Month: August 2015

We Can Work It Out

We Can Work It Out

Over the course of my daughter’s life, I have made many mistakes. I’ve scalded her in the shower. I’ve let her roll off the bed as an infant. I’ve given her cookies and fruit snacks for breakfast. I’ve inadvertently taught her all the swear words. I’ve left markers within her reach. I’ve done many, many stupid things. However, I am convinced that my most recent mistake is the biggest to date.

Let me back up a bit.

Before The Princess was born it was decided that I would stay home with her. If I’m going to be entirely honest, as soon as I realized that being a stay-at-home-mom was even a thing, I knew that I wanted to stay home with my kids…at least until they started school.

For a variety of reasons, I decided to turn in an application to the local daycare center a couple of weeks ago. It seemed like the perfect solution. I could make some extra money, The Princess could spend some time with kids and get used to a school-like setting, and the daycare prices are significantly reduced for the children of staff members. Plus, I would be right there in case of an emergency.

Truthfully, when I turned in the application I didn’t think for a second that I’d get a call back, so I was surprised when I was asked to come in for an interview a week later.

When I came in, the director asked me some basic questions about my application and then cut to the chase. “The hours are 9:30 to 5:30. The first part of the day you’ll be cooking, and then you’ll be in the baby room. The pay is minimum wage. If you want it, you have the job.”

So, we dove into the paperwork. She had asked me to stay and get started right then, but I had to get back home and get my daughter so that Almost-Husband could go to work, so I declined. She then asked about the next day, but it was the day before I was leaving for vacation. We talked a bit and it was decided that I would start work the following Tuesday when I returned.

And that, my friends, was the mistake to end all mistakes (thus far in my parenting career).

I left town Thursday evening for my annual trip to The Fest For Beatles Fans. Since the drive is so long, my mom, best friend, and I drive up to my aunt’s house and crash for the night before she, her daughter, and my grandmother join us and we continue on to Chicago.

I spent the next 3 and a half days blissfully enjoying the rare opportunity to exist as my own entity. Until I returned home at 6:30 Monday evening, I was just Brandyn. No cries of “Mommy I need…” or poop-filled pull-ups or throwing away barely touched meals. No responsibilities. Just family and fellow Beatles fans. I participated in a 60s costume contest, listened to amazing live music, heard some fantastic speakers, made some frivolous purchases, and thoroughly enjoyed myself.

However, as the weekend drew to a close, I began to wonder if I was going back to work too quickly after spending so much time away from my family. When I finally walked through my front door, my daughter ran at me shrieking with laughter and delight, “Mommy’s home! Mommy’s home!”

We spent all evening snuggling and playing and laughing and I knew I should have taken an extra day to be with her. But, I reasoned that this was good. I had come home refreshed and energized and we would be starting a new journey together.

Tuesday morning I woke up with just enough time to get myself dressed before waking up The Princess and getting her ready for her first day at “school”. She was convinced that Practice Baby would be there, and I reluctantly informed her that they would be at different schools. She seemed happy enough and bounded out the door eager to make new friends.

As soon as we got there she ran off to play with the other kids and I breathed a sigh of relief as I went into the kitchen to start my day. With the help of the lady in charge of training me, I prepared lunch for the kids and helped serve the meal. I sat next to my daughter to eat my lunch, grateful that we would be able to make this a part of our day.

When it was time to clean up, the first meltdown occurred. She needed her mommy. Now.

I took some time to console her and left her with the big kids so I could learn the ropes in the baby room. She cried and cried. My heart broke.

Soon, I peeked out the door and caught her enjoying herself. I smiled and returned to my job. This was going to be gravy. A while later, I had to leave the room and she spotted me. Another meltdown ensued, but I knew I had to push through.

The end of the day came and after yet another round of hysterical tears, I brought her in with me while I cleaned up and prepared to go home. I reminded myself that it was only the first day and vowed to spend some extra quality time with her when we got home.

She had other plans. As soon as we were in the door she demanded to watch Curious George and be left alone. I made dinner, called my mom, and cleaned up the house a little. All told, I thought it was a pretty good first day.

The next two days, however, were just as tearful. She stopped trying to play with the other kids, opting to stand to the side and pout in between crying sessions. I’m not going to lie, I may have cried a little myself over this.

