Love, Actually

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As we celebrated Valentine’s Day last weekend, it made me think about the cliche many married couples profess – that they love their spouse more today than on the day they married them.  Now I totally see why.  When you enter into a marriage, you’ve likely experienced mostly bliss.  Once you get going and add a kid or two to the mix is when things are really tested.  Along the way, your path somehow turned into peaks and valleys and as you look back to see all  you’ve weathered, you realize it’s the lows and how you came out of them that make you love the other person even more.  How they carried you through the rough times and came out stronger on the other end is what matters the most.

Continue reading “Love, Actually”

Here Comes the Sun

One of my life songs is “Here Comes the Sun” by The Beatles.  Several years ago, I was on a small group retreat where we each picked a song to share that had meaning in our lives.  I had gone through a good amount of healing with these girls during this particular season of life and was finally able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Thus, the lyrics to “Here Comes the Sun” felt very fitting.

Little darling, it’s been a long cold lonely winter
Little darling, it feels like years since it’s been here

Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
And I say it’s all right

Last weekend I was fortunate enough to get away for a refreshing weekend with three close girlfriends.  As I was out to lunch enjoying a mimosa, I suddenly noticed ‘my song’ playing.  How appropriate, I thought.  Here I am, about seven years later coming off yet another hard season, this one due to riding the exhausting yet exhilarating roller coaster we call ‘parenting small children.’  Once again, though, I can see that light.  My “sun” is around the corner peeking through.  The kids won’t always be this small.  The baby stage is slowly slipping behind us.  Life will never be without its challenges, but it seems the ice is slowly melting.

With the New Year now here, resolutions and goals are all around us.  I’m one of those who doesn’t do much in the way of setting high expectations for the coming year.  Instead I view it as a clean slate, which I admittedly love.  Who couldn’t use a point in time to start over in many ways?  It feels so cleansing to look behind us but also to look ahead to the blank page that is 2015.

I start this year not with a goal in mind or a list of ‘to-do’s’ or lofty expectations of what this year may bring.  Instead I begin it with simply one word:  BELIEVE.

My word of the year.

I often struggle with negative thinking and I’m continuously conscious of attempting to change those thoughts.  This one word is pivotal to shaping the direction of my days.

Believe what?  Believe who, you ask?

Believe in people’s best intentions.  Believe in myself and my dreams and my passions.  Believe this life is a beautiful blanket of memories and moments woven together over time.

Believe that lifelong goals will someday become a reality or seeds will at least be planted this year.

Believe in answered prayers.  Believe in the most desirable outcomes.

I’ve realized that even during prayers, if I believe God is working on my behalf to answer them or provide a solution, I’m so much more thankful and patient as I wait.  Thanking Him and trusting that He has it all under control is half the battle.  It makes me feel more confident in the end result instead of worrying myself to death about all of the other possibilities.

I’m believing my kids aren’t trying to grate at my nerves, but really need me and are curiously exploring the world.  I am believing tomorrow is always a new day.

I’m believing I am the best mother for my children.  Believing in my husband and his practice.

I’m believing there is not always a motive behind every move people make.

I’m choosing to meditate on this word and let it guide me this year.  Belief helps counteract any self-doubt I may face and that’s a huge positive.  It helps me see the best in people all around me and most importantly, the ones I love most.

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Sun, sun, sun, here it comes.

You know you’re not in the Midwest anymore…

I’ve been living in Southern California for nearly a decade now, and the things I used to think were weird have slowly but surely become the norm for me.  The differences between the two are definitely more apparent in the Winter months and at Christmastime.

