MOMMA’S BACK!

After what feels like an eternity of not writing I’m finally back! Whew! Did you miss me?! I missed all of you!

It’s after midnight on a Thursday and I’m exhausted and surrounded by art supplies while my Husband and the dogs snore.

All the colored pencils and all the dark circles!

I’ve been working hard on my submission for The Sketchbook Project. Back in November of 2019 The Hubs sent off for my sketchbook so that I could be part of an awesome collaborative art exhibit. In true Mom Van style I procrastinated the hellllll out of things and have spent the last month pushing myself to make beautiful art.

I’m incredibly proud of the results and the work that I put in. It has taken up a ton of my time and forced me to back burner both my blog and my soap company. Reconnecting with my art was amazing though and I’m so thankful that The Hubs believed that I could do this even though I doubted myself about a thousand times along the way. He and my whole family encouraged me to keep pushing and creating. They helped me with ideas and feedback. My friends and colleagues even helped.

I’ve titled the Sketchbook “Wild Dreams of 2020.” As an ode to one of my favorite books of poetry, Wild Dreams of a New Beginning by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. It’s filled with fun takes on nature, bright colors, wild patterns and fanciful design. I’m going to mail it off tomorrow and and pretty sad about having to give it back. I’ve poured so much of myself into it. The really awesome part is that I’ll actually be able to access a digital version of it and so will you. Once it’s been received, scanned, and uploaded by the team at The Sketchbook Project, I’ll post the link for all of you to check out the whole thing.

In the meantime, thank you so much for being patient with me. I appreciate all of you sticking it out. Here are a couple of my sketches. You’ll have to forgive the photo quality, it’s after midnight and I’m too tired for fancy editing. Let me know what you think!

Bugs in the System
Dreams of Adventure
Hidden Beauty.

Sometimes…

Sometimes…

Sometimes even in the midst of chaos,

When the world is bleak and scary and too much,

When I question everything and doubt myself ,

Sometimes…

Sometimes there are moments,

Brief moments that make my heart slow down it’s pace,

That still the noise in my head,

That fill me with peace,

Sometimes…

Sometimes just for a moment

The world is perfect

Soap Galore!

After weeks of dragging my feet and doubting myself and chickening out, I’ve finally made a Facebook page for my soap company so I can start selling to more than my friends. I’m so appreciative of those of you who’ve reached out with encouragement along the way. I couldn’t have done it without you cheering me on! It’s nerve wracking trying to start a new business and it’s a little scary to finally go live with it even if it is just in a small way.

It feels so great to have something that requires me to be creative but still allows me to spend lots of time with my family. I’m even reaching a soap making class at work next week. I’m super excited about sharing my passion with ten kiddos as I teach them how to make two different kinds of soap.

When 2020 started I could never have imagined all the things that would happen. It’s only July and it’s been a wild ride. In the midst of all the insanity, starting The Lucky Ducky Soap Company has been a spark of joy.

You can check out my page here. Be sure to comment and let me know what soaps you’d like to see me make!

Watermelon Explosion!

Alright so obviously I haven’t written much lately about my family’s crazy antics. Life has been hectic and weird. We’ve definitely been on a weird ride though. The good news is, this time I can actually SHOW you what we did.

The Hubs has been working hard to build his YouTube channel Donny Duct Tape and the kids have been begging to be a part of it. When we were looking for kid friendly video ideas we came across the “exploding watermelon” and decided to try it. It took us almost two hours and soooooo many rubber bands but we did it! The kids were hilarious and did such a great job. It was fun to watch them tackle such a crazy experiment for so long.

You can check out our video here. I hope to share more of our family videos. If you have any ideas of what we could do next please let me know!

Morning Whispers

They’re in our bed again.

What I hate in the night I love in the morning.

I wrap myself in it like a big snuggly blanket,

Soak up their sleeping faces and cute tiny toes.

I tickle her feet and snuggle up next to her.

She pushes her feet back against me and whispers softly…..

I can’t hear what she says.

I smile, thinking that she’s being sweet.

I’m being sweet, why would she feel any different?

I move my ear closer to her to listen.

She again whispers….

“Go Away!”

Parenting in a nutshell.

