Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Dancing Duo

I have to admit- I've felt off my game this week. With four therapy appointments plus music class and gymnastics class, I decided early Monday morning that what I REALLY wanted to do was stay home in my PJs all week, drink coffee, and play with my kids in the comfort of our home while basking in the cooler fall weather. Instead I found myself either running the kids to class or last minute hiding of clutter in hopes that the therapists didn't report my home as "too messy for children" (ha, I laughed even as I wrote that).

And then when Carter woke up with a slight cold and I felt my own throat scratch up in empathy, I wanted to give into the tiredness and stay in the warm embrace of my favorite sweatshirt. But we pushed through it. (Side note: at what point to you quarantine your kids for colds? If there is a slight sniffle- which let's face it could go on for months- is that cause to never go anywhere?) As the mother of two snotty-nosed toddlers (oh wait, did I just say that?) I want to make sure I get the etiquette part of this right.)

Anyway, we pressed on and went to music class (setting aside the instrument that Carter gnawed on for the teacher to sanitize). And honestly, even though all of these classes and therapies are so much work on my part, I am so glad that we are doing them- especially music class. They both seem to get so much out of it. And then this morning the kids were listening to the CD while I cleaned hid clutter for our last therapy appointment of the week, I looked in to see this:
AND Addison's speech and signs and behavior skills have taken off of late which could be a coincidence, but then again all of this extra "people" exposure she's been getting could be the reason for it.

I love that even though we only go to the class once a week, they are listening to the songs every day and getting quite familiar with the rhythms and establishing their own special dance moves. (-:

And now, now that our four therapy appointments and two classes are over for the week, it's time to take a little "me" writing time with Addison and Carter getting some playtime at their friend's house. The best part about writing being your job? You get to wear your favorite sweatshirt and no one comments on how ragged it is. Wearing comfort clothes while consuming some a bag of chocolate cookies and a cup pot of coffee while cursing at working on my manuscript = the perfect afternoon. (-:

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Flowers Under The Thorns

This was the week. The week three years ago that changed my life.

This was the beautiful, fall week in gorgeous Vermont that all the beauty turned to ash because of a suspicious ultrasound and a conclusive phone call following the amnio. This was the week that crashed my hopes and dreams- shipwrecked my ideals- exploded my pride. This was the week that I found out that my unborn little girl had an extra chromosome.

At one point this week caused me only pain. The memories were so fresh- wanting the baby to die-feeling as though my life was over- convinced that I would never be happy again. But now the thought of this week three years ago has just faded into the background of my story.

Am I embarrassed of the way I responded to the news? Did I trust God less because for the next twenty weeks I cried every night from the minute I got home from work until the late hour that I finally fell into a restless sleep? Am I a bad Christian because for the first time I understood the feeling of not wanting your baby so badly that you would start calling the baby a "fetus" and wish it would just disappear?

No, no, and no. I am human. I am weak, but I serve a big God. I look back in amazement at how wrong I was about my life being ruined. I can barely believe some of the things I said/thought, but I'm glad I wrote them down when I did. I think honestly is important because that's when it can really help someone else going through a similar situation. I have chosen to be very frank on this blog and in my ebook about my thoughts on this subject not because I enjoy exposing myself in that way but because I know that my story is not the only one to be forced onto an path of the unknown.

Addison has changed my life. I went through such a dark time wondering if I could ever love her. I worried about her future, how she would look, what the label "special" would do to my family. And perhaps some of you reading this think that I am just fooling myself because I am living with a beautiful three year old. That I don't know what I'm talking about because I haven't lived the life of parenting an adult with a toddler mentality.

But I just want to say- that these past years being Addison's mother have been amazing- life altering- mind blowing. No matter what the future brings, I wouldn't trade the gift of the past 3 years for anything. I love her just as fiercely as I love my son, and when I look at her I see my little girl. Not Down syndrome. Not a mistake. My daughter.

She walks, laughs, "reads" books, dances at music class, climbs at gymnastics class, and steals food from her little brother. A little girl.