You know you’re not in the Midwest anymore when…

  • You’re freezing cold and bundled up with a scarf shivering in the car when you notice the outside temp is only 55.  I remember 65 degrees was shorts weather growing up.  How am I such a baby now?
  • Christmas day consists of bike riding and kids playing with all their new toys outdoors.  In shorts.
  • The occasional Winter rain is cause for celebration at first and followed by staying in for 2 to 3 days with “nothing to do” – poor us.  In reality, I actually enjoy the rain because it’s a nice change, but I don’t think I could do it with kids for an entire season.
  • Christmas festivities include the holiday boat parade of lights in one of the harbors.  Beautiful.
  • When you look at the weather app on your phone, it’s a steady high of 72 week after week…after week.
  • You’re on the phone with family and mention a scheduled beach bonfire is cancelled due to the temperature being a high of 66…and they think it’s cancelled because 66 is too hot.
  • The local news keeps showing ‘severe’ weather alerts because there is a 30% chance of precipitation.

You can laugh, but it really does feel cold when it’s Winter time here (mostly in the mornings and evenings).  Yes, I’ve become one of ‘them’ but a day doesn’t go by that I don’t feel grateful for where I live!!

A few photos from Christmas Day last year!

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Here’s to hoping for another warm and sunny California Christmas this year.  Right now the forecast calls for a high of 70 on Thursday…I’ll take it!

It’s Christmastime…

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(Nest of Posies printable available here)

Christmastime is more than upon us.  My absolute favorite time of year and I hate that it’s already going so fast…even though the season really just began!  We have now been three times to the carousel and train at the mall…let me clarify – three times in five days.  I just can’t get enough of the kids and their excitement over holiday fun.  This is something I always looked forward to – seeing Christmas through the eyes of my children.  It really is a priceless experience.  As I saw those smiles light up their faces on the carousel, thoughts of the entire year flashed by in an instant.  Thoughts of three months ago spending time in the hospital with them both – I’m just so thankful for health.  So, so thankful.

I have been enjoying seeing my son soak in the moments as his first “real” Christmas where he knows what is going on.  His curiosity in why we are decorating a tree in our living room.   And his excitement at the polar express choo choo we have by our tree.  He enjoys pointing out “Sana” and “No-Men” and relishes in the reindeer feet of his Christmas PJs.  As I said, I love their excitement.  I also enjoy the holiday parties, the lights everywhere, the peppermint mochas.  The Michael Buble Christmas music, the cards in the mail each day, candy canes and other holiday treats.

And then I let my mind think about early January and the letdown I will inevitably feel as the holiday season comes to an end.  I hate that my mind goes there!  Live in the moment and stop thinking about what is ahead.

I guess as they say, all good things must come to an end.  We wouldn’t know the downs without the ups, right?  Coming off of a hard season of sickness and challenges that felt never-ending, I am feeling a sense of newness and anticipation of what’s around the corner.  The New Year always brings a clean slate and with it, loads of optimism.  The kids are getting older, but that is not necessarily a bad thing.  With that comes a little more freedom and maybe, just maybe, less exhaustion?  I can dream, right!?

As the year comes to a close, I am in awe of the wonderful friends and support system I have in my community and the closeness and love of my husband and other family members.  I’m grateful to God for not only this season, but for this life.

I pray that your holiday season is merry and bright, filled with joy and hope.  I’ll leave you with this beautiful Christmas version of Hallelujah – I have been listening to it nonstop.

Merry, merry Christmastime.

The Perfect Mother

I thoroughly enjoyed this piece on modern mothers looking for perfection in all the wrong places.  From elaborate birthday parties to home-made, organic, free-range meals on the table, the author hits the nail on the head describing the ways modern moms are missing out by focusing on the near-impossible.

In the past we had nothing to showcase our meals and projects and birthday parties.  Now we have Facebook and Instagram to share every detail.  And no one is posting pictures of a bad moment or a terrible day.  We post the amazing ones – often mountaintop experiences of kids sharing or holding hands or trips with 5-course meals and breathtaking scenery.  Perfectly dressed children seemingly well-behaved in the most precarious situations.  Every meal is made from scratch – or at least the ones we post pictures of.  Now we also have Pinterest which has great ideas, but then there is this desire to go deeper with our kids and prove we are Supermom, which typically leads to feeling like an utter failure.  At least for me.  I’ve mentioned my Pinterest kid project fails before and opted to go a simpler route instead.  These ‘in your face’ posts make you wonder if these mothers ever need a break?  They seem like they have it all together, all day, everyday.

