Tomato and Veggie Pasta

I have to admit that over the years cooking has become a form of relaxation for me. I’m not going to pretend that every night I am bursting with energy to prepare dinner for our family of six, but looking back over the past ten years, cooking has become pure pleasure for me. There’s something amazing about combining ordinary foods to create something extraordinary. I have always loved baking, but now my love for sweets has transpired into the realm of pastas, meats, veggies, herbs, and spices.

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Having four children with varying taste buds, I always expect them to try the food I prepare, but as a mom it is easier for me to make dishes that I know they will enjoy. This meatless dish has become a favorite of the kids and I wanted to share it with you. What’s even better, if you make the entire box of pasta, there will be enough for leftovers the following evening.

What are some of your favorite and easy dinner recipes?

Don’t forget a glass of wine for yourself!

Finding My Place As A Mother

I had a one-of-a-kind experience last week. For those of you who don’t know me well, I graduated with a BA in Political Science and then earned my Paralegal Certificate after college. I worked several years in the legal field, it was enjoyable, yet stressful all at the same time. After giving birth to baby #1, I made a career change and became a stay-at-home mom. Off and on, I still work for the law firm, but mostly by working at home on extreme part-time hours. Last week, I filled in for a paralegal who was on vacation. It wasn’t exactly full-time hours, but it was close and it was an experience I will never forget.

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I have not worked full-time since having children, and on the tough days as a stay-at-home mom, my mind occasionally drifts to a “calm” office environment – free of the tantrums, demands, and disturbances. Yet, after spending four days working busily at a desk, I missed being home with my children, even the demanding 18 month old. It was nice to have a break from the daily routine and to interact with adults for hours on end, but looking back, it wouldn’t be the best choice for our family long-term.

I can’t even tell you the loads of admiration I have for working moms, because I was barely making it through the day. I was doing pretty good, until I picked up my kids and my energy levels were suddenly depleted. I felt horrible that there was barely anything left for them. Everything became an annoyance, and it wasn’t their fault. They were only missing me. I admire the moms who work everyday out of the home and still run an effective house, while also keeping up with all the family activities. I personally know so many of you. You are truly amazing!

Looking back, I know that the right decision was made when I chose to stay home with the kids. Yes, I miss those moments of completing work assignments and interacting with adults on a professional level, but ultimately, I personally need to be with my children, because that’s what is best for me. We all make choices in our lives, and no matter what any other mother chooses to do (whether work outside the home, inside the home, or to be solely a homemaker), it’s a beautiful choice and I hope that every mom out there is able to truly understand and be appreciative for their role in society. Because, no matter your job, degree, or social standing, all mothers (biological, adoptive, step-mothers, or foster mothers) are remarkable. Mothers make the world a better place, and last week has taught me to appreciate where I am with my family, for it all passes away too quickly.

boysPhoto Credit: @dmheckenkamp

Thanks to that experience, I am more grateful for my role as a stay-at-home mom than ever before. It is truly a gift.

  • I am grateful that I am able to fold piles of laundry during the day, rather than after the kids are in bed.
  • I am grateful that I can change the dinner menu at a drop of a hat, because it’s easy to run to the store during the day. I hate crowded stores!
  • I am grateful that I can wake up and only get myself half dressed before dropping them off. I can always take a shower later.
  • I am grateful that I don’t have to drive the extra distance each day to drop my kids off at my parents’ house during a work day. The additional 2 hours of driving each day was killing me.
  • I am grateful that I can drop off and pick up my children from school. I can be involved in school and after school activities. It’s a luxury!
  • I am grateful that I can have a mini writing session for my book while the 18 month old takes a nap and the 3 year old watches a show.
  • I am grateful that I can do homework with my kids before dinner and then have time with them after dinner to play or read books.
  • But most of all, no matter if I worked in the home or outside the home, I am grateful for the gift of life – my children’s lives. I am blessed to have four amazing children who are so different in their own way, but each exemplify the beauty of God’s greatness through their daily actions, hysterical laughs, or tantrums. For they are truly my world and they are such a blessing to my husband and me. We could not imagine life without them and I am grateful to be at home with them – watching them grow through each milestone.

Surviving Motherhood: It’s Not What I Envisioned…It’s Even Better

Motherhood brings so many different phases. Places we never thought we would go, decisions that seemed so far away when the baby was born, and dreams we thought were simple to attain. We all have dreams and goals for our lives as mothers – whether working out of the home or working in the home. As my oldest reaches her 8th birthday in three and a half months (yes, she has been counting down the weeks), it has brought a sense of reflection for my role and place as a wife and mother.

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It took me a long time to truly value my role as a mom. Yes, it was exactly what my husband and I had wanted and we were so excited to begin a family, but until baby number 4 graced our family, it was a whirlwind experience. Each pregnancy was so different and each child was even more different. I look back at those early years and I was just surviving. Surviving to wake up for the 8th time in one night to nurse an infant. Surviving to stay awake until nap time and entertain the toddler. Surviving to stay on top of the laundry, the cleaning, and the cooking, while also wishing for the next step of motherhood. But what was that next step? Have you noticed that we always wish for the next phase in our lives, but we never know what that entails and somehow we still desire it?

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Looking back, those early years of toddlers and infants were extremely difficult. It was all a new experience for me. My beliefs of what motherhood really included were only slightly true. Somehow, in my dreams, I failed to imagine the screaming two year old who only chose to express himself with a long, loud wail. I envisioned laundry, but somehow I forgot it has to be put into the drawers or hung on a hanger. The thought of cooking for a family sounded creative and fun, but I never thought of the little picky eaters who wouldn’t appreciate the effort (luckily, my husband is very appreciative).

But I eventually learned to call these disappointments “graceful moments”. Small moments of my life as a mom are not what I envisioned. Instead these are moments of self-sacrifice – a true act of love for my family. I don’t have much to give the world through material items, but I can give my love. And isn’t love the greatest gift of all? It is what we all desire in one way or another. We seek love in our spouses, our family and friends, our children, our neighbors, and even from a stranger. A kind word or smile goes a long way.

So through all these small moments, I have realized that motherhood is even better than I imagined. Those sweet kisses and hugs from my children wouldn’t mean as much if I was never tired. Even that screaming two year knows that his mama needs a kiss (even if it’s on my knee while I’m cooking dinner). The self-sacrifices that mothers give and give more each day of our lives is what makes this world beautiful – it continues an ongoing story that has lasted through the ages. So don’t view frustrations and exhaustion as disappointments, they are only small moments of time, but they give us the opportunity to embrace the experiences of motherhood. This may sound like a dream, because in the moment of doing the 5th load of wash with a screaming toddler, it’s difficult to find joy. But we must remember that eventually the laundry will stop, the cooking will slow down, and the screaming toddler will become a 2nd grader and we will look back at those struggling days with joy, because motherhood wouldn’t be such a beautiful vocation if it didn’t involve hard work and self-sacrifice: a true act of love.