She says and signs new words every week, plays long hours with her iPad, stacks blocks, climbs furniture, pitches fits when things don't go her way. A toddler.

She gives her brother hugs, competes for toys, runs him down if he gets in her way, has "social bottle hour" with Carter in his crib, explores with him by her side. A sister.

I think that's the thing that I was missing the most three years ago this week. That no matter what the doctors told me- no matter what the google searches revealed- no matter what horror I built up for myself in my imagination- I was having a baby, a person complete with personality, a sense of humor, and a sin nature.

What I thought was the worst thing that could ever happen to me was actually "the good" sent to me to complete my life- to heal a sickness that I didn't even know I had- to make me into a better person, challenging me to new growth every step of the way.

This week three years ago: once a source of great pain, now a point of great thankfulness for the good in my life.

This is a short clip that I wrote for my book No Guarantees, but have cut it out in more recent drafts. It really sums up these past three years, so I'm sharing it here:

Sometimes I think that individuals with disabilities are placed in random families to bring a new level of depth to that family and all of the individuals that family might touch in some way.

It’s as if there was a certain variety of bush, gorgeously lush and producing the most delicately beautiful flowers you can imagine. But this bush first produces a layer of thorns and then the flowers begin- underneath. These bushes randomly sprout up throughout the world- some in the middle of the street so you can’t help but notice; some on the side of the road; some in backyards; some in parks.

The thorns hit you hard and you think this bush should be uprooted and banished from the world to make room for all of the perfect, thornless flowers. But if you stand patiently and wait for your eyes to adjust, you will see the flowers peeking through. Beautiful and unscathed.  Breathtakingly lovely, this bush blesses whoever was patient enough to stand still long enough with an exquisite show that leaves a smile, a gasp of wonder and new appreciation for life.

If such a bush were to happen in your yard, your first impulse would be to grab the nearest shovel and dig the root up before any flowers bloomed and tempted you to "selfishly" fall in love with the exquisiteness and color present there. Surely those thorns would ruin your life.

But the truth is, this world of superficial beauty needs these bushes of flowering goodness.

These bushes are a constant reminder to love deeper; judge less; live stronger; appreciate louder.

Surface love is the easiest and the most desirable to some. But those magnificent flowers resting under the thorns deserve to be appreciated in all their glory just as you might love a rose- with more easily noticed beauty but perhaps with the same gnarly thorns hiding under the surface.

Small or big, these bushes are in the world to make a difference in the area that they were planted. Many are blind and indifferent to the beauty, seeing only the thorns and insisting that the world needs fewer of them.

But to those who have been there. To those that know better. They know that those thorns are necessary to protect those flowers from the harshness of the world around; to provide the perfect environment for the flowers to flourish; to keep the flowers from too much sun-too much wind-too much humidity.

Those that know better realize that the thorns will never go away, but that they certainly shouldn’t stop us from reveling in the magnificence of the flowers. We just need to stop focusing on the thorns and instead realize what the thorns are protecting.

Our thorns- the medical drama, the learning delays, all of the "extras"-have been completely worth it for the beauty now in our lives through Miss Addison. And to the version of myself three years ago who could only see the thorns, I say to her- just wait. Just wait and see the good that is coming your way.

Monday, September 24, 2012

do you subscribe?

Last Friday I logged onto Facebook to see friends posting about how Feedburner had magically made all blog email subscriptions disappear.  While I was stressing about that, my younger sister called with a bunch of questions for me that I actually had to think about. While I was trying to talk to her, Carter fell into the corner of the dresser in his room and had THE meltdown of 2012. While I was trying to calm him (after hanging up the phone), I discovered that Addison had taken the liberty of smearing the contents of one of Carter's diapers all over the floor in his room. (sanitized-facepalm)

Some days are just like that I guess....but why do I share that delightful morning with you? (besides the obvious fact that I love to share...I'm thoughtful like that)

Those of you who subscribe via email got a rather random Feedblitz email notification this morning that you subscribe to Everything and Nothing from Essex. That is because after I cleaned up Addison and after Carter fell asleep, I had to switch the email subscription host for my site so that those of you who want to be notified of a new post via email were not left waiting....forever.

