Girls Night Out

Friday, February 24, 2012

T-Minus 9 hours and counting...I will be gabbing with my girls, splitting appetizers, wearing dangling earrings and enjoying some much needed time OUT of the house. It's GIRLS NIGHT OUT! Finally! And I'm so thankful for my girl friendships.

I've been needing/wanting/planning this girls night for months. You know, as a [transplanted] Southern Californian, I can't nail anything down on the calendar without at least 5 weeks notice (sometimes, more like 5 months). It takes forever for multiple moms to coordinate childcare, free time, and car pooling. But, we did it! And tonight, my Bible Study gals and I are going out for dinner to chat at our leisure and finish an entire meal without interruption.

I think I've greatly underestimated my need for girl time. Maybe since I have daughters I feel like I have enough estrogen in the house to sustain a small (female) planet. But, let's face it, if I have something like 25,000 words to use up in the day (isn't this the famous notion about women and our need for talking) and 15,000 of those words are either "stop", "no", or "poop"...does that really count?
Sure, we have phone calls, we have facebook, we have email. But, nothing beats one on one friendship time where you can actually make eye contact and giggle over the silliest things that your children and husbands would just not understand. It's a beautiful thing.

Also, can I just say that I'm excited to even get ready for Girl's Night? Similar to date night, it's a rare opportunity for me to take an extra long shower, get to wear my hair down, and slip on the fashion-over-function shoes for a night. It's nice to know I'll be with my gals who equally look forward to this and our mutual appreciation of telling each other "how freaking cute" we all look. (We really do.)

This might sound petty. This might even seem a bit childish. A night of dress up, like my toddler getting to wear her tutu all day or something. Perhaps! But it is amazing how just a few hours out with friends, away from the home, can allow you to escape and come home to your husband and kids who need you. Just a few hours distance can help me miss them and give me the boost of motivation and appreciation I need to propel me for days, even weeks.

Friendships are important in life, certainly. In parenthood, they are vital. Girlfriends can be sheer life support when it comes to motherhood. I love my husband. He is my rock. He is my hero. And I love our date nights and evenings together. But, just as he needs to get out and have that round of golf with the guys, I need to have my girl time! These outings with our friends are nearly as essential to marriage as our time together. Surrounding yourself with healthy friendships - people who will love you, listen to you, be honest with you, and hug you just because they like you (and your cute shoes) are such a gift in life.

I'm so blessed to have friends far and wide who are this in my life. Girls who will call me out on stuff. Girls who won't let me put myself down. Girls who won't tempt me to put down my husband. Girls who know when I rant about my kids that I would still die for them. Girls who think of me when they see an ad for the next Romantic Comedy. Girls who love Jesus more than themselves. These are my kinda gals. And I'm so stoked to see a few of them tonight.

Thank you, friends! I couldn't make it without you.


Monday, February 20, 2012

"Be careful to not let the toddler touch your baby after she's born. Toddlers are basically giant walking germs."

This is what my pediatrician told me merely weeks before Daphne was born last summer. It stuck in my head - as I pictured my sweet little girl as a walking gremlin, hands out, ready to spread contagion like something out of a Mucinex commercial.

Up until then, Matilda had rarely been sick. She didn't go to daycare and since I was still working, I didn't have her involved in any outside play groups either. And she had only been in the nursery at church a handful of times (we decided for various reasons to just use the parent prayer room most of the time instead). So, her exposure to other kids was pretty limited. We have friends around and in our neighborhood, and everyone knows Matilda is highly social, but still, her lack of exposure must have kept her healthier at the time because she rarely got sick. So, while I knew she was still a disgusting-habit-prone little child, I wasn't too worried about her infecting the new baby with her infectious-germ-mittens.

Here we are, seven months later or so...two sick kids at home...again. Are you kidding me? How does this happen? Do I have a sign on my door just inviting new germs in? Give me your tired germs, your poor germs, your huddled masses of kleenex...

I'm thankful that as a SAHM I'm able to now participate in some weekday activities with my kids. Matilda is in nursery on Sundays now, in nursery on Wednesday while I attend a Bible Study, and then she has a Thursday morning class that we all go to...all of which bring her in contact with [insert dramatic music here] other children.

