The Best Job

I attended a peer counselor training last week and after three days of waking up extra early, getting the kids ready, dropping them at a friend’s for the day, driving an hour and a half, “working,” commuting back home, picking up the kids, helping with homework, making dinner, packing lunches, doing dishes and laundry and baths, putting the kids to bed–I’m exhausted! Honestly, I don’t know how you work-outside-the-home moms do it!

Recently Jared and I had a conversation about motherhood and my “work” and this little business of mine. Sometimes I get down on myself, falling into the worldly trap of thinking being a stay-at-home mom isn’t “good enough.” I don’t know if it’s imagined, or if the judgement is really there–but I often feel others are looking down on me for my choice to be a full-time mom instead of investing in a paying career. Times like these are when I selfishly think maybe I need to do more, take on more, BE more.

This morning, even earlier than my alarm goes off, I heard little feet pattering across the wood floor to the bathroom. A few minutes later I heard rustling and soft singing, and soon bedroom lights went on and three little munchkins were up. Initially I was annoyed. It was SOOO early still, and pitch dark outside. Sleep is so valuable these days. What were they doing awake already? I rolled over and buried my face in the pillow, as if to hide from the perceived nightmarish morning I was about to have with three still-tired children. Or at least a still-tired mommy.

But soon six little feet pattered across that wood floor, blankets in tow, to climb up on my bed for a morning mommy cuddle. A little bit of arguing ensued about who was going to fit where. A miniature two-year-old voice even bossily shouted “my mommy” to her older siblings. But eventually we all got comfy (enough) for a few moments.

While the cuddle only lasted a minute (my freshly showered and dressed husband emerged and they were ready for daddy time), I remembered something Jared said to me during our nightly talk. Although this stay-at-home mommy stuff isn’t always glamorous, fun, or even fulfilling, we both believe it’s what’s best for our family right now. Jared, who’s also supportive of me following my passions said, “I think the most important thing for you to accomplish is having our kids know you love them.”

It puts things in perspective, you know? Because truly, my kids don’t really care what I do. They don’t care if I have an online store, what my college degree is in, how many blog followers I have, or that I’m PTA president. They don’t even care if I make great dinners instead of boxed macaroni and cheese.

They just want morning cuddles, stories, tickles, laughs, and love. They want to know that they are safe, and cherished. They just want me. And so no matter how many other things I get involved in outside my home, I always want to remember that while the pay is low and the benefits are just hugs and kisses, being a mom to these little ones is my best job of all.

Grandma’s Coffee Cake

I’m sharing this week’s meal plan at Once a Month Mom today! Come see my freezer cooking plan and what we’re eating this week.

Many of my favorite recipes come from my grandma or mom and cinnamon-streusel topped “coffee cake” is one of those recipes that says “home” to me. The recipe originated from a magazine my grandma clipped when she was a newlywed and learning how to cook. Over the years it’s been tweaked a bit, including the addition of chocolate chips by someone with a sweet tooth!

Coffee cake is often requested when her grandkids visit, and is Grandma’s go-to breakfast recipe when there are overnight guests. My mom also made this sweet breakfast cake when I was growing up, often doubling the batch so we could snack on the leftovers later.

Since my family’s current breakfast routine usually includes instant oatmeal, I’d forgotten about this recipe until recently when I was putting together my recipe binder. Upon discovery I made it in mini cake (muffin) form, and as suspected–my kids loved it as much as I remember loving it.

Coffee cake muffins (which really should have a new name since they have nothing to do with coffee) are tasty at breakfast with fresh fruit and a glass of milk, or if cake for breakfast isn’t your thing, they’re pretty delish served warm with a scoop of ice cream for dessert.

Here’s the recipe:

Grandma’s Coffee Cake

Batter:

  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 TBSP oil
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. baking powder

Mix ingredients well and pour into a greased 8×8 baking pan (OR muffin cups). Sprinkle with topping. 

Topping:

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 TBSP flour
  • 2 TBSP melted butter
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional)
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Mix brown sugar, cinnamon, flour, and butter. Sprinkle over cake batter. Sprinkle with chocolate chips and nuts, if using. Bake at 375F for 20-25 minutes (cake) or 12-15 minutes (muffins) or until lightly golden brown.

Tip for cooking with kids: Baking is a great kid-friendly introduction to cooking, and my kids love helping for the reward of licking the spoon when we’re done! One of their “jobs” when we make muffins is to fill the muffin tin with paper liners, or spread the silicone liners (above) on a baking sheet.

Pin It


Keeping Up with the Stories

Since the death of my laptop a few months ago, I have not scrapbooked ONE.SINGLE.PAGE. {Gasp}

Now that might now seem like a big deal to some of you, but documenting my family’s stories is a big priority to me, and so falling several months behind has been stressful. So I made myself a goal this year to keep up with my 2012 photos and stories, but as good old Dave Ramsey says–if you don’t have a written plan, your goal will just be a dream. Knowing I wanted to be successful in accomplishing this goal, I was thinking about HOW I would go about keeping up with my 2012 photos when I remembered my sister-in-law, Shaela’s method of keeping up. It’s genius (especially her NOT GUILTY part that you’ll read more about in a minute!). Since this method works well for her, (and I’m thinking it will work for me) I asked her to come share because it might also work for YOU.