Love Everyone.

Today’s post is going to be a little different. I don’t normally post here about my faith or morality. I started out writing to create a safe place for people to come and read and laugh about the weird life I lead. It’s become so much more than that. I’ve kept relatively quiet about my faith and I promise that it’s not something I’ll continue to talk about here often. I’m just not that kind of person. My heart is hurting though, and I feel myself called to put my money where my mouth is so to speak.

I am a cradle Catholic. Baptized at birth and spoon fed the teachings of Christ. I spent 13 years in Catholic school and then went on to study world religions in College. My faith life has been rocky. Even though I identify as Catholic I have always seen the value and beauty in other religions. Unfortunately, I have for most of my life held the belief that Christ really wouldn’t be interested in me or want to be my friend. That he didn’t come here for me because I wasn’t worthy. This distresses my mother who worries that she did something wrong. That’s never been her fault. Other people did it and I bought in.

You see in Catholic school I was picked on. I was cast out. Why? Because in a rich private school I was one of the poor kids. We lived in “the wrong part of town.” I didn’t have a big house or loads of fancy things. In fact, four of us lived in a two bedroom, one bathroom house built in the forties so that paying for Catholic school tuition would be possible. I was and am damn proud of the sacrifices my family made. It wasn’t until my classmates at this privileged school began to spout racist rhetoric, homophobic ideology, speak with ugliness about the poor, and treat my fellow “weird” friends like trash that I began to doubt that Christ would have wanted me. Years of learning told me that Christ came for the poor and down trodden, for the different and weird and yet here were his followers, claiming to be Christians, going to Church every Sunday, and hurting the types of people that Christ intentionally befriended during His time here on Earth.

As I got older I learned that these kids didn’t come up with that stuff on their own. They were raised that way. (Seriously if you can’t drive on your own how the hell could you even know what “the wrong side of town” meant?) Their parents lead by example. Their Christian parents. I forgave my bullies and their parents and moved on. The damage was done though.

In High School, I was blessed to find myself in a community of Christians (and even some non Christians) who accepted me and others as we were. They lived the values of Christ. It was there that I learned and truly came to believe that all human life has value no matter it’s form. To me this value is rooted in my belief that we are all made with God in our hearts. These people weren’t perfect. I met some jerks along the way, but over all, the Christians I met did a great job of showing me Christ’s love through their words and actions.

I don’t often use people’s real names in my blog but as I write this with tears pouring down my face so many names come to mind. Mrs. Shaffett and Mrs. Wintz who taught me about the love of Christ in religion class and outside of class too. Mrs. Cowgill who saw potential in each and every one of us and loves us BIG to this day. She was and is unashamed of her Christianity. Joy Thomas who invited this crazy white girl to come dance and eat and laugh with her big, beautiful Black Christian family. (Her Mom gave me the best hug I’ve ever had in my life as soon as I got there and immediately made me feel welcome despite being one of only two white people there.) My wonderful friends, too numerous to name, who accepted EVERYONE despite their oddities because it was the right thing to do and because that’s the kind of people they are. The list could go on for days. I learned more about being a true Christian in those four years than I had ever known before. No one was condemning me or speaking hate to me or the people I loved. We weren’t super popular kids but we were allowed to be who we were. I was surrounded by Christians who cared.

When I was a high school senior my faith journey took a leap forward as I participated in The March for Life in Washington D.C. I belived then, as I do now, that all human life has value. ALL HUMAN LIFE. I marched with so many people who believed the same. It was a moving and transformative time for me. With me marched people from all over. Christians and non Christians. My faith grew stronger and a foundation was laid. I began working little by little to see the beauty of God in everyone around me. (Let me tell you it’s not easy and I still struggle with it.) Books like Love Does by Bob Goff and Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller were instrumental in my journey.

Try as I might it wasn’t until recently that I truly believed that Christ would have wanted me to sit at His table too. That He would have loved me too. Why? Because I had to separate the actions of so many Christians from the teachings of Christ. I had to remember that we are all human and that it was unfair to judge Christ by the actions of the flawed humans who profess to follow Him. It breaks my heart to see my news feed filled with self-professed Christians spewing hate. Hate for the LGBTQ+ community. Hate for the poor. Hate for immigrants. Hate for People of Color. Hate for those who have different beliefs and lifestyles. Christ didn’t come here to teach us hate, we had that already, he came to teach us love.

