Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Pouring My Heart Out...Was It My Fault?



"I think I've fallen in love with you," he confessed to me one day at lunch.  "I can't imagine what my life will be like without you in it."

He was my employer, a married man with 3 young boys and a wife I was fond of...and I was a naive 27-year old.

I sat across from him in disbelief, though I don't know why the acknowledgment of his feelings took me by surprise.  Deep down, I suspected he had felt this way for awhile and was just waiting for the right moment to tell me.

I babysat his children on occasion, he and his wife had strongly encouraged me to go to graduate school, he let me cry on his shoulder when I found out my first husband was cheating on me, he held my hand and told me I was strong enough to leave my marriage because I deserved someone who cherished me, he witnessed my reckless behavior during my divorce and called me on it.

He was my friend.  He also happened to be the rabbi of a large congregation.  In their eyes, he was a trusted teacher, a family man...above all, a religious leader.

I'm not sure exactly when his feelings for me developed or what exactly he expected me to do with this information once he shared it.

"Why are you telling me this?" I demanded. "I have a boyfriend...my God, I'm young enough to be your daughter.  I adore your boys, your wife is amazing.  You're moving to Canada in a couple months...why are you doing this?"

He didn't answer for a few minutes, perhaps stunned by my reaction.  The silence between us was almost deafening.  I kept my eyes focused downward on my half-eaten salad, which I was now pushing around my plate with my fork.

I considered grabbing my purse and leaving the restaurant but then quickly remembered we had driven together in his car.

As my mind contemplated what to say next, he finally answered, "I don't know what I expected.  I guess I just wanted you to know.  If you feel the same way, I won't move.  I'll stay.  Or you can come to Canada.  All I know is that I can't imagine my life without you in it."

I leaned in closer to him, not so much to be in closer proximity to him but more out of a desperate need to keep the conversation between us as much as possible.  He was well known in the community and the thought of running into someone from the temple who might overhear our discussion made me want to vomit.

"What?!  Are you kidding me?  What about your wife?  Your boys?  Don't they matter?  Why would you risk everything?  What would you even tell them?" I asked.

Before he could answer, I continued, "I don't feel the same way.  You have to know that.  You are a friend to me.  Nothing more.  Someone I thought I could trust, someone I enjoy spending time with but that's it.  And all this time, you were falling in love with me?"

I couldn't help but wonder if I had led him on during our friendship.

At the office, we were nothing but professional, although there were times he would lean in a little too close for my liking as we went over things he needed me to do or I would catch him watching me but I never said anything.

Outside the office, we would sometimes enjoy lunch together or chat at his house upon his return after babysitting his children.

Had I ever said anything which would lead him to believe I felt more for him?  Did he think every time I smiled at him from across the room that there was more to it than just a friendly gesture?  If I had kept things on a professional level and never entered into a friendship with him, would we even be having this discussion?

"I didn't expect this to happen," he explained.  "It just did.  I'm saddened that you don't feel the same way but I understand."

I gazed into his face and the sadness was evident in his eyes.  I imagined his wife giving him that same look as he disclosed to her that he was in love with someone else.

"And just so you know, even if I did feel the same way, there's no way in hell I would ever enter into a relationship with a married man.  For God's sake, my marriage ended because my husband cheated on me!  You know that!  How could you even think this was okay?"

I partially wondered if I was chastising him to make him feel guilty or for the sake of convincing myself that he was the bad guy here, not me.  I hadn't done anything wrong...or had I?

It was then that I realized that while I knew whole-heartedly that I was not in love with him, I did get excited when I would drive into the parking lot each morning and see his car already there.  I would often greet him with, "I'm so happy you're here today."  When he would tell me how pretty I looked on a particular day, I'd smile politely and blush.

It brought me back to that age-old question...can people of the opposite sex be just friends or will it inevitably lead to one or both people having stronger feelings?  Will someone end up hurt or misconstruing the friendship for more than what it really is?

Things were never really the same between us after that.  I tried to avoid him as much as possible, while he acted like the conversation had never occurred.  

He decided to leave the congregation after all and follow through on his move to Canada with his family.  I received a letter from him a few weeks later.

"I know you would love it here.  The city is so beautiful and I while I walk around here taking it all in, I can't help but think of you and miss you," he had written.

I never wrote back.  He never tried to contact me again and I was relieved.

While it did occur to me that this could be a case of sexual harassment, I never reported it to the board at the temple.  However, I did spend a great amount of time wondering if I should have told someone.  But then would I be dragged through the mud...with no one believing me, especially now that he was gone?  Even if I showed them the letter as proof, would they think it was my fault somehow?