That's right, other children...or "the hosts" if you will. What do you mean? You think my child could have started it all? You think just because she picks her nose and then throws the sidewalk chalk at your kid that she is the culprit behind the sneezing and coughing epidemic? That just because she licked the fake chicken leg in the kitchen playset and then tried to feed it to your child that my sweet daughter is to blame? Certainly not.

Who's to blame is always a terrible mind game that other moms in the nursery love to play. I get it - I want to know too. Where did it start? Where did it come from? And how can I keep that kid in a plexiglass cage for the remainder of the semester? It's nothing but frustrating and everyone seems to know someone who knew someone else's kid was sick the week before. And it always leads back to the same answer: Who knows? These kids can pick it up anywhere. We're talking about little people who think it's totally appropriate to eat popcorn off the floor of a Target bathroom. These are not reasonable beings, people. They are adorable, but they are disgusting, let's be honest here.

Before you think all hope is lost, that we're all doomed to have snotty-nosed cough-machines for the next few years, there is something you can do. With all sincerity, I beg of you, if your kid is sick - keep them home. I know, it seems simple. It seems logical. It seems like the easiest resolve. It seems like it would maybe even be preferred by most parents anyway; afterall, it isn't always a walk in the park to go for a walk in the park.

But, let me tell you, after days at home and about a billion viewings of both Lady and the Tramp and Beauty and the Beast...cabin fever is setting in and the urge to roam is great. Staying at home with sick kids is hard work. Their little unreasonable selves take on "bonus" sick qualities like whininess, screaming inexplicably, needing you to carry them or sit with them or let them lay on you every minute, and the list goes on. They are pitiful. And, just when you think you are going to lose your mind, they start crying and snuggling you and you just feel sorry for them and remember that they simply don't feel well...and that it won't last forever.

Until next week. When you bring them back to nursery only to see another snotty-nosed kid ready to attack your healthy child with a whole new set of power-germs, and dooming your next three weeks with another round of quarantine.

At least that is how it seems to go. On and on and on. Honestly, most of the time I don't see too many other sick kids. And I'm certainly guilty of bringing my kid a time or two when I thought it was "teething" or simply "bad behavior" only to find out hours later she was running a fever and actually sick. I know it happens by accident all the time. But, for those of you who are just desperate to leave the house and feel trapped with your sick kid, I want to encourage you that you can do it - and it will be worth it for all of us in the end. Please - keep them home! They need to rest!

It's hard. Harder than the usual days which are already worlds harder than we ever imagined, am I right? I don't know why I ever thought that getting the laundry folded would be the hardest part of my day and neglected to think of the fact that just keeping two humans alive (well, three if you count me!) is difficult enough without even considering household chores. When your kid is sick, it is as if the world comes to a halt and you just cancel everything and lock yourself down until the storm passes. Your 24/7 job turns into a somehow even more demanding chain of events that blur in a passage of time between nose blowings and medicine dosages. It's gross. It's messy. It's temporary.

I have to remind myself that, while my girls are snotty and whiney and coughing up a hot mess...they are still, truly, healthy. We're home. We're fine. There are no hospitals or IV's or urgent scares that keep me up at night. Sure, I'm losing sleep while their up coughing and it is like flossing a tiger to get my toddler to down her amoxicillin. But, they are going to be totally fine. And a little perspective helps keep me sane as I stare like a zombie at Belle on the tv and actually start to seriously ponder whether she has Stockholm Syndrome or not.

Hang in there, mamas with sick kids. It's part of the nasty side of parenthood that you don't see on Huggies commercials. It's days like these that earn you the World's Best Mom mug that you've been drinking out of since 5am. It's times like this that make it more than okay to order pizza and make your child watch that Nate Berkus episode with you that you've been saving since September. Buckle down and rest. Send the husband out for redbox. Ask your friend to bring you frozen yogurt. Bring the outside in so you don't forget what Starbucks and daylight look like. But for now, make yourself another cup of coffee and snuggle with your sicko one more day. The laundry will wait. And so will your friends. You will see the sun again, I promise.

Now, go wash your hands...again. Please.


Thursday, February 16, 2012

Thankful Friday! And I'm smiling this week. Not because I'm still high on Valentine's Day chocolate (though, the wrappers are really accumulating in my trash can) or because it is going to be a three-day weekend with my husband home (yippee for President's Day!) No...I'm smiling because I went to the dentist this week and have NO cavities!