At this point, I’m at a loss. I want her to get used to a more structured setting before she starts real school. I want her to make friends. I want to bring in a paycheck. But, I can’t help but feel guilty when I’m giving attention to other children while my own child is screaming for her mommy. I can’t help but worry about the strict routine destroying the beautifully wild and independent nature of my little one. I can’t help but be concerned that I’m teaching her to settle by taking a job that isn’t my dream job.

I can’t help but wonder if this is really right for us.

At the behest of my mother, we are going to stick it out for at least two more weeks. If she doesn’t adjust, we’re probably going to have to rethink this move. For now, however, we just have to plug along and hope for the best.

Any of you amazing parents have any tips on how to handle this transition? I’d love to hear them!

Pork Roast/Pork Cassarole Two-Fer {Recipe}

Pork Roast/Pork Cassarole Two-Fer {Recipe}

One of my very favorite things in life is cooking a big meal for family and friends. I don’t know why, but there is something very fulfilling to me about ensuring the tummies of my loved ones get full.

One of my other favorite things is stretching a buck. Typically on a Sunday night I will make a large meal and then use the leftover meat for an easy Monday night meal.

I ran across the basis of this recipe a couple of years ago and couldn’t wait to try it out. I called up a few friends and excitedly whipped it up. It was a huge hit! Over time, I tweaked it until I got it exactly how I wanted it and it became one of Almost-Husband’s favorites. 
Since this recipe takes so long to make and yields so much food, I was hesitant to make it for just the two of us (plus a picky toddler!) without a plan for the leftovers. Not one to back down from a challenge, I concocted a delicious casserole to make the day after. What’s better than getting two meals from one cut of meat?

The casserole was a huge success–Almost-Husband devoured all the leftovers within 24 hours! 

First, we start with the main dish.

Sunday Pork Roast

Ingredients:

  • 5 tablespoons flour (divided)
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon Lawry’s Seasoning Salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 bay leaf (finely crushed)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried Thyme
  • 1 pork roast (4 to 5 pounds) 
  • 2 medium carrots (chopped)
  • 1 medium onion (chopped)
  • 1 rib of celery (chopped)
  • 3 and 1/3 cups cold water (divided)
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 can vegetable broth

Will also need a baking dish or roasting pan, a large measuring cup, a turkey baster, a large skillet, and tin foil.

Directions:

  1. Combine 2 tbsp flour and seasonings in a small bowl. Rub over entire roast and place fat side up in baking dish or roasting pan. Arrange vegetables around roast and pour 2 cups of cold water in the pan.
  2. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 2 hours, basting every 30 minutes with juices in pan.
  3. Baste, sprinkle with 1/2 the brown sugar, baste again, and top with remaining sugar. Bake for 30-40 more minutes.
  4. Remove Roast to serving tray and tent with foil. Let stand for 10 minutes.
  5. With a slotted spoon, remove vegetables to a separate bowl (you may serve with the meal, if you wish). 
  6. Pour liquid from roasting pan into a measuring cup. Add vegetable broth until it measures 2 and 1/3 cup. Pour into skillet.
  7. Combine 3 tbsp flour and 1 cup cold water until smooth. Whisk into broth. Bring mixture to a boil and stir until thickened.

Serve with mashed potatoes and your favorite vegetable. 

Save your leftover meat and your gravy, you will need both tomorrow.

Pork Roast Casserole

Ingredients:

  • Leftover pork roast (cubed)
  • Leftover gravy
  • 1 can of Cream of Mushroom soup + one can of water
  • 1 packet of dry gravy mix (pork flavored)
  • 1 16 oz. bag of mixed veggies-frozen. 
  • 2 1/2  cups of dry egg noodles 
  • 2 or 3 small potatoes (diced)
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp Lawry’s salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

Directions:

  1. In a large baking dish, combine gravy, soup, water, dry gravy mix, and seasonings until well blended.
  2. Stir in vegetables and potatoes.
  3. Stir in meat.
  4. Stir in noodles.
  5. Cover dish with tin foil and bake at 450 degrees for 1 hour or until both noodles and potatoes are tender.

Life Tip: You can use this basic casserole recipe with any leftover meat and gravy. Just substitute the dry gravy packet with the corresponding meat (chicken with chicken, brown with beef). If you do not have gravy from the previous meal, you can use a canned gravy or a corresponding “cream of” soup. If you use the soup, add about a half can more of water.