It continued to bother me for months afterward.  Within time, I was able to let it go.

Did I truly believe it was my fault?  In my heart of hearts, I knew I did nothing wrong.  I wanted nothing more than friendship but, then again, I wasn't exactly clear on my expectations...didn't think I needed to be.

And perhaps I should've never entered into a friendship with him based on the fact that he was my employer.  That, alone, was obviously something I was guilty of.

Suffice it to say that this was yet another life lesson for me.  Certainly not the first lesson and definitely not the last one...not by a long shot.


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Monday, November 28, 2011

One of the reasons why husbands should never work from home...

It was only 3:00 in the afternoon but, already, my nerves were shot.

Struggling with Cole and Bella to finish their homework, trying to convince Garrett and Landon to take turns on who would be Sonic on their Wii game...all the while doing my best to keep them quiet so Tim could work.

Why my husband still continues to work from home I'll never understand.  Tim tries desperately to tuck himself away inside his little office upstairs...away from the whining (the kids), the yelling (me) and the crying (the kids...and me).

I've asked him...no, wait...I've begged him to go elsewhere to work.  Panera Bread, the library, his dad's office...anywhere where there's capable Wi-Fi and comfortable seating.  Perhaps not the quietest of places but certainly better than attempting to work from home, where the range of noise and chaos can be enough to make me want to puncture my eardrums with an ice pick.

It's stressful enough struggling to get everything done that needs to be done and keep the kids happy at the same time.  But, add on top of that, constantly reminding the kids that Daddy is working and they need to keep the noise to a minimum is enough to send me over the edge.

By 4:00 pm on this particular day, I was close to the edge of that cliff, dangling off the side of it as if I was Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible...well, except he looked pretty damn cool hanging off the side of that cliff and I looked more like a frazzled, exhausted, desperate housewife.

Suddenly, I heard a voice calling to me, "Drink me.  You know you want to."

I looked around but all I saw were kids.  Kids arguing over whose pencil was whose, kids who were finally getting along while playing a video game but, at any minute, knowing full well that a fight could erupt.

I heard it again.  "Psssst, over here.  In the fridge."

The wine?  Was the wine talking to me? *

Walking over to where it beckoned from, I opened up the fridge and it smiled seductively at me, "Hey, baby...I thought you'd never get here.  Pop my cork and let's get reacquainted."

This invitation was too good to pass up.  I rationalized in my head why it would be a good idea to have just a small glass of wine.


  • It would help calm my nerves.
  • Tim was home, even if he was working, so it wasn't like the kids were unsupervised.
  • It would help calm my nerves.
However, as much as I tried, I could not get the talking bottle of wine to open.  Talk about a cork-tease.

I yanked, I pulled...I forgot about the damn corkscrew.  

Finally, after trying to rip the cork out with an unsuccessful death grip, I barged into Tim's office in a frenzy of irritation, "I'm self-medicating and I can't open this fuckin' bottle of wine!"

And...sure enough, he just happened to be on a conference call.  A video conference call, no less.

"Uh, sweetie, I'm on a video call right now," he mumbled ever-so-slightly under his breath.

"Oh crap...I'm so sorry," I said, retreating from his office with the still unopened bottle of wine.

As the noise from downstairs quickly creeped into his office, he moved away from his computer, reached for the bottle and whispered, "Go get me the corkscrew."

Reason #976 why I love this man.  

So there he sat on his video call, discussing software problems with a colleague while prying open a bottle of wine for his agitated wife.  

Okay, make that #977 reasons why I love this man.

A short while later, as I happily stirred a pot of spaghetti for my hungry family, Tim came downstairs.

"Sorry about earlier.  The kids, the noise...I was trying to keep them quiet.  Epic fail, I know," I apologized.

He just smiled.  "It's okay.  I understand."

Reason #978.  

"Can you just please, from now on..." I began to say.

"Yeah, I'll try to work away from home more often," he finished.

And, that my friends, is one of the reasons why husbands should never work from home.


*  Let me assure you that I clearly understand that bottles of wine do not talk.  And, while I did drink wine on this one occasion while my kids were around, I do not engage in this type of behavior on a regular basis.  I'm only feeling the need to add this because I know there are some people out there who will will not get my humor and may read more into this than there is.  So save yourself the harsh, judgmental anonymous comments.  


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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Interview with the Experts: The Thanksgiving Edition

It's official.  I'm cheating, people.

The kids are out of school this week on Thanksgiving break so I'm desperately trying to keep them busy...because I kind of like my sanity.