I hope you don't hate me for that lovely rather non-personal email. I'm really just trying to keep you all around (I guess I'm thoughtful AND selfish...what can I say?)

And just so this post isn't completely are some pics from the weekend. Two little people just happened to get their first haircuts. These pictures also make Carter look like he also had a tan removed...but that just comes from me being a reckless Instagram user (eanfe) and using too many different filters...#guilty
Addison did so great for her first haircut (which was really just a trim in hopes to encourage her hair growth) It has taken her almost 3 years to grow her hair this long:
and to celebrate her first haircut, she got her first sucker:
Carter also got a sucker, but since he almost immediately dropped it onto a giant hairball and yet still felt as though he should have it in his mouth, we're not going to talk about it....

we're just going to celebrate this beautiful fall weather...and the two little independent toddlers who (when they're not smearing "stuff" or banging up their heads) are just getting cuter and cuter every day (in my totally unbiased opinion) There, I just gave you million reasons to unsubscribe, but honesty is the best policy, right? (frequent use of exaggeration? reason #1,000,001)
Happy Monday...we hope you stick around...Please let me know if you can't see this post (oh wait...) if you can?
(see the chocolate around Addison's mouth? That's because she STOLE a chocolate cookie from a little girl in nursery yesterday...apparently all's fair in love, war, and chocolate-gathering)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Future

It was a normal trip to the grocery store. The kids co-steered the car cart while sharing a muffin and spreading crumbs around the store like holiday cheer. Addison stuck her head out of the cart so many times that she lost "driving" privileges and walked/was carried the rest of the time. The two old ladies behind us in the checkout line stared at the little girl dressed in pink cramming the rest of a blueberry muffin into her mouth so the little girl treated them to a show of laughter, smiles, and a show-and-tell of the ready-to-be-swallowed bits.

It was all normal, ordinary, boring...until our groceries were ready to be bagged. I noticed that the bagger had gone on break so the cashier was doing both jobs. It was one of those awkward moments of wondering- do I bag my own groceries? Do I just wait patiently? Do I ignore what's going on completely and add to my order oh-so-many chocolate bars from the overpriced shelf so close to the toddlers' wandering fingers?

As I was standing behind my cart holding Addison, I froze in the moment. One moment was all it took. Addison took great interest in the large assortment of bags and started playing with them, wiggling to get free so that she could make the mess I'm sure she was envisioning in her mind. (She is the master of messes)

As I stared at her obvious fascination with the bagging station, I thought

"This could be her job someday"

I could picture her so clearly- at this exact same store- twenty years older- brow furrowed in concentration- flashing the occasional smile at her joy in the bagging process as her profession: a grocery bagger that needed to be picked up at the end of each shift. Not as a high school part-time thing, not as a college summer job- as a career.

I don't know why the thought came to me at that moment. And I don't know why it affected me the way it did, but in that moment I felt sad. Tears sprung to my eyes and I tried to wipe them away without the old ladies behind us or the nice cashier lady noticing. I was sad at the thought of this being the end-all idea of success for Addison.

I have lived my life in terms of achievement. Contests? check. Degrees? check. Jobs obtained? check. I dream in goals and I fantasize about accomplishments- almost to an unhealthy level. I get obsessive about finishing those goals- ignoring everything else in my life while I work towards them.

When I first learned about Addison's diagnosis of Down syndrome, this was the hardest part of it all for me. What would she accomplish with her life? What would be her "claim to fame"? What would she do?

As I've gotten to know her through the daily grind of life, she has taught me so much that I forget about my initial fears about that scary label of Down syndrome. Those fears that used to keep me up at night sobbing with a broken heart have faded into nonexistence because of my 2 1/2 year old teacher.

