or Kreine,
any name would be great
So long as it’s mine.
When you sleep in your bed, I’ll chat with your loved ones
And tell tales of your day
Your hugs and your smiles, your tantrums and trials
I’ll whisper your wishes of presents,
Your hopes and your fears
And together, we shall care for you, my dear.
I will watch every harrumph, and remember a shove
Though I tell those who watch you, I do it with love
Oh! One more thing!
You never know where I might be…
You may find me in strange places
I am stuck when you come around, you see.
When you wake, I am caught still
In the fridge, on a plant, or on a window sill.
I try to hide, which makes a fun game
Can you find me? Will I answer to my name?
I am a sensitive, magical sprite, so please do not touch.
You can talk to me though,
and you can come near
And whisper your wishes, close to my ear.
When Hannakah is done, home to land of light I must go,
I wish I could be here the rest of the year,
But this season is great, the best one for sharing
There’s no better time to display all your caring
At home and school,
With family and friends
I’m proud to watch your kindness
And when the season ends,
And I can rest without fear,
Because you’ll be wonderful
For the rest of the year.
I’ll be back next season, I can hardly wait!
But right now it is Hanukkah,
the moment to love and to celebrate!
Black beans are a staple in our home.
I am Cuban, I am made of the stuff, had it almost every night for dinner when I was a kid.
It’s oober healthy for the kids, and they mostly love it.
They go through phases when they say they don’t like it.
Here’s my recipe y’all:
1 can of black beans with liquid, my favorite is from Trader Joe’s. It’s low sodium.
My grandmother’s favorite is Goya, “Lista para comer.”
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 pepper, chopped
(I cut up a whole bunch of onions and peppers and store the extra in the freezer)
clove of garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 can of water
Small sauce pan on the stove at medium heat.
Add oil until heated.
Add onion, pepper and garlic
Saute until golden
Add cumin, tumeric, salt and saffron
Add can of black beans and 1/4 can of water.
Mix and heat until boiling.
Turn down the heat.
Simmer for 45 minutes with the cover on the pot.
Serve on top of rice.
In the winter, the MOMS Club contributes to two holiday tree events.
The Festival of (Giving) Trees is a four day family event, designed to be a holiday activity. Chosen organizations donate a artificial tree decorated with a theme. The MOMS Club was chosen to contribute a tree. Trees are raffled. The mission is to raise money to help the Silent Spring Institute, the Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition and the Cancer Center at Harrington Hospital to fight the battle against breast cancer and to help fund cancer research. Over the past fourteen years, the Festival of (Giving) Trees has raised and donated over $390,000 to these beneficiaries.
The theme we’ve chosen for this tree is yarn and color. We score Pinterest for simple, colorful yarn ornament ideas that families can do together.
wrap yarn around a wire shape
finger knit garland
The town’s Conservation Commission organizes a Winter Tree Scavenger Hunt. The object of the hunt is to find 8-10 decorated trees, take your photo with each tree and email all photos to the Conservation Commission between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.
The Scavenger Tree will be sticks and stones: Nature’s Best Toys Ever! Approved by the MOMS Club of Sturbridge.
We paint sticks,
color on hot stones,
and modge modge magazine bits onto stones too.
We set up a morning at the local basement of the Federated Church for MOMS and kids to play with yarn. We share project ideas on the MOMS Club Facebook page and set up goodie bags with supplies people can take home to work on the ornaments on their own time.
We will meet at the church to decorate the yarn and color tree.
We will meet in the woods to pick a tree and hang sticks and stones.
I woke up on the “poopy” side of the bed this morning. I was busy being mad at myself for not getting up early to fit in a run, busy preparing my tea, getting little bodies dressed and bathroomed and brushed, busy with the dishes, making breakfast, packing lunch, in the mood to worry and over-intellectualizing my behavior, my kids’ behavior and overwhelming myself entirely, all while still in my pjs.
What’s best for me in these overwhelming moments? to center myself, breath and “be in the moment.” Find joy, laugh at myself.
I tend to get tired of this phrase, “be in the moment,” because staying in a given moment can seem like so much work.
These are the instructions in my brain for being in the moment:
find a quiet place
close my eyes
sit up straight
quiet the mind
find my inner self
get distracted by thoughts
let them go
sit up straight
quiet the mind
swipe a piece of hair out of my face
think about what to have for dinner
remind myself to clear thoughts
sit up straight
Kind of sounds unpleasant and labor intensive, kind of like beating myself up…I’m trying not to do that.
Sometimes, I can find that quiet place.
Most of the time, the house if full of kids and I have a full sink of dishes and a washing machine full of clothes and I’m due to some other place in 5 minutes.
Every time I really think about what it means to be “in the moment,” I understand the concept a little better…maybe. The huge effort I think it takes to “be in the moment” is really the opposite.