So I'll leave you with an oldie, but goodie from last Thanksgiving.

Interview with the Experts:  The Thanksgiving Edition 2010

It's been awhile since I've done an "Interview with the Experts". Cole and Bella have been quite busy these last few months....you know, 1st grade isn't exactly a piece of cake like kindergarten was.

However, they were generous enough to sit down with me for a few minutes the other evening and do an interview, provided they be allowed to decide on the topic.

So here is the newest Interview with the Experts: The Thanksgiving Edition...courtesy of Cole and Bella.



1) Where did the idea of Thanksgiving come from?

Cole: The pilgrims caught a turkey and roasted it.

Bella: First, the two groups lived on land. And the first two groups were the Pilgrims and the Indians.

2) What did the Pilgrims look like?

Cole: They looked like Indians. I think.

Bella: They look like persons. They didn’t give food to the Indians. And they weren’t respectful. And it's not "Pilgrims", it's "Pilgrahams".

3) What did the Indians look like?

Cole: I don’t know but I do know they liked feathers.

Bella: They had a vest and they had tan skin.

4) What did the Pilgrims do when they saw the Indians?

Cole: They hided their stuff so it wouldn’t get stolen. All the dinosaurs were there before the people.

Bella: Hided the food so the Indians wouldn’t get it and people came out, a lot of people who weren’t alive.

5) Where did the Pilgrims and Indians live?

Cole: In a little city near Star Wars.

Bella: They lived in a trailer in the city somewhere.
 
6) Why do we eat turkey on Thanksgiving?

Cole: Because it has chicken in it and it’s good.

Bella: Because it’s healthy for you. And it is has a wishbone in the neck that you can break in half for good luck. It doesn't count though if you get the short part because that means someone cheated. COLE!

Cole:  I don't cheat.  It's not my fault you don't have any luck.

7) Why do families get together on Thanksgiving?

Cole: Because it’s beautiful and you take out a lot of food and forks and spoons and plates, and mashed potatoes.

Bella: Because they want to eat stuffing and chicken. And you get to have peace and quiet when you get together because everyone’s respectful.

8) What should kids be thankful for on Thanksgiving?

Cole: For their aunties and uncles, and moms and their teachers and their dads and grandpa and nannies.

Bella: They should be thankful for their turkey, say thank you to their mom and dad. Mostly to your mom again because your mom invited some people over for Thanksgiving and made a nice dinner.

Cole:  Yeah, our dad can't cook.  He can make macaroni and cheese from a box but that's it.

Bella:  We would starve if our mom didn't cook dinner on Thanksgiving.  And then it wouldn't be a fun holiday.

9) What are YOU most thankful for?

Cole: My mom and dad and for dessert. Oh and my brothers. And Domo and Mario.

Bella: The Thankful tree, my cake that my mom made and my turkey and my stuffing, my family and the city.

10) Describe what a traditional Thanksgiving table looks like.

Cole: Well, first of all, it has to be brown, like our dining room table. It’s decorated with plates, forks, spoons and beer and juice and chocolate milk. There has to be decorations, too.  Like stuff your kids make at school.  Don't throw that stuff away because we worked hard on it.

Bella: You have to have placemats so everyone knows where to sit but cats aren’t allowed because they aren’t decorations.

Cole:  Huh?  Cats can't come to the table.

Bella:  I know.  I just said that!  HELLO!

11) What should people do the day after Thanksgiving?

Cole: Put their Christmas tree up and decorate it and try not to break any of the ornaments. And make decorations.  We usually watch our dad take all the decorations out of the garage.  It's a big mess in there so it usually takes him awhile.

Bella: They should shop for Christmas presents for their kids because it’s almost Christmas.  Santa usually gets the presents but he lets parents buy presents too because we deserve it.  God is always watching you and so are the elves.




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Friday, November 18, 2011

Forever stuck in survival mode?

"This is survival mode at its best.  It's temporary.  You will get through this," I repeated anxiously to myself, while rocking two extremely overtired, cranky 10 week old babies.

That was over 4 years ago with the little twins and I'm still repeating that same damn phrase to myself when life gets challenging.

Will I ever graduate out of survival mode?  Right now, it's truly hard to imagine.

Today, I found myself locked in the bathroom upstairs, sitting on the floor with my knees pressed to my chest, muttering, "Good Lord, please give me strength to deal with all this noise!"

Yes, I was on noise overload.  But that's nothing new around here.  With 4 children who have booming voices, constantly trying to yell above one another, I was quickly crumbling.

Every 2 seconds, it was...

