Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Why I love being a working mom

I don't want to offend anyone, but this has been on my mind lately. I keep wondering if there are other moms out there who feel the same way I do. I love my kids. I love being a mom. But I am not the best baby/toddler mom. Before I got married, before I even graduated from college, I knew I wanted to stay home with my kids when they were little, but I also knew that I wanted to work or do something other then just being a mom. I hope that phrase isn't offensive. "Just being a mom." I have heard women say that before when they introduce themselves: "I'm just a mom." And I know that is the most important thing I can do and will ever do, but I wanted to be able to do more because I knew that one day my kids would all be at school and I would be left home alone. I always had a plan that once my kids were in school all day I would substitute teach. And now I do. And I love it. And I noticed something when I started working again. I was happy. I felt smart and like I was contributing to my community. I like eating lunch in the teachers' lounge and having other grown ups to talk to. I got all giddy and excited when I got my first paycheck in the mail. I felt like I was doing something good for myself and my family. I have always known that I am not the best baby/toddler/little-kid-under-the-age-of-4-Mom. The older my kids get, the more I like being a mom. I didn't NOT like being home with my kids when they were little, but it's not something I would want to go back and do again. It was not my favorite stage in life. I knew I wanted kids and I knew I wanted to be a mom, but I also knew that my personality and my talents were better for older kids. And now that my kids are older and now that I can work because they are all in school I am a happier person and a happier mom. I am a better mom because I get to work. I get to do something for me and not just do for everyone else. I get to go out and be with lots of other people for the day and not just be confined to my little house. I know there are lots of women out there who love having babies and little ones home with them. That is awesome for them. That is so great that they love that stage of motherhood. But I didn't necessarily love it. There were definitely great moments during those stages of my kids' lives. I have very fond memories of my kids when they were little and I did enjoy them when they were babies and toddlers. But I am so glad for new stages and new opportunities. Yes, I made the choice to be a stay-home mom and I am grateful I was able to do that. I think it was important. But I am also grateful that I now have the opportunity to work. I look at my friends who worked while their kids were young (and the ones who are doing it now) and I applaud them. They are awesome. They do an amazing job balancing everything and they are amazing mothers. And my friends who don't want to work and who love being homemakers - you're awesome too! I sometimes wish I could be more like that. I love how we're all different, how we all mother in different ways and have different strengths when it comes to raising our kids. No one is right and no one is wrong. We all do what is best for us and our families. And on the days I get to work and see my kids in the halls at school (or better yet, be their teacher for the day) I feel so lucky. I feel like I have the best of both worlds.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Oatmeal Wheat Pancakes

We are a cereal family. I have about a hundred boxes of cereal in the pantry and we will eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. But sometimes I get tired of cereal and I want a real breakfast. Saturdays are usually the time I make something for breakfast and today I wanted to try a new pancake recipe. Dave and I have been trying to eat healthier so I found 2 recipes in my Cooking Light Cookbook and combined them to make this recipe for Oatmeal Wheat Pancakes:
1 1/4 cups milk
1/4 cup vanilla yogurt
1/2 cup quick-cooking oats
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 egg
1 1/4 cups White Wheat Flour (yes, this is whole wheat flour - just made from white wheat and not red wheat)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

In a medium bowl whisk together the milk and yogurt. Add the oats and stir. let sit for 10 minutes. Add the oil and egg and whisk until combined. Add the remaining ingredients and stir until combined. It should be a thick batter, but if it's too thick add a little milk. Cook like regular pancakes.
Trevor wanted chocolate chips in his - the rest of the family had already eaten so no one else got to try them. The verdict: Trevor said, "These are healthy? They taste so good!" I loved them. They came out really thick and hearty. The serving size is 2 pancakes (I usually eat 3 or 4) but 2 was just enough. And they keep you full all morning long. This made enough batter for 10 pancakes so I froze the extras to have for busy mornings when I don't want cereal. Try em! You'll like em!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Garlic Cheese Bread

I needed something the other night to go along with my spaghetti and meatballs. I had a really good bread stick recipe from Pinterest that I have used before so I thought about making those. Then I saw a recipe on Facebook that looked so good. So I combined the two and come up with this:

Here is the recipe:
For the dough-
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water
1 1/4 teaspoons yeast
2 Tablespoons sugar
3 - 3 1/4 cups flour
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
3 Tablespoons vegetable oil

In a standing mixer mix water, yeast and sugar and let stand 5-10 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and mix until dough forms a ball and no longer sticks to the side of the bowl. Dough should be soft and slightly sticky. Transfer dough to a greased bowl, cover and let rise about an hour.
After rising, punch dough. Make small rolls with the dough. Dip the rolls in the following mixture:
1 stick melted butter
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1-2 teaspoons dried parsley or chopped fresh parsley

After dipping the rolls into the butter (make sure they get completely coated), roll in grated Parmesan cheese. Place rolls in greased baking dish  (my rolls were all squished together to make pull-apart rolls) and drizzle any remaining butter. Because we all know butter makes everything better. You can even add more cheese on top if you like. Cover and let rise about an hour. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes.

