Never.

by
Never

 

Before my daughter was born I knew exactly what kind of parent I WOULDN’T be. My list of “things I’ll never do” was longer than my current grocery list.

 

It is easy to judge in the waning afternoon light, swinging on a hammock, eight months pregnant with your first child. There is no way to know any better.

 

That hope of perfect and idealism is something new moms all over grasp onto. It is the daydream that fills the hours until they get to hold their sweet babies for the very first time.

 

Then, reality hits. The best-laid plans are left out in the rain while a sleep deprived mom tries to make it through another day.

 

Suddenly you find yourself up to your eyeballs in situations you never thought of. Those “I would never” statements become laughable. In those nine months of pregnancy one detail is usually over looked.

 

Children have minds of their own and are as individual as fingerprints.

 

My daughter is about to turn four any minute. You can tell by her stretched out, no longer a chubby toddler, appearance. You can hear it in her use of full sentences when she talks. It is also in the slight hint of annoyance in her voice when asked to do something she would rather not do or in the shriek she emits over being told that cookies are not, in fact, a good breakfast choice. It is clear in the never ending questioning and subsequent debate that is the soundtrack of our lives.

 

It is clear in her yearning to make me happy. It is also clear in her inability to listen to simple requests to use her indoor voice when talking to me from 6 inches away. It is clear in her growing independence.

 

She has developed her own thoughts and opinions. Some of which are in direct dispute with some of my own. She has challenged me to rethink everything I ever thought I knew about parenting, life, and the world in general.

 

It is the most amazing and frustrating challenge I have ever accepted.

 

I try to approach parenting my child the same way I approach my entire life now. I throw away any and all “never” statements and open myself to the possibility that I actually know nothing and am continually learning. I try to stay in the middle of the road, learning from both sides until I reach my destination a better, more balanced person.

 

The mommy/parenting wars that I see happening online and at the nearest playground all the result of people hanging out on either side of the road, refusing to acknowledge that maybe their neighbor across the street is onto something and knows a thing or two. I know because I have spent my fair share of time on either side of that street before I finally stepped into the middle, tail between my legs.

 

It happens from trying to parent in black and white when the world is purple, blue, yellow, green, and red. It happens when we assume that there is a right and a wrong way of doing things. It also happens when parents are villainized for not being the serene, calm, gentle parenting poster child.

 

I try to do the very best I know how to for my daughter. I, just like her, am still, and will forever be, learning. In some ways we are growing together. And just when I think I have the hang of it she will turn over a new developmental milestone and I will have no idea what I am doing again.

 

I can either hold tight to my “nevers” or I can roll with it, enjoy the ride (yes, even the bumps), and maybe learn a thing or two. But, I have to be open to it.

 

And that, THAT, is the hardest part.

 

Saying to myself, and maybe to the friend I bump into at Target, that I was wrong and have no idea what I am doing, is humbling, a tad embarrassing, but also liberating. I realized that I needed to let myself off the hook. I no longer had to try and squeeze myself into a mold that never felt right; that I didn’t have to subscribe to every word of the newest parenting philosophy. That sometimes, in order to be a kinder, gentler parent, you have to start with being kind to yourself.

 

Also, that parenting styles come and go and they are never, ever, a one size fits all offering.

 

I will allow myself to fail. I will screw up and feel bad and apologize profusely all while teaching my daughter that Momma is human and humans are beautifully and perfectly imperfect. Perfection is all relative and I am doing my best to be the perfect parent for HER. Something that even this imperfect person can strive for.

 

She doesn’t need me to parent the way the newest book tells me to. She doesn’t need me to stay on one side of the road any longer, unwilling to hear what the people on the other side are saying or doing. She needs me to look at her, in this moment, and do my best. She needs me to be willing and open to whatever challenges and joys and hardships will come our way.

 

She needs me to love her the best way I know how. She needs me to be her momma, to parent her in a way that fits her and only her. She needs me to stop bullying myself for my own perceived failures and instead, simply, listen to her.

 

She needs me to never say, “never.”

Adventures In Solo Parenting

by
Adventures In Solo Parenting

“How is being a single parenting going?”

 

It was an innocent question. There was nothing loaded about it, just a sincere inquiry.

 

But, it rubbed me the wrong way.

 

My husband travels for four weeks every summer as part of his (awesome) job. The plan was to have our daughter and I join him this year but after that tiny digital screen read “pregnant” last February, our plans changed.

 

So, off he went and here we stayed. My daughter and I. And two dogs. And a five month pregnant belly that has taken on a life and personality of it’s own. I knew there would be challenges, but we rallied last year, this year would be no different.

 

I am surrounded by friends and family. I made plans to keep us busy. I developed a routine that allowed for flexibility but also predictability. I made sure my daughter understood that daddy was coming back and that momma wasn’t going to leave as well.

 

I reiterate daily that daddy is coming back.

 

Because, I am not a single parent.

 

A single parent does what I do for four weeks, alone. They don’t have morning phone calls to look forward to. They don’t have a calendar counting down the days until their partner will return and life will go back to normal.