"Moooommmmyyyyy, he won't let me have the Wii controller"
"Moooommmmyyyyy, I need a snack"
"Moooommmmyyyyy, I want a different pair of socks"
"Moooommmmyyyyy, I need you to wipe my butt"

I found myself running around as if I was their personal servant.

"What can I get you, Master?  Shall I shine your shoes with my clean shirt?  Wipe your ass with my bare hands?  My life means nothing if I can't satisfy your every need."

Please.  What bullshit.

Since when did the responsibility of Mommy mean I had to be at their beck and call every minute of the day?  If I had realized 7 years ago that I would basically be signing my life away as I knew it, would I still have tried so desperately to become a mother?

I know, shame on me for not actually deleting that last sentence.  But it's true.  And if I'm anything on this blog, it's raw and honest.

Rest assured that I realize when my kids are older, they may stumble upon this blog post.  And my reaction will be, "When you have kids, you'll understand.  It doesn't mean I don't love you.  It doesn't mean I didn't enjoy being your mother.  It just means I wasn't very good at balancing motherhood with...well, ME".

I've completely lost myself in this whole motherhood gig.  Even when I should be sitting down force feeding myself a healthy meal, I'm standing up...anticipating yet another interruption because the kids might need something.  Why bother sitting down?

Oh I know...I'm the pot calling the kettle black.  I'm the first one to preach, "You need to take care of yourself because if you crumble, the entire family crumbles."

Yet, when it comes to myself and my family, I tend to forget that phrase.  I just yell, cry and hide.  A total wimp in Mother's clothing, trying to pull off the grand charade on a daily basis and failing miserably, I might add.

I allow my kids to suck the life out of me.  I use the word "allow" because I know there's an ability within me to throw my hands in the air and say, "You guys fend for yourself...being more self-sufficient will be good for you."

But I don't do it.  I haven't figured out why as of yet.

Oh, wait...I'm pretty sure it stems back to unresolved childhood issues but I don't want to dive into that heavy shit right now.

I've poured my heart and soul into being a mother to these 4 little gifts which God has bestowed upon me.  Yes, they are blessings.  Yes, I am grateful.

But. they. are. completely. sucking. the. life. out. of. me.  

Crap, I already said that, didn't I?   Well, then, I'll just leave it in here for emphasis.  

You want to hear my real fear?

I fear that, for me, survival mode may not be temporary.  I fear I may be stuck in this mode until the last of my kids leaves the house to begin their own lives apart from me.  

You want me to be even more truthful?  To give you my God's honest truth?

I fear I won't ever be able to recover.  Will I even recognize myself in the mirror once this home is void of young children?  What ever will I do with myself when I don't have 4 children hanging on me, whining at me, arguing over me?

Well, I certainly don't have the answers to those questions.  At least not yet.  And perhaps I never will.

For now, I'll just continue to survive.  To cope with the stress and exhaustion the best I can.  To say no more often.  To encourage my kids to be more self-reliant when appropriate.   To not burden myself with guilt if I can't call a friend back immediately.  To just be the best mother, wife and friend I can be and pray that it's enough.

Because, really....what other choice do I have?

What do you fear?


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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

More memorable conversations...

Cole: Mommy, when are you going to die?
Me: Not for a very long time.
Cole: Does everyone die?
Me: Yes, when we're old and gray.
Cole: How will I know when you die?
Bella: You won't even notice when she dies.
Me: Really? Why's that?
Bella: Because we'll still have pictures of you to look at so it won't be like you're really dead.

Nice.

========================

Garrett: Landon, if I give you one of my butter cups, will you be my best friend?
Landon:  Yeah.
Garrett:  Okay, you can have one.  But you have to be my best friend, okay?
Landon:  Alright, but then you have to give me another one if you want me to be your best friend again in a couple hours.

Apparently, friendship CAN be bought...but only for a couple hours.

========================

Me:  Cole, how come every time you poop, you manage to clog the toilet?
Cole:  I dunno, probably cuz my poop has metal in it.

Is that a slam somehow against my cooking?!

=========================

Bella:  Cole, no kissing anyone until after you're married.
Cole:  That's not the order.
Bella:  Yeah, it is.  Remember it's college, career, marriage and then kids.
Cole:  No, after marriage is death.
Bella:  No, it's not!
Cole:  For me it is!

Spoken like a true male.

==========================

Landon:  Mommy, I want to marry you.
Me:  Awww, that's sweet but you can't marry me.  I'm already married to Daddy.
Landon:  That's okay.  He won't care.
Me:  You think?
Landon:  He doesn't even listen to you when you talk to him.

