Like a Sack of Bricks…

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Ever have that feeling of having 48 hours of stuff to do, but there are only 24 hours in a day?  That’s been me lately.  I’ve been feeling a bit down, overwhelmed, and overtired.

And worse, I’ve been complaining about the little things that make my heart so happy.  I didn’t even realize it until this evening.

We usually eat dinner after we put Ella down for the night — around 8:30PM.  When T is home and not working, we really enjoy this time together — and tonight’s topic of conversation turned into my bitchfest.

I was talking about how I don’t really get much opportunity throughout the day to focus on “my things.”  My days begin around 7-7:30AM (which, I know, is way better than 5AM or 6AM — I know I’m lucky in this case) and are usually non-stop Mommy-time until 8:30PM when I put the girl down for the night.  Sometimes, I will get about 2 hours in the middle of the day when she naps — where I will try to squeeze in my workout and run, clean up the house from the morning’s playtime, start laundry, eat lunch, start prepping her lunch for when she wakes, and hopefully hop on the computer to start some of my work: writing, blogging, returning emails, etc. If I don’t get to squeeze my workout in during naptime, it’s the first thing I do when she goes down for the night — followed by eating dinner, cleaning up the house from the afternoon/evening’s play, finishing laundry, showering, and then — maybe — I’ll have a chance to write, read, return emails, etc.  By then, I really only have one hour or so to do all of this “work” before I need to go to bed, to ensure I won’t be a grumpy zombie in the morning when Ella wakes.  It’s truly amazing the amount of energy it takes to keep up with a 2 year old throughout the day — and trust me, I know I’m extremely lucky that I get the opportunity to be with her all day, everyday.  It’s my dream — and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

“I’m just exhausted, and I feel I don’t really have anytime to do the things I need to do,” I said, pushing around the rest of my salad with my fork.

My husband tried to offer suggestions of new things to try to be more effective throughout the day, and I shot each one down with a smirk and chuckle. Then he said something that hit me like a sack of bricks.

“Well, it won’t always be this way.  Soon, she won’t need all of your attention throughout the day, and you can get more things done.”

What I heard: “She won’t need you.”

“Soon.”

And he’s right.

Now, I know that I’m her Momma, and she will still “need” me, but it will never be the same as it is right now.  Soon, she won’t want me to sit with her as she colors every single page in her Doc McStuffins coloring book.  Soon, she won’t come running up to me to grab my hand, and lead me into the living room to show me that Mickey Mouse is on TV.  Soon, she won’t want to sit with me in her room playing tea party, and get upset with me if I “drink” my tea before we “Cheers!”  Soon, she will be too big to slide down her treehouse in the backyard.  Soon, she will be too big for the stroller I push when we go on our daily walks. Soon, I won’t need to be there to watch her play in the bathtub, as she sings songs and talks to all her bath toys.  Soon, she won’t want to snuggle before bedtime as we finish watching “Inside Out” for the 800th time, or when we “read” books, which is really her just flipping through the pages until she sees a lion, in which she will exclaim, “SIMBA!!” Soon, I won’t even need to put her to bed, she will just go lay down on her own, and I will just hope and pray that I get a “goodnight, I love you.”

Before I know it, she will be in school, be super involved in activities like theatre (a Mom-thespian can dream, right?), and have tons of friends that want to take up all of her free time.  Before I know it, she will fall in love, move away from home, get married, and have a little one of her own.  Before I know it, she will no longer be my little girl, but my beautiful grown-up daughter — and I’ll be thinking back to all the times we would hold hands, have tea parties, and color all day.

Life is short, my friends — and time flies.  Instead of focusing on the stress, the lack of sleep, and the things you didn’t get to cross off your to do list today, we have to cherish every single second of these moments we have.  Moments like these are fleeting, and I don’t know about you, but I would hate to miss out — and 10 years from now wish I would’ve done things a little different.

G’night. 🙂

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DIY Wednesday: Valentine’s Day Art (Toddler Edition)

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Happy DIY Wednesday, friends!

This week, we are craft-crazy and gearing up for one of my favorite holidays: Valentine’s Day.  I’m not really sure why I love Valentine’s Day so much — I’m a firm believer in showing your love for someone (everyone) EVERYDAY, and not just one day a year — but, something about the hearts, the colors, the sweet messaging — I just love LOVE. 🙂  Ella was a huge help this week by assisting in decorating our foyer for the season, as well as helping pick out the flowers to make our Spring wreath.