It takes almost no effort.
In times of feeling overwhelmed, I tend to try to find a mood booster, usually just keeping myself really busy.
When I think of what really makes me happy, I come back to no adgenda time outside.
The outdoors provides for my family, a natural tranquilizer.
I forget that sometimes.
We forget, so we can remember.
So Little K and I go out to the playground / beach in town, with a bucket, shovel, dump truck. We fill the pail and tip it over to make sandy mountains. We collect pine needles and decorate the sandy mountains. We read some books in the sand. We spend 2 hours in the sun and fresh air, hearing each other. We gather sticks and decorate some more sandy mountains.
As we walk to the car to go home, we gather more sticks in our bucket. “Maybe, we can use these in our sandbox at home,” we say. Little K says, “what’s this?” holding up a small ball of wet dog poop. I freak out…”OMG! If you don’t know what it is, you don’t pick up! That is so gross! What are we going to do?” There is no bathroom, there are no wipes or napkins in the car. After he wipes the poo on his pants, ugh!, we wipe his hands and pants on the grass as best we can and put his mittens on until we can disinfect his poopy fingers with very warm water and lots and lots of soap.
So my day makes a full circle from poop to poop. But, I am in a much better place at the end, poop and all.
(And no wonder kids love potty talk, dude, we’re surrounded.)
Had me some Butternut Squash and Apple Soup at the local coffee shop one late afternoon and it was soooo good.
I had to make it at home.
So I find this recipe from Whole Living. Soup is a smart liquid-meal option that’s also less taxing on your digestive system. Fibrous squash makes this velvety, slightly sweet option satiating. Plus, research shows antioxidant-dense turmeric may boost the liver’s ability to remove chemicals.
I only alter it a little. I add my homemade chicken broth instead of using water and I don’t use cardamom, because I don’t have any in stock.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 inch fresh ginger, grated (2 tablespoons)
1/2 teaspoons turmeric
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon cardamom
Dash ground cloves
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 tart apple, peeled, quartered, and chopped
4 cups chopped butternut squash
Coarse salt and pepper
Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook until tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Add ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add carrots, apple, squash, and 3 cups water. Bring to a boil; cover partially and reduce to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper.
Cook until vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. Let cool slightly.
Working in batches, puree until smooth in a blender. Adjust seasoning, if necessary.
My kids didn’t buy into the deliciousness of this soup, but the grownups do.
I can’t help myself…
My kids won’t touch soup, but I love this book about a little boy that will only eat soup.
Alvie Eats Soup by Ross Collins.
This is the last IQI post, promise.
“You are fully equipped.” Aruna Nan says this to us as her last words.
This is my list of goals, as I step out of the yoga retreat, and I only remember these goals, cause I wrote them in my journal.
breath through big feelings, ride the wave
meditate, make a space and time for meditation
be a better listener, look in the eye, don’t interrupt with my opinion
green tea instead of coffee
designate a time for technology
meal affirmations, taste my food
make healthier food choices for family and myself
This is how these goals have panned out in real life.
1. I drink green tea in the morning, instead of the IV of coffee my body and mind was used to. I’ve had a couple cups of coffee since the retreat, 3 weeks ago, only to realize that it tastes too strong now, and it makes me feel a little out of control, energy wise. I have trouble falling asleep at night, even when the coffee is consumed before noon.
2. I am making an effort to breath through big feelings, where before, I actually hold my breath when I’m upset.
3. When I wake in the morning, I meditate or make my tea and sit quietly for about 10 minutes, instead of jumping right out of bed and onto the computer or into rushing about the morning routine of getting kids ready for school. I also try not to eat my breakfast over the sink or while on the computer. I sit at the dining room table and taste my food.
4. I try to minimize the drinking of wine and other adult beverages by saving it for the weekend and then, trying to have only 1 or 2 glasses.
5. Big K and I have tried the co-listening thing, but the intensity of staring and listening so intently scares him a little, so I try to look someone in the eye when they share a story and I don’t interrupt with my feelings and opinions.
6. The biggest change has been getting off a medication that I didn’t want to be on in the first place. This medication was supposed to help me have more control over big feelings, but instead the medication numbed my feelings. I’d like to own my feelings and not temper them because society says I’m not allowed to be mad or sad. I think watching and realizing and not judging myself is the way to go.
This off the yoga mat experience has not created perfection in me. I still check my phone obsessively at every red light and lull in life. I still sit at the computer when I’m avoiding household chores.
The IQI has inspired a subtle change in my life that I will carry with me and around me…watching, realizing without judgement, and in seeing myself where I am, I can create positive change if that’s the road I’m ready for.
…And if I say ride the wave to Big K one more time, he just might strangle me.