 

Solo parenting IS a single parent’s normal. It isn’t just an annual summer adventure. It isn’t a test of their strengths or a 28-day reminder that they are capable of going it alone.

 

I am not, was not, a single parent.

 

I am parenting our child solo physically but I always have the emotional support I need from my husband. During a particular trying situation he called to say hi. After hearing about our trying day he talked to our daughter for a few minutes. He was able to work out what she was dealing with and ultimately remedy the situation.

 

He co-parented from 1,700 miles away because I am not a single parent.

 

My single mother raised me and my sister for nearly a decade before she remarried. She had a great support system but ultimately she was the sole caregiver for her two very young daughters. She made all the decisions on her own. From how to potty train to what to have for dinner every night, she didn’t have someone, be it at home or miles away, to consult. We grew up as products of her choices, no one else’s.

 

When the bills were due and money was tight, she didn’t have someone to help her figure out the family budget. After my sister and I went to sleep, she didn’t have someone to sit on the couch with and decompress after a tough day. She was a single mom. She had herself and us.

 

After I tuck my daughter into bed I can curl up on the couch and grab my phone. Within minutes I can share the details of my day, the hard parts, the funny parts, the mundane, with my husband. I get to hear about his day. We get to connect, vent, and decompress together.

 

Because I am not a single parent.

 

My adventure in solo parenting will come to an end. Our family will once again be geographically together. Our separate adventures will come to a close and the household responsibilities will once again go back to being split down the middle.

 

I will be able to take a Saturday afternoon nap without having to bribe or negotiate with my daughter. I will be able to take a shower in the morning while she and my husband have breakfast together. The dogs will go back to their routine nightly walk and I will once again be able to use the bathroom completely alone. With the door shut.

 

But, most of all, I will have my husband back. He will be here to hold me when I am sad. I will get to see his smile when I tell him about our day. I will be able to see his gestures as he talks about his. Our daughter will have her beloved daddy back. Our house won’t feel so empty, that missing piece will fill back in.

 

“I am doing ok. So far the kiddo and I are mostly just having fun,” I answer. Deciding that explaining why I am not a single parent may just be too long of an answer for such an innocent question. “My adventures in solo parenting will be over soon. Thank you so much for asking.”

 

Soul Friend

by
Soul Friend

The warm breeze carries their giggles and squeals across the yard. Four tiny feet carry growing bodies towards me at break neck speeds. They run faster than expected.

 

“More? Peeasssss?” the littlest one says.

 

“She wants another fishy, Momma,” the bigger one translates.

 

My heart melts. I dole out snacks and go back to talking with my friend, the momma of the little one.

 

Time hasn’t always been this good to us. But right now, in this moment, it was so very good.

 

Our friendship started in the autumn of ’95. We were in high school and knew everything there was to know about everything. I was painfully shy and she was older and more confident. I adored her immediately. Our friendship bloomed fast and set as quickly.

 

Breaks up and make ups, graduations, college, hardships, joys, celebrations, and a wedding, you name it, we went through it. And now, motherhood. Would our girls be the kind of friends we were? As I watch them zoom and play in my backyard I can only imagine the long nights ahead of them. Secrets shared in the dark, the rules they would break, the memories they would make. I laughed at the thought of the phone calls my friend and I would share in 15 years….

 

A blur of small girls runs past us in a fit of giggles and smiles. My friend’s tiny daughter looks at my bigger one. The admiration in her eyes is so familiar. It is the same I have had in my own, looking at her mom. I have been blessed with her friendship. I see the way my daughter looks at the smaller girl. She adores her so much. I have no doubt they share a love that I am very familiar with.

 

People talk about love all the time. They talk about finding your one soul mate. Page upon page about unconditional love. What is rarely mentioned is the love between friends. The unconditional, soul soothing love that comes when you find a person who will forever be a part of your chosen family. A soul friend. I am frequently brought to tears thinking about how fortunate I am to have found mine.

 

I find comfort in knowing that whatever life has in store for me I will always have her. And she, well, she is forever stuck with me. I can count on her for anything. My soul friend. My chosen sister.

 

I watch our daughters playing. There is a bond there that only time, much more time than their very few collective years on earth, can provide. Somehow, they know they are family, they know the love that is unspoken and unseen. They know the history their mommas share.

 

“More? Peeeassss?” the tiny one says again, this time, with a slight cock of her head and a smile on her face. A face that is comforting and familiar to me. I see long nights of soul baring stories in her tiny face. I see the sweet smile of her grandmother, a woman who may not biologically be my mom but loves me as though I was.

 

I see where I have been and where I might go. I see her momma and the struggles and joy she has experienced. I see love.

 

Who knew such a tiny face could hold so much history?

 

I hand her a snack and tell her I would give her the world if I could. She grins and runs off to play with my bigger girl. I smile at her momma, my friend.

 

The warm breeze carries their giggles and squeals across the yard. And with them, so much history and even more love.

A Schedule Unscheduled

by
A Schedule Unscheduled

The days are long and the nights are short. The air is heavy with warmth and the sun shines brighter than it has in months. Children wake with the birds and beg to be released into the morning misty dew. Warm breezes and cloudless skies beg to be soaked up.