Now, let's get one thing straight. Anyone who truly knows me can tell you three simple facts about me right off the bat: I love God. I love my family. I HATE going to the dentist. Did I say hate? That's right. And I meant it. I hate going to the dentist.

Unfortunately, I don't have what you would call a "good track record" with going to the dentist. That isn't to say I don't go...I do!...but it never is cheap or easy or pain-free. Never. I always do the full brush/floss/rinse routine right before going - you know, we all do it. Even if you are religious about your dental hygiene, you still try your best to hide the fact that you skipped out on flossing that weekend your mom was in town, or that you totally didn't brush that night (or two) the baby was up crying all hours. Somehow we all think that a good "twice-over" with the Sonicare will completely fool the tiny mirror the dentist uses to scope out our little imperfections. Nope, never. We still go, get the "try to floss more often" slap on the wrist, and keep our fingers crossed that the worst is over.

I've been to several dentists over the years. I even went to one that guaranteed "no pressure or guilt" in the fact that I don't want to be told again and again that I must take better care of my teeth. They even served chocolate and wine (I kid you not) in the lobby. I think they were really just trying to conjure up more business if you ask me, but still, it was simply genius in a mad-scientist-with-a-nice-fireplace-in-the-foyer sort of way. Ah yes, that was back in the "elite dental insurance days"...memories.

Just a snip-it of my dental history: I've had cavities, endured root canals, chipped a tooth, and even had an extraction. And, I could pretty much go down in the Guinness Book of World Records (not that I'm trying) for the most wisdom teeth: 6 in total, all surgically removed. [Insert joke about having extra wisdom removed here.]

Yes, my poor chompers have been through the ringer. Until this week! I can't even remember the last time I went to the dentist and didn't get bad news. Maybe second grade? So this is a big deal for me. I'm pretty sure everyone in the waiting room could hear me yell "Really???" when the dentist congratulated me on having no cavities.

I am thankful for my teeth. It might be silly. But, truly, it's just another one of those things on the long list of items we all daily take for granted (i.e. socks, fingernails, toilet paper, the freakish fact that our skin just heals all by itself...). My teeth seriously effect my everyday life. I talk. I eat. I chew. I smile. Thanks, teeth. Way to go, God. Tiny squares of bone, right in the front of our faces - helping us convey feelings and emotions, verbal and non-verbal, and helping us nourish ourselves with each delicious bite. Pretty remarkable.

I have totally taken my teeth for granted. In fact, they've been a source of discontent for me. I endured the retainer/braces regimen throughout junior high, and yet, still have a distinct overbite that is all but signature with my smile. Yep, I know it's there. I know my front teeth buck out a bit. I know my bottom teeth are a little crooksy. I know, and I don't always like it. That's honest and fair. But, I also know that these teeth and I have been together a long time and hopefully will be for years to come.

Yes, this might be one of those sigh-and-roll-your-eyes posts that you think "Well, duh, we all have teeth, that's nice." But, seriously this moment to pause and actually think about it has made me want to care for them more. To stop and invest the time to floss a little extra or brush a little longer. I'm not just ensuring my no-cavity streak continues, but I'm also just wanting stop and appreciate God's handiwork. Teeth! Who knew!? And maybe the next time you take a bite of your favorite dessert, or sing your favorite song, or even just brush your teeth be grateful for those pearly whites.

Romance Redefined

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day!

Ah, the day of red and pink. Chocolates. Roses. Candlelight dinners. Walks on the beach. Cupid. The day when we think of those we love. The day we secretly hope our significant other dotes on us and secretly outdoes our neighbor's significant other so we can feel like we belong in a Hallmark commercial or a Kay Jewelers commercial for just a moment. The day we awkwardly hug our single friends and then ask them if they can babysit for us if they aren't busy. The day we can make our husbands watch Sleepless in Seattle one more time without too much groaning.

The day of love and lovers.

Truth be told, I love Valentine's Day. It's corny, it's cliche, it's commercialized...I know. But, there is still something lovely and simplistic about an entire day devoted to stopping and thinking of someone else and making sure you've let them know how special they are to you. And, while it is nice to tell your mom, your brother, or your neighbor down the street "Happy Valentine's Day"...let's face, today is really about focusing on your spouse or significant other. In a word, (like it or not) today is about ROMANCE.