 

We also worked on a special gift for the Grandmas — which is our DIY Wednesday treat for you to try at home! Ella’s new favorite activity is painting — either with her hands or these larger paintbrushes we bought her.  Last week, Michaels had a sale on blank white canvas 2/$7.99 with a 40% off coupon. We bought 2 packs, and were going to make a special painted canvas for each of the Grandmas to enjoy and hang up!

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First, I took a heart shaped foam piece to use as a stencil (or you can make your own stencil out of construction paper).  Then, I traced this heart onto the canvas to give me an outline for our art piece.

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After all the hearts were traced, I placed pieces of masking tape (or painters tape will work too!) to fill the entire heart outline/cutout.  This was the most time consuming part of the process — but I had to keep reminding myself that it would be worth it in the end! Make sure every piece of the heart is covered with tape — this is very important to achieve the end result.  Double up on taping, if necessary!

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After each canvas was taped out, I placed all four canvases side by side on our kitchen table.  Then, I poured a little bit of pink, red, and white paint onto a paper plate for Ella to dip either her hands or paintbrush into.  I used Crayola’s Washable paints for this — which was super easy to clean up, trust me — you’ll want this, because as we know, toddlers definitely know how to make a mess! 🙂 After her workspace was all set-up, I let her paint to heart’s desire (yes, pun intended).  And paint she DID — paint was all over my table and on the floor, but more importantly, she had a BLAST covering these canvases!

After she was finished, we cleaned up, and I let the canvases dry COMPLETELY!  This took a few hours, but I recommend letting it dry as much as possible before attempting to take the tape off.  This will prevent you from having wet paint get on the cutout heart section. Once you feel your paintings are dry, carefully take off the tape pieces.  If you use washable paint, you can use a damp cloth to fix any imperfections that may have shown up in the white area.  Lastly, I took a black Sharpie and wrote the word “Love” in the bottom corner of the heart — but you can write anything you want, or leave it blank.

End Result: a really cute hangable wall piece that the Grandmas are sure to love — especially knowing it was hand-painted by their little Ella Grey (young, aspiring artist!).

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Try it out, and if you do, drop me a comment!  I would love to see what different ideas you can come up with.

Have a great day!

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What Do You DO?

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A few weeks ago, I attended a beautiful wedding of two of our (newer) friends. My husband was part of the wedding party, and for this introvert, I was very nervous about being by myself with all these wedding guests whom I had never met. But, in the spirit of pushing myself out of my comfort zone, I went — and encouraged myself to go up to people I didn’t know and introduce myself, start conversations.

There was a repeating question that kept coming my way, over and over and OVER again.

“What do you do?”

“What do you do for a living?”

“Where do you work?”

And, I didn’t really know how to answer.

——————

I’ve consistently had a job since I was old enough to start working.  I got my first job at 14, bagging groceries at our local grocery store.  It’s just in my genes — a workhorse to the extreme.  There was a time when I was in college, taking the maximum number of credit hours I could, but I was still working 40 hours a week at my retail job.  I had bills to pay, so I had to work.  I’ve worked 4 jobs at a time before. I’ve logged in over 80 hours of work in ONE work week.  It’s just my nature — working is what I DO.

Or.. did.

When Raux and I started talking about having a family, I told him that in a dream world, I would love to be a stay at home mom.  It is my dream job — just to be home with our little one, raise them right, teach them, watch them grow, document it all.  My mom was a single mother, who had to work really REALLY hard to give us kids everything — and she would always say she regretted “missing out” on things when we were little.  I, of course, never thought she missed out on anything, because she was a supermom who really did it all, and then some.  But hearing this over and over as I grew up, I knew that I wanted to be there for EVERYTHING.. I never wanted my job to keep me from seeing Ella take her first step or say her first word.

After having Ella, I had a six week maternity leave from my job.  Do you know when I returned to work? Two weeks.  Two weeks after having Ella, I was back at work, attending a meeting and picking up order books so I could start tackling the mountain of work that was piling up from me being gone… for two weeks. I worked the entire time I was on maternity leave.  I didn’t allow myself to have a break.  And when that “six week” time frame was up, I was back in the office everyday, sometimes pulling more than 50+ hour weeks.  But something had changed… my heart and mind weren’t there.  My heart and my mind were at home, thinking of my little girl, worrying about all the things I was missing. And this continued — these feelings of worry and regret grew stronger — for the next year and a half.