I often wonder how many people out there are like me. Drawn to Christ but chased away by his followers. Told by actions that they must look and speak a certain way to deserve the love of Christ. To deserve love. To deserve to be taken care of. To have value. As Christians, we are called to LOVE EVERYONE. We are called to stand up and defend those who are oppressed. We are called on to befriend and care for everyone because by denying them we are denying Christ. When we reject others because they are different than us we are rejecting the spirit of God that lives in them.

It is our duty to fight for equality for all of our brothers and sisters. It is our duty as Christians to defend the rights of all human life. For me that means becoming an ally to the LGBTQ+ community. It means fighting for their rights to be treated equally. It means checking my white privilege and washing the scales from my eyes so that I can recognize and fight systemic inequality and racism. It means supporting better healthcare for everyone. Better programs for those facing addiction and mental illness. It means doing what I can to make sure that people get the help they need so that we can all live with dignity and respect. It means raising my children to respect all human life and to fight for those who can’t fight for themselves. I won’t always succeed. I’m not perfect. But I’ll be damned if I let myself become someone’s reason for feeling like they are unworthy of Christ’s love or mine.

Self Care With The Three “T”s

As an adult I’ve learned that self care comes in many forms. This Monday I planned the most adult day of self care that I could imagine. Through the day I tackled what I lovingly deemed “The Three T’s” for a “ground up self care experience.” (Yes, sometimes you have to market to yourself to make life more interesting.)

I started the day by taking the time to get dressed up and put on makeup before bringing The Twins to daycare. After I dropped them off I headed out to take care of the first T. Tires! Yes, after months of clenching my booty cheeks every time the road got slick I finally invested in replacing my two front tires. I had two replaced last August when I had a massive blowout on the interstate but money has been tight so I’ve been trying to wait. I went to a tire shop right down the road and they were super fast and helpful. It felt weird to sit in a waiting room with my mask on but I didn’t mind. They’d eliminated some of the chairs and there was no coffee station. It was done so quickly though that it was an overall great experience. The Mom Van is now much safer and the ride is even more smooth.

Since it finished so quickly, I was able to call in for my work meeting which I thought I was going to miss. Thanks to the power of Zoom I was able to drive home while I listened in so I could relax and see The Hubs and The Big Kids before my next appointment. Proud of my adulting for the day so far, I treated myself to a slice of key lime pie for breakfast. What’s the point of treating myself if I don’t get tasty treats? (See, another two “T”s for the day! Bonus points for alliteration!)

Next up was every woman’s favorite yearly appointment! Yes, that’s right, I had my annual exam. Which brings me to the second T: Twat! (I understand that in other countries twat means your bottom but that’s not what I mean here.) Now, unlike some women, I really like my OB. She’s a nice lady and I literally trusted her with my life and the lives of my children when she made the correct call to perform my emergency c-section. She’s the best. That being said, I still wasn’t jazzed about facing the dreaded exam again. Getting yearly exams and check ups is 100% self care but it’s not the glamorous side that everyone wants to talk about. Ladies let me tell you, your annual is one of the most important forms of self care! Doooo ittttt!

My awesome Doctor let me know that because of my family’s cancer history, my insurance would cover genetic testing for cancer risk. My only knowledge of genetic testing for cancer risk came from celebrities getting tested and then deciding to have surgery to remove their breasts. That feelt a little extreme to me but I decided not to be ignorant and asked for more information. Apparently if you test positive for the genes your insurance has to cover additional yearly testing. So if I test positive then my insurance actually has to cover more preventative testing? Sign me up! (Testing is a “T” too! Lookie there!) So I took the self care a big step further and spent extra time at the Dr.’s office to get the testing done. I nearly passed out because I’m not a blood person but I felt like it was worth the discomfort.