Main Entry: 1ro·mance
Pronunciation: romacr-primarystressman(t)s, primarystressromacr-secondarystressman(t)s
Function: noun
1 a : an old tale of knights and noble ladies b : an adventure story c : a love story
3 : an attraction or appeal to one's feelings

The definition of romance has certainly changed for me over the years. I will never forget Valentine's Day in grade school. We would spend hours throughout the week leading up to February 14th constructing our little Valentine boxes that we would place on our desks. White, pink and red construction paper, markers, colored pencils, glue sticks and glitter would scatter across the classroom as each of us put together a little mailbox of sorts that would be ready for the big day.

Then, on Valentine's Day, we'd fill ourselves with conversation hearts, play some kind of "Valentine Bingo" or another silly game, and pass out our Valentine's! You remember - most were the little cardstock kind with your favorite cartoon character, with perforated edges and a little place to sign your name. The rich kids had ones that came with suckers, maybe even a roll of Smarties candy.

Well, my first taste of romance was in second grade. Our mailboxes had been stuffed full, and it came time to finally open our valentines. One by one, we would sort through them, just waiting to see if "so-n-so" had sent one to this person or that. (Oh yes, the romantic drama flowed deeply, even in second grade!) And, then there it was. A little paper valentine. It wasn't anything special, particularly. I remember it was a little rectangle with a picture of a humming bird. It had a joke on it (well, if you call it a joke in the loosest sense of the word, I suppose). It said "Why do humming birds hum?" and then you flipped it over and it gave the punchline "Because they don't know the words!" (Yeah, see, not very hilarious). But there...and the was signed To: Emily From: Your Secret Admirer

I had a Secret Admirer? I never did quite get down to the bottom of who that was from. Which is really saying something about my lack of investigative skills at the time since there were only about 8 boys in my class at the time. Nevertheless, that day there was a new sensation in my heart. A new lump in my throat. A new butterfly in my belly. That day, I felt pure romance for the first time. Somebody liked me!

Obviously, this hummingbird fellow and I never panned out. But, whoever it was, I am eternally thankful for instilling in me the notion that I was worth flirting with. So, Mr. Hummingbird Boy, wherever you are - your humor could use a little tweaking, but thanks for the boost of confidence!

Through the years, I've seen romance come to me in roses, chocolates, teddy bears - all the traditional forms. My husband is a hopeful romantic, certainly, and has showered me with lovely gifts in the past. He has wooed me. He has made me swoon. He has swept me off my feet in more ways than Hallmark knows what to do with. But, as the years go on and the babies have been born, it is getting more and more difficult to come up with ways for us to celebrate February 14th.

Don't get me wrong. A girl loves flowers, candy, and all that jazz. It's all good. I am still a fan of Valentine's Day and happy that we can step out of our normal routine to make sure we spoil our spouse. But, if I wait for my husband to only spoil me on Valentine's Day, then I'm probably going to be disappointed a lot the rest of the year. And yet, he shouldn't necessarily be giving me heart shaped boxes of chocolates in the middle of May...or teddy bears for no reason in July. No, no...what I'm suggesting here is that instead of waiting for romance to find me...I'm going looking for it instead.

Romance is whatever we call it. We're all familiar with the term "Love language" by now - how we each have our personal way of communicating and receiving love. For one person, a walk on the beach is romantic. For another, playing Scrabble. And for someone else, simply getting a text just to know you are being thought of. So - why don't we search out more of this in our daily life? Find it. Call it romance. And live much more happily than ever after.

These are the times in my life when I don't want a box of chocolates. I want a nap. Can you put that in heart shaped box? I don't need a dozen roses. I need my husband to wink at me and check me out when I fit into my "skinny" jeans. I don't need a teddy bear with a ribbon around the neck. I need the diaper trash taken out. This is my romance. This is daily, beautiful, true and absolute L-O-V-E.

Society and media (you know, the two main enemies housewives love to hate and blame all worries on) want us wives to believe that we deserve a lot and our husbands don't understand us. We see a jewelry commercial showing us a happy couple - how if "he really loves you" he will definitely have to buy you this enormous diamond. Then we see a fiber commercial and are reminded how absurdly stupid men are - "trick him into eating this candy bar - it's really a fiber cereal bar, but he'll never know it!?" And then we wonder why we get so upset that our stupid husbands aren't smart enough to read our minds and buy us things we don't even really want? (This may sound extreme, but if you think about it, there are whole reality shows based on this premise!)