These got two thumbs up from everyone. We loved them! Dave and Trevor were super impressed when I brought them to the table. "You made those? From scratch?" Why yes, yes I did.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Freezer Meals

Last week my friend came over so we could make some freezer meals. I don't do a ton of complete freezer meals, but I do a few things that help make dinner faster and easier. When my friend was here we made meatballs, cooked ground beef, shredded chicken and a freezer meal from THIS website. I gave my friend a list of dinners with recipes she could make easily by using her cooked ground beef, shredded chicken or the meatballs. When you cook meat and then freeze it, you save a ton of time when it comes to making dinner. I always have cooked ground beef and chicken in the freezer and I try and keep my pantry full of things I can use for casseroles, soups, chili, pasta dishes, etc. When I make my grocery list I first make a menu for that week and then make my list off of that. Lots of times I don't have to buy any meat or pantry items since I already have them. I also like to look for sales and buy lots of meat when it's on sale and then cook and freeze it (freeze in 2 cup portions) or make a freezer meal. Today I saw that chicken thighs were on sale at Smiths for 99 cents a pound. I LOVE chicken thighs because they are so cheap and I think they taste better than chicken breasts. Today I baked my chicken at 375 for an hour, covered. Once it's cooked the skin comes right off and the chicken just falls off the bone. I paid $5.76 for the chicken and I can make three meals from that as well as have enough for leftovers for lunch. Want to save money on ground beef? Smiths marks down their beef EVERY MORNING. Whatever they did not sale the day before gets marked down the next morning. It has to get marked down by 9 a.m. so go shopping early to get the good deals. My friend got ground beef for $1.99 a pound last week because she looked for the marked down packages. (They don't always have marked down beef - it's only if they don't sell it all the day before. Talk to the butcher at your favorite store and ask when they put out their marked down meat to get the best deals) I also keep lots of frozen veggies ready for side dishes and have chopped lettuce ready to make a quick salad for dinner. I buy a package of 3 Romain hearts at Smiths for $2.99. I wash and then chop the lettuce, place it in a ziplock bag with a paper towel and I have lettuce ready for salad or sandwiches all week long. I love adding chopped apples and dried cranberries to salads, or chopped dried apricots and croutons. And when it's all ready to go I'm more motivated to make a salad for lunch or dinner or to add lettuce to my sandwiches. I love cooking dinner for my family and with our schedules getting busy and me going back to work (yay!) it's nice to know I can do a little prep work ahead of time and keep dinner one of my favorite times of the day.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

It's beginning to look a lot like Spring

Once Christmas is over I am ready for Spring. I am not a lover of winter and cold. I like warm weather, sunshine, flowers and greens leaves on trees. Lately, something I look forward to after Christmas is getting my garden ready for planting. Living in Las Vegas we can plant and grow things almost all year long. My parsley survived the below freezing temperatures we had back in the beginning of December and it's still growing so well. I planted it in August. I just picked a strawberry today - since I planted my strawberry plants last February we've had fruit from it practically all year. Sometimes just one or two berries at a time, but it's fun to pick and eat your own. Today I worked in the garden covering my asparagus with dirt and getting ready for it to start growing soon. I usually get the first asparagus sprouts in February and it grows until about July. Tomorrow I am going to plant lettuce, spinach and some more herbs(basil and parsley since that is what I use the most in cooking). In February I will plant green beans and then in March I will plant Butternut squash, pumpkins and watermelon. I have not gotten those to grow yet, but I am hoping this year I can get something. I bought a peach tree last year and planted it in the fall and I just ordered a blueberry bush that will come in February for planting. If you don't have the yard space for a garden or if you're new to gardening you can try a container garden. Get a few pots, fill them with some good soil and plant a few things you like to eat. Some good plants to grow in containers would be strawberries, lettuce, spinach, herbs. You can even plant pumpkins, watermelon or other vine plants in a container. I also love planting flowers so I put some new yellow pansies in my front yard and I have some flower seeds coming in the mail that I will plant throughout the garden for some color. If you want to learn more about gardening BYU has a FREE online gardening class. Click here and then scroll down and click on the gardening link.
These are the strawberry plants I put in last February. The leaves are yellow and red from the cooler temperatures but soon they will green up and start producing white flowers and lots of strawberries. These plants will produce fruit for the next 3-5 years.

