It’s been a long time. I shouldna left you.

Oh…hey. It has been a while, right?

The first post back after a blog hiatus is always the hardest, so here’s to leaping in with both feet.

As you’ve probably noticed (if you’re my dad because you set aside a day each month to catch up on my blog), I haven’t posted in a while. A minute, as the kids would say.

I could give a lot of reasons for it, valid and lazy, but the truth is that I just didn’t feel like it. The last few months have been so busy, and in a lot of ways tumultuous, and I didn’t feel like I could adequately get it all straight in my head, let alone in an online post for the world to see.

To be blunt: I sort of dreaded the idea of blogging. It felt either insincere (SOMETIMES THERE IS SO MUCH GOING ON I DON’T WANT TO SHARE) or just not good enough quality (which is saying something considering the random stuff I’ll post on here).

So…I just didn’t.

But then, lately, I started to get the itch again. I also don’t want to jinx myself, but I started to feel a little more settled. I don’t ever really feel like I’m in total control of my life, but I started to feel like I was in a groove again, probably for the first time since Vivi was born.

There were a lot of elements that played into that, and as a means of a brief catch-up, here are a few:

Vivi turned two.

And while this new stage is by far the most challenging I’ve encountered, I think it’s also (dare I say it) my favorite stage so far. Because, you guys? Vivi is a legitimate person now. She has always hinted at her budding personality, but the last few weeks have brought such a burst of new language and actual conversation, and her spunk frankly wows me every single day. She is so funny, both intentionally and unintentionally, and she just brings sunshine and charm wherever she goes. I officially feel like I’m spending my days with a sort-of friend and not just a mostly needy baby. That connection has caused a powerful shift in my own mood I didn’t expect.

Vivi was potty trained.

Um, hi, talk about a shift in my mood/relationship with my kid. I was honestly super nervous to potty train this time around after last time’s PTSD-inducing experience. But this time, things actually went pretty smoothly. (Weird how not being stressed to the point of tears can have that impact, huh?) Vivi picked up on the basics on the first day, and now, a couple of months out, I actually feel we can pretty solidly call ourselves potty-trained. (At least 99.9 percent!)

We’ve been in our new home for five months.

I’m not really good at giving myself time to adjust to anything. It’s the curse of the chronic planner—by the time I get to any moment I’ve been waiting for, I’ve already planned five years past that. So I rush myself. I don’t usually take the time to even realize that I’m overwhelmed until I have some kind of breakdown.

So, yeah, super healthy.

This move was actually fairly seamless for us (and so many things about my life got better and easier), but it’s only recently that I could honestly say I felt settled and in a comfortable routine. I’ve started exercising regularly again, which is such a key thing for my mental health, and I have a schedule I can count on. It will probably never be perfect, but it’s good to be here, folks.

I entered my second year of pioneering.

For those not in the know, I spend about 70+ hours a month in a volunteer ministry service doing a Bible education work. This was my first year dedicating myself to that hourly commitment (840 hours for the whole year), and, while I felt confident I would give it my all, I wasn’t really sure what to expect—or if I could even do it. Now that I’m in the second year, I feel like I can relax a bit. Which isn’t to say I’m easing off the time commitment (I’m trying to cram the beginning of my year with as many extra hours as possible with hopes of taking it easy in the summer), but I’ve lost all of the trepidation and feel like I can spend more time this go-around focusing on others and helping to encourage them. That’s a nice feeling.

I have a job I actually love in every way.

I’ve had lots of jobs that I loved…mostly. But with every role I’ve taken on, there were always things I didn’t like. Things I hated, even. Working at Motherly has been a total dream. I get to be creative and write, and I get to do it part-time so I can focus on being a mom and my volunteering. Plus, my coworkers are these amazing, brilliant unicorns who are incredible at their jobs and some of the nicest people I’ve ever met. That’s pretty special, and it fulfills the part of me I know I would miss if I ever quit working completely. So if you’re a mom not reading, you should be.

I turned 30.

I mean, finally, right? I’m one of those weirdos who actually looked forward to 30. I hear mostly good things. And while it has come with a few negatives (I’m officially one of those people who can “do something” to their neck that puts them out of commission for a few days), by and large, 30 came with a quiet confidence. I’m excited to see what this decade brings.

The funny thing for me is that I don’t know if I would truly say I know who I am—completely, 100 percent. But not in that lost, dramatic “I don’t know who I am!” kind of way. More in the sense that I’ve been surprised by myself a lot in the last couple of years. Things I never thought would happen have happened. Things I never thought I would do, I’ve done.

I feel confident and comfortable in myself, but I’m also open-minded to the idea of changing. That maybe who and what I am now isn’t who I’ll always be. And that’s okay—good even.