My day wasn’t finished yet. I went back home for a tasty light lunch and some TV. I had mozzarella with tomatoes and basil from my garden drizzled with olive oil and salt and pepper. It was delicious! Of course, I followed it with queso and chips while I binge watched season two of Dead To Me on Netflix. (Ooo tortilla chips start with “T” too!) It’s not often that I get control of the TV without anyone around to bother me. Beyond that, I never get to eat without sharing my food or getting interrupted. It was awesome and relaxing. It prepared me perfectly for the next step in my Three T’s.

Ladies and gentleman for the final “T” I present Titties! I told you I was taking a ground up approach didn’t I?! My amazing Lala took me shopping at Bra Genie as a belated birthday present. That damn Rona had to push back our celebration till now but the timing really turned out to be perfect. We laughed while she tried on swimsuits and I tried on like 60 bras. I learned that my sad, tired old bra was not only stretched way out but also wasn’t the right size to begin with. She bought me two bras and some panties and even some special wash to go with them. It was so much fun and my back and boobs greatly appreciate the support. Shout out to the ladies at the store who put up with my crazy comments about my droopy boobies. They were great.

Despite being on the less glamorous side of self-care it was hands down one of the best self-care days I’ve had in a really long time. I took time for myself, eliminated some worries and yucky things from my plate, was proactive about my health and future, got new underthings, saw people that I love, and ate tasty food. You really can’t get much better than that!

So what about you? What’s the most adult form of self-care that you take?

Good News!

It’s been too long since I’ve written. Life seems to be going 1000 miles an hour lately and there never seems to be enough time in the day. It’s not bad busy. It’s actually pretty exciting. I’ve been trying new recipes, making kits and lots of soap, and trying to make my house look less like a tornado hit it. Also work is picking up and The Twins are back in daycare. So much has happened since I last wrote that I thought it would be fun to fill you guys in on the best parts. Who doesn’t enjoy good news right?

1) The Twins have healthy hips! I haven’t talked about it much here, but shortly after they came home from the hospital The Twins were diagnosed with hip dysplasia and placed in Palvik harnesses. They were in their harnesses 27/7 for 7 weeks to force their hip joints to develop properly. It was a long and exhausting journey for all of us but it’s nothing compared to what some other families go through. We were fortunate that their problems were minor and that our Pediatrician caught it early. Now we go back once a year for X-rays to make sure that everything is still developing as it should. On our last visit, their Orthopedic still had some concerns but wanted to wait and see. It makes me nauseous and anxious every time we go but this time was even harder because it had been a while since our last visit. He’s super happy with the results though and we don’t have to go back for another year. Hip Hip Hooray!

They did such an amazing job!

2) The Hubs started a YouTube channel and his first video is hilarious. We’ve toyed around with the idea of having a podcast in the past. He tried Twitch once as well but it didn’t feel like the right fit. Back before YouTube he and his buddies made goofy videos all of the time so it seemed like a natural move. His channel is called Donny Duct Tape. He calls himself a “high tech redneck” haha! He’s not wrong either. He plans on making videos of him fixing things and trying new things. For his first video he and his friends did a hot wings challenge. I got to help by asking them questions while their mouths were on fire. It was awesome and a lot of fun. He did a great job of editing it as well. You can check it out here.

3) My soap business has really taken off. Thanks to social media, I’ve sold soaps in four different states. It’s so awesome! I’ve developed some signature lines and still really enjoy experimenting. I’ve got some paperwork to do to make my business 100% legit but I’m excited to do it. I’m so happy that what started out as a quarantine project has turned into a business that I can be proud of. I couldn’t have done even this much without my family’s support. My parents have let me make messes in their kitchens, sniffed everything, and listened to me freak out about keeping up with demand. My in laws have kept the kids so I could deliver soaps. The Hubs and the kids have sniffed, sampled, and helped me package my soaps. I love that my business gets to be a family affair.

My Pride soap smells awesome and is gorgeous! For each bar sold we donate $2 to The Trevor Project.

4) Our garden is finally feeding us! So, up until now, the tomatoes have been a bit of a shit show but they finally produced for us! The okra has had two great harvests (lots of pickling and frying going on). I’ve gotten tons of basil that I’ve been using to infuse alcohol (thanks for the basil plant Mom!). Our peppers started turning red this week. I have three cantaloupes on the vine that we can’t wait to eat. I pull beans out almost every day. The garden itself looks rough because we didn’t put the proper weed barriers in place and I haven’t been able to keep up with the crazy things growing in it. We know what to do next time though. I’m 100% planting okra, beans, cantaloupe, and a tomato or two again. Zucchini can go take a hike. I’m pretty proud of us. Our last attempt at growing things involved corn on an apartment balcony and it ended badly.