Hi everyone! My name is Shaela and I live in Las Vegas, NV. Pam asked me to do a guest post on my scrapbook method, so here I am!

I started scrapbooking traditionally about 10 years ago, and while I tried my best to keep up with pictures and layouts, as time went on (and marriage, kids, and life happened) I seemed to get more and more behind. But then I hit on a method that really worked for me, and I have successfully completed 2 years worth of scrapbooks: one from 2010 (traditional) and one from 2011 (digital).

Since I am both a traditional and a digital scrapbooker and have used this method successfully both ways, I hope that it will help many of you to accomplish every scrapbooker’s goal: to stay caught up with your layouts! :) So I’m going to explain the method I have found that works best for me.

I decided early in 2010 that something needed to change. I wrote notes and took pictures and sometimes had them printed and put together in layouts, but most of the time my pictures just sat on my desk or in my computer and nothing was done with them. So the very first thing I did was take my 3 big boxes of photos (think Xerox paper boxes) from the last 8 years and label them “NOT GUILTY”. Seriously… I wrote that on the sides of them with a sharpie and stuck them in the back of my closet. I will get to them someday (hopefully), but even if I don’t, I’m NOT allowing myself to feel guilty. You cannot move forward if you are constantly looking back, and moving forward is what I wanted to do.

After I set my guilt aside, I downloaded and sorted the photos from my digital camera so I could start with a clean memory card. Then I set up a folder on my computer desktop labeled “2010 photos”. Inside that folder I set up a separate folder for each month of the year, like this:

Then at the end of each month, I took ALL of the photos on my camera and transferred them to that month’s folder. Most of the time I had random photos, but sometimes I had many photos from a specific event: birthdays, vacations, etc. I grouped those photos into folders within the month, like so:

The first week of the new month was my photo editing week. I went through my photos and fixed any flaws, deleted duplicates or bad shots and basically did general cleaning up. Once the photos were done, I burned a DVD disc with the photos from that month and slipped it into a cd case. I made 2 copies each month: a backup and a backup-backup (you can also backup your photos online if you like).

Since I was still scrapbooking traditionally in 2010, the next thing I did was plan out my layouts. I looked at the photos for the month and decided which stories I wanted to tell. For the special events I typically planned only one layout (either a single or 2-page spread) but the random photos were a bit more difficult to plan: sometimes one photo had a whole story to tell, and other times the photos were just snapshots of daily life. Once I had my layouts planned and sketched out, I cropped my photos and sent them to Costco for printing.

I would pick them up and place them with my sketchbook and work on the layouts throughout the month. This way I was scrapbooking July’s photos in August, August’s photos in September, etc. Since I gave myself a whole month to get them done, I found that it was very manageable, and the stories were still fairly fresh in my mind. If I ended up with a lot of random photos, I often scrapbooked an “ordinary days” layout where I put them all together and called it good.

Occasionally I had SO many photos from a day or event that I simply couldn’t scrapbook them all, but I still wanted to be able to see them. So I bought some 12×12 divided inserts and slipped the extra photos in after the initial layout of the event.
 Using this method I was able to fully complete my 2010 scrapbook by January 2011 – a feat I had NEVER accomplished! With my 2010 scrapbook completed, I was ready to follow the same method in 2011 but with a twist. While I love the physical craft of scrapbooking and getting my “hands dirty”, it was taking so much time (and money) that I found myself falling behind at times… having to scramble at the end of October or early November to finish up September’s layouts, for example. So in 2011 I decided to take the plunge into digital scrapbooking. I set up my folders on the computer the same way, but with a few additions. Within each month’s folder, I made 3 folders labeled “JPEG layout files, photos, and PSD layout files”, like this:

Within the photos folder I treated my photos the same as before: creating subfolders for special events and leaving the rest of the photos “loose.” Since my decision to switch to digital was based on saving on time and money, I also decided to use layered templates and Photoshop Elements to create my layouts, since this would save me a lot of time and planning in the long run. I also used quickpages occasionally.

I then basically followed the same routine: at the end of the month I put all my photos from my camera into the appropriate folder, cleaned and edited them, and then scrapbooked the prior month’s photos in the ensuing weeks. It went much smoother and faster doing it digitally because I didn’t have to crop, print, and physically cut each photo – I just dragged them into Photoshop when I was working on a layout. I saved all of my layouts as editable .psd files, and when I had a layout completed to my satisfaction I also saved it as a full-resolution .jpg in the JPEGs folder. When I finished a folder of photos, either within the month or for the whole month, I renamed the folder to add “- DONE” at the end of it so I knew what was finished and what still needed doing. At the end of the year, all my folders looked like this:

Many places offer scrapbook-size prints if you prefer to print your layouts and slip them into your own scrapbooks, but I chose to have mine bound into a photobook at the end of the year. The first week in January 2012 I uploaded all of my .jpg layouts from 2011 and had them bound into an 8×8 photobook from Shutterfly.