I planted this parsley in August in this little pot to see how it would grow. It survived the cold snap in December and is growing great. I love having it to toss into soups, Italian dishes and any recipe that calls for parsley. Fresh herbs just make things taste better. Some herbs can grow all year in Vegas - or when it gets cold you can bring your pots indoors and have a kitchen herb garden.
The lower portion I am going to plant lettuce (3 different kinds) as well as spinach, parsley and basil. The top potion is where my asparagus is. The asparagus starts growing in February here because of the warm temperatures. Asparagus takes 2-3 years to get established and then it will grow for about 15-20 years. It grows well here and takes very little care.

Friday, December 13, 2013

When you feel like a crap mom

Last night I felt like a crap mom. T was fighting with L and I was sick of it, so I didn't do anything about it. I just kept cooking dinner and told them to work it out. Well, they worked it out all right. Someone got hit, someone got yelled at and sent to their room and I ended up crying over the whole thing and wishing I had handled the situation differently. It's like that a lot with my first one. I didn't know how to be a mom when he was born. I was totally clueless. Throw in postpartum depression for the first 6 weeks of his life and I was a mess. He was fed and clothed but I don't know if he was loved like he should have been. It took me a while to learn to love him. It wasn't instant like people told me it would be. He was a stranger and I had to get to know him and get used to him and learn to like him. It's been a rocky relationship with us. There have been times when he was my whole world and my favorite thing was to just sit and hold him. As he got older I loved teaching him and reading to him and just being with him. But when more kids came along and more problems and issues I had more bad mom days than good. And now he's almost 11 and sometimes the last thing he wants is to hang out with his mom. I mess up a lot with him. I say or do the wrong things and then I have to make up for it later with an apology and an explanation that I've never had a ten year old son before, so I don't always know what to do. There are times when more than anything I want to go back in time and start over with him because now I know what I am supposed to do. If I could do it again I would be a better mom to him. I feel like he's my experiment and I feel bad about that. I wish he wasn't. I wish I had been given a practice child before him, one that wasn't real and I couldn't hurt, but I could learn from. But then I look at him and I know why he was born first. He is stronger than the other two and there are things I needed to learn from him before they came along. I was thinking about this last night and so I wrote him a letter. I told T how alike we are, how when I was in elementary school I also got teased because I wasn't good at throwing or kicking or catching a ball. I told him how I also liked to come home after school and go to my room and close the door and sit and read and not be bothered. How I started ballet lessons at the age of 10 just like he started karate this year. And then I told him what I see when I look at him. That despite his challenges with ADD and friends and self esteem that I look at him and see someone who is strong, faithful, brave, obedient and a protector of little brothers. I told him that his brothers look up to him and to them he is a hero. I told him that when I look in his eyes I see something so special and that I know that some day he will do great things. I left the letter in his room where he would see it this morning. And he did. When I came in this morning he said, "I read your note. Thanks Mom." He gave me a hug and I realized that even though I mess up and make mistakes there are times when I do just the right thing. And now I see that he's mine for a reason and that I am the mom he needed to become who he is going to be.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

An empty manger

One of the traditions we have for Christmas started a few years ago at a Christmas dinner our church had for the women. At the dinner they read a story to us called "The Last Straw". The story was about a family with young children and how their mother got her children to get along during the month of December by having them do kind things for one another. As they did their service for their family members, the children got to place a soft piece of straw in an empty manger. Their mother told them that the more nice things they did, the softer the manger would be for Baby Jesus on Christmas morning. The story focuses on service and love in our homes and how we can focus more on Christ at Christmastime. For a gift that night at the dinner, we each got a copy of the story as well as a little wooden manger to fill with straw and every year we focus on filling that manger. As soon as the Christmas decorations are up, we read the story to the kids and talk about all of the gifts we can give to Jesus during the month of December. We encourage our kids to be kind to one another and to their friends at school and when they do service for someone else they get to put a piece of straw in the manger. I love walking by the manger at Christmas and seeing the pieces of straw inside. I love that instead of telling them they need to be good because Santa is watching, we focus on reminding them that they need to try and be more like Jesus. It's all about Christ and the gifts we can give to HIM for his birthday. My kids have already been filling the manger. Logan drew a baby Jesus and an angel to sit by the straw and manger to remind everyone what we need to do. We have already had lots of little conversations about Christ and service and having more peace in our home this holiday season. I love this little tradition and the way it reminds us about the true meaning of Christmas.