And while we’re only just entering November 2017, I’m already looking forward to next year. (Chronic planner, I told ya.) We’re hoping to have another baby. (NOT PREGNANT, JUST HOPING.) We might buy a house. We’re discovering new things and new friends in our new home.

Heck, I might even start blogging on the regular again.

Anyway, I wanted to check in. Partly because I do feel like you’re owed an explanation for where I’ve been all this time, but also because, well, I wanted to.

It’s good to be back.

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Recipe: Cauliflower “Fried Rice” with Grilled Chicken and Crispy Brussel Sprouts

Vivi is almost two, and while most of the time I would confidently say that no one knows her like I do, I also have moments of feeling like, “Um, hi? Who is this child?”

Parenthood is such a wild ride of uncertainty and hard-won moments of confidence. When you finally find something you feel like you’ve figured out, often times, the rug is very suddenly ripped out from under you just weeks or even days later.

With Vivi, I’ve long felt like the two things we had down pat were eating and sleeping. We sleep trained at an early age (something I am a proponent of and happy to discuss further with anyone who wants to know!), so getting Vivi to bed and having her sleep through the night has always gone fairly smoothly.

We also started exposing Vivi to a variety of healthy tastes fairly early on, which eventually turned her into a little gal who loved vegetables, fruit, and other healthy flavors.

All that is to say, I actually felt confident in both things.

But, as we know, motherhood is a constant exercise in humility. As Vivi has gotten older, she has gotten more expressive and her desire for some degree of control over her life has increased.

Hey, I get it! I hate having someone tell me what to do all the time. I love getting to make my own choices. Which isn’t to say it’s not a pain in my backside when Vivi regresses in something or deliberately disobeys, but we’re all learning here, right?

Yesterday, Vivi started crawling out of her crib every time we put her in, so we decided to make the switch to a “big girl” bed today. I had been planning to transition her at the end of the month, but I was feeling anxious because I loved our easy-breezy bedtimes and was worried the extra freedom would bring them to a crashing halt. But once those seemed to be stopping anyway, I at least wanted her to be able to crawl back into bed when she finally decided she was tired.

Tonight was our first night with the new bed, and Vivi cried for about 20 seconds before putting herself back in bed and passing out per usual. *phew*

As for eating, she still has a pretty open-minded palate, and most of her favorite foods are nutritious options. That being said, getting her to try new things has become more and more of a struggle. Which is why I’m always on the prowl for simple ways to incorporate more and new vegetables in familiar ways.

Tonight’s recipe was an experiment gone right, so I thought I’d share. Happy toddler feeding! (Note: Also good for grown-up taste buds.)

Cauliflower “Fried Rice” with Grilled Chicken and Crispy Brussel Sprouts

Ingredients:
2 cups brussel sprouts, trimmed and halved
avocado oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 yellow onion, diced
3 carrots, diced
1 head cauliflower, pulsed in food processor to rice-like consistency
3 T amino acids or soy sauce
2 T white vinegar
2 grilled chicken breasts, roughly chopped into bite-sized pieces
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Toss brussel sprouts in 2 T avocado oil and salt and pepper and spread onto a baking sheet in one layer. Roast for 30 minutes or until crispy.

Heat 2 T avocado oil in a large skillet on medium-high. Once oil is hot, add garlic, onion, carrots, and salt and pepper. Stir until onions are translucent.

Add cauliflower, 3 T avocado oil, salt and pepper, amino acids, and white vinegar. Stirring frequently, cook mixture for about five minutes.

Add chicken and cook for additional five minutes.

To plate, spoon cauliflower mixture into a bowl and top with crispy brussel sprouts. I find it’s helpful to continually tell your toddler about the “yummy rice!” you are about to eat.

Enjoy!

Everything old is new again

Lately, Vivi’s favorite sentence seems to be, “Yook, Mommy!”

I should probably have mentioned that she hasn’t quite learned to pronounce the letter L yet, so she says it like the letter Y. Okay, we all on the same page now? Good.

When she says it, sometimes she also puts a tiny hand on the side of my face to turn my head toward whatever she wants me to look at.

I find it to be such a delicious impulse, this desire to share whatever she likes with me. To want to make sure that I don’t miss out on whatever new wonder she has discovered.

The irony is, of course, that I’m the one who is supposed to be showing her the world. The one who leads her on new adventures, teaches her about…well, everything.

But isn’t it just the way that my stubborn little girl is the one reminding me to stop, to “yook,” and to appreciate the little things in a whole new way.