 

It is summer.

 

This summer, we have decided to take a more simple, unstructured approach to life. Besides my husband’s normal travel for work, we have not made any major vacation plans. We have cancelled all organized day camps, much to the delight of our daughter, and instead will spend our days however we see fit in that moment.

 

If we wake up and the urge to spend the entire day at the beach hits us, off we will go, shovels and pails in hand. If flying a kite feels like the right thing to do, well, you know where we will be. Playgrounds will be frequented, lakes splashed in, rivers explored. We will wake with the sun and head to bed at dusk.

 

Our lives quickly were filling up with obligations and appointments. Our days were becoming so scheduled that spontaneity was slowly losing it’s place as a priority. Our backyard was lonely and our daughter couldn’t remember the last time she was taken to a playground.

 

We were on the verge of becoming exactly who we never wanted to be. I made this stunning realization one day when trying to figure out when I could meet a friend for a walk. Every day had something happening and if there wasn’t some sort of obligation then I needed the time to catch up on writing/laundry/grocery shopping. All this structure was making me miserable. Somehow I had forgotten to schedule time to be unscheduled.

 

There was no better time to clean our calendar then the dog days of summer. Those sunny mornings are just sparkling with possibility. The idea of saying no to one more request to go play, to have to explain that we could have 15 minutes in the backyard between errands, well, it made me sad.

 

This is the summer of less is more. Less schedule, more spontaneity. More yes let’s go, less no not now.

 

The Sunday before my husband headed out on his yearly work related adventure, we hopped in the car and just went. Our only plans were to take a couple photos for my blog and generally have fun.

 

We found ourselves in the middle of the Green River in Guilford, one of our most favorite spots. We spent hours sharing the space with a female Common Merganser. We watched her as she watched us. Eventually she hopped in the water and paddled around while our own daughter splashed happily upstream.

 

Minutes didn’t matter. Time was irrelevant. The passing of time was measured in giggles and warm breezes. Exactly the way we didn’t plan.

 

Eventually the snacks we packed had all been eaten and dinner called us back to the car. We slowly made our way home on not so traveled roads. We chatted about what we saw and stopped the car when something caught our eyes. That night, when asked what her favorite part of the day was, a bedtime tradition, our daughter answered, “The whole thing.”

 

So here is to a summer full of days filled to the brim with nothing and everything. Here is to loving every part of the day, living in each moment so deeply that there is no way to pick a favorite.

 

There will always be appointments and obligations. There will be days that spontaneity will be overshadowed by errands. However, those days will no longer be routine. Instead they will be the pause in between adventures. And when obligation arises, we will treat it as an adventure itself, making the very best of the situation until we are free to go back to wandering and roaming.

 

Spend some time this summer to roam. See where your day will take you. You don’t have to spend a ton of money (usually, not a single penny is necessary), or travel very far. Sometimes all you have to do is let go of expectations. Stop making plans. Wake up, grab your favorite people, and head out your door.

 

Adventure awaits!!

Do As I Say

by
©ZP Stephens

I watched as my daughter’s eyes sparkled. “Here they come, Momma!! Here come the cows!!!”

 

If you are local or even semi-local, you know exactly where we were last weekend,  the 13th annual Strolling of the Heifers. Also known around our house as the cow parade.

 

We had been looking forward to this event for weeks. It was a guaranteed laugh when we explained that cows walked right past Daddy’s work and all the way up Main Street. She had been every summer since she made her home in my belly but had no memories of the event. We were excited to see it through her eyes, once again.

 

We arrived in town early and found prime parking. The calm before the cow storm left downtown serene and pleasant. We slowly made our way through the sunshine to grab coffee and snacks. We answered a million excited questions.

 

“When will the cows get here?”

“Will there be drums?”

“Is someone going to throw me treats?”

“Did I just hear a cow?”

“Is it starting yet?”

“Where are the cows? I only see people!!”

 

We made our way up a rapidly filling Main Street and found a shady spot to wait until the parade commenced. Not surprisingly, 10 minutes before kick-off both the 3 year old and a certain pregnant momma had to find a restroom.

 

I knew this weekend was going to be full of adventures.

 

After a successful potty break we decided to find a viewing spot close to the facilities. Sunshine plus lots of water plus an active baby makes for multiple trips an hour. I was going to be prepared.

 

We found a small stretch of sidewalk that was unoccupied. Folks were milling about stepping into the street to look down the hill, hopeful for their first cow spotting. We settled in, happy to find a spot were our kiddo could view this much-anticipated spectacle.

 

It started and the millers fell back, onto the sidewalks. Parents sat alongside their children. A mom and her two young girls ran to see the beginning. They sat directly in front of us, clearly not on purpose. My husband asked them if they wouldn’t mind scooting over. The woman very pleasantly apologized and happily scooted the two feet needed to make everyone’s view better.

 

We were sharing space with thousands of people in a town meant for hundreds at best. There were bound to be overlaps and requests to move. Every year either we have to ask or someone asks us. It is a delicate balance and dance to shuffle all those bodies into a limited amount of space.