Pshaw with that. No. I'm determined to find my husband might just not be spelled out in rose petals.

Romance needs to be redefined for each of us. Probably every year...maybe even more often than that! With each phase of our life together, I don't want things like Valentine's Day commercials to dictate how sexy my marriage may or may not be. Sure, my husband isn't bringing me home flowers each week...but, he does slip into dish gloves and scrubs up a messy sink multiple times a week (talk about sexy!) He gets the baby her pacifier at 4am. He cleans up poop without gagging. He fixes me really strong coffee. He sings Jesus Loves Me about 18 times until Matilda falls asleep. He scoops the kitty litter without being asked. And....he doesn't wait until February 14th to do any of these things.

Hallmark might not make a card for it yet, but I'm still the luckiest gal in the and every day. Look for the romance and you will find it. It just might not be the definition you are used to.

It just might be better.

The Guilt

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Guilt. That nagging feeling in your gut that is as familiar to motherhood as, say, sleepless nights, make-up free days, and that permanent spot of spit-up on your shoulder that just won't seem to go away. Guilt. This was one feeling that I didn't anticipate when I became a mother. Sure, you hear about it. We can all tell stories of when our own mother laid it on thick as gravy and convinced each one of us to do something we'd rather not (There are children starving in Africa and you aren't going to eat your broccoli?).

I first experienced it, truly, when I went back to work and left Matilda at home. Whew. That was a humdinger of guilt, let me tell you. And then, since I was already missing out on so much during the week, I would feel even more guilty if we scheduled a date night. How can I leave now that I just got back? I felt torn between my duties as a wife and mother - though I fully love both - seeing needs on both ends of a giant rope, ready to be yanked in an emotional game of tug-of-war. Either way, I was going to lose. But, either way I was also going to win too, right? I kept my sights on the bigger picture. The greater good. A healthy marriage and a happy child. So, what was all this "feeling bad" business about?

Why did going out with my husband suddenly make me feel like a teenage girl late for curfew, having to justify all my whereabouts and only wanting validation that my decision had been worthwhile? I know, it sounds ridiculous. It is ridiculous. And yet, the cycle continues.

This weekend, my hubby and I have some major plans. We've been graciously gifted a huge opportunity with friends to go hot air ballooning and on a wine tasting tour via limo. Insane! It's probably the biggest adventure (sans children) that we've taken since our honeymoon. We'll be getting up at 4 in the morning (it's a sunrise hot air balloon ride!) and be gone - away from the children - until about 8 or 9 that night. All. Day. This is big for me, people! My mom is flying in this week, so it is perfectly timed for her to be able to spend all day with the girls - and overwhelmingly blessing us with the babysitting! Some other friends are chipping in too, stopping by to make sure my mom is surviving the wiles of the crazy Matilda, and any other unpredictabilities that may occur. All that to say - a lot of coordinating has gone into this weekend to ensure that I have every reason to be fully and entirely guilt-free. (Okay, maybe that wasn't the motivating factor, but it is a bonus.)

But, am I guilt-free? No, not entirely. I'll be honest. This is a toughie for me. It is super easy for me to tell my other girl friends "You guys deserve a break! Totally drop your kid off. I'll watch him/her no problem. I'm responsible! I cook! I know child and infant CPR!" and yet, here I am clutching to my routine like it was the Bible. It is not. It is not the only way. It is not the way or the truth or the life. And it certainly does not set me free. My routine and my being here for these girls every day is a blessing (and an enormous luxury) but it will not hurt them one bit to stray from our normal every day routine and let someone else take the reigns for an hour or two (or twelve). In fact, it may even be good (gasp) for them!

I know this in my head. I know that whenever I go on a date night with Josh, that my girls are in the utmost of care. Our friends are gracious and kind and generous and unfathomably patient with our children. I know that I need to dress up. To get out of the house. To make eye contact with the love of my life and not be thinking the back of my head whether the vaporizer in the nursery had enough water in it or not. I know that the foundation of a healthy family begins with a loving marriage, the constant reconnection of a husband and wife who sincerely want to be around each other. Then why does my heart weigh with guilt at the thought of leaving the house? Why does it feel like such a burden to place the care of my girls on the shoulders of another?