Well, he does have a point.

==========================

Bella:  Hey Mommy, we're coming up with a plan to trap Santa when he comes to our house on Christmas Eve.
Me:  Really?
Bella:  Yeah, we're gonna ask him if he's real.
Me:  Uh, pardon my stupidity but if you're able to trap him, doesn't that already tell you that he's real?
Bella:  (sighing)  It could be an elf, covering for Santa.
Me:  Oh, I see.
Bella (to Garrett, who merely shrugged his shoulders):  Why do parents think they know everything when it's obvious they really don't know anything?

No matter how hard we try, they always have to one-up us.


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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The trespassing incident....

"Mommy, weren't you afraid you might go to jail for trespassing?" Bella inquired last night as I drove her to dance class.

Obviously, the topic continued to weigh heavily on her mind because the trespassing incident had happened about a week earlier.

She, Landon and I had just returned home after a long bike ride around our neighborhood.  Landon had been complaining about how tired he was yet Bella and I still had plenty of energy to burn.

"Hey Bella," I called out to her as she begrudgingly walked her bike up to the garage. "Wanna go back out again?  Maybe take a different route than our usual one?"

Her face lit up with excitement and wonder.  "Yes!  Where are we gonna go?"

"Let's see if we can get up on the levy," I suggested.

With a look of confusion, she asked, "You mean the one behind our house?  Are we allowed up there?"

I shrugged my shoulders, "I've seen tons of people up there riding their bikes, walking their dogs...it must be okay if they're doing it, right?"

And with that, we were off again...pedaling as fast as we could on the route that would take us to the entrance of the levy.

During those few minutes, we were both fired up about peering into everyone's backyards...what would we see?  Did our neighbors have glamorous pools with cascading waterfalls, luscious vegetable gardens or maybe even sprawling landscapes covered in greenery?   We had to find out...our curiosity urged us on.

When we finally made it to the entrance of the levy, we encountered a huge barricade of gates with a large sign that read "Do Not Trespass".  To say we were seriously disappointed is understating it.

"Oh man, what a bummer!  Well, how do all those other people get up here then?" I wondered aloud.

Bella seemed lost in thought for a few moments and then answered, "There's probably another entrance somewhere, maybe at the other end."

"I don't know where the other end is, though.  It's probably miles away.  Let's just see if we can get our bikes through the gate," I suggested, hoisting my bike in the air.

Her eyes wide with fear, Bella shook her head.  "But, Mommy, the sign says not to trespass."

I chuckled to myself at her seriousness.  "Bella, I see people up here ALL. THE. TIME.  I'm sure it's okay, especially if we're just using the levy as a means of transportation.  We're not harming anyone or anything by being up here."

"Besides, this isn't private property, it's city property.  And we, my little friend, live in this city so WE should be allowed up here," I added.

Her hesitancy seemed to wane and she begin to walk her bike over to the gate which I had already bypassed.

"Come on, let me help you get your bike over the gate.  This is gonna be so much fun!"

As I lowered her bike on the other side of the gate, Bella asked, "What could happen to us if we get caught?  Isn't trespassing against the law?  I don't want to go to jail."

"Okay, first of all," I began.  "We are not going to jail for being up here on the levy.  Secondly, yes, trespassing is against the law but somehow I don't get the feeling that this is something the police would take THAT seriously.  Really...how many times do we see people walking behind our house up here?"

She challenged, "Well, they're breaking the law, too.  And we could too go to jail because it's against the law, Mommy.  Did you used to trespass when you were my age?"

Shit.  How was I supposed to answer that question?  Tell her the truth and let her think her mother was a complete asshole as a young rebel child or tell her a little innocent white lie for the sake of what should have been a fun bike ride...

Turning my bike around, I said, "Okay, well...obviously, this really bothers you so let's turn around and we'll find another new route to take.  One that doesn't involve trespassing."

Bella seemed happy with my decision.  "Just because everyone else is doing it doesn't mean we should, you know.  Even if we don't get caught."

I couldn't help but smile at her wisdom and maturity.  "You are right, Bella," I remarked.  "You always do the right thing and, for that, I'm very proud of you."

We ended up taking our usual route, nonetheless, and as we rode around our neighborhood, I became overwhelmed with a sense of guilt.  Here I was...a mother who should abide the law no matter how silly it may seem, a mother who should be encouraging her kids to follow the rules, not break them.

I halfway expected God to strike me down with lightening at that very moment.