She has taught me that settling into the moment brings more happiness than planning for happiness in the future. She has taught me that a laugh for no reason whatsoever can cure the worst of days. She has taught me that even if I haven't checked off the next big thing on my list I am still a success because I get to experience the gift of life today- right now- in this moment. She has taught me that "impossible" is merely a state of mind and that expectations are made to be broken.

She is not a "normal" toddler by any means- her delays are becoming more obvious by the month. And yet? She is my pride and joy, the H from happy and the sunshine after the rainstorm. She is stubborn and hilarious and whiny and oh-my-goodness cute. Her babbling is adorable and her deliberate signs intellectual. Her kisses, hugs, and pats are better than a chocolate overdose and her bouncing steps around the house tap out the theme song of victory because of all the work that went into achieving those steps. She is stubborn and difficult- ingenious and delightful. Watching her explore the world bit by bit is enthralling because for the first year of her life she fought many physical battles just to survive infant hood. Each little exploration is like a bonus and she treats it accordingly. Her life is a miracle- her existence is a daily lesson in what life is all about.

No doubt from a stranger's perspective, Addison is a delayed toddler who needs a lot of therapy, doctor's appointments, and modifications for all of her activities. "She's how old?" They ask me with raised brow thinking that I misspoke when I said "2 1/2".

But I don't care how the world perceives her. I love Addison because she's Addison.

Today in the grocery store, wiping away tears, I thought- will it be so different twenty years from now? We will have different struggles. We will have different heartaches. A good day will come in different form- total unrecognizable to me right now. I don't know what Addison will be like as an adult, and I don't know what she will be able to "accomplish".

But she will still be- Addison.

As I take it step by step, diaper to diaper, season to season, therapy to IEP meetings, preschool to high school, morning to night over and over and over again- perhaps one day I will wake up to realize I have an adult daughter who I love just as much as I love my toddler daughter. Different and delayed- but my daughter. The transition will be seamless- I won't even realize it's happening as we focus on today and forget to realize that six thousand days from now things will be startlingly different as we will have sped through time into a different era of our lives.

And through that journey, all I'm responsible for is my love for my children as they slowly (but ever so quickly) change from tiny babies to full grown adults. Their needs change, their bodies change, their lives change- but my love is their constant. And to be perfectly honest I don't even totally understands what that means because I haven't lived it yet, but I do know that love doesn't propel me to accept Addison's future right now, forcing me to embrace a stereotypical vision at the grocery store. Love directs me through my responsibilities as a mother for today and paves the way for only one moment at a time. When the time comes for me to send Addison off to her first day of work someday- no matter what that occupation is- the constant of love will have prepared me to accept that moment with as much joy as the ones I have with Addison now.

Do I know the future? No, but I do know the present, and as it collides with the future, the future then becomes the present. And as the present, it is then divided up into little pieces called moments of which I only have to experience one at a time. How much I choose to take away from each of them is up to me because no doubt like every moment there will be the good and the bad. Addison has taught me how to handle moments- not knowing which one will be our last. Twenty years down the road surely I will be even that much farther along in my degree from the Addison college of life lessons.

Something about Addison's past tells me that she has great plans to surprise us every step of the way- surpassing each checkpoint with flying colors and a chocolate high. But even if she doesn't? Even if she lives the stereotypical life that I dreaded her entire pregnancy? I will still celebrate her every breath and smile because that's where the true accomplishment lies.

So in the grocery store today I pushed away my sadness and smiled at my little girl who was attempting to catapult herself down from my arms onto the hard floor so that she could have better access to the bags. I pushed the cart with groceries and "car driver" Carter out of the store and into the parking lot, silently saying a prayer of thankfulness for the gift of today. Because no matter what the future brings today is always the gift worth living for, and Addison has taught me to celebrate it accordingly.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

I never do Wordless Wednesday

except when I do. 

 A little girl goes to class:
It's a rough life.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Dr. Eye M Wrong

Last summer, I dramatically announced how nearsighted Addison was, and I made a BIG deal over finding her just the right glasses (anyone remember this?)