As for the motivation behind this desire, I’m not sure if it’s to keep up with the Joneses as the article says?  Or is it our wanting to control and be perfect with our kids – pressure we put on ourselves?  Maybe it’s societal influences?  Regardless of the root, we live in an age of unattainable perfection, it seems, aimed at pleasing our offspring.

What I believe it comes down to – at least for me – is information overload.  It seems like the internet and all of this technology complicate life too much.  We have to read articles on screen time and handheld devices and if they’re okay for our kids.  We research organic vs. GMO and feel guilty if we can’t afford to give them every single thing organic or hormone-free.   We overthink discipline constantly – you can find a justification for any and each way of doing it these days.  Articles float around email and Facebook that sway you one way and then you google something and see the other side of it and feel conflicted once again.  We have to get on online portals for checking kids’ homework and due dates.  Our relationship with technology is never-ending.

For me, information overload also means googling my child’s symptoms when they’re not feeling well and let me tell you, this never ends well.  I will self-diagnose them and think the worst and worry until the doctor tells me otherwise.

My older friends and relatives will talk about all the modern conveniences we have such as pre-cut and peeled veggies and pre-shredded bagged cheese and the internet at our disposal.  While I am in total agreement and am so thankful for these conveniences, I sometimes long for a simpler time where we don’t have constant information surrounding us.  We have to drown out the outside noises and focus on family days and screen-free times.  Wasn’t it easier in some ways when parents didn’t have access to so much?

It is hard to resist the temptation to throw the perfect Pinterest birthday party or the made-from-scratch meal every single night.  For me, doing these things would mean choosing to not sit down and play the legos or to not hold my clingy little one-year-old when he’s feeling like he needs me.  I have to be okay with that.

I guess what it comes down to is what we choose to do with the information we have around us.  We can use it to drive us to do better or feel competitive.  Or we can still be who we are without the bells and whistles and know we are giving our kids the best version of ourselves.  We can choose to not log on social media sometimes or to not google the symptoms our child has.  Sometimes shutting out the noise is the best choice we can make.

They don’t ask for perfectly displayed meals or a craft to do each day.  Our kids will be just fine without all of the extras.  I imagine what they want is a whole person – not a burnt-out mother drowning in information with nothing else to give.

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Secrets Stay at Home Moms Know

After my husband sent me 11 Secrets that all working mothers know (advice given to Savannah Guthrie by a colleague upon her return to work after having baby Vale), I could not stop thinking of all the things that my stay-at-home mom friends and I vent about regularly.  Just like the author, I completely agree that there are more similarities than differences between working moms and stay-at-home moms.  After thinking about it for a week, here is my little list for those of us on the flip side of the coin.