 

I had noticed a couple taking photos in front of the mom and her four children that sat to my right. I saw as another woman asked them to move. Her request was ignored and they continued to block the view of the kids. As the parade progressed they pushed further into the street, blocking not only the kids next to us but now us as well. My three-year-old strained to see her beloved cows.

 

My husband got up and asked them if they wouldn’t mind moving, that they were blocking the kid’s view.  I expected some grumbling at most, it was getting hot and I know how territorial people can get. Then I looked at the faces of these children, as they gazed in wonder at the livestock. No one could possibly get grumpy about allowing these faces to see the fun.

 

Then I heard the yelling. The four-letter word that is usually hailed as the worse of the worse, the one that rhymes with a certain feathered farm animal. I could feel my heart beating in my throat as I yelled for my husband to come sit down. The man he had approached had lost all self-control and was telling my husband to shut up, just with that feathery word inserted into the phrase.

 

My husband walked away without losing his cool. How he did that, I may never know. The older man was screaming in his face. All because we asked if they could step over a few feet so that the kids behind them could see.

 

Within minutes his wife was behind me, standing with her feet and knees touching my back. She started ranting about respect and them being there first. She said things like, “Why don’t you just stand and hold your kid,” and “Learn some respect!” All within inches of my daughter.  It was too much for me.

 

“Ma’am! How old are you? My daughter is three. All we wanted was for her to be able to see.”

 

I was met with a snarky reply. She stated that she was 60 and I was being disrespectful. They were there first, after all.

 

I was astounded by this couple’s behavior. Both my husband and I stayed as respectful as the situation allowed. We were both highly disrespected and bullied, but because they were older, that did not matter. This was a classic case of demanding respect without showing any themselves.

 

A case of Do As I Say, Not As I Do.

 

The woman did not move, even after I asked her as politely as I could muster to please move away from me. I think she may have actually stepped closer. The only saving grace in the situation was that our daughter and the children next to us could finally see clearly and were so enthralled with the festivities they barely noticed the adults behaving badly.

 

I, on the other hand, was really upset. My husband had been verbally accosted and a very angry person I did not know was poking me in the back. The stress was too much and I started having small contractions. I knew I had to walk away.

 

I secured my daughter’s cow balloon to her dress and told my husband I had to use the bathroom. I walked away without even looking at the woman or her husband. By the time I got back the contractions had stopped and they had left.

 

Right before I sat down the woman beside me, the mother to the four children the older couple had been blocking the entire parade, stopped me and thanked me. They had tried to get them to move and were met with silence.

 

The parade ended and we gathered our things. Our daughter chattered excitedly about what she had seen and how she wanted to see more cows. We headed up the hill, to the town common, to join the throngs of spectators at the festival that followed.

 

Halfway there I needed a bathroom. We ducked into the public library and I took my place in line. In front of me was a teenaged couple. The girl turned and smiled at me. “You should go ahead of me. You look like you need it sooner than me.”

 

I thanked the young girl and entered the restroom. As I left, I thanked her again. Her reply was another smile, a glance at my belly and a cheery, “Anytime!”

 

My faith in good was restored and a few stereotypes were shattered. My daughter got to witness firsthand and that no matter what age you are, sometimes meltdowns happen. Anger gets the best of everyone. She also witnessed a tiny selfless act by a person who would be typecast as less than thoughtful.

 

Respect, it is a two way street. One that has no regard to age or social standing but instead it has everything to do with actions. Actions and reciprocation.

 

**Photo by the talented, and dare I say sexy as hell, Zachary P. Stephens. Please do not steal it. If you love it, contact him at zpstephens@gmail.com and he will be super nice about letting you use it. XOXO**

Showering You With A Giveaway!

by
giveaway

As you know, we are expecting our second daughter this fall. A couple amazingly sweet readers have suggested I throw a baby shower for my followers. I thought about it and felt weird asking for gifts. What I didn’t feel weird about was GIVING AWAY gifts.  So, I sent out a few emails and gathered some incredible hand crafted items from some insanely talented mommas. I grabbed my family and ventured out to our favorite river in the woods and photographed those items.

And now, I am giving them away to one lucky reader.

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And, I am jealous.

I mean, LOOK at this stuff!! It is so beautiful. I am beyond grateful to the women who generously donated their wares to me to give to you. Keep reading and at the bottom of this post is an entry form. Follow the simple instructions and enter to win!!

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Let me introduce them to you.

First we have a reader, Julia, who offered to make a set of 4 burp clothes. They are reversible and made out of the softest fleece ever. I was tempted to make them a set of three and keep one for myself……

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Next we have my friend, Amber. Amber is the creative mastermind behind Bubba Pickles Market. She creates all natural toys and dress up items. Click the link above to check out her etsy shop, it is amazing. The cupcake she is giving away is so adorable. It is made out of 100% natural and non-toxic wool felt. It would make the perfect birthday (or any day!) gift.

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Amber mentioned to a friend of hers about this giveaway I was planning. As soon as Jill from Fantasy Kids Wear heard about it, she wanted in and I couldn’t have been happier. My daughter lingers in front of her Farmer’s Market booth just about every week, eying her dresses and wings and fairy inspired accessories. The wings in this giveaway are so beautiful and will transform any child into a magical fairy or beautiful butterfly.