How to: Summer Vegetable and Chicken Sausage Pasta Recipe

summer vegetable chicken sausage pasta

It’s funny how so many good things in life start out as accidents. Funny how making the best of a situation can sometimes turn out to be literally the best.

In New York, I made the best of a lot of things. I made the best of tiny apartments, struggling to turn a cramped 500 square feet into a home for my family. Today, I make the best of busy schedules, working to prioritize the things that matter, the things that I truly believe will bring my family happiness. Sometimes that means giving up leisurely mornings in favor of spending more time focusing on spiritual pursuits, and sometimes that means overlooking the dishes or laundry for an hour spent in the backyard picking petals and pushing a wiggly toddler in the swing.

But in all of those cases, what I end up with, be it a safe, comfortable home, the satisfaction of giving my best to God, or the joy of watching my adventurous little baby become a brave, thriving person, is just about always the best thing I could imagine.

You know what else I like making the best of? Dinner.

What? A deep blog post can’t also left-field into a tasty recipe?

Recently, I was running low on provisions and whipped up this pasta dish on the fly. It has since become a steady part of my dinner rotation.

I was going to call it “What I Have in the Crisper That’s About to Spoil Recipe,” but turns out that sucks for SEO, so instead…

Summer Vegetable and Chicken Sausage Pasta

3 cups pasta of your choice
4 T olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium to large zucchini, cut into quarters
Two fresh tomatoes, chopped
1 package garlic chicken sausage, cut into rounds
1 T fresh oregano, minced
1 T fresh basil, minced
2 tsp garlic powder
1 cup mozzarella cut into quarter-inch chunks
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat olive oil in large skillet on medium. Once hot, add garlic and sauté until fragrant, about two minutes.
2. Add zucchini and cook until starts to golden brown, about five minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Boil pot of water and cook pasta following instructions on the box. Drain.
4. While pasta cooks, add tomatoes to skillet. Season with herbs and salt and pepper.
5. In a separate small skillet, brown sausage rounds. Once cooked, remove from heat and add to zucchini mixture.
6. Add pasta to skillet with mozzarella chunks. Stir to combine ingredients.

Enjoy!

Beauty week: How to create messy waves tutorial

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Kicking off the second post of BEAUTY WEEK, I’m sharing a tutorial that I use every week: how to create messy waves.

This look is similar to my Disney Princess Curls. but the big difference is that, while the princess curls are all about perfection, the messy curls are, well, messier. The idea is to strive for a touchable, imperfect look that almost looks like it’s just how your hair naturally falls.

I’ve embedded the video below, but here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  1. DO start with clean, dry hair. I recommend air-drying before styling so you can take advantage of any natural wave your hair already has.
  2. DON’T curl the ends. If you’re a perfectionist like me, this will be a challenge, but trust me, this is key.
  3. DO play around with it. I curl all of my hair the same direction (away from my face), but feel free to mix it up. And literally play with it too–mess up the curls with your hands throughout the day to keep the volume.
  4. DON’T use a heavy hand with products. I use three main products to create/hold this style, but only a little bit of each one to prevent the look from getting weighed down.

That’s it! Enjoy the tutorial (sorry for my awkward faces), and feel free to leave questions in a comment below!

And, obvious side note: I am SO not a videographer (or even a video blogger!), so don’t mock my terrible video quality/editing. It is what it is, folks.

Beauty Week: Here’s what you need to know about Lipsense

lipsense

Since moving, I won’t lie to you, I’ve been struggling to get a more official “schedule” worked out. Part of the problem has been that our schedule hasn’t been real until this week—Joey just wrapped up training at work, so now he begins his four-days-a-week routine. Part of it has just been that moving is time-consuming, but now we’re also pretty much done getting settled and can stop making Lowes runs every other day.

Anyway, as you can tell, it has squashed any extra brain power I have for creative outlets. Like, I don’t know, writing for fun. AKA, updating this sad little blog ever.

But, despite what my publishing log would tell you, I still like writing, so I’m going to do my darndest to get back into the swing of things.

So, I thought to myself, what would be a fun way to kick things off?

A THEME WEEK!

Specifically, a theme week around that queen of frivolity, beauty. For today’s inaugural post, how about a little review/experiment?

If you have any friends on Facebook, odds are one of them has probably tried to talk to you about Lipsense at some point. I knew a few of my gal pals were working for the company selling this lipstick that claims to stick around for up to 18 hours (!!), but I had honestly shied away from trying it because, well, it felt kind of gimmicky and it was hard to believe that there wasn’t anything dangerous or super chemically in the mix. (I mean, EIGHTEEN HOURS? What is IN this stuff?)

There is also a lot of conflicting information on the Internet as to the safety, with a lot of people citing weird reactions, from intense tingling or burning after applying to serious dryness and flaking days after wearing it.