It’s amazing how much can change in a year and a half, and having a little one really helps you see how fast time goes by.  It’s like, one day she’s so little — she just lays in one spot, can barely hold her head up, and sleeps most of the day — and the next, she’s grown up — running around, babbling your ear off, and holds your hand as you pick flowers (weeds) in the backyard.

We were presented with the opportunity of a lifetime with my husband’s work, an opportunity that meant a move — physically, mentally, and emotionally — and it was going to afford me the chance to live my dream.  I was going to be able to stay at home with Ella.  It was here! My time!  And, at first, I almost started to talk myself out of it — thinking, “what? I’ve worked my whole life” — “I need to be able to provide for my family” — I even started looking for work before we moved.  Then, I had to take a step back and realize providing for my family meant so much more than money.  It was my time to provide my family with me.  My full attention.  My love.  My happiness.

I’ve been super lucky to be a full time stay at home mom for almost 6 months — and I can’t believe it took me this long to choose this path.  I remember when we told close friends we were moving and that I was going to stay at home with Ella, they laughed saying  I wouldn’t make it two weeks until I was looking for a job.  Because that’s how they knew me — workhorse.  I still am that person, except now it’s all about that sweet girl, inventing new activities and fun things for us to do rather than spreadsheets and countless emails.

There are some days that are a challenge, but everyday is beautiful with her.  For the first time in my life, I LOVE going to work everyday.  I may have one of the hardest jobs, but it is one of the best jobs ever.

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“So, Ashley.. what do you do?”

 

What do I NOT do, is really the question.

I’m a wife. Mother. Personal chef. Police officer. Housekeeper. Lawmaker. A (stuffed animal) veterinarian. Nutritionist. Park explorer. Personal trainer. Artist. Medic. Baker. Chauffeur. An event planner. Dancing queen. Professional colorer. A personal stylist and shopper. Playground champion. Homemaker. Teacher. Creative enthusiast. A professional flower(weed) picker.

My parachute is every color of the rainbow, and I can show you with all the fingerpaint left on my kitchen table.

But more importantly — MOST importantly — I’m someone’s hero.

I’m more than what I do — and my “job” can’t really be summed up with “stay at home mom.” But what I do know is… every morning when I “go in to work,” I receive huge smiles, big hugs, and the sweetest kisses that remind me I’m exactly where I need to be.

CHOPPED Championship 2015

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So, as mentioned in my previous post here, to ring in my 29th birthday, we held a CHOPPED Championship competition at our house — and boy, was it FUN!

For those who haven’t seen CHOPPED, a little background: Chopped is a cooking competition on Food Network, where three chefs battle it out by creating dishes using secret ingredients that are hidden in a mystery basket — they do not know those ingredients until they open the basket right before they cook.  Each chef MUST use every ingredient in the basket, as well as have the option to use ingredients from a limited pantry.  The chef who has the worst dish is CHOPPED, and then two chefs battle, and then eventually you are left with a Chopped Champion who wins!

Since we only have one oven/stove (and we all aren’t chefs, by any means), I had to adjust the rules of Chopped a little to accommodate.  I paired everyone up into teams of two.  Each team was in charge of a type of dish: appetizer, entree, and dessert.  The team that was cooking that dish purchased ingredients for a different team’s basket, so no one knew what they were going to be cooking with until it was time to cook. Each team had 45 minutes total to prepare their dish: 5 minutes for planning, 40 minutes for cooking.  Meanwhile, while that team is cooking, the remaining chefs trash talked, drank delicious wine, and enjoyed watching the cooking team panic 🙂

After each dish was completed, the chefs that weren’t cooking would taste and judge the dish on a scale from 1-5 on the following three categories: taste, presentation, and creativity.  At the end of the competition, all scores were added, and the team with the highest score was crowned the 2015 Chopped Champions!

FIRST UP: Team Appetizer!

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Mystery Ingredients: BBQ Flavored Goldfish, Lil Smokies, Vanilla Pudding, and Kiwi.

WHOA!  I really thought this was a hard basket — good job Team Dessert for choosing these items! Team Appetizer were champs though, they jumped right in and got to work! They used the goldfish to create a bread crumb to coat the sausages and used the pudding and kiwi to blend together with spices (and random sauces from my refrigerator) to create a dipping sauce. And, it was dang delicious!!