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My friend Melody heard about my plans to give away handmade gifts and she quickly whipped up some adorable baby legwarmers. Melody is the driving force behind Wrap Happy VT. She helps educated parents about the art and benefits of babywearing. Legwarmers are the perfect accessory for just that, especially during warm summer days. They keep baby’s leg protected from the sun and friction without the added warmth of pants. (They also work well under dresses for bigger kids, too!)

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There isn’t much more I can say about Tara of The Enchanted Root, and her enormous talent, that is not apparent in these photos. Her all natural, non-toxic wood toys are breathtaking. I “met” Tara through a Waldorf swap group and instantly fell in love with her creations. When I found out that she lives a little over 2 hours away in the mountains of my beloved VT, I knew we would be friends. I asked her to be a part of this giveaway and she happily obliged. When the package arrived from her, I nearly cried. The generosity and quality were almost too much. (She even added a rainbow stacking toy for our little rainbow baby!!) The winner of this giveaway will receive a set of 5 bath toys, 2 teethers (one bunny, one elephant), a GORGEOUS maple tree, and a rainbow stacking toy. Wow!

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As you can see, this is amazing! Please, tell your friends, spread the word, share the wealth!!!

I am so happy to be able to do this for you all. You have been amazing and I can’t express my gratitude enough. Thank you for reading, for laughing with me (maybe at me?), sharing tears and joy. Thank you for it all. Big love and GOOD LUCK!!!

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Love these photos? I DO TOO!! They are (with the exception of the purple promo photo, that one is mine) all by my ridiculously talented husband, Zachary P. Stephens. Check out his photo blog here. I cannot express how lucky I am to have him. Also, please do not steal my photos or his photos. Stealing photos is just bad karma. Instead, email me at juiceboxconfession@gmail.com and we can work something out. Plus, these photos are such low resolution, they will look crappy if you steal them. I can send you much better quality ones with a hefty dose of gratitude and good karma. Sweet deal, yes?

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

 

I Spy A Fly

by
060814--zps

I love being a part of A Fly On The Wall writing challenges. It allows me to join other bloggers (15 this month!) in writing about those little moments, the ones too good to not share but too small to pull their own weight alone.

Most of mine are made up of conversations and quips about my daughter and husband. Tiny moments that when compiled paint a picture of life around here.

I realized last week the real reason I adore this challenge. It is the writing version of the photography I do regularly. My images are snippets of our life. They are windows into a world that few get to see.

So, this month (I am taking next month off to FINALLY finish up some techie boring blog stuffs) I am doing something different. I am sharing photos of an average day. You will see exactly what a fly on our wall (or buzzing above our heads as we venture outdoors) would see.

If you look closely, you may learn a little something about our family.

Enjoy!!

The best days start over coffee or tea with my husband…..
While our daughter makes us “cookies” sans pants in our sun drenched living room.
No matter how hard we struggle financially or what costs we cut, flowers are a necessity. They keep my sane and grounded.
Summer means days spent soaking up sun with sand between our toes. A cousin makes the adventure perfect.
There is a constant rhythm of movement within me these days. My recent sonogram revealed a very very healthy baby.
A healthy, happy, GIRL baby. We have made the kiddo’s dreams come true. We had the ultrasound tech give our daughter a fabric pouch with a pink or blue heart in it. After the scan we sat outside under a grove of pine trees and had her reveal to us what we were having. She nearly cried when telling us she was getting a sister. Two girls. Two rainbow babies. Two miracles. Gratitude abounds around here. So much.

__________________________________________________

 

Please do visit the other Fly participants. You know you want to know what happens at their houses, too!!

http://www.BakingInATornado.com                          Baking In A Tornado
http://www.therowdybaker.com                                  The Rowdy Baker
http://www.justalittlenutty.com/                                Just A Little Nutty
http://spatulasonparade.blogspot.com/                          Spatulas on Parade
http://thesadderbutwisergirl.com                                   The Sadder But Wiser Girl
http://stacysewsandschools.blogspot.com/                  Stacy Sews and Schools
http://www.menopausalmom.com/                          Menopausal Mother
http://dinoheromommy.com/                               Dinosaur Superhero Mommy
http://www.someoneelsesgenius.com                     Someone Else’s Genius
www.theblacksheepmom.blogspot.com                         Black Sheep Mom
http://www.gomamao.com                                Go Mama O
http://batteredhope.blogspot.com                            Battered Hope
http://themomisodes.com                                      The Momisodes
http://elleroywashere.com                                      elleroy was here
***All images in this post are copyright Michelle Stephens (with the exception of the Fly On The Wall logo, copyright Baking In A Tornado). No image may be used or reproduced without the expressed consent of the creator.***

Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate Mint

by
photo-22


When I received my email for this month’s challenge I was excited by the words assigned to me. I felt motivated to do something really special with them. Then I saw who submitted them. Karen of Baking In A Tornado, the mastermind and ringleader behind these fantastic challenges. I knew I had to try something new.