  • My daughter’s preschool teachers will never know what I look like with makeup on or a put-together outfit.  Well, this is not entirely true.  Sometimes at pickup, they do see a more put-together Monica but drop off is a different story completely.  My daughter even pointed out to her teachers once, “Look, my mom wore her pajamas to drop me off!”  Thanks, kid.  When you don’t have anywhere to be but home or the store, it’s just hard to get ready that early.  How working mothers get themselves plus their children ready every morning is a mystery to me.
  • I’ve touched on this one before, but some days I would kill to go to the bathroom alone just once.  Or to chat with another adult without being interrupted.  I envision my working mom friends casually pouring a cup of coffee and lingering in the hallway talking with coworkers before settling down in their cubicle taking that wonderful first sip of coffee.  My first sip is typically cold by the time I get to it because I get so sidetracked with the kids.
  • As a stay-at-home mom, your days are ruled not by deadlines, but NAPS.  Naps dictate everything.  Gotta get errands done before, between and after them.  And God forbid, anyone falls asleep during one of those or you won’t get a break later.  At least, not in this house – my kids aren’t the best car-to-bed transferrers.  So we work around naps.
  • You will not often (read: never) eat breakfast or lunch at normal times and meals might resemble something like a few bites of cold leftovers or some string cheese with some apple slices.  Something easy with little to no prep.  Some days I realize around 2 or 3pm I have barely eaten anything because I have been so busy with my kids.
  • You’ll have to work hard to create your own identity outside of diaper changes, feeding, cooking and cleaning.  I really had no idea I would struggle with this – I thought staying at home would be enough to fulfill me.  I love my time with my children, but I value myself as a whole person too.  I make time for other passions I have so that it feeds my soul in other ways, making my time at home more enjoyable.
  • Some days you’ll feel like you accomplished nothing – especially when your spouse asks what you did today.  Yet you moved nonstop, cleaning up the tornado of toys and dishes and messes throughout the day to get it to resemble something “normal” by day’s end.
  • Those nighttime hours after the kids go down feel like heaven.  You shouldn’t stay up so late, but you know the time “alone” is ticking by and you won’t get it back for another 24 hours.  You have to soak it up, even if it means being tired the next day.
  • My kids are my boss.  Just like in the article about working moms, your kids will always come first.  Because if they aren’t happy, mom isn’t going to be productive, whether at home or at work.

 

Time to ‘Let it Go’?

Halloween has come and gone.  Not surprisingly, the day saw countless Elsas, many Annas, plenty of Olafs and even carrots and reindeer running around.  My daughter was one of the Frozen fanatics, dressing as America’s favorite Ice Queen.  Since the day she first saw the movie, she declared she would be Elsa for Halloween.  There was no changing her mind.

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The obsession with this movie is mind-boggling in some ways.  We even went to a Frozen-themed Halloween spooktacular at our friends’ house, complete with snowball fights, aqua-colored tortillas at the taco truck and a visit from Anna and Elsa themselves.

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I guess I can’t say I don’t understand the hype – I’m definitely a fan of the movie, and I enjoy the soundtrack, even if I can sing it in my sleep I’ve heard it so many times.  The message of the movie is great, in that it isn’t the typical Disney plot where the princess is rescued by a handsome prince.  It shows sibling love, and a girl who is ashamed of her gift but slowly accepts it, coming into her own.  It’s been nearly one year since Frozen was released in theaters, and the obsession is as big as ever – as was telling from Halloween.

So instead of hating, I have embraced the hype, being a parent to a preschooler who loves Frozen as much as the next little girl.  Here are the best parts about this movie in my mind:

  • “Let it Go” is a song that plays in my head all day – my mantra you could say.   You can use it about house work, your child grating on your nerves, or a whole other slew of things.  It just works.
  • The obsession kids have over this movie provides comedic relief some days.  One time I thought I was being nice by putting the soundtrack on in my car for my daughter when she suddenly screamed, “Nooo!  Don’t turn Frozen on!!”  I was shocked.  “Why not?”  “Because I don’t have an Elsa braid in right now.”  Oooooh.  Of course.  You can’t sing along to Frozen songs without a french braid.  What was I thinking.
  • Even though my poor stepson groans every time the soundtrack comes on in our car, it has calmed our other son down on numerous car rides when he was a bit younger.  He especially loves, “Do you want to build a snowman” because of the little kid voices, I think.
  • My one-year-old son has been connecting two words lately to complete a phrase.  His first phrase was “I do” and the second was “let it go” – sad, but true!  I’m sure he knows all the words to every song, even if he can’t belt them out like his sister.  He’s heard them enough times too.
  • I am no Disney fanatic (I have visited Disneyland exactly 3 times in 9 years of living in Southern California) but I find this site linking Frozen, The Little Mermaid and Tangled together fascinating.  My daughter pointed out several times that Rapunzel is in a scene of Frozen and I never paid much attention to what she was saying – but she’s right!  Whether or not it’s true, it’s cool seeing a movie from my own childhood connect with one my daughter loves now.