I hope you enjoy this two-for-one dinner plan! Do you have any left-over make-over dishes? I’d love to know about them! Leave a comment below!

Anxiety, Grief, And A Glimmer Of Hope

Anxiety, Grief, And A Glimmer Of Hope

I have been trying to write this post for nearly 2 weeks now. Dozens of drafts have been started and discarded during a series of late nights and early mornings and who-knows-how-many declarations of “I’ll get to it later”. Since I can’t seem to force these thoughts into any sort of outline, I’m just going to do this stream of consciousness style, so please, bear with me.

Tonight, I can’t sleep. A million thoughts are running through my head at full speed. The bills are piling up, as is the housework. I need to get something written for the blog. I need to get something written for my book. My trip to Beatlefest is coming up. I need to decide on clothes. I need to get packed. I still need to find a sitter. I need to pull some spending money out of thin air. I have 2 appointments tomorrow. I need to go shopping. I have a dentist appointment next week, I can’t forget. Did I write it down? I think I wrote it down. I need to catch up on all my emails. I still haven’t unpacked my office. I just applied for a new job. I hope I get it. I hope I like it. I hope I don’t have to quit the blog because of it. I hope my daughter is okay at daycare. With her attitude she might get kicked out. How did I raise such a brat? I suck at this motherhood thing. I suck at everything….

On and on and on it goes. The list of worries, tasks to be done, appointments to be made and ridiculous self-criticisms is endless. It is suffocating. It drains me of all my energy, making it impossible to complete even the most basic of tasks, which in turn adds fuel to the inner chatter.

Life with anxiety is difficult, even when you are taking the necessary steps to control it. Sometimes, it still shines through. This is one of those times.

It makes sense, of course, that I’m dealing with this right now. I’m not good with change. I’m not good at unexpected events. Try as I might, I’m not a roll with the punches kind of gal. And there have certainly been a lot of  changes lately.

Moving into our new house and getting our puppy were two big changes. While I was mostly prepared for them, it did require a period of adjustment. Our whole routine was upended and it took me quite a while to find our rhythm again.

Unfortunately, as soon as I was back on a somewhat even keel I got a devastating phone call from my best friend. One of our dearest friends, who we have known since the 6th grade, had passed away suddenly. Dropping everything, I jumped in my car and took the half-hour drive to my hometown where a few of us gathered. The weekend seemed to drag on as I sat with my grief. Guilt consumed me as I thought of how long it had been since we had last spoke. The last time I had seen him in person was when he came to visit me in the hospital the day The Princess was born. I berated myself for letting so much time pass. How hard is it to pick up a phone? Why hadn’t I tried harder to stay in touch? I thought I had time. I was wrong.

The following week brought the visitation, the funeral, and my class reunion, which featured a tribute to the friend we had lost. On top of mourning someone dear to me, I found myself mourning the loss of a simpler time. I mourned the loss of friendships. I re-experienced grief for my grandmother and for others I have lost. I mourned the loss of the child I was, of the teenager I was, of the young adult I was. For the first time, I was confronted with my own mortality.  My tears came in waves, broken only by grief-induced sleep and the demands of my child as I adjusted to this new reality.

I would be lying if I said that I was one-hundred percent okay right now. These things take time and I have a lot of thoughts and feelings to sort through. On top of an anxiety flare-up, it’s been a mess.

However, I will say that I am steadily getting better. During this time, I have had to be gentle with myself. I’ve had to remind myself that all the busy-work of life can wait. I just have to get through each day as it comes. I have to remind myself of all the good things in my life and remain focused on the positive, even when the only positive I can see is that it’s close to bedtime. I have had to be honest with those around me and let them know how I am feeling, instead of hiding away, which has been rough since my instinct is to disappear when I am in any kind of pain.

Most importantly, I have become more focused than ever on changing the things that I can. I am relaxing my standards a bit as far as housework and my writing go to allow for more time with family and friends. I am trying harder to really be in the moment and enjoy whatever it is that I am doing without allowing my mind to dwell on the past or the future. I’m trying harder to control my to-do list instead of letting it control me. We are all here on borrowed time. I want to make the most of it while I can.

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Cape Town, South Africa