Summer has settled in here in the Northeastern US. The warm days outnumber the cool ones for the most part. The unending and bitter cold days of winter have faded and my yard has sprouted all sorts of goodies.

One of those goodies is chocolate mint. My best friend had gifted me a single plant a couple years ago and I planted it outside my kitchen door and, if we are being honest, showered it with an amazing amount of neglect. It did not seem disturbed in the least bit as a matter of fact it has flourished. I was determined to actually do something with it besides stopping to inhale it’s chocolaty minty goodness.

I have always preferred to cook with fresh ingredients, cooking from scratch over anything processed from a box. My husband’s multiple food allergies and Celiac’s shifted our eating years ago. I found that my four-month battle with morning sickness had left me lacking in motivation to create delicious foods for my family. This mint that perfumed my yard from my door all the way to my maple trees was a constant reminder that I should look as close to home as possible for inspiration.

As I picked the hundredth leaf of the season and rubbed it between my fingers, releasing the tummy soothing scent, it hit me. Gluten free brownies. Chocolate mint gluten free brownies. I had everything I needed so I got to work.

The biggest trick with gluten free (gf) baking is moisture/tenderness. GF goodies can quickly become dry and crumbly. I scoured the internet and no one had the recipe I wanted. I decided that I needed to create these brownies completely. I took guidance from a handful of recipes, my own experience with gf ingredients, and that amazing green mint growing feet away from me.

As I mixed and measured I felt my mind settle into the rhythm of baking. I no longer thought about my nausea or our impossibly tight budget. Instead, I thought about each ingredient and how they would work together to make a (hopefully) delicious treat for my family. I realized how much I love being in my kitchen and how much I had missed it. I was able to appreciate my family’s rejection of living a faster-is-better lifestyle and instead focusing on slower, simpler approach. As I stirred the batter and scrapped it into the pan I felt a sense of calm, a sense of deep gratitude for the little things.

Once the brownies had baked and cooled I called my family to come have a seat. It was the moment of truth. When someone you love takes a bite of something you made just for them and silence takes over, you know you succeeded. The reviews came pouring in after a quick chug of milk.

“These are some of the best brownies I have ever had!” My husband declared.

My daughter smiled at me when I asked her what she thought. “They are so good!” Her smile grew wider, “can I have more, Momma?”

Can’t argue with those reviews.

_________________________________________________________________________

 Chocolate-Chocolate-Chocolate Mint Gluten Free Brownies

Ingredients:

- ½ cup gluten free all purpose flour blend
- ½ cup unsweetened coca powder
- ¼ teaspoon gluten free baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup PLUS 2 tablespoons granulated cane sugar
- ½ cup softened unsalted butter (1 stick)
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup chocolate chips (I used dark)
- ¼ cup chopped fresh chocolate mint

Prep:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F/ 176 degrees C for metal pan or 325 degrees F/ 163 degrees C for glass pan

Grease 8×8-inch pan with butter or coconut oil

Batter:

Sift together gf flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt and sugar. Set aside.

In large mixing bowl combine butter, eggs, vanilla and chocolate chips. Mix until well combined.

Slowly stir in dry mixture. Batter will be thick and fudgey. Gently mix in chopped mint leaves.

Scrap batter into greased pan.

Bake for 22 minutes, making sure you do not over cook as brownies will become hard. Cool in pan for 15-20 minutes before cutting and serving.


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My words were: wider ~ faster ~ disturbed ~ unending ~ motivated ~ trees

They were submitted by:  http://Bakinginatornado.com

This post is part of the Use Your Words Challenge. Participating bloggers picked 4 – 6 words or short phrases for someone else to craft into a post. All words are to be used at least once and all the posts will be unique as each writer has received their own set of words. That’s the challenge, here’s a fun twist; no one who’s participating knew who got their words and in what direction the writer will take them. Until now.

Check out the other fabulous participants here:

http://bakinginatornado.com                                Baking In A Tornado

http://spatulasonparade.blogspot.com/                          Spatulas on Parade

http://stacysewsandschools.blogspot.com/                      Stacy Sews and Schools

http://berghamchronicles.blogspot.com/                      The Bergham’s Life Chronicles

http://thethreegerbers.blogspot.ch/                    Confessions of a part-time working mom

http://www.someoneelsesgenius.com                     Someone Else’s Genius

http://batteredhope.blogspot.com                      Battered Hope

http://www.healingtomato.com                         Healing Tomato

http://www.eviljoyspeaks.wordpress.com             Evil Joy Speaks
http://thesadderbutwisergirl.com                       The Sadder But Wiser Girl


No More What-Ifs

by
No-More-What-Ifs
Imagine you have to undergo eye surgery. Unfortunately there is a chance it won’t be successful, and you’ll go blind. To make up for the risk, the insurance company is paying for a whole month of soaking up memories. What do you want to see and do?

 __________________________________________________

This prompt left me asking so many questions. First was, why would I be having eye surgery? Is it elective? In that case, this whole hypothetical situation is a moot point. I do not do elective surgery. But, what if it was medically necessary?  What would it be treating? What could it possibly be correcting with such a high risk? If I opted out of surgery, what would be the worst case scenario? (Blindness seems like pretty much the worse thing to happen as far as your eyes go…..)