Upon our return home, I told Tim how the levy entrance had been blocked and that Bella felt very strongly about not trespassing.  He began to say, "But I see people up there all the time...." and I held up my hand, silently suggesting that he discontinue before Bella lectured him as she did me.

Fast forward to the other night, while she and I were in the car on our way to dance class, and the topic of trespassing came up again.

"You never did tell me if you used to trespass when you were my age," she demanded.

With a sigh, I answered, "If you must know, yes I did.  I did lots of stupid things when I was younger."

"Did your mother know that you trespassed?"

"Uh, no, I don't think so.  It's not like I was breaking into people's houses or anything, Bella.  My friends and I would sometimes walk on people's property as a shortcut to school...you know, that kind of stuff," I explained.

"Well, she'd probably be mad if she knew.  But she didn't and now you know that trespassing is against the law.  Let's never discuss this again, okay."

I glanced at her in the rear-view mirror and thought, "Who's the mother and who's the child here?"

"You got it, baby girl.  No more breaking the law for me," I said.

She smiled back at me in triumph.

Oh, and in case you're wondering, lightening hasn't me struck me....yet.  So long as I continue to walk the straight and narrow...trust me, my daughter will see to that.



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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Are you a busy mom looking to simplify your life? GIVEAWAY!!

As a busy and stressed out mom of 4 young children, I'm constantly looking for ways to simplify my life.

I used to look at Kate Gosselin as another mom of multiple multiples and think, "Wow, she's really got it together...and even manages to find the time to cook from scratch for her family".

It left me feeling guilty for taking advantage of those convenient freezer meals I'd often stock up on with every trip to Costco.  Chicken nuggets, taquitos, bagel bites...you name it, we had it.

Then I learned that Kate had a personal organic chef and all my beliefs about her (and guilt) went out the window.

I had to find a new role model...someone who understood the demands of motherhood but also believed in the importance of providing delicious, home-cooked meals for her family.  Someone who was REAL...and, most importantly, someone who practiced what she preached.


Someone like Jenna, my amazing fellow twin mommy friend, who just published her very first e-cookbook - E-licious: Must Have Recipes for Every Occasion.


Let me tell you a little about Jenna because she is simply AMAZING!

She's a SAHM to her adorable twin boys and a loving wife to her trucker husband.  In addition to balancing her roles as mom and wife, she raises the cutest little chickens and proudly showcases them on her blog.  Together, she and her husband plant and harvest the most spectacular gardens each season, growing most of their own food.

I've been following Jenna's blog, The Newlyweds, for at least a couple years now and she's the person who got me excited about gardening, cooking meals from scratch and menu planning.

In fact, the first summer I decided to start a fruit/vegetable garden, she held my hand the entire way and never once complained about the endless e-mails I'd send her with annoying questions.  Now, I have her to thank for the abundance of beautiful fruits and veggies we've been able to enjoy for the last two summers!

Each week, Jenna would post her family's menu for the week, along with links to the recipes.  For her own personal recipes, she would post step-by-step directions along with pictures which will leave you drooling.

What I love is that she makes cooking look easy...and fun.  And Lord knows how much I dislike being stuck in the kitchen so for me to be excited about cooking is saying a lot.

I began making some of her recipes, like the Sticky Chicken in a Crockpot (which is now a weekly staple in our home) and the cheesy enchiladas.  Not only did my family enjoy these recipes but they were simple and delicious.  And there's no better feeling than providing a wonderful home-cooked meal for your family.

When I heard that she was finally publishing a cookbook, I was super thrilled for her!   I could easily see her being the next Pioneer Woman someday, with her very own cooking show!

Just look at some of these pictures and tell me you don't want to try these recipes....

Cheesecake

Loaded Nachos

Bacon Ranch Mini Burgers
Here's where Jenna's cookbook makes your life easier....some of her meals call for doubling the recipe so you can eat half at that time and then freeze the second half for another meal later on.

Because she's big into meal planning, some the recipes will leave you with enough leftovers for another meal later on in the week.  For instance, the Sticky Chicken recipe is a meal in itself but you can also use the leftover chicken for the King Ranch Chicken and/or Chicken Divan recipe.


E-Licious is divided into 10 sections based on the occasion, such as Backyard Barbeque, Date Night, Weeknight Meals, Crockpot Meals, Desserts and more.  There are a total of 45 delicious recipes with easy to find ingredients.

At only $4.99, this book is a bargain!  Cooking scrumptious, satisfying meals instead of eating out and buying frozen meals will save you much more than the cost of the book!



BUY IT:

If you'd like to purchase E-Licious: Must Have Recipes for Every Occasion, Jenna has offered my readers a 20% discount using the code HELENE20.