But, then again, there are also thousands of people out there saying it’s the greatest thing ever, never smudges off, and makes staying put-together all day a breeze.

So when a pal who sells it reached out to me about writing a review, I’ll admit I was more curious than anything. Here’s what I thought:

How it works:

First things first, you can’t apply Lipsense like any liquid lipstick. The directions recommend exfoliating your lips first and then cleaning them with a swipe of rubbing alcohol. (Confession: I skipped the alcohol step.) Then you brush the color on (only one direction, not back and forth) in three thin layers, allowing the color to dry ten seconds between layers. It feels weird (the color itself is SUPER sticky until you apply the gloss) and tingles a bit, but I didn’t experience any of the painful burning that some people described online. The smell is pretty chemically if you pay attention, but I must have been pretty caught up in the application because I really didn’t notice it. And once you apply the gloss, it feels totally normal and all stickiness/smell goes away.

Note: Apply sparingly until you get the hang of it. Not surprisingly, it’s pretty difficult to remove, so fixing smudges can be a little challenging.

After I applied, I proceeded to wear it for the rest of the day. Seriously. No smudges, hardly any fading. I didn’t even apply the gloss all that often (though it’s recommended that you do, especially before and after eating, for best results). By the very end of the day, I probably could have used a reapply, but I was home so it was like, eh?

The trickiest part for me came when I actually wanted to take the stuff off. It’s seriously difficult, even using the remover. Ultimately, I had to use a bit of skin oil and exfoliate again to get it all off.

Post-use, some people online say they had a lot of flaking and dryness on their lips, but I didn’t have any negative experiences. Like most products, I suspect that some things agree with some people’s skin chemistry, and other things don’t. (I’m not a scientist, though, so don’t hold me to that.)

What’s in it?

As far as ingredients, the product itself is vegan and cruelty-free (bonus), but there is some back and forth on the internet about whether or not the ingredients are really “safe”. You can get a full ingredient list here.

As far as my layman’s opinion, while I couldn’t see wearing it every single day (though maybe if I had a lighter, more natural color — I’m just not a daily lipstick kind of gal), I would definitely break this out for a wedding or other special occasion where I wanted to go the whole day without worrying about my makeup. Or, you know, for wearing bright red. Because you want that stuff to stay put.

Want to learn more about Lipsense or try it yourself? My friend Jennifer has a Facebook group you can join to ask questions or shop — plus, she’s super nice and willing to help!

Has anyone else tried Lipsense? What was your experience? Is there another long-wearing lipstick you liked better?

*Lipsense products provided to me for review. Opinions my own.

From the trenches of sleep regression.

Technically, I’m not sure if it’s a true regression or just remnants of a toddler not fully adjusted since our move. Moves throw off routine and structure (two of toddlers’ favorite things, despite what they’ll tell you), and sleep is usually one of the first things to suffer.

But the point is, while Vivi started going to bed like normal just two days after we moved, she has progressively been waking up about ten minutes earlier every day.

Today, it came to a head when she started calling me at 5:44 a.m.

It was clear: We needed a sleep training refresher.

If you’ve spent more than four seconds talking parenthood with me, you know I’m a huge proponent of sleep training. It has worked wonders for us since Vivi was about two-and-a-half months old, and I’ve never looked back.

There have been times like this in the past (real sleep regressions as a result of development), so I know we can get back on a good schedule, but I also know the re-“training” only gets harder as Vivi gets older.

And dang if she doesn’t know how to work it.

Because, here’s the thing: It’s really hard to make the informed, adult decision at 5:44 a.m.

You’re asking a progressively sleep-deprived brain to choose “lie awake and listen to angry baby” instead of “get baby and doze in my bed together.” I imagine my brain as a dumb ogre swatting away rational thought and just reaching for the easiest option that ends in more sleep.

Not to mention the fact that listening to your kid cry just sucks. And makes time seem to stand still. You’ll close your eyes for what feels like ten minutes of screaming and then look st the clock to realize it has been 45 seconds. Awesome.

But because I really don’t want to be woken up tomorrow (and every day for the next year) and 5:30 a.m. or 4:00 a.m., I tell myself to be strong and write a blog post to distract myself.

Because she’s not waking up because she’s fully rested. (I’m literally writing this while she yells, “Dada!! Take nap!!!!”, which means she wants him to come get her so they can go take a nap. Insanity.) She wakes up tired and angry she’s still tired, and she needs to re-learn to go back to sleep when she feels that way.

But that doesn’t mean the learning process doesn’t suck a lot.

Any other sleep regression trenches stories out there people want to share?