Well, if you have seen one post or twenty, it's pretty obvious that Addison is never pictured wearing glasses. I get a lot of emails asking where Addison's glasses are, and to be honest I have felt like a very crummy mother every time I have thought about this rather sore subject.

Truth be told? Addison has REFUSED to wear them. I have tried everything with the help of four therapists and two Personal Care Assistants. EVERYTHING. It was rough getting her to wear them at the beginning, and then after her surgery (for the crossing) last November, it has been impossible. I'm not just being dramatic here. IMPOSSIBLE.

The eye doctor told me it was just because Addison's world is so close to her, she sees (haha) no reason to suffer through glasses in order to see farther out. Addison used to hold all of her toys and books very close to her face, but after the surgery I noticed that she stopped doing that. She started holding her books and toys at an arm's distance away. Her signing has also been taking off even though she supposedly shouldn't be able to see us signing unless we're right in her face.

When she got her orthotics, I thought it would be the same sort of struggle, but it's not been at all. Not only does she tolerate them, but she helps me put them on each day. Clearly, she recognizes their value (and no doubt she digs the babyleg leg warmers that she gets to wear lol)

I may be a newbie mother as green as they come, but I stopped trying to get Addison to wear her glasses months ago because I felt like Addison was telling me that something was wrong.

Today we went back in to see the same eye doctor that prescribed Addison's glasses last summer and did her surgery in November. I explained to her how much better Addison seems to be seeing. I asked her if the surgery could have helped her vision at all.

"No. That's impossible." she said
"Well, could her eyes have gotten better with time?"
"No, if anything they would get worse because nearsightedness is about the eyes lengthening."
"I really feel like she's seeing better than she was before the surgery."
"Probably because her world is so close to her, she hasn't exhibited all the symptoms of her extreme nearsightedness."
"But she used to hold her toys close to her face and now she holds them an arm's distance away."

after a quick examination she said

"That's because she sees perfectly in her left eye. She probably doesn't see the need for the glasses because she's just using one eye for everything."
"So her eyes got better?"
"No, that's impossible."
-insert confused face-
"But you just said she could see really well out of her left eye?"
"That's right. She could legally drive with the vision she has in her left eye" (let's not be visiting that subject anytime soon.)
"But you just said that they haven't gotten any better?"
"No, not at all."

Seriously this doctor is so exasperating. This same doctor told me last summer that Addison was extremely nearsighted in BOTH eyes- to the tune of not being able to see clearly beyond a couple of inches in front of her face.

I pulled out the glasses that SHE GAVE US last year, and then it was her turn to look confused as she saw the thick lens for both eyes.
"If we updated these glasses to compensate for a perfect vision left eye, do you think she would wear them?" I asked with only a hint of snideness (OK, define hint)

It was then she decided that we should patch that eye for 30 minutes a day, and in two weeks revisit the glasses discussion (but probably put it off for 6 months or a year). (btw, the glasses that she showed me that fit Addison's new face size are the EXACT shape of glasses that I looked all summer for last year. humph.)

Seriously I feel like all I do at this doctor's office is dance in circles. She never even admitted that she could have been wrong about the prescription last year, or that I had a point about Addison seeing so much better after the surgery. It was nice to hear her professional opinion that Addison not wearing glasses right now is a GOOD thing (thank you for that entire year of guilt, dear doctor), but she didn't give an explanation as to why her prescription this year was so drastically different than the one she gave this year with improvement being an "impossibility". Oh look, I guess 1+1 DOES equal purple.

We went to the appointment right after gymnastics, and Addison was looking cuter than a puppy bathed in rainbows and sprinkles.
before the surgery, she would only read with books pressed right up against her face
 Here's to forgetting about those pink little glasses that have been collecting dust...and planning to take our next eye exam in Boston...

Monday, September 17, 2012

what's in a name?

I think one of the trickiest things to do is naming a child. Think about it- you have to capture the essence of that person all in one short word before you have even met the person (or right after you meet them for the first time).

Coming up with a name that works for an infant, small child, teenager, AND adult is like playing with magic with no training whatsoever. Because seriously? How are we supposed to look into the future and see if they “look” like the name we’re choosing? 