Click HERE to purchase the book directly!

WIN IT:

Jenna has offered to send one of my readers a FREE download of her e-cookbook!!

To enter this giveaway, leave me a comment simply telling me what you do to simplify your life in terms of providing meals for your family.  Be sure to include your e-mail if it's not visible in your profile.


For extra entries (please leave a comment for each entry or it will not count!):


1)  Like Jenna's Newlywed Blog Facebook Fan Page
2)  Follow Newlywed's Blog via email subscription
3)  Follow Newlywed's Blog via RSS subscription
4)  Tweet this giveaway by clicking the TWEET button on the upper right hand corner of this post 


This giveaway ends on Tuesday, November 15, 2011 at 9:00 pm PST.  Winner will be chosen randomly and notified via email.


* I won a free download of this cookbook in a giveaway.  As one of Jenna's biggest fans, I was more than happy to do a review for her, based on mine and my family's love for her recipes!


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Friday, November 4, 2011

Yes, it's really time to start thinking about holiday cards....GIVEAWAY!!

Last holiday season, I totally sucked.  There, I said it.

I was that person who didn't send out cards, causing some friends and family members to call and ask if everything was okay....because I'm usually the first one to send out them out.

"Uh, yeah...I'm alive and all's well.  I'm just lazy and I suck," was my automatic response.

This year, I vowed to send out cards...striking fear in my heart because now there was immediate pressure to take the perfect family picture.  And if you saw my recent post where we went to the Pumpkin Patch, you'd understand my anxiety.

Thanks to the folks at Shutterfly, I needn't worry too much because they have so many wonderful designs to choose from...making the process of selecting just the right holiday card so simple.

In fact, I used Shutterfly to design my 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009 holiday cards.  2006 was the BEST because that's when we were expecting our 2nd set of twins and there were still some friends and family who hadn't yet heard the good news!

Personally, I prefer the photo Christmas cards, such as this one:


And this one, which I REALLY like because there's an eloquence about it:


In addition,  you can add your own personal message to the card, if you like...or keep the one which is already printed.   The actual process itself is very simple and it only takes a matter of minutes to design your holiday card.

DO YOU WANT TO WIN 25 FREE HOLIDAY CARDS??

The generous people at Shutterfly have provided me with promotional codes to offer to THREE of my readers!!

All you have to do is leave a comment here telling me when you usually send out your holiday cards!  

Yep, that's it (and be sure to leave your e-mail address in your comment if it's not visible in your profile)!

For extra entries: (leave a comment for EACH extra entry or it won't count!):

1)  Visit Shutterfly's selection of holiday cards and tell me which one is your favorite.

2)  Like Shutterfly on Facebook.

3)  Follow Shutterfly on Twitter.

4)  Follow my blog via GFC.

5)  Tweet about this giveaway by clicking the TWEET button on the upper right hand corner of this post.

This giveaway will end on Friday, November 11 at 9:00 pm PST.  Winners will be chosen randomly and notified via e-mail.


* Shutterfly provided me with a promotional code for 50 free holiday cards; however, the opinion expressed here is my own based on my personal experience with the company and their products.  


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Thursday, November 3, 2011

It's just your friendly neighborhood Superheroes...

You may or may not be aware that a few days prior to Halloween, Batman and his trusty sidekick, Robin, spend some time canvassing various neighborhoods to ensure that it's safe for all the little (and big) trick-or-treaters.

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Uh...the Batmobile was in the shop this week so they had no choice but to ride their scooters.  Plus, it makes them seem more friendly and approachable...don't you agree?

Batman&Robin

Almost immediately, they stumbled upon a pile of litter carelessly strewed upon the grass and colorful graffiti left behind by a law-unabiding citizen, which made our Superheroes rather sad.

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Batman and Robin were determined to find the hoodlums responsible for destroying their beautiful community...but one of the Superheroes hadn't finished his breakfast that morning and lacked the strength he needed to pry open the metal bars of the gate.

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Not one to be easily distracted by miniscule oversights, Robin told Batman to take a chill pill and just enter the security code, which would allow them access to the law breakers who dared to dirty up their streets.

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But, alas, not even Robin could figure out the darn code so they both shrugged their shoulders and said, "Let's just go home and ask Mommy to make us some lunch."

What?!  Superheroes need to eat 3 meals a day, too, you know!


A few evenings later, on Halloween, Batman and Robin hung out with the Girl Robin, a Bakugan dragon, Toad and Luigi...chowing down some tasty pizza and talking about all the delicious candy they would collect in a mere couple of hours (that is, if the bad guys could stay hidden long enough to let our little Superheroes enjoy some holiday fun).