For the first time in 10 years I am “caught up” with scrapbooking. I don’t feel pressure and guilt anymore about the hundreds of photos that I still have in boxes from years ago. I know that even if I never get to those, my children and grandchildren will be able to look at what I have accomplished and what I’m doing now. It’s a method that has worked for me for 2 years now and a method I plan to continue in the years to come. I hope that it works for some of you as well!

(Pam again) Awesome, right? I’m going to do that NOT GUILTY thing immediately. lol

For lots more scrapbooking and crafty fun, visit Shaela on her blog!


Breast is Best?

Our family always gets a lot of looks when we go out. I’m sure it’s because our kids are so strikingly adorable that people can’t help but stare(!), but in all reality it’s probably because Jared and I both look too young to have four kids. And as if looking too young to have four kids didn’t attract enough attention, add breastfeeding to the mixture, and I become a one-woman freak show.

It’s one of the things that surprised me the most when we moved here because where I grew up, large families, stay-at-home moms, baking bread, scrapbooking, and breastfeeding were all normal–and not at all granola. We called it “family -centered” and “homemaking” and “self-reliance.” And, I don’t know, I’d kinda like to think I’m still a cute, hip(ish?) mom even though I have a brood of babies, make jam, clip coupons, and aspire to make dinner most nights.

So imagine my surprise when Lydia was born and my doctor and nurses were amazed that I was planning to breastfeed instead of starting her out on a bottle. That I had nursed my other three babies as well, that Lyddie latched right away, and that I fervently pumped to keep my milk supply while they had her on formula during her extended hospital stay.

It kinda seemed weird to me that I was the weird one because I thought studies were saying [when possible] “breast is best.”

Then, imagine my further surprise when a few weeks later I got a call from a nutritionist. They were looking for a “peer counselor,” preferably an “experienced” mom to serve as a testimony and an encouragement to new or hesitant moms. And would I be interested?

Hmmm. Guess being weird and standing out sometimes has it’s benefits?

So this week I’m attending a training so that if a struggling new mom needs someone to talk to–I can be a resource. I’m excited to attend the training, even if it does mean that it’s just to get a few days off housework!

Since I am, as they say, “experienced,” I’ll be the first to say breastfeeding isn’t always a slice of pie, and so this post definitely isn’t meant to preach one way or the other. Bottles and formula were invented for a reason, and by all means, if that’s works best for YOU, use them. Personally, I’ve had good success with nursing, and it’s been my preferred choice for my babies. But I know it’s not always possible, and I’ve also had struggles with poor latch and cracked nipples and low milk supply, so I hope my perspective of with both sides will be able to aid someone else.

My recent survey (if you haven’t taken it, there’s still time!!) showed the majority of my readers are moms with young kids. So I’m curious to know, what were/are your experiences with feeding your babies? Did you try breastfeeding? Why or why not? What challenges or triumphs did you have?

Let’s respectfully discuss.

Meal Planning Monday

Saturday was cold, wet, and gloomy, so we stayed in most of the day–cleaning the house, reading, coloring, playing games, gathering a load of donations for Good Will, and–freezer cooking! It’s been a while, but we’ve finished the last of the meals I made before Lyddie was born, so time to restock.

My method of freezer cooking continues to evolve depending on LIFE. A couple of months ago I shared on Once a Month Mom via video how I’m currently fitting make ahead meal prep into my schedule. In short, I rarely do it all in one day, but break it into manageable sessions (often once a week). So if you love the idea of cooking ahead, but the “once a month” idea intimidates you, check out that video for a few ideas. (Oh! P.S. I’m not that fat anymore!)

Here’s what I was able to get done in a couple of hours while Jared ran some errands and the kids played:

  • Cooked and diced chicken
  • Homemade chicken noodle soup
  • Chicken and Rice Bake
  • Breakfast Cookies
I’m going to be gone three days this week (more on that later) so having some the prep done now will give us a big boost this week and save me a lot of sanity at that evil 5:00 dinner hour. Another thing that saves my sanity at dinner hour is planning ahead. Here’s what’s on our menu this week:

Breakfast: (Slimfast shake for me)

Kiddo Lunch: (Lean Cuisine meal or salad for me)

  • Grilled Cheese sandwiches, chips, carrots
  • Fish sticks, bread and honey, pineapple
  • Cubed ham, string cheese, crackers, applesauce
  • lunch at friend’s while mommy is away x3

{Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup}

Dinner:

For more meal planning ideas, visit OrgJunkie.

{DIY Reuseable Meal Planner}