If I take this prompt at face value, not asking any further questions, I end up with a pretty quick answer.

I do nothing. I continue on with my life as usual. Trying to cram in memories leads to disappointments and more heartbreak. Instead, I would continue on living the way I do now. For every moment.

Simple, easy.

But, if I was to elaborate, I would say that I refuse to give this scenario much thought. Life is full of what ifs. Moments that could go wrong and alter your future forever. Worrying and pondering will not change the outcome but it will interfere with the moments you still have.

This prompt was a challenge in many ways. I wanted to write more, post something I really loved. But the reality, the truth is, I don’t love this prompt. I don’t like “what ifs.” I have no time for them, I allowed them to rule my life for way too long, years ago. I am done worrying about what may be, what could be, and am focused on what is.

I have way too much to be thankful for to waste time worrying about the things I cannot change.

________________________________________________

This post is part of a Secret Subject Swap. This week, 15 brave bloggers picked a secret subject for someone else and were assigned a secret subject to interpret in their own style. Today we are all simultaneously divulging our topics and submitting our posts.My topic was submitted by, Confessions of a part-time working mom
Here are links to all the sites now featuring Secret Subject Swap posts.  Sit back, grab a cup, and check them all out. See you there:
http://www.BakingInATornado.com                          Baking In A Tornado
http://spatulasonparade.blogspot.com/                          Spatulas on Parade
http://stacysewsandschools.blogspot.com/                      Stacy Sews and Schools
http://dinoheromommy.com/                                    Dinosaur Superhero Mommy
http://morethancheeseandbeer.blogspot.com           More Than Cheese and Beer
http://thethreegerbers.blogspot.ch/                          Confessions of a part-time working mom
http://www.someoneelsesgenius.com                     Someone Else’s Genius
http://sparklyjenn.blogspot.com/                        Sparkly Poetic Weirdo
http://www.crumpetsandbollocks.com                    Crumpets and Bullocks
http://fbxadventures.blogspot.com                      FBX Adventures (In Parenting)
http://elleroywashere.com                                  elleroy was here
http://climaxedtheblog.blogspot.com                  Climaxed
http://berghamchronicles.blogspot.com                The Bergham’s Life Chronicles
http://www.eviljoyspeaks.wordpress.com               Evil Joy Speaks

Love Of Four

by
The-Love-Of-Four1

This is a piece I had previously posted. I love it so much I thought, in honor of our twelve year anniversary, I would rework it and re-post.

__________________________________________________

I grabbed his hand as though his weight alone would anchor me to the ground we stood on. “It is beautiful” he said, eyes fixed on the millions of stars that illuminated the sky above us.
It was, indeed, beautiful. All those tiny pinpoints twinkling against an endless velvety dark blue void. My pulse quickened. My head felt weightless. I held onto his hand tighter. Between feeling so incredibly small, falling in love, and my extreme fear of all things huge and unknown, I wasn’t sure if I was going to lose consciousness or vomit. Maybe both.
When I was a little girl I would proudly announce that I was going to be a ballerina and an astronaut when I grew up. I wanted to dance on the moon. I absorbed every book I could find about the solar system. I would recite the planets (in order from the sun, of course), to anyone willing to listen. The idea of something so big that we hadn’t found the end to yet, fascinated me.
My curiosity-filled innocence slowly faded and in its place stood anxiety, fear, and panic. These things, at times, consumed me. I no longer looked at the sky in awe and amazement. I avoided looking up at all out of fear of what may be, of what I didn’t know. I would glance at a harvest moon and momentarily forget that I was fearful. Then a wave of panic would awaken me from my daydream and anxiety would settle in once again.
Then I met him. We spent our first summer under dark and moody skies. Thunderstorm after thunderstorm rolled through. We would watch from my truck as the sky changed from clear blue to steely grey to black. Together we watched lightning rip through the clouds. Claps of thunder echoed in my ears along with the pounding of my completely smitten heart.
Warm nights filled with star gazing and storytelling. I started to forget my fears. As long as he was beside me, I could do anything. The unknown was a beautiful place to be.
Four years later, we married on a beautiful October day. The sun warmed my bare shoulders and made his blue eyes sparkle brighter than the sky. Later that night, we surrounded ourselves with friends and celebrated our union. I found myself looking up at the stars. The infinite unknown didn’t seem so scary. It seemed hopeful, promising. Maybe not knowing was better after all.Another four years and we were holding our first child in our arms. She was born on a summer day, one just like when we fell in love eight years earlier. This time, we were falling in love with a brand new little person, one we created. I held him, afraid that if I let go, I would float away and awake, finding that all this was just a dream.

Our daughter is nearly four and we have a baby on the way now. She asks about the sky and the stars. I gaze up, feeling the new life we created gently roll and kick while a small hand grasps mine. Together we look at the night sky. I hold my family, to keep me firmly on the ground. I still feel those rushes but I know that I have them to hold me. I have him.