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When their mother noticed they had not been wearing their famous masks to hide their faces, they shouted, "Aw, come on, Mommy....we're too cute to hide our faces."

And, really, how could she argue with that?  Even if Robin had "borrowed" Captain America's shield, confusing several onlookers.

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"Whew!" the boy known as Batman exclaimed the very next day, as he and his sidekick rummaged through their gobs of sticky sweet treats.  "Look at all this candy...."


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It took them most of the afternoon to sort through their yummy snacks.

And when their mother asked, "Hey, who's fighting crime while you're sitting here with all this candy?"

They answered her confidently, "The Justice League guys....DUH!"

I guess even the cutest of Superheroes can be little smart asses.


Happily Mother After

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Pouring My Heart Out...Words Hurt



"Stop your crying.  Seriously, it's getting on my nerves.  Why do you cry so easily?!" I screeched at Cole, my extremely sensitive 7-year old son.

The minute the words left my mouth, I immediately regretted them.  The look on his face was one of shock, frustration and disappointment.

Disappointment in his mother...someone who is supposed to support and love him, no matter what.  Even if he was crying over something that seemed downright trivial to me.

It had been a particularly tiring day, draining me of every ounce of energy I had left...and it was only 3:00 in the afternoon.

The last hour had been spent battling with Cole and Bella to finish their homework while the little twins, Garrett and Landon, yelled at one another over who was to be the yellow Pikachu in their 5th round of Super Smash Brothers on the Wii.

And the level of noise in the house was quickly wearing me down.  It used to never bother me...the noise, that is.  However, after having children, I seem to be hyper-sensitive to the endless chaos and commotion that happens within our home, 16 hours a day.

My head ached and pulsated, begging for relief.  My blood began to boil, forcefully lurching me to a place I didn't want to go.

I knew this was the point where the situation called for me to retreat.  Simply walk away, Helene...I told myself.  Take a breather.  Go outside and jump on the trampoline.  Lock yourself in the bathroom and take a few deep breaths.

"Do not allow yourself to say anything you'll regret.  Words hurt," my inner voice reminded me.

And yet, despite my conscience warning me against verbal damage, I did it anyway.

When I told Cole to give me a minute to turn off the Wii before WWIII broke out, he burst into angry tears.  Just like that.  No warning...no quivering of the lip, no teary eyes, nothing.

The waterworks turned on with very little effort and I completely lost my ability to stay in control...and that's when the poisonous words spilled out of my mouth.

I'll be the first one to tell you that I don't spank my kids.  I can hold myself back from swatting them over the most serious of situations.  I prefer to have conversations with them...ones they'll learn from and use in future situations when they face yet another challenge.

Yet, I forget that words, too, can hurt...just as much as a spanking can.  Words can't be taken back.  Once they've been spoken (or screamed), they linger in the air...like a foul stench that won't go away.

Sure, I can apologize, which I often do...but the damage has been done.  I've crushed their little spirits...perhaps even tainted their view of me as a mother who is supposed to be loving and accepting of their good AND not-so-good qualities.

So what if Cole cries easily?  That's just who he is.  I should know that if he wants a red apple and all I have are green apples that his first response may be to cry.  It's his form of expressing immediate frustration and I can't hold that against him, no matter how exhausted and defeated I feel.

Because I grew up hearing nothing but negative, hurtful words from my parents, I'm even harder on myself than I should be.  Without proper role models, I'm constantly floundering in this stage of my life called parenthood...forever worrying that I'm permanently fucking up my children's one shot at a happy childhood.

At the same time, I realize I'm only human and, as much as I want to control every one of my actions, I will fail time and again.

What's a mother to do?

I'm not exactly sure.  It's a never-ending learning process, I suppose.

But I do know that every day is a fresh start...a new opportunity to shine as the mother I strive to be.  One who opens her mouth and speaks kind, loving and patient words.  One who accepts her children's quirks and downfalls for what they are and doesn't worry that others may find it annoying or embarrassing.

In the end, my hope is that my children will understand that I'm doing the best I can.  I struggle, I face challenges and I smile through the tears (75% of the time).

Most of all, I want them to be absolutely who God created them to be and feel loved for who they are.

My wish for myself is that I can be stronger when that inner voice is warning me to walk away.

Words hurt.  It's something I must always remember.


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I figure that if the children are alive when my husband gets home at the end of the day, I've done my job.

----Roseanne Barr



 
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