There's one other thing I know for sure. This feeling is not of Jesus. This is all me. Can you imagine if Jesus felt this kind of guilt with each of His followers? He would have been paralyzed with anxiety (which really would have put a damper on the whole "healing" thing). But even Jesus had time away from His disciples to pray and refresh Himself. And, maybe the disciples weren't nursing every few hours and asking to read another Berenstain Bear book...but, let's be real...those guys were rather needy. They depended on Jesus and I'd imagine they (along with many others) were constantly begging and pleading with Him for attention here or there. (Obviously the ministry of Jesus was infinitely greater than my taking care of two little girls...but, I think you see the point.) This guilt is false. This guilt is all-Emily. This guilt is, whether I want to admit it or not, totally my lack of faith that I can't control every situation all the time (which is a total illusion anyway). This guilt has got to go.

I know I'm not alone (please! Fellow mothers! Validate me!) I want to (so badly) slip on a pair of heels like it is second nature, vacuum in pearls like it's no big deal, and breastfeed while applying mascara as if I do it every day. I'm the American woman, therefore, I want it all and I want to look like a million bucks while I do it...with ease. I want all my friends to look at me and think I must feed my children healthy, homemade meals on time every day, get them to lay down for naps by reading Bible stories, and that I iron my husband's work shirts days before he might actually need them.

Um...none of that is true. Why would it be? I don't live in the 1950s or in a pancake syrup commercial. I live in the flipping real world - where I blog in the fifteen minutes my daughter will either nap or watch a borderline educational/entertaining tv show and my baby finally crashed on the bed and is surrounded by pillows so as to hopefully prevent her rolling off, and I have yet to put on deodorant for the day or do the dishes from last night's dinner. It's not that I haven't been productive - I can name about a thousand other things I've done this morning. But, the only one that really matters is that I've kept two little girls alive and I'm still sane. Congratulations, me. Job well done.

We don't need to earn a night out. We don't need to wait until we deserve it. We don't mother and mother and mother all day/night long so that we can justify going out for a cup of coffee with our husbands. STOP that mentality. You don't have to tell your husband every day how freaking hard it is to put up with the whining and the screaming and the crying and that's why you feel you're entitled to the privilege of a shower and an errand run alone to the grocery store. He knows you have it rough. He knows you have the harder job. (And, if he doesn't, he will know it very quickly when you leave the children with him for a couple hours!) The point being...parenthood is not a system of exchanges. You don't get gold stars or medals for suffering one day and needing a break the next.

Stop justifying the date night and start incorporating it.

Time off should be part of the package deal. Part of the "routine". Maybe we don't sign a contract when we have babies, but you'd never let your husband take a job that didn't offer vacation time or weekends off or at least some form of time-off compensation. This isn't "extra". This isn't a favor from the boss. This is just what you are entitled (an overused term that now has a bad rap)...a healthy, consistent, not-abused, opportunity to keep yourself balanced. It's necessary.

Taking these breaks are going to be a new part of my routine. Trusting others. Depending on friends. Finally taking my husband up on that offer to go out by myself once in a while. And making sure my husband knows that he comes first. I constantly need to be reminded how important this is. It is a fine balance for me to find peace between selfishness and restoration. And, this weekend, when I'm up in that hot air balloon, I'm determined to fully enjoy myself and let go of any remaining false guilt, justifications, or other unnecessary anxiety trying to steal my peace.

Goodbye guilt. Up, up, and away.

Eat Your Heart Out

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Thankful Friday is here! As January came to a close this week, so did something else. I completed a "challenge" I set out for our family. A challenge that I've kept relatively silent about because, frankly, I was genuinely unsure if I could complete it...and, well, I didn't want to fail with an audience. But, I'm proud to now report that I absolutely went the entire month of January without eating out or ordering in ONCE...not even a cup of coffee! So, this week, I am really thankful that my mom taught me how to cook!