I boozed the basil and fried the okra. I’ll probably pickle the beans.
Future pasta sauce!

I hope that you are all doing well and that you can find things in your life to celebrate. I’m so glad that I get to share joyful news with all of you I’d love to see what’s making your life happy right now in the comments below.

Sausage and Mustard Green Soup

I found some awesome mustard greens at the farmer’s market the other day and bought them on impulse. It was a great idea until I realized that I had no idea what to do with them. After realizing I didn’t have the ingredients for a traditional batch of greens, I found a great recipe online and combined it with another soup recipe that I like that uses spinach. Thus this tasty Sausage and Mustard Green soup was born. I made it last night with pasta but you can also make it with gnocchi instead. Both are tasty but the gnocchi makes for better leftovers. It’s super easy and the whole family loved it.

Sausage and Mustard Green Soup:

Serves 8-10

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups chopped mustard greens
  • 1/3 cup sliced green onion
  • 1 yellow onion chopped
  • 2 ribs celery chopped
  • 2 tbsp minced garlic
  • 10 cups beef broth
  • 1/3 cup amber lager of your choice
  • 2 lbs beef sausage
  • 1tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/8 tsp cumin
  • Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • One package mini gnocchi or 2 cups ditalini pasta (gnocchi does better if you plan to have leftovers. The pasta soaks up the liquid and gets mushy if left overnight)
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Sauté onion, celery, and garlic in olive oil with pinch of salt over medium heat until fragrant
  1. Add sliced sausage and sauté till fat from the sausage coats the bottom of the pan and onions and celery are clear
  1. Add in greens and stir until wilted and vibrant green
  1. Deglaze pan with beer
  1. Add beef broth, 1tsp salt, crushed red pepper, smoked paprika, and cumin
  1. Bring to a rolling boil
  1. Once soup has begun a rolling boil stir in green onion and noodles or gnocchi
  1. If using gnocchi, continue boiling until gnocchi are tender and float to the top, occasionally stirring to prevent them from sticking
  1. If using noodles, continue boiling until noodles are tender, occasionally stirring to prevent them from sticking
  1. Serve hot with a sprinkle of Parmesan on top

Self Quarantine Day 76: The Final Quarantine Log

Our quarantine has come to a close. While social distancing is still the norm and we’re not going all over the place, work is ramping back up and the Twins go back to daycare today. I’m more upset about it than I thought I’d be. There are so many unknowns still but I know that I’m going to miss time with my babies. This strange and unexpected time with them has been so hard and yet so rewarding.

As a working Mom I feel like I miss out alot on their lives. Since daycare closed they’ve been with me almost every day. We’ve taken walks, explored the yard, yelled, cried, blown bubbles, colored, destroyed the house, peepeed in the potty, snuggled, and some so much more together. I’ve learned more about who I am as a parent. I’ve been blessed to see them grow as individuals and as a pair. I’m going to miss them climbing on me during my meetings. Going 8 hours without a thousand random hugs and “I love you Mommy”s is going to be so hard. This part of quarantine has been the best blessing despite the many many times where I’ve cried and wanted to pull my hair out.

I’m excited for them to have the opportunity to play all day without having to hear “Please be quiet! Mommy is trying to work.” I’m glad that I can go back to just being Mom when I’m with them and not Museum Manager/Mom when we’re together. I’m excited to be returning to more normalcy. I’m happy to be going back to work because I find fulfillment in my career AND in motherhood.

I know that we’re all going to cry when I drop them off. I know that I’m going to check the clock a thousand times to see if I can go and get them. I can’t wait for their squeal of excitement when I pick them up this afternoon and the huge hug and kiss that I know will come with it. Right now though, I’m going to pick them up and hold them while they’re sleeping. I’m going to kiss their sleeping foreheads and hold my not so tiny babies for just a minute more before our time together goes away.

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