Yes, sometimes it’s annoying as a parent, being inundated with all things Frozen – but, all in all, there are worse things for a child to be into, in my opinion.  This is one trend I won’t be sad to see go…but while it’s here I’ll sit back and enjoy what seems like the 100th showing of the movie in our house.  Pass the popcorn one more time.

Friday Favorites

1.  If you love Fall and you want a new drink to try, please buy these two items immediately!  Served hot or cold, it’s the new favorite in this house.  Hope the weather cooperates soon so we really get into the spirit.

2.  I saw a recommendation for Hue leggings on a blog I follow and now I’m intrigued.  I think I’ll need to pick up a pair at Nordstrom soon.  This review is pretty compelling!

3.  I’m a sucker for bacon-wrapped dates and make them somewhat frequently, but this may be my new favorite – made it for my hubby this week.  So good!!  Love sweet and salty together.

4.  My husband will be happy to know about these 14 foods that are healthier than kale.  He’s not a huge fan…guess I can incorporate the other foods on the list and not feel bad about it!

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5.  This blog post is titled Friday Favorites, so I suppose it should be somewhat upbeat.  Not to drag anyone down, but this post was incredibly poignant and heartbreaking yet so powerful and brave.  I hope everyone has a chance to read it.  It’s about a Christian mother’s regret in how she handled her son’s ‘coming out’ – take time to read the comments as well.

6.  Halloween is upon us, and for some reason, it stresses me out every year.  I hate thinking about what the kids will be, and then if I have to find a costume myself?  Ugh.  Never have been a fan of the dressing up!  This was pretty funny though, and brought back memories!

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7.  This is pretty great…you have to start somewhere, so why not start now?

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8.  I love this post on incorporating denim and camel for Fall – some super cute looks.

9.  Saw this House of Harlow necklace and loved it!  It comes in a few other colors as well.

Hope everyone has a great weekend!

-Monica

Slow cooker chicken burrito bowls

The heat wave we’ve had in Southern California has been intense.  I’m envious of the rest of country’s gorgeous Fall weather!  Thankfully, the past few days we have gotten a break and temps are back down.

I couldn’t bring myself to turn the oven on this past week, which meant several days of take-out and using the slow cooker.  This slow cooker chicken and salsa meal did the job last night.  I made into a burrito bowl for myself, but did tacos for my husband the the kids.

photo 4Two ingredients:  chicken and a jar of salsa verde.

I cooked on low for 5 or 6 hours and then shredded the chicken with a knife and fork.

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For my burrito bowl, I topped with ingredients I already had on hand.

photo 3Super easy and satisfying.

Happy weekend, everyone!

 

 

Back in the swing of things

It’s been over a week now since we got back from the hospital.  Besides a small scare with my daughter’s nose on Monday (all checked out well at the ENT, phew!), life seems to be getting back to “normal.”  When we first got home, it felt a little like when you return home from the hospital after having a baby.  Only the “baby” in this case is 3 1/2 and emotionally unloading from the traumatic experience (as she should).  And the true “baby” is 1 1/2 and scared to death Mommy is going to leave him for days at a time again.  It took several days of adjusting for all of us.

All of this leaves a mom who is emotionally spent.  I’ve barely had much time to process what happened myself.  Thanks to some close girlfriends, I’ve been able to unload here and there, but, as you can imagine, the majority of my time is focused on the kids.  I had to keep my daughter home last minute from preschool Monday with our small scare, so I think once she’s back in the swing of things, it will be good for us all.

Several moments of the weekend took my breath away.  I took my daughter to see Dolphin Tale 2 (only the second movie she’s ever been to) and didn’t tell her some of her closest friends would be there.  The look on her face when she saw them was priceless.  So many run of the mill things have felt so emotional for me.  Watching her dance and laugh with friends.  Playing with her baby brother.  Seeing her without a care in the world, just how it should be.  We take so much for granted until something shakes our world up!

That’s why the family photo shoot we did a week before the kiddos got sick is extremely precious.  Thanks to our dear friend for capturing these images for us!  This is just a small sampling, if you can believe it.

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