I have moments where I find myself looking at the sky, in awe of all that I have. I am overwhelmed with gratitude, for us, for our life, for him. It is in those moments that I still reach out and grab his hand, hoping that his weight alone will anchor me to the ground.

He looks over at me, his eyes still sparkling like that clear October sky, his voice the same as it was on those warm summer nights so many years ago, “It is beautiful”, he says.
Yes, my love, it is beautiful.
I grabbed his hand as though his weight alone would anchor me to the ground we stood on. “It is beautiful” he said, eyes fixed on the millions of stars that illuminated the sky above us.
It was, indeed, beautiful. All those tiny pinpoints twinkling against an endless velvety dark blue void. My pulse quickened. My head felt weightless. I held onto his hand tighter. Between feeling so incredibly small, falling in love, and my extreme fear of all things huge and unknown, I wasn’t sure if I was going to lose consciousness or vomit. Maybe both.
When I was a little girl I would proudly announce that I was going to be a ballerina and an astronaut when I grew up. I wanted to dance on the moon. I absorbed every book I could find about the solar system. I would recite the planets (in order from the sun, of course), to anyone willing to listen. The idea of something so big that we hadn’t found the end to yet, fascinated me.
My curiosity-filled innocence slowly faded and in its place stood anxiety, fear, and panic. These things, at times, consumed me. I no longer looked at the sky in awe and amazement. I avoided looking up at all out of fear of what may be, of what I didn’t know. I would glance at a harvest moon and momentarily forget that I was fearful. Then a wave of panic would awaken me from my daydream and anxiety would settle in once again.
Then I met him. We spent our first summer under dark and moody skies. Thunderstorm after thunderstorm rolled through. We would watch from my truck as the sky changed from clear blue to steely grey to black. Together we watched lightning rip through the clouds. Claps of thunder echoed in my ears along with the pounding of my completely smitten heart.
Warm nights filled with star gazing and storytelling. I started to forget my fears. As long as he was beside me, I could do anything. The unknown was a beautiful place to be.
Four and a half years later, we married on a beautiful October day. The sun warmed my bare shoulders and made his blue eyes sparkle brighter than the sky. Later that night, we surrounded ourselves with friends and celebrated our union. I found myself looking up at the stars. The infinite unknown didn’t seem so scary. It seemed hopeful, promising. Maybe not knowing was better after all.
It has been nearly 12 years since our first summer. We have a daughter now. She asks about the stars and the moon. Together we look at the night sky. I hold them both, to keep me firmly on the ground. I still feel those rushes but I know that I have them to hold me. I have him.
He looks over at me, his eyes still sparkling like that clear October sky, “It is beautiful”, he says.
Yes, my love, it is beautiful.

- See more at: juiceboxconfession.com/2014/01/23/love-in-the-sky/#sthash.t62HjVZb.dpuf

I grabbed his hand as though his weight alone would anchor me to the ground we stood on. “It is beautiful” he said, eyes fixed on the millions of stars that illuminated the sky above us.
It was, indeed, beautiful. All those tiny pinpoints twinkling against an endless velvety dark blue void. My pulse quickened. My head felt weightless. I held onto his hand tighter. Between feeling so incredibly small, falling in love, and my extreme fear of all things huge and unknown, I wasn’t sure if I was going to lose consciousness or vomit. Maybe both.
When I was a little girl I would proudly announce that I was going to be a ballerina and an astronaut when I grew up. I wanted to dance on the moon. I absorbed every book I could find about the solar system. I would recite the planets (in order from the sun, of course), to anyone willing to listen. The idea of something so big that we hadn’t found the end to yet, fascinated me.
My curiosity-filled innocence slowly faded and in its place stood anxiety, fear, and panic. These things, at times, consumed me. I no longer looked at the sky in awe and amazement. I avoided looking up at all out of fear of what may be, of what I didn’t know. I would glance at a harvest moon and momentarily forget that I was fearful. Then a wave of panic would awaken me from my daydream and anxiety would settle in once again.
Then I met him. We spent our first summer under dark and moody skies. Thunderstorm after thunderstorm rolled through. We would watch from my truck as the sky changed from clear blue to steely grey to black. Together we watched lightning rip through the clouds. Claps of thunder echoed in my ears along with the pounding of my completely smitten heart.
Warm nights filled with star gazing and storytelling. I started to forget my fears. As long as he was beside me, I could do anything. The unknown was a beautiful place to be.
Four and a half years later, we married on a beautiful October day. The sun warmed my bare shoulders and made his blue eyes sparkle brighter than the sky. Later that night, we surrounded ourselves with friends and celebrated our union. I found myself looking up at the stars. The infinite unknown didn’t seem so scary. It seemed hopeful, promising. Maybe not knowing was better after all.
It has been nearly 12 years since our first summer. We have a daughter now. She asks about the stars and the moon. Together we look at the night sky. I hold them both, to keep me firmly on the ground. I still feel those rushes but I know that I have them to hold me. I have him.
He looks over at me, his eyes still sparkling like that clear October sky, “It is beautiful”, he says.
Yes, my love, it is beautiful.

- See more at: juiceboxconfession.com/2014/01/23/love-in-the-sky/#sthash.t62HjVZb.dpuf