It’s a scary thing- naming a person. And then of course there’s the delicate issue of actually agreeing with the other half of your parenting team. Aaron and I struggled with that nasty “agreeing” thing and I joked that it was a simple matter of who got to the birth certificate first. He never laughed. I have no idea why.

With Addison, when we went in for the halfway ultrasound, we had two names picked out- Addison for a girl and Bode (after Bode Miller the skier) for a boy. Of course, our world was completely rocked when we walked away from that appointment with waaaay more information than we had bargained for. All of a sudden the problem of names seemed like the silliest thing to be arguing about- ever.

With Carter, we waited until we went in for the halfway ultrasound. Once we knew we were having a boy we then narrowed it down. We decided we wanted to go with Henry for a middle name and C for the first name after Aaron’s grandfather- Charles Henry. I remember driving to Maine for a long weekend and discussing for most of the trip what the C name should be (5 hours). I pulled out my phone and read through list after list of C names that I found online and we miraculously BOTH liked the same name- Carter. (We call him CH)

Addison was still named Addison even though for a while I thought that maybe Addison wasn’t the right fit for a baby with Down syndrome- it sounded like a tall, pretty girl’s name to me. (cringe all you want, I seriously struggled with this). We did decide to stick with Addison (and I’m so glad that we did, because I’ve never met a prettier little girl!) and for her middle name we chose Lynnette after Aaron’s mom- Lynn and gave her the same initials as Aaron- AL.

Sadly, if we ever have a third (and this is NOT an announcement), I have a feeling that we have used up all of our “agreeing” power. I really like the names Autumn and Jackson, but those have already been firmly VETOED during past pregnancies. Maybe he’ll just forget???  (or maybe we should go for a B name to fill out our ABCs?)

And don't even get me started on people hearing the name you have chosen and LOVE and then telling you just how horrible a name they think it is (of course, nice comments are always welcome...and asking people to vote over your favorites is of course fun.). For both of ours, I've posted pictures of their names on the walls of their nurseries about a week before they were born. That way I was so huge, puffy, and cranky, no one had the nerve to tell me what a horrible name they thought it was. I call that a win.

 I have one BILLION friends who have had babies this summer (that is only a slight exaggeration), and I have loved hearing the names that they have chosen. The science of baby naming can be fun (even when you're not pregnant).

Looks like an Addison to me!
(this is the sign she made up for "iPad")
(and this is her sign for "hot dog"
p.s. I can't thank you enough for all of your recipe ideas! I have a week's menu chocked full of new meals! THANK YOU thank you thank you.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Essentials vs Luxuries

Ok so I'm going to let you in on a little secret. Actually this is probably more like a confession, but roll with me if you would please.

If you have two babies close in age, you have to seriously prioritize your life in order to stay on top of feeding hungry mouths, changing dirty bottoms, and soothing the cries and whines of two babies at once. A baby is a very demanding little person. TWO babies requires that you now spell DEMANDING in all caps.

Basically, pare down to the core- the absolutely essentials-the underwear of housekeeping. I learned that I had to focus on those and let the frills go unattended and ignored. I had to close my eyes to all of the "It would be so nice if I could do this" ideas and spend my energy on the things that HAD to get done or my house would absolutely fall apart and my family would starve or both. It's all about survival, really.

For example, after I had my two children nineteen months apart (but once you add in the developmental delay, it seemed tighter than that), I made myself the following list (well, sort of):

Cut up cheese for a snack for your toddler? Essential
Cut up cheese in the shape of animals paired with the matching animal cracker? Luxury
Deliver the animal shaped cheese to your toddler while vocalizing minor arpeggios and performing a dance scene from the Black Swan? Insanity

Wash laundry? Essential
Fold laundry fresh out of the dryer? Luxury
Iron those little booties with the matching onesie? That's hilarious

Empty Diaper pail? Essential

Do a weekly scrub of each corner of the diaper pail? Luxury
Train the diaper pail to alert you when its full since your eyes are blurry from lack of sleep? Unnecessary. You can just follow the smell...and the flies

Read to your children? Essential
Create an animated cartoon for each of their favorite bedtime stories? Luxury
Perform a ten piece puppet show with puppets you made from scratch from materials that you harvested yourself from your garden/barn/lumber yard? That superwoman cape is looking an awful lot like a noose...