Remember when eating out was a treat? Well, it was for our family at least! Maybe it wouldn't have been that way today, but when I was growing up on the farm, eating out was simply not an option in our daily life. We lived 9 miles from the closest gallon of milk, let alone a restaurant. And there wasn't even a McDonald's in the town 17 miles away from us until I was in high school. Nope, for the most part, if it wasn't in our pantry or growing out back, well you were out of luck, my friend. There was no temptation of a drive-thru simply because you hadn't planned ahead what would be for supper that night. Sure, there might be the occasional casserole-ala-experiment for
dinner...but, for the most part, my mom cooked up a mighty fine spread each and every night. And each and every night, all of us got around the table and ate together as a family. It wasn't unusual. It wasn't a rarity. I'm sure it wasn't effortless, but it never seemed like my parents had to stop and force themselves to make sure this was something that got on the calendar. It was part of our life: Supper's on. Come and get it.

This is something I've always desired for my own family. Dinner time. Togetherness. Meals shared, leading to conversations that vary in color as much as the vegetables. I'll admit I'm not the best at it. As a self-admitted TV-a-holic, it is often easier and more entertaining to prop up the tray tables, hand out the paper plates, and all face in one direction while we stuff ourselves in the much-welcomed moment of self-indulgence. No focus. No thought. Just pure, tasty entertainment fed straight to my brain with a side of extra mashed potatoes into my mouth. Maybe it's not Norman Rockwell, but if we were all being honest here, it's what the modern American family looks like today.

As a resurgence of simplicity and nostalgia seems to be sweeping the next generation of young families, I, too, have found a longing to put down the iPhone, pick up a recipe book, and get my hands dirty with some real, old fashioned, unprocessed life. So, I'm starting with small things. Like yeast. Did you know that to make your own French bread is just flour and yeast and a little salt? Did you know you can actually make your own English muffins? And they are delicious! And did you know that most food from scratch is cheaper and tastes better than the store-bought-found-in-a-pretty-able-to-microwave-box? It's true!

Not going out to eat for an entire 31 days was not easy. I had to plan ahead. I had to plan ahead everything. I had to make sure the pantry was stocked with some good staples. And I had to know how to use those staples and to make a meal out of just about anything that was there - or be willing to go to the store to get it (which, with two kids in tow, is basically not worth it for last minute needs). I got to be inventive. I got to be experimental. I got to make some unpalatable failures and some scrumptious successes. It took less money and more time. It was messy and there was a lot of dishes. And it was a lot of fun.

Not to mention, there was an added bonus of unexpectedly losing 4 lbs while eating at home?! It's true! And, sure, I didn't sit around eating Fritos and BonBons...but, I did eat homemade cookie dough, and chocolate croissants, and about an entire loaf of French bread in one sitting. Sure, I am nursing and chasing a toddler around (I don't call Matilda my personal trainer for nothing). But, I can't stress to you how much I was not even trying to lose any weight, literally eating whatever I wanted, and the only change I made to my lifestyle was not eating out at all. So, take that for what it's worth - but, I honestly feel like it has a lot to do with taking a step back from overprocessed junk and embracing some hearty whole foods (like my friend, stick-of-butter!)

Will this stick? Am I giving up restaurants for good? Certainly NOT! My goodness, I'm far too much a lover of food to not enjoy the fruits of another chef. I love going out to eat. I love the experience of sharing food and time with others. I love the gamble of trying something I would never have the confidence to dare cooking at home. I love the convenience of not cleaning up after the meal. And sometimes we are just thankful for that Chic-Fil-A on the corner that will hand me my giant Diet Coke and waffle fries without judgment that I'm splitting them with my 2 year old in the back seat. I am by no means swearing off the joys of dining out.

But, thanks to my mom, I'm not forced to dine out. It can be the exception. My mom, who couldn't cook a hot dog before she married my dad (true story), taught herself the ins and outs of many-a-recipe book...and passed it on to me. She took the time. She let me messily stir the muffin batter. She let me burn the meat loaf. She ate my concoctions. She smiled and asked for seconds when even the dog wouldn't lick the bowl. And today...I'm a pretty awesome cook (thank you very much) and Matilda is a total terror to my kitchen...and it's wonderful.

Maybe I'm no Barefoot Contessa (but, I'm watching you, Ina Garten). I find great joy that learning to cook is an inexhaustible art. I think it is one of the most invaluable skills you can learn. It literally pays for itself in multiple ways: in the joy it brings to the the the time it promotes being with the ones you love, either in the kitchen or around the table. And those are things you just can't order off a menu.
Proudly designed by | mlekoshiPlayground |