The Result:

 

NEXT: Team Entree!

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Mystery Ingredients: Shrimp, Jicama, Hard Root Beer, Fruit Loops

Uh, so.. this was freaking HARD!!!  Good job Team Apps for picking these ingredients!  I was on Team Entree, and when I saw the Jicama, I drew a complete blank.  But, We acted quickly, and thought — Shrimp Tacos.  We toasted some tortillas and made a Jicama chip in the oven, cooked down the root beer to make a sauce (adding in the fruit loops and extra spices), and created a tasty cabbage slaw with onion and red peppers.  It turned out pretty tasty, and definitely looked pretty!

 

FINALLY, Team Dessert!

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Mystery Ingredients: Fruit Punch flavored “Santa Beard” candy, Glazed Donuts, Raspberries, and Radish.

Since I bought the ingredients for the dessert basket, I actually thought they would be pretty easy.  They weren’t for that team though, completely stumped on radish!  They did amazing though — ended up melting down the candy and and creating a candied radish with it, created a chocolate raspberry sauce to drizzle over a BROWNIE they made (holy cow–they only had 40 mins!), which they topped with homemade whipped cream and layered on top of the donut!  It was intense — and super sweet — but they did an amazing job!

 

In the end, only one team could prevail — and that team was….

…drumroll please…

…..

TEAM APPETIZER!!

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It was a close run, but ultimately, their appetizer was amazing and very delicious. I actually wish I had more of it… right now. 🙂

This had to be one of the best birthdays ever —  I’m so lucky to be surrounded by the greatest friends and family — and for those who made it out to this MONUMENTAL event — thank you!  You guys are my heroes, and I don’t know what I would do without you!

Until next time.. and there will be a next time — I’m already pumped for a rematch! 🙂

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[Long Overdue] Holiday Wrap-Up!

Happy 2016!!!!

Wow, what a whirlwind of events that consumed the end of our December!    Since we were so busy, I failed at the blogging game and have been absent for almost 2 weeks!  Where does the time go?  Oh wait, I have a toddler.. 🙂

Christmas Eve was very low-key.  Dada had to work, so Ella and I enjoyed our evening walk, followed by baking cookies for Santa, and decorating a gingerbread house.  We ended the evening snuggled up, watching Inside Out, before the little girl called it a night. Then, Santa came!

Christmas day was lovely — we spent it with family and the little girl was SO excited to open presents!  Watching her was the highlight of the day, she would unwrap the paper from the gift (and I mean, every last piece of paper HAD to come off), then she would want you to physically open each gift from its enclosure before moving on to the next. It pretty much took all day to open presents, and I wouldn’t have it any other way!  Gift highlights: large stuffed Simba, play kitchen, outdoor play treehouse, and plenty of noise-making gifts from the grandparents and uncle!

Christmas night, we received terrible news about my cousin’s passing (previously written about here).  A few very confusing days followed, and before we knew it, it was BIRTHDAY FIESTA WEEKEND!!

Just for backstory — every year, we celebrate “Birthday Fiesta Weekend” — which is basically the last two days of the year and first day of the next.  My birthday is December 30th, then New Years Eve, and then New Year Day.  Growing up, I HATED being born so close to Christmas — but as I aged and the dawn of “Birthday Fiesta Weekend” was upon us, I realized I probably have the best birthday ever.  Pre-Ella — these three days were notoriously known for drunken debauchery.  As we’ve aged, we’ve toned it down… a little. 🙂

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This year, we celebrated my birthday night by hosting a “Chopped Championship.”  More info on this to follow, as it was an awesome night and so much fun — and too much to include in this wrap-up post.  It deserves a whole post on its own, for sure!  29 is going to be an amazing year!

New Years Eve, we enjoyed delicious snacks and tasty beverages, while watching the festivities on TV and playing party games.  We ended the evening with a fire in the backyard, roasting marshmallows, watching the neighbors light off fireworks and lanterns (much like the ones from Tangled — I’ve seen too many Disney movies 😉 ). We danced, sang, and had an amazing time ringing in the new year with those we hope to share it with for the months to come.

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So far, 2016 has been beautiful.  We’ve started it off right with big goals and dreams for the future (which will be a later post, I’m sure).  We are definitely looking forward to an amazing year!

Hope everyone had a safe — and fabulous — holiday!

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