Pick up the house each night? Essential

Deep clean the linen closet and the freezer and your shoe closet and your alphabetized spice collection? Luxury
Redesign your entire house after your Pinterest board on steroids with a dash of sugar and a drizzle of caramel? Make sure you update your will first

Indulge in the occasional pan of ooey gooey brownies? Essential

Make from-scratch HAPPY FRIDAY cupcakes with homemade buttercream frosting and a weekly roundup spelled out in sprinkles highlighted by rainbow frosting swirls? Luxury
Volunteer to make a free wedding cake for a party of five hundred gluten-free vegans? Death by...fake chocolate

Feed your family? Essential
Plan elaborate menus, serve dinner on a silver platter while wearing a French maid costume, leave swan shaped napkins on each high chair? Luxury
Takeout Chinese? Saturday night

It's all about figuring out what is the absolutely most important- focusing on that- and kissing goodbye to the unnecessary. It's the only way to stay sane. (IMHO)

You may be reading this and shaking your head. "Deanna- I have five kids under five and my homemade puppets were the hit at that vegan wedding right after they consumed the cake I made them and admired the album of my newly Pinterest designed house"

To that I say- good for you- you are a better woman that I am. For me? I've had to stick to the essentials, and while nothing on that list is a bad thing to do- I've had to say NO to a lot of good things so that I could focus on feeding, diapering, laundering, washing- repeat. If you've managed to still do it all, I hold no grudge or ill will towards you (well, very little anyway). We're all very different housekeepers and mothers so it makes sense that we would handle stresses very differently as well.

Now to the confession (and the point of this post lol). For the past year, I have cooked pretty much the same set of meals- no variety, no changing- no extras. I didn't have the time or thought capacity to plan new, interesting menus, and plus if I put new items on the grocery list I would forget something and then wouldn't be able to carry it through since I couldn't just run back to the store.

I am the type of person who loves to try new recipes- buying ten new items JUST for that new recipe. This past year I've had to say NO to that good thing and focus on just cooking SOMETHING to throw into the waiting open mouths of the people I'm responsible for.

My list included a lot of the same ingredients- some of them used leftovers from others- all of them were very loved by Aaron and I (and Addison...and now Carter)

1. Southwest chicken bean burritos
2. Peanut butter salsa chicken
3. Lasagna (frozen ahead of time)
4. Hamburgers
5. Marinated meat on the grill
6. Fried rice (with leftover grilled meat) (can't find the recipe I use online)
7. Homemade pizza
8. Hot dogs or Italian Sausages
9. Tacos

Simple. Familiar. Grocery shopping meant that I always have the ingredients for these recipes on hand. The essential. (judge if you want. I survived this past year, so I'm pretty happy about this choice that I made)

But now? My kitchen transformation is complete (for now) I still have more to do, but it's time for me to take a pause.

Cleaning your kitchen? Essential
Painting your kitchen? Luxury
Posting pictures of your newly painted kitchen while aiming snarky comments at the last year of pain? Friday morning

The picture on the left is what my kitchen looked like when we bought the house three and a half years ago. Aaron and his friend Chris built the countertop, tore down the extra cabinets and installed the new appliances (over a year and a half ago). The paint job is what i just finished. I still have to paint the walls. (-: 

And it is now officially time to call it: time to break into some of the previously out-of-reach luxuries and live on the wild trying some NEW RECIPES? I know, calm down, right?

What is your one favorite go-to recipe? Please share. Please, please, please. The essential that kept me sane this past year now feels like a rut, and my kitchen is inspiring me to BREAK FREE! Even if you don't have a link for it, just tell me the name of it and I can look it up. I need some ideas!

These two will thank you: